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Chapter 15--Morning After
The morning sun’s rays reflected off the well-polished bow of the Kiyomi, and Daisuke shifted his deck chair slightly to avoid it hitting him in the face. Keru sat beside him, lighting a cigar. Daisuke had joined his boss for breakfast at the house, then came down to help finish a few details on the boat. “So the first run went well, you said.”
Keru nodded as he puffed on his cigar and exhaled. “Yes, a very good trip,” he replied. “The engine overhaul was a good investment, they ran perfectly. I’m ready to take her a little further out, with the family. I hope you might come this next time, Daisuke. You’d enjoy it.”
“I should,” Daisuke replied. He had worked on a boat in his youth, and had taken part in sailing while at Harvard. The Bayliner was a different breed to him, however and Keru’s piloting he did not put too much stock in. “Perhaps next time.” Changing the subject, he said, “The house was rather quiet this morning.”
Nanae had not felt well the night before, and so slept in; with Asuka away, it was the two men alone at the breakfast table. “Nanae should be more like herself today,” Keru explained, “and Asuka is of course off on that expedition with those friends of hers.” Keru’s tone of voice showed he did not care for certain ones; Daisuke recalled that while Keru had not spoken much to any of Asuka’s new friends at the club the other night, he did actually seem to have liked Goro.
“We have talked of this before,” Daisuke said as he admired a small ketch that was headed out. “They are decent people, Keru. They do the best they can with the circumstances life has offered them. What worries you so?”
“As I’ve said,” Keru explained while he carefully knocked the ash from his cigar, “I worry that Asuka is consorting with some people who are not worthy of her. It is not that they are bad people--but Asuka can do much better. I am taking steps to that affect.”
Daisuke turned and regarded Keru through his shades. “What sort of steps?”
Keru continued to stare seaward. “Steps,” he replied, “that must be taken. I’ve not done all this for my daughter to have her settle for less. I will deal with that when she returns today, or perhaps tomorrow.”
Daisuke said nothing, and turned back to the water. He didn’t like the look on Keru’s face.
Mei awakened to the familiar, and welcoming scent of brewed coffee. Opening her eyes, she found herself on her back, her right arm stretched out. There was no one there, but Mei could hear two voices from the kitchen, and she smiled.
Rolling onto her side slowly, Mei put her arms around one of her pillows. It had been a long night, and Mei felt like she was living it over again, even now. Those feelings, every moment of them were coming back to her, and she pulled the pillow tighter to her body.
Footsteps were approaching, and Mei slowly pulled herself up to a sitting position, and took up the covers up as well. The door had been cracked, and a small, bare foot slowly pushed the door aside. Midori entered, wearing the shirt she had on from last night and bearing two cups of coffee. “Good morning, Mei,” she called.
Mei grinned as she moved over, and Midori carefully slid the door closed before coming to the bed. “Your mother says you take yours black,” she commented as she offered one of the cups to Mei. “You’re a braver girl than I.”
Mei let the covers fall as she took the cup and inhaled the sapid aroma of the UCC blend she and Reiko enjoyed. She noted Midori’s cup looked more like a latte; there was so much milk in it, as the girl settled beside her. “Thank you, by the way,” Mei added, and kissed her lips.
“For this,” Midori replied, then returned the kiss, “or for last night?”
The two girls laughed quietly and kissed again. “For all of it,” Mei replied. “You have been a surprise, but one of the best I’ve ever had.”
Midori sipped her drink. “Well, I’m glad to hear that,” she responded, “and you have been as well. I don’t mind saying out loud that I love you; I hope it does not concern you.”
“You said you didn’t care last night,” Mei reminded her, “and I don’t. I love you as well.” She took a sip and asked, “So, when did you decide you liked girls?”
Midori giggled. “I haven’t!” She replied. “I like boys as much as the next girl, but…” She thought for a moment, then said, “I’m just more comfortable around girls. I feel I can be myself a little more around them. I don’t have to put on an act for the boys, you know what I mean?”
“You know,” Midori continued, after she took another sip, “boys expect you to be a certain way, based on how they’re brought up. They want their girlfriends to either dress like their parents, or dress like streetwalkers. I don’t want to be either, I want to be me.”
“And you are you,” Mei pointed out. “Don’t ever think I’d object to anything you wore or didn’t wear. That has nothing to do with you, the person, and it shouldn’t.”
“Right.” Midori paused, then asked, “Now, how about you? Do you prefer girls?”
Mei laughed, and Midori joined her in it again. “I never thought in my life I’d ever have a boyfriend,” she replied, “other than Shuji. There was nothing going on between us, as I’ve said; but boys have never been interested in me, either because I was fat growing up, or because I’m this butch martial arts girl. I honestly didn’t give it much thought. I believed that if someone was to come into my life, I’d know it was meant to happen, and I’d recognize it. That’s where you come in.”
“How so?” Midori asked as she cuddled closer to Mei.
“I knew,” Mei told her, “from the moment we spoke to one another on that first day of school, there was something there. I didn’t know what at the time, but I just knew I liked you a lot. I understood your situation, and you understood mine. I felt that connection, but like I said, I didn’t know right away.”
Midori sighed and concurred, “Neither did I. The fact you stood up for me like you did was a big factor in it, but there was more: I saw you as a tough girl who’d been through a lot, but under that exterior I knew there was a really sweet person. You showed it to me, and you don’t let too many people know about it. That says something about you.”
Mei listened as she sipped her coffee, and didn’t answer for a few moments. “You are right about that,” she said. “I don’t let it out; only my closest friends see it. I guess it’s because I put myself out there for Shuji, and then got shot down in such a horrible way. I became afraid of it, afraid it might happen again.”
Midori put her cup on the table and slid her arms about Mei’s body. Kissing her lips, she said, “You don’t have to put yourself on the line for everyone, only when you feel right about it.” She embraced Mei tightly. “This,” she added, “feels so right, and I’m so glad you’ve let me in.”
Mei closed her eyes; with her free hand she felt for Midori’s face and pulled it to her. The two kissed, and held it for as long as they could.
Feet thumped on the deck above, and Aimi and Asuka awakened at the same moment. The sun shone through the windows of the cabin, and both girls blinked their eyes.
“Oh, my,” Aimi said, and tried to stifle a yawn as she spoke.
Asuka chuckled as she rubbed her eyes. “This would be something for them to walk in on,” she joked.
“Oh, no!” Aimi tried not to laugh. “Think of the rumors that would start!”
“Amongst us? I doubt it,” Asuka replied, but she did slide out of bed, and dropped to her knees in front of Aimi. “Thanks again, Aimi,” she whispered, “for listening last night; and you were really great to be with.” She then added hurriedly, “In a non-sexual way, of course.”
The girls giggled, and both got up and began to get dressed. A creak, and the hatch opened slightly. “Hey, are you decent down there?” Kaz called.
“No! Go away!” Both girls shot back, but laughed as they did so. They heard Kaz laugh as well.
“Okay,” he replied, “but Kaldera wouldn’t be down there, would he?”
“I don’t think so,” Aimi called back sarcastically, “why?” Both girls were back in their swimsuits by this time, and they headed up the steps.
Kaz was there, in his trunks and looking a little perplexed. “We can’t find him,” he reported. “He left the fire last night after you two came back here, and he’s still not returned.”
“There he is!” Minoru had climbed the main mast and was scanning the island with a pair of binoculars. “He did go back up there,” he called, and pointed in that direction.
All three turned to look at the island. They shaded their eyes; on the peak they’d scaled yesterday was a faint, but recognizable form. Kaldera’s silhouette was could be seen, and it looked like he was either doing Tai Chi or some similar exercise.
Minoru climbed back down to the deck and passed the glasses to Kaz. “Kaldera mentioned once that Yasukuni is like a chakra, all its own, at least to him. He comes here to meditate, to draw its energy in, then send it back out.”
“Kind of like what he did with us the other night?” Asuka ventured.
“Yes,” Aimi replied, “there is a give and take with that sort of thing. You don’t want to hold it all in I would say, at least not for a long time.”
Kaz continued to scan the figure in the distance. “Looks like he’s coming back,” he commented. “Well, we should start clearing away over there.” Everyone nodded and jumped off the boat in an impromptu swimming race to shore.
Dear Kira: Forgive me if my handwriting is a little jumpy, but we are at sea once again. We have not yet left Yasukuni, but we will soon. We have all eaten our fill of last night’s leftovers, and everyone’s playing music or just enjoying it on this beautiful morning.
I wish you were here with us; you‘d have had fun. I feel very privileged to have been asked by Kaldera on this trip. Asuka and I got our sea legs quickly, and there was no sickness from either of us! The trip to the island, the hike, singing around the campfire, it was all too wonderful for mere words.
I also spent the night with Asuka…but not how you might think! We had a long talk, and I understand how she feels about Minoru. Something is wrong there; I believe he is hesitant in engaging in relations with her, because as Asuka says, he’s afraid of losing what he has with her. That says much about his character, and that is something I can only admire.
But as I have said, Minoru is holding some painful memory or feeling inside him; it must have to do with his mother. I understand well. I hope he can bring it out soon.
Aimi looked up from her writing and lowered her cheap sunglasses. She was sitting on her beach towel, forward of the main mast; Asuka was beside her on her stomach, the straps of her bikini top unhooked in order to eliminate her tan line. Seated around them were the men of the crew, Kaldera and Kaz on guitar, while Minoru added some interesting shamisen licks to the song they were playing.
“I’m sailing down the summer days
Where fish and seagulls play
I put my troubles all away
And when the gale comes up I’ll fill my cup
With the whiskey of the Highlands
She’s a good ol’ ship and she’ll make the trip
From the lee of Christian Island…”
Kaldera was singing in an unusual style, his voice in a lower register on the Gordon Lightfoot song. Kaz was picking a slow lead lick over the chords, while Minoru deftly worked the fingers of his left hand along the neck of his instrument. It sounded almost like a steel guitar, which Aimi had heard on some recordings.
She smiled as he watched her friends; all seemed just happy to be here, in this one place. Looking down, Aimi could tell though Asuka’s eyes were closed, she too was at peace.
“When the summer ends we will rest again
In the lee of Christian Island…”
(Writer's note: "Christian Island" was written and recorded by Gordon Lightfoot; it appears on the album, Don Quixote (1972). A re-recorded version appears on Gord's Gold, Vol. 2 (1989).