Saturday in the Garden with Emi

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Saturday in the Garden with Emi

Post by Lap » Sat Nov 09, 2019 9:33 pm

Originally I started this for a writing competition a few months ago, but didn't finish it in time (prompt: Emi & Lilly on a bus).

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Lilly heard the bus pull up at the stop in front of Yamaku, and she stood up and walked toward it. She was surprised to be the only student waiting for the bus on this lovely Saturday afternoon, but she supposed she was between waves. After the first rush of students who had fled as soon as school let out, but before the ones who would be heading into the city later for an evening’s entertainment. She heard the bus door open to her right, and corrected her direction accordingly. “A half meter more to your right,” the bus driver said helpfully. Lilly’s questing cane found the door opening, and she stepped up into the bus.

She heard the sound of tearing paper, then the bus driver gently touched the back of her free hand. She turned her hand over and accepted the bus ticket that the driver pressed into her palm. “Thank you,” she said, even though she knew the local busses well enough that she could have found and taken the ticket on her own.

“You’re welcome. The first two seats on the right are available,” the driver responded.

“Thank you,” she said again, and made her way to the indicated seats. She sat down, then folded up her cane and set it on her lap.

“How far are you going today, Miss?” the driver asked.

“Into the city, the plaza terminal,” Lilly replied. Fourteen stops.

“Okay. I’ll let you know when we get there.”

Lilly repressed a sigh. The driver was just being helpful and courteous, but she mildly resented the implication that she couldn’t manage on her own. Why would she get onto a bus in the first place if she couldn’t? “Thank you,” she said yet again.

The bus doors were just beginning to close when a female voice outside called out, “Hey, wait! I’m coming!”

The doors reopened, and Lilly heard someone walking quickly toward the bus. It was almost a trot, but the gait was uneven, slightly arrhythmic, and she guessed that the person was someone walking on prosthetics. That narrowed it down to a dozen or so students that Lilly could think of, eight of whom were female.

“Thanks for waiting,” the student said as she boarded the bus, and Lilly smiled slightly to have her deduction confirmed. The voice belonged to Emi Ibarazaki.

“Hey, Lilly,” Emi greeted her. “Mind if I sit here?” Without waiting for a response, Emi dropped gracelessly into the seat next to Lilly, and groaned. “Man, I hate trying to run in my everyday legs. Compared to my blades, it feels like I’m staggering along on wooden stilts. And to make it worse, my left ankle is sticking. I’ll need to take a look at that when I get home.”

“Hello, Emi,” Lilly said. Curiosity prompted her to add, “You do your own maintenance?”

“Yeah. I need to tune and tweak my running blades so often that I can’t always wait for a trip to the prosthetist. And then I just started working on my everyday legs, too. Feels better to be able to take care of ’em myself, instead of having to wait for someone else to do it, y’know?”

Lilly nodded understandingly, having just experienced a moment of frustration at being over-catered to. “I imagine it’s nice to be independent.”

“Yeah.” Independence was highly valued among many of Yamaku’s students, but it wasn’t an attainable goal for all. “Where’re you going?” Emi asked.

“I’m meeting my sister in town.”

“I thought she usually picked you up? I’ve seen her in that cute little car.”

“Yes, but she’s working a half-day today, so I’m meeting her to save time. And what are your plans?”

“I’m going home for the weekend. Mom’s doing some major work in the garden this weekend, and she wanted another pair of hands.”

“Ah. I didn’t know you lived nearby.”

“Yeah, it’s nice when I want to get a home-cooked meal, or just escape the dorm for a while.”

“I’d imagine so.”

“And she comes to all my meets, which is great. She’s my number one fan.”

Lilly felt a pang of envy for that maternal involvement, but she pushed it aside. “Then I may have heard her cheering a few times.”

“Really? You come to the track meets?”

“Not often,” Lilly admitted. “But I’ve been to a few, to cheer on Masaru; he’s in my class. The announcer is good at describing the race as it occurs, for those of us who need it.” She smiled. “As I recall, you won every event you were in.”

“Yeah, well,” Emi brushed that aside. “I practice hard and it pays off.”

“So I’ve heard. I admire that kind of dedication, although I can’t imagine doing it myself.”

“Have you ever run? I mean, like in gym or something?”

“Not recently. I used to, in middle school.”

“You should come join me some mornings. It’s good exercise, and really good for you. You can go at your own pace.”

“I don’t think you’d like to slow down enough to hold my hand around the track.”

“Is that how you did it in middle school?”

“Yes.”

“We’ve got audio markers around the track that Masaru uses to guide him when he runs. I could turn them on for you.”

Lilly smiled at Emi’s proselytizing. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Emi sighed at Lilly’s noncommittal response. “Your loss.”

Lilly was saved from further response by a “text received” chime coming from her phone. “Pardon me a moment,” she said. She pulled the phone out of her purse and tapped the requisite keys to read the text.

The flat text-to-speech voice said, “From Akira. I hope you haven’t caught the bus yet my boss wants me to work late so I can’t meet you today maybe tomorrow anyway text back I can’t talk right now am in a meeting bye.”

Lilly sighed in disappointment. She hadn’t met up with Akira for almost two weeks, and had been looking forward to their time together.

“That sucks,” said Emi. Then she added, “I’ve always wondered how you texted.”

Lilly smiled briefly. “The marvels of the modern age.” She ran her thumbs over the small keyboard on the phone to get them properly positioned, then typed a brief message back to her sister, Hopefully we can meet tomorrow. Call me when you get the chance. She listened to the phone read the message back to her to make sure she hadn’t accidentally typed gibberish, then hit send.

“So what are you going to do now?” asked Emi.

Lilly considered her options as she returned her phone to her purse. Her sole motivation for the trip had been to see her sister. “There is nothing I need or want to do in the city, so I may as well get off at the next stop and return to Yamaku,” she said.

Emi was silent for a moment, then offered, “You wanna come with me and help out in the garden?”

Lilly couldn’t tell from Emi’s tone of voice whether or not the offer was sincere, or offered in jest. “I wouldn’t want to intrude on your time with your mother,” she temporized.

“Nah, I see her often enough, and she’d love an extra pair of hands. And she’ll feed you well, she’s a great cook.”

Lilly decided that the offer was in fact sincere. She hesitated a moment, but what did she have waiting for her back at the dorm—homework? Hanako was busy with the newspaper club this afternoon. Lilly didn’t know Emi all that well, but she was good natured and pleasant to be around, if a tad over-energetic at times.

“You wouldn’t be the only one joining us for dinner. I’m pretty sure Goro is coming over, too,” Emi offered persuasively.

“Goro?” Emi had said the name as if she thought Lilly should recognize it, but it didn’t ring any bells.

“Yeah, you know, Nurse?”

Lilly was bemused. “You address Nurse Kaneshiro by his first name?”

Emi laughed. “I’ve known him for forever. And he and my mother are dating, although they think I don’t know that.” She made an amused scoffing sound. “Like he always just happens to drop by to check up on me when I’m there. Riiiight.”

“So why don’t you tell them that you know?”

Emi giggled. “It’s more amusing to watch them dance around each other.”

“Emi!” Lilly tried to look disapproving, but she couldn’t repress a giggle at the impish humor she heard in Emi’s voice. “Why are they trying to hide that fact from you?”

“I’m not sure. ‘Cause Goro is afraid of a professional conflict of interest? Or maybe Mom thinks I’ll resent her for ‘replacing’ Dad?”

“Do you?” asked Lilly, then she caught herself. “I’m sorry, that was an awfully personal question.”

“Nah, no prob.” Emi paused. “It bugged me a little at first,” she admitted, “But, y’know, I’m sure Dad would want Mom to be happy. It’s been long enough.”

“My my. That’s a remarkably reasonable response.”

Emi snorted. “Yeah, pretty surprising, huh?”

Lilly blushed. “That’s not what I meant—”

Emi laughed. “It’s okay, I know what you meant. So, promise you won’t tell them that I know?”

Lilly was grateful that Emi wasn’t offended by her gaffe. “It might be safer for me to simply return to Yamaku, instead of getting roped into your web of lies,” she teased.

“Ah, you won’t have to lie for me. Just don’t say anything about them dating is all.”

“Given that I had no idea they even knew each other in the first place, that shouldn’t be too hard.”

“So, you’ll come?” Emi asked.

Lilly realized that somewhere in this conversation she had decided she would like to take Emi up on her offer. “Perhaps call or text your mother first, to ask?”

“Eh. That’s not really necessary, but if you want me to…”

“Please.”

Lilly heard a rustle that was presumably Emi pulling out her phone, then the quick taps of a text message. “There. Dunno if she’s got her phone near—”

Emi was cut off by the text tone on her phone. “Hmm. She says she’d love to meet you, and there’s plenty of food.”

“Then, yes, thank you. I’d enjoy a chance to get my hands into the dirt. It’s been a while since I’ve done that.”

“Great!” Emi sent a brief message back, and put her phone away. “Perfect timing, too. Ours is the next stop. ‘Scuse me.” She leaned across Lilly to push the “stop requested” button.

“Ah, what is the fare to this stop?” Lilly asked. She had the fare for her planned destination already counted out and in her pocket, but not for this stop.

“A hundred and forty.”

Lilly pulled out her coins and found the appropriate ones. She unfolded her cane and rose to her feet as the bus came to a stop.

“Ah, miss, this isn’t the plaza,” the bus driver said.

Lilly smiled toward the driver as she paid her fare. “Thank you, I know. Change of plans.”

“All right. You ladies have a good day now.”

“Thanks!” said Emi.

“Thank you,” Lilly said, as she followed Emi off the bus.

“You wanna take my arm?” offered Emi.

“If you don’t mind.”

“Actually, given our relative heights, you might be better off with a hand on my shoulder,” said Emi, as she took Lilly’s free hand and placed it on her arm.

“Oh! I didn’t realize you were…I didn’t know your height.” She adjusted her grip from Emi’s arm to her shoulder. It was slim, but solid and muscular. She could feel Emi’s hair brushing the back of her hand.

Emi snorted. “You didn’t realize I was a shrimp?”

“I must admit, I had this notion that track stars are all tall and lean, with long legs for running. Er, I mean…” Lilly found herself blushing, but Emi just laughed, not sounding at all offended.

“Well, I’ve got the lean part down pat. I just make up for the short part by working extra hard.”

“That makes all of your victories even more impressive.”

Emi was silent for a moment, then she said, “Thanks,” in a bashful tone of voice. “Curb down, here,” she added.

“Thank you. How far is it to your house?”

“Just a few blocks. Maybe about a quarter of the distance from Yamaku to the Aura Mart?”

Lilly nodded. “What is your mother planting?” she asked, to keep the conversation going. “A vegetable garden?”

“No, just flowers. She’s decided that she wants more color in the front yard. I’m not sure exactly what she’s putting in.”

“Then it’s a good thing I wore jeans today.”

“Yeah, but that pretty sweater…maybe my mom has a shirt you can borrow.”

Lilly felt a little awkward at the prospect of borrowing clothes from a stranger, but… “I guess there’s no chance of borrowing a shirt from you,” she said wryly.

Emi laughed. “Not even if I was your height. My mom selfishly kept all the boobs in our family for herself.”

“Oh.” Lilly blushed a little at the observation, then confessed, “My sister once accused me of the same thing.”

“Yeah, for the first few months of the first year I thought you were being picked up after school by your brother.”

Lilly chuckled. “Not an uncommon mistake. Her haircut and choice of attire don’t help matters any. I sometimes think she does it deliberately because it amuses her.”

“That’s part of why I keep my hair long, and in twin-tails. Even with my itty-bitty titties, I still look girly. And from behind, there’s no mistaking this booty for anything other than all woman.” Lilly felt the the shoulder under her hand dip a little, as if Emi were swaying her hips exaggeratedly. “If your sister wants to look more feminine, tell her she should take up running. It’s great for the buns.”

Lilly laughed. “Is running your answer for everything?”

“Hey, it works for me.”

“What are you running from?”

She’d meant the question in jest, but the awkward silence that followed indicated to Lilly that she’d accidentally hit a nerve.

When Emi spoke again, her voice was almost as chipper and cheery as it had been the moment before. Almost. “It’s what I’m running towards that matters most. I always try to keep the finish line in sight.”

“An admirable goal for a track star,” Lilly said, grateful to have her faux pas glossed over.

“Yup! It’s how I keep winning. And here we are, turn right. Two steps up here,” Emi said, guiding Lilly onto the front stoop. Lilly heard a door open, and Emi called, “Hey, Mom! I’m home!”

Footsteps approached, then a woman’s voice said warmly, “Welcome home, Emi.”

“Thanks! Mom, this is Lilly Satou, from school. Lilly, this is my mother, Meiko Ibarazaki.”

Lilly bowed in the general direction of the woman’s voice. “Thank you for having me over, Mrs. Ibarazaki,” she said.

Mrs. Ibarazaki laughed. “Don’t thank me yet. Emi said she told you I’d be putting you to work in the garden, yes?”

Lilly smiled. She liked Mrs. Ibarazaki’s voice. It sounded warm and genuine. “That actually sounds wonderful. I used to help my mother in the garden, when I was younger.” She didn’t mention that she had never actually been very good at it. Maybe she’d do better now she was older.

“But she’s going to need to borrow a shirt,” Emi put in. “We bumped into each other on the bus, so she hadn’t dressed for working in the yard.”

“Yes, that sweater is much too lovely to wear while digging in the dirt. I’m sure I can find something for you, though it may be a little short.”

“Thank you.”

Emi and Lilly paused to take off their shoes, and Lilly leaned her cane in the corner by the door. Emi lead her into the house. “So, this is my home,” she said.

“It smells lovely,” Lilly said. “Is that miso and salmon?”

“Yes, I’m slow-cooking it for dinner,” Mrs. Ibarazaki said. “I figured I would be too tired to cook after a day working outdoors, so I started something earlier.”

Lilly nodded. “Good planning.”

“Is Goro here?” Emi asked.

“No, he’ll be by in an hour or so. Lilly, should we get you a shirt?”

“Yes, please.”

Emi steered her out of the living area into a more enclosed space that sounded like a hallway, then through a door. “Here, do you mind if I leave you with my mom for a minute while I go check on my ankle?”

“What’s wrong with your ankle?” asked Mrs. Ibarazaki.

Lilly felt Emi shrug. “Nothing major, it’s just sticky, probably some dirt in the joint.” She took Lilly’s hand and placed it on the back of a chair. “Here’s a chair if you’d like to sit down.”

“Thank you.” Lilly felt a little overwhelmed, in a stranger’s bedroom, with her classmate leaving her. She sat, and could smell cosmetics. This must be the chair in front of Mrs. Ibarazaki’s makeup table, she realized.

“Back in a flash,” said Emi.

“How else?” said her mother wryly, and they both laughed. Lilly smiled.

After Emi left, Mrs. Ibarazaki asked, “If I may ask, are you partially sighted? Or completely blind?”

“Completely blind. Since birth,” Lilly said.

“Then I won’t bother you by asking for your opinion on colors,” Mrs. Ibarazaki said. “I’ll just pick something that would look nice.”

“It’s more important that it be something that can get dirty,” Lilly said. “Vanity isn’t a consideration for gardening.”

“Well, yes, but if you can also look good at the same time, why not do so?”

Lilly smiled. “I do try to be sensible of my appearance.”

“Yes, that sweater is quite lovely.”

“Thank you. My sister helped me pick it out.”

“She has good taste.” Lilly heard a door slide open, and then the sound of hangers scratching across a rod. “Let’s see…” Several hangers were pushed to the side before Mrs. Ibarazaki said, “Ah. This might work.”

She walked over to Lilly and placed a shirt in her hand. “I’ll just step into the hall so you can try it on,” she said.

“That’s not necessary,” said Lilly. “We’re all women here, yes?”

“All right. I didn’t want to embarrass you if you were the shy sort.”

Lilly chuckled as she pulled her sweater off over her head. “That’s kind of you. I understand that being seen partially dressed is embarrassing to some, but that has always been a somewhat…theoretical notion, to me.”

Mrs. Ibarazaki laughed. “Indeed. Here, let me hold your sweater for you.”

“Thank you.” Lilly pulled on the shirt that Mrs. Ibarazaki had selected for her—it felt soft, like a flannel, with buttons up the front. But as she buttoned it up, she realized that it wasn’t going to quite fit across her chest. “Um…”

“Yes, I see. Let me see if I can find something looser,” Mrs. Ibarazaki said. As Lilly worked on unbuttoning the shirt, she heart Mrs. Ibarazaki flipping through the hangers in her closet. “Ah. This might do better.”

“All fixed!” said Emi, walking back into the room. “Any luck?”

“The first shirt was…a little tight,” said Lilly.

Emi laughed. “You do have a gorgeous figure,” she said, and Lilly couldn’t help but blush a bit at the compliment.

“This one might work better,” said Mrs. Ibarazaki. She pressed another shirt into Lilly’s hands and took back the flannel. Lilly pulled it through her fingers, trying to determine the shape of it.

“It’s a pull-over,” said Mrs. Ibarazaki.

“It feels like an awfully nice material; are you sure it’s suitable for gardening?” Lilly asked.

“It’s an older shirt, a little tattered around the edges. It’s fine.”

“If you say so.” Lilly pulled it over her head and slid her arms into the sleeves. It was looser across the chest, but it just barely came down to the top of her jeans

“Looking good there,” Emi said approvingly. “Sexy tummy peek.”

“I’m not looking for sexy, just functional. No one is going to see me except you two, and the nurse.”

“We might get the neighborhood boys stopping by to drool, once they notice you,” teased Emi.

“Emi!” scolded her mother. “Don’t make Lilly feel self-conscious.” Lilly suspected that Mrs. Ibarazaki had noticed her blush.

“Sorry, Lilly. I was just…um…”

“Feeling a little envious and poking at her?” said Mrs. Ibarazaki.

“Mmm. Maybe,” Emi conceded, sounding abashed. “Sorry, Lilly.”

“Trust me, Emi, you wouldn’t want to run your two hundred meter dashes with my figure,” Lilly said wryly.

“Yeah, Miki complains about the cast-iron jock bras she needs to wear when running. I’m definitely built more for speed.”

“Well, let’s see how speedily you can get the garden planted,” Mrs. Ibarazaki said. “Lilly, I’ve placed your sweater on the foot of my bed.”

“Thank you.”

Emi offered Lilly her hand, and lead them back outside.

“Can I get you girls to plant these bulbs?”

“Sure, Mom,” said Emi. Lilly nodded in agreement.

Mrs. Ibarazaki explained the spacing and depth the bulbs should be planted at. Lilly was surprised at how many bulbs there were to plant; Mrs. Ibarazaki was making a major change in her garden’s appearance.

They split the labor, with Lilly digging the holes, and Emi placing the bulbs with some fertilizer and water into each. Once they got a routine going, they settled into a comfortable silence. Lilly was a little surprised at that. She’d thought Emi was a rather talkative girl, but she also seemed content to just work and enjoy the sun.

Lilly enjoyed the smell of the freshly turned earth, and the perfume of the few early-blooming flowers. Though she was fairly certain that the faint scent of strawberry she was picking up came from from Emi, not the plants. It seemed an apt scent for her.

“I’m gonna go refill the watering can,” Emi said. “And I think Mom has some green tea in the fridge. You want any?”

“A cold drink would be lovely,” said Lilly. The day was pleasant, but on the warm side, and she was perspiring lightly.

“Be right back.” Lilly heard Emi shove herself to her feet and walk off. She pulled off her gloves and set them next to her trowel. She twisted around and ran her hand over the grass behind her. Feeling no rocks or other objects, she lay back in the grass, enjoying the feeling of the cool earth beneath her as the afternoon sun warmed her front. She could feel the competing forces of the warm sunlight and the cool breeze across a strip of her stomach where her shirt rode up. Being closer to the ground, she could smell the grass, and the muted background hum of city noise was mostly covered by chirping birds and rustling leaves.

This wasn’t at all how she’d anticipated spending her afternoon when she’d woken up this morning, but it was turning into a pleasant day nonetheless. Emi was a little more energetic than she was used to, but she had her surprising quiet moments, too. Lilly was glad to have this chance to get to know her a little better.

She drifted into a somnolent state, feeling like her namesake flower, soaking up the sun. When she heard footsteps approaching, she assumed it was Emi returning.

“Miss Satou. I trust you’re simply enjoying the day, and not in need of my professional assistance,” said Nurse, sounding amused.

Lilly smiled and sat up. “No, your services aren’t required, thank you.”

“Good, as I didn’t bring my medical bag.”

“Goro!” exclaimed Emi. “How’re you doing?”

“Hello, Sunshine. Is that an iced tea for me? How thoughtful!”

“Pffft! This is for Lilly, who’s been working hard. Unlike some people I could name.”

Emi touched a cold glass to Lilly’s hand, and she took it. “Thank you, Emi.” Lilly realized that Emi’s casual attitude must be wearing off on her—normally she would have risen to greet the nurse.

“Goro!” said Mrs. Ibarazaki, accompanied by approaching footsteps.

“Hello, Meiko. How are you this fine day?”

“Just fine, thank you.”

“I’ve come ready to work, if you still need it,” Nurse said.

“Most definitely. Could you help me move some bags of compost out back?”

“Of course.”

Just in that simple exchange, Lilly heard a depth of warmth in their voices that went beyond mere friendship. She fought down a smile, remembering her promise to Emi to not give up the game. She waited until it sounded like Mrs. Ibarazaki and Nurse had disappeared around the house to the back yard, then she said quietly to Emi, “Do they truly think you don’t know that they’re dating?”

Emi giggled. “It does seem a little obvious, doesn’t it?”

“Well…yes.”

After a few more moments of digging, Emi asked, “What about you?”

“Pardon? What about me what?”

“Are you currently, um…dating anyone?”

“Ah…no.”

“No one has come along and swept you off your feet?”

Lilly snorted. “Hardly. I’d be hard pressed to find a boy big enough to do so.”

“You’re not that tall. A good chunk of the guys at school are taller than you.”

“And what of you? Has anyone swept you off your feet?”

Emi giggled, and Lilly sighed. “Sorry, I didn’t—”

“I know what you meant. I just barely caught myself from asking you if you were currently seeing anyone.”

Lilly laughed. “I’d have known what you meant, and not taken offense.”

“Likewise,” said Emi.

“The grapevine says you’re no longer dating…Kohei, was it?”

Emi sighed. “Yeah. Kohei. He was a nice guy, but…it just didn’t work out. He was a little too clingy.”

“Ah. I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah.” Emi was silent for a moment, then she muttered wistfully, “I really miss the sex, though.”

Lilly choked down a nervous giggle at that revelation, sure her cheeks were noticeably red. “I…see.” Then her prurient curiosity got the better of her, and she asked. “Isn’t he paraplegic? How did…” She trailed off, too embarrassed to complete her question.

Emi giggled. “Yeah. But that just means he’s very good with his hands and tongue.”

“My, my.” Lilly fanned herself for a moment. “It certainly is unseasonably warm today.”

“Sorry, Lilly, I didn’t mean to shock you,” Emi said, not sounding particularly sorry at all.

“Oh, I can certainly sympathize with feeling…frustrated.”

“Horny?”

Lilly coughed. “Er. Yes, that.”

Emi laughed. “You’re always so…prim and proper. It’s hard to imagine you submitting to your, um, baser emotions.”

“Hrmph. Just because I choose to comport myself with dignity in public does not mean I am incapable of, as you put it, baser emotions. I simply choose to express them in private.”

“Ouch. Sorry, I guess I was over-sharing a little bit there,” said Emi, sounding abashed.

Lilly grimaced and shook her head. “No, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound like I was scolding you. I…appreciate candid conversation, but it is not often that one can discuss such matters with another. Without feeling a bit awkward.” She realized she was retreating into overly formal speech, and tried again. “I was the one who asked you a rather indelicate question about your…intimate relations.” Still overly formal, she thought, and added, “I should not have been so nosy about your love life in the first place.” There. Not quite so stilted.

Emi chuckled. “Ah, that’s okay. Honestly, it’s nice to talk with someone about it.”

“Yes. I’m lucky enough to be able to talk with my sister about such things. She’s always been remarkably forthright and honest with me about such matters, which makes for some fun conversations.”

“That must be nice,” Emi said, sounding wistful. “I don’t have a sister, or brother for that matter. Not that I could imagine discussing my sex life with a brother.”

Lilly chuckled. “Indeed not. But Akira…has been a good sister, pointing out pitfalls and things to look out for in relationships with boys.”

“And have you had any, ah, relationships? With boys?”

Lilly ducked her head so that Emi might not see her blush. Or her smile. “One or two. They were…educational. But not, alas, long-term.”

“Well, short and sweet and educational isn’t necessarily all bad,” Emi opined. “I had a couple of educational flings too. Kohei is the only guy I’ve ever dated for more than a month or two, though.”

“I’ve never had a long-term relationship,” Lilly admitted. “Maybe someday.”

“Of course you will, someday,” Emi exclaimed. “You’re beautiful, and smart, and charming, it’s just a matter of time.”

“I hope so.”

“And, in the meantime, perhaps you’ll continue to extend your education in other ways.”

Lilly laughed. “My education. Yes. Akira provided me with an education that I presume was more detailed and frank than most mothers give their daughters, but it has served me in good stead.”

Emi sighed. “I wish I had someone like that to talk to. I mean, I’ve tried to talk with Rin about boys and stuff, but all I got back were metaphors about flowers and snails. At least, I assume they were meant to be metaphors. With Rin, you can never be totally sure.”

“Yes, conversations with Miss Tezuka can be…challenging.”

“Eyah, I can’t see the two of you really hitting it off. I mean, she’s an artist, so intensely visual, and you’re, well, not. Visual, that is.”

Lilly paused for a moment, startled by that observation. “Hmm. I had never considered our conversational difficulties in those terms.”

“Oh, that’s not to say she isn’t difficult for everyone to talk to—she confuses the hell out of me a lot of the time, and I’m her best friend.”

“Yes, she will need to find a…patient boy if she’s ever to date.”

“Or a telepathic one.”

Lilly chuckled. “So, you’ve not dated anyone else since Kohei?”

“No, no one’s really caught my interest. I’d kinda thought…well, that new boy, Hisao, seems kinda nice, but I think Shizune has got her claws fairly well into him.”

Lilly grimaced. “Ah. Yes. He does seem like a nice sort. A pity he fell under her influence.”

“You and her don’t get along very well, do you?”

Lilly shook her head, smiling sourly. “We…have different approaches to life, that do not always mesh very well.”

“Is she really your cousin?”

Lilly sighed. “Yes. We used to get along better, before working on the student council together. That experience was…unfortunate for familial harmony.”

“Huh. Do you miss her?”

“Pardon?”

“You looked a little sad when you said that you used to get along better.”

“Oh.” Lilly thought about it for a moment as she dug, then conceded, “I guess I do. There had always been some tension between our families—our fathers don’t get along very well—but she and I were frequently thrown together because of our similar ages. Despite the difficulties in communication we had.”

“How do you and Shizune communicate? I mean, I assume she hasn’t always had Misha by her side. Although it’s hard to imagine them apart.”

Lilly laughed at that. “Indeed, they have been an almost inseparable pair for some time now. But there were several ways we communicated. I wrote to her, she spoke to me—”

“Wait, what, Shizune can speak?”

Lilly bit her lip. “I probably should not have said that.”

“Why? I mean, if she can speak, why does she hide it?”

Lilly hesitated, then sighed. She might as well explain more fully, so that Emi wouldn’t bother Shizune about it. “She had speech and lipreading lessons as a child. She stopped a few years ago, I think because her father…was not satisfied with how she sounded.”

“With how she sounded?” Emi sounded indignant. “What, he expected a deaf kid to sound perfectly normal? Even I know better than that!”

“I agree, it’s an unreasonable expectation. But it also hit Shizune in her pride; she does not like to do things she cannot do well, and that has put her off from speaking since then.”

“Jeez. Her father sounds like a real jerk.”

Lilly coughed to hide a laugh, and said, “You would not be the first person to make that assessment.”

“I never thought I’d feel sorry for Shizune.”

“Don’t. She wouldn’t appreciate it if you did.”

“Eh. Probably true.” Emi was silent for a few moments, then she asked, “So, how do you two communicate if she’s not speaking anymore?”

“There are numerous blind/deaf languages, but the easiest one involves laying our hands atop one another. Each finger on the left hand represents a consonant, each finger on the right a vowel. Then one ‘types’ out words phonetically on the other person’s hands.”

“Uh…there’s a lot more than five consonants.”

“Yes, but you can sound out a surprisingly large number of words with just the five most common. Remember, it’s phonetic, not strict spelling. It gets a little…odd at times, but it works for quick and dirty communication.”

“Kinda inconvenient for talking while, say, working in the garden, though.”

“Indeed. Misha, for all her…idiosyncratic behavior, does make certain things much easier.”

Emi snorted. “I think ‘idiosyncratic’ is the politest way of saying ‘loud and overbearing’ that I’ve ever heard.”

“She’s not all that bad,” Lilly protested. “I rather like her, when she’s not busy channeling Shizune. Though I will grant you she’s rather loud.”

“Just a bit.”

Lilly patted the ground beside the last hole she’d dug and felt sidewalk. “I think I’ve come to the end of this flower bed?” Lilly asked Emi.

“Oh, right! Just let me pop these last few bulbs in, and we can move to the next one.”

Lilly waited for Emi to finish up, then Emi stood up and said, “If you’ll stand up, I’ll guide you to the next one.”

“All right.”

The afternoon passed fairly quickly, with occasional breaks for drinks, and at one point Mrs. Ibarazaki brought out some light snacks. Lilly was flagging a little when Emi finally said, “Whew! That’s the last one!”

“It was? Oh, good.”

“You wanna sit there a minute and rest while I take the tools back to the shed? Then we can go in and wash up before dinner.”

“That sounds lovely.” Lilly sat up arched her back, which was stiff from leaning forward all afternoon, working on her hands and knees. She stood up and stretched some more. She groaned softly, aching muscles unaccustomed to being used in those ways. She suspected that she would be sore tomorrow.

“Whew! We did a lot of work today,” Emi said, as she returned. She took Lilly’s arm and guided her back into the house. “I think we’ve earned our dinners!”

They washed up in the bathroom, and Lilly changed back into her sweater. They got back to the dining room just as Mrs. Ibarazaki and Nurse were placing food onto the table. Emi seated Lilly between herself and Nurse, and he thoughtfully let her know what food was where on her plate and on the table.

Lilly was unsurprised to find that the meal was as delicious as it had smelled; Emi had not exaggerated her mother’s cooking abilities. Everyone had a strong appetite after working outside, and for a while conversation was suspended as they appreciated their meals.

When she was feeling a little less hollow, Lilly said, “This is a delicious meal, Mrs. Ibarazaki. Thank you. I’ve not had a home-cooked meal I did not prepare myself in quite some time.”

“You’re welcome. It’s the least I could do, after all the help you gave us today.”

“Your mother doesn’t like to cook?” Emi asked.

“Oh, she cooks, and quite well, but my parents moved to Scotland a few years ago. I haven't been to their new place yet. Though I will be visiting them in a couple of weeks.” She tried to suppress the pang of nervousness that that thought provoked.

“A few years ago? That's a long time to go without seeing your parents,” said Emi. “Or do they come back to Japan to visit often?”

“No.”

After the awkward silence that this flat negative provoked, Lilly felt a need to defend her family. “My father’s work is very important; he's the head of Satou Industries’ European operations. Akira and I have managed well enough on our own.”

“Akira’s your sister?” Mrs. Ibarazaki asked.

“Yes.”

“How long have you two been on your own?” asked Emi curiously.

Lilly hesitated, then admitted, “Almost five years, now.”

“I…wow. Okay. That’s…a long time to go without being with your family.”

“I haven’t been without family. I have Akira,” Lilly said, trying hard to not sound defensive.

“Right, of course, I didn’t mean…um…” Emi trailed off uncomfortably.

Lilly realized from Emi’s reaction that she’d spoken more harshly than she’d meant to. She flushed, then said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to jump on you. I just…we get along fine by ourselves. She’s been a wonderful support to me.”

“She sounds like a lovely person,” Mrs. Ibarazaki said.

Lilly smiled gratefully. “She is indeed. To outsiders she may seem a little…unusual. But I love her as she is.”

Emi giggled. “At first I thought she was Lilly’s brother. She’s very, well, not exactly masculine, but, uh—”

“I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘androgynous,’” suggested Nurse.

“Yeah, that.”

“Do you have any plans for university, Lilly?” Mrs. Ibarazaki asked, changing the subject.

Lilly smiled. “I hope to become an English teacher. My mother is from Scotland, so I was raised bilingual.”

“Ah. That explains your hair. What age levels do you want to teach?”

“High school, or maybe university. I would prefer to work with more advanced students.” Lilly turned toward Emi. “Do you have university plans?”

“I wanna keep running, of course, but that’s not really a career, is it? I’d love to get on the paralympics team, but…” Emi sighed. “The competition is pretty stiff.”

“If anyone can do it, you can,” said Mrs. Ibarazaki, her voice full of maternal confidence.

Lilly smiled to hear that absolute faith in her daughter’s ability. She wondered wistfully what that must be like.

Emi laughed. “Thanks, Mom. But beyond running…I’ve been thinking I might like to become a prosthetist, specializing in sports prosthetics. They’re starting to do some amazing stuff with composites, and it’s only going to get more interesting.”

“A logical area for you to go into,” Lilly agreed. “Would that be a medical or engineering career path?”

“Depends upon what my focus was, but it would be mostly kinesiology and physiology plus some materials science. Sports medicine kind of stuff, too.”

“That sounds academically ambitious,” Lilly observed.

Emi snorted. “I’m not just a dumb jock,” she said teasingly.

“I didn’t mean to imply that you were!” Lilly protested.

“And my science and math grades are my strongest areas.”

“Then you sound well suited to the job. You certainly would provide a good insider’s view on what was needed.”

“Yeah, that was my thinking too. So, everyone knows I’m a runner. What do you do for exercise?” Emi asked.

“Pardon?”

“Do you have a workout program that you like?”

“Ah…no. Not really,” Lilly admitted. Not at all.

Emi tsk’d. “You should start building good habits now while you’re young. It’ll be harder to get into when your metabolism starts slowing down in ten years or so.”

“I suppose…” Lilly said dubiously.

“It doesn’t have to be running, I get that that’s harder when you’re blind. But there’s swimming, and yoga, and weights, and spinning, and all sorts of other things.”

“If you want to learn a sport, or some other activity, Yamaku is the place to do it,” put in Nurse. “We’ve programs to accommodate almost every disability under the sun.”

“You’re probably right,” Lilly conceded. “It’s just not something I’ve ever really thought about.”

“Yeah, well, we’re approaching our metabolic peaks. In a few years, it’ll all be downhill,” Emi said.

Lilly thought about her metabolism slowing down. About getting heavier. She had enough vanity that the notion did not appeal to her. She turned her head towards Nurse. “Perhaps we could speak sometime about setting up an exercise program?”

“But of course. I’d be more than happy to help,” Nurse said, with a smile in his voice.

“That’s the spirit!” said Emi. “And if you need someone to come cheer you along, let me know. I do do other things besides run.”

“Really?”

“Oh, yeah, running is so lower-body focused, I work out in the gym to keep my upper body in shape, and strengthen my core.”

Lilly thought about working out with this powerhouse of a girl, and found that although the notion was a little intimidating, it was also appealing. “I might take you up on that,” she said.

“Great!”

As the meal came to an end, Lilly felt a little awkward about not helping to clean up, but, not knowing the Ibarazaki’s kitchen at all, she knew she’d be more in the way than helpful. She and Nurse retired to the living room as Emi and her mother cleaned up, and Lilly found herself yawning as they chatted.

He chuckled. “I didn’t mean to bore you,” he said teasingly.

Lilly smiled ruefully. “I’m not used to working outside all day. I think I might need to return to Yamaku soon, or else I’ll be spending the night on the couch.”

She made her farewells to Nurse and Mrs. Ibarazaki. “Thank you so much for the wonderful dinner,” she said.

“Thank you for all your help. It was wonderful meeting you. You must return sometime to smell the new flowers, once they’re in bloom.”

Lilly smiled. “I would like that, thank you.”

As Emi walked her back to the bus stop, she said, “Thank you again for inviting me over.”

“You’re welcome, it was nice to have some help in the yard.”

Lilly was silent for a few steps, then ventured, “If you don’t mind my asking…”

“Yeah?” Emi asked, after several more moments of silence.

“Why did you invite me over? We’re not exactly close friends.”

“Ah, I’m just lazy. I wanted some help in the garden.”

Lilly chuckled. “I don’t think anyone who runs five to ten kilometers every morning ‘just to wake up’ could be called lazy.”

“Well…” Emi sounded a little bashful. “When you got that text from your sister, you just looked so sad for a moment.”

“I did?” Lilly was startled. She thought she had better control over her countenance than that.

“Just for a moment, but…it was there. And I figured, hey, I might be able to cheer you up a little.”

“Oh.”

“I’m glad I did. This was fun,” Emi said. “Here’s the bus stop.”

“Thank you,” Lilly said, more softly this time. “You’re right, it was fun. And I’m glad to have gotten to know you a little better.”

“Me too.”

Lilly could hear the bus approaching. “I hope you won’t think this too forward of me, but…” She bit her lip, then continued, “Might I give you a good-bye hug?”

Emi gave a delighted sounding laugh. “Of course.” She wrapped her arms around Lilly, and Lilly hugged her back. She was surprised at just how small and slight the figure in her arms actually was. She didn’t hold on for too long, as she didn’t want to be awkward, but she enjoyed the embrace.

“Thanks,” Lilly said as they broke apart.

“Any time,” said Emi. Lilly was pleased that she sounded like she meant it.

“Have a good day with your mother tomorrow,” Lilly said, as the bus pulled up.

“I will. See you Monday!”

Lilly smiled. “See you Monday.”

As Lilly rode the bus back to Yamaku, she sighed and let her normally rigid posture relax a little. She was feeling well fed and pleasantly exhausted from the day’s labors, and she anticipated a good night’s sleep. The day had proved to be much better than she’d expected, when Akira cancelled their date.

She thought back over the day, and felt a brief bang of envy for the closeness Emi and her mother shared. It brought to mind her worries about how she and her own mother would get along, when they met in a few weeks time. She longed for that kind of closeness, and familial connection. Could she have that kind of relationship with her mother or her father? They’d been apart so long, they were in many ways strangers to one another by now.

In her more honest moments, she admitted to herself that the parental closeness she expected—hoped for—longed for—might not exist. That too much time might have gone by. Was she still just a child, hungering for a scrap of parental affection and approbation? She sighed.

When she got back to her room she sat down on her bed and pulled out her phone. Akira should hopefully be done with work by now. She dialed Akira’s number.

Akira picked up after the first ring. “Hey, Lils,” she said cheerily. “Sorry about this afternoon.”

Lilly felt herself relaxing, and she smiled at hearing her sister’s voice. “That’s quite all right. I managed to have a pleasant day nonetheless. But I do hope we can meet tomorrow?”

“Aww, did ya miss me?” Akira teased.

“Yes,” Lilly replied firmly. “I did. And do.”

“Um...” Akira seemed taken aback by the intensity of her response. “Is everything okay, sis?”

“Yes. It’s just…” She hesitated, then said, “I know I probably don’t say this often enough, but I just wanted to tell you…that I love you. And I appreciate all that you’ve done for me since…since we’ve been…left on our own.”

Akira was silent for a long moment. “What brings this on?” she asked curiously.

“A day spent with a classmate and her mother. It reminded me of…our family. And how much you’ve done for me.”

“Ah, I was just doing what I had to do.”

“No. You did more than that.” Lilly found she still couldn’t bring herself to agree out loud with her sister’s opinion that what their parents had done to them was wrong. But she felt she understood how Akira felt a little better, now.

“Being with Emi and her mother. I wish…I hope can have that kind of relationship with our mother. Then I realized, I had something that was…not better, exactly, but similar—a sister. Who loved me and cared for me and stood by me, even when it wasn’t easy.”

“Hell, Lils, you’re going to make me all weepy, and I haven’t even had anything to drink yet.” Akira cleared her throat, and said, her voice a bit rough, “I love you too, Lilly. Even when you’re a pain in my ass.”

Lilly laughed at that quintessentially Akira sentiment. “So, are you willing to put up with a visit from your pain in the ass sister tomorrow?”

Akira gave a mock gasp. “Lilly! Such language!”

“Sorry, should I have said, pain in the posterior?”

“That’s better. And I’m always willing to have a visit with you. When the boss will let me, anyway. Shall I pick you up around ten?”

“That would be lovely.”

They made their goodbyes, and Lilly decided to prepare for bed. Despite the relatively early hour, she was tired from her unaccustomed labors.

As she lay in bed, waiting for sleep to overtake her, she thought about her upcoming trip to Scotland. And her parents. I can’t control how they react to me, I can only control myself, she thought. And if I want a relationship similar to the one Emi has with her mother, I can work towards that. I can’t force it to happen, but I can at least try to make it possible.

With that resolution in mind, she finally relaxed enough to fall asleep. Where she dreamed of being in the middle of a field of flowers, their lovely scent surrounding her and filling her senses. And she knew it was her work that had made that field possible.
Avenues of Communication: Shizune suffers an accident.
Akira's Surprise: Akira pays a surprise visit to Lilly, Hanako and Hisao on Christmas eve. S9 Entry.
Arrival: Hanako's first days at Yamaku. (On Hiatus)
Home: Hanako & Hisao at University, sharing an apartment with their friend Lilly (on Ao3).
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brythain
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Re: Saturday in the Garden with Emi

Post by brythain » Sat Nov 09, 2019 9:58 pm

That's lovely. Very heart-warming!
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
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PsychicSpy
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Re: Saturday in the Garden with Emi

Post by PsychicSpy » Sat Nov 09, 2019 11:28 pm

I love the story. Really good take on the prompt. Very heartwarming!
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Avenues of Communication: One of the best Shizune/Hisao fics I've read, written by Lap

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Feurox
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Re: Saturday in the Garden with Emi

Post by Feurox » Sun Nov 10, 2019 3:43 pm

A beautiful read Lap. You know I'm not a lover of the happy ending, but I still adore the optimistic ending of this story. Lilly and Emi grow throughout and it's truly heart-warming. I was lucky enough to read this way back when it was your prompt for the contest, (before I was judging them as well), and I have to commend you for how brilliantly you transformed what I would consider to be a very difficult prompt. Well done Lap, well done.

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Re: Saturday in the Garden with Emi

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:02 pm

This story was a delight! Although seeing "Goro" kept weirding me out. I kept thinking the four-armed Mortal Kombat character was coming over!
An Unusual Friendship (Misha x Hanako Route)
Riposte (Rika Mini-Route)
One-Shots Thread (Random Smut/Meme Stories)

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Oddball
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Re: Saturday in the Garden with Emi

Post by Oddball » Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:32 pm

That's a very lovely piece of work with strong characterization for the both of them.

Lilly and Emi play off each other well. Emi keeps pushing her boundaries, asking questions, and being perfectly blunt, with Lilly trying to stay more restrained. I think for the most part it worked out well, although Lilly was perhaps a bit to open at times.

Minor tidbit though. Lilly might not know how short Emi is, but she should have a fairly good idea that Emi is a smaller person. At one point in the game, LIlly is able to tell that Hisao has bowed while speaking because of his voice coming from a lower place.

Also Emi using Nurse's name so freely feels a bit weird, especially when talking to somebody that isn't so casual with him.
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