Tomorrow's Doom ~ Up: 04/30/16 ~ recommitted to completion.

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Updated 04/17/2013 (Chapter 31 posted)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:10 pm

Two small nitpicks:
and wonder if their flight got delayed, or held up in the air, but in both of those cases she would have called to tell me they'll be late.
You're not allowed to use cell phones on a plane.
but with Midori and I instead.
with Midori and me...

Otherwise a fun chapter, even though the first part could probably have been a little shorter...
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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Helbereth
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Updated 04/17/2013 (Chapter 31 posted)

Post by Helbereth » Wed Apr 17, 2013 3:11 pm

BlackWaltzTheThird wrote:
Helbereth wrote:my somewhat overzealous little sister.”6
I wonder where that 6 came from.
Had to reformat every line break because I've been writing the whole thing with indents instead of line breaks for paragraphs since C.30. Evidently I hit an extra button when I was skimming through and didn't notice.
BlackWaltzTheThird wrote:
Helbereth wrote:Previous|[url=http://ks.renai.us/viewtopic.php?f=52&t ... 17#p154017]|Next Chapter
Ya dun goofed with your linking there, mate.
Fixed... dunno what happened there.
BlackWaltzTheThird wrote:Okay, so, chapter review time. Aiko's mom is only 39? Damn. I'm not much older than Aiko, and my parents are 50. I'm liking the characterisation we have of Midori and Ina so far, but of course there's more of them yet to develop so I'll reserve judgment for a later date.
Aiko is just barely 18 (just last Wednesday, and it's now Thursday), which means her Mom had her at ~21. It's a young age, but when you consider the urgency involved in her father's courting process, it should come as no surprise.
BlackWaltzTheThird wrote:I would like to note again just how much I like Shizune's slow transformation from queen bitch disciplinarian to caring friend.
It has been a bit of a story point I wanted to follow. I call it 'The Hisao Effect'. It's almost along the lines of Yoko needing a friend to come out of her shell--Shizune kinda needed someone to understand her. Whether that's Hisao's doing, or Aiko's because she ended up getting involved due to their friendship, I'm not sure, but I've enjoyed figuring out the nuances.
BlackWaltzTheThird wrote:I think it's probably for the better that you've got rid of a fair few characters for the forseeable[sic] future; it will allow you more time to develop the characters you've introduced here, as well as further develop those that remain.
Indeed. Basically it will just leave Yoko among her main circle, allowing me to develop her character a little more, and bring in her mom and sister, who have existed forever, but just weren't close enough for development.
BlackWaltzTheThird wrote:I wonder whether Ikaru will show up again in any noteworthy capacity... he sounds like a slightly-less douchey version of Jigoro, and anything Jigoro-related is a good thing.
This is more of a maybe than a definite, but for my purpose his dad is described here because it gives insight into Kenta, though he'll be coming back, as Amaya said, and will probably show up briefly.
BlackWaltzTheThird wrote:I'm impressed by your wordcount, by the way. It takes some serious shit to maintain an engaging stoy[sic] for such an extended period of time. Props, dude.
The weird thing is the last time I checked the count was sometime in the middle of the beach weekend, and it was just breaking 200k there. When I started plugging numbers into the spreadsheet, I was operating under the assumption that I'd only added another 50k.
Hoitash wrote:I sometimes wonder if he's the reincarnated spirit of Tolstoy, because something that long and epic is truly a major feat, and one I imagine many writers strive for, but few achieve. Once again, my hat is off to you, good sir.
War and Peace follows like 500 characters, though... I have like... 25 tops, and that's counting the VN imports.

I did have an odd thought the other night that this kind of modern high school fiction breaks the same kind of ground as books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, though. Both of those are books I hated having to read in high school, but I'm sort of writing a modern one... I'm not sure how I feel about that.
Hoitash wrote:39 does seem young, but this is a culture that tends to lean towards marrying young, and besides, my Mom was 46 when I was born, so my frame of reference is borked up anyway :).
My mom turns 61 this year, and I'm 32, so she was ~28 when I was born--25 when my older brother was born. So she's a little older than Aiko's mom comparatively, if you're just basing it on how young they had their first child. There's a back-story for her parents in my notes, and will be coming up soon in the story, that explains her mom's relative youth.
Hoitash wrote:I'm imagining Jigoro and Ikaru meeting now, and for some reason it ends up devolving into a duel (Ikaru reminds me of a samurai for some reason. Or his bodyguard.)
JSYK, Ikaru and Jigoro would probably get along, but while Jigoro is a self-involved ass with delusions of importance, Ikaru is more of a time-focused curmudgeon who sort of forgot what it's like to be eighteen--he means well.
Mirage_GSM wrote:Two small nitpicks:
and wonder if their flight got delayed, or held up in the air, but in both of those cases she would have called to tell me they'll be late.
You're not allowed to use cell phones on a plane.
I was under the impression they still have air phones... is that not the case? I haven't flown since I was 17.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
but with Midori and I instead.
with Midori and me...
While I'm fairly certain you're wrong about that, I did change that aside to:
"--except for Midori and myself."
Mirage_GSM wrote:Otherwise a fun chapter, even though the first part could probably have been a little shorter...
The classroom discussion scene--which is what I assume you're talking about--is showing Aiko opening up to acquaintances. It does reiterate information relayed in an earlier chapter, but she's doing so with people she doesn't really know all too well.

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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Updated 04/17/2013 (Chapter 31 posted)

Post by neio » Wed Apr 17, 2013 8:28 pm

Helbereth wrote:
Mirage_GSM wrote:
but with Midori and I instead.
with Midori and me...
While I'm fairly certain you're wrong about that, I did change that aside to:
"--except for Midori and myself."
Aha! A grammar debate!
The actual difference is subject vs object, but the simplest way to look at it is taking out the other person:
He sent it to me
He sent it to Helbereth and me.

I sent it to him
Helbereth and I sent it to him.
Mirage_GSM is correct.
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Updated 04/17/2013 (Chapter 31 posted)

Post by Helbereth » Wed Apr 17, 2013 8:33 pm

neio wrote: Aha! A grammar debate!
The actual difference is subject vs object, but the simplest way to look at it is taking out the other person:
He sent it to me
He sent it to Helbereth and me.

I sent it to him
Helbereth and I sent it to him.
Mirage_GSM is correct.
Where were you 20 pages ago?

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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Updated 04/17/2013 (Chapter 31 posted)

Post by BlackWaltzTheThird » Wed Apr 17, 2013 9:23 pm

For what it's worth, I've added that issue to the tips topic.
BlackWaltz's One-stop Oneshot Shop - my fanfiction portal topic. Contains links to all my previous works, plus starting now any new ones I may produce (or reproduce)! Please, check it out!

BlackWaltz's Pastebin - for those who prefer to read things with no formatting and stuff. It's mostly the same as in my thread. Also contains assorted other writing!

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Re: Chapter 32 - Endorphins (part 1)

Post by NonexistentFlower » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:27 am

Been reading this, and enjoying it a lot so far, but there's a kind of thing that's bothering me a bit:
Helbereth wrote:Despite the lateness of his question, everyone else seems interested, so I feel like an explanation is in order. “Half, yes... her parents met in World War Two—I think I told you this before,” I say, trying to remember whether that's true or not. Shrugging, I add, “My great granddad was a Japanese soldier, and he met my great grammy while guarding a block of Italian nationals in Singapore... he was in the... uh...” As I trail off, I turn a questioning look at Naoko to ask, [What was the name again?]

Ever the wellspring of historical knowledge, she replies quickly, [Kempeitai~!]

“Kempeitai!” I echo excitedly. “Yeah, they moved back to Italy after the war, but kept ties here with his family, and my grammy ended up attending school in Tokyo. And... things happened, she got married, had my mom, and...” By now, I've probably explained enough, but I'm not uncomfortable, and I feel compelled to finish my rambling. “Anyway, I'm an eighth Italian,” I say, turning to notice Jun's interested expression, “why do you ask?”
Given this, the Japanese aren't very proud of the Kempeitai, and as such it's not something one would toss into a conversation casually like that, especially given that in Singapore, for example, though the anti-Japanese sentiment has dulled, many are still extremely bitter about what had happened (I should know, I live there).

Must be relevant to a later plot point (You heard it from me first)

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Re: Chapter 32 - Endorphins (part 1)

Post by Mader Levap » Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:23 am

NonexistentFlower wrote:Given this, the Japanese aren't very proud of the Kempeitai,
Considering attitude of many Japanese, I would not worry about it. To today many Japanese war criminals are considered people worth reverence, after all.
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Re: Chapter 32 - Endorphins (part 1)

Post by Helbereth » Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:38 am

Been reading this, and enjoying it a lot so far[snip]
Welcome to the forums, or at least hello to a lurker-turned-member.
NonexistentFlower wrote:Given this, the Japanese aren't very proud of the Kempeitai, and as such it's not something one would toss into a conversation casually like that, especially given that in Singapore, for example, though the anti-Japanese sentiment has dulled, many are still extremely bitter about what had happened (I should know, I live there).
It's just family history to Aiko--distant history at that. Her great grandfather was a young enlisted man (probably no older than 19), who was assigned to the Kempeitai near the end of the war in 1945, and only served a few months guarding a block of Singapore before being released after the war ended--I did look at the history, and imagined his presence came about due to a need for replacement personnel. It was ~70 years ago at this point (62 when this story takes place), so if anyone's still holding a candle, it must be burning their hand.
Must be relevant to a later plot point (You heard it from me first).
The history itself? No.
All it does is provide a plausible source for Aiko's Italian heritage. Try to remember these are fictional characters, and that the descendents of the real Kempeitai, especially the grunts, which is what her great grandfather was for a short time, will have settled into normal lives after this many years.

In terms of my actual narrative?
This is actually echoing a story point made back in Chapter 13 - Our Long-Expected Date, in which she describes her family history to Hisao as she's opening up to him, including the bit about the Kempeitai, coupled with her musings near the end of Chapter 29 - Transparency, in which she recognizes that she's been very closed-off when it comes to people outside her small circle of friends. Jun asks her about it, and she decides to answer plainly, trying to let her guard down in front of people she doesn't know, or doesn't like.

TL:DR
Why would a high school romance novel have anything to do with a dismantled, criminal, Japanese military organization?

It doesn't, it's just there to make the protagonist's back-story a little more believable.
Mader Levap wrote:Considering attitude of many Japanese, I would not worry about it. To today many Japanese war criminals are considered people worth reverence, after all.
There's also that to consider. I stand by my previous statement though.

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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Updated 04/17/2013 (Chapter 32 posted)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:45 am

...so if anyone's still holding a candle, it must be burning their hand.
You have no idea^^°
Just a few weeks ago, some people in Greece fielded the idea to sue Germany for additional war reparations to offset their huge national deficit...
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Updated 04/17/2013 (Chapter 32 posted)

Post by Helbereth » Mon Apr 22, 2013 1:05 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
...so if anyone's still holding a candle, it must be burning their hand.
You have no idea^^°
Just a few weeks ago, some people in Greece fielded the idea to sue Germany for additional war reparations to offset their huge national deficit...
There has been a cultural war in America over slavery reparations since the 90s... a full 130+ years after the practice was abolished. So, yes, I know people tend to get hung up on the admittedly atrocious, ridiculously outdated actions of past generations. Maybe it is human nature to levy blame on someone simply because their great-grandfather was associated with assholes, but it's the kind of thing one needs to let roll off their back, or they risk being overwhelmed with grief for things they weren't even alive to have prevented.

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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Updated 04/17/2013 (Chapter 32 posted)

Post by Hoitash » Mon Apr 22, 2013 1:53 pm

Helbereth wrote:
Mirage_GSM wrote:
...so if anyone's still holding a candle, it must be burning their hand.
You have no idea^^°
Just a few weeks ago, some people in Greece fielded the idea to sue Germany for additional war reparations to offset their huge national deficit...
...o, yes, I know people tend to get hung up on the admittedly atrocious, ridiculously outdated actions of past generations...
As I said in a pm, one of the great things about the human race is our willingness to pound the snot out of each other over something our grandfather's did :)

OT, this conversation is oddly relevant to Aiko and her need to start looking forward, rather then stewing in the pains of her past.
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Updated 04/17/2013 (Chapter 32 posted)

Post by griffon8 » Mon Apr 22, 2013 3:00 pm

Relevant comic:

Image
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Re: Tomorrow's Doom - Updated 04/17/2013 (Chapter 32 posted)

Post by Helbereth » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:05 pm

Hoitash wrote: OT, this conversation is oddly relevant to Aiko and her need to start looking forward, rather then stewing in the pains of her past.
Never really thought of it that way, but maybe it's accidental meta planning?

There have been a few things I threw into the narrative that seemed irrelevant at the time, but later became important--Dad's picture and the box of condoms in her desk drawer, for instance. The thing with her great grandfather, though, I think has lived out its usefulness. Perhaps it could get brought up as a point of emphasis in her thought process, but I think someone else (like her Mom, for instance) would have to bring it up comparatively for her to really consider it in her internal debate.

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Chapter 33 - Misconceptions (part 1)

Post by Helbereth » Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:31 pm

Happy Birthday to my mom! 04/24/2013 (no, I will not say how old she is today)

A week hence, and here I return with another chapter. This one was roughed out inside a day, but has since been tightened and twisted, iterated upon and adjusted. I want to thank Hoitash and neio for checking on repeated alterations, and pointing out a few worthwhile changes.

Enough stalling! On with the... show?

Previous|Part 2|Next Chapter
_____________________________________________________________
Chapter 33 – Misconceptions

The city looks different through the passenger window of a street car, versus a bus or a train. It's a strange difference, and probably has to do with the height off the ground, but the buildings loom higher, street signs seem to yell their warnings, and even the people look bigger, like they're larger than life; it's somewhat frightening. When I was little it didn't really bother me because I was in the car with Dad, or Mom, or both, and they'd never let anything happen to me. Now that I'm eighteen, though, and the imposing city around me isn't completely walled off by my protective parents, I feel smaller somehow.

I've really missed my mom...

She and Amaya haven't shut up since we left the car park, but I don't really mind. They only have a few days to catch up, while I'll have the whole summer to chew Mom's ear. Their discussion has already run the gamut from talking about Tadao, to her academic exploits, and now they're apparently discussing real estate. My interest level shot through the floor when Amaya started talking about land claims in her home province, but Mom continues humoring her desire to chatter about whatever nonsense comes to mind, nodding and shrugging, but saying little in return. Being on the outside of the conversation for once, I imagine people must think Amaya and I are insufferable sometimes.

Meanwhile, Midori continues talking Yoko's ear off, though they did switch back to Japanese after a while. Their conversation has followed a less-heady trail as Midori continues asking about Kenta, and ends up revealing that she has a crush on some boy back at her school in Italy. When that bit of information pops up, I turn a questioning look at Mom, but she apparently already knows the details. It's completely innocent, and hasn't progressed beyond girlish giggling and casual horseplay, but I can't help comparing it to my experience, or lack thereof.

At Midori's age, I was something of a reclusive, unapproachable harpy, and I avoided people—my classmates especially—as much as I possibly could. With her being so gregarious and pleasant, if a little bit overzealous and overtly inquisitive, I shouldn't be surprised her eyes have already started drifting toward boys, but it really only serves as another reminder that she's growing up beyond my control—and at seemingly greater speed. To think, I used to hide her dolls and make fun of her overbite, and now she'll probably have a boyfriend before that word was even part of my regular vocabulary. It both makes me proud, and leaves me feeling jealous.

I really regret being socially retarded...

Usually when we're headed for the Soliloquy, Amaya and I take the bus, then follow along the sidewalks and crosswalks, so I've never had to try finding a parking space near the shop. Our chatter halts as Mom slowly makes her way through a causeway, headed up toward the third floor of a car garage. The sound of engine noise echoes off the claustrophobic cement walls, and I find myself white-knuckling the armrest because Mom isn't exactly the safest driver in the world; I thought sideswiping parked cars was normal when I was ten. Though she's a stickler for car safety, I never really noticed until recently that her actual driving skill leaves something to be desired.

I think the two might be related...


Luckily, nothing awful happens, and she finds an empty space before I suffer a panic attack. As we're disembarking, she starts directing us toward the elevators and cheerfully remarks, “Everybody remember where we parked~!”

During the elevator ride, she tries to explain it was a movie reference, but none of us have a clue what she's talking about. After quieting her need to try and explain by assuring her it's because we don't watch much science fiction—which is admittedly only to placate her—Amaya and I take up the lead, and soon we're standing outside the Soliloquy Dress-Shop. Noticing some broken chunks of plaster on the ground outside the storefront, and a new window on the opposite side of the door, I imagine Mister Miyoto has done some renovations since our last visit, but the scene inside is much more captivating.

With careful steps, Amaya and I walk through the door with our eyes glued to the two figures standing in the middle of the store, locked in a passionate embrace. One of them is Mister Miyoto himself, dressed in a purple suit-coat with black slacks and a red, black-buttoned shirt. However, much to our surprise, wrapped in his arms is a tall woman in a black and white, harlequin-patterned blouse, a long, flowing, black skirt, black high-heeled shoes, and holding a white, wide-brimmed sun hat around behind his back. Their display is both completely adorable and utterly confusing, at least for Amaya and myself.

I guess this is what happens when you assume...

“Ooh, well that's a sight to see~!” Mom coos as she steps in behind us, and her comment causes their kiss to break.

Leaning away from his paramour, Miyoto calls toward each of us melodically, “Ah~! Miss Kurai, Miss Yamamoto~!”

There's a brief moment while he's looking my way when I probably look somewhat overwhelmed, but I quickly stifle my shocked expression and attempt to relax my shoulders. Although neither of us ever actually asked about his behavior, Amaya and I were both near-certain Mister Miyoto—or Satoru, rather—was of the homosexual persuasion. Clearly we were wrong, and I feel embarrassed for ever making such an assumption based solely on quirky behavior, but I should try to focus on letting the new information settle.

Try to look casual...!

Looking back into the lovely woman's eyes, he chirps, “My dear, I believe we'll have to cut our interlude short—I seem to have customers.”

“Of course, Lemon-Drop,” she replies in a throaty, rich tone.

“Ever-savvy to the wiles of my clientèle... you understand,” he says, placing a kiss on her nose, to which she nods, laughs airily, and turns her gaze to look us over.

Any assumptions I've ever made about Satoru's sexuality have just been completely shattered, but now I'm grinning like an idiot because I have to admit: he has good taste. The statuesque, blond, ponytailed woman who calls him “Lemon-Drop” looks no older than twenty-five, with creamy skin, big, crystal-blue, almond-shaped eyes, and supple, red-stained lips. Tall, and clearly foreign, perhaps Icelandic, her narrow figure is highlighted by exaggerated hips, and her softly smiling face is accented by high cheekbones, a narrow nose, and a strong, angular jawline. There's a worldly confidence in her smile, and a sophisticated, inquisitive look to her expression, like she's analyzing the situation without judging what she sees.

I like her already.

“This is my darling wife; Lydia Loxen-Miyoto,” Satoru introduces her, grinning broadly.

“Charmed,” Mom replies, walking around us to shake her hand.

“Are you a model!?” Midori blurts, drawing a light chuckle from the strikingly beautiful woman.

I honestly understand why she's asking...

“Photographer, actually; I've been known to take pictures of models, but I'm not one myself,” she replies, offering a slight bow to my sister, “Thank you for the compliment, though.”

Wrapping his arm around her waist, Satoru explains, “Lydia does all my store fliers and graphics; ever since we met while she was still attending university,” turning toward her, he places a kiss below her ear and cheerily adds, “I really only married her so she'd give me a discount~!”

“A benefit he probably won't access,” Lydia replies jokingly, turning to scan her eyes over him lustily, “at least not... directly.”

“My dear, these are sweet, innocent school-girls. You mustn't tarnish their developing minds with such suggestive humor,” Satoru chides, punctuating his statement with a light slap on her behind.

I'd find this embarrassing if it weren't comical...

“Later, dear...” she coos throatily, grasping his hand firmly. “Do try to control yourself in front of guests,” she adds, turning toward Mom, “I didn't catch your name?”

“Ina Kurai,” she replies quickly, apparently happy with the subject change, then turns to point at my sister, “and your admirer over there is my little one, Midori.” My awe-struck sister throws up a tiny wave, and that leads Lydia to start chuckling heartily.

“They grow up so fast,” she says with a sigh, “at least that's what Mother keeps telling me...” Pausing, she glances toward our silent partner, whom I think has a look of recognition in her green eyes, and inquires, “And who is this lovely, crimson-locked vixen?”

I might be observing a younger version of my mother...

Despite the description, Yoko looks and sounds surprisingly confident as she replies, “Yoko Guidot, Miss Loxen. I think I've seen your photos online.”

“Misses Miyoto, or Lydia, please!” she corrects, smiling at Satoru, “Though I don't think my nuptials are well-known quite yet—it was only two weeks ago.”

“Well, congratulations~!” Mom announces, and I can see her fighting the urge to wrap the newlywed woman, who is basically a total stranger, in a hug. It reminds me of how much she loves weddings, newlyweds, and everything associated with lovers and romanticism. Now that I think of it, that could explain her support where Hisao is concerned; me falling in love probably sounds like wedding bells to her, which might be a possibility, but it's ridiculously premature.

One step at a time, Mom... seriously...

“Thank you~!” Satoru chirps, turning to nod at Lydia, “We've had a bit of a stormy romance over the past two months... or a renewed one, rather.”

“Indeed, Lemon-Drop, four years or more,” she chirps back, and again turns her inquisitive gaze toward Yoko. “You must be quite interested in fashion to have stumbled across my modest portfolio.”

“Well... it's a hobby is all,” Yoko replies, her humble shyness resurfacing.

“At your age, hobbies are potential careers—keep that in mind,” the fashionable woman advises. Nodding, Yoko goes silent, and that turns Lydia's attention toward Amaya and myself.

“Lovely eyes, dear,” she says absently, apparently referencing mine, “I'd love to get you in my studio some afternoon—heterochromia is fascinating to capture photographically, and there's such clarity in your eyes' distinction...” As she trails off, I see her squinting to stare at my eyes, which is a little unsettling, almost clinical, but doesn't feel invasive.

I feel like a painting...

“She's the one I mentioned,” Satoru says, making me tense my shoulders and turn a confused stare at him. Noticing my reaction, he starts to say, “Sorry, I didn't mean to-”

“No, it's okay,” I interject, trying to shake away the nerves, “I'm just used to most people thinking it's strange, rather than fascinating.”

Lydia grins and remarks, “Well, take it from me—not that I'm any kind of authority—but it makes you unique, not strange... and that's a fair bit better than most of us ladies can claim.” The sincerity in her tone, and the fact that she's echoing something Hisao once told me, results in my responding with a big, toothy grin.

I definitely like her.

“And this then must be the gregarious Amaya, if I recall Satoru's description correctly, that is...” she remarks, turning to inspect my strangely-silent friend. “Though I must say I expected something a bit more... animated?” she adds, turning a confused grin toward her husband.

Her comment causes everyone to glance at Amaya, and I smirk at finding her standing there with her eyes set, still completely dumbfounded. It's a little unnerving that she isn't even noticing, much less protesting the curious looks, but she's the one who first suggested Satoru's eccentricities meant he might be gay, and it's probably taking her longer to sort things out. Honestly, if not for my seemingly more frequent bouts of embarrassment, then I likely would still be standing here gawking because I was no less convinced by our misguided assumptions.

I'll never assume anything like that again...

“I think she may be in shock,” Satoru remarks, shrugging as he turns a broad smile at his new bride, “too stunned by your beauty to speak...! I suffered that same unwavering stare at our first meeting, if you recall...”

Chuckling lightly, Lydia jokes, “Always finding a way to turn anything into a compliment—you're incorrigible!” Turning back toward us, she assumes a mock-serious expression and advises, “You girls best behave in school, or you may end up in a torrid romance with your tutor... Though I'd recommend it if he's as adorable as my Satoru.”

“Oh, they're all taken already,” Mom says cheerily, with a nauseatingly bright smile as she turns toward Satoru, “That's why we're here, actually. They need evening-wear for a belated birthday dinner.”

“Ah~! And who's the birthday girl~?” Satoru chirps, clasping his hands together and clicking his heels.

“My lovely daughter, Aiko,” Mom replies, holding a hand out toward me.

“It was last week; I turned eighteen,” I say, preempting his questions.

Shaking her head, Mom laments,“Makes me feel old.”

“Trust me, Madame: if I were bad at math, I would assume you're no older than my captivating, young bride,” Satoru compliments, drawing a hearty laugh from Mom, and a quick sigh from his wife.

“I think I'll take my leave before he starts showering you ladies with any more compliments; If only to shield you lovelies from my jealousy,” Lydia remarks cheerfully, turning to plant a kiss on Satoru's cheek. “Be good, Lemon-Drop, I have errands to run.”

Bowing deeply, he replies, “I'll count the minutes until your return, my love!”

Lydia starts toward the door, but stops and turns to face Yoko, then reaches into the little white purse hanging high under her shoulder. Producing a business card, she hands it to my shy friend. “If he doesn't behave, give me a call—jealousy makes me a better lover,” she remarks demurely, adding a laugh when Yoko's eyes bug out, but I can't quite tell if she's really joking. “Otherwise, if you're interested in a tour, give me a call and I'll show you around my studio—talk your friend into letting me take some photos of her lovely eyes, and I'll consider it fair trade.”

That might be interesting...

“Um... thank you, Misses Miyoto,” Yoko replies, taking the card.

“Call me Lydia... I don't feel old enough to be a Misses yet.”

Yoko sucks in a breath, but doesn't voice her reply, instead nodding with a shy smile.

“Make them beautiful, my love~!” Lydia chirps as she heads for the door.

As I'm watching her leave, I admire the practiced sway in her step, and the deft way she lifts the hat to rest on her head. It's the same kind of grace Mom maintains, and that I've always envied. A quick look over her shoulder draws my attention to Satoru, whose eyes are practically glued to her behind, utterly captivated. It's a look I've seen in Hisao before, except directed at me, and seeing it in the peculiar dressmaker's eyes removes any remaining doubts about their involvement.

He's completely infatuated with her...

When she disappears out of view, his eyes continue following for a few moments, as though he can still see her walking. With the moment passed, he starts blinking, and I turn away so he doesn't see me staring. The motion turns me to look at Amaya, and I notice she's still standing there with her mouth held agape, gawking at Satoru. It's a worrisome look, and I know its source, but I'm surprised it's taking so long for her to settle down, and I wonder if it might indicate something more dire than embarrassment; I've seen her like this just prior to a seizure.

Best to check...

"Amaya?” I prompt, reaching up to wave my hand in front of her face, “You still there, sweetie?”

She blinks and her shoulders relax, then she slowly turns her blank expression at me and tilts her head. “How are- what did- sorry... I'm just-”

“Dear, you're not making sense,” Mom chides.

Satoru starts to explain, “It's alright... As I said, I'm thinking it's just a bit of shock, but has nothing to do with my dear wife.” Shaking his head, he turns a sidelong look at Mom and continues, “You see... despite the fact that I'm a hot-blooded, straight man, most of my clients are under the impression that I either walk the line, or fall completely into the category of a stereotypically gay man—it's a delusion I usually don't fight because it just makes my job easier.”

“Sorry! I didn't mean to assume!” Amaya blurts, finally rejoining reality.

“Oh, don't apologize!” he balks, turning a regretful smile toward her, “My behavior is unorthodox by any standard—the result of my teachers' influence, I think—and I simply didn't correct you... I feel I should apologize, actually,” he pauses and settles into a solemn expression with a hand over his heart, “I may have let you believe your misconceptions to make you feel less uncomfortable with my delicate work... but it was still wrong.”

It makes a lot of sense, actually...

With her world-view still a little shattered, Amaya regains her senses enough to reiterate her apology, which Satoru accepts with one stipulation: that she forgive his unintentional deception. She does so happily, and with that awkward moment out of the way, he leads us into the renovated fitting room. Along the way, Mom turns a disappointed look toward me, and nods toward Satoru, which I'm going to take as an indication that I should echo Amaya's apology. My careful nod quiets her, but the newlywed tailor seems excited to give us a renewed tour, so I'll have to wait for another opportunity.

Now twice the size, and flanked with big, inviting couches rather than benches, the bright, white-walled fitting room feels like a posh, comfortable lounge. The renovations took place while he took Lydia on a Parisian honeymoon, and he reopened a few days ago, much to our delight. The shop has started to gain renown locally, and Satoru is even considering hiring someone to run the front of the store so he can concentrate on tailoring for his clients. Whatever the case, evidently business is good, and his new wife has been urging him to expand since long before their recent coupling. That probably means our secret shop may not stay hidden for long, but I'm happy for him.

While we're searching through racks of dresses, Midori goes to sit on one of the plush, white couches, and gets really quiet. After a short while we figure out why: she fell asleep. Despite her excitement at seeing me again, and the incessant chatter during the car ride, the jet-lag has apparently caught up with her, so she lies there, curled in a ball against one of the arms, softly snoring. Mom apologizes, but Satoru is apparently prepared for that kind of contingency, and remarks that the couches are basically there for that very thing. From a side closet, he withdraws a blanket and pillow, and Mom uses them to help make my precocious little doppelganger more comfortable.

As Amaya predicted, Yoko has an eye for fashion, and a knack for finding appropriate attire. Like with her mastery of English, Yoko approaches every suggestion humbly, but Satoru finds them helpful, rather then offensive, and I notice a confidence growing in her voice at his praise. She ends up finding a dark blue ensemble for Amaya that not only fits her—and highlights her slender figure—but also enhances her tiny bust. The find makes them instant friends, if they weren't already. Amaya gushes over it and wraps an exuberant hug around our freckled fashion finder, who responds with a big, bright smile.

“It's perfect, Freckles~!” Amaya beams, still holding onto Yoko's shoulders.

The reaction makes my shy friend giggle and try to back away, which is about the same thing I'd be doing if I were her. “It's just a dress,” she says calmly, trying to reason with Amaya's elation, “You should thank it instead.”

“You found it, though, dear~!” Mom interjects, watching the display from her seat on the couch by Midori.

“Right~!” Amaya adds, stepping back and twirling around.

The garment consists of a thin-strapped, dark blue bodice with a padded underwire, and an attached, moderately puffy, ruffled skirt in a slightly lighter color. As she spins, the skirt catches the air, and when she stops it drifts down just below her knobby knees, hiding them tastefully—which is another point in Yoko's favor. It isn't a flawless fit, as the section through the abdomen doesn't quite cling to Amaya's lean figure, but Satoru is nodding and smiling gleefully.

“You're a veritable devil in a blue dress, Miss Yamamoto~!” he cheers, clapping his hands together.

“You better believe it!” she responds in a throaty tone, turning back to Yoko and grinning devilishly. The face makes the tense girl break out laughing, and start nodding in agreement.

“Glad I could help,” she says softly, once the laugh subsides.

Satoru steps over and takes a closer look, analyzing the flaws, but quickly sighs and starts nodding. “I'll have to pull in the waist, and perhaps shorten the straps—your shoulders are so dainty—but that's all child's-play,” he rambles, mostly talking to himself.

“Go change, dear,” Mom says to Amaya, then steps off the couch and walks toward Yoko, “I found a perfect dress for your new best friend, but I may need help convincing her.”

The sentiment makes me turn an apologetic look at Yoko, though I'm definitely curious. While Amaya heads back into the changing room, Mom steps through the curtain into the main store, and I shrug at the red-haired girl, who looks intrigued despite my warning look. A few moments later, Mom returns with a dark red dress draped across her arms, which looks like a perfect color to match Yoko's skin and hair, but the cut is probably what will be the problem.

All the material is in the lower half...

Holding it up, Mom grins proudly, and Satoru starts nodding in agreement, but the look on Yoko's face is harder to read. It's somewhere between curiosity and horror, as though she's interested in how it might look on her, but terrified of exposing that much skin. While she holds the dress up in front of Yoko, I walk over to Mom's shoulder so I can get a closer look, and start nodding along with the dressmaker. It's definitely a racy dress, but I can see why Mom looks so determined—it would be a knock-out on her dancer's body.

“A girl should always look her best,” Mom says convincingly, and I continue my supportive nod.

I mostly just want to see how that dress fits her...

As Amaya emerges and heads toward the couch, she gets a good, long look at the dress and starts nodding with a big grin. “It's just us here, Freckles,” she says confidently, “don't be nervous—we've already seen-”

“Amaya!” I yell, trying to prevent her from making things worse.

Smirking at me, she continues anyway, “I was gonna say we've seen you in a bathing suit—can't get much more exposed than that.”

Although I don't think that's where she was going originally, Yoko is shrugging instead of shying away, so I take that as a cue to add some gentle encouragement. “Just try it,” I suggest, pointing toward the changing room, “Worst thing that happens is you end up hating it, but I think Mom is right, and it'll look great on you... and you can wear it for Kenta when he gets back.”

Using that last suggestion is probably a little underhanded, but it's effective. With a determined nod, Yoko takes the dress from Mom's hands and heads for the changing room.

“Go for it, Freckles~!” Amaya cheers.

Once Yoko is out of sight, Amaya hands her dress off to Satoru, then joins me on the couch. Turning a smile at her, I nudge her shoulder and mention, “She might be too good for Kenta.”

“I know, right?” she replies.

“Shush, you two!” Mom scolds in a whispering tone, “Kenta's a good boy, and she's infatuated with him—don't make her feel uncomfortable for it.”

That shuts us both up, and we sit in silence waiting for Yoko to reemerge. She takes a while longer than Amaya did, though that's probably because her denim dress is somewhat difficult to remove. While we're waiting, I turn a glance at Satoru, already over by his work bench, making adjustments to Amaya's evening gown, and decide I'll take the opportunity to apologize. Standing quietly, I step over to the opposite end of the bench and lean against it to catch his attention. He turns a quick look at me and goes right back to his work, but I take it as an opening to begin.

“I wanted to apologize as well... for before...” I say, trailing off as I watch his practiced hands.

It's mesmerizing watching him work, and there's an indelible smile plastered on his face throughout the process, even when he's clearly being annoyed by the delicate threading. Although I feel like he's ignoring me a little bit, I don't actually mind. There's a calming quality to seeing the hands of a master craftsman working, and as I'm watching, I notice his gold wedding band for the first time. If what Lydia said is true and their ceremony was only a couple weeks ago, he must have been caught in a whirl of preparations around the time of our last visit.

I wonder what his wedding was like...

When he reaches a temporarily happy result, he holds the dress up toward me and smiles. “This is what I've always wanted to do,” he explains, smiling wistfully, “ever since I was a little boy helping around my mother's bakery.”

“Tailor clothes?”

“Help make women look beautiful,” he clarifies, and leans forward to whisper, “beyond their normal standing.” Turning the dress around in his hands, he continues, “Highlight their feminine grace, and help them see how truly wonderful they are... it's not a world-changing goal, but I think it's a valid one.”

The earnest tone and even expression tell me he's completely serious, and the sentiment makes me smile. “You love your work, we both knew that... and thank you for helping with my confidence,” I remark, taking in a breath while my gratitude makes him grin, “but we had no right assuming it meant anything... else.”

“Like I told Miss Yamamoto—Amaya-” he stops and glances toward her, “It's really my fault. My field is dominated by a certain kind of character, and there's a certain expectation among my clients,” he turns back and sighs, “but... after your last visit, I considered you girls friends... I should have been more forthcoming.”

“Don't worry about it. And congratulations, by the way; Lydia is a lovely woman—she reminds me of my mom,” I say, turning a look to where she's pacing excitedly outside the changing room, “back when I was barely taller than her knees.”

“Thank you! And if Lydia looks half as good as your mother by her age, thank you again~!” Pausing to enjoy my nodding smile, he quickly adds, “Your future husband has a lot to look forward to, too~!”

His comment makes my smile brighten for a moment, but then darken, and I end up with a somewhat despondent look that makes him furrow his brow. “Boyfriend trouble?” he asks, trying to determine the cause of my melancholy, “That seems unlikely, though... that fellow you brought by last time had that longing look in his eyes... and it was only for you.”

“Hisao is great,” I say, shaking my head at his assumption, “it's just-”

“Come dear, the world is waiting to be struck dumb by your radiance~!” Mom croons, apparently talking to Yoko through the curtain. Her proclamation draws everyone's attention to the changing room, but Satoru holds back for a moment.

Leaning toward me and offering an even expression, he advises, “Whatever it is causing you to make that face, don't let it rule you. You're eighteen, you're gorgeous, and you're almost ready to conquer the world. Don't let fear or a little self-doubt stop you.”

Yoko complains, “I feel stupid,” and I see her shifting on her bare feet under the curtain. Hearing that, Satoru offers me a little bow and spins on his heel.

Satoru Miyoto: genius tailor, bold eccentric, mild psychic, and intuitive therapist...

“It's too small!” she adds, sounding frustrated, “It's silly...”

“That's why I'm here~!” Satoru chirps, marching right up in front of the changing room and clapping his hands sharply. “Your discomfort will be temporary, I assure you~!”

“It's supposed to be a little small, dear~! That's how you know it's working!” Mom says confidently, smiling at Satoru's support. “Like Aiko said; if you hate it, you don't have to get it, but let's have a look first?”

The confidence in her voice probably helps more than the words, and I hear Yoko let out a breathy sigh. “Okay, I'm coming out—don't laugh!” she warns. While she continues fidgeting, I start making my way over to sit beside Amaya so we can whisper comments on the reveal.

After a short while, the curtain slowly slides away and she steps out nervously, quickly folding her arms across her chest. The dress does look a little tight, but Satoru is quick to chirp, “Oh, now that's a flattering look on you~!”

“Move your arms, dear—you're hiding the best part!” Mom adds, stepping over with her hands clasped together.

With a nervous look in her eyes, Yoko slowly sets her arms down at her sides, but continues slouching her bare shoulders, which looks unnatural in her case. The bodice clings tightly around her waist, holds her sizable bust together like a corset, and the strapless cups lift her breasts upward, giving them a look almost like she's lying down. The dark red, ruffled material highlights her narrow waist and wide hips, then becomes a sheer, flowing skirt that hangs in airy folds around her shapely legs, and drapes lightly around her calves. It never really occurred to me before, but somewhere under the shy glances and conservative attire, Yoko is hiding a poised, toned, voluptuous body, and the dress merely serves to highlight her feminine strengths.

She looks positively stunning...

“Stand straight and proud like you usually do~!” Mom commands, still grinning brightly, “Don't you want to stop traffic?”

Shyly, Yoko gives up the slouch and manages a smile as she straightens. The shift in posture presses her bust even harder against the material, and I worry she might pop out of the top, but I imagine that's part of the point of the dress. It will need some tailoring to fit properly, but Satoru is quick to notice that, and I can already see his eyes focusing while his sharp mind formulates solutions to the minor issues.

“Don't pop the stitching~!” he says airily, and she shrinks back down, “You look positively ravishing in that dress, but it will need some adjustments to meet my standards for perfection... and your shapely figure.”

“I think I'm gonna call her Scarlet from now on,” Amaya muses in a whisper.

“I was thinking Jessica Rabbit,” I suggest.

“Too long; Scarlet pops,” she retorts, raising her voice to ask, “Right, Scarlet?”

“You're sure it looks okay?” Yoko asks of Satoru with a furrowed brow, ignoring Amaya's question.

I think it's best not to overwhelm her further...

“Miss Guidot, once I make the adjustments so you don't pop out of it, you'll draw every man's attention in a ten kilometer radius... who will all think you're about to,” Satoru remarks, taking a step back and motioning for her to turn around.

She complies, continuing to look over her shoulder as she slowly steps around. The grace of her slow reveal is somewhat captivating, and makes me regret never having dance lessons. As she turns, I notice the back of the dress leaves her nearly bare, all the way down to the dimples above her heart-shaped behind. It puts her poised stance on display, draws attention to the rain of freckles dotted across her shoulders, and creates a valley where her long locks of hair sweep against her cream-colored skin.

“This is embarrassing,” Yoko says with an airy giggle, clearly enjoying the attention despite her protests.

While she's making another turn, Amaya leans against me, nudges my side, and whispers flatly, “Jessica Rabbit it is, then.”

“Keep it under your hat for now,” I reply, wanting to save Yoko some embarrassment for later.

I definitely want to see Kenta's reaction...

“Were I a younger man, and not married...” Satoru starts to say, but trails off before he incriminates himself.

“Okay, go change back so he can make adjustments—you do want to get it, right?” Mom says, ushering her back toward the changing room.

“I don't know if my parents would approve,” Yoko protests as Mom pulls the curtain closed.

“I'll pay for it, so they'll never know.”

“I couldn't-”

“Ah! Tut-tut!” Mom interjects, “You're my daughter's friend, and you're coming to dinner tomorrow night, right?”

There's a brief pause, followed by an airy reply, “Yes... if she'll have me along.”

“Wouldn't go without you,” I call out, standing up to take a few steps closer. “Just don't you try stealing Hisao!” I add jokingly, but all I get in response is a shy giggle. Listening to it makes me recall Lydia's statement about jealousy making her a better lover, and I'm now certain she wasn't joking.

I want to ensure Hisao never considers pursuing another woman...

“Does that mean you want to get it?” Mom inquires hopefully.

Amaya adds her two cents, “Free clothes? Why refuse?”

After shaking away the jealous thoughts, I affirm, “Good point.”

“Fine!” Yoko groans in frustration, “But I insist on paying you back!”

“Your presence is all I request,” Mom replies.

There's something weird in her tone that tells me Mom is plotting something, but I can't quite figure out what. It's not unlike her to spend money on seemingly frivolous things in an attempt to cheer someone up—she used to buy me ice cream when I came home from school crying—but there's something else going on here. This belated birthday dinner of hers feels like some kind of ruse, like she has an ulterior motive, but I really don't know enough yet to make any judgments.

I don't trust her being this magnanimous...
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Last edited by Helbereth on Tue Dec 03, 2013 11:11 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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Chapter 33 - Misconceptions (part 2)

Post by Helbereth » Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:32 pm

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When Yoko reemerges in her denim attire, I catch a wandering glance from Mom, and it's accompanied by a tilted smirk from Satoru. Their looks are unnerving, but I can guess what they mean: it's my turn. With Yoko joining Amaya on the couch, and Midori asleep, I'm the only one left without a dress to wear that isn't unconscious or my mother. They've been keeping the dress Mom picked a secret, but that isn't all that I find unsettling. There's still something weird about this whole situation, and I really have nothing to lose by asking, so I decide to play my hand a little.

“You're plotting something,” I accuse her, trying a bluff.

“Me? Heavens, no!” she replies, all but confirming my suspicion.

Still, I have no evidence to throw at her, so all I can count on is my ability to keep a straight face. While I'm locking eyes with her, I keep my ear tuned toward Satoru, who may or may not be in on the plot by now, but neither of them is giving anything away. The moment ends when the silence is broken by a sleepy yawn from Midori, and I turn to see her sitting up and blinking at the strange environment.

“Where...?”

Mom cheerily greets her, “Welcome back, Midi! You're just in time for Aiko's turn!”

Groggy, and a little confused by her surroundings, she leans forward and smiles at me lazily. “I fell asleep?” she asks, making me roll my eyes.

“Yes, you curled up and lost consciousness... and a good time was had by all,” I reply sarcastically.

“Love you too, sis~!” she chirps brightly.

“If you're done firing snarky comments at your sister, I think I've found the perfect thing for you to wear,” Mom says, turning my attention back to where I see her lifting a little black piece of cloth from behind her back.

“That's a dress?” I ask in disbelief, wondering how so little fabric could constitute a whole garment.

It's a glorified tube of cloth...

“It stretches,” she claims, tugging the fabric to demonstrate, “designed to fit tightly—just humor me. I'm sure you'll like it. You've got the body for it—and the legs.”

“Mom!” I groan.

“Just try it,” Amaya says, and I turn an accusatory glare at her.

“Worst thing is you might end up hating it, but your Mom has been right so far,” Yoko adds with a conspiratorial smirk, apparently taking delight in making me eat my words.

“And I think Hisao will probably love seeing you in it,” Mom adds, completing their paraphrasing.

“Fine!” I exhale and spin on my heel, grabbing the dress out of Mom's hands on my way toward the changing room, “I hate you all~!”

My mock anger is pretty obvious, and I'm chased through the curtain by a chorus of laughter. Honestly, I'm curious about this odd-feeling fabric and its stretching ability, so I hastily remove my dainty sundress and start turning the black thing over in my hands, trying to figure out how it's supposed to work. Apparently it has sleeves of a sort, and a hole in the top for my head to fit through, but there are three holes where my arms should go, and that just makes me confused. Turning it over several times, and still being unable to figure out the simple garment, I groan in frustration and silently berate myself for being a tomboy.

“How does this-”

“Kitten, it's not complicated,” Mom says, stepping into the little room behind me.

“Mom!” I shout, holding the skimpy dress up shamefully.

“Aiko, I changed your diapers for nearly three years; I can handle seeing you in your underwear,” she chides, shaking her head and sighing. Her comments cause a renewed wave of giggles from outside the changing room.

Thanks, Mom, I needed everyone to hear that one again...

“Now, you pull it on like a shirt,” she explains, and I start to do just that, but I encounter that third hole and don't know what I'm supposed to do, so I stop. “It might be easier if you took your bra off,” she adds, making me stop and groan.

“Seriously, Mom?”

“If it makes you feel better, I'll take my top off, too,” she chides, grinning devilishly.

“Now it's a party,” Satoru remarks.

“Go find a picture of your wife, Mister Miyoto, and get your mind out of the gutter,” Mom scolds.

“Yes Ma'am,” he replies, and I actually hear him walk away, probably in search of that picture.

I hope I can inspire that kind of obedience someday...

Deciding to explain my dilemma, I hold up the dress and describe, “Okay, it's this third hole—I can't figure out what it's for.”

There's a brief pause, followed by a raised eyebrow and a flat reply, “That's the cleavage window, Kitten.”

That seems like it should have been obvious...

“A way to bear your bosoms, and excite his senses, as it were. A little slice of happiness,” she adds, each uncomfortable description deepening my frustrated expression.

“Okay, okay... I get it! Thank you, can you leave now?” I request, practically pushing her toward the curtain with my stony glare.

“Alright, Kitten, just- Sorry, I'm just excited!” she says, taking a nervous step backward, and holding up her hands defensively with a look of horror in her eyes.

The sight of her recoiling from me makes every muscle in my body tense, and my unwelcoming gaze flattens into a stunned stare. The thought of her pulling away from me in horror causes me to leap forward, wrap her in a hug, and start to apologize immediately. “I'm sorry, Mom! I-” I stop and fidget, not sure what to tell her.

I don't even know why I reacted like that...

“It's okay, Kitten, I know this is stressful—your Grammy made me crazy,” she admits, hugging me tightly, “I just want you to look your best, and I'm getting a little carried-”

"No, you're not!” I protest, stopping her mid-sentence and tightening my embrace, “You're my mom, and I love you; I've missed you so much it's not even funny, and the first thing I do when I have you here is complain? About you picking out some clothes? What kind of horrible daughter does that?”

“My daughter,” she replies quickly and sweetly, which serves to make me laugh despite the tears rolling down my cheeks.

I am that kind of daughter, I guess...

“The one I've been missing for six months,” she goes on to explain emphatically, “who's growing into a smart, beautiful, independent young woman without me... and that terrifies me!” Sounding like she's on the verge of tears, she continues, “Somehow you're managing to get right all the things I got wrong, and I don't know how I can help except with this,” she leans back and nods toward the dress, “I guess I'm starting to feel like you don't need me.”

She thinks I know what I'm doing...?

“There's plenty of other stuff you can help with,” I say, pausing while she smiles brightly. “So trust me, I definitely still need you,” I add, which makes her furrow her brow a little. That reaction makes me avert my eyes for a moment, but I quickly look back to explain, “I'm actually enjoying this, I'm just- I'm not used to someone being so hands-on... it's a little unnerving.”

After a moment spent considering my expression, she lets out a quick sigh and steps back. “Well, how about, from now on, I'll wait for you to ask, or at least knock before I rush into the changing room to help?” she suggests, offering a little bow, “I'll try to contain my motherly drive.”

“Just as long as you're out there somewhere, ready to come help, I'll be fine,” I reply, settling a serious look on her that I'm hoping she sees carrying more weight than a mere request for help with choosing clothes.

“I'll always be there, Kitten,” she says, nodding her double understanding, “all you have to do is call.”

I'll need to remember that...

Our tender moment gets interrupted by a stifled yelp from Yoko. “Aiko, something's wrong!” she yells, sounding completely horrified.

Being half dressed, I can't readily jump out of the room, but that doesn't stop Mom from yanking the curtain open. Standing beside the couch with her fists clenched in front of her, Yoko looks at us with a terrified grimace, then points down and hastily explains, “She was sending a text, then just stopped and fell over!”

As I follow her pointing finger and take in the sight before me, any thought of modesty flies out of my mind: Amaya is slumped over on the couch with her feet on the floor, her little body being racked with uncontrolled twitching. Mom looks back at me and frowns, but I'm already running around her, practically diving across the room to be at my friend's side.

Modesty be damned.

“Amaya!” I yelp, unable to control the volume of my voice as I slide down to the floor in front of her.

Hearing Satoru stomp back into the room sends a rush of embarrassment over me, but at least I still have my underwear on, and he turns away upon seeing my state of undress. “Should I call an ambulance?” he asks, but I'm already shaking my head.

“No, it should pass,” I assure him, turning an even look at Yoko to request, “Help me get her up on the couch.”

Frozen in shock for a moment, she reaches forward and hesitates, but quickly steels herself, joins me on the floor and helps me pick Amaya's feet up onto the padded cushion. After rolling her to rest on her side, I turn back toward Satoru and bark, “A towel!”

“Don't worry about the upholstery!”

“So I can hold her tongue!” I blurt.

“Right!” he replies, running out of the room promptly.

That's just a ruse to get him out of the room for a moment, which I feel a little bad about, but Amaya will appreciate having fewer eyes on her. Hearing stifled sobs from over my shoulder, I turn and see Midori starting to cry, but Mom is quick to wrap her in a hug and turn her away. After less than a minute, which feels like about three hours, the shaking stops, and I keep my fingers over Amaya's neck to track her quickened pulse. Her shallow breathing and racing heart are all I can focus on while I'm waiting for her to crack her eyes open, so I don't even notice Satoru's return.

“Is she alright?” he asks, sounding horrified, “Is that normal? Is she allergic to paint thinner or something?”

His questions break me from the worried stare, and I turn to explain, “She has epilepsy—it's usually under control, but sometimes... this happens.”

“Aiko...?” Amaya's gravelly-sounding voice turns my attention back down toward her.

“I'm here, I'm sorry—Satoru was worried, I-”

“Don't... worry about that...” she says, sounding a little breathless, and forcing a smile.

“Are you okay?”

She lolls her head up to look at me, but her eyes don't quite manage to focus. “Still... breathing... I'll be fine,” she says, raising an eyebrow in her hazy state. “You should... get dressed,” she says, stopping to cough, “or Satoru... might start getting... ideas.” Despite my heightened state of worry, her comment makes me laugh.

Meanwhile, Satoru leaps back and turns away before replying, “The thought n-never crossed my mind... well, okay it did, but I... I'll be in the other room.”

“You're a married man, Mister Miyoto—remember that!” Mom chides as he leaves, then turns a sympathetic look at Amaya, “You sure you're alright, dear—need anything?”

“Water, maybe,” Amaya replies, her voice still sounding raspy. Mom nods and takes Midori with her in search of the requested drink. “You!” she barks lethargically, brushing my arm, “Go put that dress on, seriously... I want the first thing I can actually see... to be you looking sexy~!”

“She really is delirious,” Yoko jokes, nodding toward me, “I'll stay with her, you go figure out that dress.”

The confidence in Yoko's tone gives me pause, but I probably shouldn't find it surprising. Being around people with special needs, regardless of how much they might proclaim their independence, has a tendency to harden one to this sort of situation. Following her advice, I stand, pick the black dress up off the arm of the couch, rush past Satoru as he's returning, and head straight into the changing room, determined to give Amaya her show.

Armed with the knowledge of how the dress is supposed to work makes it look quite simple, and I feel silly for not having figured it out to begin with. The arm holes are round, after all, while the window Mom described is more square-shaped. Removing my bra, I slip the dress over my head, slide my hands into the holes, and pull it down as far as it will go, which ends up being barely below my rear—there's only a half-dozen centimeters of leeway.

Looking at myself in the mirror, I can't help but marvel at how well the material clings to my figure, wrapping around my curves, pulling my chest together, accenting my generous cleavage, and highlighting the roundness of my behind. The high cut of the hem leaves my legs almost completely bare, and the contrast makes them look longer, emphasizing their swim-toned shape. The tightness will limit my movement, and I'll have to be very careful about sitting down, but Mom was right: I really like this dress.

Hisao will probably have a coronary...

Mom returns with Midori and a glass of water a few moments later, then leaves Amaya in Yoko's care, and comes to knock on the wall. “You alright in there, Kitten...? That was frightening.”

“I'm used to it,” I admit, shrugging to myself, “as well as I can be anyway...”

“My daughter the EMT~!” she croons, laughing lightly, then requests, “Can I come take a look?”

Still turning to see my rear in the mirror, I reply, “Yeah, I guess... it's like I'm wearing a big, black, sexy tube sock.”

Mom steps in and closes the curtain, then gasps, “Oh~! My goodness, you fill that thing out so nicely~!”

“I keep telling her that,” Satoru mentions.

“Wife,” Mom says simply.

“Yes ma'am.”

Stepping back to get a better view, she scans me up and down, and I see her resisting the urge to try tugging the dress down lower. “Perhaps some nylons, or stockings—probably stockings, just look at those legs... just like your Grammy,” she remarks, smirking at my exposed legs. “Aiko, you realize you're making your mother jealous with those legs~!” she lilts, making me blush a little. “You'll need a garter, too, probably... and matching underwear, and a purse... shoes...” she rambles, sounding like she's thinking out a shopping list.

I'm glad this is just for a special occasion...

“We wanna see~!” I hear Amaya exclaim.

“C'mon, sis, stop stalling!” Midori demands, punctuated with a frustrated floor-stomp.

“Yeah, stop keeping us in suspense!” Yoko adds, giggling lightly.

Before opening the curtain, Mom runs a hand along my arm and whispers, “We'll talk about hiding your nipples later.”

“Mom!”

I swear she's trying to make me blush!

It's working, and I probably shouldn't think that's the wrong reaction, but I suddenly feel very self-conscious about the combination of thin material and my sudden excitement furthering my embarrassment. My face practically lights on fire as the curtain peels away and I'm greeted with a series of leery expressions, but I manage to keep my arms down despite my fears. The shocked stares from Yoko and Amaya, and Midori's gleeful bouncing are nothing compared to the wide-eyed, open-mouthed gawk from Satoru, who lifts a hand up to bite his knuckle and gasp before turning away.

I don't know whether to feel insulted or flattered...

While he collects himself, Midori rushes across the room to get a closer look. “Aiko, you look like a cover-girl~!” she says gleefully, and starts to giggle.

She must have found Mom's back-issues of Cosmo...

“That's hot,” Amaya says flatly, in English, trying to imitate a particular foreign débutante; it's not even close, but I laugh anyway.

Looking Amaya over, her eyes still aren't quite focused, but the ear-to-ear grin is making that seem like less of an issue. Meanwhile, Yoko is apparently dumbstruck, but starts to nod in agreement; either with Amaya's statement, or just at the situation in general. While I'm standing here being objectified by my friends, family, and a married man, I feel a little embarrassed, but their overwhelmingly positive impression is leaving a ridiculous grin on my face. If their reactions are any indication, I'm a little worried about Hisao actually dying from shock, but I'm not going to let that thought stop me.

“I'm sold,” I say, smiling at Mom and shrugging, “I don't think it even needs any adjusting.”

Turning back around, Satoru requests, “Gimme a spin,” and I comply willfully, throwing in a little hip shake that makes Midori giggle.

“Yeah, I don't think it needs a single stitch,” he says absently, immediately turning to face the wall again.

Mom reaches over and slaps his shoulder, “Don't make me have Yoko call your wife~!”

“Wife?” he blurts, blinking a few times and turning a confused look at her. “Ah, yes, sorry,” he shakes his head and continues, “I may need to take another week off with Lydia before coming back to this job...”

“I'll take that as a compliment,” I say, stepping back into the changing room, “and my cue to change back into something less revealing.”

“When you're done, I want you to take a look at the dress I found for your sister,” Mom mentions, and Midori giggles airily.

“I have lots of dresses, Mom~!” she remarks.

“Ah, but nothing quite appropriate for the occasion.”

As I'm working at lifting away the tight dress, I remark, “Mom, you're definitely plotting something, I can smell it... Just out with it—I'm not backing out now.”

“It's a surprise, Kitten,” she replies with a devilishly sweet tone in her voice, “It's a surprise for all your friends, actually... you'll love it, I'm sure.”

With a roll of my eyes and a sigh, I concede, “Alright, but it better be good, now that you've built it up.”

“The way you built up The Swooner?” she retorts, not missing a beat.

“I have every confidence you'll fall head over heels in love with him,” I reply confidently.

I sound confident, at least...

“She's right, Hisao's a hunk,” Amaya embellishes, supporting my claim, “He didn't get that name by accident—he earned it~!”

There's no additional support from Yoko, but I hardly expect her to talk like that, especially about someone other than her own boyfriend. Mom lets out a pleased sigh and offers her own concession, "Alright, I'll hold off my judgments if you hold yours.” She takes my silence as agreement, and goes on to request, “You'll find me in the main store, seeking out some accoutrements for your ensemble. Be a dear and join me when you're decent?"

"Yes, Mom," I reply, trying not to think about exactly what that means so I won't end up asking; I definitely don't feel like having her tell me with everyone in earshot.

I'm not even sure I want her to tell me at all, really...

Once I'm back in my sundress, which feels plain compared to the garment I just removed, I step out and find Satoru already madly at work tailoring adjustments to Yoko's dress. Setting down my sexy tube sock on his bench, I cast him a thankful smile and head for the curtain, out toward the main store. As I step through, I'm still grinning broadly, but my happy state of mind drops a little when I see Mom standing by a clothing rack with her eyes cast downward, muttering.

It sounds like she's talking to herself, but after a few seconds I realize it's a conversation; she's talking on the phone. My curiosity piques immediately, and my smile returns, but it's her private business, so I should probably wait patiently for her to finish. Whomever she's talking to, the discussion seems quite light, as she repeatedly stops to laugh, and I wonder whether it might be related to her surprise. Only hearing wisps of her half of the conversation makes eavesdropping impossible, so I decide to be good and let her have her secrets.

“I'll call you before I arrive~!” she says finally, loudly, as if intending me to hear, then pauses for a moment before adding, “Bye, dear—tell your father I said he's a good man.”

Calling my cousin, maybe...?

As she drops the phone back into her enormous bag, I take a few steps closer, but since she's looking away, she doesn't seem to notice my approach. The bright smile fades as I get nearer, and her eyes develop a faraway look that she usually only gets when she's feeling wistful, or sad. After hearing the end of her phone call, I'm not sure why she looks like that suddenly, but the smile doesn't fade completely, so I'm going to guess it's not all bad—I'm probably about to find out either way.

“What's wrong, Mom?”

Startled by my question, or my sudden appearance at her side, she blinks and tenses her shoulders, then looks up toward the ceiling. “Hmm? Oh, sorry, Kitten..." she replies, turning to look at me sidelong, "I was just... caught in a memory.”

“About what?”

“Your father,” she replies with a shrug, and I wince at the mention. Talking about Dad isn't easy for me, but it usually shuts her down completely, or it used to anyway. Instead of going silent, she turns toward me and starts reminiscing, “Years ago, when you were real little—when I was pregnant with Midori. He used to do all the driving, and the errands, and carted you around everywhere... you remember?”

As I nod, I wonder where she's leading, but it sounds like a happy memory, so I smile and try to stay positive. “I remember a lot of day trips, driving all over the city..." I remark, shrugging slightly, "Nothing specific, though.”

“He used to stop at almost every pay phone to call and ask if I'd gone into labor yet,” she says, letting out a laugh, “this was before cell-phones were really popular—y'know, in the stone age.”

“Sounds like hell.”

“It was!” she exclaims, “Especially because your father was such a worrier... We couldn't afford them as newlyweds, so he kept a pocket full of coins. The week your sister was due, he probably spent enough on phone calls to buy the phone company! He could be so... exhausting sometimes!”

We share a hearty laugh at that, but I'm left feeling a little confused. My memories of Dad before his decline are of a man that always knew what needed to be done, and went about it with conviction. After my accident, he went so far as to drag me out to the pool and try to get me back in the water, to face my fear. Almost every day for months, he walked me out to the gate, and I stood there watching while he did his laps. When that didn't work, he carried me through the gate and brought me right to the water's edge, then coaxed me in with gentle encouragement.

He always seemed so confident...

“Mo-om~! What's taking so long~!” Midori calls out from the fitting room, making me sigh and smirk.

Mom spins on her heel and heads toward the curtain. “Kitten, grab that dress on your way in,” she says, pointing at a gaudy, pink garment hanging across a nearby rack.

Back to business as usual, I'm left pondering the conflicting information while she darts away. It isn't her fault; life goes on regardless of my incessant internal debate. There's an evening out to prepare for after all, a celebration with friends and family, and she's excited to make sure the event has its own special magnificence.

“Kitten, what are you waiting for~?” she calls, snapping me out of my reverie.

I wonder if she knows she can be as exhausting as Dad...

“This pink thing, right?” I reply, reaching for the dress.

“The stuff under it, too,” she adds, and I find some kind of lacy bundle underneath.

That would be the garter belt and stockings she mentioned...

With all the accoutrements in hand, I walk back through the curtain and hold up the pink dress for Midori to examine, cleverly hiding the rest behind. The face she makes as she's looking it over goes from mildly interested to completely excited almost immediately—she still likes puffy, brightly-colorful clothes. After she snatches the dress from my hands, I move to sit down with my friends, keeping the garter-belt and stockings to myself. Listening to her and Mom fawn over the gaudy garment, which I imagine will make her look like a dark-haired Princess Peach, my thoughts drift back to the description of Dad.

Apparently he used to get excited and worried, especially when Mom was pregnant, but beyond that I don't know what to think; it's a new side of him, but I need more examples. This is hardly the time or place to bug Mom about it, either, so I decide to hold off on pondering it too deeply until I get the chance to sit down with her alone. For now I'm going to enjoy watching my sister getting prodded into embarrassment by Mom's incessant chatter. That might sound mean, but Mom just tried to show my headlights to the whole room, and Midori giggled at me, so I think I'm allowed to grin at her discomfort.

What else are sisters for?

Meanwhile my polar-opposite friends flank me on the couch, both seemingly content to while away the time in their own way. The gregarious, loud-mouthed extrovert, Amaya, rests sleepily in the corner of the couch, all smiles and positivity less than half an hour after a seizure. Meanwhile the shy, quiet introvert, Yoko, continues grinning broadly, twirling her shining red curls, and absently leafing through a fashion magazine. Though I can't say for certain what's really on their minds, I know both of them have issues, insecurities, and dark memories to deal with, but they don't let that affect them all the time.

Sometimes Amaya gets introspective and moody, or lashes out and cries, but she always finds her way back to smiling and laughing. The reason behind Yoko's intermittent depression and anxieties aren't clear as I still don't know a lot about her, but the poise, discipline and endurance she gained in dance lessons all seem to give her balance, countering what she lost in that car accident. Mom latched onto both of them almost immediately, and if her opinion of the boys in my life means something, then her pleasant opinion of Amaya and Yoko should tell me something about my other choices as well.

Satoru said I shouldn't let a little fear or self-doubt stop me, and that's probably good advice. My tendency to overthink everything might make it take longer than I'd like, but I'm apparently capable of making good decisions. If Mom says Dad was a worrier, then I don't feel so bad about being one myself. Considering what he managed to accomplish, up to and including the loving family he was forced to leave behind, Dad really was amazing. The idea of living up to that example is a little daunting, but with Mom and Midori's support, that of my friends, and especially Hisao now that he's part of my life, I think I could surpass his lofty goals.

One careful step at a time...

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Well that was fun, wasn't it?
Last edited by Helbereth on Thu May 02, 2013 1:00 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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