As my father drives us through Fukuoka, the lights of the city help to illuminate the back seat. Coupled with the dim light of my cell phone, Shizune and I are able to see each other well enough to continue signing, in spite of the dark of night.
["Mom, Shizune was saying that we did do all those things, but it was a lot of late nights and skipped classes to do so. Still, we were able to pull it off."] Shizune smiles as she watches me repeat her words for my parents. I then add, ["she gives me a lot of credit, but in truth she did more work than the rest of us. I can't tell you how many times I came in early, only to find her asleep at her desk after working through the night."] Shizune now frowns slightly at my retelling.
[Hisao, you did plenty,] she protests, adding, [and I didn't sleep at my desk that much. You make it sound like it was every day!]
"Sleeping at her desk?" my mother says with surprise before I can repeat Shizune's signs. I hurriedly start to sign her words as she continues, "she sounds like she has quite the work ethic!" A brief pause, and then, "So, what exactly does she see in you, Hisao?"
"MOM!!" I protest once her words register upon signing them. I glower at Shizune as she doubles over in silent laugher, covering her lips with both of her hands, as if fighting keep to the noise inside.
I'm noticing that's becoming a pattern. My parents zing me, but because of the focus it takes to translate into sign, I don't realize it until I've already relayed it to Shizune.
"Well now, son," my father chimes in, "you have to admit, it's a legitimate question..."
["No it isn't!"] I protest as my parents yet again get me worked up into a lather over their words. Shizune's muted guffawing isn't helping me settle down, either.
[You were right Hisao, I do adore your parents,] she tells me, her eyes sparkling mischeviously. [They're so right, too...I can't honestly say what it is I see in you...]
I hesitate to speak her second statement, but a half-lifted eyebrow is all it takes before I relent. The brilliant smile that follows as she watches me repeat her jibe makes it worth it.
More or less.
"Well, hopefully for you she'll figure it out," my mother says, "or you may find yourself dumped for someone else who can keep up with this girl."
I sign her words for Shizune, fairly well giving up at this point. Between the three of them, I can't hope to defend myself. I'm surrounded, and each of them knows that.
As I happen to glance into my girlfriend's eyes, she smiles wickedly at me. And to think she was worried about how my parents would feel about her.
Thankfully, my father saves me from any further humiliation, though I think it was by necessity rather than any sense of pity or protectiveness. "Hisao, have you and Shizune eaten dinner yet?" he asks. "If not, I was going to swing by Pietro Corte, maybe pick up a pizza to go."
I sign my father's words to Shizune as he speaks, and she lights up. [Oh, I'd love to have Italian!] she answers enthusiastically, [I can't remember the last time I had a pizza!]
I chuckle and tell my father, ["Shizune likes that idea, Dad,"] I tell him, smiling at her from ear to ear to ear as I continue, ["also, good idea for Pietro Corte, that really makes it feel like a homecoming."] Shizune looks at me curiously at my words.
I explain to her, ["When I was younger, my parents would pick up a pizza from Pietro's most Fridays on their way home. It was always a great way to unwind, the three of us just eating a pizza in front of the TV, watching our favorite shows while chatting about past week and the upcoming weekend."] She smiles widely at the telling, her gaze growing a little whistful.
"Should we get our usual?" my Father asks as he navigates traffic, while my Mother pulls out her cell phone to put in the order after we decide.
["Shizune, what do you like on your pizza?"] I ask her after translating my father's words.
Smiling sublimely, she simply answers with a shrug, [Just get whatever you want, I'm sure I'll be happy with it.]
Furrowing my brow, I ask her [Are you sure? We normally order an all meat pizza with peppers and mushrooms. What toppings do you want on it?]
She shakes her head emphatically. [That sounds perfect,] she answers, smiling serenely at my words. [Let's get that.]
"Son?" my father asks as my mother waits patiently.
I pause for a moment before answering, still watching her. She makes a motion with her hands, prompting me to convey her answer. ["Shizune says she's happy with our usual,"] I tell him as my Mom immediately starts to dial the restaurant. I look at my girlfriend with a furrowed brow, but she only smiles all the more, looking back at me with an expression of complete happiness. Shrugging, I wait in silence as my Mom puts in our order.
"It'll be ready by the time we get there, Hakuri," she tells my father as she closes her phone. My father grunts in acknowledgement as my mother then asks me, "So Shizune, where are you from?"
I sign my mother's question to Shizune, pausing to allow her to answer.
[My family's home is a couple of hours Southwest from Yamaku, in a very beautiful part of Saitama.] she answers. [When I'm not in school, I live there with my father and my brother.] As I relay her words to my mother, I silently take note of the absence of any mention of her mother. I've been wondering what the situation is there. It seems I'll have to continue to wait for answers to that question.
As I speak Shizune's words, I add, ["It's quite the house too, Mom. She lives in a mansion!"] I watch with glee as Shizune's expression turns dour at my words.
[I do not live in a mansion!] she signs with slashing motions, staring at me with a furious gaze. [Tell her I said that!] she immediately adds for emphasis, not waiting to see if I would have anyway. I laugh as I mention Shizune's dispute of my description of her house.
["Shizune says it's not a mansion,"] I tell them, adding while chuckling, ["but it is a pretty big house. Maybe palace would be more appropriate,"] I sign further, watching Shizune's brows furrow in anger.
[Hisao, it's not that big!] she insists with furious signing, scowling as I thoughtlessly laugh while relaying her words for my parents.
"Son, I feel for you," my father chimes in in a level voice as I start signing his comment, "Those are words no man ever wants to hear his lady tell him."
"Hakuri, REALLY!" my mother cries out, hitting him on the arm with an exhasperated sigh as my father laughs to himself.
As I finish signing, his words register, causing me to drop my jaw in shock. I look over, watching as Shizune flushes a deep red while she looks towards my father with wide eyes.
"Hey, I'm not judging! They seem happy anyway," my father goes on to say, chuckling heartily as Shizune and I listen on in stunned silence and deeply flushed cheeks. Glancing at Shizune, I see her watching my translation with a shocked and mortified expression.
Clearing her throat after a few moment of awkward silence, my mother attempts to move on past my father's comments. "So Shizune, what does your father do?" she asks. I watch Shizune as she takes a moment to collect herself before answering.
I watch my girlfriend with extreme interest, eager for her answer. While Jigoro's business card said, "consultant", it was amazingly non-specific. Coupling that with his katana and his strange mannerisms have left me wondering what kind of consultant he possibly could be.
Of course, it occurs to me that if I was really that curious, I could have just asked him for a copy of his autobiography. Somehow, though, that would have felt like admitting defeat.
[He's a consultant,] she signs, which I start repeating with some measure of frustration. [He helps local businesses become more efficient and run more cost effectively.]
How amazingly unhelpful and disappointingly generic.
"Oh, how wonderful!" my mother spouts with her standard answer to everything. She's always been an amazingly positive woman.
Sometimes it really gets on my nerves.
Just then, my father pulls off the road and into the parking lot of Pietro Corte, quickly finding a spot where he parks the car.
"I'll be right back," he says as he gets out of the car and heads into the restaurant to collect our order.
Shizune watches my father leave, watching him thoughtfully. The car is silent for the space of several breaths, as nobody is really sure what to say next.
My girlfriend glances at me hesitantly, then signs, [Is he always so...?]
[Vulgar with his humor?] I say, attempting to finish her sentance.
[Yeah,] she answers while nodding with a measure of anxiety.
I chuckle, grinning a little in an attempt to diffuse the mood. It helps, I watch as Shizune relaxes slightly. [Yeah, he has his moments like that. He's spent much of the last two decades working with Americans, his company does a lot of business there. Before he married my mother, he spent about two years living in the United States because of a project he was working on. So, he's picked up a lot of their culture and humor.]
"Hisao," my mother chimes in as we sign, "would you ask Shizune to please forgive Hakrui for me?" She sighs, "I don't think she was ready for that."
"Yeah, Mom," I answer as I sign her words for Shizune, but then add, [Don't let her fool you. She can be as crass as my father. She just doesn't want to hit you with it all at once.] My girlfriend looks at me wide-eyed. I smirk and continue, [it's not just perverted humor, though. They also like playing jokes on people and teasing them. You got a taste of it at the train station, when they met you.]
Shizune looks thoughtful for a moment, then nods wordlessly. I quickly add, [don't worry, though, it's all in good fun. They're the most caring people I know. They just like to give the people they love a hard time.] Shizune smiles at this, and I add, [so their picking on you so quickly is really a good sign.]
Shizune hesitates for a moment, then smiles warmly. [Well, I will say this about your parents and their strange ways,] she signs to me.
Lifting an eyebrow, I ask her, [Oh? What's that?]
[Suddenly you make a lot more sense to me,] she signs with a wicked grin as she meets my gaze.
Last edited by sg1cat
on Sat Jun 14, 2014 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.