“Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” -David Ogden Stiers
Chapter Eighteen: The Orphan’s Tale
Sunday morning was a flurry of activity as everyone packed up and prepared to leave. Kenji and Aunt Hana made a quick breakfast while Uncle Hisao and Miya helped the kids find everything that had spread out over the last week, be it clothes or portable game systems. Akio helped while Satomi tried to keep Hisato and Refia from getting underfoot. I was something of a third wheel, helping as best I could to sort things out and run around playing gofer. This included grabbing and loading a luggage cart.
It also included Refia taking the opportunity to wrap herself around my leg in a hug.
“Yes?” I remarked to the young girl glommed onto me.
“You’ll come with us to Hokkaido next week, right?” she asked.
She was looking up at me with her big brown eyes, looking like an adorable attention challenged puppy. I smiled down at her and pat her head.
“I’m not sure yet, but I’d say probably.”
“Daddy!” Refia called, “Can Hee-neesan come to Hokkaido with us?”
“That’s up to Uncle Kenji and Aunt Miya,” Hisao replied, “and Soon-hee, obviously.”
“Hokkaido!” Hisato cheered.
“We’ll let the grown-ups deal with that, okay?” I said.
Refia nodded and pulled away, freeing me to continue sorting the bags and cases in preparation for our departure.
Uncle Hisao had managed to get another ride from Mr. Sarif. He wouldn’t be there himself, obviously, but he had sent a jet with decent cargo space. Once everything was packed and piled on the cart, Aunt Hana went ahead to get her motorcycle and antique shop purchase crated up for travel.
“Think she’ll be okay?” Miya asked Uncle Hisao after his wife had left.
Uncle Hisao smirked, “If anyone can dodge church traffic, it’s Hana. Satomi, did you check the room to make sure you had everything?”
The adults were conversing in the kitchen while Satomi had wrangled the kids into the dining area. Akio was fussing with something in his room, and I was by the front door sorting luggage.
“Yeah, Dad. I checked everywhere,” Satomi replied, “Even found a half-eaten muffin under Refia’s bed.”
Uncle Hisao sighed, “Refia, why did you leave a half-eaten muffin under your bed?”
“I was hungry,” Refia replied, once again at Satomi’s side.
Uncle Hisao blinked a few times, as if he had to mentally reboot. Refia had that effect on people sometimes.
Rather than remark on the muffin, he asked her if she had checked all the closets.
Refia nodded, “I found a cookie in one of them!”
“I helped make sure she got everything,” Satomi added.
Refia nodded again, “I’m gonna miss these closets. Hee-neesan and I really liked them.”
“They were alright,” I admitted, “I’ve seen better, though.”
“Really?” Refia asked.
“Anyway,” Uncle Hisao said, “Kenji, you two got everything, right?”
Kenji nodded, “Yeah, we’re –Miya, what are you doing?”
Miya, who had one of her camera bags strapped over her shoulder, was pulling out one of her cameras as she replied, “I’m gonna take pictures of everything.”
“Can I have copies?” Refia asked.
“Sure,” Miya stated, “Oh, and we got everything packed up, so we’re good to go.”
Hisao nodded, “Good. Once you’re done and Akio comes back from whatever he’s doing, we can check out and leave.”
“What is he doing?” Kenji asked.
Uncle Hisao shrugged and called, “Akio! Are you packed?”
“Yeah, Dad!” Akio called back.
“Then what’s the hold-up?”
“Sorry! I’m on my way!”
A moment later Akio scampered out of what had been his and Hisato’s room for the week. He skidded to a halt in front of the couch and headed for the luggage cart, dodging past Miya as she took a million photos of the closet Refia and I had spent the first night in.
“Welcome back,” Uncle Hisao quipped.
Akio slowed to walk as he entered the kitchen, and I noticed he was holding something in his hand as he awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck, “Sorry, Dad. I had to work on… a thing, for Refia.”
Uncle Hisao raised an eyebrow, “Refia?”
“I need his help to learn Korean,” Refia stated.
“…Oh, right, I forgot,” Uncle Hisao said, then turned to Kenji to discuss something.
Free from his father’s enquiry, Akio walked over to me. Rather than grab the cart, he stuck out the thing he was holding, which turned out to be some paper.
His eyes firmly on the cart and its impressive load of luggage, he muttered, “Um, Refia was hoping you’d stay in touch and help her learn Korean. She, um, doesn’t have an email address, phone, or Skype yet, obviously, so she asked me if she could use mine, because I use my stuff less than Satomi, and so… I figured you could use mine. Um, I called Skittles –Ruka, sorry; she’s Auntie Emi’s daughter- and she said she’d be willing to send you some free minutes, and um… yeah.”
“Sure,” I said, taking the paper, folding it up, and sticking it in the pocket of my blue jeans, “I kinda wanted to meet Ruka after her mom rambled a bit about her, and I’d be more than happy to help Refia learn Korean.”
Akio smiled and bowed, “Thanks.”
“You done embarrassing yourself, yet?” Satomi called from the dining area.
“Wanna carry some bags?” Akio called back.
I smirked and sighed, “Please play nice.”
Akio coughed and got into a pushing position with the cart. I grabbed the other side and waited. It took a few more minutes before Miya was finished with her photography spree. While she went to and fro taking pictures, Uncle Hisao looked around one last time, checking every closet, drawer and cabinet to make sure we had everything.
When Miya was done, she put her camera away and grabbed the door for us. I took one last look at the suite where I had had my first real vacation. I hadn’t been sure how I would have handled it, both being out in the world and being with the people that had essentially adopted me into their family. I had a great time, though, and was grateful for the memories and experiences. Angling the cart into position, I started pulling it out into the hall, toward the elevator.
Once we checked out of the resort, Miya called a couple taxis to take us to the airport. She probably should have done it sooner, but she was busy with the camera. Besides, we weren’t in a real hurry, apparently –the adults were certainly taking their time getting us out. Maybe they were stalling for Aunt Hana.
Once the taxis arrived we split up. Satomi, Refia, and Uncle Hisao shoved as much luggage into a cab with them, while Uncle Kenji and Miya did the same with ours. It took some doing to get the four of us into a cab with the luggage, but fortunately Hisato didn’t take up a lot of room. Once everything and everyone was stowed, the driver headed off into traffic, nearly popping a wheelie as he cut off several other drivers and nearly ran over a bicycle.
I groaned and stuck my head between my knees. It was either that or throw up breakfast, and I had done that enough times on the vacation all ready.
“Soon-hee?” I heard Miya ask, “Is it okay if I rub your back?”
“Yes, please. Thanks,” I grunted.
I felt Miya’s hand on my back and relaxed a bit as she gently rubbed it up and down my spine. It was nice that she could do that without my body tensing up in fear.
“You okay?” she asked.
“’M fine,” I grunted from my knees.
“Good to hear,” Kenji said, “So, you enjoy your vacation?”
I could still speak relatively easily from my position, as long as I kept my responses short.
“Yeah,” I replied, “Thanks.”
“No problem Little Lamb,” Miya said, “Glad you enjoyed it.”
“I did,” I said, “and… I really, really enjoyed having… being with family again.”
I felt Kenji’s hand on my head and smiled as he ruffled my short hair, “It’s what we do, kid.”
I had been handed a lot of bad cards in life, but I had also been handed something not everyone gets: a second chance. Kenji had come into my life because his job had required it, but he stayed because he genuinely cared about me. He and his wife took me in, got me treated for my many problems, got me an education, and treated me like family. So had their friends.
I could never, ever, ever describe to them how much that meant to me, but I didn’t have to. They were just those kind of people, because life had handed them shit to deal with, too. They had come together to help cope with their own issues, and when someone else needed that same help, they didn’t hesitate. They just did what they could.
I eased myself up so I could look at them both, and little Hisato sitting next to me by Kenji.
“Thank you,” I said.
Kenji grinned and pat my head again, “You’re welcome.”
From my other side, Hisato’s voice chirped, “Are we there yet?”
“We get there when we get there,” I replied.
Kenji chuckled, “Good answer.”
I smiled as Hisato pouted. Wherever there was or would be, I’d have the help I needed to get there, and I’d be there to help, too. It wasn’t enough to make up for what they had done for me, but I’d do what I can, because they did what they could, and so, so much more.
They made me family.
I am such a sappy, cliché romantic.
With a terribly low opinion of the human race. I should write a paper.
Well, there we go. My first Soon-hee perspective story. Definitely different for me, and I hope you all enjoyed it. It was fun for me, so I hope it was fun for you, too.
Now on to the Halloween festivities! Something tells me Soon-hee’s gonna wanna sit this one out. Probably in a closet with Refia and Hanako.
So until tomorrow: