2nd Petal - Errant Mother
Suitcase: check. Duffel bag of baby food and diapers: check. Two train tickets: check. One infant daughter: check.
Thus, Rei waited alone at the station very late at night cradling her sleeping nameless daughter. Despite her still-developing breasts and her age for fourteen years, Rei was essentially full-grown woman due to her height. She even looked the part as she was wrapped with a scarf and a brown trenchcoat.
She was full of hope and optimism. Even if their education was cut short, Rei was certain that she and her boyfriend would make it through the life if they supported each other as best they could on low wages.
An hour passed. He should have been here thirty minutes ago, and Rei's infant daughter was slowly waking up. Fifteen minutes Ken'ichi finally came coming down from the stairs from the street. Holding her daughter, Rei stood up with a smile that immediately disappeared when he recognized Ken'ichi's sad and regretful expression. The reason for that was because following him was his father, Yoshiro Nikkì, and where Yoshiro was at it was likely he had two bodyguards close by.
"Ken!" Rei cried. "I can't believe you told him!"
"I'm sorry," said Ken'ichi.
"My son had done the right thing in doing so Rei," said Yoshiro.
"Old man, not even you can stop us," cried Rei. "Ken and I are going to run off and start our family."
"I'm not going," said Ken'ichi as he raised his head to face his lover.
"Ken? Am I hearing this right? I thought we agreed to this!"
"What can we do at the outside world? Especially with our kind of reputation! Do you think we can survive? What about our daughter?"
"We can survive! You just have to be brave!"
"With what? That sunflower crest ring you have there isn't going to do us any good! Your family disowned you, and soon enough they'll be wiped out!"
"It's a symbol Ken. A symbol of my pride and my honor as the last who carries the bloodline. As long as I have that, I can get through anything."
"In other words, it's useless Rei."
"Fine. If you won't go, then I'll take my daughter with me."
"You will do no such thing," said Yoshiro.
"My son's genes, hence my own genes are within that girl. If you want her to have a good future, it would be best that I take her and raise as a Nikkì."
"Are you saying I'm not qualified to raise her?'
"Exactly. You have been a bad influence to my son who I worked so hard to raise in a proper and honorable fashion. I will not allow you to do the same with her."
"If you raise her alone, you'll be putting her in terrible danger," said Ken'ichi.
"Then what about me?" asked Rei. "What will happen to me?"
"I'd advise you to disappear and never insult us and your daughter with your presence," said Yoshiro
The infant finally woken up and started wailing, as if Rei's tears and reluctance to hand her over was the cause.
"You can't do this," wept Rei. "I'm her mother!"
"She's our child," said Ken'ichi.
"And my son has the right to take her from you," said Yoshiro.
"No!" yelled Rei. "Can't you listen? She doesn't want go with you! She wants to be with me!"
"Give up the child."
"Please Rei," said Ken'ichi. "For her sake."
There was a struggle for the wailing infant between Rei and Ken'ichi. Rei's maternal weakness and fatigue got the worse of her. Thus, she was pushed onto the ground right as Ken'ichi wrought his daughter from her ex-lover's arms. Ken'ichi hurried off up the stairs while the broken Rei was on her knees crying.
"You shouldn't despair Rei," said Yoshiro. "We will raise her in the best care possible."
Finally Yoshiro left. Rei was now alone with her tears unable to go after her daughter. It wasn't the physical fatigue that held her back; it was the reality of her position and the position of her ex-lover and his family. Her hopeful optimism was really empty. She was unable back it up, and she felt so wretched in the face of her own personal weakness. Yoshiro and Ken'ichi were right. She couldn't do anything good for her daughter, whether it would be now or in the future.
The house was dark and quiet, and even the dining room lamp did little to brighten the tense mood. Ichiko didn't change out of her school clothes, even though she was implicitly allowed to. Instead, she sat at the head of the dining table watching her father pace around nervously about the situation at hand.
"Who else knows?" Ichiko asked.
"Grandpa and grandma," replied Ken'ichi. "And your mother--your stepmother I mean."
"He doesn't know. I don't plan on telling him until he reaches your age."
"So Kenji's my half-brother then."
"Darn! I wish there was a better way to tell you! I never expected you to meet your real mother in that situation."
Ken'ichi finally stopped pacing and further loosened his tie.
"Ichiko, I am really sorry we kept all this from you," he said. "I hope that you can forgive us."
"What is there to forgive?" smiled Ichiko. "You, mom, grandpa, and grandma raised me with all your love and kindness. If you were a terrible family, I wouldn't be what I am right now."
"But it may seem to you that we were cold-hearted in prying you from Rei's arms."
"Perhaps that is so, but you had good intentions, right? It might have hurt Rei initially, but I'm sure she understood the reasoning behind your actions. After all, you two are still good friends."
"Not quite though. The reason I was there at her apartment was that I was supposed to give her 'salary' stipend to help support herself, although grandpa and I are thinking of cutting off entirely if she doesn't turn her behavior around."
"So you're not a client then."
"Of course not."
"What a relief."
"Ah, it's nothing! Um, I'll go and take a shower then."
During her shower, she could hear her stepmother and her grandparents finally coming home. She was a little worried about them lecturing her about Rei, but they did not have the chance to bother her as they too took their baths and showers and headed off to bed.
As she changed into her pajamas, her father knocked on the door and asked if he could come in for a short talk. Once she was fully dressed, Ichiko unlocked the door and allowed him in.
"Hey, Ichiko," said Ken'ichi. "Regarding Rei..."
"Look, I won't say that you are forbidden to see her, nor will I say that you are allowed to. In any case, it is entirely up to you if you want to see her or not since she is your real mother. I'm sure I can convince grandpa to allow you to have that choice. However, I warn you that Rei is an unsavory woman, and that you should watch out. If anything happens, run back home or to Kazuko's home, or call us."
Ken'ichi kissed his daughter on the forehead.
"Okay," said Ichiko. "Goodnight father."
Even with all of her father's comforting words, the weekend that transpired for Ichiko was filled with complete strangeness, as if she had awaken from a lucid dream. She began to see her entire family in a new light. She saw her grandfather as a stern man hiding behind his jolly exterior. Her stepmother, as Ichiko had somehow realized, had dyed brown hair cropped at mid-neck and was actually slightly shorter than her. No longer she felt the same kind of closeness to her dear little brother, who was only half-related to her. She still spent her time watching anime with him and his friends in the morning, but all the excitement in seeing her favorite characters had seemed to drain off.
Perhaps Ken'ichi was the only one who noticed this, if he didn't tell the rest of the adults of the Nikkô family household. Or perhaps he actually did and that Rin, Yoshiro, and Michi were pretending that they were ignorant of Ichiko meeting up with her real mother. Whatever the case, no one brought it up, not even Ichiko or Ken'ichi had the courage to do so.
During that time, Ichiko's mind wandered off to the alluring image of her real mother, and at times she thought about running away to see her. Then she decided to do it on the coming Monday.
When that day came, Ichiko stopped in front of Rei's apartment as always, but she wasn't outside, and no client was waiting as well. Resisting the temptation to knock and enter, Ichiko went off for school and waited until it ended. Again, she stopped in front of Rei's apartment and saw no trace of her or a client. It was the same case on the next morning of Tuesday.
She becoming worried, and she hid her worries from her overprotective friend, Kazuko. Luckily, Kazuko was too distracted about the upcoming game against the all-girls school Chrysanthemum High and trying to talk back at the bad-mouthing Sumiko. It was during the end of school that Ichiko told the Environmental Club president and vice president that she wouldn't be attending.
"But why?" asked the club's male president Motoko. "This meeting is discussing the operations of the creek clean up."
"I am so sorry!" bowed Ichiko. "But I have some personal problems to take of regarding your mother."
"Your mother?" said the female vice president Haruko. "I didn't know our family had problems."
"Of all the children at school--as well as the teachers--I expected yours to be the most stable," said Motoko.
"Really, I am very sorry. Do you think you can mail me the minutes of the meeting?"
"Okay," said Haruko. "It's too bad that you can't come. Motoko and I really like to have you around."
It wasn't exactly a lie, but Ichiko felt like it was one and felt terrible to skip out on her club duties for a personal matter. All that was on her mind was her real mother Rei as she ran down the halls towards the front gate. She dreaded to find out if Rei had left after meeting her.
To her surprise, Rei was there talking cordially, if not perversely to a couple from the school.
"And that," boasted Rei, "is how you get around the anti-prostitution laws. We just have to build up relationship as friends first. Any so-called payment is just purchase of my rare, if not legal, porn collection I hold. The cops don't know if they're valuable or not. What do you say?"
"I'm not so sure," said the girl.
"Come on Chika," said the boy. "This is a once in a lifetime offer for a threesome! It will be well worth it if we built up a relationship with this hip woman."
"Speaking of which, how old are you?"
Before Rei could speak, Ichiko interrupted them with a loud, "Ahem."
"Look what we have here," grinned Rei. "She might join us for a kinky foursome. I'm sure you're happy with that prospect, aren't ya Takahashi?"
"Yeah, well, hi," said Ichiko. "I take you two have been taken in by my mother."
"Your mother?" gasped Takahashi. "You're kidding!"
"Hey now," winced Rei. "What are you saying little girl?"
Ichiko linked her arm with her mother's and pulled her away from the couple.
"She is my mother," declared Ichiko. "See the resemblance?"
Chika and Takahashi looked back and forth between Ichiko and Rei, and finally the resemblance, or the apparent lack thereof, settled in.
"Wow, she is," smiled Chika. "She looks so young. How old are you?"
"Thirty," Rei answered sadly.
"Really? I have to confess that I do have fantasies of being touched by an older woman. What do you say Takahashi?"
Takahashi coughed. "Actually, I just realized that I have this project for science. I'd better be getting home."
"What? I thought you wanted to do this?"
"I have high standards."
At that moment, Ichiko pulled Rei away from the couple and towards the direction of the apartment. The couple's argument was still being heard.
"I don't do older women," said Takahashi. "Especially mothers or else I'll get attracted to my own."
"Oh?" grinned Chika. "It seems we have mother-complex going on here."
"I don't! I hate my mother! She scares the hell out of me!"
Rei chuckled, but Ichiko was still too angry at her and her purported job.
"You know I was only kidding back there," said Rei.
Then entered the apartment. There was now tall silvery floor lamp in the living room at the corner. Also, the room was even messier than before.
"Really, you ought to clean up," said Ichiko. "What have I told you before?"
"That you can't cook?"
Again, Ichiko took it upon herself to thoroughly clean up the place while Rei changed into her loose tank and panties so she could lazily lounge and watch TV.
"There," said Ichiko as she sat down by the table. "All done."
"You wasted your time," said Rei. "It's going to get messy again."
"You might get sick."
"I'm fine right now."
"God, I'm not sure if you're unsavory or a complete slob."
"I'm no slob! I am an alluring woman that woos both sexes!"
Ichiko blushed. "Well, that one is true."
After a moment of silence, Ichiko solemnly asked, "Where were you yesterday?"
"How about you answer this question: where were you Saturday and Sunday?"
"I was with my parents! I mean, I really couldn't do anything after I learned that you're my real mother."
"That was quite of shocker for me too."
"Father must have told you then."
Rei took a sip from her can of beer.
"To answer your question," she said, "I slept the entire day."
"Were you sick?"
"Massive hangover. Didn't stop until today. I wanted to be out to seduce you this morning, but I overslept. Instead, I waited at the front gate of your school."
"Stop saying that mother. It doesn't sound right."
"You did come to me because of that."
"All right, all right. I'll stop."
Ichiko sighed. "I was worried that you were gone."
"Why would I be? Because I found out that you're my daughter?"
Then Rei laughed. "Do you really think I could up and move when I just settled here?"
"I just had a feeling that you did, or that my father and grandfather made you move."
"If they wanted me to, they would have paid me a hell lot more money to do so. You may think you're upper-middle class, but you and your family are struggling. Especially your grandfather."
"So what did Ken say about me?"
"That you're unscrupulous."
"That's it? Did he tell you that you're not allowed to see me?"
"He didn't say that explicitly. Rather, he allowed me the choice to see you or not."
"Really? I gotta give that guy more credit."
"Do you still hold a grudge against them?"
"Initially, yes. But after a couple of minutes from being separated from you, no."
"You really got over me that fast."
" 'Always look on the bright side of life!' says a British film whose name I can't quite remember. On that moment of separation I understood why they did what they did after what your grandfather went through."
"He went through a similar situation?"
"Let's just say that something woke him up to reality."
"So you must know more about my family."
"What they didn't tell you? Gee, you know you could ask them."
"I don't ask because it would be rude for me to do so. I believe they have good reasons."
"Hmm, you just seem to have too much of a positive outlook. It doesn't go well with your nagging by the way."
Rei lay down and looked up to Ichiko from the floor.
"So what will you do now?" she asked.
"I don't know," replied Ichiko. "At the very least, can I stay here and do my homework? I don't have much money on me right now..."
"No, it's all right. If you gave me money right now, people will start talking about us. Neither us don't want that, obviously."
Ichiko took her time to settle in at the table and even took longer than usual to do her homework. She finished most of it when Rei ordered her to cook her something as indicated by the loud stomach growl.
"Cook me something will ya?"
"It's that time already?" asked Ichiko. "I should get home."
"Get home? What about my needs?"
"You survived before without me right? I'm sorry, but I can't cook for you today."
Rei sprang up and leaped into the kitchen. From all her rummaging of the fridge and cupboards, she procured many bags of groceries to which she used to block Ichiko's way to the door.
"Cook something with this," said Rei.
"Mother, I have to get home for my own dinner."
"You should be able to cook something with this quickly. Please? You're cooking is the best I've ever tasted!"
"I don't know..."
Rei straightened her back. "As your mama, I order you to cook something for me."
"All right already. I'll cook for you, but you have to help me so you could learn."
"Can't now. Mama has to take a bath."
Rei had already locked herself in the small bathroom and started the faucet. Ichiko was tempted to walk off, but she didn't want to distress her mother. To do so would be very unbecoming.
She almost had some setbacks due to Rei's haphazardly poor choice of food ingredients, and many that were supposed to be refrigerated were almost spoiled. Her frustrations were soon eased when Rei was singing a soft and soulful tone that Ichiko moved towards. In the end, she cooked something of a hybrid of ramen and soba noodles.
Upon setting the food on the table, Rei wetly emerged in a damp bathrobe and gluttonously devoured her meal. That act didn't even stain her alluring nature, as Ichiko rested her chin on her head as she stared longingly at her beautiful mother.
"Something wrong?" Rei asked.
"You're not eating."
"I can eat at home."
"I'm not intending to keep this feast in the fridge for too long. Takes up too much room for my booze. Besides, I think you need it at that particular spot."
Rei pointed at Ichiko's breasts, to which the owner promptly covered.
"It's not all about the breasts mother," pouted Ichiko.
"You look so cute. Now eat up!"
"Mama orders that you need to be fed and bulk up your breasts."
"Fine then. But I'm eating from my own bowl."
She ate--slowly. Ichiko knew that she was taking too much time on things that should have been done in half the time. She could not help herself but exchange glances at the stranger her father claimed to be her real mother. And there were also many questions she wanted to ask her about regarding her genesis.
"You seem to like looking at me," said Rei.
"I can't help it. It's just that... I inadvertently became attracted to you before I knew that you were my mother."
Ichiko blushed and lowered her face.
"What time is it?" she asked.
"Dunno. I'm not looking at the clock right now."
Ichiko looked at her cellphone. "It's 7:30! I have to go!"
Without saying goodbye she left.
She reached her home right as her grandmother was cleaning up the table.
"Grandma," said Ichiko. "I'm sorry I'm so late!"
"It's all right," smiled Michi. "I'm sure you were with your friends."
"Is mother and father home?"
"They're still at work, unfortunately, and grandfather and Kenji had gone off for their bath."
"So you three were alone..."
"Don't worry Ichiko. We had a detailed discussion on Kenji's schoolwork."
"Have you eaten yet dear?"
Ichiko went to her room and threw herself on the bed confused and wondering about her grandmother's unusual leniency. No one was angry with her for being late. Ichiko forgot to ask them why they didn't call her on her cellular. Did they trust her too much? Or did they really know that she was over at Rei's house.
Although she loved and trusted her father at the utmost, there was a gut skeptical feeling that Rei might not be her real mother. Then again, Ichiko didn't even get a stepmother until she was five years old, and such knowledge didn't occur to her as she was mainly raised by her grandparents.
She had to be sure though. Ichiko took her usual bath and changed to her pajamas. She waited, and kept herself awake by reading books or watching anime DVDs on her desktop computer. The time was now 11:30, and her parents finally arrived home.
Ichiko hurried downstairs and inadvertently interrupted her mother and father's work-related conversations.
"Is something wrong?" Ken'ichi asked.
Sensing the worry in her stepdaughter's face, Rin excused herself to the master bedroom upstairs. Ken'ichi then prepared some green tea as his daughter sat down at the dining table.
"It's about Rei, right?" said Ken'ichi as he served himself and Ichiko their filled cups. "That's not her real name by the way."
"And she doesn't want anyone to know her real name. There is a reason for that."
"Father, I know I can trust you, but I am not entirely convinced that Rei is my mother."
"Did she do something wrong?"
"It's nothing like that!"
"I see. It's still too much of a shock for you."
"Very well," he said. Ken'ichi procured his wallet and handed a business card to Ichiko.
"You know about our family doctor Hazama right? He's one of the few people outside our family who know about your genesis. If you wish, you and Rei can give yourself a DNA test to see if you are daughter and mother."
"Hazama has my blood in storage too as well. So you can check if I'm your father as well."
"I trust you father. I know you are who you are."
Ken'ichi had set up the appointment for Friday. On that morning of Wednesday, Ichiko walked with all anxiety in the face of the upcoming hard facts of her and Rei. At the same time, she also had very strong feelings that Rei was her real mother anyway.
She was a little disappointed to not see her at the railing in front of her apartment, but she was surprised that to find Rei hanging out in the front of the gate humoring the students. To Ichiko's dismay, she was humoring her fellow club members Motoko and Haruko.
"In conclusion," said Rei, "men are not really gay unless they go sleep with their sex partner after hot gay sex. At least that's what the Christian Bible says."
"Rei!" Ichiko cried.
"Ah, there's my darling daughter!"
"Your mother is so cool Ichiko!" cried Haruko.
"No, wait," stuttered Ichiko. "This woman... she's--"
Rei wrapped her arms around Ichiko and rubbed her face into her hair.
"My daughter is embarrassed over her dear mama!" cried Rei.
The bell rang. The students bade their farewells to Rei, and Ichiko tried to run off. Rei held on tighter and pulled her back so that her lips were extremely close to Ichiko's ear.
"Mother, let go!" Ichiko whelped. "I have to get to class."
"That was rude of you."
"You shouldn't have left me without saying goodbye."
"I'm really sorry. I didn't want to anger my family. You understand, right?"
Ichiko was let go, although it felt like she was pushed away.
"I understand," said Rei. "Your family has a few things against me."
"I'll see you after school. And don't forget about my dinner."
And so Ichiko then faced the embarrassment of the wide talks about her "wild" mother, though it was not as bad as she had thought. Everyone wanted to know more about Red, and Ichiko was reluctant to tell them. Even if she could she knew very little of what Rei really did.
It was fortunate that the great majority of school did meet her stepmother, Rin, but her dread came when her best friend Kazuko approached her upon entering their homeroom.
"People around here are talking about your mother," began Kazuko. "I didn't realize that Rin could be so wild."
"They're talking about a different woman," said Ichiko.
"A case of mistaken identity huh? Why didn't tell these people otherwise?"
Ichiko could have lied, but she knew well that truths have a tendency to surface sooner or later. She pulled her best friend into the corner and whispered the reality of the situation.
"SHE'S YOUR REAL MOTHER?" gasped Kazuko.
"Not so loud!"
"Wow, I don't know what to say about this. This is a big shocker, although it would have been bigger for you. It seems that you're taking this quite well."
"Or I could still be in the aftershock."
"Anyway, do you think I could meet her just once?"
"I'm not so sure."
"Too embarrassed about her?"
"I'm just afraid you'll develop a bad opinion of me."
"How can I? You and your real mother are different people, thus I should have separate opinions on you two."
"But we are linked."
"Ho-ho?" said a haughty voice. "Did I hear something about Ichiko being a bastard child?"
Kazuko and Ichiko turned and saw Sumiko and her clique crowding around the doorway.
"So what?" Kazuko retorted. "I know for certain some of you are sons and daughters of mistresses."
"But you don't have any proof of that, do you?" grinned Sumiko. "I suppose you could dig up some information, but that would be very unbecoming of your reputation. It doesn't matter anyway because most of us are going to be part of our family businesses, particularly Ichiko."
"What are you getting at?"
Sumiko advanced right in front of Kazuko and faced Ichiko.
"So that woman everyone was talking about was your real mother, huh?" said Sumiko. "For some reason I find that hard to believe as I find no similarities between you two. Perhaps she is an extortionist after your family's fortune as small as it is. Then again, there might be similarities that I don't see. I think I might be interested in this woman who is supposedly your real mother. I hear that she is lusted by both girls as well as boys."
"Can it Sumiko," said Kazuko. "You're supposed to be straight, remember?"
"Only if I do not sleep with girls on a regular basis. Ho, this will be an interesting development."
Sumiko walked away with the same haughty air as she as appeared and took her seat for homeroom session was about to begin.
"Ichiko, you shouldn't have confessed that Rei was your real mother," said Kazuko. "Sumiko will jump on it and spread nasty rumors about you two."
"She would have found out anyway."
"At the very least defend yourself. Heck, tell them that she's not your real mother."
"I'm getting both our DNA analyzed on Friday."
"That's great! You can stave them off and make them uncertain of your relation."
The school day started. Ichiko was not in full concentration even though she paid full attention and took down proper notes for all her classes. Her thoughts went back to her supposed relation to the woman her father claimed was her real mother. During lunch, Kazuko mentioned her father could be lying, but Ichiko didn't want to believe it.
Yet, there was a deep fear of the definite answer she would find after the test. She was worried that Rei would not be her mother, and she was worried that she was her mother. The two outcomes had advantages and disadvantages in Ichiko's heart. She realized that Rei was starting to expose her unscrupulous behavior much to Ichiko's chagrin, and that Ichiko might want to distance from her. Then again, if she weren't her real mother, there would be no reason to see her.
The feeling became worse when she spotted her mother at the front gate after school. This time, she was talking to a pair of police officers, an older man and younger man who was younger than Rei herself. The latter officer was entirely smitten by her and thus silenced, for he allowed his older partner to do most of the talking.
Embarrassed, Ichiko dared not to look Rei and walked past her.
"Hey, I'm not done talking," barked the older officer.
"But that's my daughter! I have told you before, I was waiting here to pick up my daughter."
"Is that the truth? Then why doesn't she respond?"
"She's embarrassed. Hold on a sec."
Rei caught Ichiko in an embrace and brought her before the aroused young officer and the frowning older officer.
"There is a resemblance I tell you," smirked Rei.
The older officer bent over to Ichiko. "Miss, are you this woman's daughter?"
Ichiko lowered her head. "Yes."
"Are you sure? This woman isn't coercing you in anyway, is she?"
"She is my mother...unfortunately."
"I see then."
The older officer straightened his back and his hat, and bowed towards Rei.
"I apologize for the misunderstanding ma'am," he said. "Togashi, let's go."
"Yes sir!" acknowledged the younger officer.
The officers boarded their bicycles and pedaled off.
"Whew, that was close," said Rei. "You're a life-saver Ichiko."
Ichiko flung her arm away and started off home while ignoring the pursuing Rei.
"Isn't that a little unjust on their part?" asked Rei. "Here I was waiting for you, and in no time some concerned parent calls up and says that there's some whore hanging before the school gate. Come on, I'm a concerned parent as well. Just because I dress like this doesn't mean I am one, I mean hell, lots of teens go out around the shady districts and dress even way skankier than I do. I'm willing to bet some of your classmates hang out at that street that's close by."
Ichiko stopped moving. "Are you finished?"
"You're embarrassed about me, aren't you?"
"It's hard to believe that you're my real mother. We're not alike."
"We're not supposed to be. We're two different people. You take more after your father, but inside your personality takes after me."
"I do not!"
"Okay, it doesn't then. Now let's go back to my place to hang out and cook dinner for me."
A stomach growled. "Okay, how about a late lunch?" said Rei.
"I'm going home," said Ichiko.
"You can't! What will I do without you?"
"You're supposed to be my mother. Act like one!"
"I wasn't exactly given that opportunity you know."
Rei hugged Ichiko from behind.
"Please? Make lunch and dinner for dear mama."
Ichiko sighed, indicating that she gave in. Almost carrying her sloth-like mother on her shoulders, she headed back to the apartment where a heavy snack took the place of lunch. She bothered not to go home until she made dinner for Rei, to which she shared.
"Going so soon?" asked Rei as she lay down after a hearty desert.
"You know my family will be worried if I don't come home."
"Just tell them you're staying at my place."
"I have to take a bath."
"Why not here? I'll have it clean in half-an-hour."
"Am I not your family?"
"I understand. You don't want to be associated with a tramp like me."
"That's not true! It's just that... I'm sorry, but I just learned of your existence, and it's taking me a while to sink in. It's hard to believe that you're my real mother."
"It is true you know. I shagged your dad when we were young."
"Okay, go home little Ichiko. Make sure you come back here after school."
"I'm sorry, but I have a club meeting."
"A club meeting?"
"You know that it's all a bunch of bullshit. They're merely sorting the plastics, papers, glass, and aluminum from each other."
"That's recycling mother, and I already know about the issues."
"Whatever. So you'll cancel the meeting and come here, right?"
"Mother, I can't just do that on a whim like you. Look, I'll come over to cook you dinner at least."
"If you were to do that, what will I do until then?"
"Just buy some lunch outside, or have some leftovers."
"I don't want leftovers."
"You do have some money, don't you?"
"Er, about that--I sort of blew it off."
"But I'll scrounge some cash somehow! After all I am a flexible woman."
That did not sound good. Ichiko marched up to Rei, bent down, and put some paper bills into her hand.
"If you're wise, you can get a decent meal or two with this."
"No, that's all right. It's your money."
"I insist. And please don't spend the money on beer or anything like that."
"This looks like I sold my services for cheap."
"I don't care. I don't want to do the things that you do."
"You know what I mean."
"Ichiko, I don't need charity."
"I'm lending this to you. You can pay it back when you earned your money through legitimate means."
"With interest of course."
"You don't have to go that far."
"Very well. I shall take this money. Satisfied?"
"I am. Now then, I shall be going."
Ichiko went home and again encountered her grandmother and her brother who were finishing putting away the dishes from the dinner.
"I'm sorry that I didn't come home in time again," bowed Ichiko.
"I suppose that is all part of growing up," said Michi.
"I'll try to make it back in time! I promise!"
"That would be nice, but wouldn't it be better if you would come back when your mother and father have some time off? We haven't eaten together for quite a while. Besides we're not terribly lonely, aren't we Kenji?"
Ichiko bowed down towards her little half-brother. "Kenji, I'll make it up to you by watching some cartoons with you. Even better, I'll take you out."
"Grandpa is going to take me and my friends out," said Kenji.
"I'll find a way to be with you."
"Don't push yourself Ichiko," said Michi. "It's nice that you devote yourself to us, but you also have your own personal life."
"I have to grandma. It is my way of repaying all of you for you kindness towards me."
"You are such a sweet girl."
Ichiko had her bath and had herself a bit of leisure time on reading a book and browsing the internet on her home computer. Then she went to bed feeling both anxious and dreadful on her next encounter with her supposed real and lazy mother who seemed to sap most of her precious time from her. Rei was awfully possessive, and she had a feeling it would get worse. Rei might monopolize Ichiko all to herself.
It wasn't out of love she did this, but out of obligation. She had to obey her real mother for whatever the reason. Wasn't that how things went in the real world? Then again, Ichiko was too idealistic. Still, Ichiko had to find some way to change her lifestyle, and she then started planning on her head on staying with her "second family".
"Books and some DVDs," she muttered. "Maybe some writing supplies as well. I guess I need to get her some cleaning supplies too. I'll ask father to get me a laptop computer and enable internet connectivity with my mobile phone."
Thursday came. Ichiko began her day as usual and walked down the same street where Rei's apartment lied. Stopping in front, she looked up to the third floor to see if she was there with another client or simply basking the morning air with loose clothes.
"Miss me already?" said a voice.
Ichiko nearly jumped when she saw her mother emerging from the wall of the complex dress almost in all black.
"It is Rei or mother? Or after what happened yesterday do you want to call me Miss Cero?"
"I didn't mean to hurt you like that."
"Of course you didn't. I'm here to remind you about today. You'll be here, right?"
"Yes, yes I will."
"Okay then. So, do you want your dear mother to walk you to school?"
"I don't know..."
"I guess not. You're still embarrassed about me."
"Maybe a little."
"Very well! I shall be on my way!"
But Rei had already marched away at the opposite direction. What Ichiko wanted from her she did not know. Perhaps she didn't want to part in such a brusque manner.
Regardless, Ichiko had to concentrate on getting through her school day, which went without a hitch despite one snide comment from Sumiko. There was a bit of worry for Rei when school ended, but she quickly put it to the back of her mind.
She sat in the designated classroom for the club at the front-most row, but not too far from the window. The president and vice president, Motoko and Haruko, ran down the final requirements for the creek clean up that was slated for the coming Sunday. Ichiko was absorbed well into their discussion, until she heard something rubbing against the glass. She turned to her left and saw Rei making a scary and silly face on the window, while her breasts rubbed up against it. On her surprise, Ichiko didn't scream. She just fell out of her chair.
"Ichiko!" cried Haruko. "Are you all right?"
Motoko and the other students finally noticed Rei. "Oh, it's Ichiko's mother," he said.
Before anyone could do anything, Ichiko went ahead and opened up the window.
"What are you doing?" she hissed.
"What are you doing?" Rei retorted. "You're supposed to be at my place."
"It's not yet the time?"
"Eh? What time is it?"
"It's only three o' clock!"
"Oh. Well, I'm still hungry. Can you come over now?"
"Okay. I'll wait at in this classroom."
Ichiko prevented Rei from climbing in.
"No!" Ichiko cried.
"Ichiko, we'd like to continue," said Motoko.
"Aha, I'm sorry." She turned to her mother, and told her, "Wait for me in the front."
Ichiko slammed the window shut. She bowed and apologized to the club's vice president and president, and ran off to meet Rei at the front entrance.
"Please leave," said Ichiko.
"Am I not welcome here?"
"Not with that attitude."
"You hate me, don't you?"
"I don't hate you! You're embarrassing me!"
Rei was thunderstruck, and she lowered her face in shame.
"I see then," she said. "You're now treating me like a stranger. I suppose you're going through that phase."
Ichiko sighed. "I treat you like this is because... you're not the mother who I want you to be."
"Well fine! I don't need to be lectured by a brat like you!"
Rei hurried off. Ichiko again was left with something she wanted to say to her supposed real mother, but she held back.
"She should learn," she said. "To act properly."
Thus, Ichiko went back and attended the last minutes of the club meeting.
Afterwards, she walked down the same street and looked back up to Rei's apartment. No lights were lit, apparently. She moved her foot towards the grounds, but pulled it back.
"She'll take care of herself," she grumbled as she walked home.
Once home, she was glad to have a real meal with her grandparents and her half-brother. Again, her parents were not around because of work, but her grandfather had said that Saturday would be the day that they would appear.
"Is there something wrong dear?" asked Michi.
"Nothing's wrong grandma," smiled Ichiko. "I'm just glad that I could be back to eat with you guys."
"Oh, that's nice. I hope you didn't have a fight with one of your friends."
"It's nothing of that sort! Honest!"
Unless she considered Rei a friend, but she was more like a pest to her.
"Oh, your father wanted to remind you about your appointment with the doctor tomorrow," said Yoshiro.
The genetic test! Ichiko nearly forgot.
"Are you sick sis?" asked Kenji.
"Oh it's nothing of that sort," said Yoshiro. "It's just a regular check-up."
They were still keeping the secret from him.
Friday morning came. Ichiko walked down the usual street and stopped in front of Rei's apartment. There seemed to be no activity apparently. Ichiko resisted all temptation to go in and check on her mother.
"She'll be fine," she said to herself.
As for Ichiko, she wasn't herself today. Throughout her school day, her mind constantly wandered off to the current condition of Rei, and the wandered ended up causing a bit of a concern from her eccentric teachers.
What would Rei be doing? She would likely be getting drunk and lounging around her apartment, or if worse went out for a meal at a seedy bar and took an unsavory man or two back home. Worse still, she could be killed, but that was outlandish. Rei didn't look like the kind of woman who would fall into that kind of situation.
Realizing that she was still in school, Ichiko shrugged all thoughts of Rei. However, it was all in vain. Her intention to check on her made her take flight right as school ended.
She jogged as best as she could down the street and ran up the stairs to the apartment. Ichiko was shaking, or jogging in place as if she had to go the bathroom when banged on the door.
"Mother!" she called. "Rei! Are you there?"
There was some low moaning. Ichiko slid to the window and found it blocked by budge draperies--a faded blanket to be exact. But an opening crack gave her hope and the initiative to slide the window open enough to climb through. In a short moment she was through the mess of piled pots, pans, beer bottles, and mugs, at least half of which fell and clanged on the dirty tiled floor.
When she finally emerged fully into the apartment, Ichiko discovered it was in sordid mess worse than the first time she came here. The floor was almost covered in beer bottles and cans, and there was a repugnant smell of combined cigarette smoke, standing water, and perhaps urine. She crawled through, looking for any sign of Rei, and found the small bedroom and bathroom in a similar state.
"Where are you?"
A hand rose from the corner of the living room next to the television. Ichiko swam through the bottles and pulled her mother from underneath the pile of bottles, which apparently fell from the shelves next to her.
Rei emerged into a complete mess. Her already-worn clothes, which there was a lack thereof, was soiled, and her long black hair was a frizzled mess. Her eyes were sullen, and her makeup was smeared about. She even looked a bit famished.
She fell into the pile again, and Ichiko mustered her strength to pull out her tall and heavier mother.
"God, what happened to you?"
Rei answered with a burp, which smelled so bad that tears fell from Ichiko's squinting eyes.
"You weren't raped weren't you? No, that can't be. You just stayed at home and got drunk. Anyway, we're about to run late if you don't fix yourself up. We have that DNA testing to do, remember?"
"Why do you care?" Rei slurred. "You don't like being with me anyway."
"I have to know."
"You want to find out that we're not related so you'll stop seeing me. Is that it?"
Ichiko felt a pang in her heart.
"Or maybe you secretly want me to not be related so you'll shag me?"
"Come on!" Ichiko cried as she pulled Rei towards the bedroom.
"I don't feel like it," Rei groaned.
Ichiko cleared the total mess off the bed and plopped Rei onto it. She then rummaged through the closet, which was every bit as messy as the rest of the apartment, but at the very least it wasn't filled with beer bottles. Ichiko found most the clothes in need of washing, and even the clean ones were too risquÇ to wear in public.
The only thing she could find was Rei's dark sailor schoolgirl uniform preserved in a plastic wrapping. It reminded her of the photo she saw with her father.
Rei fell asleep. Ichiko took that opportunity to strip of her all her clothes (a lack thereof). Her heart skipped a beat when she beheld her mother's nude body. It was surprisingly smooth and beautiful, as no bones were showing and there weren't too much gross fat or flab. Her breasts were expectedly large, and her nipples looked pink and innocent.
Ichiko was forced to shake her head from her distraction, so she put on her mother the only set of clean underwear and bra she could find from the drawers. With water from a sprayer, she combed and applied gel to her mother's hair as best as she could, and tied it into a ponytail. She cleaned her face and applied neutral makeup.
Rei still smelled in both breath and body. Ichiko could not worry about the former; she had to find some kind of perfume for the latter. All she could find was a half-filled bottle of musk-scented cologne scent, probably left behind by one of Rei's clients or was planning to be given away or used. She wasn't sure if the seal was broken off or not, and if it hadn't probably the liquid leaked out very slowly through the pores of the bottle or through the cap since it was on its side all this time.
"Better than nothing," Ichiko muttered as she popped off the cap.
She poured a good dab into her palm and rubbed it about the skin of Rei's shoulders, which caused Rei to moan and even giggle sensually. It made Ichiko uncomfortable, so she quickly ceased and then proceeded to put on Rei's school uniform. It barely fit her, and the skirt, Ichiko realized, reached close to her ankles.
Ichiko quickly cleared a pathway to the door. Once doing so she hoisted Rei onto her back and walked her out the door. She didn't bother locking it since she had not key, for after all there didn't seem to be many things that would be stolen. If there was, she hoped that it no robbery would happen while they were out and that the neighbors would be vigilant in keeping an eye on the apartment.
Once at the sidewalk, Ichiko leaned Rei against the wall.
"Can you stand up?" she asked her.
Rei shook her head, but it wasn't much of a yes or even a no. She just shook to shake her drunkenness out of her head, and soon Ichiko realized that it didn't work. One step forward Rei stumbled about, and Ichiko had to catch her.
It was about that time that they were receiving stares. She no longer cared, so Ichiko took and Rei to the bus stop. Minutes later, they took a short bus trip to the Ohtori Hospital where they would be having their DNA analyzed. Rei had continued to lean on Ichiko's back as she was transported. To Ichiko and outside observers, it was amazing that she could essentially carry a tall woman.
"I'm here for my appointment," Ichiko huffed at the nurse at the front desk.
"You're just in time," said the nurse. "Ah, here's the doctor Hazama."
The doctor appeared before her from the double doors. He had somewhat of a wild haircut that stuck up and towards the back, and beard trimmed close to the skin.
"Hello Ichiko," he smiled. "I see you're getting stronger by the day."
"I apologize for this scene doctor," said Ichiko.
"Hazama?" Rei stirred.
Bounced off Ichiko's back and rubbed her eyes.
"Jackie?" Rei said. "No shit, I can't believe it's you!"
"Yo Lady Lucifer," Hazama waved.
Rei went up to Hazama and both performed an elaborate and jiving handshake in perfect synchronization.
"You two know each other?" Ichiko asked.
Rei nodded. "We used to call him Jackie the Ripper, 'cause he always rips a bad one out of his ass."
"And she used to be called Lady Lucifer 'cause she was the devil," said Hazama.
"Not that kind, of course."
Hazama led Rei and Ichiko through the clean hallways and into a reserved room where the doctor seated his two patients. With the assistance of a young and pretty female nurse, the blood was drawn into a test tube that was corked and taken away.
"Did see that hot ass?" Hazama asked.
"Oh yeah," grinned Rei.
"I'd hit it, but my wife will find out and there'll be ass-kicking, which I'll be in the receiving end. And threats of divorce might loom afterwards."
"Wife? You're married?"
"She's a looker?"
"Met her during med school. It was enough for us to have one boy brat and two sweet girls."
"Never expected to settle down after all the shit you pulled."
"If Ken'ichi could settle down, so could I."
"Um, how long will the analysis process take?" Ichiko asked.
"Around four hours. It's about two right now, so it will be until six. If you want, you can come back tomorrow for the results."
"I guess we'll have to wait until then."
"No way," said Rei. "I want the results now."
"This ain't magic," said Hazama. "It takes a while, and it so happens the equipment is the fastest around in this city."
"Then we'll wait here."
"But I really have to get home," said Ichiko.
"Why do you insist on going back? You're eventually going to leave when you graduate."
"I know, but I feel so truant as of late."
"Jackie, call the brat's grandparents and tell them she'll be back after we get the results."
"Okay," replied Hazama.
"Now then, let's say we get some lunch; or dinner."
"It's too late for the first and too early for the second," said Ichiko.
Rei bear-hugged Ichiko and rubbed her face against hers.
"Dear mama is hungry!" Rei whined. "I haven't eaten since this morning. Or was it yesterday night? I forget which."
"There is a good sushi place at the corner of the nearby shopping district," said Hazama. "A bit expensive though."
"We're there! Thanks a bunch Jackie Ripper!"
"Why me?" sighed Ichiko.
The ecstatic Rei prominently dragged her daughter to the place in question and the two prominently sat at barstools amidst receiving discrete stares from the other patrons. She gleefully ordered roll after roll amidst sake after sake, much to Ichiko's dismay for apparently Rei did not have any money on her. There went Ichiko's generous allowance, and it would be difficult to explain this to her father and the rest of the family. Her exasperating expression garnered sympathy by the sushi chef, who approached her when Rei went to the restroom.
"You should stand up to a girl like her," he said. "If you want, I can call your parents about this."
"Huh? No, she's not blackmailing me for anything. She's my mother."
Ichiko covered her mouth. She didn't realize that Rei was wearing a long-skirted schoolgirl uniform that reminded passer-bys as one of those gang girls. However, the chef and his apprentice was just as surprised, but the situation was now misinterpreted in a different direction.
"At her age?" whispered the apprentice.
"There's a lot of teenage pregnancies lately," said the chef.
"But they don't look that far apart in years."
"Then again, the mother could have fallen behind."
"Um," said Ichiko.
"Sorry!" said the chef. "We were wondering how old are you and your mother."
"I'm sixteen, and my mother's thirty."
"Oh! She looks pretty young."
"I get that a lot."
"Why is she in a schoolgirl outfit?" wondered the apprentice.
The answer could not be answered, as Rei jovially emerged from the restroom for seconds, which the chef and the apprentice gladly served amidst Ichiko's further dismay.
They daughter and mother then did some window shopping as the stores began to close, and they returned to the quieting Ohtori Hospital so that Rei could snore off her meal an hour before the analysis of the results could be finished. Forty-five minutes later, Doctor Hazama came by to announce that it was announced early, and Ichiko dragged a drowsy Rei into a quiet checkup room. There, he presented the printouts of the daughter and mother's DNA, which looked complex, but the doctor explained it as best as he could.
"So there you have it," he said. "You two are truly mother and daughter."
Ichiko felt stunned, but she should have expected it. Even after repeat confirmations, her heart was beating in full anxiety as it oscillated between relief and forlorn disappointment. Why would she feel this way? She should be glad that she finally met her real mother, or disappointed that Rei would depend too much her. The weight should be lifted off her chest, but now it felt heavier.
Amidst the deliberation of these feelings in silence, there came a ripping fart that broke the mood. Rei waved her nose due to the stink, while Hazama blushed in total embarrassment.
"Sorry," he said. "I had a couple of burritos for a snack."
"I'll say," said Rei. "The stink's so bad that it's making Ichiko cry."
That wasn't the reason why there were tears forming on the girl's eyelids.
"I'm not crying!" Ichiko cried.
Whether accurately read her daughter's expression or not, Rei averted her face and immediately dropped her jovial personality.
"So I guess I'll escort you two out," said Hazama.
"Yeah," said Rei. "Thanks a lot Jackie."
"Thank you very much doctor," Ichiko bowed.
It was a brisk pace from the room to the entrance, and once outside they walked slowly yet their distance between them grew. Ichiko walked almost in a daze, and she occasionally kicked the ground whilst she looked in the ground. Rei was not far behind with a concerned look.
"Now that you know for sure that I'm your real mother, you'll still visit me, right?"
Ichiko shook her head, but it wasn't a nod of any sort.
"You'll make me dinner and lunch, correct?"
"Of course," said Ichiko, turning around. "I'll try to make you lunch and dinner. I'll even make you breakfast at every chance I get."
Rei smiled. "I'm glad I have finally met you."
The heart in Ichiko skipped a beat, and the words caused her to smile.
"Thanks," she said.
"I should be thanking you--for that wonderful sushi dinner!"
"You're going to owe me on that."
"Eventually. The Cero family always pays back what they owe."
The two chuckled. When the bus appeared before them, they realized that they had stopped in front of the bus stop. Once in, there was barely enough standing room to fit the two. It was the end of a business day, so there were many office workers packed in. Ichiko and Rei rode home close to another, shoulder to shoulder.
The daughter dwelt further on her anxiety before her mother, and she was still confused if she was glad or disappointed. Nonetheless, it was comforting to be with her. Without hesitation, she firmly held Rei's left hand for the remainder of the trip, and the mother allowed.
The sunflower in the girl was shaking against a strong breeze, with its petals becoming looser with each gust...
Rei clutched her scarf. "Why the hell am I in a schoolgirl outfit?"