Thursday, June 23, 2011
Tsuki - Chapter 24 + Epilogue
Hannah hummed merrily as she cooked. She placed a hand on her stomach as the baby kicked her, and wondered again how eight months had passed so quickly.
Eight months since she had met Toshihiro and gotten pregnant… Eight months since she had fallen totally and utterly in love.
Hannah danced back and forth as she chopped some ingredients and added them to the simmering sauce. She was making fish, lightly cooked, and covered with a creamy garlic and dill sauce. She had buttered green beans with nutmeg to go with them, and her mouth watered just thinking about it.
She burst into song, an old Fleetwood Mac song, and twirled around the kitchen. If happiness were able to turn her skin a color, she’d be bright pink right now.
With Yume’s help, Hannah had managed to start her own business. In fact, she started it in partnership with Yume. It was a shop that sold only those things that were handmade by someone local.
It had all started with her quest to find some handmade, good quality furniture. She and Yume interviewed several people in the area, finally finding an older man who made furniture in his garage as a hobby.
Hannah noticed during the interviews that there were a lot of people who made crafts as a hobby, and that most of the people who made them had never even thought about selling them. They were generally older people who had plenty of time to work on their crafts, and not much else to do.
This gave Hannah an idea, a shop that sold the multitude of crafts these elderly people made. This would also give them an opportunity to interact with each other as a group, plus any customers who happened to visit the shop.
Hannah bought a run down old house that could easily be fixed up, and hired some of the elderly people’s descendants to come fix it up. She allowed the group of elders to direct the workers, and let them know that this shop was really theirs. She and Yume were more like investors and consultants. Sure, the two girls would also work as sales clerks for a while, but Hannah had a feeling that once everything was up and running, Hannah and Yume wouldn’t be needed much.
On the plus side, Hannah was getting a chance to practice speaking Japanese now that she had learned to recognize most of the words she heard. The elders of both genders felt that she was such a sweet girl, and they loved to talk about themselves. Fortunately, Hannah loved to listen, and she even took notes.
Hannah continued to sing as she cooked, pretty much sticking to Fleetwood Mac songs for the moment. She danced in a circle with her eyes closed, and gasped when she heard some unexpected applause.
She opened her eyes to find her husband and all their friends, except for Yume, clapping as they watched her. Hannah’s hands flew to her cheeks as she blushed in shame. In her opinion, her singing left much to be desired!
Toshihiro kissed her, and his friends all made themselves at home around the table. Sakura happily snuggled up to Kyo, and cast a knowing smile at Yuki. Yuki had found herself in a similar situation to Sakura’s attempt to bed Kyo about a week later.
Kyo had suggested to Toshihiro and Keichi that Keichi could ask Hannah to help him get with Yuki, and perhaps afterwards, Yuki would be willing to go out with Keichi. Toshihiro had drawn the request out on the chalkboard, and Hannah had agreed readily.
Yuki returned Sakura’s smile, and snuggled up to Keichi. Yuki had never thought about Keichi in that way prior to Hannah working her up that day, and then inviting Keichi to join them. Yuki consented that day because she figured out that it must have been Keichi’s idea, and if Keichi wanted her that badly, then it would be cruel to refuse.
The two had been a couple ever since, and Yuki was surprised at what a good boyfriend Keichi made. He turned out to be perfect for her in every way.
The only thing that Yuki missed was sex with Hannah. Keichi had asked Yuki not to have any more sex with either Toshihiro or Hannah, and Yuki agreed since she did believe in monogamy.
Sakura, on the other hand, had found it exciting to invite other women into their bed, and had vowed to practice her skills until she was as good at pleasing women as Hannah was. This was awesome in Kyo’s opinion, and he fell more in love with Sakura every day.
“I’m home!” Yume announced as she entered the house. Yume had moved in with Hannah and Toshihiro about a month ago for two reasons. The first was that her parents continued to pressure her to enroll in college, and the second was that they were furious with her for quitting her stable job in order to work part time with Hannah’s elderly crafters.
This worked out well in Hannah’s opinion, since Yume had become her girlfriend at about the same time.
Hannah served everyone dinner, and walked to the refrigerator to get drinks. Just then, the doorbell rang, and Toshihiro decided to go see who it was. He made a mental note to turn up the heat when he returned, as it was chilly in the rest of the house, and realized that this was the first time in a while that he and his friends hadn’t shed their clothes as they entered the house.
“Toshihiro!” His family greeted him. “We’ve come to see your new house!”
“This is such a surprise!” Toshihiro exclaimed, gesturing for them to come in. “You really should have let us know you were coming so that Hannah could have made enough food for everyone.”
“Food?” His mother asked. “You’re eating now?”
“It’s become something of a tradition for all of my friends to come study after school, and Hana always makes us something to eat to fuel our studies,” Toshihiro explained.
“Well, don’t mind us. We actually ate not too long ago,” his father informed him.
Toshihiro led his family to the kitchen, where Hannah had actually thrown on a dress, and now sat eating with everyone else. She gasped in surprise, and leapt up to greet her in laws. Or rather, she slowly tried to leap up, but was hindered by her eight months pregnant belly.
She hugged each of her in laws, saving Toshihiro’s mom for last.
“You’ve gotten so big!” Toshihiro’s mom placed her hands on Hannah’s belly. “I can feel the baby kicking!”
Toshihiro asked his friends to make room for his family. The table was not overly huge, but since Sakura and Yuki had no problem sitting on their boyfriends’ laps, there actually was enough room for everyone to sit around the table.
Toshihiro introduced everyone to each other, and his parents asked what everyone was learning in school. This broke the ice nicely as talking about their various classes was an easy, neutral topic.
Later on, the conversation turned to farm matters.
“Son, I want you to thank your wife for us,” his father said. “If not for her father loaning us some money, we would not have had such a good year.”
Toshihiro took Hannah’s hand in his, smiled and kissed it to convey their thanks. Meanwhile, Yume translated. Not that she really needed to since Hannah could understand Japanese better than she could speak it, but Hannah had asked Yume to keep quiet about this as she loved communicating nonverbally with Toshihiro.
Hannah blushed. “Thank you. I mean you’re welcome."
Toshihiro’s mom took his hand in his. “I want to thank you as well. If not for you deciding that you didn’t need money from us every month, we would not be able to let your brother follow his dream.”
“Oh?” Toshihiro asked. “What’s your dream, little brother?”
“There’s an organization called Worldwide Workers on Organic Farms, or wwoof for short, that connects organic farmers with workers who want to learn more about organic farm practices. They provide the worker with a place to stay, and food in exchange for labor.”
“With your brother gone, we normally would be short on labor, but now, we can afford to hire someone if we need to,” their mother finished.
“Wwoof?” Hannah asked excitedly. She turned to Yume. “I was going to wwoof in Hawaii after returning from Japan, but well, I decided not to return.”
Yume translated this for everyone.
“You were going to wwoof?” Toshihiro’s brother asked incredulously. He could not imagine his sister-in-law actually getting her hands dirty.
“Oh yes,” Hannah nodded. “Where do you plan to wwoof? There are so many beautiful places in this world, it is hard to choose just one!”
“I know!” Little brother agreed. “I plan to start by spending three months in Australia, and then working my way around the world. There are some farms in Hawaii I want to work at as well, not to mention Germany, Spain, and Ireland.”
“Wow,” Toshihiro remarked. “You’ll get to travel the world.”
“You could travel the world one day too, Hiro-kun,” Yume pointed out. “Hannah and her father traveled for years on business, and I’m sure he would be thrilled to teach you his business, especially if it meant that he got to spend more time around Hannah.”
Toshihiro gave Yume a look that clearly stated that he had never thought about it like that before.
Yume laughed. “You seriously never considered that?”
“No, I have been too busy trying to do well in college. I still haven’t given much thought to what I’m going to do once I’ve graduated,” Toshihiro replied.
“Well, I’m not going to college, but I can tell you exactly what I plan to do for the next few years,” Yume grinned. “I plan to be Hannah’s assistant.”
“Hana-san’s assistant?” Toshihiro’s mother asked.
“Yes. Hannah has started a business by investing in local elderly people who make crafts. I’ll take you by the shop later if you want. It’s almost ready to open, and has quite a few items on display already,” Yume informed them.
Hannah sighed. “You may as well tell them what I did today.”
Yume grinned. “Oh yeah! Just this morning, we ran a realtor ragged walking all over looking at all of the businesses that are for sale in the area. She bought a couple that were long vacant, and plans to find local people who have solid business ideas worth investing in. That way, with a little coaching, they can start their business right here, and they can start by fixing up their premises.”
“Hana did?” Toshihiro asked. He hadn’t expected this. He knew of Hannah’s craft business, but he had been under the impression that she planned to run it in her spare time. He had no idea that she was planning to make money by investing in local businesses.
Yume nodded. “There’s a woman just down the street that has a passion for sewing, but until recently, the only sewing she has had to do has been for her family. Now, her husband recently died in a car accident, and she has to support them all by herself. Only, there aren’t many jobs to be had, and she’s been a stay at home mother for years, so she has no job experience. I think Hannah plans to invest in her.”
Toshihiro pulled Hannah into a hug. “You are so wonderful, and you still continue to amaze me.”
Hannah blushed and smiled, and Yume translated for her. Toshihiro’s family asked Yume to show them the shop, and Yume stood to do so.
“Later!” Yume grinned knowingly.
Hannah rested her hand on her large belly. She was due to give birth any day now, and was excited, even more so than when she had given birth to Hikari. As an only child, she had always longed for a brother or sister, but her parents were completely happy with just one child, and hadn’t wanted more. Giving Hikari a little brother was like a dream come true!
She had been married to Toshihiro a little over three years now, and was as madly in love with him as ever. She was amazed at how her life had turned out, and thanked her lucky stars that she’d had that argument with her father so long ago now. It must have been fate!
Yume remained her girlfriend for over a year, but decided to break up with Hannah. Yume had fallen in love with a man, one of the men Hannah had decided to invest in, and Yume wanted to devote herself to him fully. They now ran a successful little shop down the street, and Hannah considered them good friends.
Keichi and Yuki had continued their relationship throughout college, but decided to go their separate ways when they graduated. Yuki left to serve her medical residency in a small town, and Keichi stayed close by. He worked in an office as a computer technician. He’d brought a girl over last night for dinner, so it looked like he was thinking about the future, and moving on.
Kyo and Sakura had an interesting relationship. Theirs was similar to Hannah and Toshihiro’s, but different in that they both loved to find new couples to have fun with. Hannah had begun to worry that they wouldn’t last as a couple beyond college either, but they had surprised her – again at dinner last night – by announcing their engagement.
Kyo was also a computer technician, which was how he had met and befriended Keichi – they took all of the same classes. Sakura had decided to open up her own shop, and her business surprised everyone that knew her. For such a shy and quiet little thing to run a business that catered to cosplayers by selling costumes, offering a place to drink coffee, eat a small variety of pastries and chat, and hosting or planning parties… Well, it boggled the mind!
“I make more money than Kyo!” Sakura confessed to Hannah. This was somewhat secret information because Kyo was one of those men that felt it was his job to earn the bigger income. This caused Hannah to worry about them even more, but so far their relationship seemed more solid than shaky.
As for Toshihiro, he had graduated from college with a degree in business. He had always planned to go into business, but originally as middle management. It was hard on them for a while, but he took extra classes to boost his degree so that he would qualify for upper management, but now that he was finally out of school, he questioned even this.
He spent a lot of time on the phone with Hannah’s father, especially now that he had finally learned to speak English. He increasingly wanted to move to America so that he could learn banking directly from his father in law, but Hannah stubbornly refused. She had built a pretty solid business here in Japan, investing in small businesses, and consulting with the owners to help them be as successful as they could be. She didn’t want to leave it now!
Toshihiro realized that this meant that he would have to figure out what he really wanted to do. Most of the time, he was unsure of himself, and tended to change his mind every time he heard about a new business opportunity. This was frustrating because he began to wonder if he had what it took to settle down in any one business, and stick with it.
This was why Hannah’s father’s business appealed to him. Aside from being a stable banker with a large and steady income, he was able to take off and travel the world whenever he was in the mood for something new. Toshihiro was surprised at how strongly the prospect of traveling the world made him long to just drop everything and go.
Hannah’s father finally solved the problem by temporarily moving to Japan, and helping Toshihiro open a Japanese branch to the family bank. Being small and privately owned actually worked in Toshihiro’s favor since he was able to set the policies of his bank to reflect his own values. He was able to compete with large bank chains because he valued his customers, and set his policies to favor them over the bank’s bottom line. This meant that he didn’t make quite as much profit as he could have, but he still made more money than he had ever dreamed possible.
He came up behind his wife, and kissed her on the back of her neck. “I love you!” Now that they both spoke each other’s language, conversations in their house were always interesting, but they still relied heavily on their own private language of hand gestures a lot of the time.
Hannah squealed happily that he was home from work early, and threw her arms around him. They kissed until their daughter demanded her fair share of attention. Her furious demands caused them to laugh, and Toshihiro scooped up his little bundle of joy. She hugged him exuberantly, and he was surprised at how strong she was. She nearly choked him with her tight hug!
“What brought you home so early?” Asked their lovers. They had found a married couple about 6 months ago, and the four of them had plenty of interesting fun in the bedroom.
“I missed my wife, and had a feeling that tonight might be the night,” Toshihiro replied honestly. It was one perk of being the boss, plus he had found a wonderfully trustworthy man to manage his bank. This meant that he didn’t have to work around the clock!
Their lovers knew that he worked in a bank, and that Hannah was a business consultant, but they had no idea how much money the couple actually had.
Hannah grinned at her husband mischievously. “Now that Honoka and Kaoru are expecting a child, I think it would be an excellent idea for them to move in.”
“You’re having a baby?” Toshihiro asked incredulously. Honoka had been trying for years, but doctors told her she was infertile. “That’s wonderful!”
Honoka smiled and thanked him, and Kaoru beamed with pride. They were both about 5 years older than Hannah and Toshihiro, and had long prayed for this miracle.
“Move in huh?” Toshihiro replied thoughtfully. “That means we are going to need a bigger house.”
“My thoughts exactly!” Hannah agreed. “With plenty of room for our children to grow and play.”
Toshihiro nodded. “I saw one that might be perfect. We could go look at it tomorrow, and buy it if we like it. We could even be moved in by the end of the week.”
Honoka gasped, “What do you mean? The loan process and closing, and … everything would take much longer than a week!” She knew what she was talking about since she was a receptionist for a realtor, and her husband worked as a teller in a bank.
Toshihiro gave her an enigmatic smile. “I am confident that my bank can help speed things up.”
“Maybe, if you are a valued employee,” Kaoru reasoned, “but even then, the paperwork takes time to process, and much depends on how ready the house is. The owners may still need to find a new place to live, and pack, and…” He fell silent at Hannah and Toshihiro’s matching grins. He must be missing something.
Hannah suddenly gasped. “It’s time!”
Toshihiro nodded to her, and led her to the room she had prepared. He had thought her crazy when she wanted to deliver Hikari via home birth, but that experience had been so wonderful that he didn’t even question it when she wanted to do it again with their second child. She was already naked, of course, so he simply helped her into the birthing tub.
Honoka and Kaoru followed them, curious. They knew what Hannah had planned, but thought her a complete weirdo for wanting to give birth at home. They were amazed at how quickly Hannah birthed the child; there wouldn’t have been time to bring her to the hospital even if she wanted to go!
“It’s a boy!” Toshihiro announced.
Hannah panted. The contractions from the afterbirth making it hard for her to focus.
“I think we should name him Aoi!” Toshihiro decided. Hannah nodded in agreement. At this moment she didn’t particularly care. She had already picked out an American middle name. She figured that multicultural children ought to have multicultural names.
Later on, Hannah settled into her bed with her newborn son. Hikari laid her head on Hannah’s lap. Hannah’s heart nearly burst with happiness, and she nearly cried as she looked to her husband.
“I love you!” She informed him.
He simply nodded. Their life was so perfect at this moment; he hoped that it would never end. He also wondered what adventures life had in store for them next. With Hannah in his life, he was certain the adventures would never end.