FOREVER NOW – Chapter 2 – by UltimateSin
The last time I’d seen my father, he’d been fit and healthy. The man I saw in the hospital was clearly not in a good way. But he was awake when I walked in, immediately going to his side and taking his hand. The fact I could feel strength in his squeeze told me he wasn’t done just yet. “No crying yet, Mark. The Grim Reaper ain’t got me yet.”
“At least you’re alive, old man.”
He smirked and started to cough. “Don’t make me chuckle.”
Mum wheeled a chair closer so I could sit down, letting go of Dad’s hand so I could hold hers. Hana sat to my other side, taking my other hand. Dad smiled at that. “How’s the old ticker?”
“I’ll need surgery but the white coats are confident I’ll see this off. Get through that, and I won’t give you all another fright for another couple of decades at least.”
“You need anything?”
“Look after them while I’m in here. That’s all I ask, son.”
“I’m back for good, Dad. This was the wake-up…”
“None of that nonsense, Mark. No-one is to blame for me ending up in here. Just one of those things.” He looked me up and down. “Certainly done some growing these past few years. Good tan. Been beating off the women?”
“Dad, I was in Saudi. I was a single man. I spent most of my time either at work or alone in a compound. The fact I was there at all verged on a miracle. They generally prefer family men.”
“Was it worth it, at least?”
“Yeah. Being paid in US dollars for five years came in handy. Made some investments. Saved most of the rest and put that in good accounts with top interest rates. I won’t say I’m rich, but I’m definitely comfortable now that I’ve finally returned home.” I paused and added, “More than enough for you to retire and take it easy, Dad. You’ve worked hard to provide for your family. Maybe it’s time to take a break, or at least scale back?”
“And my business?”
“Plenty of options, Dad. You don’t have decide yet. The most important thing is getting you back on your feet and back home so Mum can inevitably fuss over you.” I glanced to see Mum with a tissue, dabbing at her eyes. “No doubt you’ll be put on a strict diet, careful exercise, and mothered to death.”
It made him chuckle again, this time without the coughing. “I prepared your room,” Mum said, “Soon as you called.”
I thought I’d show off for a second. “So should we speak in English?” Then I asked in the language, “Or should we speak in Japanese?” Then I switched to a third, “Or should we speak in Arabic?”
Mum looked at me, impressed and surprised at once, before a broad grin broke out. My sister giggled next to me. “Was that Arabic?” she wondered.
“Indeed it was,” I replied in the language.
“Are you fluent?”
“I can converse casually if necessary,” I replied again in the language, “But I mostly learned it for business reasons, to converse with colleagues from the region. And it’s a sign of respect for the local customs and culture.”
The fact I’d just said all that in said language earned another look from Mum. I think she was left rather impressed.
“Any other languages you’ve learned?” my sister asked.
I switched to English. “A little French as that’s always handy if I was sent to Africa by the company. And it helps if you’re in Spain or Italy as the language is similar enough you can figure it out.”
“Oooh, what can you say in French?”
I lifted her chin and met her eyes. “Je regarde la plus belle fille du monde.”
“What does that mean?”
I certainly smiled. “That’s for me to know and you to find out.”
We sat chatting with Dad until we’d obviously tired him out. He’d already been in for one surgery, his next was in another couple of days, then he’d need to recover before coming home. Mum was handling all that for now, though she knew I’d now pitch in. Once Dad was comfortable and asleep, we headed outside where, I’ll admit, I sighed with relief. “At least he’s alive,” I said, “He looks older, but considering the circumstances…”
Returning home was enough to raise a smile. The house had been given plenty of TLC since I’d last seen it. Mum’s garden was in full bloom as she loved her flowers. Grabbing my bags from the boot, I followed them inside to find the walls had been given painted, and additional decorations had been added. Carrying my bags through to my room, Mum had made the bed and obviously prepared for my arrival.
“Want some tea?” she asked.
“I’ve been drinking that non-stop for nearly five years, Mum. But I’d love one of your teas.”
Hanako was waiting for me to turn around, following her to her bedroom. She’d remained at home as she was studying to get her Masters then a Doctorate in history, as she wished to teach about the history and culture of her mother. And I assumed she knew who had funded it all for her. Her room had changed from the one of a near-teenage girl, and I could see the influence of both places she would call home.
Sitting on the edge of her bed, she fidgeted slightly so I took her hand in mine, giving it a squeeze. “The last time we sat like this, you said you were leaving,” she whispered.
I turned to look at her. Her large brown eyes looked up at me in return. I could see the hope in them. “This time, I’m sitting here saying I’m back and not leaving again.”
She hugged me tightly for that, kissing me softly on the cheek. She was still hugging me when Mum cleared her throat. She was standing in a traditional floral kimono, one I remembered fondly from the many she’d worn while I grew up. So I knew how she wanted to take tea this time. I’d always kept one with me while travelling, not that I ever wore it. I kept it as a reminder of Mum and my sister, and only ever wore it while with the family, as a sign of my respect of their culture. I still remembered the day I spoke near fluent Japanese with my grandparents. As reserved as they were, I remember the pride on both their faces at their adopted grandson showing his respect, but more importantly love for his adopted family.
Letting them know I’d change, it took a few minutes to remember how to put it on properly, but looking in the mirror once I was done, I walked out to see Mum and my sister waiting for me. My sister was a vision of absolute fucking beauty. Must have shown in my eyes as she started to blush again, while Mum smiled at me.
She had obviously adapted the traditional ceremony, along the lines of a chakai (tea gathering), but even my father had embraced the traditions of his wife. I loved watching Mum prepare the tea, and being the first time in a long time, I found myself getting rather misty eyed as I watched her. Mum was now fifty but she was almost the stereotypical middle-aged Asian woman. Would have assumed she was ten years younger, at least. Barely a wrinkle on her. Hanako spent most of her time watching me instead, I think still in slight disbelief I was there.
“Okay, Mum, your tea is the best,” I said, switching to Japanese. Now that we were in the family home, I’d happily converse in it.
“No-one will believe that my brother is fluent.”
“But you do sound a bit bogan when speaking English, Hana.” There wasn’t a Japanese word for bogan, so that made us both chuckle, “You sound much prettier when speaking our Mum’s native tongue.” That earned one of those giggles I loved hearing from her. Whenever I said ‘our Mum’, she got that smile on her face that lit up the room.
“I was amazed how quickly he picked it up, Hanako, though I think my son did it to impress his Mum.”
I smiled, as she wasn’t wrong. “How are the grandparents?” Dad’s father had passed away when I was ten. The other three were still alive, last I’d heard anyway.
“Still both kicking along. Happily living in their retirement village. Your father’s mother is still fit enough, though she’s suffering the health problems one does expect with elderly people.”
“Good. I’ll make sure I go see them before too long.”
“Want a beer now, Mark?”
“God yes. I’m dying for one, Mum!”
We cleared away everything before gathering back in the living room, now with a beer in hand, Mum in her favourite chair, at least reupholstered, my sister refusing to leave my side. It was late afternoon, so we chatted away for a couple of hours about our lives. My sister was still studying, Mum was a language teacher, so they both had plenty of stories. I could share stories about things I saw at work, the places I’d been, people I’d met, but I’d admit five years in Saudi was long enough for any man. “Nearly five years of no booze and no bacon, Mum. I’ve paid penance for any previous and future crimes.”
“Not a drop of booze?” Mum asked.
“Not outside diplomatic compounds. And, trust me, you don’t mess around with them regarding it. Even a westerner caught with it could be punished severely. So when I did manage to get away for a weekend, it sometimes got a little wild. As for pork, being non-Muslims, we can technically eat it, but it’s honestly not worth the hassle. Most of us just respected the customs and dealt with it. Probably healthier for it. They all smoke like bloody chimney’s though. Half of them will probably get lung cancer in our lifetime.”
Finishing my beer, although Dad was in hospital, I wanted to take the family out for dinner. As soon I suggested that, Mum knew what I wanted to do. Show off in front of them. If you want authentic Japanese cuisine, you either go to Japan, or if you can’t afford that, you try your luck at the restaurants that pop up in the city. A few have been around for decades, while others come and go seemingly every couple of years.
Mum and Hanako didn’t change, but I did throw on a pair of slacks and clean long sleeved shirt. Leather shoes, pair of sunglasses, cuff-links, I liked to dress nice whenever I wasn’t in my work clothes. Joining the pair in the living room, I offered to drive as the city had changed, but not enough that I’d forgotten how to get around. Mum obviously knew the best place to go, directing me to a good parking spot once we were close enough.
She’d obviously booked ahead as we had a table for three waiting for us when we arrived. The young waitress arrived to eventually take our order, and she was probably second or third generation, her accent as thick as my sister’s when it came to speaking English. So I ordered in Japanese, just to see the reaction, as I asked a few questions having eaten the food since I was a little boy, and knew what I liked, and I definitely knew what Mum and my sister enjoyed.
The waitress left impressed for more than one reason, or so I liked to think. “Show off,” my sister said.
“I’ll do it again by taking you somewhere I can speak Arabic.”
The food was excellent, and I did savour an imported though slightly expensive beer, rounding the meal off with dessert and then tea. The waitress popped by more than once to chat with us, explaining I’d just returned home after time away. Hearing me call Mum, well, ‘Mum’, we explained briefly why. Mum just said I was her son, and that’s all that mattered.
It wasn’t too late by the time we arrived home, but I was exhausted. Heading straight for the bathroom, I shaved, enjoyed a long soak under hot water, scrubbing myself down, before heading back to my old bedroom. Mum was readying for bed, hugging her for a few minutes before she closed her door, before going to wish my sister goodnight. Not finding her in her room, I found her in mine, already resting under the blankets.
“Can I stay tonight?” she asked.
“Of course. Just, er… you know, male biology and stuff, particularly in the morning.”
She giggled, obviously understanding what I meant. Shutting the door, I slid under the blankets, checking to see she was at least wearing a nightie. Shuffling back to rest against my chest, I relaxed an arm around her waist, hearing and feeling her sigh. “I’m glad you’re home.”
“I’m glad to be home, Hana.”
“You left when I was a rather awkward young girl.”
“You were never awkward, Hana. I’ve always thought the world of you.”
“Thank you, Mark.”
I knew what she was thanking me for. I pulled her a little closer. “I wanted to do it, Hana. If I couldn’t be here to help, I wanted to do at least… do something meaningful for you. I knew when you were five years old you were going to go far. Considering you’re looking at a PhD, I think I’m right there. I’ll have to call you ‘doctor’ soon enough.”
“Hanako-chan. I’ll always be you Hanako-chan.”
I kissed her cheek. “Goodnight, Hanako-chan,” I whispered.
“I love you,” she whispered back.
“Love you too, sweetheart.”
I crashed within seconds, exhausted as I was. Didn’t open my eyes at all until sometime the next morning, only waking up because I felt soft skin caressing my cheek, opening my eyes to see my sister gazing at me rather lovingly. When my eyes met hers, a glorious smile lit up her face, leaning forward to kiss my cheek, before snuggling against me. Caressing her back, I hadn’t felt that content in years. I didn’t feel any regrets, but being apart for that long, I’d missed them all the entire time.
“I don’t have to go back to class for a couple of days,” she explained, “I obviously told them what happened, so I don’t have to attend class again until Monday.”
“I’m on indefinite leave. All I need do is call a number when I’m ready to go back to work and they’ll sort things out for me.”
“From what you were saying, you don’t have to work.”
“Maybe not, but I can’t sit around and do nothing. Dad’s business is outside my area of expertise, though.”
The only reason I got out of bed that morning is the need to pee and fill my stomach with food. Walking out bare-chested, Mum looked up from the table when walking into the kitchen, and she smiled as I obviously had a good tan. “Someone has looked after himself,” she said, “Need to fight off the ladies, Mark?”
I chuckled as I made myself a brew. “No, Mum. At least, not in Saudi. When in Europe…” I glanced as my sister sat down, looking rather interested in my response. “I didn’t always sleep alone. I’ll leave it at that.”
“Keep in contact with others from home?” Hanako asked.
“Tried to. You were always more important, but there are a couple of old mates I might catch up with for a beer once I’m settled.”
“Can I show off my big brother?”
“How so?” I wondered, figuring out what she meant.
“Well, none of my friends have seen you in a decade. Now you’re back looking… like you do.”
“Tell you what, let me know when, and I’ll join you. If it amuses you, so be it.” I glanced at Mum. “Anything you need from me, Mum?”
“Just your support with your father, Mark.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
The next week was about Dad, keeping him company before after his thankfully successful surgery. He had a little recovery time after that, but the doctor’s said he was now out of the woods, and that all being well, he’d be home within a matter of days. Marvels of modern medicine, to be honest. Man had had a heart attack and looked on the verge of death, and would now walk out of the hospital within two weeks. Complete recovery would take far longer, the doctor’s sitting down and explaining what we all needed to do to help.
At home, Mum doted on me, enjoying having her son back home. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was always ready before I even mentioned being hungry, as I barely left home, just enjoying her company. Hanako did return to her classes from the following Monday after my return, though she seemed to practically rush home to be with me again, more than once leaping onto the bed to cuddle me as I lay back reading.
“No interest in television?” she wondered.
“No. TV when near the mines was crap, and TV in Saudi was even worse. Plus, I was generally just too busy to sit down and watch hours of telly. So I kept up with news, a bit of online crap, but generally read as a means of escape.”
The second Saturday after my return, Hanako asked if I’d be willing to join her and some of her friends in the city. I did ask what their interest was, thankful they didn’t want to go to some nightclub. Dance music wasn’t my thing, though I knew the sort of clubs I frequented in certain parts of Europe simply didn’t exist in Sydney. They just didn’t appreciate most aspects of metal.
I dressed in the standard trousers, dress shirt, shaved, pampered, prepped, ready to go. Hanako appeared from her bedroom and was a vision of absolutely beauty. Mum practically gushed at seeing her, while I stood in place, flat-footed. The black dress hugged her body in all the right places, a slit up the side showing a little thigh, bare shoulders. Sensible shoes with only a slight heel, her hair styled to open up her face.
She saw the look on my face and smiled. “I am 22 years old now, Mark. No longer that little girl you remember.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty fucking obvious,” I muttered. Mum gently slapped my shoulder, though she couldn’t hide her smile. “Sorry, Mum. Inner bogan looking to escape.”
Pressing herself into my body, I inhaled her scent, a mixture of soap, perfume and… her. Lifting her eyes to mine, I’m sure her grin broadened even further. “You approve then, big brother?”
“I’m going to be fighting the men off tonight.”
The smile flickered for a second, then she said softly, “I don’t think that will be a problem.”
“How are you getting into the city?” Mum asked.
“Taxi, Mum. Ordered already. Should be here soon. Definitely not driving as we’ll be drinking.”
My sister did her usual thing during the drive into the city, sitting to me as close as possible. I’d always enjoyed how affectionate our relationship had been. She’d always come to her brother as often as her mother or father for that reassuring hug, or if she was upset about something. It was a little different now, but I already loved that we were as close as we’d been before I left.
We conversed quietly in Japanese so the driver couldn’t listen in, though saw his curious glance more than once, and I was left wondering if he thought we were a couple rather than siblings. Paying him upon arriving, I rounded the vehicle to open the door, helping my sister out of the taxi, before taking her hand and leading her inside the bar. I’d already told her that the night was on me as I could afford to treat my sister whenever I chose.
Three of her friends were waiting for us. After compliments flowed between the four of them, eyes turned towards me. It was easy to see them look me up and down approvingly. “So this is the long lost brother?” Katie asked, once I’d been introduced.
“He’s come home,” Hanako replied, cuddling into my side, “And he said he’s home for good, this time.”
“Want a drink, girls?” I asked.
They wandered off to find a table while I bought ordered a couple of bottles of wine and a beer for myself, joining the four, no surprise my sister ensured I sat next to her. Once the drinks arrived, they toasted my return home, and also the fact my father was now out of hospital and slowly getting better. The four girls chatted away happily, listening in and answering any questions in my direction. What I did feel after a little while was Hanako’s hand rest on my thigh. Nothing untoward, but when I rested mine on top of hers and squeezed, she glanced and smiled at me.
“I haven’t seen you this happy in years, Hana,” Samantha stated.
“My brother is home. You have no idea how much I’ve missed him.”
“Oh, we know enough, Hana,” Rebecca replied. I glanced around the table. “You were rather jealous about the fact we all admitted he was hot when we were younger.”
“I still remember those times we watched him in your pool,” Katie added.
“Anytime we managed to see him without a shirt, to be honest,” Rebecca said, the two others nodding.
“We were all a younger then,” my sister retorted, “Behave yourselves.”
“We’ll try, but now he’s returned how he looks, Hana, and we’re more than old enough. We might not be able to control ourselves,” Katie said, winking in my direction. I almost snorted as I assumed they were just being playful. I had a feeling my sister would very quickly warn them off.
Parent Post: FOREVER NOW – Chapter 1 – by UltimateSin
- FOREVER NOW - Chapter 2 - by UltimateSin
- FOREVER NOW - Chapter 3 - by UltimateSin
- FOREVER NOW - Chapter 4 - by UltimateSin