Another Day Dawning
Disclaimer: I own neither Digimon, nor its' characters, nor any other franchise I may mention. Enjoy!
That morning didn't begin like any other morning.
"Kouji. Wake up."
Fortunately, my father had the sense to not try and shake me awake. I didn't like being touched by strange people and in that one moment when I'm first awakened it's a little hard to tell relative from stranger.
"What is it?" I looked at my clock. Eight in the morning. "Isn't it a bit early for anything?"
He sighed. "Something's come up...I need you down in the living room. There's something I have to tell you.
I scowled and sat up. If he wanted me downstairs, then no doubt the woman he married, my stepmother Satomi was involved somehow. Either she was part of the news or my father was breaking the news to her, too. Dad, evidently satisfied that in spite of my grumbling I was on my way, turned and walked out.
What could possibly be so important that he woke me so early, I wondered. The question kept me occupied as I dressed. Maybe Satomi was pregnant. No, that didn't make any sense. If she was, wouldn't she and Dad wait until a slightly better time of day to tell me? Besides, I didn't need any baby brother or sister messing with my life. So, what did that leave?
Satomi was busy in the kitchen. I didn't see any sign of Raiko, my German shepard. I guessed Dad or Satomi had put her outside. Dad was already there, sitting on the couch with a large box on the table in front of him looking at what looked like a photo.
"Kouji, you made it. I was beginning to wonder if you'd gone back to sleep."
"What was so important that you had to drag me out of bed this early in the morning?"
Dad ignored me, instead getting up and poking his head in the kitchen.
"Satomi, could you come in here? I...Something important came up that we all need to talk about."
"Huh?" Satomi followed him back into the living room using a dishcloth to dry her hands. "Kousei, does this have something to do with that phone call you got last night?"
"You could say that." My father was fidgeting nervously with the photo in his hands. "I...I need...I haven't been entirely truthful with either of you. Part of it was that I couldn't bring myself to talk about my first wife because it hurt too much..."
His first wife. My mother, who had died in a car crash when I was two. All I had of her were some photographs and, according to my father, her looks. He was right in that, at least. Looking in a mirror, I could see the similarities.
"...And the other reason is because I didn't want to deal with either of you finding out she was still alive."
You could hear a pin drop in the silence. My mother was still alive? And Dad had gone all this time keeping it from me. Why? And if she was alive, why hadn't she shown up to see me? I wanted to turn, go out the door, and find her, but couldn't. The shock and rage at being deceived like that made any movement I wanted to do, vocal or body, impossible.
Satomi recovered her voice first. "Tomoko's alive? You've been keeping it from your son for all these years. Kousei, you..."
"You're a real monster, aren't you?" I finally managed to get out. "She's been alive all this time. And you knew it! You..."
I don't want to repeat the names I called him. Let's just say I spent the next few minutes calling my father every horrible name I could think of. Eventually I had to pause to catch my breath. Why was I wasting my time on my father? My mother was alive! I could actually meet her...
"I probably deserve being called all that for lying to you, but it hurt too much to talk about her...The divorce got really nasty at the end." My father finally got a word in edgewise. "And I...She was alive until...She was hit by a car yesterday, and died at the hospital."
The second silence made the first one seem short. Satomi put her hand over her mouth in horror. My body began trembling. Just when I had hope that I could actually meet my mother...This had to be some kind of cruel joke. I had to get away from both of them. My father, the woman who was trying to replace my dead mother...
"Kouji! I'm not finished!" Dad put a hand on my shoulder as I turned to the stairs. I gave him the deadliest stare I could.
"Don't touch me."
Dad blinked, but he didn't take his hand off me. I brushed his hand off and was about to start walking towards the stairs, but Dad moved around to block my path.
"It would've been easier if I'd lied to you again, but now I have no choice. The reason I'm telling you all this is because there's another thing I lied to you about. Kouji, you have a twin brother."
He pulled the picture he'd been holding in front of my face. Sure enough, there were two identical toddlers on a swingset in it. I stared at it in shock.
"You weren't named after your grandfather on your mother's side, his name was Satoshi. We named your brother Kouichi and you Kouji... 'First light' and 'second light.' When we got divorced, we split you two up. Now that your mother's gone, we're the only ones Kouichi has left, so he'll be coming to live here..."
"Kousei..." Satomi started, her voice shaking. I ignored her.
"That's wonderful, isn't it? Another son you can force to call the woman you married 'mother.'" I pushed past him and stomped upstairs.
"I'm done here. Unless you have any more lies you want to tell us." I could hear Satomi yelling at Dad, but I couldn't hear the words. Maybe they'd get another divorce or something...It wouldn't bother me. Then I wouldn't have to deal with Dad making me call her "Mom."
I closed the bedroom door behind me and slumped down on the bed. As I did I saw that rotating frame with the picture Dad had taken of the three of us a few months ago. That was the last thing I wanted to see. I flipped over the picture frame to see the old picture of my mother Dad had given me. What did I feel knowing she was alive until yesterday? Sure, I felt sad but I was angrier at Dad for not telling me she was still alive. What kind of son was I? I couldn't even bring myself to cry for her passing because I didn't even really know her. I sighed and closed my eyes.
There was a knock at the door.
"Kouji, I'm leaving the box with the pictures of you and your brother outside the door. There's some of your mother in there, too. I'm going to be out for most of the afternoon...I need to arrange your mother's funeral, and pick up Kouichi. If you want to come just say so."
The sound of Dad's footsteps faded away. I stared at the picture some more. Mom always had such a sweet smile in the pictures...Dad had said the box had some pictures of her, right? I reluctantly pulled myself away from Mom's picture and opened the door long enough to admit the box. The album on top held a lot of pictures all lined up and organized...And probably dated on the backs the way Dad liked doing it. I flipped through the pages of the first album, then having finished it I started the next one, seeing the twin babies turn into toddlers. Which one was me, and which was the brother I had never known? It was impossible to tell in those pictures.
What could I say about my brother? He'd been living with Mom all this time, and it wasn't his fault my father had lied about the fact that my mother had been alive, no more than it had been his fault Mom had died. Still, that didn't mean I had to like him. In fact, in my eyes he was the lucky one. He never had to mourn the death of a parent who was still alive, and he had never been forced to accept a replacement for that parent.
I stopped in the middle of the fourth photo album at one of Mom with the two of us at a pond feeding some ducks. Had she known Dad would tell me she'd died? Was that why she had never tried to see me?
"Kouji? I made you some lunch." I glared at Satomi as she opened the door. "It's downstairs if you want it."
I hadn't realized how long I'd been looking through the pictures. My stomach growled, fueling my bad temper. I sighed and got up to follow Satomi down the stairs.
"We're going to put Kouichi in the guest room across from yours. Your father's renting a moving truck and he's called Akira from work to help move your mother's stuff into storage while we decide what to do with it..."
I just let Satomi keep talking while I ate, since I wasn't in the mood to waste breath telling her to stop.
"What do you think he's like? Kousei says that he was really shy and quiet, and that he'd usually let you do all the talking, but that was a long time ago...So he's got no idea what Kouichi's like."
I tried not to roll my eyes at how insufferably sunny she sounded. She'd just found out her husband had lied to her for years, and hours later all she could think of was what my brother was like. She was so simple. I got up.
"Can I take this outside?"
It galled me to have to ask her for permission like that, like I was some little kid instead of a fifth grader. That unfortunately had been what had started an argument with Dad four days ago, and Dad was one of those people who'd ground someone for leaving the table without permission. Since I had no intention of getting grounded, I had no choice.
Satomi just smiled that perky smile of hers. "Sure, go ahead."
Raiko joined me when I got outside, her nose twitching as she anticipated a free meal. I put the plate down on the picnic table, where Raiko couldn't get it and started eating again. Eventually she gave up trying to get my food and lay down on the ground.
"At least you know when to quit," I said getting out off the seat to kneel beside her and scratch the pointed ears. Raiko's tail started thumping on the ground.
"Well, may as well make it worth your while." I held up a piece of meat and placed it on her nose. "Ready? Set...Go!"
Raiko swiftly snapped up the meat, making me chuckle a bit. The first bit of happiness I'd felt the whole day, I realized as the chuckle faded away. Funny how the only "person" in my family that could do that was Raiko.
Since the little bit of meat I'd given Raiko was the last bit, I picked up the plate to take it back inside. I could hear Satomi thumping around upstairs, probably cleaning out the guest room. Well, at least I could avoid her easily this time. I went to the living room long enough to pick up Raiko's leash. She needed a walk as much as I needed to get away for a while. Preferably for a long while.
I spent the rest of the afternoon alternating between lying on the bed thinking about my mother and looking at those old photo books. At one point I got bored enough to pull the guitar up and try practicing it a bit...Not that I knew many songs. I'd only taken a few lessons back when we lived at that last place. Still, it was something to do that didn't involve talking to Satomi. That made it worth it.
Dinner was very similar to lunch. The only difference was that Satomi wasn't quite so chatty...Which was the only reason why I didn't try to take my meal to my bedroom.
It was just past nightfall when I heard first Raiko's barking announcing Dad's return, then the sound of people moving up the stairs. My father's voice was distinctive, even if the words he used weren't. A minute later, I heard him knocking on my door.
"Kouji...? We're back. I know you're mad at me. You've got every reason to be, but you should probably come out and meet your brother."
Interacting with my father was the last thing I wanted to do. I glared at the door wishing that looks actually could, if not kill, then stun at least.
"We're going downstairs for dinner. Don't forget to let Raiko back in after we're done eating."
Satomi must've moved her out back again...I scowled down at the photo album I'd been looking at. It was hard to think of this Kouichi as an actual person, let alone a brother, rather than some face on a picture. Now he wasn't just a picture, he was going to be living here...He knew her. He'd been living with her all this time. I wondered if Mom had told him about me? Should I go down and talk to him? Would he be willing to talk about Mom?
Would I be willing to talk to him?
Eventually I decided I had to go down. Not for Dad or Satomi, or even Kouichi...I had to let Raiko back in.
Dad and Satomi were both downstairs, but it was the boy sitting between them that caught my attention. He looked a lot like me. The only real difference was that his hair was shorter, stopping just above his shoulders at its' lowest. He looked up as I came in, giving me a glimpse of a slightly pale face with red-rimmed eyes the same color as mine, then swiftly transferred his glance to the table in front of him.
"So, Kouichi, I'd like to know what your mother was like, if that's okay. Can you tell us?" Satomi wasn't very good at being subtle.
"She's...Was..." The boy's voice wasn't very loud. I had to strain a bit to hear. "She was strong. It wasn't easy, we only had the two of us...She worked so hard to keep us going. Mom...Everything she did, it was for me. She never thought of herself, didn't like it when I made a big fuss for her birthday or when she was sick...She...I..." His voice wavered a bit and he stopped.
"You really miss her." Satomi put her arm around him. I turned and went to the back door to let Raiko in. His mother...My mother. She had cared about him, but what about me? All I'd got was a father who lied to me, and an inferior replacement for my mother. And Raiko. Probably the only one in the house who was acting like she was happy to see me. I released her leash and she happily bounded into the house and began barking at Kouichi.
"H-Hello." He raised a hand for Raiko to sniff, then she barked again and headed for her food dish.
"Kouji, come meet your brother," Dad said. I stiffened and the boy in front of me also froze, eyes dropping to the floor again. What could I say to him? Should I say anything to him? It wasn't his fault everything had turned out like this. I glanced at Dad and Satomi. They were both tensed up. What did they expect me to do? Take it all out on him?
What kind of monster did they think I was?
"You can relax," I said, more to Dad and Satomi than to Kouichi. "I don't hurt anyone who can't defend themselves." I turned and walked away.
"Kouji!" Dad exclaimed. "Is that all you have to say?"
"What?" I demanded. "What am I supposed to say to a brother I was never told about? Maybe if you hadn't told me my mother was dead, I'd have had more to say. Instead, you make me call a woman that's not even related to me 'mother.'" I let some of the contempt I felt leak into my voice. "Good idea, Dad."
"Look, Kouji I told you I was sorry about not telling you two earlier," Dad retorted. "But I'm not the only one who lied. Your mother didn't even tell Kouichi he had a brother."
"At least she didn't tell him you were dead and got married again!"
"No, but I'm trying to tell you that your mother was as human as anyone. She made mistakes the same as I did. Maybe she didn't quite dig herself into a hole as big as I did..."
I just snorted. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Satomi and Kouichi walking towards the living room.
"But she did almost the same things. The divorce hurt both of us too much to ever talk to each other, let alone see each other, and we all suffered because of it."
"Yeah, and you just stood by and let me suffer, thinking my mother was dead for the past nine years."
"Look, Kouji...Tomorrow morning I'm taking Kouichi to his home to move his stuff here and to put your mother's stuff into storage. Would you like to come?"
I stiffened. "Of course I'm coming. I want to see what my mother's life was like before you pack it all up in boxes and stuff it in storage. Because I sure didn't get to see too much of it while she was alive."
"Kouji, I...I won't make any excuses, all right? I just want to make sure you won't take out all your anger at me on your brother. He's got nothing to do with my lies."
"I'm not stupid, Dad. Just keep him out of my face and I won't hurt him." I turned and headed to the living room. As I did, I noticed someone had left a book on the book on the table by the couch. It had to be Kouichi. Dad and Satomi knew that Raiko liked chewing things, and she wasn't the kind to stick to her toys. Raiko was already sniffing at it. I didn't feel the need to clean up after her, so I picked up the book and carried it back upstairs, almost bumping into Satomi as she left the bathroom.
"Oops, sorry Kouji."
I glared at her.
"Kouichi's taking a bath, but I think he'll be out soon. He looked pretty tired."
I didn't want anything to do with her, so I pushed by her and back into my room. I could give Kouichi back his book and tell him about Raiko's tendency to chew things she wasn't meant to later. A glance at the book revealed that it was a library book, making me even more relieved I'd picked it up before Raiko could get her teeth around it. One of those sword-and-sorcery fantasy books. I sighed and put the book down on my bed before sitting down. This whole day had messed up my schedule pretty badly. I needed to do some homework before I forgot. It wasn't until I was done that I remembered the book.
Kouichi's door was closed; I'd only intended to put the book in his room, maybe tell him about Raiko if he was still awake. He was lying on the futon, with the pillow on his face. An occasional hiccup and sob escaped from under the pillow.
He was crying.
Well, that made sense. His mother had just died, after all...Of course he would be crying. I wondered if maybe I should get Satomi, since she was probably better at this sort of thing than I was. Then again, he was the one who was trying to hide his tears. I wondered if I should ask him. I frowned, debating whether or not I should do something, and if so what to do, then finally moved over to kneel at his side, gently pulling the pillow out of his hands. His eyes cracked open.
I froze. Of all the things he could have said to me, that was the last thing I was expecting. Kouichi's eyes closed, but I didn't move for a couple of minutes listening to his breathing gradually slow down. He was asleep. I took a deep breath and looked down at the pillow I still held, then gently put it under his head, with the wet side down. Then I pulled the blankets over him and left his book by his side.
On the way out, I saw Satomi coming up the stairs.
"Kouji, is Kouichi asleep yet? I wanted to make sure he was okay sleeping by himself..."
"He's asleep." No sense getting her involved in Kouichi's problem. "He left his book downstairs where Raiko could get it, so I just put it back in his room."
"Oh. Well, if you need anything I'll be in my workroom, okay?"
I nodded, then went back to my bedroom. The encounter with Kouichi weighing on my mind. Thinking about it, it made sense that, in the dark and on the verge of exhaustion, he'd mistaken me for his mother. I did look like her, after all. I turned to look at her picture.
What had she thought of me?
Author's Note: Here we go again...It's a LOT harder for me to write Kouji's view than Kouichi's, since I have less in common with him. So yeah...There's gonna be some overlap between this fic and "At the End of the Day." I'll try not to do it too much. The title also comes from Les Mierables, the same song as the first one. And yes, apparently they do have to do homework during summer vacation...At least, according to the all-knowing internet they do. Speaking of Japan, I've got Anime Boston in just under a week, so I need to get the second chapter up before then. Anyways thanks for reading, reviews are appreciated.