Miyu looked out the window and watched as the final guest came in, her husband carrying the frail old lady over the steep steps leading to the temple. Soon there was a murmur around her as the people in the room started to greet the new arrival. She leaned her face against the window pane and closed her eyes, one hand rubbing her protruding belly as she felt the baby kick. Feeling two strong arms wrap themselves gently across her belly, an involuntary smile graced her lips. She leaned back into a solid chest and gave a contented sigh. She opened her eyes and looked over her shoulder directly into a pool of amber staring at her in love.
"She's dying to meet you." Kanata said as he nuzzled Miyu's neck just below her ears. He grinned slightly as he felt her shiver. Miyu scowled at him in mock anger before pecking him lightly on his lips with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.
Soon, Kanata led her over to the little group that was huddled around the old lady who was sitting in an enormous armchair that engulfed her tiny frame. Ruu was sitting on her lap with a curious expression in his deep blue eyes, but did not protest when the old dame pressed a loving kiss mingled with tears to his forehead and cheeks.
"Hey Ruu." Kanata said as he bent down to his level. "Do you know who she is?"
Ruu shook his head as the lady clutched him tighter sobbing quietly. Miyu felt her own eyes moisten in bittersweet memories.
"This is your great grandmother." Kanata said. "You can call her granny."
"Granny?" Ruu asked in his sweet little voice. Hearing his voice brought a watery smile to the old lady's face as she looked at him.
"Mama?" Ruu asked, turning to Miyu standing just behind Kanata as though for confirmation.
"He is your papa's granny." Miyu told him with a small smile. This seemed to confuse the child who was a little over a year old as he turned enquiring eyes on his papa kneeling in front of him.
"Your other papa." Miyu said. "The one who is in heaven."
"Oh…" Ruu's eyes became round as he finally understood. He turned to the woman holding him and said in a delighted voice, " Granny! Stories?"
The people standing watching this scene could not help but laugh. Ruu had an insatiable appetite for stories. He refused to go to sleep till Miyu or Kanata read him a bedtime story. Wanya, with whom he spent the better part of most days was a veritable mine of stories. Even Kanata's old man entertained him with exotic stories of India and Nepal whenever he was home.
The old lady broke into a beautiful smile at this request and said in a soft voice, "I'll tell you all the stories I know, sweet heart."
She looked up at Kanata and Miyu with grateful smiles and said, "Thank you for keeping their memory alive with him." She sighed wistfully as she looked down at Ruu who had clambered down from her lap and was now trying to get back to his play with his friends which had been interrupted when the old lady first came in. "He looks exactly like Nozumo did at this age." Many of the people gathered around murmured their assent.
"Alright everyone! Let's go to the main temple. We will start the prayers now." Mr. Saionji said. He had come back from his travels nearly a fortnight ago to discover that he had a new daughter-in-law and an adopted grandchild, with another one on the way. But he took it all in stride and had taken the initiative in holding this memorial service for Chris and Nozumo. Everyone slowly filed out, with Kanata helping granny and Miyu and Akane brought up the rear, shepherding the children.
Miyu let her mind drift over the past year as Mr. Saionji started chanting prayers. It had been a bittersweet year to be sure. She still found it hard to grasp that Chris was gone. Her mind still expected her to come hoping up the shrine steps with her usual manic energy, with a batch of her favorite cookies and the latest gossips. It had been hard work to make Ruu understand about her and Nozumo. Finally they had settled for telling him he had another set of parents who were in heaven. He seemed to accept this and now refered to Chris and Nozumo as 'mama' and 'papa' also. That assuaged the guilt that Kanata and Miyu had felt in the beginning.
Miyu looked to her right and saw Ruu perched high in Kanata's arms, his chubby little arms locked around his neck. A smile tugged at her face as she saw Kanata lean down and give him a brief kiss on his cheeks. As though he felt her stare, Kanata stared down into his wife's eyes, his expression warming. He extended one hand, the other still holding Ruu, and took her hand and laced his fingers through hers. 'His wife…'
The day that Nanami let them know that the Hanakomachis were going for appeal had been the worst and best day in his life. It was the day he almost lost Ruu and Miyu. It was also the day the two of them officially became his very own. The news of their impending marriage had made the Hanakomachis withdraw their appeal saving them all a lot of trouble. Their wedding had taken place exactly a week after that day. It had been a simple and intimate ceremony held at the local wedding center, with only close friends and family attending. Santa had stood as his best man and Akane had been the matron of honour. Miyu had worn a sleeveless white gown, elegant in its simplicity. He still recalled with perfect clarity the overwhelming feeling of love and happiness that had rushed through his body as he placed the ring on Miyu's finger. It was a simple affair, a small emerald surrounded by tiny white diamonds. He had chosen it because it reminded him of her eyes. He had lifted up the veil covering Miyu's face to kiss her for the first time as her husband, and had seen the same love and happiness reflected in her eyes. Hearing Ruu's childish gurgle had simply completed the picture for them both.
The ceremony was almost at an end when Kanata saw Miyu rub her round belly as though soothing the baby inside. They had not exactly planned for it to happen, but it had been inevitable considering their enthusiasm for the activity that led up to it. Kanata allowed himself a small smirk as he thought of that. They were half way through their second trimester and last week's scan had shown that they were having a baby girl. Miyu had wanted to call her Christine, but Santa and Akane were also having a new baby and had beaten them to the name. Kanata thought that Miu would be a good substitute, but he still had to get his wife to agree. But then again, he did have a lot of persuasion skills up his…er… sleeve.
"Ji-ji!" Ruu said as he leaned forward trying to get Kanata to move forward and reach his old man whom Ruu called 'Ji-ji'. Kanata roused out of his reminiscing to see that the ceremony had concluded and the guests were all headed back to the house for some snacks and tea.
Soon they were all sitting around in all the available spaces in the living room. Comfy cushions had been arranged around the room, so many of the young people opted to sit on the floor leaving the chairs for the elderly. Miyu found the atmosphere akin to the family gatherings she had often heard about in her youth, with an interleaving sadness mixed within. Nozumo's grandmother was in her element as she was the one that had raised Nozumo after he was orphaned and told about all his childhood escapades.
The shrill ringing of the telephone made everyone pause as they all wondered who that could be, since half the town was already here.
"It's probably for me!" Mr. Saionji said as he got up in a hurry and went out into the hallway to attend the call. Kanata narrowed his eyes in suspicion at his eagerness. 'If he remembered his history right…'
Sure enough, Mr. Saionji came back with a gleam in his eye and said, "Everyone! I have been given a very rare and coveted opportunity to train with the Dalai Lama himself in Tibet. I must leave right away!" so saying he skipped off, presumably to his room to gather his belongings. Before anyone could do more than blink, he was back with a bulging bag over his shoulder.
'I wonder if he ever unpacks that bag.' Miyu thought to herself.
"Kanata, my boy." Mr. Saionji addressed a scowling Kanata "I am proud of you. You are now a husband and a father. Take care of your family." His eyes gleamed with unshed tears. "I'm off now!" he chirped in a peppy voice before springing out of the room through the window.
"Oyaji…!" Kanata yelled, but feeling a warm hand wrap around his own, he refrained from going after his fickle father.
"It's okay, Kanata." Miyu whispered gently as everyone around them carried on as if nothing had happened, for they all were quite used to Mr. Saionji's antics by now.
Kanata sighed and ran his hand through his hair. He had had a long chat with his father now. It had involved a lot of yelling and chasing around the temple. But he had finally understood why his father always ran away from the temple. It had started as his way of dealing with the loss of his wife and Kanata's mom. Then it had become a habit. It did not bother him now. Because this time, he had his own little family with him to chase away the loneliness and to bring his life meaning and happiness.
Kanata held Miyu close as he thought back to that shocking phone call all those months ago. He finally understood that it had not been fate, but his destiny calling.
This is my very first fanfic and i want to thank all my readers for your support. The reviews especially helped inspire me to finish this little story :) :). I hope you all enjoyed reading this story as much as i enjoyed writing it.