"What are you doing, JR?" Tomoyo asked her ten-year-old son as she watched him place half of his allowance into a cookie jar half-filled with coins.
He looked at his mother straight in the eye. "Since you wouldn't give me the money I need to buy an airplane ticket and you also don't want me to use the Clow cards anymore, I figured out that for me to see Nadeshiko again, I'm on my own."
"On your own?"
"Yeah. It's all up to me if I would see her or not." He grinned proudly at himself. "I will save all my allowance to buy an airplane ticket so I can go see her."
"Oh." Pleasant surprise crossed her beautiful face as she looked at her son. "JR…"
"Boy, would she ever be surprised!" he said excitedly. "Irresponsible, immature Eriol Hiiragizawa Junior was able to come up with his own gameplan to see her again!"
JR stiffened when he met Tomoyo standing by the glass door connecting the garden and the living room. Her face was drawn in sadness, and the way she looked at him…he was starting to get uncomfortable.
"You shouldn't have played soccer outside. It's too chilly," she said quietly.
He gulped. His mother knew; his mother witnessed what just happened between him and Nadeshiko! He tore his gaze away from her guiltily. "G-Goodnight."
"JR, wait, we have to talk—"
"Not now, Mom. I'm tired—"
He turned to her, eyes pleading. "Mom…"
"You kissed her," she said breathlessly.
He groaned, then leaned against the wall. "Well, so what? She's not my cousin…it isn't incest."
"I know, but still, you should have thought over the matter before doing that," said Tomoyo, choosing her words carefully. "Things are just so complicated…"
"Complicated?" He laughed dryly. "Mom, she is the loveliest, sweetest, most beautiful thing in the world and the only way I can express it is through kissing her. It's not complicated."
"Sit down, JR. I'll explain." Tomoyo sat down the couch wearily. She was debating as to how to break the news that Sakura gave her over the phone awhile ago. She knew though that no matter how much gentleness she uses, it would still end up breaking her son's young heart.
He looked at her, then hesitantly settled on the couch beside her.
"Let me start by saying that when Nadeshiko called to say that she was staying here for the holiday, I was as clueless as you are as to her real reason for staying here. I wanted to talk to her mother, but she didn't let me." The Hiiragizawa mistress turned her gaze at the window outside. "I was in doubt, but hey, I know that this will most definitely please my son, so I agreed. I was even planning to matchmake you two…"
JR frowned, trying to control the blush spreading on his face. "I don't see anything awful about that."
"But Sakura called me up…" Tomoyo looked at her son, eyes welling up with tears. "She interrogated Nadeshiko the night she slept with them, and they found out something."
"W-Which is?" JR asked, preparing himself silently for the worst. But surely, nothing can be worse than the knowledge that Nadeshiko is going to be a nun, right?
The mother inhaled shakily before opening her mouth.
Nadeshiko trembled underneath her blankets as she remembered how it was like when JR held her in his arms for the shortest eternity she knew in her lifetime. When time stood still, when her thoughts froze, and yet her body and soul fluttered in life, one with her beating heart.
It was a miracle. There was no other word to describe that brief sweet torture.
And that same torture she would bring with her dreams tonight, for tomorrow, she knew something. She would not spend Christmas here anymore.
"Goodnight JR." At the last moment, Tomoyo's courage failed. She would never have the guts to hurt her son, not in any way.
Her son looked troubled. "Mom…"
"Don't ask," she whispered, voice tight. "Don't ask; it will only ruin the happiness." With that, she turned her back on him, leaving the young man in confusion.
Crying, she made her way to the master's bedroom, where Eriol was seated on the study table, reading something. He looked up when the door opened. When he saw her, he got up quietly and reached for her. She instantly melted into his arms, sobbing.
"I…I can't do it…" she cried. "He'll hurt badly…oh God, he would be hurt…"
He crushed her in his arms, soothing her. "It can't be helped," he said quietly. "But Tomoyo…he's old enough for pain. You can't be always there to protect him from it, or how else would he grow strong?"
"Y-You don't understand…" she choked. "My son…I would rather die than see him pained…Eriol, I can't do it…I can't say it…"
"Ssh," he hushed gently, helping her to settle on the bed. He rocked her comfortingly, making her calm down. "I feel the same way," he said softly. "But Hon, he'll hurt more if he finds out about it later, and not from us."
Tomoyo hiccupped. She could see her husband's point. She looked up at him, and was met by the wise, blue eyes of her spouse. Her eyes softened. Decades passed, and still, he was, in her eyes, still the handsomest, wisest, and kindest man in the world.
"We'll tell him tomorrow," he decided firmly. "OK?"
She nodded, and he bent down to kiss her still wet cheeks, drying her tears. "Now hush, or you'll break your dear husband's heart," he said in the still same gentle firmness.
Eriol smiled at her lovingly. Old age didn't take away how he looks at his wife—the sweetly feisty eighteen years old nakoudo who slyly caught his heart even without arming herself with arrows. His voice turned husky. "I love you.
"Don't I know it?" she asked back, eyes shining. "Although our attempts on baby-making were futile…"
"It made us love Eriol Hiiragizawa Junior more," he said, dismissing her troubles on her past miscarriages. "I want children…but I want a family more…and you two are wonderful already."
"Thanks, Sweetheart." She rested her head against his strong chest, its heartbeat soothing her own. She was no longer afraid of what would happen tomorrow. All will be well, as Sakura puts it.
Tomoyo froze in the middle of the stairs when she heard her son's absolutely furious voice boom in the living room.
She went to the source of the voice and found her son engaged in another verbal fight with Nadeshiko. An ordinary scene reminiscent of their childhood days, but circumstances were different today. Tomoyo bit her lip as she watched from the doorway.
Nadeshiko's face was a picture of calmness. "I wasn't supposed to sleep here anyway. I need to go to Okaasan's house, you know—"
"We made plans last night over dinner that we're going to see the town together!" he protested. "We had agreed on this already, hadn't we?"
"Yes, but I kissed you, is that it?" he bellowed, a second too late in realizing his folly.
Nadeshiko's eyes widened, and he knew why. He turned around, and just as he thought, his mother was standing by the doorway, watching them.
"No use having quarrels for breakfast," said Tomoyo, trying to compose a cheerful face. "Let's eat." With that, she headed for the kitchen.
"A-Aunt Tomoyo…" Nadeshiko wanted to follow her, but JR blocked her way.
"Eat later. We'll talk first." He pulled her out of the house, towards the garden.
"JR!!!" She struggled to set herself free from his grasp, but to no avail. His muscles weren't there for nothing.
Soon, they were in the hidden part of the garden, away from his parents. JR turned to her. "OK, listen, Nadeshiko. Once and for all, we'll settle this. Last night…last night was wonderful. Last night was a dream come true for me. I do not give a damn if you think it's all one hell of crappy labial pressure, but let me tell you that my life will never be the same again, thanks to you!!!"
She blinked, her eyes wide in puzzlement. At the same time, her eyes were searching and asking.
"Hell, don't look at me like that!!!" he barked.
"W-Why?" she asked.
He roughly pulled her to him and kissed her hard, but beneath its roughness was unmistakable passion, a fire that was threatening to swallow them both whole. And she knew, the flame took her in.
"T-That's why," he said gruffly, releasing her.
She touched her lips shakily, not knowing what kind of effect it was giving the young man. His eyes gazed reverently at her soft, moist lips. I did that, he thought not without pride.
"You'll go back to Aunt Sakura's house later," he said authoritatively. "For now, we'll go around Tomoeda. It's the pre-Christmas fever, and we'll have lots of fun things to do."
And for all her guts, all Nadeshiko could do was nod meekly to Eriol Hiiragizawa Junior's orders.
Although puzzled why his parents weren't as enthusiastic as they were last night about the idea of touring Nadeshiko in Tomoeda, he was thankful nevertheless, because they allowed them.
"Go home as soon as possible," his mother couldn't resist saying. "It's chilly."
"We have jackets and scarves, Mom," said JR pointedly, rolling his eyes. "I'm even wearing one with my name embroidered on it." It was one of Hiiragizawa Tomoyo's idiosyncrasies—leaving her embroidered signature on every piece of clothing that both her husband and son own. It was a sign of them being her property. His dad loved it, but standing in the doorway with Nadeshiko looking at the accursed embroidery, JR decided that he…loved it less.
"Take care!" bade Tomoyo, planting a kiss on his forehead, then smiling at Nadeshiko.
That afternoon, exhausted from the Christmas shopping, dining, and skating, the two trudged home. JR would have invited her to see the Christmas play tonight, but Nadeshiko looked pale and fatigued already, so he took the initiative of ending their memorable day. The two passed by the penguin slide, and both of them stood there wordlessly.
"Let's sit by the swings," they said at the same time, then paused. They laughed at the same time too.
"Okaasan told me that it was here when Otoosan comforted her when she was still crying over Yukito's rejection," Nadeshiko narrated as they were sitting idly in the swing set.
"I saw that too, when we used the Return card, remember?" he asked.
"Both you and Aunt Sakura had a thing for Yukito, though for the life of me, I do not know why."
"Ask Otoosan." Her eyes twinkled. "But he'll kill you first before you know the answer."
He grinned. His Uncle Li still blushes madly whenever his dad brings up the topic on his once-upon-a-time attraction to Yukito Tsukishiro.
"You still like Yukito?" he couldn't resist asking.
"Don't tell me…you're jealous?" she kidded.
He looked at her challengingly. "What if I tell you I
Her smile vanished. She got up all of a sudden, face flushed. "L-Let's go home. Aunt Tomoyo is right… it is chilly. A-And Okaasan must be worried already. Let's call it a day, shall we?"
"With pleasure." With a single step, he was standing right in front of her. The next thing she knew, his lips claimed hers once more.
She wanted to push him away, slap him back to his senses. But she lost grab of her own wits, and all she wanted to do was to keep this incredible feeling.
When their lips parted, she was surprised to see his eyes shining in happiness.
"Nadeshiko…when I was a kid, I told myself that if love is like my mom and dad's mushiness, I would rather be alone. But now, I realized that love is all about you, and I couldn't stay away from love." His voice was laced with so much affection that it was all she could do not to break down and cry. " I love love, and it's all because of you." His voice cracked, but he continued anyway. "I love you, Nadeshiko. I've kept that in my heart since we were kids, but now, it has to find its voice, or I might lose you. And I don't want that to happen. I care for you too deeply."
"JR…" Her eyes welled up with tears. "Oh good Lord…"
"You won't be a nun, because I say so. I love you, and I want you here, right here in my arms." But this order sounded more like a desperate plea, begging her. He hugged her tightly. "Just here…don't go, Nadeshiko."
Like a dam exploding, she broke into tears too. She hugged onto him, like a lifesaver. Yes, she wanted that of all the things in the world. She loved him too. Dearly.
She tried to open her eyes to look at him, but all she saw was darkness, and she felt herself falling… helplessly falling…
Tomoyo and Eriol rushed down the hospital hallway and barged into Room Fifty-eight. There they found JR seated beside the sleeping figure of Nadeshiko.
"Leukemia," said JR emotionlessly. He was utterly drained of emotions, after all those hassles on getting her to a hospital, then the batteries of tests, and finally the doctor's diagnosis.
Tomoyo froze, and she felt Eriol hug her.
"And she's dying." Finally, he looked up at his parents. "Blood transfusion helped her this time, but the doctor warned me that it wouldn't last long. It can't go on like this forever." His face aged scores of years, out of fatigue.
His mother finally found her voice. "JR…she inherited this from her biological mother. Sakura told me that Nadeshiko's mother just died recently because of the same cause."
She heard him curse under his breath, and she had to suck breath into her lungs painfully to keep control of her own rampage of emotions.
At last, he looked up again. "Is it…hopeless?"
"It's beyond medical means," said Eriol. "Bone marrow operation can help, but the odds of finding one that will work for her…only her family would have that, and the last of her family members died already,"
JR got up frantically. "T-Then let's forget medicine. T-The clow cards…the cards will help!"
"JR…" Tomoyo bit her lip as she looked at the look of pure pain on her son's face.
Eriol shook his head. "None will help. I'm sorry."
"Y-Your power then!" This time, the young man was shouting now. "Use your magic, Dad! Save her!"
"Not even the most powerful magic in the world can stop death. It's inevitable," he said, voice devoid of emotion.
"She will not die!" JR clenched his fist in anger. "I –love- her, Dad, and I will not let her die!"
"What will you do?" his father asked.
JR was stunned. What would he do?
Nadeshiko opened her eyes and found JR looking at her lovingly. She smiled.
"How are you feeling?" he asked softly, clasping her weak hand.
"I feel great," she said, eyes twinkling.
His heart wrenched. She was so pale and fragile…
"So now you know…" she said. "I wasn't planning to tell you this. I thought vacation here will make me better, but I guess that's wistful thinking on my part."
"Don't you have any plans of telling me this?" he asked. When he saw her shake her head, his eyes looked hurt, "None at all?" he asked.
She grinned. "I know that you're a crybaby. I want my last days to be about happiness. That was what was on my mind when the doctor told me this months ago."
"Am I happy now?" he asked, obviously suffering. "Damn, I couldn't do anything to help you…"
"I'm not asking for help, JR," she said quietly. "And you made me so happy… that is more than enough. More than anything I can ever ask for."
"I asked Dad to help you…"
"I refuse," she said softly.
He looked shocked. "Nadeshiko!"
Her eyes welled up with tears. "JR…I'm so tired…for the past two months, it had been endless bouts of medicines and chemotherapy for me. I'm so drained…"
"But you need them to be well!" he protested. "And you will be well, Nadeshiko. You have to!"
"It's hopeless," she whispered. "JR, more than my physical pain, I don't want you to be hurt with false hopes. Medicines will not save me. I can feel it here." She gestured to her heart.
"D-Don't say that," he said, voice cracking yet again. "H-How can you say such thing? Why will you leave me? We spent many years apart, and this is the only time that we can be together, and still, you will go?"
"Together…but with you constantly plagued by my sickness?" She shook her head. "No, I don't want to live our lives like that. I would rather remember that my last moments were spent with the people I love, not in an enclosed cell of radiation." A tear rolled down her cheeks. "Forgive me for being selfish, but I want to die my way."
"Damn you!" he hissed, hugging her tightly. "Damn you, find your will to live! I still want to love you tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and the tomorrows that will follow! Damn you, Nadeshiko, you have to live!"
"Please, JR… don't do this to me," she said. "I had already decided on this long ago, on the day I was diagnosed with this disease. Don't…make me hope again. It hurts…"
"I love you, and if what it will take to show you this is to hurt you, I will." He smiled through his tears. "Flower, you will live. You must."
Nadeshiko sobbed. "I want to be a nun…I want to use that as a protection against loving you more deeply everyday, because I know that in the end of my battle, I will only lose. But…But…" She hugged him back. "I love you, JR. I will live. I will ask God not to take me just yet. Not yet, not now." She clasped her rosary around her neck. "Knock, and the door will open. If not, the windows will. I'll ask then."
He nodded. "You do that." He kissed her cheeks lovingly. "From now on, it will not be your fight alone. It will be ours."
Christmas day, some eight days after that fateful day in the hospital, JR sat on his bed, clothes rumpled, face unshaven. On his lap was a wrapped gift, the one Nadeshiko gave him on her first day in Tomoeda.
He recalled that two days ago, just before she surrendered her last breath to the Creator, she asked him not to forget to open her Christmas gift for him. And that she loved him dearly, wherever she may be.
Sobbing, his trembling fingers unwrapped the gift, careful not to tear the wrapper.
Revealed was a small, tattered notebook. When he opened it, he realized what it was.Her diary!
He sat down and began to read through the pages.
…JR was as usual, a pain in the you-know-what. I was just merely playing soccer with Aki-kun, and he blew up, JUST LIKE THAT! Can't you get any stupider than THAT?!! Gah!!
But I admit, it is kind of cute having him act like a jealous boyfriend. I swear, he looked really, REALLY homicidal awhile ago! Yeah, I know, this is taboo, but I have this feeling…I don't know…I don't see him as my cousin. I really don't. Which is crazy, for I know that no matter how impossible he is, he's got Uncle Eriol's aura and Aunt Tomoyo's gorgeous jet-black hair, not to mention the Clow magic too.
Darn, I'm nuts.
And as he progressed through the pages, he realized that almost all of the entries were about him! In here, he read how she lived in Hong Kong, how she coped with her new life.
…it is scary to live here, away from the things and people I've grown used to love. School was hell, as usual. JR would be very handy here. He may be a class-A brat, but at least I know, he would never let anyone push me around.
And then, there were moments of pensiveness…
JR still hadn't answered my mails. I guess he's still mad with Mama's decision to send me to the convent. But how can I tell him that Mom is going someplace for her chemotherapy, and that no one will be around to supervise me? I guess I have a lot of things to ask God tonight.
Then, the fateful day that turned her whole life around…
My mother died of leukemia. I was actually more relieved than sorry that she passed away. I was just so happy that she journeyed back home, and that she's happier where she is right now. I think she suffered enough already.
The doctor talked with me today and asked to conduct tests on me too.
He just called up and told me that I too, was positive with blood cancer.
The first person that crossed my mind then was JR, and how he wouldn't like this when he learns about this.
By the end of the dog-eared diary, his tears wouldn't stop flowing. He read of her plans to enter the convent and just spend the rest of her life as a nun. She planned that just as Christmas was nearing, but in the last minute, obeyed the insistent whispers of her heart to go back home…to Tomoeda…where her heart was.
He leaned against the headboard, hugging the diary to his heart. He was going to cry his all tonight…so tomorrow, when he visits Nadeshiko's grave, he wouldn't look pathetic.
He recalled what Nadeshiko told him before she passed away.
We won the battle, JR. My body may have died, but my sickness didn't crush my soul. You saved me by giving me back the will to live again. Your love gave me back my life. For that, I can never thank you enough.
I just feel sad that this didn't happen earlier…I'm not sorry that my life has to end so soon, but that I waited far too long to begin it.
I will wait for you up there. But for the meantime…enjoy kicking ass here in this world. And don't forget to open my Christmas gift, ok? I love you so, Eriol Hiiragizawa Junior. Deeply.
Tomoyo looked at the Nakoudo card she was holding, smiling. "This card is so powerful…"
"Hmm?" Eriol looked up from his book. "Hon, don't mess with the cards."
"Shut up!" She grinned at him, then turned her attention back at the card. "It stood witness to so many love stories…some ended happy, some not, but all of them were moments to cherish." She placed the card back on the clow deck. "It is magic all by itself."
"I think you're one heck of a magic too, Tomoyo Hiiragizawa," he said, smiling sexily.
"Oh good heavens!" She rolled her eyes. "My hair grayed already…I have wrinkles…"
"But you still take my breath away."
"Oh no, not with your mushy lines again! JR will puke when he hears that one!"
"He's worse, actually."
"It's not like you taught him anything substantial." She grinned cheekily. "Anyway…"
"I resent that!" He grinned. "Remember Eriol Hiiragizawa the Third?" He was referring to their menopause baby. Just when she thought she was never going to have a child again, Eriol didn't give up. All the rooms of the mansion vouched for that, especially the bathroom…
Her cheeks turned red. "What about him?" she said.
"Now the boy's got kids as beautiful as our own second son," said Eriol. "Our grandkids are like angels."
Her eyes shook. "Just when I thought he would never love again…" She saw how JR suffered when Nadeshiko died, but eventually, he moved on, found a new love, and started a family.
"Love is a miracle, a mystery we could never, ever answer." He hugged her. "Let's leave it that way, ok, dear Nakoudo?"
"'Kay," she said. "Oh, where's Third now?" It was their nickname for the menopause child.
"Far, far away…from us…" Her husband was starting to kiss her more urgently.
"H-He'll be home anytime from school…"
"We'll lock him outside…"
"Oh, alright. Lock the door…and hurry up!"
And that was when Fourth was created.
But of course, narrating more lives would make this story grow too lengthy.
And this chapter alone was four thousand words long…the longest I had ever made for a single chapter update.
Tee-heee…*syao-chan grins* Thanks for reading Nakoudo, Matchmaker (yes, there's supposed to be a comma there! ^^). Cheers! This didn't go on hiatus!!!
*goes back to playing Ragnarok*