Why did I write this story? I really liked the character of Kazuma, Kyo's sensei/cousin, who took him in and raised him when the rest of the family flaked. The family curse had to have impacted him, even though he wasn't one of the Sohmas who change into animals. It seemed to me that a curse like theirs would have ramifications on unaffected family members as well. They'd have to protect the family secret, placing it above any chance of personal happiness, and that's how I came up with the idea for this story. What would happen if Kazuma met a girl on a rainy day?

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Fruits Basket characters. They are the property of their true creator/author, I'm only borrowing them for the story.

Mary Kate Asbury was not having a good day. She glanced around again at the trees on either side of the muddy track, and kicked desultorily at a sodden dirt clod. This was not the way back to the guesthouse where her tour group was staying. They'd been given a free afternoon, and most of them had gone into town to go shopping, since the guest house, which was really a small hotel just outside of town, was within walking distance, either down a graveled driveway which led directly to the main asphalted road into town, or down a back track that led to a country lane that meandered around a bit before hitting the road further back. Mary Kate had decided to go for a walk, exploring the country lanes, instead of wallowing in the modern commercialism of the town. Now she was lost.
Not only that, but this particular country lane seemed to be heading through the trees to some sort of private residence. She hadn't seen any mailboxes on the side of the dirt road, and she was sure she'd passed at least some, standing sentinel before driveways, on her way down from the guesthouse. No, this was definitely not the way back to the guesthouse. She bit her lip, and looked up at the grey skies, pregnant with low, charcoal colored clouds. It was probably going to rain again. Her collapsible umbrella was still sodden from the brief downpour that had started soon after she began her walk. So were the bottoms of her blue sweat pants, though her hooded sweatshirt and the camisole top under it were dry. It was the downpour that had disoriented her in the first place. She'd stopped by a crossroads and stood under a tree with her umbrella over her until the rainsquall was over, but then she must have picked the wrong road back. What if she was on private property? A thrill of worry coursed through her. What if she were arrested for trespassing? She couldn't speak Japanese! How would she explain herself? The free afternoon was to be followed by a 'you're on your own for dinner' hour, so no one would even miss her until the next morning if she got thrown in jail. It felt like it was going to rain again. The air had a heavy, expectant feeling about it, and it was so silent and still, as if nature itself was waiting with baited breath. If it did rain, she thought she might just have to burst into tears along with the skies. 'Stop being such a baby' she told herself. She slogged over to the side of road, tennis shoes liberally spattered with mud, and dropped her capacious shoulder bag on the grassy verge, not caring if the bottom got damp. Rummaging through the contents, she came up with her map of the hiking trails and lanes she'd got at the guest house front desk, not that it did her much good, since the names of both lanes and trails were in Japanese. Drat that bloody touring company for booking them into esoteric little out of the way hotels. The bigger hotels would have had maps in English too. At least the hotel was readily identifiable as a big red dot on one of the lines representing lanes feeding out from the main road.
She looked at the map's spider web of lines, looked left and right up and down the dirt road she was on, and sighed. To her right was the clump of low shrubs and trees she'd just passed by while navigating the hairpin turn in the road. To her left the road led further into the forest, its ascent growing steeper next to a sort of drainage ditch with a trickling stream at the bottom. This road was headed uphill, which was good, because the lane the guesthouse was on had been up hill from the main thoroughfare. It too had been lined with trees, lots of them, but this couldn't be the same road because she would have come to the guesthouse by now. As she looked back down the way she'd come she began to hear noises. Someone was approaching. A rock skittered around the low shrubs obscuring the bend in the road. It skipped along the muddy track then ended with a plop in a small mud puddle in the center of lane. It was followed shortly thereafter by a boy, with light orange-red hair, slouching along with his hands in his pockets, and an abstracted scowl on his face. He'd obviously just kicked the rock up the path and was coming around the bend to find it and kick it further up the road when he saw her and stopped, surprised. Mary Kate shook herself out of her frozen trepidation. She'd been clutching her map and holding her breath until the boy appeared. Relieved that it wasn't some huge homicidal maniac type, she let out her breath. Thank goodness, it was just a teenager. Teenagers she could handle. In college she'd been a fellowship student to a professor who'd taught mostly freshman classes, so she'd handled all the study sessions. This kid looked even younger than the eighteen year olds she'd coached, cajoled, and coddled into passing their exams. She took a step forward then stopped uncertainly, as he said something in Japanese. Though she couldn't understand the words, the "what are you doing here?" tone was unmistakable. She was relieved to note that it wasn't a hostile tone, just surprised.
She opened her mouth to say, "I don't speak Japanese" in Japanese, the one phrase she thought she had memorized, when she realized she hadn't. For the life of her, she could not remember the words, so she settled for smiling nervously, pointing at herself and saying "Gaijin" which was the word for "Foreigner." Waving to her map, she said, in English, "I'm lost."
The boy looked at the map, looked at her, and shuffled toward her, the rock lying forgotten in the puddle. He stopped, said something else in Japanese, and when she shrugged incomprehension, made as if to take the map from her hands, and paused, his expression asking permission. She nodded and passed him the map.
By dint of pointing, charades, and gestures, he managed to convey that the red dot of her guesthouse was back down the lane, left past the cross roads, back to the main thoroughfare, and three lanes over. When he was sure she understood, he handed her back the map.
"Domo Arigato Gosaimasu." Mary Kate bowed the way she'd seen Japanese people do in the lobby of the hotels she'd stayed in when they met each other. The boy looked uncomfortable, and bobbed a quick bow back at her. He waved as he backed away, then turned and began walking up the road, sticking to the verge that dropped away into the drainage ditch below.
Oh dear, she'd embarrassed him. Perhaps the bow was a bit too much for teenagers, or maybe he was just shy. She sighed, shoved the map back into her bag, and heaved it onto her shoulder. As she turned to go back down the road she heard the boy yelp and whipped her head around to catch sight of the accident. The verge, weakened by the rain, gave way just as the boy was passing a tree clinging to the hillside, half its roots grasping the earth and underside of the lane, the other half exposed and hanging out in midair, As the ground underfoot gave way, the boy scrambled to grab at the roots to keep himself from falling, but served only to catch his black and white bead bracelet on a root. As he fell backward, crying out in despair, the bracelet slipped of his wrist and hung, swaying back and forth on the root, the only sign left of him as he disappeared over the side of the road. For a second Mary Kate stood frozen in shock, then dropped her bag and ran toward the tree and the collapsed bank. She tripped as she came up to the tree, and fell hard against the trunk, palms scraping against the wet, soggy wood. Straightening her arms, she pushed herself back, saw the boy's bracelet, and pulled it absently off the branch as she sank to her knees and peered over the edge of the road to the stream below. In the stream lay a monster. Twice the size of a man, its head rearing back on a long prehensile neck, it looked up at her. Its skin was lizard- like, reptilian, and its body was a cross between lizard and cat. It had teeth, lots of them. Mary Kate didn't look to see if it had claws to match. She screamed, loudly, shrank away in horror, and still screaming, began to run down the lane toward the thoroughfare and, she hoped, people. As if in answer to her prayers, a man appeared, walking up the middle of the track, dressed in a traditional grey kimono-like robe and sandals, seemingly oblivious to the mud. He was tall, and his ash brown hair was pulled back and tied at the nape of his neck. She ran toward him, slipping so that he had to catch her by grabbing her upper arms to keep her from careening into him. Her scream dying, she began babbling at him, and pointing back at the stream. "M...M...Monster! There! Back there! There's a kid somewhere too! You have to help him. Please! Please!" She was sobbing out the words, and couldn't tell if he understood or not. The man opened his mouth to speak, then stopped, his gaze sharpening on her hand. He shifted his grip to her wrist and lifted her arm. The beads of the boy's bracelet clinked together as her hand lifted. He inspected the bracelet, looked back at her, then dropped his grip on her other arm, drew back his hand as if to slap her, and hit her on the side of the neck with the edge of his hand. That was when her world exploded and she passed out.
*
She was being carried, fading in and out of consciousness, just on the bare edge of waking up, but not quite enough to fall over it. There was the warmth of contact with another human body along one side of her, and strong arms supporting her under her knees and across her back. Her head lolled against someone's shoulder, and she felt the rasp of some sort of heavy material under her cheek.
There was a sound, another one, apart from the steady tramping sound his feet were making and the slight squelching noise made when his heels lifted from the mud of the track they were traveling on. It was a quiet moaning noise, and a part of her realized it was coming from her own throat. She was waking up.
Abruptly, he (whoever he was) stopped. With a dizzying sudden motion, she was deposited on the ground, against what felt like a tree trunk. She felt the damp grass under her hands, and through the thin material of her sweatpants. The cold moisture on her palms revived her. Her eyes began to open, and she looked up to see a man's face hovering over hers, his grey eyes narrowed in concentration. His right hand was raised by his temple, at a slight angle, fingers together, but flat, not clenched. The second she registered it, his hand began a quick downward arc toward her face. She'd barely enough time realize what he was about when his blow connected. Pain blossomed outward from her neck, and everything turned dark.
When she woke again she was lying on the floor, on some sort of blanket or quilt. There was another blanket covering her. This time she opened her eyes fast, and tried to sit up, wincing, and clapping her hand to the juncture where her neck met her shoulder, the place where he'd hit her. Memory came rushing back. That man, the one with the grey eyes, had hit her. Twice! But why? And then there was that thing in the stream.
A female voice was querying her in Japanese. Spooked, Mary Kate glanced around to see a young, Japanese schoolgirl, with big blue eyes and long braids down her back, sitting on her knees before a low table. On the table was a schoolbook, which she'd obviously been reading. The girl smiled, closed the book, and bowed her head.
"I glad you waked." She said carefully in heavily accented English. "You like tea?"
Mary Kate glanced nervously around the room. It was rectangular, and besides the low table, there wasn't much furniture. There was a wood framed door set into a plaster wall along one side of the room, and the other side, the one she was nearer was wall made of shoji screens, those paper panes set into wood frames so that the whole wall looked like opaque window panes. The grey-eyed man wasn't in evidence, but that didn't mean he wasn't close by.
"Where...Where am I?" She asked, ignoring the girl's question.
This brought on a flurry of English and Japanese. The gist of which seemed to be the girl apologizing for not saying earlier. As Mary Kate stared, trying to weed out the few English words the girl was interspersing, she came to understand that she was in the house of a family called Sohma. The Japanese girl was so busy earnestly apologizing that it was hard to tell for sure.
"Who are you?"
"Oh! My name is Tohru Honda." The girl said, clearly enunciating each syllable. Here, evidently, was an English phrase she was familiar with. Mary Kate supposed every foreign language textbook started out with that one. However, before the conversation degenerated to the 'how are you, I am fine' stage of conversational language practice, Mary Kate fully intended to be gone. That thing might well be outside, but she had a feeling the man who hit her was inside this house, close by, and he was the immediate threat. She pushed the blanket off, and moved her legs beneath her, getting ready to stand.
This sparked another flurry from Tohru, who jumped up, hands held out in front of her, and appeared to be trying to convince Mary Kate not to get up. Ignoring her, Mary Kate put both hands on the floor and started to push herself upright when the door opened and the man with the grey eyes came in. She froze like a deer caught in the headlights.
"I see you are awake." His English was good, accented, but readily understandable. He stood squarely in front of the doorway, blocking her. Mary Kate sank back down on her haunches. "How are you feeling?"
"I need to go home now. Back to the hotel I mean. They'll be worried if I don't show up soon." Mary Kate was proud of herself. She got the words out with barely a quaver.
The young girl, Tohru, seemed to sense something was amiss, and glanced anxiously between Mary Kate and the man. She said something to him in Japanese. He answered her gravely, then spoke again in English.
"I'm afraid that will not be possible yet, Miss Asbury." He paused as Mary Kate caught her breath, and then went on. "Soon, though."
Right. 'Soon.' Mary Kate knew what that meant. It meant as soon as the little girl left the room they'd let her leave. Sure they would. Probably in a body bag. Apart from the prospect of her imminent death, there was something else that was bothering her.
"How do you know my name?" It came out accusatorily, causing Tohru to look anxious again.
"We found your purse on the road and brought it along. Your passport was in it."
We? That meant there were others in the house. Good Lord, how many of them would she have to dodge, assuming she made it out the door? She shivered, remembering how fast his blows were. Her hand went back to rub her neck where it was still sore. He had her passport. It was a thinly veiled threat. How could she possibly leave the country with no passport? She supposed she could get a new one from the American Embassy in Tokyo, but how would she even get there? Her tour group guide was hardly approachable, and if she showed up at the embassy telling them she'd seen a monster, they'd be more likely to throw her in a nuthouse than let her have a new passport.
"You are hurt." It was a statement, not a question, and she saw he was watching her rub her neck.
"No, I'm fine." She denied it automatically and dropped her hand from her neck quickly. He took a step toward her. Instinctively, she pulled back, falling off her haunches and crashing into the wall of shoji screens behind her, which shuddered against her weight but did not give way. So, they weren't solid. She knew they tended to be made of paper panes between the wood frames. They were a way out.
A phone rang somewhere in the house and stopped abruptly. Someone had answered it, confirming her suspicions that there were others about. The man kept coming forward as the girl made worried, commiserating sounds, staring at Mary Kate, wide-eyed. Mary Kate glanced wildly about the room. There were no other exits. There was nothing else for it. She turned, crossed her arms in front of her face, and launched herself, pushing her body up from the floor by straightening her legs, and crashed through the Shoji screen.
She almost made it, but got stuck, her head and torso plunged through, but her middle got hung up on the hole she'd rent in the screen. It always seemed so easy in the movies. Almost immediately, she felt herself being pulled back inside. As she went, she felt something dig into her chest by her armpit. The pain distracted her from any thought of resisting. She ended up crouched in a puddle on the floor, and grabbed at the area by her shoulder that was radiating white-hot pulses of hurt. Looking up she saw the man standing over her.
"Nahn di yo?" A young boy appeared in the doorway, dressed in a buttoned up white oxford shirt and pants with dark hair and inquiring eyes. He asked another question in Japanese, and Mary Kate was thankful to see that it distracted the grey-eyed man's attention from her. He turned to answer the kid.
Meanwhile, Tohru knelt by Mary Kate and placed a hand on her shoulder, asking something that Mary Kate took to be the Japanese version of "Are you alright?" She nodded absently and tried to listen to the exchange between the man and the new boy. She caught the words 'Hatori' and 'Traffico'. Someone named Hatori was evidently caught in traffic and it was causing them some concern. As soon as their exchange was over, the boy came into the room and stood to one side of Tohru. He glanced curiously at Mary Kate, but his attention was clearly on the girl.
Another man appeared in the doorway. He was wearing a dark navy kimono and his hair, like the boy's was shorter than the grey-eyed man's. The boy noticed, and called him "Shigure." The man looked very much like him, and Mary Kate figured they were definitely related. Shigure gestured at the broken shoji screen behind Mary Kate and said something with a wry expression on his face. The boy answered him. Shigure paused; looked past the grey-eyed man at Mary Kate, smiled ruefully, and said "Hei" which she knew meant "yes." He'd agreed to something about her, but she wasn't sure what.
"I'm afraid you may have to stay the night, Miss Asbury." The grey- eyed man spoke in English.
"Do I have a choice?" Mary Kate was beginning to fear that the hard lump under her hand was a piece of the shoji screen, and that it was sticking out of her chest, not just caught in her sweat suit jacket. It made her snappish.
"No. I'm afraid not. However, I promise you will not be harmed in any way."
"It's a bit late for that." She muttered sullenly.
The man dropped gracefully to his knees in front of her. "Your neck will be sore. Allow me to fix it."
As he raised his hands, she shrank back instinctively. "Don't touch me."
He dropped his hand. "As you wish."
Blood was beginning to seep around the chunk of wood, well, to be honest, it was more of a largish splinter really, in her chest. She cupped her hand over the area to hide it, pressing against it, as if that would quell the pain. She would not cry. Absolutely no crying allowed. That would just be the icing on the cake of the worst day of her life. She pulled away from Tohru as well, and tried to turn her back on the room, and the lively conversation ensuing in Japanese. Whatever they were talking about, it got the grey-eyed man to move away from her.
Another voice joined the mix, belligerent and argumentative at first and then, "Sensei!" The voice said, and immediately modulated itself. Curious, Mary Kate turned to look, and just about fell over. It was the red haired boy, dressed now in baggy cargo pants and a black t-shirt. She got to her feet.
"You...You're alive? You didn't get eaten?"
Everyone looked at her as she came forward. Absently, she registered the black and white bracelet, back on his wrist. Forgetting to keep her hand on her wound she let it drop. The boy's eyes focused on her shoulder, and she knew he'd seen it. As she took another step toward him, the room swayed, and she began to sway with it. Knowing she was about to fall, she brought her hands up to protect herself and felt herself trip and bump right into the red haired boy.
Contact, then "poof", and the boy wasn't a boy anymore. He was an orange cat. She saw it even though she was falling, and landing (with considerably less grace), next to the feline.
Mouth open, she pushed back to her knees and stared. The cat returned her stare unblinkingly, as if daring her to do...? Mary Kate didn't have a clue.
"Oh my gosh. You're a cat." She breathed. Then laughed incredulously. "You're a cat!"
She reached out a hand, and offered it to the cat to sniff, but the cat just looked at it, so she rubbed her fingers across the top of the cat's head, the way her kitty at home liked to be petted.
The cat opened its mouth and spoke in Japanese.
Mary Kate drew her hand back with the speed associated with accidentally placing it on a hot griddle. "It talks." This day couldn't get any weirder.
The others in the room broke their shocked silence and began talking all at once. Mary Kate ignored them and tentatively tried to scratch the kitty behind its ears. It jerked away impatiently and said something else in Japanese. At a loss, Mary Kate turned to the only one in the room who spoke English.
"What did he say?"
The grey-eyed man looked down at her. "In English, it would be 'cut it out.'" Then he took a closer look at her. Mary Kate self-consciously moved to cover her wound again, but he was too fast for her. Grabbing her hand so she couldn't use it to hide the stain near her shoulder, he crouched beside her and pressed gently at the fabric, now damp with blood, around the splinter. She winced, and saw the cat walk delicately around the pants and shirt piled on the floor and come to sit next to the man and stare interestedly at her wound.
The cat spoke again and the man answered, and then they all were crowding around, Tohru, babbling, eyes filled with concern, with the dark haired boy still focused unobtrusively on her, and Shigure, the other adult, bending forward to stare at the wound as well. Mary Kate began to feel like a museum exhibit, and tried to pull back, but the grey-eyed man wouldn't let her. Noticing her reaction, he said something to the others that made them begin to clear out of the room.
The cat began following the others out, and Mary Kate let out a sigh of loss. "Oh please, can't he stay?" She nodded at the retreating feline. The grey-eyed man said something to the cat who froze, looked around with a longsuffering air, and sat down with a thump in the doorway, clearly unwilling to come further back into the room.
A moment later, Tohru reappeared carrying a tray with a bowl of steaming water, towels, gauze, a bottle of what looked like hydrogen peroxide or possibly iodine, surgical tape, and scissors. She knelt, set it by the man, smiled at Mary Kate, bowed and left the room, closing the door behind her. The cat watched her go, then lay down on the floor and set its chin on its paws resignedly. Mary Kate stared at him, fascinated.
"He's beautiful." She said.
The cat perked up his ears and asked something in Japanese.
Mary Kate looked at the man inquiringly. He glanced at her and translated. "He wants to know what you said." He told her, then spoke to the cat, who gave an unmistakable "harrumph" and turned its back on her.
"Did I say something wrong? Was it 'beautiful?' I meant handsome, I swear it."
The grey eyed man quirked an eyebrow at her and dropped her wrist. "Kyo does not see his cat form as anything to be complimented. It is the Sohma family curse."
"A curse? I don't understand."
"The Sohma family has been cursed for generations. When someone like Kyo is embraced by someone of the opposite sex they change into animal form. Kyo's curse is to become a cat."
"That's a curse?" Asked Mary Kate doubtfully. "Why would becoming a cat be a curse? I love cats!"
"That is obvious." The grey-eyed man regarded her with an odd expression. "You are not frightened."
"Of a cat? You must be kidding. It's all I can do to keep my hands off him." Mary Kate looked longingly at the orange feline's back. She must have begun leaning forward because the man put out an arm to block her.
"First we must tend to your wound."
"Oh." She sighed her disappointment, but sat still as he unzipped her sweatsuit top and eased it off. She was wearing a fully lined cotton/lycra camisole underneath, but it still made her uncomfortable. Not to mention the fact that it hurt, badly, when he pulled the rent fabric over the splinter. Some morbid fascination made Mary Kate look down at the wound. There was the splinter, sticking out of her right below her collarbone and next to her arm. Blood was oozing around the edges.
"So, you must be a Sohma too. What's your name?" She asked brightly, wrenching her gaze away from the thoroughly disgusting sight, and trying not to throw up.
The grey-eyed man glanced away from the wound for a second. "My name is Kazuma Sohma. Kyo is a sort of cousin I suppose."
"He called you 'sensei' – that means 'teacher,' doesn't it?" Perhaps if she talked as if nothing special was going on, it wouldn't hurt so much when he cleaned the wound.
"I am his martial arts instructor."
"Oh really? You speak very good English."
"I have traveled to America before."
"Oh? What part of...OUCH!" He pulled the splinter out and immediately pressed a warm, damp cloth against her skin. He held it there for several seconds before answering.
"Chicago, and New York. I was visiting some of my old sensei's students."
As he cleaned and dressed her wound, he told her about his visit. He had a dry, subdued sense of humor, and she could tell that he was a quiet person by nature, and was talking only to get her mind off the process. As he concentrated his attention on her wound, she was able to observe him without worrying about him catching her staring. His face was pleasant, but unremarkable. It had thin plains, and high cheekbones, Strands of his hair brushed the sides of his face and forehead, and his ponytail was a thin rope that ended at his shoulder blades. She usually thought long hair on a man was dated, hippie era-ish, but somehow it suited him.
"Why did you hit me?" She interrupted his story. He was nearly done, and his hands stilled on the gauze patch he was securing with tape.
"I could not risk your running to town with stories of monsters. This is all Sohma family property, but if the authorities should have decided to investigate your story...well, for obvious reasons we Sohmas value our privacy. Besides, you had Kyo's bracelet, and he needed it back." He went back to sticking the last bit of tape on the gauze.
"But why does he need it? And what about that monster? How did he escape from it?"
Kazuma's hands stilled again, and he looked at her. "That is Sohma family business."
"I'm sorry," Mary Kate began, quailed by his tone. Then she stopped herself. "Wait a minute! Why am I apologizing? You're the one who hit me!" she insisted, her voice raised.
The cat roused itself to turn around, and asked something interestedly. Kazuma answered, and the cat looked right at Mary Kate and gave a huff of approval before turning its back again.
"You still haven't apologized." She accused truculently, bolstered by the cat's approval.
"You are right. I apologize." He bowed his head, but she had the uncomfortable impression that he was amused rather than contrite. "Allow me to make up for it."
"Um..." Mary Kate began to ask how he intended to do that when he moved quickly from her side to her back in a sort of squatting duck walk so that he began and ended on his knees. Then his hands were fastened on the juncture of her neck and shoulder where he'd hit her twice before that day. He began kneading gently. It felt remarkably good, like getting a massage. It felt so good in fact that she started leaning back into it until eventually her back was touching his chest.
Her eyes, which had closed to slits, flew open, and she turned her head, craning her neck to look up at him. "Oh my gosh! Am I too close? Are you going to change?"
He smiled gently. "Not all Sohma family members change forms."
Poof! The sound came from the doorway, and as it did, Kazuma's hand came down over her eyes, effectively pinning her against his chest. Mary Kate made an inarticulate sound of inquiry.
"Kyo must return to his clothing."
"Oh." She said, and relaxed against him. All too soon she heard a zipper being pulled up and fabric being pulled on. Kyo, the boy, was complaining loudly in Japanese as she heard him open then close the door.
Kazuma's hand left her eyes, but she kept her head resting against his shoulder.
"So, you don't get to change into a cat too?"
"No."
"Then I can't just hug you, turn you into an animal, and run away, huh?"
"No."
"Rats." She caught a flash of humor in his eyes as he said, "No, rats are Yugi's specialty." His eyes were such an incredible shade of grey, clear, yet subdued, like the sea under cloudy skies. She had a flashback to standing in the road, lost, under that lowering sky with the incredible stillness in the air, and the smell of clean, wet earth all around her. Something stirred in those eyes, and their expression changed from good-humored patience to inquiry. She became very aware of his mouth just inches from her own, and could feel his breath on her face.
She opened her mouth to speak, suddenly realizing that she didn't know what to say, when the door opened and Shigure came in, stopped on seeing them, and said something admiringly in Japanese.
Kazuma gently pushed Mary Kate away from him and got to his feet, answering Shigure in a tone that said he was rebuking Shigure, who, not impressed, said something else. Kazuma answered again and they both started toward the door.
"Um, guys? What's going to happen to me?" Mary Kate didn't like the sad expression on Kazuma's face at all. He stopped, turned back to her and said flatly,
"You will forget everything that has happened here."
"Forget? Forget how?"
Shigure and Kazuma conferred a moment, then Shigure cast her a sympathetic look and left the room. Kazuma came back to her, knelt, and explained that Hatori, another Sohma family member, had the ability to cause amnesia covering whatever period of time he chose. Hatori would be using this ability on her the moment he arrived.
"But I don't want to forget." Said Mary Kate stubbornly. "I want to remember Kyo turning into a cat, and Tohru because she was so sweet to me, and you." Mary Kate felt a catch in her throat. "I want to remember you too."
A look of such sadness passed over Kazuma's face. It was gone in an instant, and his expression became quiet again. "That is my part of the family curse." He said.
Mary Kate started to ask what he meant when the sound of a car pulling to a stop came from outside. Kazuma glanced out the hole in the shoji screen, and stood, helping Mary Kate to her feet as well. That was how Hatori found them, standing together, when he entered the room.
*
"So you really must have knocked your head a good one." Said Mrs. Casmeyer, taking out her ever-present knitting as she sat down next to Mary Kate on the bench at the railway station. The entire tour group was there, baggage in hand, waiting for the train to take them to the next city on their itinerary.
"Yeah, I don't remember much about it, but the family who drove me back to the guest house said they found me on a back road. I guess I fell into a tree, because they said they had to pull a big splinter out of my chest." Mary Kate shuddered. "I don't mind forgetting that! I'm real squeamish when it comes to blood."
"Don't worry about it." Mrs. Casmeyer interrupted her knitting long enough to pat Mary Kate on the knee. "My second husband Arnold was the same way about blood." And off she went on one of her interminable reminisces about her husband. Mary Kate didn't mind. As long as you said "hmm" and "oh?" at intervals, Mrs. Casmeyer's mouth ran on autopilot.
With a shriek of metal and a whoosh of air, the train pulled up to the platform. A handful of people got off, and then the tour group pushed its way on board. Mary Kate clutched her suitcase in one hand and pulled her shoulder bag's straps carefully over her unwounded shoulder, and followed them on board. She stowed her suitcase with a minimum of pain and plonked herself down on her seat. It was a window seat this time, thank goodness. She touched the cool window with her fingertips and leaned her forehead against the smooth glass, watching the people on the train platform.
One of the men on the platform stood out from the rest. He was dressed in traditional Japanese Kimono, which she'd seen Japanese men dressed in before, even in train stations, yet the way he stood caught her attention. He was staring at the train, looking at the windows, as if trying to search for someone. She wondered if he'd come to meet someone who was supposed to have disembarked from the train but hadn't. As she watched him, a light rain began to fall, droplets sticking to the window.
The train began to gently move away from the platform when the man looked directly at her window. He had the most incredible grey eyes. She turned her head and maintained eye contact with him until the train picked up speed and he, and the platform, were lost to sight.
Whenever anyone asked her about her trip to Japan ever after, instead of the tourist attractions and museums, that was the memory that immediately sprang to her mind. It was the mental picture of a Japanese man with grey eyes in a grey kimono standing quietly in the rain, watching a train disappear from the station. For her, that image, with its curiously melancholy feel, was forever Japan.