Chapter Thirty-Six - Decisions

This was the day. This was the day that Zarine's leaving with her brother and friend. That thought made Ray miserable. He wished he could stop time to a trickle and lengthen the minutes that he could spend with his girlfriend.

Everyone was pretty quiet during the last minutes before Zarine, Jeff and Will had to go.

Zarine squeezed his hand tightly once and smiled warmly at him. He felt himself relax and smiled back. Her smile always assured him and put warmth in his heart. How was he ever going to let her go? He led her some distance away from the others to talk to her. Jeff scowled darkly at him when he did that, but he ignored the glare and turned his attention on Zarine.

Ray held her as close to him as he could and rested his cheek on the top of her head. "I will miss you," he sighed.

"Me too," she said. "I love you."

"Don't forget that you are mine," he whispered in her ear when he saw Jeff's jealous look. Whatever Zarine said or did to try to assure him, he didn't trust that guy around her.

"I wouldn't," she promised. "The others are waiting…"

He gave her a quick kiss before letting her join her brother and best friend. "Call me," he told her.

"We will miss you lots!" Carrie cried to her friend's back.

Zarine turned around and waved in response. When the trio finally disappeared, Ray sighed. He wasn't going to see his love for two weeks.

A woman with chestnut colored hair was standing in the airport with a heavy set man. There were a lot of people and they were searching for three teenagers anxiously.

"Do you think they have passed and we had missed them?" the woman asked her husband anxiously.

"MOM! DAD!" their son's voice reached their ears.

Jeff was panting slightly as he reached them, dragging his carryon suitcase. He gave his parents each a hug. "I've missed you both."

"We've missed you too," his mother said warmly. "Where're Will and Zarine?"

"Ice cream," he replied shortly.

His dad chuckled. "That's our Zarine."

Five minutes later, Will and Zarine appeared with an ice cream cone in their hands. "Uncle Jimmy!" the petite girl cried, before hurling herself at him.

"How's my girl doing?" he asked, hugging her fondly. "We've missed your smiles around the house."

Zarine also gave her aunt a hug. "It's so good to see you again!"

"It's good to see you too," Ella said, smiling warmly at her. "Let's go, Henry is waiting."

"Henry is the butler," Will said when he saw his sister's confused look.

She turned to Jeff slowly, and demanded, "You have a butler and you never said anything?"

Jeff shrugged. "It's no big deal, Kai has one." He cast Will a sly look. "Did your brother tell you that he has a girlfriend? They make out all day around the house and it makes me sick."

Zarine gave her brother the coldest look that she could and started a conversation with the two adults instead.

"Thanks a lot," Will muttered.

"She is going to find out anyways. Alanna is probably waiting in front of the door for you to come back so she can kiss you," Jeff said, grinning widely. "She pines for you if you are away."

Will checked that Zarine was deep in conversation with Jeff's parents before saying, "Just an advice, I suggest you give up on Zarine. You should find someone else."

His friend's face darkened noticeable. There was no way that he would give up on her. He believed that in time, he could win her heart.

"You've seen her with Ray, and you know how much they love each other," Will was saying.

"I don't believe that," Jeff snapped. "They like each other a lot, but there's no way that they are in love."

"You are blind then." Will eyed his friend anxiously. Sure, Jeff was his friend and he wanted him to be happy. However, Zarine was his sister and she was more important to him than the world. Their parents were gone and as the older brother, it was his responsibility to take care of her. He told Jeff that, but the other teen stubbornly waved aside his reasons. Jeff didn't care what anyone said. Zarine will be his and soon.

The automatic doors opened instantly upon their approach. They walked through it and there was a limo waiting for them. Zarine didn't expect Jeff's family to be that wealthy after Jim's promotion.

There was a man in his fifties in the driver's seat, who Zarine assumed was Henry, the butler. "Henry, this is Zarine. Zarine, Henry is our butler," Will introduced.

"Nice to meet you miss," she said politely. Henry gave her a curt nod and started the car.

"Drive us to a good hotel, we will eat dinner there," her uncle told Henry.

A hotel? Zarine thought. They must be doing well. She had eaten at hotels before, but that was for special occasions, and she hardly considered her return to Hong Kong to be something special.

Jim got them a table when they arrived in the restaurant in a hotel. Apparently, a "good" hotel meant that it had to have the most expensive tiles, a huge swimming pool and every service imaginable. It was quite difficult for Zarine to adjust to this lavish way of spending money.

The sight of the amount of food made her think of Tyson. She grinned to herself as she imagined his face if he was there. Half of the food would be gone by now, she thought, and it nearly made her giggle.

They all ate more than they should have, and went back home. Zarine was feeling more than a little sleepy when they got into the limo. She gave a huge yawn.

"You want to sleep?" Jeff offered his shoulder for her to sleep on, but Zarine shook her head. "I can keep my eyes open for a while. Thanks for offering."

The silver haired girl just wanted to flop onto a bed or even a couch and fall asleep by the time they arrived home. It was strange, sometimes she didn't feel tired at all, and then all of a sudden, she would want to fall asleep right on the spot.

"Will, find some pajamas for her and get her into a bed before she dozes off," she heard someone say. She didn't really care, and shook her head to try to wake herself. Someone led her up some stairs and into a room. There was a huge bed in there…she looked at it longingly.

"Change into these, brush your teeth and then you can sleep," Will said, handing her some clothes. "The bathroom is just across the hall and the pink toothbrush on the counter is for you."

She did as he told her. She didn't take notice of the expensive furnishings or appreciate how tastefully they were arranged. All she wanted was to lie on a bed. She climbed in the canopied bed and settled in the warmth of the blankets. Dream was on the edge of coming when something cold and wet touched her neck made her sit upright quickly. She fumbled for a lamp and turned one on. Blinking in the dim light, she spotted a big dog, sitting on the bed and looking at her curiously.

The dog's fur was very white, as white as snow. The deep brown eyes reflected its curiosity. Zarine looked at one of the tags on the collar and learned that the dog's name was Winter and that it was a female.

"Hello girl," Zarine said softly, stroking her fur. Winter sniffed at her with great interest, and finally settled down at her feet.

Suddenly, she remembered that she had to call Ray. On the other side of the bed, there was a portable phone on a night table. She picked it up hurriedly and dialed the number.

"Hello?" Ray's voice came from the other side. She smiled happily as she heard his voice.

"Ray, I am in Hong Kong, safe and sound," she told him.

"Why didn't you call earlier?" he asked.

"I was eating dinner. Guess what?"

"Hmm?" Ray smiled at the cheerfulness in her voice.

"I was going to sleep and then I found out that I had invaded a dog's sleeping space," she giggled. "You have to thank her for waking me up."

"You invaded a dog's sleeping space?" he laughed at her.

"Yep! It was sleeping on the bed and then I came along and took half of the space."

"I bet it wasn't happy. Anyway, you sound really tired, so I won't keep you awake," her boyfriend said.

"You aren't! I want to talk to you," she said wistfully. There were a million things she wanted to talk to him about.

"Me too. We can talk about them when you come back."

She sighed. "I guess so…Good night. I love you."

"Sweet dreams, cutie," he said before hanging up.

The next week was hard on Ray. Zarine's phone calls were the only things that sustained him for the next seven days. He still managed to have fun with his friends though. One of the memorable things worth mentioning was Tyson, who had eaten so much; his stomach was like a small hill. He fell onto his tummy after the meal, and began rolling down the hill and ended up into a river. Everyone laughed until they cried, except Kai, but even he had an amused glint in his eyes.

The week for Zarine was special. She had missed the feeling of being with a family and loved it. She wanted to stay, but Ray was waiting for her. She would give up anything to be with him. The day after she arrived, she went to visit her parent's gravesites, and left flowers for them. Afterwards, her aunt and uncle insisted on taking her out and spoiling her in every way. She spent the six days in amusement parks, cinemas, water parks, zoos, and other places.

"Zarine," Jeff knocked on the door. "Mom and Dad want to talk to you."

"Okay," she replied, opening the door quickly. He couldn't help but grin when he saw Winter snuggled beside the huge pile of stuffed animals on her bed. Zarine had stolen the heart of the dog, and now she follows the girl everywhere.

"What's so funny?" she asked, peering at him curiously as they walked down the hall. "Are you making fun of my PJs?" She was wearing a cute top with a picture of a bear sleeping soundly under a tree.

"Of course not," he said, smiling at her. "I just feel happy to have you back again." Back by my side, he added silently.

The living room was dimly lit by a lamp by the couch, casting a shadow over the two adults' solemn faces.

"Zarine, sit down," her uncle motioned over the seat across from him and his wife.

When Jeff made to sit down beside his friend, his mother said, "We want to talk to her alone, dear. It's late, you should go to bed." He shrugged and left quietly, wondering what his parents were going to say to Zarine.

"Zarine, it is our wish that you would stay with us permanently," her uncle began.

The petite girl felt her heart skip a beat and immediately thought of Ray. "but…"

He held up a hand and continued, "We know that your teammate offered his hospitality and that he meant well. However, it is time for you to come back home and settle down."

"I don't understand! Why can't I go back?" she questioned. All she could think about was what was going to happen between Ray and her if she couldn't go back.

"We want you to live here, in a proper household," her aunt explained. "I am sure those boys are nice but we want to make sure you get a proper education and raised up properly. We don't want you running off with them."

"There are good schools in Japan too!" Zarine protested.

"I know, but we are your guardians! We say that you stay in Hong Kong and live with us!" the man told her irritably. He had expected her to obey them quietly, like she had obeyed her parents when she was younger. Her objections convinced him that she was turning bad with her team's influence.

"You are my what?" she asked softly, her eyes glowed almost menacingly.

Her aunt answered, "Your guardians. It is only natural since we were the closest friends to your parents, and they didn't have any relatives."

"So I have to stay here even if I don't want to?"

"That's right! You live here now, and you would not go back to Japan. You will quit beyblading and leave your team, you got that?"

Her heart grew cold as she clutched her beyblade in her pocket. It grew hot in her hand. Xeora was sharing her anger at her uncle's decisions too. There would be no excuse, no chance to see her friends again, except maybe on television.

The girl nodded numbly and didn't say anything. "What about Ray?" she whispered finally.

"It would be best…if you break up with him," Ella said, shifting uncomfortably. "We want you to date some respectable young men, not someone you met on the streets."

"You mean the spoiled sons of wealthy businessmen?" she asked in horror.

"They are nice, charming young men. Some of them are, at least. I will introduce you to them personally," her uncle assured her.

It was more horrible than she had imagined. Tears poured down her face. "But I love Ray! He loves me back. We are happy together!"

"Love, he scoffed. "What do you know about love at your age? You will forget about this boyfriend of yours soon enough."

She sat there, crying silently, long after her aunt and uncle had left. She thought about her friends, and most of all, Ray. She wished she was in his arms and he was telling her that everything was all right.

What am I going to tell him? She thought. How can I tell him that I can't see him anymore…and that I have to break up with him?

Looking up at the clock, she remembered that she hadn't called Ray yet that day. She wiped her tears away hastily and closed her eyes sadly. She didn't want to call him, but she had to. She promised to call him everyday.

She walked up the stairs, dragging her feet. Finally, she sat down on the bed, beside the phone. Taking a deep breath, she dialed the number and waited.

Ray, who was pacing around, jumped when the phone rang. He picked it up breathlessly, "Zarine!"

"How did you know it was me?" she asked.

"Of course it's you! You haven't called yet," he replied, smiling. "How was your day?"

"It was okay," she answered quietly. There was a long pause then she said, "I really miss you."

"I miss you too" he said. "Is something wrong? You sound weird."

"It's probably just the connection. I just miss you and really want to see you."

"Me too. We will see each other again in a week thought," he said brightly. "I can't wait."

"Yeah…I have to go now. I will call you again tomorrow," Zarine said, barely managing to hold her tears at bay. She hung up quickly, and started to cry again.

"Wait!" Ray said, but only the dial tone answered. He had a feeling that something was wrong. He made a face. Zarine will tell me if something is wrong, he thought, I'm probably being paranoid.

"Are you awake?" Zarine heard Jeff ask outside in the hall. She ignored him and turned her back on the door, trying to stifle her sobs in the pillows.

He knew she was still awake. He was able to hear her cry. "I know you are awake. Open the door please and tell me what's wrong." There was no response, so he turned the doorknob and went into her room.

"Zarine?" he said gently.

She raised her tearstained face to look at him. "Jeff!" she cried, hugging him tightly. "It's so horrible!"

"What is?" he asked, wrapping his arms around her and stroking her hair comfortingly.

"Your parents wouldn't let me go back to Japan. They want me to quit beyblading and leave my team. And…I have to break up with Ray," she told him, crying even harder at the end.

He felt a surge of triumph. The girl in his arms would be free for him to take. He didn't know what his parents meant to do, only that they wanted to keep her in Hong Kong. It was harsh for them to tell her to leave the team though. At least she wouldn't be seeing him again. Now I have her all to myself, he thought happily. "Why?" he asked.

"I don't know. They want me to date a guy who is a son of rich businessmen. I don't want to!" she said.

"Don't worry. They wouldn't make you if you don't want to," he promised. "Not if I can help it. You will be mine, he relished the thought. All mine…

I know, I didn't update for a long time. I was preoccupied with other things in school. School is OVER now, so I can update more, if I am not being a lazy bum. Anyways, I am glad that I took a break from writing, since I have more enthusiasm for it after a vacation, and more importantly, I actually want to write. :)

Poll: Who had seriously considered shooting me for not updating? (or something even worse like drowning me with a bunch of eels?)

A: DOH! After the first day, I had that in mind.

B: Hehe, of course not.