Keitaro's Return

Chapter 16

"...I've boarded up the windows...(windows) to keep the morning from in intrusion...I've left it on the door knob...(door knob) Could you please just not disturb? Days like this we find it so hard, to push ourselves, up and out of bed (bed), when nothing falls in favor of..."

I'm the best at ruining my life

From Autumn to Ashes

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March 2nd

6:00 A.M

The alarm went off as it did every morning indicating the start of a new day. While an alarm clock does serve this particular purpose, for Eric Jones however, it was merely an annoying object telling him that it was six in the morning. He unconsciously leaned from his bed side to slap the off button. He sat up and gave a grumble, and scratched his face casually. He slowly opened his eyes; allowing them to absorb the light, as he let out a yawn. He got up out of his bed, and put on his robe that lie near his bed stand.

For the past four years, that bed was never as warm as it used to be, everything just wasn't the same anymore. Eric could easily get up every morning for the rest of his life with a grin on his face because of the sheer fact that he had a significant being in his life that kept him going. But now that person whom meant the world to Eric was no more, she was only existent in distant memories, and sentimental mementos. That would never be enough, when something is lost we are only left fragments of its prior existence, we often find ourselves wanting it all back.

There wasn't one day of his life in which Eric wished he could relive those moments with his wife Laura. Every morning it was the same, Eric's mind was cast into a prison to be tortured day in and day out. I wise man once said, "You do not truly cherish life, until you experience losing it." Eric could relate to this quote, more than anyone else.

Eric then left his darkened room, closing the door to his personal prison, he headed toward the bathroom, and even the bathroom was stricken with priceless memories. He could almost smell her exquisite perfume which filled the air in the morning.

A shower would be first on the agenda for the day; you simply couldn't start a day without one. Eric looked at himself in the mirror, and wiped the sleep from his eyes. Despite him being only of 41 years old, the wear and aging was beginning to show in his eyes. Every day was getting harder and harder. Eric stared into his own dark brown eyes, searching for something that might justify his own existence. He slowly let himself go, as him mind wondered relentlessly.

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Four Years Ago

He walked through the door and gave a whiff of the scented air. By the smell, it could be determined that Eric had made it just in time for dinner. Eric walked into the kitchen and saw two individuals whom he was delighted to see. The one woman turned around to greet her husband, her name was Laura Jones. She stood roughly five feet, she had long black hair, and dark green eyes. To Eric, she was a god-send, a beautiful young woman made just for him. Her personality was very meek, but deep inside she had an unyielding personality. Those eyes gave her a hint of vivacity as they were full of life.

Her gentle green eyes stared into Eric's. They shared an embrace, for Eric had been gone for roughly three or four days. The two barely got to see each other because of Eric's line of work, but they somehow kept their marriage very stable, their covenant was as strong as it was when they were first married. Eric smiled at the sight of Erynn near the oven, for it was apparent that Laura had been teaching Erynn how to cook. He went over and rubbed her head, smiling.

However, Erynn quickly jerked away, ignoring her father's affection. It was obvious that she wanted nothing to do with him. For in her own viewpoint he was not a father, he was always gone, and never around to love her. Erynn turned away, avoiding eye contact all together with her father. He continued to smile none the less; he loved his daughter, even if she didn't know it.

"Erynn honey, aren't you going to say hi to your father?" Laura said calmly. Erynn eventually left, her stubborn behavior was still a problem.

Several Months Later

"We've just gathered the last of the supplies, it's time we make our way to the Tiber River," Eric said. Seta smiled, as he gathered his things, he glanced over to Haruka to make sure she was ready to go as well.

"Are we all set?" Seta asked. Haruka and Eric nodded their heads in unison. From the Tiber River, they would head north, and hopefully get better luck then their last excavation site. It had already been three weeks, and another week in Italy was all that was left. The trio of archeologists took formation in a single line. Suddenly Eric's cell phone rang, and he reached into his back pocket to answer. No one would have ever anticipated what Eric was about to be informed, no one saw it coming.

"But Haruka, It honestly wasn't my fault! My father got us into that mess!" Seta exclaimed. Haruka smacked Seta over the head with a shovel.

"Don't give me that bull shit, like father like son. You're just as bad as your dad; I wouldn't be surprised if you had..." Haruka paused when she noticed Seta's reaction change dramatically. Seta was looking over at Eric. Eric, was dead frozen, there was no motion from his body. There was only the cell phone near his ear.

"Eric?" Seta said. He walked over toward Eric, trying to find out what was wrong with his friend. Eric's eyes were dead, there was no light in them, it was as if suddenly without warning all strains of emotion was leeched from his entire body; the very soul of Eric Jones was gone. In his hand was a cell phone. Seta took the cell phone and placed it up to his ear. Haruka grew silent, she only showed wavering eyes.

"Hello?"

"Seta, it's David, I'm here at the hospital, Laura has..."

Silence

It was like the whole world ceased to exist, nothing was audible, only silence. Pure...unbridled...absolute...silence.

Seta heard the last word in the sentence; he dropped the phone in shock.

This day forward, Eric Jones would never be the same man as he once was. A look of unspeakable anguish filled the face of Eric, his eyes were welling with tears, and he screamed out in denial. He embraced Seta, crying every ounce of his soul out. Seta closed his eyes, no words were spoken. Haruka turned away, whatever had happened it couldn't be good.

Nothing would ever be the same...ever again. His life felt meaningless. What was the point of living now?

"Dad?" Eric could already see his daughter's questioning eyes...

Nothing...would ever be the same again.

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Eric Jones was instantly brought back to reality as a warm sensation touched his shoulder. He could see that it was his only daughter, Erynn. Eric slowly turned around to face his daughter.

"Dad? Are you alright?" Erynn said showing concern. Eric instantly laughed.

"Ha, yeah, just lost in thought, that's all, I appreciate your concern though," Eric leaned down to kiss Erynn on the head. Erynn was slightly embarrassed, but it was her father none the less. Eric just laughed, and Erynn was soon on her way.

Eric was left alone in the bathroom, to fight off the demons inside. Eric had always been at the bottom of the pits, always in constant despair for his loss. He was remarkably good at hiding his feelings from the world, a master of deceiving others. No one really knew what he was feeling. However, despite his deceitfulness, there was only one person whom he could not deceive, and that was Erynn. She could see it in his eyes, the loneliness within him. His eyes gave way to a barren wasteland of sorrows and despair.

With Keitaro's help, Erynn had a rough time getting her life back into order. It still hurt her badly that there was no mother in her life, but she still had a father and Jody in her life. Seta could only sympathize for Eric. He lost Sara's mother, and his own mother, but Seta was still ever vigilant to keep his life intact, it may very well be that Seta's clumsiness and obliviousness was simply a mask to keep the world in the dark about his past. Perhaps...Seta was the best at deceiving?

Eric undressed solemnly and got into the shower. There were no scars physically, but mentally, there were too many to even comprehend; too many to count. You could only count them by the hundreds.

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"Kei-kun, did you know that if two people who love each other go to Tokyo U, they'll live happily ever after?" said a familiar voice. Keitaro looked to his left to find Naru and Mutsumi, both of them young kids, in the middle however...there was a third girl, with black hair.

"Huh? Who said that?" Keitaro asked. The black haired girl raised her head revealing her face, it was...Erynn!?

"Oh my, that sounds like a great idea, can I go to Tokyo U as well Kei-kun?!" Mu-chan said.

"Me...too!" Na-chan said as well. Despite the shock, Keitaro's eyes caught glimpse of something else. While the four of them were sitting inside of the sandbox, on the outside of the sandbox to the very right was a man, whose face was unrecognizable. All that could be seen was a solemn face, and in the man's right hand was a bouquet of red and white flowers. He turned to Keitaro, tears flowing down, he spoke aloud.

"Will I ever be happy?" with that the man vanished from sight.

"Keitaro..."

"Keitaro, how long are you going to sleep?"

A piercing voice made its way into Keitaro's head, as he was attempting to sleep. He awoke, his dream was interrupted. Fortunately for Keitaro it was too weird of a dream anyways and he wanted to awaken. He still felt a bit tired, he let out a tired half heartened grin at the sight of Erynn, and it was a laughable experience. It was enough to make Erynn laugh, as she did. She grabbed a hold of Keitaro arm and drug him out of his bed, into the hallway. He was half dressed, but didn't seem to mind much.

"I can walk you know," Keitaro said laughing. Erynn paused for a second to let Keitaro get to his feet. He chuckled some more.

"Say um...Keitaro?" Erynn said looking unusually flustered. Keitaro looked at her.

"What is it?" Keitaro laughed, but quickly noticed that Erynn was acting...strange. Erynn looked down, purposely avoiding eye contact. Keitaro was no fool, although he had no idea what was wrong with her, he could still tell there was something apparently wrong. The look in her eyes gave lead to impending despair. Keitaro quickly took the initiative, he shyly grabbed her by the hand.

"Why don't we discuss this over breakfast?" Keitaro said with a quiet voice. Erynn felt heartened. Normally when she would look depressed, people would usually turn away. It was generally how the world was. Everyone had problems, and it seemed that people only cared about their own problems. For Keitaro, it was evident that he stuck his neck out to help others solve their problems. Keitaro was one of a kind. Maybe that was why Erynn loved him so much?

Keitaro soon grew accustom to traditional American breakfast entrees. He could not however completely abandon his Japanese heritage. His breakfast platter consisted of eggs, bacon, some toast, and a bowl of miso soup, with a side of sake'. A strange combination, indeed; but Keitaro would not give up miso soup for the world, especially if it was made by Hinata Sou's resident female cook. Erynn's miso soup was surprisingly just as good, so Keitaro could not pass up the offer.

Erynn sat across from Keitaro, who was also enjoying a hearty breakfast. Eric Jones was sitting in his usual chair, reading the daily paper. He seemed unusually quiet today, not a word of greeting escaped from his mouth when Keitaro passed by. Keitaro thought nothing of it, he did not realize anything was wrong. Seta did not appear to be around at all today, it was concluded that he had a class to teach at the University. That is, if Seta managed to survive the drive TO the university! It was a solemn day to say the least.

"I have to go into town today, to run an errand; would you like to come with me?" Erynn said very quietly. Her eyes grew dark, and very solemn. Keitaro looked her in the eyes. Those eyes were the same exact stoical eyes that Keitaro witnessed long ago, cold and detached and stricken with an impassive irregularity. She then slowly looked into Keitaro's eyes, searching for an answer. Her eyes were now pleading, Keitaro could see it. Eric was still silent; all that was heard was the paper being grasped as he turned the page.

"Sure...I'll go," Keitaro said smiling. Erynn felt immense relief. She had gone to fulfill a deed that essential year after year, and every year she had gone alone. This task was something that should be done with her father; however they were still quite distant when it came to the issue at hand. This year, Erynn did not want to go alone to fulfill this one task. Erynn stood from the table, and waltzed over to her father, whose face was still buried in the paper.

"You know there's nothing interesting in the paper anyways?" Erynn said with a chuckle. Eric lowered the paper, he raised an eyebrow in a questioning way. Erynn smiled, leaned forward and gave her father a kiss on the cheek.

"I'm heading out with Keitaro for a bit," Erynn informed her father. Eric glanced back toward Keitaro. Keitaro engaged direct eye contact with Eric. There was definitely something strange going on, Keitaro was no fool.

Suddenly, it appeared, it was the SAME exact look that Erynn showed to Keitaro almost 3 months ago. The lifelessness in his eyes, the dreary cold hearted stare that Keitaro still couldn't get out of his mind. It felt like a stab in the heart, they broke off eye contact almost immediately. Eric switched modes again; he smiled to his daughter, and then buried his face in the paper again.

"Have fun," was all that Eric said. Erynn grabbed the keys from the table, and motioned Keitaro to follow. Both Erynn and Keitaro departed from the house from the front door. Leaving Eric Jones alone.

The calendar that hung on the wall near the kitchen marked the 2nd day of March. On that particular day there was red lettering written in. It read two letters, L, and J followed by a heart symbol.

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The car ride to town was a quiet one. Normally Keitaro would strike up a conversation with Erynn. But this time around, it was nothing but unsettling silence. Keitaro had feared that something was wrong with both Eric and Erynn. But the more he thought about it, the less he understood why.

"Would you like to grab a bite to eat Keitaro?" Erynn said firmly. Keitaro almost instantly answered, he did not want to let the silence prevail.

"Yeah...s-sure..." Keitaro spoke aloud.

"Where do you want to go?" She asked him. Keitaro took the question into consideration. However he felt that this time around he was going to relinquish making the decision for her. It was obvious to Keitaro that Erynn was down, now was not the time to be selfish. The Corvette came to a red light, Erynn slowly came to a stop. Keitaro looked over to her, he smiled.

"Erynn...where do you want to go?" Keitaro asked. She said nothing at first, her eyes continued to watch, and wait for the red light to change. The silence lingered, Erynn was silent. Keitaro shyly placed his hand onto her hand, which seemed to bring her back to life.

"Erynn? Where do you want to go?" Keitaro asked again. Erynn thought about it for a moment, but deep down she already knew where she wanted to go. The intersection light had finally turned green, as if was finally her turn to proceed.

"I know of a place," Erynn said.

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The restaurant was actually a cozy little place. It was small, but it had that warm and fuzzy feeling to it. A sort of nostalgic feeling of home one might say. There were hardly any people there. Off to the left there was a couple laughing and enjoying a cup of coffee. It was a peaceful place to kick back and relax from life for a while. This small coffee shop had a simple arrangement of wooden tables and comfortable leather padded chairs. The place had the fresh smell of coffee beans, and baked bread. Upon arrival Keitaro found himself amazed at the very atmosphere that such a small place had to offer. Soft classical melodies played over the radio that lay near the shop keeper's checkout stand. Near the checkout stand was a display of coffee varieties, as well as a menu which showed a wide variety of pastries, and fruit croissants.

"What a place this is!" Keitaro thought to himself.

Keitaro followed Erynn's lead, as she led him toward a seat next to the window, which gave a view of the city. Keitaro sat down, facing Erynn. Silence prevailed for several minutes. Both Keitaro and Erynn made an order for a cup of coffee as well as some coffee cakes. Not only was this place filled with a serene mood, but the coffee was delicious, Keitaro noted.

"This place..." Erynn started to say. Keitaro took a sip of his coffee, he was amazed.

"...is amazing..." Keitaro finished with a smile. "I can't say I've seen anything like this back home," Keitaro was quite taken by this place, since it was all new to him. But to Erynn, this place was all too familiar. She could almost smell the sweet nectar of her mother's perfume coming from where Keitaro was sitting.

"My mother and I used to come here all the time," Erynn said solemnly. Keitaro eyes widened slightly, and his eyes looked down.

So that's why we're here...

"We used to sit in this exact spot, you're now sitting in the exact location of where my mother used to sit," Erynn said while gazing out the window. Keitaro was silent, his eyes showed signs of concern, but he listened intently. Erynn felt slightly nostalgic, it had been four years since she had been in this shop, but it still felt so familiar.

"I'm sorry I lied to you," Erynn said, her eyes shifted to make contact with Keitaro, but he was still gazing down at his coffee. Keitaro's voice was soft.

"About what?" He asked, finally looking toward her.

"Back when you took me bowling, that wasn't the first time I had ever played," Erynn admitted. Keitaro smiled, he actually let out a laugh.

"Oh I knew..." Keitaro smirked. Erynn actually smiled too.

"What? Was my initial throw of the ball not enough convince you otherwise?" Erynn said laughing. As Keitaro remembered, her first throw of the bowling ball was one that was questionable. But Keitaro knew that no amateur could beat him at bowling. However concerning that last statement, there was just NO way Mutsumi could be an amateur either, something was just odd about that girl.

"Your technique is one that I've seen before," Keitaro said. He straightened his posture, eyes still fixated on Erynn's. "...but why didn't you just come out and tell me that you bowled before?"

Erynn grew silent for a second or two.

"My mother used to take me bowling all the time," Erynn said.

"I'm sorry...I didn't know..." Keitaro started to say, but Erynn quickly intervened.

"No...I'm really glad, I really had a good time, you even saved my life that night," Erynn said with a smile. Keitaro blushed slightly. Keitaro would never truly understand how much he meant to Erynn, he was completely oblivious. Keitaro had restored the family ties within the Jones family, but within the heart of Erynn, she felt something indescribable. She had never fallen in love before, but there was a first time for everything. Erynn's hand reached across the table, and shyly took grasp of Keitaro big left hand.

"There's one more place I need to go," Erynn said nervously. "Will you go with me?" Her eyes, this time, resembled a lost puppy. Keitaro had already gone this far with Erynn, what harm would there be in going all the way? He already had an idea of where the last destination was on Erynn's mind. Keitaro let out a warm, compassionate smile. It was the same smile he reserved only for Shinobu. It was a smile that said, "I'm here for you no matter what, so don't worry,"

"Okay," Keitaro simply said.

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Shortly Seta had arrived back home to greet his friend Eric. He sat in his favorite chair, reading a book. Seta laughed, that man had a different book in his hand almost every day. Eric was like a walking encyclopedia, a stoical, enigmatic prodigy, bearing the torture of everyday living. Eric had said nothing to his friend. He only gave a quick nod; he hadn't noticed what was in Seta's hand. Seta was actually carrying a bouquet of flowers. They were red and white roses. Seta then walked over and sat the flowers down in front of his friend. Eric ceased his reading and placed his book down, looking over the assortment of flowers. He smirked slightly.

"Isn't it a bit late for Valentines Day there Seta?" Eric said with a laugh. Seta looked chagrinned.

"Don't play dumb Eric, you know what these are for, I've already been over there to pay my respects, now do I need to tell you to do the same?" Seta said. Eric felt angered, but he didn't show it. He only lowered his head in shame.

"Will you...go with me?" Eric asked quietly. Seta smiled, "Of course,"

But of course, Seta knew that if anyone should go with Eric, it should have been Erynn. Regardless, Seta was willing to go above and beyond for any friend. Eric grabbed the bouquet of flowers and motioned his friend to follow.

The two left the house. Seta would once again that day pay his respects to a great friend, and Eric would undoubtedly face more compilations throughout his life. But Seta knew, that as long as Eric had good friends to support him through such a rough time, that he could get through this, and he wouldn't have to do it alone.

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Both Erynn and Keitaro arrived at their predetermined location. This was not Keitaro's first time here, in all actuality; he had come here on one occasion when Eric and Seta was with him. So he knew, exactly where he was.

This place was filled with nothing but lush grass, a beautiful sky line, and a certain sense of serenity in the air. This place was magical, and Eric found it to be a proper place for Laura. Keitaro thought so too. It was the kind of place where you could lie in the grass and fall asleep, it was just that peaceful. Silence filled the air, the only thing that could be a heard were delicate footsteps, as Erynn and Keitaro approached the gravestone of Laura Jones. The sky gave way to dusk, the color was a bleeding crimson.

"Mother," Erynn said aloud. Keitaro just starred ahead, not saying anything. While most people would find it weird to talk to the dead. Keitaro was sympathetic; he did not find it weird at all. Erynn went on, talking out loud, as if she was speaking to an actual person. Keitaro tried to slowly walk away, to give Erynn some privacy.

Erynn quickly grabbed Keitaro's arm, indicating that she wanted him by her side. To Erynn, Keitaro was kind of like family, so it was okay for him to be here as well. Erynn quickly continued to talk. Keitaro noticed first hand that while Erynn was talking, she had a smile on her face. It was actually a warm heartfelt smile.

This smile was one that Keitaro had never seen. In all actuality, it was the same smile that Erynn would show to her mother frequently whenever she was alive. It was no wonder that Keitaro had never seen it before, that smile was reserved for only Laura. After a couple of minutes, Erynn placed her flowers down, next to another set of flowers. Erynn knew that these flowers were Seta's. Seta was always the first person to visit her on this day every year. It was questionable whether or not Seta felt partially responsible for what had happened. Seta was the reason for Eric leaving for Europe, so it was possible that Seta felt somewhat responsible.

Keitaro was the only fortunate one to have never felt such despair, and sadness when it came to losing someone. He could only sympathize; he could imagine what it felt like. He cringed at the very thought of how it felt.

Keitaro suddenly felt Erynn latch onto him. She was done talking, she had paid her respects to her mother. Erynn embraced Keitaro, she was slightly sobbing. At times, Keitaro felt that he wasn't worthy enough to have someone like Erynn in his life. Of course, he felt the same way about Naru too, such kindness portrayed toward him was indeed rare, and Keitaro really couldn't complain; he just felt at times that he was unworthy of her; or rather any of the girls back home. Keitaro slowly reciprocated his embrace, blushing slightly; he gave a solemn smile, and reached up to gently stroke her black silky hair. He closed his eyes, absorbing the moment.

"I miss her..." Erynn sobbed. She then tightened her grip on Keitaro shirt, and Keitaro embraced even harder. There were no words that could be provided for Erynn. All that Keitaro could do was be there, whenever she needed someone. He looked up, hearing a sound off in the distance; Erynn did not seem to notice.

Slowly but surely, Keitaro could see two figures from the horizon approach. They were heading straight for Keitaro. As they grew closer, their faces grew grim. There intentions were obvious, by the bouquet of flowers that lie dormant in their hands. Closer still, Keitaro was finally able to distinguish who these two were. They were no other than Eric Jones and Seta Noriyasu.

As they approached even closer, Eric froze. He saw his daughter embracing Keitaro, which wasn't the problem at all. Seta only smiled at the site of Erynn and Keitaro together. Erynn finally heard the two approaching. The shock in her eyes was apparent, when her eyes met the eyes of her father. Erynn slowly released herself from Keitaro. Both daughter and father, staring into each others eyes, trying to form words something...anything.

Nothing was said, the silence continued. In Eric's left hand was a bouquet of red and white flowers. He felt shameful that he couldn't say anything to his own daughter. Keitaro was about to speak, however, Erynn quickly rushed over and embraced her father tightly. The two cried into each others arms. Seta silently walked past them, walking toward his friend, he had a grin on his face.

"Seta..." Keitaro said. Seta placed a hand on Keitaro's head, and smiled.

"This is the way it should have been," Seta said. Both Keitaro and Seta looked onward in the direction of Erynn and Eric. "Those two haven't been able to come here together since four years ago," Seta said smiling.

Keitaro smiled as well, it was great to see those two finally come together despite everything they had to go through. After all, no one should have to share sadness alone. Sometimes all it takes is to offer a shoulder to cry on to make someone's life a little bit easier.

Eric Jones would never have to be alone. He still had his daughter, and she had him. As long as they had each other, they could get through anything.

To be continued

Authors Note: Things are becoming increasingly harder and harder by the weeks to come in my life as a College student. Make that, a student of a private college. No I'm not rich, and that's the problem. For all those who've experienced the college life, you know how hard it is. Whenever you are a full time student and working your self to the point of insanity is the least of your troubles. While most would be burdened by such a life, I continue my promise. My story will some day be finished; I swear this on the Writer's Oath. Thank you for all the support, again to my fans. bows Dimitri, always a pleasure my friend.

Pre-Reader's Note: Okay people, don't kill Ein, this one is actually MY fault. I apparently have had this in my inbox for about a month and never noticed! Gomen no sai! Anyways; I don't have much to say… I've got a midterm in 2 hours, 2 projects due on Monday, and a website to build by Sunday. Peace!

Authors Note: Hey, we've got busy lives Dimitri, college is always hard, and then there's work and where does the time go?! Until next time folks! Ein out. Update: Thanks to GaleBread I was able to find an error that I completely mis looked, I had said at the beginning of the chapter that Eric was 31, however, if you take into consideration that Erynn is 18, that wouldn't make sense. I initially meant to put 41. Now I know why I should have paid more attention in typing class whenever we did numbers...sigh