means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten."
Lilo, Lilo and Stitch
Candlelit Smile That We Both Share
For a while now, I've wondered what my role in my family is. I didn't exactly doubt myself; I knew that I had the potential to be a good mother and that I was determined enough to get through all the challenges families face. But I didn't count on Koji. He was nine and the most difficult child I'd ever met. And I love children, even when they're acting their worst. That's the whole reason why I became a school nurse and why I'm trying to get a degree to be a pediatric nurse. And I thought I could handle him. I was wrong. I still remember those words he said to Kousei when they didn't realize I was on the stairs listening—"She's not my mom. She'll never be." Then Kousei asked him to try to be nice to me… That was when I really realized just how much my stepson hated me. To him, I was the wicked stepmother in all those old fairytales from Europe. I was just trying to help. I was just trying to fit in. He of all people should have realized that with all those new schools he'd had to go to in the past few years. He of all people should have known.
It was on my anniversary that things changed. He was suddenly kind to me and accepted me at least as his legal mother—recently, he'd even started calling me "Mom." Kousei had a talk with him a few weeks ago and found out that this sudden change was from Koji finally making some real friends—on the train to and from the florist's, no less. He'd even met his brother and his mother. Of course, Kousei had to do a lot of explaining since I had been under the impression that his ex-wife had died years ago. But things were working out for the best. Kousei and Koji's relationship was better than it had ever been before. And I had no problem sharing Koji with his birth mother, and I don't think she had a problem with it either. There was just something missing, though, something I couldn't quite explain. It was like someone had been forgotten in all of this. And it wasn't until recently that I realized who it was—or who they were, actually.
Kousei and Koji had gone to the park earlier that day to practice bike riding. Koji had never learned, and his father now had the time to teach him. I stayed at home to enjoy some quiet time to myself. About an hour or so later, it began to rain. I started shutting the windows as it started to downpour. Just as I got the last window closed, the phone rang. It was Kousei.
"Satomi, we're waiting out the rain," he informed. "It's just coming down too hard to drive home."
"All right," I answered.
"I'll pick up dinner, so don't worry about cooking anything."
"Okay. It looks like the power might go out anyway."
"All right. We'll see you later."
"Bye." I hung up and started searching the kitchen for candles in case the power did go out. It was then that I noticed someone standing out in the rain, staring at the house. It was only a kid, and he was soaked. Lightning flashed, followed soon by thunder. I ran out there. There was no way I was letting a child stay out in this weather.
He was staring at the stone nameplate in the wall around the house. I don't even know if he realized it was raining. He just stared until I ran over to him.
"Are you all right?" I checked. He turned to look at me, and I gasped. Even through my rain-blurred glasses, I could see his resemblance to Koji.
"Mrs. Minamoto?" he asked, as though not completely sure of himself. I nodded.
"You're Koichi, right?" I questioned. He nodded back.
"I'm sorry to bother you," he apologized. "I wanted to see if Koji was home. I guess I haven't worked up the courage to get to the front door." There was more lightning and thunder, and he looked at the sky as if just noticing it. "I'll head home."
"No, you won't," I argued. "This storm is terrible, and you live too far away. Come inside, and I'll take you home later."
"I don't want to be a burden…" he protested, but I shook my head.
"Don't worry about it," I replied. "You're soaked. At least come in to dry off." Finally, he nodded and followed me in. At the doorway, I stopped him and said, "Wait right there. I'll get you a towel," and ran off to the linen closet. He was starting to shiver when I got back to him. "Here you go."
"Thanks," he replied, wrapping the towel around himself.
"Do you want any tea or anything?" I checked. "Something to warm you up?"
"I guess," he answered. "If it wouldn't be too much trouble."
"It's no trouble at all," I assured him, starting to heat some water. "And I'll get you some of Koji's clothes to wear for now. I don't want you sitting around in your wet things."
I went upstairs quickly and got some dry clothes from Koji's closet. When I returned, Koichi was looking at photos on the wall. The look on his face seemed to be pained, but I wasn't sure why. Was it because we always looked like such a happy, close family in those pictures while he felt like his family was broken? Or was it because he knew that somehow he would never be able to have that same closeness with his father and brother, no matter how often they were able to see each other now?
"Here," I said, handing him the T-shirt and jeans. "You can change in the bathroom. It's down the hall to the right. I'll go check and see if our tea's ready."
"Thanks," he answered again. I was starting to get the feeling that more than anyone else in my family, the one he was most afraid of was me.
"Is jasmine tea all right with you?" I checked.
"I guess it's all right," he replied a minute later, coming out of the bathroom while toweling off his hair. "Thanks for lending me the clothes. I'll get them back as soon as possible…"
"Don't worry about it," I assured, smiling as best as I could. "You're Koji's brother. You're welcome to everything." He didn't seem to know how to answer to that, so he changed the subject.
"Do you need any help?"
"Oh, no, I'm fine. Do you usually take your tea straight, or with sugar in it?"
"Sugar, please, if it's not too much trouble."
"I told you already that you're welcome to anything you want," I reminded him patiently, but I was starting to feel uncomfortable myself. Why did the rain have to delay my husband and son? I was willing to bet that Koichi wouldn't have been half as nervous if Koji was here. Not to mention that I would have felt better without him being this unsure of himself.
And to make matters worse, barking started coming from the garage.
"I'll be right back," I promised. "I've got to get Keika. I think the lightning's bothering her."
Keika, our dog, was in the garage. She'd been a stray puppy that more or less adopted us when I married Kousei. Koji, who had seemed like a stray himself during that time, took to her immediately, and it wasn't often that he didn't take her with him when he went out. But because he couldn't afford her distracting him today while he tried to learn to ride his bike, we'd kept her in the garage to keep her from getting into trouble.
"I hope you don't mind Keika," I commented as I brought her inside. Koichi looked a bit apprehensive again.
"I'm not used to dogs," he admitted.
"She doesn't bite," I assured him. "She just thinks she's a very large puppy. You don't have to worry." But I kept my hand on her collar just in case as Koichi slowly moved a hand closer to pet her head. She sniffed his hand and immediately decided she liked him, jumping onto her hind legs and putting her front paws on his legs.
"Down, girl!" I ordered, but I didn't really have a reason to. Koichi got down on one knee and gently rubbed her on the head. "You're a natural at this."
"Yeah," he replied, surprised out of his discomfort. "It's strange. But it's not the first time this has happened. Things have been drawn to me before."
"Oh?" I asked.
"Yeah," he answered. "But it's in the past now. It's all in the past."
His eyes dimmed somewhat as he said that. Everything about him seemed darker. Then, as if to prove a point, lightning flashed again, this time knocking out the power. The only light we had was from the blue flame of the gas burner under the teakettle.
"Don't worry," I informed Koichi as Keika started barking again. "I have some candles on the counter. Light them while I try and get Keika under control."
"All right," he replied, getting up.
He had no trouble finding the white candles and the box of matches I'd taken out. He struck a match and carefully cupped the firelight in his hands as he lit the first candle. He blew the match out gently before using that first candle to light the rest. Then, carrying two at a time, he brought them to the table.
"I didn't think you'd be able to see," I confessed.
"I'm used to the dark," he answered in that same mysterious way as before, when he'd mentioned how things were drawn to him. "Do you want me to get the tea?"
"I can take care of it. I just needed a second to get Keika settled." Keika, in fact, went right over to Koichi and settled right at his feet, as if to nap. It was the calmest I'd ever seen her. "That's really strange."
"What is?" Koichi asked, sitting in a chair after I nodded at him to.
"She's usually not this calm around new people. She's not usually this calm in general. I might have to ask you to watch her some time, if she likes you this much." He had a small smile, and I had to smile too. Finally, we were getting somewhere.
I handed him his tea and sat down next to him. For a few minutes, we didn't say anything. We just sat there in the candlelight, drinking our tea and listening to the wind and rain outside. The scent of jasmines and green tea mixed with the light smoke from the candles, giving us a feeling of calmness in the midst of the storm. Suddenly, I didn't feel as anxious, and I don't think he did either. But there was something that didn't quite feel right. Maybe it was my constant need to help children heal that made me do it, but in any case, I broke the calmness and asked, "So, how was it that you came to meet Koji? I know you met him and the rest of your friends on the train, but how exactly did that happen? Did you just randomly start talking?"
A flickering shadow swept across his face—some trick of the candlelight, I suppose, but it pointed out his inner darkness very clearly. His face fell somewhat as he quietly responded, "My grandmother died and wanted me to find him."
"I'm sorry," I whispered, now regretting asking him that.
"It's all right," he replied. "It hurt a lot at first, but if not for that, then I never would have met Koji. I never even knew I had a brother to begin with. All my life, it was just my mom and me living in our apartment. She'd raised me all on her own—with some help from Grandma, of course. So when I learned that I had a twin I never knew about…"
"It shattered your view of the world?" I guessed.
"Yeah. And it made me realize that I had to find him if I wanted to make everything right. I knew that my father's last name was Minamoto, so I looked him up to find where he lived. But when I found the right house, I was too afraid to go up and explain everything. The three of you were going out that day, so I followed you, trying to meet Koji, but…"
My heart sank a little bit as I remembered the way he'd looked at the pictures on the wall. "But you couldn't after you saw the way our family was, the kind of family you've never had."
He sighed, "Yes. It shouldn't have bothered me, but…"
"Don't feel bad about it," I reassured him. "It's perfectly natural. Your brother had something that you wanted and couldn't have. Of course you'd feel that way. And you'd just lost someone in your family, so the feeling was even more painful." He didn't seem convinced. He was just staring into his teacup, so I added, "And things weren't exactly what you saw." He looked up in a bit of confusion and surprise. "We were hardly a family. There was a lot of friction between us—especially between Koji and me." But rather than reassuring him, this made his face fall again.
"I know," he admitted. "I…um…overheard Koji mention this once."
"I see," I answered.
"And things were even worse in the Digital World," he added, even more quietly than usual. But it was my turn to give him a confused look.
"What's the Digital World?" I asked. "Some kind of arcade?" He returned the confused stare.
"I thought they told you," he replied in surprise. "Koji said that he told Dad, so I thought…"
My heart was down in my stomach by now, and I looked down. "I'm left out of a lot when it comes to those two."
"I'm sorry," he answered, and he stared directly at me this time when he said this. I looked up. "I can tell you everything, but I don't think you'll believe me."
"Why wouldn't I?"
His eyes strayed for a minute as he replied, "It's a strange story, and Dad didn't even believe it at first." His eyes then regained their focus and he asserted, "But it's all true. It all really happened, even if I wasn't there for most of it. Please believe me."
His voice was almost pleading, and his gaze never wavered. It had taken a lot of courage for him to do that, so whatever he was about to say, no matter how unbelievable it sounded, must have been real. I had to believe him.
"All right then," I answered. "I'll believe you."
His tenseness vanished with a relieved smile. "Thanks. It means a lot, from you especially." I nodded. "Well, I'm not exactly sure where to begin. I…had an accident and was unconscious most of the time. When I woke up, I thought it might have all been a dream, but the others remembered it all too clearly for that to be the case."
"Go on," I urged.
"I was following Koji to the Shibuya train station. I tried to reach him at the elevator, but it closed before I had the chance. So I took the stairs, and I missed a step or something and fell. When I came to—or thought I did, anyway—I found myself in complete darkness, and I started to get angry at myself and at everyone else. I thought of my mother suffering while Koji never knew. I thought it was unfair that he was allowed to enjoy his family while I had to watch mine suffer." That was why he hated that he'd felt jealous, I realized. It had come back to him while he was in another bad situation. "A voice then interrupted my thoughts and told me that I had darkness in my heart. The voice said it could help me if I gave in to the darkness. And I did. But it wasn't exactly the kind of darkness you're probably thinking of. I was feeling bitter and betrayed, but there was more.
"I thought I was dead and in the afterlife. I wasn't completely wrong though. It wasn't my world. I know it's hard to believe, but it's true. Somehow, I'd been thrown into another one, one called the Digital World. And when I gave in to my darkness, I received something called the Spirit of Darkness, and it made me transform into a Digimon—one of the creatures from that world. It was only temporary, and I could change back if I wanted, but I'd completely forgotten who I was. But things started to come back when I ran into Koji. He and the others had gotten the same abilities I did, but theirs came from different elements. Koji's was Light. Then I hurt him pretty badly in battle. I was afraid I'd killed him, and that was when I started remembering everything. He was okay in the end, but I wasn't. As I slowly started remembering who we were, I started hating him again. But still, he saved me and accepted me like none of it ever happened."
"I don't understand," I admitted.
"It's okay if you don't believe me," he assured. "I wouldn't either. But I told you because I thought you should know."
"I'm not sure what to believe," I confessed. "This story is too fantastic to be true, but I have the feeling that you'd never lie to anyone—hold back details, perhaps, since you seem to have been doing that all evening, but not lie. And I know Koji would never lie to anyone either, so if he's told Kousei, then…" I shook my head to try and clear it. Nothing made sense anymore. Not my family, not this story…not this eleven-year-old boy sitting at the table next to me.
It suddenly felt uncomfortably warm in the kitchen, so I got up and opened the window. The rain had stopped, but the clouds in the darkening sky promised another shower. Kousei and Koji would be coming home soon. I could ask them if they'd heard this story or if it was part of some massive joke they'd played on me.
But still, I remembered as a firefly drifted in the open window, I'd promised Koichi that I would believe him.
The firefly flew toward Keika and Koichi, blinking its light a couple of times. Keika raised a paw and sleepily batted at it before apparently falling asleep. I envied her. She didn't have to worry about believing anything that sounded too strange to be true. She didn't have to worry about trying to fit in among a family that left her out of their hearts a little too often. Everything was simple for her: kind people to feed her and stay with her, and a sense of serenity and peace among fireflies and candlelight.
The firefly landed on the table next to Koichi, and he looked at it with that shadowed face again. It must have meant something to him if I believed him. He only had his mother as his family, and a brother he'd only just met. He was trying to get used to the idea of having two families: the one he'd always known and the one he'd just discovered.
And if he'd told me all this and it was true, he must have considered me someone important even though we'd only just met—part of that new family he was trying to fit in with.
More fireflies had discovered the window and were flying around the kitchen. One was just above me, so I reached up and gently cupped it in my hands. I used to do this all the time as a little girl. Inside my hands, the firefly glowed, trying to bring light into the darkness. Nothing could live in darkness forever. We all needed a little light so that we could see ourselves and be reassured that we still existed. To me, that was why the firefly was glowing. It was just like how we'd lit the candles, even though it was just going to make the kitchen unbearably hot.
Just like how Koichi had told me all this, even though he knew I probably wouldn't believe him and we'd be in a worse position than before.
I released the firefly and looked back at him. "I know why you said all of that just now." He looked up. "It wasn't just so I'd know. It was because you needed to tell somebody. You needed someone else to bring into your family, and I was being left out of mine." I smiled. "But not anymore. Welcome to my family, Koichi. I hope that one day, I can be part of yours."
In the candle- and firefly-light, he smiled too. "Of course, Mrs. Minamoto."
"Satomi," I corrected.
"Satomi," he repeated. "I'd like that."
The front door suddenly opened, and we heard Koji ask, "Did the electricity go out?"
"Satomi?" Kousei called.
"I'm in the kitchen!" I replied.
"Mom, we've got dinner," Koji informed as they walked in. But when they saw Koichi, they stopped in their tracks. "Koichi?"
"I hope you have enough for four people," I commented. "Koichi's staying for dinner tonight."
"We have plenty," Kousei assured. "Hello, Koichi."
"Hi, Dad," he answered somewhat shyly.
"And, Koji, I hope you don't mind, but I lent him some of your clothes," I added. "His were soaked from the rain." But Koji grinned.
"No problem, Mom. Koichi, is it okay for you to stay a little past dinner?"
"Let me just call our mom first," he replied. "But I'm sure it'll be okay."
I smiled and watched them as they went over to the phone. I knew Koichi was thinking the same I was:
Neither of us was going to be forgotten in this family again.
I do not own Digimon, Lilo and Stitch, or Boa's "Duvet" from Serial Experiments Lain—the song that I got the title from. This is meant as a follow-up to "All the Fears You Hold So Dear," about Kousei and his relationship with Koji. I figured for Mother's Day I'd do the other side of the equation. Also, Raven Nightstrider definitely deserves some credit for inspiring this with her plans for upcoming fanfiction. A couple revolve around the Minamoto family and Satomi, and that subconsciously gave me an incentive to write.
Couple of references here: Keika, the dog's name in this, is the Japanese word for the light from a firefly. Hence, I threw in the fireflies. Also, in "All the Fears," a reviewer commented that it was odd that Kousei accepted the Digital World story so quickly. In that, he accepted it because that was the only answer he got, and—as mentioned here—Koji is pretty honest throughout canon, so there's really no reason for him to make up something like that. Satomi's reaction to Koichi's heavily edited account of the Digital World takes the disbelief route as she tries to make sense of herself and Koichi. And I apologize for how much his explanation sounded like Riku from Kingdom Hearts. I tried to avoid it, but it still came out like that. Their stories are a bit too similar.
All I ask is that if you review, try and give me some insight into what you think. Is there anything I could have done better or anything in specific you liked? And while I don't accept anonymous reviews, you can respond anonymously to any topic in my LiveJournal (link in my profile) and I'll try to get back to you.