A Father's Embrace
Heart pounding. Blood pumping. Adrenaline coursing through her veins. Aside from her ragged breaths, all she could hear was the sound of her feet slamming into the ground as she ran haphazardly through the forest. Every time she sucked in the cold, night air, her lungs burned like white, hot fire. She cared not for the pain. Nor did she care for the pain biting into and encompassing the rest of her body. Blood dripped from cuts and scratches from various locations across her flesh, caused by the branches and brush of the forest tearing into her skin as she ran. But still she did not care. She had only one thought, one goal, one destination in mind where she could escape from the terror.
The Bone-Eating Well.
Fleeing through Inuyasha's Forest was a great risk. But it was one she had to make, for there was no other way for the girl from the future to reach her goal. Deep in her mind, she prayed that he did not catch her before she reached the well. Her heart leaped when she spotted the clearing in the trees up ahead. 'I'm almost home!' she cried as she tore from the foliage. The silvery light of the almost-full moon lit up the entire clearing. She could easily see the distinct shape of the wooden structure in the center of the small field.
She didn't hesitate. Despite the fact that she was badly bruised and torn up, despite the fact that she had ran as fast as she could all the way through the forest, she put all her remaining strength and effort into getting to that well. Nothing could stop her now… That is, except for him. A grin nearly tugged at her cheeks as she came within yards of the well. She was almost home free. A few more feet and it would all be over. Nothing more than a long forgotten memory.
Suddenly, something large, heavy, and solid collided into her back, throwing her down into the ground. The compacted earth bit into her hands and elbows, having taken the brunt of the fall. Whatever had struck her was now on top of her with all of its weight. Forced down so that her stomach and chest were pressed into the ground, her arms became pinned beneath her. She struggled to breathe, but the added weight on her back was causing that task to be nearly impossible. The absolute agony and pain from the fall tore through her torso. But the pain was nothing compared to the fear that gripped her very soul. For her worst possible nightmare had come true.
"Stupid wench," a deep, husky voice growled into her left ear. "Did you think you could outrun me? Well? Did you?" She struggled to speak, to answer him, to make any sound at all, but still she could barely draw in even the slightest gasp of air. With the lack of oxygen, her senses dulled, the pain seemed to ebb away, her vision grew dark, and soon she could feel nothing.
With a loud gasp, Hojo Kagome bolted upright in bed. She panted heavily as her senses returned to her. Sweat dripped from her brow, her eyes darting about the dark room. 'A dream. It was all just a dream,' she realized, taking in the familiar surroundings of her bedroom. She glanced to her right at the alarm clock sitting on the nightstand beside her bed. The glowing red numbers read 12:47. Turning to face the left side of the queen-sized bed, she disappointedly noted the vacant space.
With a deep sigh, Kagome rose from her bed. She slipped on a thick, white bathrobe over her flannel pajamas and headed to the kitchen. 'Perhaps a warm glass of milk will help me get back to sleep,' she hoped, trying to ignore the fact that her husband had not yet returned home. She filled a glass halfway with the white liquid, and set the microwave to ten seconds. She released another sigh as she thought back to the phone call with her husband earlier that evening.
"Kagome, I'm afraid I'll be at the hospital again late tonight. I had a last minute patient come in who needs my medical attention."
"When will you be home?"
"I'm not sure. This looks like it might take most of the night. Don't wait up for me, okay?"
The beeping of the microwave pulled Kagome out of her brief reverie. She retrieved the glass from the microwave, but was no longer interested in drinking it. A disgusted feeling had settled in her stomach, and the thought of drinking the now offensive liquid caused the taste of bile to rise up in the back of her mouth. She slowly walked over to the sink, dumped the milk down the drain and rinsed the glass. After putting the it away, she allowed her weight to fall onto the edge of the counter. A small sob escaped her lips as a hot tear ran down her face.
It had been going on for so long now. Kagome couldn't begin to fathom how many different women he had had an affair with over the past eight years. And why she stayed with him, she didn't know... Actually, she did know. Security. As the head doctor of the burn ward at Tokyo Hospital, he made quite a bit of money. So much money, that Kagome needn't worry about finding a job. But needing and wanting are two different things. She would have loved to have been able to have a job. To be able to get out of the house once in a while. To have some spending money that was her own, that she had earned on her own, so that she didn't have to feel like she was always spending his money.
But she hadn't had a job in a little over three years now, and that was because he insisted upon her unemployment. In the end, Kagome had decided that it was for the best. The last job she had was as a waitress at a local restaurant. It had been during the holidays, and she had reasoned with her husband that the money she earned would be used to buy gifts. She had told him that she wanted to buy him things with her own money. She didn't like the feeling that she was buying him gifts with his money. She wanted to feel as if the gifts came completely from her. She wanted to prove her worth to him.
For some reason, he had given in, and allowed her to find a job. Kagome was thrilled. Though it was only part time, and she had to work nights and on the weekends, she felt happy. She was able to meet new people, and make new friends. Friends. Something she hadn't really had since she dropped out of college seventeen years ago. After the holiday season was over, her boss offered her a full time position. She was delighted. Her husband was not.
Demanding as he was, he insisted that she quit her job. He stated that one of the conditions of her having a job was that it would only be during the holiday season. The holidays were over, and she no longer needed to have her own money. He accused her of thinking that he didn't make enough to support her. He also said that he would not have a wife who had a job doing such menial tasks. Reluctantly, Kagome gave in. In the end, she had convinced herself that her husband was right. Besides, she had more important things to do with her time than being someone's 'bar wench'. The following day, Kagome went to the restaurant for the very last time and resigned from the job she had enjoyed so much.
A flash of light from outside caught her attention. Clearing the unshed tears from her eyes, she strode over to the kitchen window and watched as the black sedan slowly pulled up the driveway. Glancing at the clock over the sink, she read the time again.1:03 a.m. The quiet engine turned off, and the male figure emerged from the car, shutting the door with a small slam. Briefcase in hand, he staggered up the walkway to the front door. After a moment of fidgeting with the key in the lock, he entered the dark house. He shut the door, and turned around to come face-to-face with his wife.
"K'gome," his slurred speech gave away his inebriated state if his breath had not already done so. "What're you doin' up s-so late?"
Kagome didn't answer right away. Instead, she took a moment to run her eyes up and down his figure. His clothes were slightly disheveled. His hair was tousled and traces of red lipstick marred the edges of his lips and along his jawbone. For probably the hundredth time, Kagome could feel her heart sink. She wondered how many more of his affairs it would take before she could care no longer.
"How was work, Nanashi?" she asked with a timid, but slightly suspicious tone. "It seems you've had a rough day."
He grabbed her roughly by the shoulder. "It's-s none o' yer biz'ness!" his irritated voice escalated at Kagome's subtle accusation.
Kagome visibly shrank at his aggressive behavior. "I'm sorry," she meekly whispered.
He pushed her out of his way, ignoring the fact that she had stumbled into the wall from the force. He retreated from the kitchen, disappearing down the dark hallway. Moments later, the sound of their bedroom door slamming shut echoed through the otherwise quiet home, causing the housewife to wince at the noise. Kagome could feel her nose sting as the threat of new tears overwhelmed her. She tried to force back her pain, her tears.
"He was with that nurse again, wasn't he?" the sound of a young woman's voice broke the silence.
With a sniffle, Kagome quickly brushed the tears from her face and eyes before turning to the owner's voice. Leaning on the doorframe between the kitchen and the hallway, was her sixteen-year-old daughter. Behind her raven bangs, beneath the dark mascara and black lipstick, under the nose and eyebrow piercings, an irate expression was fixated on the girl's face. Even if Kagome had been unable see her daughter's obscurred face at the moment, she could still feel the anger rippling from her daughter's aura. Kagome sighed.
"I'm sorry for waking you, Maiki. Your father and I--"
"He is not my father," she corrected with venom. Kagome winced at her slip-up. Maiki had refused to address him as her father forabout two years now.
"I'm sorry. Nanashi and I--"
"Why do you keep apologizing?" Maiki interrupted again. "Quit being sorry all the time! Especially to him! You don't deserve this, mama! Why do you let him do this to you? Why do you put up with it? Why don't you leave him?"
"Maiki. Honey. I- I can't. You know I can't. How will I be able to support us if I left him? I have to stay with him. For you. At least until you get through college. Until then--"
"Bullshit, mama! We don't need him. You don't need to be treated like some battered housewife. I don't need his money for college. I don't want it. If I must, I'll even drop out of school to get a job--"
"No, honey. I don't want you dropping out of school. Not like I did."
"Mama, it wouldn't be permanent," Maiki's voice calmed a bit, trying to reason with her mother. "Only until we got on our feet again."
"No, I can't do it. I won't let you give up on yourself, Maiki. And even if we were able to survive on our own, you know that I don't have any money to divorce your fa--"
"--Nanashi with," Kagome stated solemnly. "We're better off staying with him."
Silence once again filled the dark house. For several long moments, Maiki stared at her mother, unable to believe that her mother would once again succumb to this miserable existence. When had her mother deteriorated from the lively, bright young woman that she had been into the pale and timid shadow of her former self?
"Shouldn't you be sleeping? You have school in the morning," Kagome changed the subject. She had just noticed that Maiki was still wearing her make-up from earlier in the day, indicating that she had not bothered going to bed yet. The teenager rolled her eyes as she pushed off of the doorframe. She retreated down the hallway to her room. Kagome sank down to the floor, sitting against the cupboards. Hugging her knees to her chest, she allowed despair to overcome her. Silently, she cried, alone in the darkness.
Nanashi - without name
Maiki - pure of heart, "ma" meaning "pure", "iki" meaning "heart"
A/N: Based on Japanese custom to address others (acquaintances) by their family name, it is understood that "Hojo" would be his last name. Thus, I gave him a first name, since (as far as I know) he is never addressed as anything besides Hojo. And based on its meaning, I felt that "Nanashi" was appropriate.