Children of the Sea
by Naia Zifu

The beach was nearly deserted at that time of day. The sun was but
a sliver on the horizon and the cool ocean breeze ruffled her hair so it
framed her face perfectly. Her deep-blue eyes stared out over the water as
we walked hand in hand in the moonlight. I was watching only her.
Suddenly she stopped and squeezed my hand, hard. Her eyes went wide
but remained fixed on the surf.
Voice quivering and barely above a whisper, she stammered,
"Ha-Haruka. . ."
I turned to look over the water, not knowing what to expect, but saw
nothing unusual.
"Michiru, what is it?" I asked, knowing she was more in tune with
the sea than I, and would be more likely to sense a disturbance.
She let go of my hand and started out into the water, shouting some-
thing about a drowning child, but I saw no-one. I ran after her, and caught
up where the surf was waist-deep. I took her by the shoulders and led her
back to the sand. She was shivering, her dress soaked and clinging to her
body, and she couldn't stop crying. She just kept babbling about some child
she'd been trying to rescue, but wouldn't calm down enough to say anything
coherent. My only concern was to get her back to our hotel room and out of
those wet clothes before she caught a cold.
I drew a hot bath and set out warm night-clothes for her, and put on
some water for tea. Only then did I notice my own wet clothing, and changed
into my navy pajamas. I hummed quietly to myself as I poured boiling water
into two cups.
Michiru's scream startled me--some of the hot water splashed onto my
hand, and I dropped the kettle. Trying to ignore the pain, I hurried to the
washroom to see what was wrong. I found her fetally curled in the corner of
the room, wet, naked, and sobbing hysterically. I held her close, gently
kissed the top of her head, and rocked her like a child. Gradually the
tears stopped and she began to calm down.
"Haruka, your hand--what happened?" she asked, kissing and cradling
it.
"This? Oh, it's nothing," I lied. "Are you okay?" She didn't
answer. "What's wrong, Michiru?"
She looked at the tub for a long time, then down at the floor.
"Never mind. I-I guess I was just imagining things." She promptly changed
the subject. "Haruka, your hand is beginning to blister. We'd better put
some ice on that. Come on."
Having thoroughly dried herself and put on her warm, fuzzy night-
gown, Michiru sat toying with her teacup.
It was obvious whatever was troubling her had something to do with
her vision on the beach, but what, she wasn't telling. I hoped it had been
an isolated incident, and she would be back to normal in the morning. I
didn't like seeing her so upset.
I faked a yawn. "Well, I'm ready for bed. How about you?" I asked.
"Huh?" she said distractedly. "Ara, in a minute." She forced a
smile.
I ran my fingers through her still-damp aqua curls and kissed her
soft lips. She wanted to be alone for a while. I could understand that,
especially with what she had gone through that evening.
"Okay, but if you need anything. . ."
She nodded and returned my kiss. "Goodnight, love. Get some
sleep."
I laid awake waiting for Michiru as long as I could, but she never
came. I awoke in an empty bed, clutching her pillow. I called her name,
then got up to look for her, but the hotel room was empty. I panicked. I
knew I should never have left her alone. As strangely as she'd been acting
the night before, she could have gone into the ocean again. What if. . .
I put on a T-shirt and jeans, and my sneakers without socks, and ran
outside to search the beach.
I found her sitting by the ocean, still wearing her fuzzy night-
gown, which was as soaked and clingy as her dress the night before. Her
hair hung in limp, wet locks. Waves washed over her lap as she sat staring
blankly at the horizon, eyes bloodshot from crying and lack of sleep. I
knelt beside her and put my arm around her trembling body.
"Haruka," she whispered, laying her head on my shoulder, "gomen."
"Sorry? For what?"
"I was such a fool. I thought I could save him." She paused, and
sighed. "I tried to, over and again, but I can't save him. He's dead
already."
I didn't know what to say. I helped Michiru back to our room, into
dry night-clothes, and into bed. I sat with her and held her hand until she
fell asleep. Then I made myself a cup of strong coffee and went out onto
the balcony to think.
The ocean breeze came in to comfort me, wrapping around my body in a
warm embrace.
"Maybe you can tell me what's going on here," I said to the wind.
"Something is troubling my poor Michiru, so much that she's become afraid of
the water. Michiru always loved the water. Do you think it could be
something about this particular beach?"
I turned to watch her sleeping peacefully, sunlight streaming
through the window giving her an angelic glow, and I knew what I had to do.
I went back into the room and started packing my bags.
Michiru seemed much calmer when she awakened that afternoon. Still,
I didn't want to take unnecessary chances. I sat her down at the table,
covered her hand with my own, and gazed into her endless blue eyes.
"Michiru, love, I've noticed something's been troubling you since we
got here. It's worrying," I said. "I think after what happened last night,
we should probably cut our vacation short and go home."
"Go home?" She was visibly upset. "But we just got here."
"I know, but you should have seen yourself last night, Michiru.
Even bathing made you hysterical, and you spent all night on the beach
chasing some ghost. I'm afraid this place may not be good for you."
Michiru smiled and gently touched my cheek. "I'm fine now. Really.
And right now I just want to spend a romantic vacation at the beach with the
woman I love."
"Yeah, but--"
She put a finger to my lips. "No 'buts,' Haruka. Now go put on
that sexy bikini I bought you, and let's go swimming."
Reluctantly, I complied, still not convinced she really was better.
I stayed close to Michiru as she swam, unable to enjoy the water
knowing she might bolt away at any moment.
Her swimming was much better than mine, so when she suddenly started
off at top speed, yelling again about the drowning child I still couldn't
see, I was left far behind and struggling to catch her before she went too
far. I might not have reached her at all had she not finally stopped on her
own.
"I-I did it again, didn't I?" she said once I'd caught up to her.
"It's okay, you're all right now. Let's just get you back to
shore."
"Gomen ne, Haruka," she apologised. "I tried to resist. He just
kept calling to me again and again. I couldn't help it."
"Don't worry, Michiru, we'll figure this out somehow," I promised.
Exhausted from the swim, I collapsed onto the beach blanket.
Michiru sat beside me, scarcely even breathing hard. Neither of us spoke
for a long time.
"You're right, Haruka," she said at last. "This place isn't good
for me. We should probably go."
"Haruka-san! Michiru-san!" a childish voice called. "I didn't know
you were here."
"Odango Atama," I said with a forced smile. "Konnichi-wa."
"Konnichi-wa," she replied, giggling. "Are you vacationing here,
too?"
Michiru answered, "Actually, we were just about to leave."
"Leave?" Usagi whined. "How come?"
"There's something strange going on here," Rei said, coming over.
Michiru was surprised. "Then, you've seen him too, Rei-chan?"
"I. . .can feel the presence of a restless spirit, but whose I don't
know," she answered. "Doshite? What have you seen?"
Michiru lowered her head and spoke softly. "It started last night
when Haruka and I were walking on the beach. I heard a voice calling for
help, and when I looked he was there, splashing about helplessly, being
carried further and further out to sea, and only I could see him. I thought
I could help him, but whenever I get close he vanishes. And he won't leave
me alone--even in the bath I could hear him calling. But there's nothing I
can do. He's dead already. I can't save him."
I gave her shaking hand a comforting squeeze. "I thought it best
we should go," I said, "since this place has such a bad effect on Michiru.
So much for our perfect romantic vacation."
Usagi announced, "Don't worry, Haruka-san, Michiru-san, we'll take
care of this ghost. You just enjoy your vacation together."
Michiru and I exchanged uncertain looks.
"Arigato, Usagi-chan," Michiru said, "but are you sure you can?"
The girl nodded vigorously, long blonde ponytails dancing along.
"Rei-chan will try to communicate with the ghost, while Ami-chan reads old
obituaries to find out who he is, and then once we know all that we can have
a seance or something and--"
"Usagi, what do you know about dispelling restless spirits?" Rei
asked irritably.
Usagi seemed embarrassed. "Well, nothing really, but. . ."
Rei rolled her eyes. "Maybe you should leave it to the experts,
then," she said annoyedly, then said to Michiru in a calmer tone, "Do you
see the ghost now, Michiru-san? Could you point him out to me?"
"There," she replied immediately, pointing.
Rei squinted into the distance, then turned back to us and said,
"You two can go back to your hotel room now. I'll see what I can do here."
The dark-haired girl went to the water's edge and began chanting. I
watched her for a long time, intrigued. Rei was a mysterious girl whose
rituals always held a certain fascination for me.
"Haruka," Michiru said softly, putting her hand on my thigh. Her
deep-blue eyes sparkled like sapphires. "I was just thinking how nice a
warm bath would feel about now."
"A bath?" I repeated. "But the ghost. . .are you sure you'll be
okay alone?"
Michiru moved her hand along my thigh. "But I won't be alone.
You'll be right there in case anything happens." I raised an eyebrow in
interest, as her hand continued travelling along my thigh. "And if you're a
good girl, I may even let you wash my hair."
"You know how much I love your hair," I said, curling a lock around
my finger. "And if you're a good girl, I'll let you wash my. . .
everything."
"Well, you know how I love your. . .everything," she replied, giving
me one of her patented Michiru "looks." She took my hand and led me back to
our hotel room, being sure to hang the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door on
the way in.
Michiru stood on the balcony, hair still damp from the bath, wearing
nothing but panties and one of my shirts, watching the sunset. I stepped
out after her and put my arms around her waist from behind.
"Feel better now?" I asked, kissing her neck.
She nodded. "I don't even see him there now," she said, sounding
confused.
I scanned the beach and found Rei still standing by the water, the
incoming tide beginning to cover her feet and ankles, still concentrating on
her chant. She had barely moved at all.
Michiru turned around and put her arms over my shoulders. The
setting sun bathing her in its orange light, she looked like a goddess.
"Aishiteru," I said, a word I didn't use often enough.
"I know," she answered, running her fingers through my short blonde
hair. "I love you more."
We stood there in silence, staring into each other's eyes, for how
long? Minutes? Hours? A lifetime? It didn't matter. Being alone with my
lover on such a perfect evening, holding her soft body in my arms, nothing
else mattered. Then, wordlessly and in perfect unison, we started towards
the bed.
I awakened with the afternoon sun in my eyes and a numb right arm
caused by Michiru sleeping with her head on my shoulder. I kissed the top
of her head and whispered her name, but she only moaned and resettled
herself on my shoulder, the movement causing a pins-and-needles sensation
along my arm.
"Michiru," I said again, louder, and nudged her with my free hand.
"Wake up, love. You're making my arm numb."
Michiru stirred and opened her eyes. "Ohayo," she said groggily.
"Konnichi-wa," I corrected.
"We overslept."
"I don't mind."
"Neither do I," she said, caressing my chest.
I leaned in to kiss her, but we were interrupted by a knock at the
door. I cursed under my breath as I got out of bed and slipped on my robe.
We'd hung the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the knob, so the maids should have
left us alone. This was one maid who was going to get a piece of my mind.
"Calm down, love," Michiru said, kissing me briefly and smoothing
my dishevelled hair. "Whoever it is, just get rid of them. I'll keep the
bed warm until you get back."
As I approached the door I heard familiar voices outside:
"Have you thought they might still be in bed?" Ami's voice suggested.
"Still in bed?" Usagi repeated, "at this time of day?"
Luna noticed, "The sign on the door says, 'Do Not Disturb.' Maybe
we should come back later."
"Who is it, Haruka?" Michiru called.
"Usagi-tachi," I replied, "getting impatient."
"Okay," she said with a sigh. She got out of bed and took her bag
into the washroom to dress.
Finally I opened the door. The girls saw me in my robe and simul-
taneously flushed bright red. Ami apologised for having woken us and
offered to leave, but Michiru was already dressing, so there wasn't much
point, and I invited them in anyway.
"Did Rei-chan stay at the beach all night?" I asked, noticing her
absence.
Usagi nodded. "She's still there, chanting," she said sadly. "Poor
Rei-chan must be so tired. I don't know how long she can keep it up."
"With any luck, she won't have to," Mako replied. "Ami-chan, tell
them what you found."
The blue-haired girl pulled out a slip of paper and put on her
glasses to read it. "Five years ago a seven-year-old boy named Sato Akio
drowned at this beach. It was an accident, but his mother blamed herself so
much she committed suicide three days later. They found her in the bathtub
with her wrists slashed, the poor woman."
"Tragic," I remarked. "You think this is the same child Michiru's
been seeing?"
"It would seem so."
"The question is, now that we know who this ghost is, how do we put
his soul to rest?" Artemis wondered.
Michiru came out in a flowing white sun-dress, waist tied with a
pink sash, still brushing her aqua-green hair. She smiled and greeted the
girls cheerfully, inquiring about Rei as I had. Hearing she was still at
the beach, Michiru frowned.
"Poor girl, going all night without sleep because of me," she said.
"There is some good news, Michiru-san," Minako said. "Ami-chan
found out who your ghost is. Now all we have to do is find out what he
wants so we can set his spirit free, and everything will be okay."
Chibi Usa sucked her thumb. "He probably just wants what all little
kids want, his mother."
"His mother's been dead for five years, Chibi Usa-chan," Ami
reminded her.
"That doesn't matter. He's dead, too, and it hasn't stopped him
yet," she protested.
"I think Chibi Usa-chan's right," Usagi agreed. "But how do we find
his mother and reunite them?"
We all looked to one another for answers, but none were forthcoming.
The silence made me uncomfortable.
"I should get dressed now," I said, standing abruptly. I picked up
my bag and started for the washroom. "Tell me what you decide."
I dressed in an androgynous outfit of a white short-sleeved shirt
with buttons and khaki shorts, and ran a comb through my hair. When I
returned the others were arguing over how best to reunite the two, with some
of the suggestions getting awfully strange. They stopped when they noticed
me standing there.
"Well?"
"The most we could agree on," Minako admitted sheepishly, "was that
Rei-chan knows more about this stuff than we do. We should ask her advice
on what to do."
I sighed. So many minds working together and that was the best idea
they could come up with?
"I think we should send Rei-chan to bed for a while," Michiru
suggested. "Already she's missed a whole night's sleep over this. I think
she's done more than her share already."
Mako wondered, "How are we supposed to help the ghost kid without
her?"
Ami suggested, "I can try to find out the address of the beach house
where the mother died. If we knew that, we might be able to go there and
talk to her somehow."
"It's a start," Luna agreed. "Ami-chan, iko."
The two dashed out, leaving the rest of us sitting around staring at
each other and wondering what to do next.
"Someone should go get Rei-chan," Artemis spoke up, leaping off
Minako's shoulder and starting for the door. "Coming?"
The blonde shrugged and followed.
After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Usagi asked, "So, um, are
you guys having a nice vacation?"
Mako poked her with an elbow. "Now's not the time for that. We
have to figure out what we can do to help."
"Like what? Ami-chan and Rei-chan are already doing what they can.
I don't know anything about the supernatural."
Chibi Usa exclaimed, "I have an idea! Let's go out for ice cream!"
"Huh? How's that gonna help Michiru-san's ghost?" Usagi asked.
"Well, it's not, but you're paying so much attention to that little
boy who's not even alive, and I was just feeling left out. Can't you do
something for me instead for a while?" She pouted irresistibly.
Why do little girls always know exactly what to say to get what they
want? I picked the pink-haired girl up and hugged her. "I think we can
arrange that, what do you think, Michiru?"
She smiled and patted Chibi Usa on the head. "Do you prefer
chocolate or vanilla?"
Soon we were sitting amidst nearly a dozen ice cream dishes watching
Usagi finish her fourth sundae and Chibi Usa her third. Michiru and I had
stopped at one and Mako two. How those rabbit girls could eat so much and
stay so thin was beyond me. I was feeling sick just watching them.
"Don't you think you guys have had enough?" Mako asked. "Remember,
we aren't even the ones paying for this. And shouldn't we be doing
_something_ to help with that ghost, anyway?"
"Well, what do you suggest we do?" Usagi snapped, mouth still full
of ice cream.
The brown-ponytailed girl shrugged. "Try to talk to him somehow, I
don't know. Anybody got a Ouija board?"
"A what-ji board?" Usagi asked.
"Ouija board," she repeated. "People use them to communicate with
spirits and stuff. I played with one at a friend's sleepover once, and it
got really spooky. They contacted the ghosts of my parents, and I knew it
was them because they knew everything about me. They wanted to tell me how
much they missed me and how proud they were of me, and how sorry they were
they didn't get to say good-bye."
I stifled a laugh. "Why do all 'spirits' say the same thing?" I
scoffed. "I hate to say it, Mako-chan, but your friends were playing a
trick on you."
Michiru kicked me under the table. "Haruka, don't say such things.
Grieving people often need that kind of closure, to know their loved ones
care and that they've gone to a better place. Everyone needs something to
believe in."
"Yeah, yeah, that's the excuse everyone who believes in such
nonsense uses," I said cynically, earning another kick.
"If that's true, then how do you explain this ghost?" she asked.
I shrugged. "Well, you're the only one who's seen it, you tell me."
She kicked me a third time. "Itai! If I bruise later, you're to blame."
"Blame yourself and that big mouth," she retorted, then said to
Mako, "At this point I'm game for about anything. I don't suppose you've a
Ouija board handy?"
"Well, no, but. . ."
"Shopping trip!" Usagi and Chibi Usa cried simultaneously.
Why did I get the feeling one afternoon with them would cost more
than the rest of Michiru's and my vacation all together?
By the time those girls were finished in the toy store, they had
chosen besides their silly Ouija board; a stuffed toy bunny, pink sunglasses
with palm trees, a Sailor Moon board game, a whole family of Mr. Potatoheads,
and a kit to make your own balloon animals. There would have been even more
had I not insisted it was time to leave, and even then before they went out
the door they managed to beg a few coins for the Cardzillion machines. I
had to keep reminding myself of my duty to protect the royal family to avoid
strangling them.
The first thing everyone wanted to do once we got back to the hotel
room was try to talk to the child's spirit, and though they asked me to join
them, I declined, and watched from a safe distance. Mako instructed them
all to place their fingertips on the pointer and concentrate, then said in a
cheesy, fake "medium" voice:
"We seek to contact the spirit of Sato Akio, the child who drowned
at this beach five years ago. Akio-chan, can you hear me?"
Chibi Usa screamed as the pointer moved to the "yes" sign, and
accused Usagi of having moved it. The blonde replied that it hadn't been
her, and accused Chibi Usa in return. A fight was about to ensue until Mako
hissed for both to be quiet lest they scare away the spirit, and asked the
next question:
"Are you the same boy Michiru-san keeps seeing in the surf?"
Again the pointer moved to "yes."
"What do you want?"
It moved to spell "okaa-san."
Chibi Usa smiled smugly. "See? I told you he just wanted his
mother."
"But why, of all the people on this beach, did he choose to approach
me?" Michiru asked.
The pointer was still for a long time, but just as they were
beginning to wonder if their spirit had gone, the pointer said, "you like
her."
"Huh?" Usagi asked. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"I think he's saying I remind him of his mother," Michiru theorised.
The pointer moved to "yes."
Mako asked, "How do we find your mother and get you two back
together?"
The pointer didn't budge.
"Akio-chan," Mako asked worriedly, "are you still there?"
Again it pointed to "yes."
"Then, that means you don't know the answer?"
It moved to "no."
"That's why you need us, right?"
It pointed to "yes."
"Don't worry, Akio-chan, we'll take care of everything," Usagi
announced.
The pointer moved to spell as close to "arigato" as a young child
might get, then pointed to the "good-bye" sign.
They all removed their hands from the pointer and sat silently in
their circle for a few minutes.
Finally Mako turned to me and asked, "So, do you believe in the
Ouija board _now,_ Haruka-san?"
I shrugged. "It could have been any one of you moving that pointer.
I'll believe in this ghost of yours when I see it."
"So, you don't believe I've seen him?" Michiru wondered.
"I believe you saw something," I began carefully, trying to avoid a
confrontation, "but what, I don't know yet. I'm just not the type to
believe in things I can't see, that's all."
Ami rushed into the room with Luna on her shoulder. "We've found
it! We know where the mother committed suicide. I talked to the lady who
lives there now. She's a painter, Michiru-san, you'll like her. She said
we could use her house tomorrow if Luna and I agreed to pose for a
portrait."
"I'm glad you're both willing to do that for me," Michiru said,
scratching Luna behind the ears. The black cat purred contentedly. "We
were just talking to our young ghost when you came. The poor child, I feel
so sorry for him. We have to help him find his mother so he can finally
rest."
Ami looked at the Ouija board skeptically. "You really take what a
Ouija board says that seriously?"
"Arigato, Ami-chan, my thoughts exactly," I said. "I mean, it's a
kids' game, right? How reliable can it be?"
"If it's such a harmless game, why were you afraid to get down there
and play with us?" Michiru teased.
"I wasn't afraid. I just didn't want to be involved in something so
ridiculous."
Michiru laughed and mussed my hair. "You're cute, but terrible at
lying, Haruka."
"Who's lying?" I protested. "You really think I'm afraid of some
stupid little game?"
"Mm-hmm," Michiru said with a smirk, patting my cheek.
"At least we had fun today with Haruka-san and Michiru-san," Usagi
interrupted, hugging her stuffed toy bunny.
Luna scolded, "Usagi-chan, you shouldn't take advantage of their
kindness so much. I think you should apologise and take all that stuff
back."
"It's okay," Michiru said, "what's the point to have a lot of money
if you can't use it to make your friends happy?"
Of course, there's a difference between wanting to make friends
happy and letting them walk all over you. . .
Michiru nudged me in the ribs with an elbow. Had I accidentally
said that aloud? Judging by the lack of negative reaction from the other
girls, I'd guess not. It seemed she'd been reading my mind again. I'd
never understood how she did that.
"Nevertheless, I think we should leave them alone for a while
before you make them take you out to dinner or something," Ami said.
"Dinner! Great idea!" Usagi cried.
"But Ami-chan's right, we've taken enough advantage of them today,"
Mako said. "We should go look for the others."
"Yeah," Chibi Usa agreed, "then we can go back to our own hotel and
get your parents to take us to dinner!"
Usagi nodded and they gathered their things. "Maybe my parents will
take us for seafood!"
They filed out, chattering happily amongst themselves about their
day, what seafood restaurant they wanted to go to, what they wanted to order,
and how nervous they were about tomorrow.
"Matte," Michiru called, "you forgot to say when and where to meet
for tomorrow."
Ami turned around. "Don't worry, we'll drop by and pick you up in
the morning. Don't stay up too late," she said with a knowing wink.
Luna swatted at her with a paw. "Ami-chan, I'm surprised at you!"
The blue-haired girl tried to look innocent. "I didn't mean it
_that_ way, Luna. I just meant they might--"
"I _know_ what you meant," Luna interrupted. "Let's just go before
we embarrass them any more."
Michiru closed the door behind the girls as they left. "Seafood
does sound good about now, eh, Haruka?"
"Oysters," I replied. "They're a natural aphrodisiac."
"How did I know you would say that?" she replied with a smirk. "But
if we're going out I'll have to shower and change first, and put on some
make-up. I was in a hurry and neglected to put any on this morning."
"Okay, okay," I said impatiently. "Geez, it'll take you longer to
talk about it than do it."
She took my hand and led me into the washroom. "Since you're in
such a hurry, maybe we should shower together to save time."
Of course, showering together never saves time. Actually, it always
takes longer. Why do I always let myself fall for that excuse anyway?
I wrote a long message in tiny print on a postcard while waiting for
Michiru to finish primping. I'd been dressed and waiting for over an hour
already and was desperate for ways to occupy the time. One could only watch
so much in-room free television.
"Who's the postcard for?" Michiru asked, holding up different
earrings to each lobe for my opinion.
"My parents," I replied, holding the card up for her to see the
ocean sunset on the front. "Like it?"
She nodded. "It's a nice picture. Now which earrings do you like?"
"The blue dangly ones," I said. "Are you almost ready yet?"
"Hmm, I think the little heart-shaped diamonds," she decided,
ignoring my opinion. "Remember when you gave these to me last year for my
birthday?"
"Of course I remember. They're lovely on you. Ready to go yet?
It's almost eight and I'm famished."
Michiru put on the diamond hearts and fluffed her hair in front of
the mirror. "Do you think I should put my hair up or do you like it like
this?"
"You look great already, Michiru. Now let's go before all the
restaurants close. Why must you always take so long to dress?"
"You know it takes time to look this nice for you," she said, and
kissed me. She picked up her purse and wiped a bit of her pink lipstick
from my lips. "Okay, I'm ready. Iko."
At that time of evening it was hard to find a restaurant to let us
in. We drove around for half an hour before finding one, and it wasn't
nearly as nice a restaurant as we were used to. Looking around at the sea
of American tourists with their cameras around their necks and loud tropical
shirts, I suddenly felt overdressed in my lavender shirt and white sport
jacket. But if Michiru felt as out of place in her fancy floral-print
dress, she didn't show it.
We were shown to a table and, after studying the menu for a while, I
ordered for both of us in English. I was hoping to impress her with that,
but when I looked over she was trying to suppress a laugh.
"Is something wrong?" I asked.
"Not if it was your intention to order raw octopus with a side of
chips," she replied.
I felt my face flush. "Gomen, I guess my English isn't very good
sometimes."
"Don't worry, I'll fix it," she offered, and called the waiter back
over. I tried to follow their conversation, but gave up because they were
talking too quickly. Clearly I needed to study harder in English class from
now on.
"Did you get everything straightened out?" I asked after the waiter
had gone.
She smiled and nodded, propping her chin on her hand. "I just told
him my baka girlfriend was too proud to admit she didn't understand the menu
and made a mistake in ordering. He let me change the order, no problem.
Apparently they get that kind of thing a lot here."
"The restaurant's in Japan, you'd think they'd at least have a
Japanese menu," I complained.
"Well, they would have given you one if you'd asked. It's just, as
you can see, some 98% of their clientele seems to be American tourists.
They probably don't get need them often," she pointed out. "But don't worry,
love, I told you I took care of it. Let's just try to enjoy our dinner and
look forward to what comes after."
I sat staring into her eyes across the table, absently running a
finger around the edge of my water glass. The glass hummed quietly in
response, but I was oblivious to the fact until Michiru took my hand and
told me to stop attracting so much attention. My face flushed crimson as I
noticed all the American tourists staring at us. Suddenly I found something
terribly interesting about the tablecloth, and moved neither my eyes from
its blue gingham pattern nor my hands from my lap until the food arrived.
I nearly choked on my dinner when something brushed my leg under the
table. Michiru, who had eaten her fill already, sat with her chin propped
on her hands, watching me with bedroom eyes. Her right foot was feeling
its way up my trouser leg.
"Have you almost finished eating yet, love?" she asked. "We have to
get up early in the morning, so if we want to get in any 'dessert' tonight
you should hurry and finish your dinner."
I looked down at the remaining food on my plate, then back up to her.
Though I was still hungry, I called for the bill anyway. Wouldn't want to
miss Michiru in such a rare playful mood. . .
I was awakened pleasantly by a kiss early in the morning. The sun
was barely above the horizon and in the dim light I could barely see
Michiru's nude form beside me, her head propped up on her hand. I blinked
sleepily and glanced at the clock. Only 7:30 in the morning. Much too
early to be awake, I thought, especially on summer vacation.
"Haruka, love, are you awake?" Michiru asked.
I yawned and stretched, then wrapped my arms around her soft body.
"Only if I have to be," I replied.
I'd rather have just cuddled with my Michiru and gone back to sleep,
but after a brief hug she got out of bed and put on her robe and slippers.
"Remember, we have to go to that woman's house and try to contact
the ghost mother today," she said, "and since we don't know when they'll be
picking us up, we should try to be dressed and ready early just in case."
I yawned again and rolled over in bed. "I can be showered and
dressed in half an hour. You go ahead, and wake me when you're finished."
"Okay," she agreed, "but the whole reason I woke you this early was
so we could have a nice, relaxing bath together." She pouted in a childish
way.
I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes. I could only find one slipper
and my robe was inside-out, but I got up anyway and smiled sleepily at my
girlfriend, wondering how she could always look so radiant so early in the
morning.
"If you're that tired you can go back to sleep for a while, you know.
If you have a bath like this you'll fall asleep in the water."
"Not with you there to protect me," I replied, kissing her. "But
without Rei-chan to keep the ghost away, will you be okay in the water?"
"That's why _you'll_ be there to protect _me._" She took my hand
and led me into the washroom.
It was well past eight by the time we got out of the bathtub. I
towel-dried my short, sandy-blonde hair and helped Michiru dry her thick
aqua curls, then I dressed in a Sailor Moon T-shirt and jeans and turned on
the television to watch morning cartoons while waiting for Michiru to finish
dressing.
The next thing I knew I was being shaken awake by the now fully-
dressed Michiru. The television was off and the room was full of giggling
Inners staring down at me. Had I fallen back to sleep? For how long? I
looked at my watch. Was it really ten a.m. already?
"Are you awake yet, love?" Michiru asked, picking up her purse.
"It's time to go."
I sat up and rubbed my temples, the long nap having given me a
headache. "Michiru, why'd you let me sleep so long?"
"Gomen," she apologised, "it's just, you looked so sweet lying there
I didn't have the heart to." She smiled, and smoothed an errant lock of
hair that was standing from my nap. "You know, if all goes well today,
we'll be able to enjoy the rest of our vacation in peace, without worrying
about some ghost."
"Okay, okay," I grumbled, standing and stretching my tired body.
"Okay, I'm ready."
We walked the nearly three kilometres along the beach to the woman's
house, Ami and Luna leading the way. It wasn't a long walk, but the summer
heat made it seem so. By the time we got there it was almost lunch time,
the sun was beating down on us at full force, and I felt hungry and
dehydrated after having neglected to eat breakfast.
"I hope this lady's going to offer us lunch," Usagi muttered. "I
haven't eaten a thing since breakfast and I'm starving!"
"Some of us didn't even get that much," I complained, earning an
elbow to the ribs from Michiru.
The woman who answered the door was tall and willowy, with dark,
exotic eyes, flawless ebony skin, and colourful beads decorating her waist-
length black braids. She was beautiful. If only she'd been ten years
younger. . .
Michiru elbowed me in the ribs again. How did she always seem to
know what I was thinking?
"Come in, come in," the woman said in thickly-accented Japanese, "I
was just about to start making lunch. Would you care to join me?"
Usagi and Chibi Usa scrambled through the door. The rest of us
followed less excitedly, taking in the airy design and beautiful decorations
of the house as she led us towards the kitchen.
Michiru asked, "Did you paint all these yourself, Ms. uh. . ."
"Donovan," the woman replied. "Erika Donovan. And yes, I did most
all the paintings in the house. You like them?"
"They're lovely," she complimented, "especially this one. It's so
full of emotion, so much sadness. You must've experienced some great loss
to be able to paint like that."
Ms. Donovan nodded. "I painted that one just after my husband died.
I had to paint then or I'd go mad with grief. I hardly even came out of my
studio for the first few months," she said. "The saddest time in my life,
but the best for my painting. You're Kaiou Michiru, right? I admire your
work as well. How did you go so quickly from painting the end of the world
to the images of love you show now?"
Michiru latched onto my arm and rested her head on my shoulder. "I
have the best kind of inspiration."
"You're a lucky girl," she said, smiling. "Now come on, let's have
some lunch and then I'll show you my ghost. I hope you like grilled
cheese."
Like it? There was a time when grilled cheese was a staple of my
diet. It was one of the few things I knew how to cook at the time, so from
the time I moved out of my parents' house until Michiru moved into my
apartment I practically lived on sandwiches and anything labelled "instant."
I happily ate my cheese sandwiches and any extra the other girls didn't care
for. I guess it's an acquired taste.
After lunch, Ms. Donovan led us upstairs and down a short hallway
to a spacious washroom with a round bathtub and floral stained-glass windows.
It was nearly as big as Michiru's and my bedroom and much more nicely
decorated.
"Is this where you see your ghost?" Minako asked.
She nodded. "Right there in the tub. I see her just lying there
lifeless in a pool of her own blood. I've seen her in other places some-
times, too, wandering the halls with a heartbroken look, but mostly here.
The poor woman. Anything you can do to help release her spirit, please
don't hesitate. I've lived in this house for over a year now and it still
rattles me every time I see her lying there."
"If you're so scared of the ghost, why do you stay here?" Chibi Usa
wondered.
"My husband and I moved here shortly before he died," she explained.
"I can't let some dead woman chase me away now--this is the last connection
with Harold I have."
"You're a brave woman, Donovan-san," Michiru said quietly.
"Please, call me Erika. And really I'm not as brave as you think.
I'm actually terrified of the ghost, but I'm too bloody stubborn to leave."
Rei surveyed the situation before speaking up. "I think I can help
your ghost problem, Erika-san," she said, "but it would help if all of you
cleared the room. . .except Michiru-san."
"Huh? Why her?" Usagi asked.
"Because I'm the one who's been seeing Akio-chan's ghost," Michiru
replied. "I'll stay, Rei-chan. What do you want me to do to help?"
"Actually, I was just going to ask you to fill the tub and wait for
the ghosts," Rei admitted sheepishly. "Since this tub is where the mother
died and water makes Akio-chan appear to you, I thought with a little luck,
and my help, of course, we might be able to bring the two together."
"I want to stay, too," I insisted, wrapping a protective arm around
Michiru. "I just have to make sure nothing happens to her once the ghosts
arrive."
Rei rolled her eyes and sighed. "Okay, okay, just keep out of the
way, all right? And the rest of you, get out of here. I can't have any
distractions if I'm going to do this right."
The others left, grumbling about missing "the good part," and
begrudging me for being allowed to stay. Once they'd left, Rei closed the
door, instructed Michiru to turn on the taps and concentrate, and then
began chanting quietly to herself. That left me with little to do but hover
over Michiru and wait for something to protect her from. I watched the
water filling the bathtub cautiously, as if expecting it to leap up and
attack by itself at any moment. Soon it was hard to even see Michiru
through the steam, as close as I was standing to her, but suddenly a very
clear image appeared in the bathtub. It was a woman who looked like an
older Michiru with blue hair, lying dead with her wrists cut in a pool of
her own blood. I gasped at the sight and turned away, beginning to feel
sick.
Hearing Michiru cry out, I turned back in time to see blood
streaming down her arms as slashes inexplicably appeared on her wrists.
Feeling around frantically for something to stop the bleeding, I found a
towel and held it tightly against her wrists. The blood was soaking through
the towel, and showed no signs of stopping.
"Rei-chan, do something," I called, but got no response. "Michiru,
love, don't die, please don't die, don't leave me now, you know I can't live
without you," I babbled.
Suddenly I heard a tiny voice calling, "Okaa-san, okaa-san, where
are you? I miss you."
The voice increased in volume until a form came into view. For the
first time I saw the ghost Michiru had been troubled by. He was a small boy
with huge blue eyes and dark-blue hair dripping with water, and he wore
nothing but wet blue-and-green-striped swim-trunks.
"Akio-chan?" Michiru murmured in a strange voice. "Akio-chan, is
that you?"
"Okaa-san, I was so scared. I thought I'd never find you," the
ghost said. "The water was carrying me away and I tried to call for you,
but--"
"I failed you," Michiru interrupted. "I was a bad mother. I wasn't
paying attention. I let you die."
"It wasn't your fault. I shouldn't have gone out so far after you
told me not to. It doesn't mean you had to die, too."
"It was too my fault," she snapped. "If I had watched more closely
I could have stopped you before you got that far. I only looked away for
a moment, and. . ." Tears began streaming down her face. "I should have
done something. I should have been able to save you, Akio-chan. What kind
of mother just lets her son die?"
Akio approached with the sweetest, most understanding smile I'd ever
seen. "Okaa-san, I forgive you."
Michiru sniffled and looked up into his eyes. "Y-you. . .forgive
me? Akio-chan, I don't understand."
"People die all the time for all kinds of reasons. You don't have
to blame yourself. There was nothing you could have done. It was just my
time to go," he said. "What did hurt was how you blamed yourself and took
your own life before your time. Don't you know how much it hurt otoo-san to
lose both his wife and child so suddenly? And when you died that way, you
trapped yourself here where I couldn't even find you."
"Gomen."
"It's okay, at least I found you now. We have the rest of forever
to make up for lost time."
He offered a hand, and as he tugged Michiru's hand the spirit of
his mother came out, shining and beautiful, in a flowing dress the colour of
the sky.
The two spirits embraced, and as they did they began to fade into
the mist. I watched with wide eyes until they vanished completely, then
snapped myself out of it and reached to turn the taps off from the
overflowing bathtub. Once the steam had cleared enough to see, I examined
Michiru's wrists to see how badly she'd been cut. To my amazement, I found
not a mark on her. Only the bloody towel was left to show she'd been
injured at all.
"Michiru, are you all right?" I asked, drawing her head against my
chest and stroking her hair.
She nodded and asked weakly, "So, what do you think about ghosts
_now,_ Miss 'I'll believe it when I see it?' "
"Maybe," I replied with mock cynicism. "I can't be sure what I
saw when it was that steamy."
Michiru suddenly found the strength to elbow me hard in the ribs.
The others practically fell in the door when Rei opened it. Usagi
slipped on the damp floor where the tub had run over and fell on her bum.
"Any luck?" Ms. Donovan asked. "Did you get rid of all the ghosts?"
"Well, not quite all," Rei replied with a smile. "I left one pro-
tective spirit I thought you wouldn't mind. He told me his name's Harold
Donovan, that he loves you very much, and he wants you to know he'll be with
you always, no matter what. But you knew he was here already, didn't you?"
Ms. Donovan nodded. "Yes, I see him often. But I thought I was
just imagining things."
"No, he's really here," she assured her. "In fact, he's your self-
appointed guardian angel. You won't have to worry about a thing as long as
he's around."
"I feel safer already," Ms. Donovan said. "Arigato, Rei-chan, for
everything." She hugged the dark-haired girl, then surveyed the room
critically. "Now will someone kindly clean this mess up? Bloody towels,
water all over the floor. . ." She grabbed Ami, who had Luna draped over
her shoulder, and started towards the stairs. "Come on, girl, you still owe
me a portrait, remember?"
The sun was just dipping below the horizon as Michiru and I strolled
along the beach that evening, confident that this time no ghost children
would interrupt us. One arm was around Michiru, and I carried my shoes in
my free hand, letting the water splash over my feet and the sand squish
between my toes. My jacket was draped over her shoulders in protection
against the evening chill. The nearly-full moon overhead bathed everything
in a pale blue light, making her skin seem to glow softly. The way the
breeze blew her hair and delicate sea-green dress, she resembled another
sea spirit herself.
Suddenly Michiru grabbed my arm. "Matte."
I quickly scanned the horizon for signs of anything unusual, but saw
nothing. "What is it this time, Michiru?"
"You look so beautiful in the moonlight," she began with a seductive
smile, "I just wanted to do this." She kissed me so long and passionately I
was left blushing and winded. "Here's to the beginning of our perfect
romantic vacation."




©1998 Naia Zifu, all rights reserved, for all the good it'll do me...
Haruka, Michiru, all the Inner Senshi and the talking cats are SM characters
that I don't own rights to, but Erika Donovan the eccentric painter (and
anyone else in the story I may have forgotten) was created by me, again for
all the good it'll do me... As always, I'm not trying to make money off
anyone else's ideas.
Here it is, my third completed Haruka and Michiru story! A little weird in
places, but not so bad, I think. I hope it's well-received. And there are
still more stories in progress where this came from, so you haven't heard
the last of me! (insert evil laughter here)