Chapter Seven: Patientia - Ira
When Cliff returned to the room of roses and emptiness where Kai and Clair were, he saw them in a similar position to before, this time on the couch. She was clinging to him desperately as he tried to soothe her pain. "Now you know why I'm so hopelessly messed up, now you know, Jack."
"Kai, my name is Kai and you're not hopelessly messed up, you can overcome this. It's hard, but you can do it," Kai tried to console her.
"You were the first I truly loved, Jack, the firs who wasn't just an accessory to me," Clair sobbed. "The first and the only. I was mean to you despite you being Cliff's friend. You said you knew there was good in me so you were still kind. You stole my heart, Jack, don't you remember?"
"I don't remember, because I'm not Jack," Kai insisted more sternly this time. He tried to pry Clair off himself, he tried to pull her away so she could see his face, now devoid of the hat and scarf. He wanted her to see that he wasn't Jack.
"Stop that, you're hurting her," Cliff sat on the same couch on the other side of Clair and took her in his arms. "It's okay Clair, it's okay, I'm here."
"Jack, don't ever leave me, Jack..." Clair clung to Cliff her head resting on his shoulder, her eyes closed tightly.
"That will only hurt her more," Kai insisted. "She has to see the truth, denial never helps anyone, it didn't help me get over my parents death when I was a child, even if I pretended it did. The sooner she faces the truth the better."
"Stop it!" Cliff half scolded and half begged.
Clair distanced herself from cliff, then stood up and walked to the window opening in and breathing in the chilled air. "Winter is really on its way, or maybe it's already here. Kai is right, I have to face it, Jack is dead and before he died, he married another. Maybe he's better off dead. I'm sorry Kai, but I won't be able to help you any more. You can stay here and hide from the police, but I am no longer interested in avenging Jack's death."
Kai sighed, letting out his tension, but still keeping many more inside. "I understand, maybe it's best this way." An uncomfortable silence invaded the room for several minutes until Kai could no longer withstand it. "Are you two hungry? I'll make some dinner, how about it?"
"That sounds good," Cliff agreed while Clair nodded quietly.
Cliff and Clair watched Kai prepare the meal, with Cliff occasionally commenting on something. Then the three ate in silence and retired to sleep, with Cliff spending the night at the mansion also.
xoxox xox xoxox
With the arrival of a new day, an interesting letter was delivered to Clair, which requested her presence for the reading of Jack's will. She left on her own, insisting that she would be fine, while Cliff and Kai paced in circles, debating if they should go after her.
It was just over an hour when Clair returned with a smile plastered on her face. "Hello boys, aren't I the lucky one, having two handsome men waiting for me like well trained dogs," she laughed in crystal clear laughter that made Kai marble at her cheer.
Cliff grinned big, "Clair, you're back," he meant it in more ways than one. She was not only literally back, but seemingly back to her old self, the self that she only showed to Cliff and Gotz.
"Not entirely, but I'll get there," Clair admitted. "I suppose some explanations are due." She retrieved an envelope from her designer purse. "This, my friends, is the deed to Jack's farm with my name on it. My guess is he wrote a will before he was stolen by Karen and forgot to change it. You should have seen her face, it was priceless, I wish I had brought a camera. The farm is mine and it will one day be a lovely hotel and resort. In fact, I'm planning to go there right away to take a better look at the land. You two can tag along if you wish, we take off tonight!"
"It's short notice and unexpected, but I'm there," Cliff assured. "I'm going to get my luggage ready; I'll be back in a few hours."
"Can I come?" Kai inquired. He didn't know what he would do locked up in that mansion by himself.
"Sure, but you're going to need some clothes for the trip and I have to buy some things anyway," Clair asserted. "I'll pick up some things for you on the way.
Kai was about to say it was unnecessary, but realized he was in no position to shop for himself, or even provide his debit card, as it was the card of a fugitive. "Thank you, I'll repay you somehow."
"No worries, I'm not always grouchy you know, you just saw my worse side." It was obvious in Clair's eyes that she was still hurt, everything was still sinking in, but she was trying her best to face it bravely and surely making progress.
xoxox xox xoxox
The shopping trip and subsequent flight down south to the warm weathered small town where the farm was located went without incident. The trio of travelers made their way down the rural roads on foot because not even the taxi that they took at the airport could take them that far in the narrow and uneven dusty terrain. They looked very much like tourists with Clair wearing a sunflower decorated sundress and large hat with a yellow ribbon, accompanied by comfortable sandals. Cliff and Kai both choose similar casual attires, consisting of the all purpose classic jeans, tshirts and sneakers. Kai wore big sunglasses to hide his face and a blond wig that combined with his tan made him look like a typical bleach-haired surfer.
Dragging their luggage along, they kept walking down the road until the vast farmland came into view. The three travelers stopped taking in the view as a welcomed breeze blew. It was as if summer never left that place, no matter what month of the year it was. The land was overgrown with weeds, yet the wild flowers that managed to make their way into the fields gave it an almost mythical ambience. It wasn't until all three travelers were in front of the little house to which Clair carried the key that they finally realized how tired they were from their walk.
They entered the house, their steps disturbing the dust that had been collected on the floor. They set their luggage aside and exited the house just as quickly as they went in, sitting on an old bench in front of it that creaked in protest as it struggled to support their combined weight.
The travelers remained silent for a long moment until Clair finally spoke, "I'm just about dying of thirst."
There couldn't possibly be anything good to drink inside, the house had been empty for several days and the utilities were disconnected. "I'll go get us something from the near by town," Cliff offered, standing from the bench that appeared to become unbalanced being empty on one side. He was the obvious choice for the task, since Clair was clearly no longer in the mood for walking and Kai might feel uneasy being seen more than necessary, even if he was in disguise and in the possession of a false ID thanks to Clair and her connections. With such thoughts in mind, Cliff left.
"There's a beach near by," Clair broke the silence that lingered after Cliff left. "Maybe after Cliff gets back we can all go. A good vacation is exactly what I need right now, even if it is in the middle of nowhere, or maybe it's a good thing that it's the middle of nowhere."
"What if someone sees me?" Kai worried.
Clair laughed, "what part of middle of nowhere did you not understand? You can lose the wig now, no one will recognize you anyway and if they do, the country bumpkins will assume you're just a look alike. Relax, have fun, you have nothing to fear while in my care."
"Why did you decide to continue giving me sanctuary?" Kai curiously asked, it was a question that had been floating in his mind since Clair declared she no longer wished to avenge Jack.
"I don't know," Clair admitted, "I guess I just did. Maybe you shouldn't question it, count your blessings and be grateful for your luck, try to enjoy it while you're at it. Although if you really were lucky, I suppose you wouldn't be in this mess in the first place."
"They say that everything happens for a reason, maybe this whole mess has a reason to be," at least it was a small comfort for Kai to think so.
"Whatever it is, it was still troublesome and I'll be glad to leave it all behind," Clair's tone turned dark for a moment, but she maintained her calm expression.
A few more minutes passed without conversation, just two people in need of a vacation, enjoying a relaxing breeze in a sunny afternoon. Cliff finally arrived, out of breath from all his running. He was carrying a small cooler, obviously hoping that the ice wouldn't melt on the way back. He also purchased an assortment of snacks and while looking through them Clair decided they were better off eating at the beach. Much to Cliff's surprise, Kai decided to go with the flow, despite his status as a fugitive, and enjoy his time there.
The rest of the day was spent on a beach that was beautiful but desolate save for Clair, Kai and Cliff. The locals were busy with their farm work and such tasks and the land was devoid of tourists as there were no real accommodations for them. Day after day, they enjoyed their vacation until a month later it was time to return to the snowy city from where they came to allow the construction of the hotel and resort to begin.
xoxox xox xoxox
There was one time in particular that stood out from their vacation. Cliff had returned home after only two weeks of being on vacation, insisting that he had business to tend to and giving Kai a sly smile on his way out. It was after Cliff had left, when Kai and Clair were alone one evening at the beach... "You might be better off hiding away here." Clair spoke with a hint of sadness.
"Wouldn't you get lonely without me?" Kai inquired, exaggerating hurt.
"You're a flirt when you get comfortable around girls, you know that?" Clair rolled her eyes.
"It usually doesn't take me this long to get comfortable," Kai admitted, feeling like an open book in front of Clair.
"That scary, am I?" Clair chuckled jokingly at first, then gained a solemn expression. 'I guess I really must be scary, wanting to shoot things and people, being so selfish and vengeful."
"I don't think you're a bad person," Kai stated truthfully. "I'm not only saying this because you had mercy on me, I mean it beyond that. You've been through a lot that I found out about before I had the right to know, before you could willingly tell me. I can only begin to imagine what it was like, but you're still here, you're still strong. Even with all that has happened recently and in the past, you're still brave and strong. That's pretty amazing, there's something about you that makes me admire you, you're survivor a Clair, no one can bring you down."
"I don't fully face my truths," Clair admitted.
"Neither do I, I suppose, but maybe we can. I'll tell you..." Kai offered after a moment's hesitation, "I'll tell you all about me and... You don't have to tell me anything if you don't feel comfortable, but just know that you can tell me all about you whenever you feel up to it..." That was how it all started, how they bared their very souls to each other.
xoxox xox xoxox
The return to the city came with many changes. Kai, who had practically forgotten he was a fugitive, had to readapt to his life of hiding. Then one fateful day Popuri called out from the gates of Clair's mansion and was allowed inside by the owner of the residence whose face was adorned with a scowl the second she saw the strawberry haired woman.
Without a word she led Popuri to the main room at the entrance where the stairs crossed over each other in the shape of an X. There Kai was cleaning up after the task of removing the old farmland painting was done, replacing it with a painting of a detailed ocean scenery. "Kai..."
Kai looked at Popuri, he had not even noticed she was there. "Popuri?" The name felt unfamiliar. When did he forget about her? When did Clair occupy his every thought? It's been a while...
"It has... I haven't seen you in so long and I... I'm sorry!" She seemed upset for some reason, or maybe ashamed. "I was so lonely and he comforted me."
"Did you find someone special?" Kai asked with a relieved smile. Popuri stared at him in surprised, mixed with relief. "I'm happy for you, I did too."
"I guess that's how it is..." Popuri didn't expect Kai to ask about the man who stole her heart, nor did she intend to ask about the woman who stole his. It was obvious, it had to be Clair, who else was he around all the time?. "When were you going to tell me?"
"Well..." Kai left the statement hanging, he had little to answer with.
"You forgot about me, didn't you?" Popuri pouted, "fine, be that way!" She crossed her arms and stomped her feet.
"Why are you mad, you were going to dump me anyway!" Kai defended.
"As opposed to just forgetting to break things off and leaving you waiting." Swiftly turning around, Popuri marched out of the mansion. Though she was upset, Kai knew deep down that she wouldn't tell on him, and if she did it was Clair's word against hers and Clair Moon always won.
Clair reappeared in the room, observing the new painting. "Is that woman gone?"
"Yeah, she's gone, don't worry, I don't think she'll tell anyone I'm here." Kai made his way down the stairs to stand next to Clair admiring the painting. "It reminds me of the beach we vacationed on. We talked about a lot of things, didn't we?"
"Indeed," before Kai could place his arm around her waist pretending it was an automatic motion he didn't notice, Clair disappeared from his side, as if it was a mere coincidence that she moved swiftly and suddenly at that precise moment. "Clair..."
"Make sure this place is clean, top to bottom," Clair waved her hand dismissively as she walked away not facing him.
"Clair wait, about our vacation," Kai insisted to bring up the subject she had been avoiding as if it never happened.
"Later Kai, I don't have time to talk now. With the construction going on I'm very busy overseeing the procedures," with her usual excuse, Clair disappeared from Kai's sight as she always did.
He had thought they became closer during their vacation. He had heard about her past in the words of another, but hearing her tell him about it from her perspective was different. It took a confession of his own past and feelings to get her to open up enough to speak of hers, one evening as the sun set when they were alone at the beach. The kiss that followed felt all too natural and caught in the moment, Kai wouldn't have minded if Clair did call him by another name, but he loved that she called him by his real name.
When morning came she acted as if nothing ever happened, even if Kai was certain that Clair was in her full senses and remembered everything just as clearly as he did. She simply didn't want to talk about it, which he would have a much easier time dealing with if she acted natural instead of avoidant, which was what truly bothered him. If they didn't know where they stood and took their time in figuring it out, that was fine by him, but they weren't going to figure out anything by avoiding each other.
xoxox xox xoxox
The ultimatum began to develop when Clair, after a week of working Kai like a slave in hopes of discouraging his romantic advances, received a direct confrontation from her refugee. "Be honest with yourself Clair, you're either a coward or a sadist, but either way you lo-"
"It's Jack's journal," Clair ended Kai's speech by shoving a book into his hands. "Do me a favor and burn it." Then she swiftly left his side.
Kai flipped through the book, finding information about farming, some accounting calculations, diagrams of what should be planted where on the farm, notes about seeds, crops and livestock, and similar things. It wasn't much of a journal per se, it was more like a hand written farmer's manual lacking the organization of an index.
Looking beyond that, Kai did notice why it was also a journal. There were notes and scribbles here and there. The birthdays of different people, people from the only nearby town Kai assumed, were written in the corners of the pages. Kai also noticed a few notes about what each person liked and what they didn't like. Opinions and perceptions were mixed in with the facts, giving insight to the writer's thoughts.
There was a page in which Clair was described as wild and untamable, hiding a secret, with an unusual sense of justice. Karen was described as well but each characteristic was accentuated with a question mark. It was as if Karen was trying to steal Jack away with her charm and Jack himself suspected that charm might be false.
As the pages went on filled with more farming tips, another page came up with a comparison of Clair and Karen as if writing the pros and cons of each one could help Jack organize his thoughts. "Couldn't he do this in his head?" Kai looked over the list, the characteristics seemed to fit, as if Karen had come out of her shell and truly fallen in love with Jack. Then finally there was a piece of paper folded and tugged into the journal, an unsent letter Jack must have forgotten about.
Long time no see, next time I'll come visit you. I might move into the city with Karen. She says she's pregnant so we need to get married, something about the procedures of her society or something. I told her she and the child could just live with me at the farm, but she was opposed to the idea.
Sorry about that, dropping the bomb on you like that. You introduced me to Clair and I know you thought we were together. We were for some time, but I made my choice and it's Karen. She's an enigmatic sassy city girl, but she's not an untamable wild spirit like Clair. Besides, Clair is intent on not being caught. A man would have to be incredibly stubborn or just plain suicidal to keep chasing after her.
I hope we can still be friends!
Kai got the fireplace ready and burned the journal along with the letter just as Clair asked. On a whim, he took the letters that had been in the stolen music box and burned them too; Clair didn't seem to care about them despite Kai having told her about their contents during one of their evening conversations on the beach side when they talked about anything and everything.
xoxox xox xoxox
The next day, Kai found himself at a loss of what to do. He was a free man with nowhere to go. Clair had forged some suicidal notes and used her connections to clear Kai's name. As he was no longer in need of a sanctuary, Clair booted him from her property and he had no choice but to leave. Perhaps she was getting attached and didn't want to be, but he had already begun chasing her and felt that he couldn't break free from that chase. Maybe in a certain sense, he too had the heart of a hunter.
He knew he couldn't apply for his old job. Karen still thought he was a murderer absolved by Clair in some sort of twisted display of power. He had no where to go and more importantly, he didn't know where he wanted to go. He wandered around and was caught by the falling snow, taking refuge in the nearest building he saw after his long walk without a destination.
The building was a library and at the counter a young woman with long dark hair and glasses gasped at his entrance. Kai tried to give her a charming smile, which worked wonders on most girls, before his picture appeared in the news advertised as a murderer. He knew it would no longer have the same effect, even if his name was cleared. He thought it was unfair that the absolution wasn't advertised nearly as much as the crime in the news.
Having heard the woman's gasp and becoming curious about its cause, a man with blond hair, blue eyes and a baseball cap, who was browsing the bookshelves, peeked over. "Kai?" As Kai turned towards the voice, the man rushed towards him. "It is you! You had me worried, man!"
"Gray? What in the world? It's been ages!" Kai exclaimed, seeing his childhood friend after so long.
"Yeah, it has. I nearly died of shock when I saw you were falsely accused," Gray confessed. "I never believed it, I knew you had to be innocent. To think the whole thing was a suicide. If that guy wanted to die so badly, he didn't have to cause trouble for the living by hiding his suicide note so well!"
"Yeah..." Kai bit his lip; the mystery of Jack's murder still remained unsolved. Who did it and why? Would the murderer take more lives?
"There's a rumor going around you were hiding out at Clair Moon's mansion. That chick's crazy, I tried making a living as her butler but... Well, let's just say we had a disagreement and she tried to kill me. I tried accusing her of attempted murder, but the accusation mysteriously vanished in the vast paperwork of the police. That woman's got connections all over the place. I think Harris is the only decent cop left in this city. If not for Mary, I wouldn't have come back." Gray observed Kai's shocked expression and chuckled. "Don't think so much about it. I wasn't injured, I just don't want to see another gun wielding woman for as long as I live, not even in a movie. I'm telling you, all women should be sweet like Mary... But what am I saying, you always did like the firecrackers didn't you?"
This time Kai laughed along with Gray. His shock wasn't about Clair having psychologically scarred someone; the shock was about finding who that someone was. The butler who wore the same size clothes as him was his childhood friend. "I guess Clair's right up my alley, stubborn, temperamental and fierce."
Gray laughed again, but Kai only grinned until Gray realized that he wasn't kidding. "Are you insane? I knew you had guts when it comes to flirting, but this isn't courage, it's suicide!"
Kai laughed truly amused, "that's what you told me about surfing in a storm and I did anyway. Gotta face danger if you're going to get through life."
"You just love the rush of adrenaline, don't you?" Gray shook his head but grinned nonetheless.
"Hot chocolate?" The young librarian's gentle voice brought the two men's attention to three steaming mugs filled to the brim with chocolate each having several white marshmallows floating in it.
"Thanks Mary," Gray picked up a mug and took a sip. "Oh yeah, I haven't even introduced you two. Kai, this beauty is my fiance, Mary, and the man with the taste for dangerous women is my best pal from childhood, Kai."
"Nice to meet you," Kai winked, aware that Gray knew him well enough not to think badly of the action.
"Likewise," Mary giggled. "I am glad your named was cleared, Gray always assured me that you were innocent when we heard the news." Mary shyly commented. "I know this may sound a bit cold, but I do believe everything happens for a reason and the fact that you were mistakenly mixed up in this might be... well..." She trailed into silence, not knowing how to avoid sounding insensitive.
"I know what you mean," Kai supplied. "I wouldn't know Clair like I do if not for this mess and I wouldn't be so willing to chase after her."
"So the flirt has finally been caught in the net of a cunning hunter pretending to be prey," Gray teased.
Kai grinned, "looks like it."
xoxox xox xoxox
A few days later, Clair stood at the beach watching the ocean to the sound of the heavy construction going on near by. The hotel's name was Sanctuary, a secluded place in a peaceful paradise that offered a beautiful beach escapade away from the bustle of the big city, complemented with casinos and souvenir shops for tourist to spend their money. The place wasn't even finished and Clair's clever marketing already had rich tourists from across the globe calling in for a reservation for the grand opening.
She felt an approaching presence and turned to see a familiar man. "What are you doing here Kai? This is officially private property now, even the beach."
"You put your contacts to good use, didn't you? This is going to be quite the business." Kai chuckled. "Why are you so surprised to see me? It's not the first time I trespassed on your land. If I recalled, the last time you stole me away at gunpoint, such efforts are no longer necessary, I'll come willingly," he winked.
Clair let out a breath to muffle a laugh. "Are you stubborn or suicidal?"
"Definitely stubborn," Kai grinned.
"Well, I'm not looking for a relationship," Clair was stubborn too.
"Fair enough, are you looking for an employee then? You've got a nice place opening up here," Kai insisted.
"I'll work you to the bone for minimum wage," Clair threatened.
"Fine by me, I've already survived being your slave, I can do it again," Kai remained resolute. "Besides, I don't intend to live off your kindness, Miss Moon. I already owe you big as it is for the past favor; it was an offer I couldn't refuse. I'll pay you back, so don't send your boys to collect, capiche?"
"Be serious," Clair punched Kai lightly on the arm.
"I am being serious; I'm looking for a job that allows me to stalk you. Do you think you have any openings?" Kai leaned in close to Clair, "I happen to know you got yourself a new place near here." It didn't come as too much of a surprise that she would move away as part of the process of getting a fresh start.
"I might have an opening for personal slave, but the qualifications are quite rigorous," Clair offered with a completely serious business tone.
"I won't let you down," Kai answered in the same way, extending his hand to seal the deal.
He grinned as they shook hands, causing her expression to change as well. "If you get out of line, me and my connections will do a number on you, and if not, me and my gun."
"I think that in any case, more so than your connections and gun, I should be more worried about you," Kai chuckled, he paused as if debating if he should mention the next part, then continued. "I hate to bring this up in the middle of good flirting, but I can't focus with this nagging feeling that won't go away."
"Spontaneous, aren't you?" Clair laughed. "So what's wrong? Do you need to go to the bathroom or something?"
"No, it's not that," Kai frowned, he didn't want to sour the mood, but he had to get the question off his chest. "I've been wondering about who did it. I mean, what if it happens again?"
"Oh, that!" Clair realized he was talking about Jack's murder. It took a while for the transmitter in the church confessional to run out of batteries. The culprit was Jeff, he knew that Sasha was in love with another man and wanted to arrange Karen's marriage to that man for the sake of keeping him close. To protect his daughter from being caught in the middle of a love triangle involving her husband and mother, he killed off the husband. Except Sasha's plan had failed and Karen had married Jack instead of Dr. Trent."
Clair explained her revelations, "apparently, Jeff didn't know the identity of the man in question and assumed it to be Jack. He confessed the whole thing to Carter and I heard. Unfortunately the transmitter ran out of batteries soon after and that was the end of the juicy confessions. Honestly, I don't think Jeff is going to cause anymore harm, he was terrified and regretful. We're not really letting a true killer out on the loose if we ignore this."
"Wow," Kai could do little more aside from looking shocked. "I was the scapegoat for someone who looks totally harmless. He's always getting pushed around, it's no wonder he snapped. Maybe Karen suspected something about Dr. Trent too, that must be why some tension developed between them." Then as an outlet, Sasha started treating Popuri as her daughter instead of Karen.
"If that ever blows up, it's their problem to deal with," Clair shrugged. "I'm done playing detective, it's back to the mafia for me."
"The most interesting part is that I don't even know if you're kidding," Kai admitted.
"You'll find out soon enough," Clair wrapped her arms around Kai in an embrace he gladly welcomed. They shared a kiss as the sun set in the horizon. They had found their sanctuary.
Disclaimer, I don't own Harvest Moon.