A/N: Here comes another retrospective! It's my hope that this format will help me write a little more quickly; April has been a crazy month for me this year and things have finally started to settle down a bit. There will be eight adapted episodes in this story; enjoy, and please let me know what you think!
§ § § - April 16, 2007
Christian and Leslie were preparing to begin their "weekend", which always comprised a Monday and a Tuesday, when the phone rang. Susanna loved the phone; one of her Christmas presents several months before had been a play telephone, and she had all but abandoned her other toys in favor of it, pretending to call everyone she knew—her brother and sister, her parents, her grandfather, even Ingrid. Whenever the real phone rang, she streaked for the nearest one—and sometimes grabbed it before either of her parents could get to it. And that was the case this time. "Hi, hi," babbled the little girl happily.
"Susanna, give that to Mommy," Leslie coaxed.
Susanna merely turned her back on her mother and went on talking cheerfully. "I got all my toys today, come see?"
Leslie reached for her daughter, but Christian, who had been standing in front of the TV set reprogramming channels, lifted a hand to stop her, winked at her, and stealthily stretched a hand out over Susanna's shoulder. Before the child knew it, he'd whisked the phone out of her hand. Susanna squalled indignantly as Christian handed the phone to a grinning Leslie. "Sometimes you have to catch them by surprise," he said.
"Yeah, she's getting too smart lately," Leslie agreed with a laugh. "Thanks, my love." He grinned back, turning to Susanna while she spoke into the phone. "Hello, sorry about that—what can I do for you?"
Roarke was on the other end, chuckling. "I see Susanna is as entranced with the telephone as ever. I am sorry to bother you so soon after you've arrived home, Leslie, but I am afraid I have some sad news." His voice sobered. "I've just been informed that our former sheriff and your friend Michiko's father, Masato Tokita, has passed away."
"Oh no," exclaimed Leslie, catching Christian's attention. "How is that possible? He was only 80!"
"He had not been well for some time," Roarke explained. "That's why Michiko's older sister, Kayoko, and her husband bought the house that your niece Anna-Kristina had lived in with Mateo, and moved back to the island. She was helping Mrs. Tokita care for him. Unfortunately, over the past few weeks he began to decline, and I am given to understand that this morning his wife awoke and realized he must have died in his sleep."
Leslie smiled faintly. "Well, if you have to go, that's the way to do it," she said. "I'm sure Michiko and the others are already on their way home."
"Yes," Roarke said, "Mrs. Tokita informed them first, and I have just heard it from Kayoko. She has asked if you would kindly inform your friends; she knows Michiko will need the company when she arrives."
"Sure," Leslie said, "I'll be glad to. Poor Michiko…thanks for letting me know, Father."
"What happened?" Christian asked as she cut the connection.
"Michiko's father died," Leslie said. "Father says it seems to have happened in his sleep. What a shame…he just turned 80 not so long ago. He told me Kayoko just called him to inform him, and asked if he'd get me to tell the other girls."
Christian nodded. "You go ahead and make the calls, my Rose. I'll see if I can contact Errico and find out if he knows any more, and if he'll give me the flight information." They both knew that most of the Arcolosian royal family was likely to come along with the Tokita sisters, since Reiko had married Errico's youngest brother.
By that evening, not only had Michiko and Reiko arrived with their husbands and children, but so had Saburo and his entire family, as well as Hachiro and Lani with all their boys and their fifteen-month-old daughter Olivia. By now some of Masato and Miyoshi's oldest grandchildren had small children of their own, so it was quite a crowd of people who descended on the Tokita home. Christian and Leslie offered their guest suite for Michiko and Errico to stay in and found a fold-out cushion bed for Catalina to sleep on, while Kiichiro and Kayoko Matsuda outfitted their spare room, their living-room couches and all the sleeping bags they could round up in order to hold their three daughters, the husbands of two of them and the two small children of the oldest. Saburo and his wife, four children and one daughter-in-law found lodgings in the Tokita home, along with Reiko, Mattéano and their two young children, Androno and Nicolina. Hachiro's family was so large that they were forced to take up two bungalows, with Hachiro and the four oldest boys in one and Lani, the three youngest boys and Olivia in the other. Myeko, too, was planning to bring Alexander and Noelle to their grandfather's funeral.
Michiko's Catalina, shy at first, soon fell into energetic play with the triplets, including Tobias, which helped keep all the children occupied while the adults sat in the kitchen and caught up over beverages. Michiko periodically brushed a tear away from one eye or the other as she reminisced about her father, but now and then she laughed a little at one or another memory, particularly when she told Christian, Leslie and Errico about the first time she had ever brought Myeko home from school as a first-grader and Myeko had unwittingly wreaked minor havoc in the Tokita house. "She was terrified of my parents forever after that," Michiko admitted with a wan smile. "She finally realized they weren't dictators after the reunion I put together a couple of summers ago…" Her eyes filled abruptly and spilled right over. "I never thought the next reunion would be for such a sad reason."
"Think of it like this—your father had the chance to meet all his descendants and see them together all in one place before he died," Leslie offered gently. "Even Alexander and Noelle. Myeko and Hachiro can actually talk civilly to each other nowadays. So you did a lot of good, Michiko, organizing that reunion and getting everybody to show up."
"She is quite right, cari mie," Errico assured her. "I have no doubt whatsoever that your father had many warm and happy memories of that gathering to look back upon and smile about. Yes, of course he was taken from you too soon. But he still had a very long and happy life, with his five children and eighteen grandchildren, and even a few great-grandchildren. A man with such a large but close-knit family cannot be anything but blessed, and you can be certain his legacy lives on in all of you."
"Exactly so," Christian said softly. "I'm certain Masato Tokita was a contented man."
Michiko smiled a little again and wrapped one hand around Leslie's while Errico took the other. "Thank you, all of you. It's just so hard right now."
The others nodded; they all understood perfectly what she was going through, since all three had lost both parents. "Anytime you need to talk, just say the word," Leslie said. "I know you're both tired from all that flying, so when you want to get some sleep, just tell us and we'll leave you alone."
Michiko made a face. "I slept a lot on the flights," she admitted. "I figured there was nothing else to do except mourn my father, and I didn't want to do that. I'd rather be with my family than mourn alone, in my thoughts."
"I was there, cari mie," Errico reminded her, "and so was your dear sister Reiko. You certainly were not alone, if you care to recall."
Michiko closed her eyes for a moment. "Oh, I know that. But I didn't really feel like talking about it just yet, the pain was too fresh. Leslie, didn't Mr. Roarke once say something about how a problem shared is a problem already half solved?"
Leslie nodded. "Yeah, and grief shared makes it less—I've heard him say that too. I wish I'd had enough sense to pay attention to that advice in my first few months here. But we all get through grief in our own way. You just feel free to lean on any of us you need to, okay? We're all here for you. The other girls know about it and we'll probably all get together in the next couple of days."
§ § § - April 20, 2007
But Leslie never expected to get together with her friends in quite the way Michiko ended up suggesting they do so. When she saw her friend again in mid-afternoon of the Friday following Masato's death, she was startled by Michiko's first request. "Leslie, I was wondering if it'd be possible to get together for a reminiscing session at the main house, maybe this evening, with the other girls."
"At the main house?" Leslie repeated. "We could just as easily do it at our house, or one of the other girls' places…"
"I don't mean reminiscing about Father so much," Michiko interrupted, absently massaging her forehead with her fingertips. "About past fantasies you've helped Mr. Roarke grant, back in the days when you used to tell us about them at lunch every Monday at school. That's what I need right now."
"You do?" Leslie asked, so astonished she forgot to hide it.
Michiko actually grinned for a second or two. "Yes, I do. I'm just so sick of crying. I need a few laughs, Leslie. At the very least I need some distractions. Do you think it'd be all right with Mr. Roarke? I mean, I don't want to inconvenience you two if you're busy."
"We won't be really busy till tomorrow morning," Leslie mused. "Most of the preparations are done now. I'll check with Father, but I think we can do it. I'll let you know."
Roarke was slightly surprised when he heard about it, but agreeable. "It's an unorthodox request, but certainly not impossible. Why don't you get in touch with your friends and make the arrangements, and suggest we all meet here about seven this evening."
All of Leslie's friends were able to make it, including Diane Waialoka, the newest member of the gang; Leslie introduced her to Michiko, who admitted she couldn't remember Diane from school, but warmly welcomed her into the circle all the same. Errico and Christian both came as well, and Mariki found extra chairs for those who needed them. When they had all been seated and Mariki had provided an assortment of refreshments, Roarke surveyed the group before smiling and settling back in his chair. "So…I understand that Michiko has asked for this gathering, for a period of reminiscing such as some of you will remember from your school days."
"Oh, that's what this is all about," Maureen said and laughed. "You were that desperate for a few giggles, Michiko?"
Michiko gave her a mock glare and nodded. "Any distraction will do right now." She grinned wistfully. "It's been so long since we were in high school listening to Leslie summarizing the fantasies, I just got an attack of nostalgia."
"Understandable," Lauren agreed.
Diane spoke up: "To tell you the truth, I'm glad you did this, Michiko. I didn't know you guys back then, and this promises to be a lot more fun than sitting at home trying to sew up yet another nit-picky little doll costume for an equally nit-picky customer." They all laughed. "I needed the break, so thank you for inviting me, Leslie."
Leslie smiled at her, then asked, "Where should we start?"
For a moment they looked at one another; then Katsumi said slowly, "My Haruko still has mermaid for friend. I wonder now, how is it you know mermaid at all? Haruko say her friend tells her that Mr. Roarke has known her mother for very long time."
"I have indeed," Roarke agreed. "Nyah and I go much farther back than I care to recall just now." He winked and they laughed again. "Perhaps it will be a little easier if we go back to Leslie's first encounter with Nyah. Not that she really had contact with Nyah herself, but it was the first time she realized there were mermaids at all…"
§ § § - December 1, 1979
"New month, new slate," Tattoo said on the way to the plane dock. Leslie thought November must have been the second-worst month of her life (the worst, of course, having been September of the previous year, when she'd been orphaned). "No sad faces today, right, boss? Right, Leslie?"
Leslie pulled a gremlin grimace at him. "That's not a sad face, is it?"
Tattoo snorted. "That isn't what I meant and you know it, Leslie Hamilton. Come on, let's see a smile. Life goes on, and Mrs. Marsh would have told you to go on too, just like the boss is doing, and Jamie too. We're all gonna miss her, but we can't spend our whole lives just sitting around crying about her being gone."
Roarke, watching from the rover's front seat, chuckled. "Quite a pep talk, Tattoo."
"It's true," Tattoo insisted firmly. "I just think it's time for Leslie to shape up."
"She's doing quite well under the circumstances," Roarke said, glancing at his ward with a smile. "It's been quite difficult for her, you must realize that, Tattoo. It's been barely a month, and I myself still have my moments. However…" He favored them with a mysterious smile that Leslie had learned to understand could mean anything at all. "I suspect we will be well and truly distracted this weekend."
Roarke called for smiles at the plane dock, signaled at the band to begin playing, and turned his attention to the plane dock. Tattoo and Leslie followed suit and found themselves watching a man and woman stepping out of the seaplane's hatch. "Who are they, boss?" asked Tattoo, starting off the weekend's introductions as he so often did.
"Professor Harold DeHaven and his wife, Amanda," Roarke replied. Having heard the man's profession, Leslie was a little less surprised by his attire—jacket, shirt and bow tie, though the jacket in its blue-and-white-plaid pattern seemed rather loud for a professor. Mrs. DeHaven was clad in a pretty dress with broad green and white stripes and a matching white short-sleeved jacket, and looked very stylish. "Once very much in love, they have grown apart, and now remain together out of habit."
"What's their fantasy?" Tattoo prompted.
"Despite his youth, the professor is a highly respected, though totally unknown, marine biologist. The professor wants to make a scientific breakthrough that will earn him the respect and recognition he feels he deserves."
"He wants to find a new kind of fish, or something?" Tattoo asked.
"Or something, yes," Roarke murmured, glancing sidelong at his assistant.
"Something like what?" Leslie wanted to know, but Roarke only gave her a faint smile and shifted his attention back to the landing ramp. This time a pretty young woman with light-brown hair, wearing a denim-colored dress and an anticipatory smile, climbed out and started down the dock, and Leslie decided to ask a question that stood a better chance of getting an answer. "Who's she?"
"That is Miss Julie Brett," Roarke said.
"And what's her fantasy?" Tattoo prompted, as ever.
"She has come here to have one date." This statement made Tattoo peer at Roarke in perplexity, and Leslie looked curiously at him. Roarke clarified, "She wants to spend one evening with a man she met four years ago, then lost track of. His name is Michael Duval; she calls him the perfect man."
"He must have made quite an impression on her," remarked Tattoo.
Roarke nodded. "When you consider she met him only once…" He frowned. "I am afraid she has romanticized the incident far out of reasonable proportion."
Tattoo seemed to sense there was much more to the story than they were getting. "But, if she sees him again, will that make matters worse?"
"It will, in fact, be dangerous," Roarke said, eyeing Julie Brett with a worried frown. "So dangerous that even I cannot guarantee the outcome." Letting that hang there, he accepted his champagne flute and raised it in the weekly toast. As always, Leslie watched their new guests' reactions: this time they were all identical, with quick smiles, before they all imbibed deeply from their various exotic tropical drinks. She wasn't sure that boded very well for their respective fantasies; most guests were much more excited and eager than this. "Do you think they're really looking forward to the weekend after all?" she couldn't resist asking Roarke.
Roarke smiled at her. "Sometimes fatigue from traveling can dull one's initial reaction to a place," he said. "Don't worry, Leslie, they're much more eager than they appear." He cast a glance at Julie Brett in particular. "Maybe too much."