A/N: Finally made it back with a brand-new story. As of June 26, 2011, I have a "fan page" on Facebook under my real name, which when complete will contain links to all my FF and FictionPress stories and then receive links to new stories as they are posted. This is a possible first step toward actual publication of original material, depending on what sort of feedback (if any) I may get from this endeavor.
The next one will probably be a very long tale indeed, consisting of the novelization of an episode and then an original "sequel" to it. The idea originated with PDXWiz and I thought it would be time to explore it. In the meantime, enjoy this new story. Happy summer!
§ § § - May 4, 2007 – Maunawili, Hawaii
It was a warm, misty morning, with a wet fog settling over a long one-story house with an open, wraparound deck and a cedar-shake roof. The sun had yet to peek over the horizon when lights popped on in several windows on the right-hand end of the house. Voices escaped through the open windows—the morning ritual of waking kids for school and the answering groans and complaints. From the smallest window came the swoosh of a shower starting up; from another could be heard the cacophony of boys arguing. The ten-year-old golden retriever lying under the second window barely twitched in its sleep.
A sharp masculine voice abruptly cut the argument, and an unaccustomed silence held sway. The dog lifted its head, as surprised as the boys inside the window beneath which he lay. He scrambled to his feet and launched himself up onto his hind legs, peering into the brightly lit bedroom, where three young boys sat up, two in bunks and the third in a narrow twin bed, staring at the balding, paunchy man standing in the doorway. "Hi, Dad," the oldest boy ventured.
The youngest was too astonished to be tactful. "Gee, what're you doin' here? Mom's always the one that tells us to stop fightin'."
Their father glared at him. "Mom's in the shower. She can't be everywhere at once. Knock off this crap and start getting ready for school, all three of you. It's too early in the morning for this." He stifled a yawn, scratched his stomach and turned to leave.
"I'm not in school yet," the youngest boy said.
His father halted and aimed another glare at him, this one fiery enough to make the boy shrink wide-eyed back toward the wall. "Don't give me any lip," he ordered. "Do what you're told, and no backtalk." With that, he departed.
Liam Tokita, nearly nine, peered at his brothers, who blinked back at him, rubbing sleep from their eyes. "Dad's mad about something," he said.
"How d'you know?" challenged his brother Cody, going on seven.
Zachary Tokita, just turned five, reached up with both hands and flattened his palms against the mattress above him in a practiced motion, pushing hard enough to elicit a growl of protest from his brother. "Didn't you see him lookin' at me? He wanted to spank me."
"You quit pushin' my bed, or I'm gonna spank you," Cody threatened. This met with merely a snort from Zachary, but Cody had already turned his attention to Liam. "Dad never gets up that early. And he never lets Mom have the shower first."
"That's right," said Liam.
"How come?" Zachary asked, swinging his feet off the mattress.
" 'Cause he's gotta go to work, and that's in Honolulu, and he's gotta cross the hills to get there, and there's always lots of traffic, so he hasta leave early." Liam raised one elbow and scratched his armpit, gazing at the doorway from which his father had disappeared. "Hey, y'know what, I just thought of somethin'. Dad shoulda left already by now."
Cody considered this, then nodded as though in discovery. "Yeah…he's always gone when Mom comes and wakes us up for school. So how come he's still here?"
Their older half-brother Aaron Crocker, fifteen, was headed down the hall, having come up from the basement bedroom he shared with fourteen-year-old Ephraim so he could get his own shower. He stopped in front of their doorway when he overheard Cody's question. "How come who's still here?"
The boys idolized their brother; he was the product of their mother's first marriage, a tall, too-slender boy with a mop of straight hair the color of the cedar shingles on the roof and an even, pleasant disposition that allowed him to get along with everyone, even the ill-tempered and irritating Ephraim. "Hey, Aaron, c'mere," Liam insisted, patting a spot on the mattress beside him. "We're talkin' about Dad. He just stopped in here and told us to quit our fightin'. Mom's always the one who wakes us up for school and tells us to shut up, so how come Dad let her have the shower first and he's doin' that?"
Looking surprised, Aaron came in and took the seat Liam offered. "Well, if Hachiro let Mom have the shower, I guess I might as well hang out till she's done. There won't be any hot water in our bathroom. What're you clowns up to in here?"
Liam grinned sheepishly. "The usual," he admitted, which made Aaron laugh. "I guess we're just wonderin', how come Dad hasn't gone to work?"
"Yeah, he's always gone when we get up," Cody put in, while Zachary scrambled out of his bunk and planted himself in Aaron's lap. Aaron ruffled the little boy's hair, watching while Cody jumped off his top bunk and came to sit on Aaron's other side.
Aaron thought it over, automatically finding the ticklish spot between Zachary's shoulder blades and sending his little brother into fits of squirmy giggles. Then he shrugged and met Liam's gaze. "Since your grandfather died, he's been kinda moody."
"What's moody?" Cody wanted to know.
"Sad, upset…unhappy," Aaron said, hitching a shoulder in what passed for a shrug. "I guess even grownups get upset when their parents die." He frowned, as if something had occurred to him. "Actually, I don't think he's going to work today."
This met with complete shock from all three of his younger brothers, even Zachary. "But Dad always goes to work!" Zachary piped up at last, looking horrified.
To Lani Kaiuka Crocker Tokita, that was a great deal of the problem right there. She stepped out of the shower, wrapping a towel around herself and securing it carefully before grabbing a hand towel and subjecting her short, thick black hair to a vigorous drying. In the almost ten years since she had married Hachiro Tokita, she had noticed a particular reticence about him, something he had never bothered to talk to her about despite all the years they had known each other. It was a bad habit of his to just duck any unpleasant subject by going off to work, or finding something job-related that needed doing even at home, no matter how much his boys begged him to play catch in the backyard with them.
That had changed when his father had died three weeks before and the entire extended Tokita family had congregated on Fantasy Island for the funeral. He'd had no choice but to go, for his boss, Tom Ichino, was in fact also a native of Fantasy Island and a family friend. Tom had closed his business for the three days of the funeral, so that Hachiro couldn't turn to work as a refuge. Unfortunately, when Tom returned to Honolulu, Hachiro had insisted that Lani and the children all come back with him, using the fact that the older kids had school as an excuse. Hachiro's brother and three sisters had remained on the island for another full week, making Hachiro's departure seem callous.
Then Hachiro had come home from work for lunch yesterday and not gone back in, telling Lani in a bewildered voice that Tom had told him to take some time off and properly grieve for his father. Lani thoroughly approved of Tom's action, but she sensed there was something going on that had nothing to do with Masato's passing. She tugged a comb through her wet hair, toweled herself off—a ponderous business in the morning's heavy humidity—and finally got dry enough to pull on some clothing. She headed for the kitchen, pausing beside the door to the room Liam, Cody and Zachary shared to remind the two older ones to get up for school. To her surprise, Aaron was there, with Zachary on his lap; all four boys looked spooked.
"What's wrong, guys?" she asked.
Their heads swiveled in perfect unison and Cody asked, "How come Dad isn't going to work? He goes to work every single day!"
"Did a volcano 'rupt and set his work on fire?" Zachary wanted to know.
Lani snickered while Aaron tickled Zachary again and said affectionately, "You dork, the volcanoes on Oahu are extinct."
"What's stinkt?" Zachary managed to get out between giggles and squirms.
"Extinct," Aaron enunciated. "That means dead. The volcanoes on Oahu don't erupt anymore, only on the Big Island." He turned to Lani, who as always was impressed by her oldest son's infinite patience with all his little brothers. "Is Hachiro okay? The guys here said he let you have the shower first and came in to wake them up."
Lani sighed. "Yes, that's true. I don't think he's really okay, not since his father died. Look, you kids get dressed so you can have your breakfast. Before you get in the shower, Aaron, do me a favor and see if Griffen and Tyler and Olivia are up yet."
"Sure, Mom," Aaron agreed and lifted Zachary off his lap before standing. "You're gonna have to go roust Eph out of bed again though. He's pulling the usual stunt."
Lani grunted in response, deciding to leave the problem of Ephraim for later. She wasn't in the mood for dealing with him this morning; instead she headed for the kitchen. She knew Hachiro would be in there alone, and she was determined to talk to him while they still had some privacy.
Hachiro peered at his wife in wary surprise when she walked into the room; she had a look on her face that he knew all too well and didn't like very much. When she got that look, she meant to drag something out of him. "Morning," he offered.
"You too," she said, pulling out a chair at the dining-room table to sit beside him. "So what's going on? Did Tom tell you to stay away indefinitely?"
Hachiro snorted. "Not exactly indefinitely," he said. "But too long."
Lani sat back hard in her chair and regarded him till he began to squirm in just the way Zachary did when Aaron tickled him. "Okay, Hachiro, that's the last straw," she said, making him stare at her like a stag watching a Mack truck bearing down on it in the middle of a four-lane highway. "I've known you almost ever since Warren and I were divorced. I've been your wife for close to ten years now. But if you want to know something, I'm amazed we're still married, and I'm amazed the boys haven't all tried to run away from home at one point or another. Or rebelled against you, or something. You are, no doubt about it, the most close-mouthed man I've ever known in my life. Why are you like that? I'm your wife, Hachiro, but you don't even talk to me. Do you talk to anyone? Did you ever talk to anyone? Do you ever want to?"
Hachiro felt his mouth fall open, but for the life of him he honestly couldn't think of a single thing to tell her. He had been so used to keeping to himself, and so used to everyone letting him get away with it, that he'd never given it a second thought. It was instinctive with him now, after going just about all his life this way. While he searched his suddenly deactivated brain for something to tell her—even if it were only something to put her off—she shook her head and began to shove her chair back. "I guess that's my answer," she mumbled and got to her feet to get on with the daily ritual.
"No, wait," Hachiro blurted, startling even himself. Lani froze and turned to peer at him over one shoulder, her eyes skeptical. "Sit down, Lani. Come on."
Slowly she did so, watching him all the time. "Don't tell me you're actually gonna say something this time."
He would have raked his hand through his hair if there'd been any left atop his head. Instead he dragged a palm over the smooth skin on his skull and blew out a loud breath, peering into the recessed lighting in the ceiling over the table. "I feel like there's something…missing in my life," he said, picking his way along.
Lani's face took on a wounded look. "Missing?"
Hachiro reached across the table and grabbed her hand before she could withdraw any further. "It's not you," he insisted. "I swear it's not you. It's…it's been, well, I mean, it's something that started a long time before I ever met you. I mean…look." He propped his forehead against one hand, staring at the table centerpiece, his inner eye focused on something else. "I'm no good at self-analysis. But when Dad died, I think it started getting clearer just what was going on." He cast her a wary look and tightened his grip on her hand. "Tom saw it too. I guess he's seen it for eons. I mean, heck, we knew each other from kindergarten, after all. He told me I really should go back and talk to them."
"Them, who?" Lani asked, now leaning forward in her chair, her attention rapt.
"My mother," Hachiro said, his voice little more than a whisper. "My sisters and Saburo. Myeko too, I guess, and Alexander and Noelle."
Lani regarded him, waiting for him to continue; he'd been on a roll there, she thought, and for just a few bright seconds she had been certain she'd finally hear what lay behind all his years of reticence. But he sat staring at something only he could see, a strange expression on his face, his hand still clutching hers.
She ended up prodding, the way she so hated doing. "And what else?"
"Uh?" he muttered, his attention elsewhere.
"There's something else," Lani said, lowering her voice as she heard those of several of their sons being raised in a new argument. For the moment she ignored it, sure she was too close to having Hachiro confide in her. "Tell me what it is."
Hachiro drooped over the table and let his head fall till his chin hit his chest. Lani felt a shiver of alarm skitter up her backbone; never had he looked so defeated. Then he said in a low, broken tone, "Leslie."
It took Lani several seconds to place the name; when she did, she found herself awash in recollections of talks she had had with her sister-in-law, Michiko, and Hachiro's ex-wife, Myeko, two summers ago at the enormous Tokita family reunion. Myeko had told her about Hachiro's high-school crush on Leslie Hamilton, a friend of both Myeko and Michiko. At the time Lani hadn't thought much about it; her primary motivation had been to get more information from Myeko about Hachiro.
But now Myeko's words came back to Lani, about how Hachiro had had a crush on Leslie all through high school, how he'd treated her so rudely from then on and had lost even the hope of a friendship, how Myeko had known all about it but never had a problem with it because she knew how Leslie felt about him. Lani, on the other hand, had a hard time feeling that magnanimous. Okay, so maybe Leslie didn't care for Hachiro—but clearly, Hachiro not only had cared for Leslie, but apparently still did!
Lani yanked her hand out of his, startling him from whatever reverie he'd sunk into, and shot from her chair as if it had just caught fire. "Leslie, huh?" she said, icicles hanging off her tone. "So that's what your problem's always been."
Hachiro goggled at her; not only his face but his entire head and neck turned flaming scarlet. "Wh-what's that supposed to mean?"
Lani sneered at him. "Myeko told me a couple years ago, how she had to poke you with a cattle prod to get your attention way back when, how you finally married her only because you got engaged to her before Leslie came back to the island widowed. She told me it never bothered her because she knew how Leslie felt about you. But I guess you don't, Hachiro Tokita! Almost thirty years after she turned you down for one lousy date, you're still carrying a torch for her, aren't you!"
Hachiro pushed himself to his own feet, feeling as if he were caught in a nightmare and hoping, without much conviction, that he'd wake up. "Lani…" he began weakly, unable to think of anything to add to it, because damn it all, she was right! She had found his sore spot and not just uncovered it, but started throwing rocks at it. "Don't."
"Don't what? Don't take away your secret little crush from you? In case you forgot, dear heart, both you and Leslie are married to other people—and I'm sure she still doesn't feel any more kindly toward you than she ever did. Does she know how you feel?"
Hachiro shrugged, visited with the mocking memory of that time he'd tried to talk her into falling for him, when she'd still been widowed and he'd been divorced, and before she'd met Christian. He'd been so humiliated after that that he had made it a point to return to Fantasy Island as seldom as he could get away with. Lani had guessed his secret after all this time, and he was deathly afraid that she'd use it as an excuse to do something drastic, such as take their children and leave—or worse, throw him out. "I don't know," he finally confessed, "but probably."
Lani made a disgusted grunt and rolled her eyes. "Oh really, Hachiro, you take the cake! I can't believe you actually still feel like that, not after what Myeko told me you did to her and what's happened in all the time since then. Why?"
"I don't know," Hachiro repeated, throwing his hands in the air. "For crying out loud, Lani, I have no idea. I can't even figure it out for myself, much less tell you. Why do you think I never wanted to go back to Fantasy Island?"
Lani's mouth opened so wide that he could have sailed a battleship into it. Her lower jaw moved a couple of times; then she slashed the air with a violent motion of one arm. "I'm speechless," she muttered, turning away. "You refused to visit the family, even your parents, for all those years because you…" She caught herself and then whipped around to stare at him. "Because you what, exactly?"
Hell, thought Hachiro, she knows this much, might as well spill the rest of the beans. "I didn't want to run into her somewhere. I didn't want to see her."
Lani drove both hands into her hair. "I don't know whether to be glad or furious about that. And how come you didn't want to see her?"
At that Hachiro balked; his temper rose and he shoved his chair back under the table with a crash. "I'm sure you can figure that out for yourself!"
"Yeah," Lani murmured, taking in the sight of him, so red he was headed for purple, his hands clenched into fists at his sides and his chest heaving. "Yeah, I guess I can. You just couldn't stand the way you figured she'd react to you. You didn't want to face yet another rejection, so you'd be able to hold onto your hopeless fantasies about her."
He said nothing; there wasn't anything he could say. The argument between at least three of their sons had been escalating unnoticed all this time; now, before either of them could carry on their own sparring, Cody's voice howled, "Mom!"
"You'd better go back, Hachiro," Lani warned him low. "Tom gave you this time off. You better use it right. Go back to Fantasy Island and get Leslie out of your system once and for all, or I swear, you might as well not bother coming home." She pivoted on one heel and stalked into the kitchen, shouting, "What the hell are you fighting about now?" Hachiro could hear her leftover rage from their own fight leaching into her annoyance with the boys, and winced. He didn't like it, but Lani was right. He was going to have to go back home to Fantasy Island and set himself straight, not only for his own good, but for that of his family and his marriage.