Saeko Mizuno entered her condo and sighed as she closed the door. She didn't call out to see if her daughter Ami was around. Her friend Usagi had informed her that they would be gone for awhile. It never seemed odd when Ami would disappear for several weeks. And it didn't bother Saeko, especially since her hours at the hospital were picking up so much that weeks were blurring into each other.
As she slid off her last shoe, she heard the phone ring. For a moment she stood there trying to register the sound. But by the third ring, she was dashing to the phone. And by the forth ring, she managed to pick it up. "Hello, Mizuno residence," said Saeko into the phone.
"It's been awhile," said her ex husband. "Hasn't it, Saeko?"
"Why are you calling, Takeo?" Saeko asked as she tried to halt her mind from visualizing him in pristine armor.
"I wanted to talk to Ami, but I'm guessing she isn't around," he said.
"She hasn't been around for awhile, but I can pass along to her that you called and wanted to talk to her," said Saeko as reached for a pen and a pad of paper.
"You can tell her that I wanted to talk to her and I will try to call again," he said as she began to write down what he said. "But I think I should get her a cell phone and pay for the cell phone plan that allows for international calling."
"And why is that, Takeo?"
"I'm living in the US currently."
Saeko felt her mouth open and close a couple of times. She absolutely could not believe her ex husband was living in the US especially since he is a Japanese-style painter.
"Saeko? Are you still there?" His voice sliced through her surprise.
"Yes, I am," she said. "But why are you there?"
"I found something that settled my mind far more than anything in Japan would," said Takeo.
Such a cryptic answer, Saeko thought as she shook her head. "And you wasn't able to find that here?"
"In the future, you will understand," said Takeo as she could imagine him smiling, "But I want to make up to Ami for all these years before I can explain fully."
"If you can even make up to her," she said. "You, Takeo, walked out on us and while she watched you."
"I know," he said. "There is so much I need to make up to her."
"You were never there when I had to reassure her that I wasn't going to leave her alone," said Saeko as she began to raise her voice. "She has abandonment issues because of you, Takeo. Are you going to start being there for when she starts feeling like she was abandoned?"
The silence that followed let Saeko fall into her memories of having to reassure Ami that she was not being abandoned by her mom. The worst had been when she was young, and Saeko had to arrange to her schedule to give her more chances to be around when Ami really needed it. It was stressful, but her close co-workers understood it. However, as she saw Ami's friends take more permanence into Ami's life, she noticed the abandonment issues slowly faded. They were not as bad now that she had true friends.
"She has true friends now," said Saeko in a whisper.
"She does? That's very good to hear," said Takeo. "I had a feeling that she would have some. I will send her my information so she can have me pay for her cell phone."
"Do not get your hopes up, Takeo," said Saeko. "One action cannot undo all the things she has felt over the years."
"I know, but I think she will understand eventually," said Takeo. "Well, I better let you go, Saeko. I can't imagine what international calling does on a phone bill."
"Goodbye," said Saeko before she heard Takeo hang up.
She shook her head and hung up the phone. That conversation with Takeo was the most she had with him since he had left them. And it left her feeling odd especially with the whole seeing him in armor vision coming to her. Pushing those thoughts in a far corner of her mind, she glanced at the clock and decided to get ready for bed. Sleep was what she needed.
She woke from her dreams in a grumpy mood that was all thanks to her ex husband Takeo calling last night. As she was about to sit up in bed, she realized that another person had joined her in bed. Looking slightly down, she saw the blue hair of her daughter. It erased her grumpy mood. "Ami," she said quietly.
Her daughter looked up to her with her blue eyes and gave a tired smile towards her. Saeko saw in that smile a hint of a change in Ami. But her brain was unable to say what. "Hey, Mom," said Ami.
"How have you been?" Saeko asked.
"Mostly tired," said Ami as she allowed her eyes to close. "But I am glad to be back home with you."
"Rest," said Saeko as she brushed Ami's bangs to the side. "I have something about your dad to tell you."
"What about him?" Ami's eyes opened to gaze tiredly at her.
"He called last night," said Saeko as she reached for Ami's hand and gave it a squeeze. "He has change since I last talked to him. He's going to buy a cell phone for you."
"Why would he do that?" Ami asked.
"For some reason, he wants to talk to you," said Saeko, "but he was very cryptic."
"Cryptic? He never was like that."
"He was when I first met him and when you were younger." Saeko smiled. "You were able to figure out his cryptic responses then."
"I wish I remember that."
"Don't we all do," Saeko said as she noticed the rumpled appearance of Ami's clothes. "Do you want to go get changed?"
Ami shook her head before closing her eyes. "Even if you weren't here, I was planning to lay on your bed and rest until you came back."
"If that is the case," said Saeko as she lifted the covers, "you can come under the covers with me."
Ami nodded and slow moved to be under the covers. "Thank you," she said as she laid down next to Saeko under the covers.
"Just get some rest," said Saeko as she laid the covers back down. "I have a couple of days off before my next shift."
"I would love to spend time with you, Mom," said Ami before closing her eyes.
"I thought so," said Saeko before closing her eyes.
It wasn't long before mother and daughter felled asleep.
Glancing at the phone number scrawled at the bottom of the postcard, she memorized the number and looked back at her new cell phone. She tapped in the number on the touch screen and went back to the name field. It didn't felt right to list his name as Dad since he never really had been much of one. But with this phone number and all of the financial information that she needed to have him pay for her cell phone, she felt he was more of one now.
Then Ami decided on something different. The time zone he was currently living in would cause some problems. And it would be wise to remind herself of these problems if she decides to call him (after today). She types in the time zone in the name box and press save. Now ready to call him, she brought up her contacts and press on the time zone to call him. She heard her cell phone dial and then the ringing at the other end. "Hello, Ami," her dad said as soon as he answered.
"How did you know it was me?" She asked as she turned the postcard over to its colorful front.
"You are the only person in Japan that has my number," said her dad. "Have you met anyone special? Maybe a green-eyed boyfriend?"
"Dad! I am not dating and I don't plan on having a boyfriend," she said.
"I was just teasing you, Ami," said her dad. "You've probably grown so much since I last saw you."
"You've only sent my postcards," said Ami as she starred at the one in front of her. "You were never really much of a dad to me."
"If you ever come see me, I will explain why I ended up in the US," he said.
"Why reach out now?"
"Things have happened," he said pausing, "and you will understand in the future."
"The future? Could you be a little less cryptic?"
"Nope, but I'm sure you will figure out everything," he said. "You always do with that brilliant mind of yours."
"Dad, is that all you want to tell me?" Ami asked as she looked at the postcard. "And your style has changed."
"I knew you would notice that. It is the style I use under the pen name Takumi." He let out an audible sigh. "There is one other thing I want to talk to you about."
"And that is?"
"Do you have friends?"
"You could have asked that of mom, she knows."
"Ah, I should have rephrased my question," he said softly. "Do you have best friends that you would do anything for or save their lives if it means you have to die?"
The rephrased question stunned Ami. She knew the answer she would give, but there was something about this question that felt odd. "I do, but why would you ask if I would go to the extremes?"
"Kingside castle. It is better for me to know why," he said.
"There is something you are wanting to protect from me?"
"Yes, and it has to do with everything about why I left you and your mom and what I have discovered when I came to the US."
"Mom's right about you being cryptic," said Ami pausing. "What exactly did you discovered?"
"I can tell you some," he said. "I found a place that felt right to me. It had the same feel as this was where I needed to belong, but no quite like I would if it was home."
"So what you discovered made you stay?"
"Very much so. It made my mind become at peace after so many years of chaos."
Ami took a moment to ponder what he mentioned. He was definitely holding something back. "I don't think I could how your mind be in chaos."
"I doubt anyone could, but maybe a select few people could." His voice made her see him grinning at her.
"If that is all you want to talk about…."
"It is for this time," he said. "But I expect to call you again."
"Ah, okay," she said as she fiddled with the postcard in front of her. "Thank you for buying me a cell phone."
"You're welcome, Ami," he said. "Talk to you later."
"Goodbye," she said before hanging up.
She laid down her cell phone and sat there for a few minutes. Her mother's assessment of him was right. Her father had changed, but she couldn't tell if it was for the better.
In the company of her friends, she felt at ease. Their smiling faces brighten the room at the temple. With their books forgotten, they were sharing childhood stories. Makoto's and Rei's was always tinged with longing for dead love ones. Usagi's and Minako's always seemed to long for far more simpler days. And then everyone turned to look at her expectantly. "I have nothing to say that would be as interesting as what you guys have already mentioned," said Ami as she smiled.
"But we don't care, Ami," said Minako before a ring tone began to complained.
"That is mine," said Ami as she reached into her bag and glanced at the display. It was her dad's number.
"Are you going to answer it?" Usagi asked.
"Yeah, I know who is calling me," said Ami as she answered the cell phone. "Hello, why are you calling me?"
"You're not happy to have me call to see how you are doing and ask if you had a green-eyed boyfriend," he said as she could see him smiling widely. "Oh how you wound me, your father."
"Could you please not ask about boyfriends?" She asked as she glanced at her friends. Their looks of confusion made it clear that she has to explain everything to them once she hangs up.
"How can I know if you have a boyfriend if I don't ask?" He then chuckled. "I could ask your mom, but I don't think that would be productive at all."
"So, why are you calling?"
"Do I have to always have a reason to call?"
She looked away from her friends. "You understand nothing."
"You don't want to try to reconnect again?"
"You should have thought about that all those years ago," she said as she turned her back to her friends.
"I told you why that happened," he said, softly. "I wish it wouldn't have happened like that."
"Then why do you remain cryptic about it?" She asked.
"You have to know something before I will spill all, Ami," he said. "All it takes is one thing and my lips will be unsealed for you."
"So I have to say one thing to get you to not be cryptic," said Ami before glancing back at her friends for a second before looking away again. "But what is it exactly?"
"I cannot hint at it or say what it is," he said before he lowered his voice. "It's something you can't learn on your own."
"Something...I can't learn on my own?" She said as her eyebrows furrowed. "What would that be exactly?"
"When you can't figure it out, it helps to take several steps back," he said. "That helped me."
"Is that why leaving helped you?"
"Yes." He let out an audible sigh. "I should probably let you go."
"Yeah," said Ami.
"I will talk to you later," he said before chuckling. "And maybe you should call me next time."
"That will never happen," said Ami. "Goodbye."
"Goodbye," her dad said before he hung up.
As she hung up and pulled her phone away from her ear, she saw her friends watching her with wide eyes. "Who was that?" Usagi asked.
"When did you get a cell phone?" Minako asked.
"My dad is paying for it," said Ami. "That was him. Something has motivated him to contact me."
"Your dad?" Rei's brow scrunched up. "Has he said anything that says why he is calling?"
"That's the thing," said Ami, "he is very vague about what motivates he is calling me. He is protecting something."
"It seems odd that he would be vague," said Rei. "But when was the last time you talk with him?"
"Not since he left, but he has sent postcards to me yearly," said Ami.
"Ami, do you want to talk about this more?" Usagi asked.
"Not at the moment," said Ami as she gathered her things. "I am going home."
"That's fine with me," said Minako. "I think most of us will be leaving soon."
"Thanks everyone," Ami said as she stood up.
"Ami," said Rei, "if you need to talk about your dad, you can always come to me."
"Thanks for the offer," said Ami before she walked toward the exit of the room.
Her eyes opened to the bland ceiling above her bed. The horrors of her last life still running fresh in her head. She blamed Usagi for this. She didn't want to see a certain blonde head in her nightmares. Then she closed her eyes, took a deep breathe in, and let it out. There was no way she was going back to sleep like this. Memories of him were too fresh. She sat up in bed and gaze around her room. Looking around confirmed nothing had changed since she went to sleep.
It was that confirmation that allowed her to start to really think about him who was keeping her up. And it was all Usagi's blamed for it. Why had her princess come to her and ask her about seeing a spirit of the man once known as Zoisite?
Since she received her memories of her first life and when the Dark Kingdom was defeated, she had never thought of Zoisite. She recalled that she had feelings for him, but none of her memories showed her why she did. Her past self must have been foolish to fall in love with a traitor.
But thinking about her nightmares, the ones of the last moment, she felt that her past self had feelings of hope as that life was ending. These feelings baffled her because they were directed at him who had ended her life.
It was so confusing. And it was not allowing her to go back to sleep. She wish she could talk to the other girls, but she was hesitant in doing that. One it was the middle of the night, and Usagi, the only one she felt comfortable in telling this, needed her sleep. Then she glanced over to her desk and the cell phone sitting on it.
Then her thoughts drifted to her dad.
Her situation with Zoisite in her past life reminded her of the situation that came about with her parents. And the timezone difference between Tokyo and the US ensured that her dad would be awake. She pushed the covers off her and swung her legs toward the side of the bed.
Carefully, she stood up and walked towards her desk. Pulling out the chair, she sat down in it. She took in a deep calming breath before letting it out as she picked up her cell phone. She opened up her contacts and press call on the one contact listed as a timezone. The phone dialed the number. Then he answered. "Are you calling to let me know you have a green-eyed boyfriend?" He asked.
She shook her head in annoyance. Why did he always asked if she had a boyfriend? "I called because I needed to talk to someone."
"It's the middle of the night, isn't it?" He asked.
"Yes," she said, glad he dropped the boyfriend topic. "Would you be bothered by me asking something about you and mom?"
"You can go right ahead, Ami," he said without any hesitation.
"Do you think you would ever get back together with her?"
"So you are wondering about that?" She could see him having a smirk on his face. "Well, the possibility will always be there if she wants to."
"So you want to get back together with her?" Ami asked. "Would that even include remarrying her?"
"Yes, very much so," he said. "I would suggest that you take a chance to go snooping through the file of papers. I am sure that she has never gotten ridden that file. You might find out a startling fact about me and your mom."
"What startling fact?"
"I want you to discover it," he said before sighing. "Is that all you want to ask?"
"No," said Ami as she decided what to ask next. "If you ever betrayed mom, would you still try to make it up to her?"
"I consider," he said before she heard him take a deep breath in, "when I left you and your mom to be a betrayal of her." He stopped and took another breath in. This time she heard it louder than before. "I swore to her when I first called her that I would make it up to you for leaving you alone all these years. You are my daughter, Ami. And I don't want to be a substitute sometimes father to you any more."
"You make me very happy to have you call me that," he said. "When you tell me the right things, everything will be laid out for you."
"Thank you," she said. "You resolved what was keeping me up tonight."
"You're welcome, Ami," said her dad. "I really regret not being there for you."
"You actually have regrets all this time," she said, remembering Usagi's words about Zoisite being regretful.
"I do, but more so after I talked to your mom," he paused. "Once I found what I found, that is when my regret started."
"Are you still not going to tell what you found?" She asked.
"You have to tell me the right things and it will all be laid out for you," he said.
"And how will I know what the right thing is?" She asked before huffing.
He chuckled. "You will know once you know it."
His frustrating answer infuriated her, making it very tempting to hang up. "Talk to you later."
"I hope the next the time you call me is when you have a green-eyed boyfriend to tell me about."
"Will you quit it with asking about the boyfriend stuff, Dad," she said.
"Never. I have to look out for you," he said as she imagined him placing his hands on his hips and leaning slightly towards her. "Besides there is always good things for a father to watch."
"I'm going to hang up now…."
"Go get your sleep. I will talk to you later."
She hung up and looked at her cell phone. Her dad was so very frustratingly cryptic. But something told her that he was right about her being able to know it.
So what does everyone think of Takeo?
The next story in this series is A Stone's Thought, but Takeo will not be mention in that story. The next story that Takeo will show up comes after A Stone's Thoughts.