Kim was gone, and Mariko was free to share her secret.
This wasn't how the little girl had wanted things to go. But now that she had the chance, she needed to take it.
And it wasn't a secret, not really. It was more of a surprise, a surprise she planned on giving her best friend in the far future. But the excitement the surprise was causing her was sooo exciting, that the little girl knew she wouldn't be able to keep it to herself for that long. She needed to share the surprise with someone. And by sharing it, the surprise became a secret.
Besides, the secret might make MrsDrP feel better. Although she was hugging the mother of her best friend as tightly as she could, the older woman was still crying.
Mariko opened her mouth, but before she could speak, she remembered that Rina was still in the room. And, although she knew that Rina could keep a secret, it seemed more special if she told just Kim's mom.
She glanced again at the picture of baby Kim in the tub that had made the older woman so sad. Mariko cupped her hand against MrsDrP's ear and whispered.
Immediately, she knew she had made the right decision. When Kim's mom turned to face Mariko, her eyes were still teary, but they were shining, too.
"That's so sweet. Thank you." MrsDrP smiled, but then had a question. "But what if it's a boy?"
Mariko considered this. "Can't it be a boy's name, too?" she asked finally.
"Yes, now that I think about it," MrsDrP answered. "It can be."
"But she won't be a boy," Mariko stated with a five-year-old's unwavering certainty.
When Ron and Mariko arrived at the hospital, Bubbe was there to meet them at the Emergency Room's entrance. The lead obstetrician was waiting for them at the front desk and ushered them to Mariko's delivery suite. All three suspected this level of attention had something to do with Bonnie's promise of giving the OBGYN Department an 'encouraging' heads-up when Ron called her about Mariko's water.
Justy arrived at the delivery suite as Dr. Rangan was beginning to administer Mariko's epidural.
"Hey! How are things going? Are you ok?"
"Hey, Beautiful," Mariko replied, stretching her right arm toward her husband. "You're just in time to hold my hand while they jab a five-foot needle into my spine." She was sitting hunched over in bed while the doctor performed her task on the aforementioned spine.
"Sounds like a good time." He kissed her hand and gave it a firm squeeze.
"Doing the jabbing is even more fun," the doctor smiled beneath her mask. "Now, Mariko, you will start to feel that pinch right about now."
"Go for it, doc" Mariko said, her grip on Justy's hand increasing significantly.
Apart from shooting Justy a welcoming glance, Ron had been standing completely silent and still at his daughter's bedside. Never more so than at this crucial moment as Dr. Rangan completed her work.
"Hope, thank goodness!" Bonnie announced as she burst through the door. "I am so glad you're the one that got the call. They wouldn't tell me -"
Dr. Rangan, whose hands had remained steady despite Bonnie's abrupt entrance, sighed. "Kinda busy here, Bon."
"Oh, shoot, sorry." Bonnie apologized.
A few minutes later Justy's parents and the Possibles entered the room. After everyone had greeted the expectant parents, Anne skirted around Bonnie and gave Ron a brief hug. "Everything okay?" she whispered.
He nodded with a smile.
"Okay, Mariko," Dr. Rangan said, edging away from the bed. "You should be all set now. Pain should start subsiding in the next few minutes."
"Coolio," Mariko grimaced.
"Really bad?" Justy asked her.
"About an 8," Mariko nodded.
"Pain scale?" Felix asked with trepidation.
"Richter Scale," Justy and Mariko explained in unison.
"Jinx," Justy said carelessly.
Mariko said nothing; she leaned back against the raised head of the bed and closed her eyes. Over the next few minutes as the small talk between the room's other occupants resumed, she remained completely silent.
Finally, her husband leaned in and whispered, "Still hurting?"
She shook her head.
After a few moments, Mariko wiped her eyes and shook her head again.
"Ok. Let me know."
She opened her eyes and gave Justy a sad smile that managed to reveal and hide everything.
"That's impossible!" Bonnie yelled at Monique. She had intended this as an internal comment, but her shock/exasperation was such that she ended up 'addressing' it to Mrs. Renton, the rest of the room at large, and a section of the outer hall.
"Although statistically highly improbable," Wade corrected her via Ron's speakerphone, "it is actually happening."
Bonnie gave her boyfriend's v-phone a brief, incandescent glare.
Monique had just returned from the nurse's station to find out why no one was responding to Mariko's urgent page requests. The story she had to share was, indeed, improbable.
Of the ten expectant mothers in the maternity ward that evening, nine went into the critical, yet deceptively-named, second stage of labor around nine forty-five. More-or-less simultaneously. And the lone holdout was Mariko.
That is, until nine fifty when Booger stopped waiting.
By that point, all the obstetricians and midwives were otherwise engaged with the other mothers-to-be.
After rapidly apologizing to Monique, Bonnie took a deep breath and began to roll up her sleeves. "Ron, can you look through those drawers and find me some gloves and a mask?" she asked, walking promptly to the suite's sink.
"Would you like an assist?" Anne asked, queuing up behind her and rolling up her own sleeves.
"If you don't mind, that'd be great, Dr. Possible."
"My pleasure, Dr. Rockwaller. My retirement party is on Saturday and this will make a great story for it."
"Oh, man," Mariko managed between breaths, "this is going to be so awkward."
"Turning off the cameras as we speak," Felix announced for all concerned.
"They weren't off before?" Mariko half-laughed.
"If trying not to focus on the weirdness factor keeps you focused on what needs to get done," Monique confided to her daughter-in-law, "I say go with it, girl."
"And if that doesn't work," Ron began and then leaned in to whisper, "remember that everyone in this room is family. So, it'll be chauncy."
Her father's encouragement had the unexpected effect of plunging Mariko into a vertiginous state of melancholy. Although it was true that everyone in the room, whether in person (Justy, Bubbe, the Rentons, Dr. R, Mr and MrsDrP) or digitally (Rina, Wade, Jim and Tim), was her family, his words only reminded her of the one person who wasn't in the room.
And won't ever be again.
Mariko nodded to her father. And, with little other choice, smiled.
From that point on, events unfolded for her in a withdrawn, disconnected manner. She could hear words as they were being spoken to her and recognized the voice that replied to them as her own. But she felt apart from these conversations and from all that was happening.
Mariko drifted like this for so long that a small part of her worried that this might be how things were going to be from now on. That she might forever be severed from herself. However, before anxiety could blossom into foreboding, she felt a slight, warm flutter inside her. It was like the taps that Booger had given her on the ride to the hospital, but deeper. Warmer.
And she was back in time again.
"Good job, M," she heard Dr. R say. "Now stop pushing for just a moment. I'll say the word."
Glancing down quickly, Mariko could see that the look in Dr. R's eyes, which up to this point had been all business, contained points of relief, too.
"You're almost there, Mariko," Anne, standing just beyond Bonnie's hunched shoulders, was smiling from behind her mask.
Her father was holding her left hand in both of his; Justy's hands were being held tightly in her right.
"Okay, M, push!" Dr. R instructed.
When she did, Mariko felt the warm flutters multiply. They flowed from her middle up to her chest and down along the length of her legs. And then, suddenly, they stopped.
The room filled with the marvelous cacophony of her baby's first cry.
"There! I got you, girl," Dr. R said with an unmistakable smile in her voice. "Anne, can you hand Booger to Mom?"
"It's not 'Booger,'" Anne grinned as she took the baby. "Is she, Mariko?"
"No," Mariko gave an exhausted chuckle, "Her name—"
"Oh-God," Anne's breath caught as she glanced down at the infant's face. "Her eyes. They're … they're so…" She handed the baby to her mother.
Mariko was immediately lost in her child's sublime, undirected gaze. Deep emerald, sprinkled with highlights of cerulean, the eyes reminded her, once she had composed herself enough to consciously reflect upon them, of a shaded mountain pool in a half-remembered childhood dream.
"Wow," she breathed, as one of her tears landed on the baby's forehead. "You are so so beautiful, Kimberly."
Kim told Mariko that she had been given two lifetimes, but she was mistaken. She received three.
A second tear plopped squarely into Kim's left eye, causing her to squint and to exponentially increase the volume of her clamorous new-born screaming.
"I am so proud of you, sweetie," Ron said as he kissed the crown of his daughter's head. Then he added, with just a slight catch in his voice, "You didn't tell me you were going to name her Kim."
"I know," Mariko answered, looking up from her baby to share a brief look with Anne Possible, "it was a secret surprise."
"You did it." Justy kissed his wife's cheek and began to gently stroke his baby's chin with the back of his index finger.
"No, Beautiful," Mariko corrected him. "We did it. We made her."
"Someone sounds hungry," James Possible said, conspicuously wiping his glasses clear. "Maybe the new family could do with a little privacy."
"No, no," Mariko said as she attempted to get Kim to latch onto her right breast, "you're all welcome to stay."
"Oh no, we'll just get in the way," Wade said via his v-phone link. Jim and Tim echoed this sentiment with their own lame yet good-natured excuses to avoid the baby's first feeding session.
The members of Mariko and Justy's extended family who elected to stay provided the new parents with advice, swapped stories among themselves, and took turns walking the floor with Kim.
And although she ceased to cry and even occasionally drifted off during these short treks across the suite, Kim didn't sleep soundly unless she was laying skin-to-skin against Mariko's chest. Her head oriented to her mother's heartbeat.
The sudden departure from the red warmth of the dark into the white cold of the bright had been a severe shock. The worst has been the loss of the thrum which was both a sound and a feeling. Screaming, also a union of sound and feeling, tried to fill the void.
The thrum did occasionally return, the same as before but not so. Coupled with newer vibrations that faded in to surround and then retreated into the far distances brought a new dark. And as this new dark began, Kim was awash in a different kind of warmth. Less still but deeper so.
"I have a question," Bonnie said as she snuggled up to Ron on the couch.
"Sure, Bon-squared," Ron replied, throwing his left arm around her shoulder and flipping off the television. "What's on your mind?"
"Where did it go?" she said, turning to face him with steady, unreadable eyes.
In the pregnant silence that followed, Ron unconsciously removed his arm from his girlfriend's shoulder and began to scratch the back of his neck.
"Where did what go?" He asked finally.
"The wall," she said, placing her palm gently against his chest.
"Uh," he began and then stopped.
She sighed. "Ron, when we started going out I knew the deal. You've been through so much that it was unreasonable, not to mention unfair, to expect that you'd be totally open with me."
"No, listen. I was perfectly fine with it. There were some parts of yourself that you just wouldn't be able to share with me. Of course, that is what I told myself. But after repeating that for years it got so … Well, maybe, in some weird way, that was just me building my own boundary to keep myself from getting hurt."
She placed her fingers to his lips. "You don't have to say anything. My point is that a few months ago I began to doubt that I could accept never breaching your wall, and then just recently it … it disappeared." She suddenly enveloped him in one of the tightest hugs he had ever been given.
He hugged her back as tightly, and they held it for what seemed an ocean of time.
"Well?" Bonnie whispered pointedly in his ear. "Are you going to answer the question?"
"Oh!" Ron laughed as the hug broke. Then realizing that he was nervously rubbing his neck, he laughed again. "I think KSR took it."
"KSR?" She shook her head. "Are you actually calling Kimmie that?"
"Well-," Ron smiled and nodded.
"Well, of course you are." She massaged her right temple as she regarded him with bemused exasperation.
It was an expression with which Ron was exceedingly familiar. And then it abruptly changed into one he had only thought he had seen for a few fleeting seconds maybe once or twice since they began dating.
"I think you're right," she smiled, her aqua eyes shining at him. "I think she did."
"Kimmie! What have I told you about running too fast for mommy?" Mariko, backpack over her left shoulder diaper bag sliding down her right, felt ready to collapse as she entered the already opened back door of her father's house. Ever since her daughter learned to walk three months earlier, she had been futilely trying to keep pace with the toddler. A toddler who had now, apparently, learned to open doors.
Can she even reach that knob?
"Dad," Mariko called after catching her breath, "we're here!"
She dumped her bags among open cereal boxes on the kitchen table and wandered into the immaculately-kept living room. Mariko found it amusing that although Dr. S had made good on her vow to keep their house clean, chaos still reigned in the kitchen. Almost two years since the wedding and it looked just as wrecked as it ever had. That said, she did note that the 'lotus pan' was no longer resting in the seat of one of the kitchen chairs—as it had been for the past month of Wednesdays.
She collapsed onto the couch and immediately yelped. "Ow!"
"What's wrong?" her father called from upstairs.
"Sat on my keys,' Mariko called back.
She turned her head and discovered her daughter, holding a ball twice the size of her head. Kim's large brown eyes were full of concern.
"Don't worry, Kimmie, Mommy's okay."
Mariko closed her eyes and rested her head against the couch's back pillow. Her current schedule was so exhausting. With Justy starting his new second shift position at the Space Center and her teaching classes at both Middleton and Lowerton Community Colleges, she typically spent her Wednesdays (the one day when her father could baby-sit Kim) catching up on her sleep rather than catching up with the professional/household obligations for which such breaks were initially meant. And, more often than not, these impromptu naps took place on her father's couch.
As she drifted off to the sound of Kimmie bouncing that ball about the living room, Mariko found her mind wandering back to her daughter's eyes. Although they had gradually changed in color (as the eyes of most children with Caucasian heritage typically did), the small bright points of cerulean had remained. The afterimage of these points, in fact, were still floating across the black field of Mariko's mind. Maybe 'floating' wasn't the correct word. They were bouncing. Bouncing to the beat of the ball against the living room's hardwood floor.
"Be careful, Kimmie. Don't bounce that ball too high." Mariko heard herself say. She immediately regretted this directive. The rhythm of the bounces dramatically increased. Instead of long, high bounces, her daughter was giving it short rapid bounces. Which were, of course, more distracting.
"Not so fast, Kimmie. Mommy's trying to sleep."
"Okay. Swee Tie."
Mariko smiled. It wasn't that the little girl couldn't say 'Mama'; she just preferred trying to call her "Sweetie." It was cute.
As the bounces became more languid, Mariko found herself drifting off again. Instead of her daughter's eyes, her drowsy thoughts began to orbit around the new-found toy. As the time between bounces varied, its size in her mind's eye also changed. It would become small enough to fit in Kimmie's hand one second and twice as large as the little girl the next. It floated gently across the room, barely touching the floor, and then suddenly expanded to be large enough to fill the entire room with her daughter securely riding on top. When had her father got it? And wasn't it a strange color, too?
"Hey there, KSR!" Ron's voice intruded into her reverie. "Say, where did you get that ball?"
Mariko's eyes sprung open at this question.
"What do you mean, Dad?" she said sitting up. "Didn't you buy it for her?"
"Nope, sure didn't."
"Maybe Bonnie got it?" Mariko suggested. She had no idea why, but she was suddenly feeling very anxious.
"I can't imagine when," Ron answered. "Before her shift today? Not likely. I mean I've never seen that before in my—" He gave a quick glance back to the kitchen and then slowly got down to his knees. "Hey, KSR. Can you pass that to Zeyde?"
With a happy squeal, Kim gave the ball a two-handed bounce to her grandfather.
He caught it with both hands. A half second later there was a flash of blue light, and Ron was holding a frying pan.
"Let me get you something better to play with," he smiled. He stood and placed the 'lotus pan' on top of Bonnie's tallest bookcase. Before the child could even complain, he had taken his brand-new v-phone from his back pocket and carelessly handed it to her. Kim gave a delighted, not-wholly-innocent laugh, and ran from the room with the device.
Mariko discovered that her mouth had gone seriously dry. "K-Kim is the Lotus Child."
Ron was staring fixedly at the floor. For a long while the only sounds to be heard were the beeps and chirps coming from his v-phone in the next room.
"Yes, she is," he said finally.
She was dismayed to see that he was wearing his most 'serious' face.
"She is the redeemer of Yamanouchi. She will herald a new golden age and sweep away the centuries of darkness."
As her father spoke each of these words, Mariko's heart retreated deeper and deeper within her chest.
"That is, you know," Ron gave a languid shrug, "if college doesn't work out."
"Huh?" Mariko was totally flummoxed by her father's sudden shift in tone.
"Well, it'll be up to her, right?"
"Yeah," Mariko nodded as she grasped what her father was saying and found that she very much agreed. "Yeah. We'll tell her when the time is right and then let her decide." Then a disconcerting thought occurred to her. "Does it work that way? Aren't prophesies kinda inescapable? You don't choose them they choose you, right?"
"As a former 'Chosen One,'" Ron smiled, "I can tell you that prophesy or no prophesy your destiny-your life is always up to you."
Father and daughter continued to smile even after sounds from the other room made it plain that his v-phone could not survive its encounter with the Lotus Child.
Kim awoke crying from a nightmare. Again.
She didn't have nightmares often, but when she did, they happened over multiple nights. Sometimes for almost a week. And then they would disappear for the better part of a year or longer, but, eventually, they would return. They had started way back when she was three.
Mariko became so concerned when they first began that she had taken Kim to the doctor. The visit had not gone well. For the first reason, Kim had assumed 'go to the doctor' meant 'visit GrandBon.' But the doctor had not been her grandmother; in fact, the doctor had been a man. Secondly, this doctor said that Kim wasn't having nightmares, he said she was having 'night terrors.' That sounded much, much worse. Third, he said that nothing could be done to stop them.
Fortunately, he had been wrong. Kim's mom knew exactly what do. She let her sleep in the big bed with her and her daddy for a while. That worked until her daddy's back started to hurt from sleeping in the recliner too often and her mom's shoulder started hurting from landing on the floor too many times after getting kicked off the side of the bed by Kim while she slept.
Rinabull had come to the rescue. She had suggested 'Rabbit' to Kim's mom as a possible solution to the little girl's nightmares. And he had worked. Whenever she slept with 'Rabbit', she almost without exception slept through the night. On the rare instances when he couldn't keep Kim's 'night terrors' away entirely, 'Rabbit' was there to comfort her in the dark. Although he had sat on her mother's dresser for as long as Kim could remember, the smell of his fabric always reminded her of Rinabull's old bedroom and would, like magic, calm her down so she could go back to sleep.
The reason for that, of course, was that he had originally lived in Rinabull's old bedroom; he had originally belonged to Rinabull's older sister who had also lived in that room, so 'Rabbit' was very very old. Black and white with long ears and legs, he reminded Kim immediately of a rabbit from one of her storybooks, so that is what she named him. Kim kept meaning to name the baby that 'Rabbit' held on his chest, but she always thought of them as one and the same, so she kept forgetting.
Tonight, however, there was a problem. 'Rabbit' was gone. Even after turning on her light and looking under her bed, Kim couldn't find him.
"Okay, Princess?" asked her daddy standing just outside her door in the darkness of the hallway.
For a reason that she could no longer remember, Kim always hated it when someone called her a princess. Except, that is, when that someone was her daddy.
"I can't find Rabbit anywhere," she said, checking under her pillow for the umpteenth time. Her growing concern was evident in her trembling voice. Although she always tried to present her bravest face to everyone—even, most times, to her mother, Kim never hid her 'messier' feelings from her daddy.
"Another bad dream?" He asked walking over to her bed.
"Uh-huh," she nodded. She stared blankly at her pillow and wiped at the tears pooling under her eyes.
"Wanna try finding him together?"
"Okay," she sniffed in a calmer if not hopeful tone.
Justy rechecked the places his daughter had already looked (under the bed, under the pillow, in her closet) and in the less likely places she had been unable to check (in the half inch of space behind her bookcase and the wall—Rabbit was squishy, so it was possible he could have gotten lodged there). Of course, Kim looked on top of her wardrobe, too. (She wasn't allowed to 'go blue' and levitate unless an adult was present and never in public). Finally, they made a pilgrimage across the hall just in case she had left him in the bathroom and, perhaps, in the cabinet underneath the bathroom sink.
After a couple of minutes of dejected silence back on her bed, he asked her, "Was it still nothing, Princess?"
"Yeah," she sighed. The most awful thing about her nightmares, as far as Kim was concerned, was that she could never remember what they were about. Her friends in kindergarten reported having bad dreams about dragons, monsters, clowns and on and on. One friend, Chip, even reported being chased by a dragon dressed like a clown. She, on the other hand, had bad dreams about nothing. Even if she dreamed about being chased by a clown dragon, it would be better than nothing.
"I used to dream about ghosts."
"Yeah?" Kim asked. "Did they scare you?"
"Oh, yeah." Her daddy nodded, looking at the floor. "A lot. GrandMon used to sit on my bed until I fell back asleep."
"Kinda like you do with me?" Kim said.
He squeezed her shoulder. "Uh-huh. Just like this." Then he noticed a knot forming between her eyebrows. "What are you thinking, Princess?"
"What if," she hesitated, "what if these nightmares never go away?"
"They will. Mine did."
As kindly as they had been spoken, her father's words didn't bring Kim any comfort at all. She could make nightmares about ghosts stop. Easy. Ghosts weren't real. But how could she stop having dreams about nothing? Nothing was real, wasn't it?
"Did GrandMon tell you ghosts weren't real?" she asked sadly.
"She did," her father replied. "But that didn't stop the dreams."
"It didn't?" His statement filled Kim with a mixture of confusion and hope. The solution wasn't what she expected. And maybe, just maybe, what worked for her daddy would work for her, too. "What made the dreams stop?"
"Finding out that she wrong." He gave her a warm smile. "That ghosts are real."
"I saw one."
Kim didn't say anything for a long time. She just stared gob smacked at her father, who was still giving her that same kind-hearted smile as if he had just said something completely normal, like that he loved her.
"Would you like me to tell you about it?"
"Please AND thank you." Kim sidled closer to her father and draped his right arm around her own shoulder.
Twenty minutes later, her father turned off her bedroom light and Kim snuggled deeply into her comforter. Her head was abuzz with so many thoughts and ideas. Ghosts were real. Her daddy had seen one. And the one he had seen was trying to make her Zeyde feel better. And, if a ghost could do that without the person knowing, maybe there was one trying to do that for her when she felt sad or lonely. Just remembering the excitement in her father's voice as he told the story made her feel so warm, like whenever she ran really fast or had been dancing.
I feel so awake! There's no way I can fall asleep now!
Justy went downstairs for a glass of water before returning to bed. As he was crossing the living room to the kitchen, he noticed something on the floor beneath the dinner table.
There you are.
He sat 'Rabbit' on the kitchen countertop as he poured his drink. How his daughter could mistake it for a bunny was a real mystery. Sure, it had long ears and its feet were vaguely rabbit-like, but its elongated tail looked nothing like a cotton puff. And, of course, there was the baby in its pouch.
Justy smiled. He couldn't really blame her, though. Cuddlebuddies had been mash-ups of two or more different animals. And this one really didn't look enough like either of its component animals. He could see some features that resembled a kangaroo, but the only panda attribute was that it was black and white.
He finished his drink and picked up the stuffy. Without thinking, he slipped his index finger into the loop of its tag, sewn into the seam where the tail joined the rest of its body. He had had this same habit with his stuffed animals when he was a little kid. As he unhooked his finger, something about the tag caught his eye.
When he left the kitchen a few moments later, Justy was a bundle of kid-style giddiness. He bounded up the stairs and down the hall toward his daughter's half-closed door. In the second before he stuck his head into her room, the thought struck him that his careless (and noisy) approach might have disturbed her.
Was I skipping just now?
Fortunately, Kim was fast asleep. Her snores, although not as cavernous as her mother's, were significant and indicated that her sleep was deep. He gently lay 'Rabbit' by her side and tiptoed from the room.
As Justy snuggled next to Mariko, whose sleep had also not been disturbed by his skipping, his mind was abuzz.
There's no way I can sleep now!
He wouldn't have even noticed if he hadn't just been telling Kim about the ghost. And it could still be a simple coincidence or a synchronicity. But, then again, what if it wasn't?
Ten years earlier on the night of the Spirit Dance, Justy had awakened in a Middleton Memorial bed. After learning that Mariko was safe and the immense relief that news produced began to ebb, several mysteries confronted him. Chief among these was how he had gotten to the hospital. Dr. Rockwaller's story filled most of the gaps. He vaguely remembered speaking to her on the Sloth's v-phone; yet, he didn't remember making the call. And he certainly could not explain how he made it to the car in the first place. He only had hazy recollections of speaking to someone and of the branches of the park's trees moving above his head. And being kissed. But he couldn't be sure if these were real memories or just dreams that occurred afterwards while he was sedated. In wildly optimistic moments, he interpreted these as evidence that 'his' ghost had somehow returned and helped him. More often, he just assumed he had stumbled through the snow on his own and his concussion had wiped that memory away.
However, there was one detail from the event that stood out for Justy. It wasn't a half-remembered hallucination, either. It was something real, something witnessed by others. Although insignificant in the scope of the traumatic episode, it was the one detail that he still found himself thinking about from time to time.
His hospital bed had come equipped with a touchpad. At some point in the night, even though he was heavily sedated and, supposedly, unconscious, he had gotten his hands on the device, turned it on, launched a messaging application and begun to type a message before dropping the device to the floor.
This was not outside the realm of possibility. The 'supposedly unconscious' had been known to perform all sorts of complicated tasks in such a state. However, it was the cryptic 'message' that had been discovered on the device when it was powered on that had remained with him. And, despite all the logical reasons to the contrary, Justy had believed, or at least wanted to believe, that the 'message' was from his ghost.
Written in a child's hand on Rabbit's tag was the same 'message': K A P.
After kindergarten let out on Thursday afternoons, Kim would stay at her 'Godparents'' house while her mother was teaching in Lowerton. Although she was being raised in her mother's faith and there was no Jewish equivalent for godparents, this was the title Justy and Mariko happily gave the Possibles and that they happily accepted. It made a certain kind of sense, too. They were 'caretakers' of Kim's morality in many ways. For example, it was well-known that Kim had learned "Please and Thank You" from them. Even though neither James or Anne could remember exactly when they had first taught her the phrase.
It had been a long time since Kim learned what their real first names were and how to pronounce their last name properly; however, she still called them by the names she had used when she was first learning to talk. This arrangement pleased everyone involved.
'Bullmommy' always had an old-fashioned board game set up for the two of them to play. When the game was over, Kim invariably spent the rest of her visit sitting with her 'Bulldaddy' in his large recliner watching old tv shows. His favorite show was about a space captain, and he was always very excited for her to watch it with him. She always nodded 'yes' to his invitations although she secretly found the show kinda boring. That didn't matter because she loved sitting with him, and, besides, they both usually fell asleep long before an episode was half over.
One day, when her mother arrived to pick her up and Bullmommy had rustled them awake, Bulldaddy had given her his usual farewell hug. Then something strange happened.
"Goodbye, Kimmie Cub," he said drowsily before closing his eyes again.
Although he had never used that funny name before, Kim replied without hesitation, as if she had heard it a million times before. "Goodbye, Bulldaddy."
On the ride back home, she had wondered if Bulldaddy was going to keep using that funny name for her. If he did, she would have to come up with a funny name for him, too. But it would have to be perfect. She lay awake in bed that night for what seemed like forever trying to come up with something both perfect and funny. Then she remembered the thing that the space captain always said in every episode of that old show.
It didn't make her laugh when she first said it, but it did make her smile. And each time she repeated it, it sounded funnier. She couldn't wait to try it out with him on her next Thursday visit.
But before the next Thursday came, Bulldaddy was gone.
Not many days after the funeral, Kim decided that she was going to tell Bullmommy about the nickname that she never got to share. But right before she did, she changed her mind. Telling Bullmommy about it might make her feel even sadder. And no one who had loved Bulldaddy deserved that. Instead, she asked Bullmommy if she could sit in her lap. Once she was there, they hugged each other until they both feel asleep.
A few days later Kim remembered her father's ghost story and happily realized that it might still be possible to share the nickname.
For the next several weeks right before she fell asleep, Kim would say 'Goodnight, Rockets-a-Godaddy' to the silent darkness of her bedroom.
Just in case someone might be there to hear.
"Mom? Did you know about Bullmommy's daughter?" Kim was struggling to fish the last pieces of soggy cereal from her bowl. "Not Rinabull, but the one who died?"
After a second's hesitation that her daughter did not notice, Mariko answered, "Yes."
"Did you know that she and Zeyde were best friends?"
"Did you know that she and Zeyde saved the world together?"
Mariko sat down in the kitchen chair next to her daughter. "Yep."
"Like over and over and over again?"
Mariko smiled as she watched the excitement build across her daughter's features as the little girl spoke.
"Bullmommy has this video of like all the times they did it. And she showed it to me yesterday."
"Really?" She offered her daughter a napkin. "You've got milk on your chin."
Kim ignored the napkin. "Yes, and she was amazing. The jumps, the kicks, the kung fu."
"Karate?" Mariko asked as she wiped her daughter's chin.
"Yes, that, too. And, did you know what else, mom?"
"Her name was Kim, too."
"No, not so weird."
Kim was quiet for the next few moments. Mariko watched as her daughter laid down her spoon and stared idly into her almost empty bowl. Her eyes flashed blue for an instant and the last piece of cereal floated languidly into her waiting mouth. Mariko toyed with the notion of asking Kim what she was thinking, but she didn't get the chance.
"I'd like to do that," Kim said in a hushed voice.
"Like to do what?"
She smiled up at her mother, "Help people." Then she blushed. "Save the world."
"Maybe you will someday."
"Really?" Kim gave her mother a cocked eyebrow that, for once, expressed confusion rather than six-and-half-year-old sass as it usually did.
Mariko gave the otherwise empty kitchen a once over to make sure no one was listening. "Wanna know a secret?"
"Please and Thank You," Kim nodded.
Mariko leaned into her daughter's ear and whispered, "You're named after her."
Kim didn't reply, didn't even seem to be breathing for a minute or so, but her eyes grew larger than Mariko would have believed was humanly possible.
"Boo-yah," Kim spoke softly at last.
Although the word may have belonged to her father, the smile that punctuated it couldn't help but remind Mariko of her very best friend.
Normally, any such remembrance would be followed by a sting of melancholy. However, this time, Mariko found that the emotion produced was quite the opposite.
Kim had trouble remembering her dreams. Well, that wasn't exactly true. She could remember her dreams, but not all of them. Every morning she would try in vain to recall everything that happened in her sleep, but her dreams were just so full.
Almost without exception they concerned the other Kim and her many adventures with Zeyde. In some of the dreams she was observing the action from a distance-as if she were re-watching scenes from Bullmommy's video through binoculars. More often, however, she saw the action from the other Kim's point-of-view, as if she were performing the kicks and jumps herself. Although many of these dreams seemed to be replays of those she had seen in the video or had the same events placed in a different order or with different elements, there were some dreams that were 'new'. These dreams were of escapades she was wholly unfamiliar with—adventures from her own imagination, apparently. In any case, she could never remember them all when she awoke.
It might be assumed that having adventures all night would make a little girl very tired in the morning. But instead, Kim always felt refreshed and ready to go when waking from these dreams. And without question, they made her feel much better than when she used to wake up from the night terrors.
Oddly, she couldn't remember the last time she had had one of those terrifying 'nothing' dreams. Had she ever had one since the night her father told her about his ghost? She wasn't sure, but she didn't want to think too hard to figure that out, either.
Stranger still, she couldn't remember exactly when the night adventures with the other Kim had begun. She assumed they started after she watched Bullmommy's video, but now she wasn't so sure about that, either.
And then there was the Other Dream.
At first Kim didn't realize that she was having the same dream again and again over several nights. Rather, she believed that she was waking up on multiple mornings with a memory of a single dream that had had happened only once at some point a few weeks earlier. Then one day she realized that couldn't be right because each morning when she had this 'memory,' she was remembering different things about the dream—new things. The dream was changing, getting longer and more detailed each time she dreamt it.
Early on, she assumed it was a dream about space. She was overlooking a field of stars that were shimmering a great distance beneath her. Gradually, she also noticed the sound of the wind in the distance, so she couldn't have been in space. Maybe she was floating over the ocean and was seeing a reflection of the night sky. If so, the rocking of the waves might explain why the stars seemed to be moving ever so slightly.
A few mornings later, she knew that wasn't right, either. She could hear the wind clearly and it was brushing through tree tops. If she had been floating over an ocean, she wouldn't have heard the rustle of leaves. Perhaps, she was on the edge of a very large lake instead. A lake in the mountains.
As soon as Kim thought the word 'mountains,' the images in her mind shifted. The stars weren't stars. They were lights. And the lights weren't moving, not exactly. They were fading in and out, but they were staying in the same places.
About a week later Kim realized that the sound of the wind through the trees was not, as she had first remembered, just coming from above and behind her. The sound was also coming from beneath her, it was coming from the darkness between those tiny lights. It wasn't a body of water she was seeing. It was a valley, and the lights were from windows in buildings and in homes. She was watching over a valley full of villages.
Each time Kim had this dream, the picture became clearer with more details. Like a moving painting, the dream grew deeper and more beautiful with each visit. She always awoke from it with an intense feeling of calm, warmth, and anticipation.
She just couldn't wait to see how the dream would turn out.
Zeyde had wanted to take Kim to the park for weeks, but the weather always turned nasty whenever he had some free time. So, on the next beautiful clear day, he took the afternoon off from the Nosh Hut and picked up his granddaughter after school.
The park's other visitors were bemused by the sight of the man and the little girl chasing each other around the grounds squealing and laughing. This was especially true since the higher-pitched squeals were often emanating from the man. More than a few visitors made the incorrect, if entirely understandable, assumptions that the man was the girl's father and that they were playing tag.
Although their play had aspects of tag, hide-and-seek, and follow-the-leader, it wasn't as formal as any of these games. The fact was they loved running around like crazy whenever they were together. And doing so until they both collapsed in the grass, panting and laughing. Eventually, one of them, usually Kim, would recover enough to bound up off the ground and charge off in a new direction, and, the other, usually Ron, would struggle to their feet and give chase.
This cycle had repeated itself a half dozen times when Kim stood up and realized that Zeyde wasn't where she thought he was going to be.
He was standing motionless in front of what looked to Kim like a drinking fountain. But he wasn't getting a drink, he was just looking down at it. As she got closer, she noticed that instead of a bubbling spigot, the 'fountain' had what looked like stone vines at the top. Maybe it was a birdbath, but she couldn't see or hear any water.
He didn't respond, only kept looking down at the top of the whateveritwas. She didn't like the look on his face. He looked … old. Although Zeyde was her grandfather, he always seemed so much younger than her friends' grandparents and even younger than her GrandMon and GrandTon, who didn't look particularly old, either.
But Zeyde looked old now. And sad.
His hands were limp and half open at his sides. Hesitantly, she curled her fingers around the index finger of his right hand. After a moment, he gave her fingers a slight squeeze, and his face softened somewhat.
Suddenly, Kim realized what the fountain thing was. Her father had pointed it out to her when he had taken her to the park almost a year ago. It was a shrine they had built to remember Bullmommy's Kim.
If what he felt was anything like the sadness Bullmommy felt when Rockets-a-Godaddy had died, how could she ever make him feel better?
After a few moments of painful silence, she said the only thing that felt right. "I'm here."
Without looking at her, Zeyde replied, "I know you are, Kim. I know you are."
Then in one fluid motion, he swept her off the ground and planted her on his shoulders. They were both laughing even before he began to run.
As they made their frantic way passed the newly restored and enlarged Silver Gazebo, Kim found herself thinking about heaven. Not the place, but the word.
She had noticed how people used words like 'heaven', 'wonderful,' and 'perfect' when they wanted to talk about moments just like this one. But, really, words didn't work—they couldn't possibly explain how she was feeling. But, they were best you could do.
So, for that moment in time, and, really, whenever she was with her Zeyde, Kim Stoppable-Renton was in Heaven.