Aeia glanced across the room, skimming for her grandparents but hardly a reason too. There was a big sign with her name Aeia Mori, in big bold red letters across a white background that screamed, Hello! Aeia inwardly winced feeling out-of-place at the bustling Boston airport. Her eyes were almond-shaped and a natural violet color, a mutation, a freak, that set her apart from the masses. Aeia's eyes flicked back and forth as she walked across towards her grandparents who looked so differently from her, short, immaculate, and all Japanese. It was another reminder, one of many how she stood out from her father's people but even among America she stood out. Aeia felt so washed out of color it almost seemed like a calling card, like that sign to draw attention to her.
"Good morning Aeia," greeted her grandfather. Aeia offered her grandparents a smile that seemed polite.
"Good morning, Grandma, Grandpa," she greeted politely.
"Ah! You being in Japan has taught you manners. I hope you have done well in school? You mother cut us out of her life once Itsuki died," Aeia's grandfather inquired.
"Yes grandpa, I have been among the top 5 of my school," Aeia answered quietly and pointed, "My bags are on that belt over there. The rest of my stuff arrives on September first, just before I start school, right?"
"No school starts August 27th," informed Grandmother. Aeia grimaced in distaste not wanting it to cut into her poor summer.
"Oh," was all the poor response she managed.
"You will like it here trust me, schools here are not up to par with Japan but you will like Price High School. It has a small diversity, but still a very nice high school. The people of Eire County is really nice. You will like it there," Grandmother insisted. Aeia just nodded her head and watched the belt go around waiting for her bags. She studied the belt intently trying to distance herself from estranged grandparents who she had not seen in years. They were just a fuzzy memory of brief visits as a young child before her own father died but now they were the only family she had in the world. It felt like a cruel fate to take her away from all that she had known in Japan, her elite school, the sports clubs, and her friends, but she was here and not there. No one could have predicted her mother's own descent into a wasting sickness that doctors were unable to diagnose. Aeia eyed her green bags as they came around the corner and quickly grabbed them.
"All set," Aeia stated, "thank you."
"You are our granddaughter Aeia, our own family left, of course we are going to take care of you," her grandmother said smiling with her eyes shining. It seemed a sad wavering smile, one barely managed from the tragedies that had struck the Mori family as if by bad luck. Her mother's death was the most recent of such tragedies, though her maternal grandparents have long since been dead before she was born. Her mother had no relatives to speak of either. Aeia gave her grandparents a small smile. It was an awkward silent walk to the car with small attempt conversations about weather and school subjects.
"What sport or sports did you do in school Aeia," asked her grandmother? They got into the Prius before she answered.
"I did archery at the school and took kendo lessons afterwards."
"Such traditional choices," her grandfather muttered but her ears picked it up. Aeia watched her grandmother placed a hand on her husband's shoulder.
"Sounds nice, did you excel in those too?"
"Yes, mom insisted on excelling everything." The unbidden thought of what her mother once said, came to her,"Because they will down on you Aeia. You are not as they are, so you have more to prove because you are new, untested. Do not take it the wrong way, dove. You are a unique flower, a gift, let no one ever take that away from you. Never let anyone trim you like people trim the Bonsai tree. You are you."
"She would, wouldn't she? Education, sports, and being a well-rounded person always seemed so important to her. Itsuki always stressed it too, I am glad she continued it with you. What do you want to be?" Her grandmother continued.
"I do not know grandmother, I honestly do not know. I have not really thought about it." Aeia sighed and started out the window as they left the airport. The city seemed like any city, but it was all English now, English signs, English restaurants, Japanese would be a rarity like American food had been for her. Of course her grandparents would cook and so would she, but she would not eat out here, it would not be the same. It just seemed to added to the despair and the strangeness, not a mystery, but absurdity.
"Do you have classical stations? Mom would always put on Chopin or Beethoven, I do not like what is on the radio," Aeia suggested pleadingly looking for some kind of comfort within familiarity.
"Well sure, no problem," agreed her grandmother fidgeting with the controls for a second trying to find the station. Her grandmother found it and the classical music and she recognized it as Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, 2nd Movement. Aeia smiled in happiness listening to the soothing voices of the strings. She let the music wrap around her like a blanket to soothe the coldness inside of her, the grief that was all to near. Her mother, her best friend, was only a month dead. Here she was at 16 doing her junior year all over again because of American standards how seemingly frustrating.
Mother, the bonsai tree got trimmed. Your death did that, creating a void that could never be filled. Aeia stared at the window watching the people on the streets as people who she guessed were her age, dressed in hoodies and jeans passed by. There was no school uniforms implied. Aeia shifted her attention to the architecture trying to grasp onto the familiarity just like the music but struggling to comes to terms with it all. This was it, here she was, Aeia Mori, lost within a whole other world seeming to engulf her, like the void her mother's death had left in her. Sure, she had her grandparents but they were estranged, not part of her world in which she had known, no school uniforms, or her school clubs, no friends, no karaoke bars, or prep schools anymore; here she was.
"Can I take up piano lessons," Aeia pondered towards her grandparents not really expecting an answer.
"Why that sounds lovely, sure. Have you played?"
"Once a while ago, mom played the violin and she was teaching me the piano. We would do duets together. It was…nice," Aeia finished lamely. Another stark reminder, like a black and white photo, there would be no more duets in the late afternoons either.
"Really? I never knew she was that into music…" Her grandfather spoke up.
"Dear, shush," her grandmother insisted on quieting her grandfather. Aeia looked over at her grandparents and saw her grandmother looking out the window.
Ah, I struck a chord. Grandfather never thought much of mother. Mom used to tell me how much grandmother and her got along. Mom mentioned something about grandfather's traditional views of a woman settling in for a family instead of a career. Aeia sighed giving up on trying to keep the conversation going. Every little word seemed like a needle to pierce and remind her of the loss she suffered, like loosing limbs and having to walk again. At least she had not suffered from the phantom limbs, like seeing her mother there when she was not. It was a struggle, an uphill battle, to learn to walk again, to live again.
The announcer upon the station came on and babbled upon something but Aeia paid no mind. The music came on again and she lost herself within the piano notes of Brian Crain's music. Aeia closed her eyes thinking of the notes as like a soothing rainfall. She slowly drifted into sleep as the car continued to move forward towards her unknown destination.
Aeia awoke to the engine shutting off and crunching of gravel. She opened her eyes to stare at the modern home. It was brown wood panels and the windows did not have shutters like she was used to seeing. The bushes in the front as well as the grass seem immaculate, to picture perfect. The wood fence and gate on the side covered in ivy seemed like a fairy tale the only chaos among this world. She opened the car door and stepped onto the stones. Aeia glanced over at her grandparents already taking her bags to the house while she had stared in a daze. She moved to take one of the heavier bags from them.
"No, do not worry. We got this, go look out at the back," Grandfather grunted. He continued to walk towards the house.
"Please Aeia, go take a look. We work hard on our garden. It might remind you of Japan," encouraged her grandmother.
Seeing that they would not let her, Aeia went to investigate the back of the house as they suggested, she followed the stone walkaway. The stone walkway was smooth, carefully placed, with equal spacing between each stone. It lead to a beautiful breath-taking scene of the garden. There was a pool and around it was some rocks and white sand with lines from the rake she saw leaning against the house. A man-made waterfall cascaded into the pool and she guessed it was as about three or four feet. There was cherry blossom trees on both sides, further back from the pool there was more plants and trees, with stones for the pathway until she saw towards the end of what she could see was a bridge over a pond. The pond was man-made she figured too but it was well done, almost natural and had a quality of zen. Her grandparents were right, this did remind her of Japan and its gardens. Aeia heard a door slide open and she saw her grandmother step out of the house.
"It is beautiful, is it not? We have worked so hard on this garden for years. It reminds of us Japan…" her grandmother trailed off and grew silent before continuing, "We have not been there is so many years, tragedy seemed to follow us in Japan, we lost so many children. I wasn't delighted to hear my son, his wife, and newborn daughter moving to Japan because of the job offer he had. But that is the past now and you are here. Would you like to see your room and settle in?"
"I might as well," Aeia looked over at her grandmother, "Thank you."
Her grandmother's expression warmed up as she smiled and the lines in her face deepened. Grandmother turned into the house and Aeia followed her as she led her to her room on the second floor. It was a spacious room, more spacious than she was used to. Her room in Japan was her bed and enough room for her desk so she could study. Her mother and her had done a D.I.Y. and installed shelves so she could put her books on them and some personal items. The walls were a light green with white for the trim. The curtains were white too. The bed cover was a bamboo forest. There was two dressers of a rich brown mahogany, one with a large mirror on top of it on the opposite wall from her bed and the other a smaller one. The richness of earthy colors had a soothing effect.
"We just got you a bed and the dresser Aeia. We can go out tomorrow for a desk and anything else you need. I hope we did not pursue to much," her grandmother nervously stated.
"I like, like really like it a lot. It's nice and soothing. I actually got rid of all our old furniture. So I need to get a few items. I do not want to be a bother though."
"No, no, it is fine. We can go shopping for furniture and accessories to make your room seem more you tomorrow."
"Alright, can I have lunch? I am really starved."
"Sure, I'll come back up when it is done." Aeia's grandmother left the room. She sighed and stared at the bare walls and began the tedious process of unpacking her clothes. Aeia unzipped one bag and stared at the clothes for a second before tears begin to roll down her eyes. Sobbing quietly and hands shaking she begin to sort her clothes into piles, grasping onto the action to calm herself down. It took her a couple minutes as she did this in a mechanical process trying to numb herself down. Aeia quickly arranged her clothing from both suitcases in the familiar way she did it. Her favorite pairs of the group on top, the comfy in the middle, and her last resort kind on the bottom. She begin the process of putting them into the dresser with the mirror. First on the left side she put pants in the top draw, shorts in the one below that, and then her capris and workout pants. There was methodical process about it all, arranging it in this way. In the middle row first draw she put her underwear, bra, and socks in it, arranging them neatly. The draw below that was for her pajamas and below that was the belts. The right side had all her shirts, working from t-shirts, long sleeve shirts, and a mixture of long dress-shirts and party shirts. It was maybe a bit anal retentive, but it was familiar, a process of which she had managed as such for years.
"Aeia, lunch is ready. The bathroom is across from your room and if you follow the stairs down, the dining room is on the right," her grandmother told her as she peeked in. Aeia smiled gratefully and washed her hands in her a hurry, her stomach growling in hunger. Aeia followed her grandmothers directions to find on the table was a bowl of rice and a small assortment of dishes, fried fish, vegetables, and chicken. Her grandparents were waiting for her and she sat down.
"It smells good," Aeia offered.
"Thank you," her grandmother said. They begin to quietly eat the meal in peace. This was a familiar silence to Aeia, maybe she could get used to this place. It was still a strange feeling besides loneliness in her. Hopefully school would offer entertainment, today was Saturday and school would begin on Monday, just enough time to put her stuff in order. She left her thoughts drift away as she ate thinking of her former school and the archery club. Feeling full she set her chopsticks down on her plate and sipped her water.
"Would you like me to help with dishes?"
"It's fine, I got it," Mayu, her grandmother answered.
"Have you finished unpacking yet," asked her grandfather.
"No…I just have a few more items to unpacked," she replied.
"Ah, Yori, Aeia needs a few items. Can we do a little shopping tomorrow? She does not have a desk and I am sure she would like to personalize her room."
"Fine," her grandfather grunted in reply. Yori looked her straight in the eye, "I am going to enroll you into the Driver's Education class at the school, you'll take it after school. That way you can get your own license and I will help you get a car. I hope it will make it easier for you…getting around here."
It seemed as much as an admission Aeia's grandfather was going to give her. He seemed distance but Yori was a traditional man, born and raised in Japan. Her grandmother never had a long career because of this. At least he did not seem like he was going to impose any rules as far as she knew, then again Aeia understood the general rules. Do not stay out to late and grades, grades, grades. It was all to important that she excell, which was not to hard. Aeia always had an easy intelligence, quickly grasping any subject, but she still studied. There was no need to be a slacker and thus she was always ranked around the top five of her class at her elite private school. It bothered Aeia a little bit that she could not attend anymore because she could have attended Tokyo University practically guaranteed. Aeia knew there was good universities in America, but Tokyo was so long her focus even with no real career goal in her life.
"Thank you," Aeia dipped her head in thanks towards her grandfather. Mayu ushered her into the living room and gave her the remote to watch TV. Aeia flipped through the channels trying to find a show that interested her. She never watched TV at all, the occasional news, or whatever her mother had on her for her, but it was always studies too.
When you live your life a certain way for so long and get thrown into a new routine, it gives you a new perspective. I never realized how much I have not been living. I still need to do well. Aeia though as she continued before settling on a crime show the Mentalist. She watched it fascinated by the interaction and the gentle pressure the main character applied on people in such a psychological way. The show ended and switched to a new one so she continued to flip through channels trying to figure out what she wanted to watch. It all seemed so boring and reality TV show just was not her thing. Japanese game shows, were funny, but some were humiliating too, and America TV had nothing like that, bored she ended up putting on some cartoons and watched. After an hour she abandoned it and went back upstairs to unpack the rest of her stuff. Aeia glanced out the window at her room and it seemed bright as ever out, today was a long day and tomorrow would be too. She had a lot of items to buy tomorrow.