Chapter Six: Wounds
Teri slept like a log that night in her old room at Abel's. Maurine's old friend, the one she came to visit every so often, Abel lived on what had once been farmland and did little to redecorate. She could still remember how strange it had felt to sleep next to a barn that had no animals. She could still remember his son, Derek, training with her in that barn. Teaching her how to throw shuriken, kissing her in the snow outside…
The night she ran away from home Teri swore she'd never go back. If Maurine hadn't been in town for a visit with Abel, if she didn't walk up to the girl crying at a bus stop and offer her a place to sleep… Teri thought about what could've been as she made her bed. Without Maurine, she wouldn't have heard about the Tsukuta School. She wouldn't have heard about Maurine's granddaughter Sakura. She wouldn't have had the courage to see her mother yesterday.
Maybe someday she would have the courage to see her father.
They left that morning after a quick breakfast and Abel walked them out to the car. Teri could see where the barn had once been over his shoulder while she hugged him. There was only a square of scorched earth where she'd once spent so many afternoons with Derek. It was completely bare now. There wasn't even a weed brave enough to poke through the dirt and ash.
The car was far less intolerable driving back than it had been on the way up. It wasn't nearly as hot as it had been the day before. She was also feeling really good about talking to her mother. It would be five bucks to print out a new ID next year when she went back to school, but it had been worth it. She made a vow to come back once everything had settled down and greet her father properly. Maybe by then she'd be ready.
They got to the airport an hour early, so Maurine opted to park the car and wait for them in the terminal. Kiboto staked out his seat next to Teri and was curled up and snoring before long. She had no clue how he could spend so much of his time dreaming. It was starting to look like he was more cat than anything else.
"I'm going to find a magazine or something," Maurine said. "I think I saw a newsstand on our way in."
"Alright," Teri said. "Grab me a root beer?" The old woman nodded and drifted away into the crowd. Teri wondered when the off-season was. People always seemed to be coming or going here. She didn't know if all airports were like this or if it was a trait exclusive to the big-city ones.
With her only companion fast asleep, Teri settled on people watching to pass the time. A crowd of girls in uniforms were walking by, giggling about something. Their jackets said "varsity" and nothing else, so she was left to ponder what sport they played. An old man caught her eye after that. He was wearing a suit that had seen better days and talking frantically to someone on the phone. She turned her head when he dropped his coffee so he didn't see her laugh.
When she checked to see if he was gone she saw a woman in his place. She was tall as she was slender, her long legs covered in nylons. She was wearing a jacket despite the warm weather and tugging a suitcase along behind her. Her dark hair was loosely tied back in a ponytail. Most of her dark curls framed her face and fell around her neck. Teri was admiring the confidence it took to wear plum-colored lipstick in the day when she realized the woman was walking to the chairs.
"He's a cute little guy, isn't he?" she said, staring at Kiboto. "Can I ask what he is?"
"You're guess is as good as mine," Teri said with a shrug. "I can wake him up if you want. He loves attention."
"No, that's quite alright," she said. "Do you mind?" Teri gestured to the seat Granny Maur had vacated and the woman took it. "I'm Dr. Jane. Which is a fun way to say 'I got a Ph.D.' without letting anyone know it's not medical."
"Kind of ruins the point to tell them right after," Teri said, smiling. Jane was the kind of woman who laughed with her entire body. It started from her head and ended with one of her four-inch heels up in the air. It hurt just to look at them. Her boots weren't much shorter, but they had some arch support those polished puppies the woman was wearing almost certainly didn't.
"Which flight are you on?" Jane asked politely.
"Oh I'm actually just waiting for a friend," Teri said. "You?"
"Ugh. I have no idea." Jane flailed in what Teri was starting to doubt was her real laugh. How could anyone have the energy to do that all the time? "I let my travel companion sort all that out. He's buying the tickets as we speak!"
"He drew the short straw?" Teri said, bracing herself for the woman's fit of hysterics. Something just didn't sit right about the doctor.
"Oh my," Jane said suddenly. "Dear, I'm afraid you're shedding." Teri checked her shoulder to see she was telling the truth.
"I forgot to brush my hair this morning," Teri said, picking at the strand on her shirt. "I usually just throw it up. Guess this is what I get for leaving it down today."
"I can help you with that." Jane wrangled a brush out of her cluttered purse without sliding it off of her shoulder. She held it up and beckoned with her finger. Against every instinct in her body, Teri awkwardly turned her back to the stranger and offered her hair. "You really don't brush often, do you?"
"Can't say I do," Teri said, nervously toying with the braided belt she'd worn over her shorts. She felt something tugging her head back and she gasped at the unexpected pain. "What are you doing?"
"Sorry, dear!" Jane said quickly. "Lot of knots back here. I'll just give it a rest for now. You'll probably be able to handle that mess a lot better than I can." Teri readjusted herself in the seat as Jane dropped the brush back in her purse. There was an awful lot of hair stuck to the teeth that she didn't bother cleaning out.
"Are you ready to go?" called a man from the crowd. Teri tried to pick him out and failed. Jane didn't seem to have a problem locating him. She waved at someone Teri still couldn't see.
"Coming, Dan!" Jane jumped to her feet. If Teri had tried that move in those heels, she would've been on the floor. The woman grabbed Teri's hand with both of hers and shook. "It was a pleasure meeting you! Have a safe flight!"
"But I'm waiting…for…" Teri dropped her voice when the woman didn't look back. The good doctor's luggage was monogramed, she noticed. If her name was Jane, why were the initials "K.C." sewn into her things?
"Who was that?" Maurine asked, appearing at Teri's side with a root beer and a copy of some news journal. Teri shook her head.
"I honestly don't know," she admitted. "She wanted to brush my hair…"
"Brush your…" Maurine was baffled.
"I don't think I've been so uncomfortable," Teri said. That was all they said on the matter. Maurine lost herself in current events and Teri tried to piece together a coherent version of what had just happened to her. She gave up in trying to make sense of the whole mess when Sakura and Hiroko found them a short while later.
"This was all your fault," Teri whispered, scooping a groggy Kiboto up from his resting place. He glared at her for waking him up and handling him so aggressively. "Not a word, mister. You got to sleep through that mess. You're staying awake until bed time now."
Kiboto growled and swatted at her. He made it a point to keep brushing his tail in her face the entire ride back to Maurine's.
The doorbell rang a few days after that. Maurine had decided she wasn't in the mood to cook and brought out a packet of takeout menus for them to go through. Sakura grabbed one for a Chinese restaurant and Teri had gone for a sub shop. Maurine left it up to the three of them and Hiroko, ever the neutral party, refused to break the tie.
"I don't feel like shoveling down a pile of grease in the middle of the day," Sakura argued.
"They have salads!" Teri pointed to them on the menu. "Besides, I don't feel like breaking my hand trying to use chop sticks! Don't be such a bitch about it!"
"They have forks," Sakura snarled, mocking Teri and pointing randomly at her own menu. "Hiroko, what do you think?"
"I'm fine with either?" he tried, shifting between the two of them. Sakura wanted to hit him.
"Will you just make a decision?!" she shouted.
"Grow a pair!" Teri yelled. Hiroko sank down in his chair.
"I hate it when you two team up…" he muttered. The doorbell drowned out Sakura's particularly vile slur at him.
"I'll get it," Maurine said, casting Sakura a reprimanding look. "Please don't repeat that while I'm gone." Sakura laughed uncomfortably and Maurine rolled her eyes. Teri's moment of triumph was cut short when Verdon and Bleu appeared in the living room.
"You made it!" Sakura said, standing to greet them. She was stopped from offering either of them a hug by a tiny blur. Melanie dashed around Bleu and leapt into Sakura's arms. "Hi, Melly! How's the math homework going?"
"Good!" she said proudly. "I've been trying extra hard so I don't grow up stupid, like you!" This was apparently meant to be a good thing. Sakura resisted the urge to drop the little brat.
"I missed you too," Sakura said, biting her cheek so she didn't say anything else. Matt, Kelsey, and Jacob had joined the rest of the group in the living room while she was talking to Melanie. It was sufficiently crowded in the blink of an eye. Kelsey waved at Sakura eagerly from the footrest she'd claimed as her chair.
"It's good to see you again, Sakura," Bleu said with a slight bow.
"Hiro, my man!" Verdon said, pounding Hiroko's fist. It was Teri's turn after that. Sakura watched as Teri pulled her legs up, puffed out her chest and pretended she'd been looking around casually when Verdon approached her. "And how have you been, Teri?"
"Hm? Oh, hi Verdon," Teri said as if she hadn't seen him come in. "Didn't see you there." Teri stretched up a bit in an attempt to look sexy. She tried to slide over on the chase as gracefully as she could but overshot it and pinched Kiboto's tail. He yipped so loudly she sprang up in shock. The girl only just caught herself from falling and knocked over her drink in the process. Sakura was laughing so hard she snorted.
"Where's Yomara?" Hiroko asked, ignoring Teri's humiliating display. "Wasn't she supposed to be coming with you?"
"She did, but…" Verdon folded his hands behind his head, a gesture that successfully showcased his muscular frame thanks to the tank top. Sakura fought the desire to watch Teri's reaction.
"That's actually what we need to speak to you about," Bleu said, taking Melanie from Sakura. Sensing the change in mood, Sakura picked her grandmother out of the crowd and gave her a look. Whatever Bleu wanted to say wasn't appropriate for the children.
"Oh fine," Maurine said with a huff. "I guess I'll let my wonderfully polite granddaughter introduce me to the people I'm letting stay in my house later. Come on, kids! Who wants Granny M to show them the pool?!" Kelsey, Jacob, and Melanie cheered.
"Are you sure you don't mind our presence?" Bleu asked. "I would hate for us to be a burden in any way."
"I'm not going through this again," Maurine warned, frightening the mild-mannered Bleu to the point that she started apologizing without knowing what she'd done. Sakura cut in to save the poor girl.
"I already told her about everything," Sakura said. "She's glad to help. It won't be a problem." Maurine gave Bleu a pat on the shoulder and directed the children out of the living room. Melanie took her hand and walked by her side down the hallway.
"You're really old," Melanie said.
"I can see why Sakura likes you so much," Maurine said dryly as they walked out to the backyard.
"Don't you want to go swimming?" Verdon asked when he saw Matthew hadn't moved. He shook his head, but the older man strong-armed him up and out of the living room. "Sure you do! Let's go take a dip. Maybe it'll cool you off for once."
Sakura waited until she couldn't hear Matthew's protests before taking a seat on the couch next to Hiroko. Bleu delicately maneuvered around the coffee table and sat in the armchair closest to the window.
"It really is a pleasure seeing you again," Bleu said. "I can't thank you enough for your hospitality. I assure you we will be on our way as soon as we can."
"Your ass is staying here until you're good and ready, child!" Teri bellowed. She only shrugged when everyone turned to stare at her and scratched Kiboto. "What? Granny Maur wasn't here to say it."
"What were you saying about Yomara?" Sakura asked before Bleu could shower them with another stream of gratitude. "Did she come with you guys or not?"
"She did, but…" She trailed off the same way her twin had before her. "It took us this long because we needed to wait until she was fit for travel."
"Did Koruka hurt her that bad?" Hiroko asked, disturbed. Sakura felt the same way. She'd seen what he could do. Teri's eye was a prime example of the permanent damage the light carrier could inflict.
"Her wounds aren't physical as much as they are emotional," Bleu said. "When she woke up she was free of his control but not of what she'd done. Yomara remembers everything she was forced to do under his influence." She glanced over at Teri. "Everything."
"So it's all just hitting her…" Hiroko said bleakly.
"She woke up screaming more often than not," Bleu said. "All she knew when first coming around was everything he'd made her do. The rest of her life came back in bits and pieces. She'll never be the person she was before Koruka, but this is the closest she's going to be for a long time."
"Is that why she didn't come in with you?" Sakura asked. "Because she knows what she did to us?" Bleu nodded.
"So what?" Teri said sharply. "She's sitting outside because she feels guilty?"
"She's sitting outside because she is afraid," Bleu corrected. "I don't blame her."
Sakura watched Teri chew on that piece of information. Of everyone in the room, Yomara had dealt the most damage to Teri. If she remembered everything that happened while she was under Koruka's control, she would remember Teri screaming at the top of her lungs and challenging her in the mall. If anyone was going to make the call about her, it would have to be Teri.
"That's stupid…" Teri growled.
"Not to her," Bleu said. Teri tried to pretend she was busy coddling Kiboto but she got too rough. He hopped off of the chase and padded out of the living room. Teri gave an exaggerated sigh and crossed her arms.
"I don't care," Teri said with a scowl.
"Because that was sincere," Hiroko muttered. Teri shot him a look.
"I mean it." Teri scooted to the edge of the chase and planted her feet on the floor. "I'm never going to like her. Whether she had control over her actions or not, she killed Derek. I can't just let that go. That doesn't mean I'm always going to blame her. I'm stubborn, but I'm not an idiot. Trying to get even with her won't do a damn thing. It's not her fault."
"So it's alright if Bleu brings her in?" Sakura asked.
"Teri isn't the only person she's scared to see right now," Bleu told Sakura.
"Why would I…?" Sakura thought as hard as she could and found nothing that would make her want to attack Yomara. Hell, she didn't even want to accuse her of anything. If anything, Sakura wanted to give the girl a hug. Who knew how many years of her life she lost to Koruka?
"I think that part is best left for her to share. If you'll excuse me," Bleu said, standing. No one spoke until she was back with the final member of her party. She brought her companion around the coffee table and stood next to her. "Sakura, Hiroko, Teri…This is the woman Koruka called 'Yomara'."
There were a lot of things that had shaken Sakura's world in the past year. Finding out the Clown-Man was alive had been one of them. It paled in comparison to discovering her brother was the light carrier. After that, she thought there was nothing left that could rattle her. She realized how wrong she had been when she saw "Yomara."
The fire carrier looked like a completely different person, which she was in a way. Her red hair had apparently been a product of dye. It was starting to fade in the weeks that had passed since they last saw her. She had also cut most of it off. Although it was still braided, it wasn't nearly as thick and stopped by her collar bone. Her full-figured frame wasn't nearly as striking in the plaid-button-up-and-denim combo she was sporting.
"Hi, Sakura…" she said weakly, pushing her glasses up with a finger. She was a lot older than she should've been, which was one reason Sakura had such difficulty taking it all in. Time wasn't a problem for the light carrier, though. Koruka had proved that beyond all reasonable doubt when he presented himself as a full-grown man.
Sakura's mouth had gone dry, making it an effort to croak out her response. "Hi, Jill," she said. Her childhood friend offered her one of the most miserable smiles she'd ever seen and dropped into the armchair.