Fumio does the best that she can out of an odd situation.
Fumio slept soundly, feeling more upbeat, (thanks to Karin,) and yet, still a bit anxious. There was much in the way of myths of which she had to rid herself. It was not enough that her son was dating a vampire, or that entire family had been living atop the hill underneath which you resided; now she was going to live in a house filled with them! She had to assure herself that, if there had been a danger, things would have gone bad long ago. She had to admit that it was odd the number of bats that seemed to hang around the place for the few years they had been there. She had even fed some of them, and that was another thing that had explained itself that night: why the bats had been so tame around her. In any case, she was not in a rush, because she wanted some more time to let things sink in. However, the next morning, she was in for a surprise. When they awoke, the only things left in the house were the futons and the bedclothes on which they slept, and the essentials that they needed to start the day. At the first, she was about to scream, “Thieves!”, but Kenta assured her all was okay. He had already been up and fixing breakfast, and handed her mother a note. When she opened it, it said the following:
Please do not be surprised at the emptiness of your house. When I went back last night, we told mother that things were all arranged, and that you would start moving things the next day. However, father would have none of it, and he coerced, (and I do mean coerced,) the rest of the family into helping him move you last night. Mother is still not that sure about mortals under her roof, but father said it would be good to have an extra set of eyes in the daytime looking after things. Grandma Elda reluctantly helped, but please do not let her worry you. She will more than likely avoid you, and not bother you all that much. Brother Ren is hardly around anyway, so the only ones that you have to worry about are mother, father, Karin, and I. Do understand that we welcome you, but please, understand that things are a bit different in our world. Mother and father will tell you more that you will need to know when they awaken tonight. In the meantime, please see the map of the house, and it will show the room that you and Kenta will be using, yet, the whole house is yours in which to roam. Just remember not to disturb any coffins you may find, because you may disturb someone’s sleep. Do not worry about sound, because vampires are normally very sound sleepers, and you shall not awaken them that way. Please hurry to us, because I, personally, look forward to you being there.
Yours with the deepest love,
Fumio was surprised at the maturity that a thirteen year-old girl would possess, and was impressed at her pros. However, she also sensed a bit of sadness in the girl, both in her mannerisms the night before, and in the letter. Though it seemed odd to say this about a vampire, she seemed like she was looking for much in the way of love. Fumio hoped that, at the very least, she could give her what she was seeking. Despite her approach the night before, she was a sweetheart. Kenta headed off to class, and Fumio packed up the last of things and headed up the hill. She had never been to the top of this hill, and the only thing she could ever remember of it was trying to walk up the hill one day, and then waking up in her bed. It was very strange. This time, however, it was a bright and sunny day, and she, for the first time, could see the top of the hill. As she was heading up, Karin and Jean-Claude were heading down. Karin greeted her with a bright and cheery, “Good Morning!” and gave Fumio a big hug. “Thank you,” she said, “but what was that for?”
“For you being you,” she said, smiling, “and to let you know that we do love you. Please don’t be scared by anything you find right now. If a fog comes up behind you after you crest the hill, don’t worry about it, this is normal. We’ll explain later. The house is dark for a reason. Use the lights when you need them, but don’t open any blinds. Make yourself at home, right now, and we’ll help you tonight.”
Karin was about to go, but she stopped and turned back to say, “I know all this is scary, and I hope we didn’t frighten you too badly last night, but you are going to be okay. You’re going to be in the safest place in the city!”
With that, Karin and Jean-Claude went on their way. Fumio began to feel anxious in her gut, and she was not depressed, (Karin had fixed that the night before.) The feeling had more to do with the very odd situation in which she found herself. As soon as she crested the hill, she could see the mansion, and just as Karin said would happen, a fog filled up below her. Fumio then froze in fear. This was too strange! She was not sure into what she was getting. Since her son had known about this for some time, she wondered how long it took before he was used to things. The house itself was definitely European in design, and old. It was clear by its age that it was not something one would commonly see in Japan in the era from which it came. The only thing she could then assume was that this house had been put their by the vampires some time ago, and they had been concealing themselves for centuries. That forced her to ask her self just how old some of them were, or if several generations had lived there before the present family. She mounted the porch, and she was about to knock. However, she then remembered the letter, and then figured that there was no one awake to answer. She doubted anyone would hear her anyway. Then, she wondered if there was a key left somewhere. As she looked around, she noticed that the windows on that side were all covered inwardly with a heavy, black cloth. This cemented in her mind with what she was dealing. She then put her hand on the knob, and she was surprised that the door opened easily. At first, she wondered why this was, and then she figured that it had to do something with no one really knowing that there was anything on the hill. She would have to find out later. She closed the door behind her, and she noticed how dark the place was. She took a moment to let her eyes adjust, and went straight to the designated room.
When she opened it, everything was tidy and in its place. There were two beds: one for her, and one for Kenta. What she found pleasant was that the room was sunward in the morning, and the drapes were pleasing and wide open. It was then that she found another note. It read, “I hope things look nice Auntie-san. I tried to make sure it looked as welcoming as possible. Please feel free to rearrange it to your liking. I look forward to seeing you this afternoon. I love you—Anjou.”
“That little angel,” she said, “I hope that I can just put a smile on her face at some point.”
She did move a few things, but not much. It was as if Anjou had read her mind in how she liked things, and set it up so. Now, she began to ask herself what she was going to do with the rest of the day. She did not have to work until the next day, so she had all day for whatever. She looked out the window at the yard, and saw that it did not look all that tended to for some time. She then began to wander around the house, getting a feel for things. It was a bit dusty, and it looked like it could use a little work. She started to figure a game plan, and she decided that she wanted to surprise her hosts. Thus, she started by slipping into all the rooms and retrieving all the laundry. She marked which basket belonged to whom, and started some loads. As that was going on, she began to dust, tidy up, and vacuum. The one thing she did like was the fact that the big family room had large picture windows that were not blocked. However, it seemed that it had been designed to keep them faced away from the sun at all times. It was then she figured that, if a vampire did live here, it was designed with that in mind. All the while, she was doing the laundry, and returning clean and folded clothes to everyone’s rooms. Once all this was done, she proceeded to tackle the jungle that was the exterior. She saw rakes and hand push lawn mowers that had not been used for years. She tested the mowers, and she then did some repairs. It amazed her that the blades had not all rusted right through. She was then able to sharpen them as best she could, and put plenty of oil on the wheels. She let that soak in as she proceeded to rake and trim the hedges. It was hard work, but because of the infusion, she had all sorts of energy. By doing this, it took her mind off things, and it began to feel more like a home. In fact, she had always wanted something like this in her life, and though this was under some interesting circumstances, she was going to enjoy this as much as possible, and make it as much of a home as she was allowed.
The kids were coming back up the hill at this point, talking about class, and the upcoming festival. Jean-Claude could be heard saying, “…yes, but this is Halloween: things need to be a bit creepy. That would be a great number…” and it was then all three stopped and stared. It looked like Karin’s place all right, but Karin never had seen it so neat before. She had to look at the address number on the arched gate in the fence, just be sure that they had come up the correct hill. Maki then said, “Okay, this IS your house, right?”
Kenta then heard the spinning of lawn mower blades, and saw his mother coming back around the house, pushing a hand mower around. She smiled and said, “Hi kids!” and kept on mowing. Kenta then said, “Don’t look now, but Typhoon Fumio just struck!”
She put the mower to the side, and she then began to rake up the grass cuttings. They walked up, and Fumio said, “I was glad all the laundry was able to dry so I could get the grass cut. Hopefully, I can get this done and then start on dinner.”
“Fumio-san,” said Karin, “What are you doing?”
“I just couldn’t sit around the house,” she said, “and I saw some things needed doing, so I did them.”
“But Fumio-san, the laundry?” asked Karin.
Jean-Claude came out of the house and said, “Oh, it was more than the laundry!”
Karin feared the worst, and went in. However, she then saw that everything was as it needed to be, but everything was dusted and put away. All the trash was out, and everyone’s laundry was done. Fumio came in later and said, “Tomorrow, I’m going to get your mother’s and Anjou’s dresses to the cleaners. I didn’t have the soap for doing any dry cleaning. So, what does everyone want for dinner?”
All the three of them could do was stare. Fumio did not pay any mind to that, and then said, “Oh, wait, is there enough for everyone here?”
Karin walked up and gently put a hand on her arm, saying, “Don’t worry, it will only be the four of us. Except for me and Jean-Claude, none of us really have any need for food.”
That snapped Fumio back a bit into reality, and she quietly said, “Oh, yes, of course your right.”
She shook it off, and said, “Well…that just makes it easier. Oh, Kenta, spray this around, I need to get rid of the musty smell.”
Karin said, “And start with the most frequented areas, so the smell dissipates before everyone awakes.”
Fumio looked at her a bit strangely, and Karin then said, “Vampires have a great sense of smell, and it would be too strong if it were done last.”
Fumio rubbed the back of her neck and said, “I’m so sorry, I’ve been a pest.”
Karin saw her distress, and said, “Oh no, please don’t think that way. You just need to adjust your approach a bit. I’m sure that mother and you could sort that out later. Oh, and just make sure that, whatever you make, no garlic.”
“Oh that’s right,” said Fumio, “it drives vampires away.”
“It drives anyone away,” said Maki.
“It’s not that,” said Karin, “it’s that sense of smell thing.”
“Okay, got it,” said Fumio, “keep on fan while cooking, watch heavy spices, and do things early enough to dissipate any smells.”
“There you go,” said Karin, and she then say, “Let’s get upstairs and get started.”
Within a half hour, they came down to eat. About the time they finished, the others were stirring. There was muttering and discussions going on outside the kitchen door, and it almost sounded like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. “Who vacuumed? All the laundry’s done and folded—who did this. Did someone bring a landscaper up here? What’s going on?”
Another, quieter voice cut in, but it was hard to make out what was being said. Karin heard footsteps approaching, and she was up quickly to close up the drapes and blinds. When Fumio saw this, her nerves started to shake her a bit, because the rest of the family was now up, and she was not sure if all were okay. The kitchen door opened a crack, closed, and a muffled voice said, “They’re in here.”
At that, the doors opened, and Fumio saw Calera in all her splendor, and Henry, cutting an imposing figure, right behind. At first, Fumio looked at Calera, and thought she was cross. Then a smile broke over her face and said, “Fumio Usui, I presume?”
She looked down at her plate with a nervous face, and said, “Yes, you are right,” very quietly. However, Calera came over, and pulled her up, giving her a big hug. “It’s so good to meet you!” said Calera warmly. She looked around, turned her head, smiled, and said, “Was it you that did all this?”
Still nervous, Fumio could not look her in the eye, and said, “Yes, ma’am, it was me.”
“Oh, darling!” said Calera, “Please don’t be ashamed! Thank you for the kind gesture, but you really didn’t have to do all this.”
Fumio was able to put a small smile on her face, and said, “I had no work today, and I needed something to do.”
“Well, I’ll leave the kitchen to the kids to finish up,” said Calera, “Come into the family room, please, so we can talk.”
With that, Calera took her arm and led her into the family room as she took her arm. Kenta said, “I should be in there with her,” and went to join her, but Anjou intercepted him, saying, “No, Big brother, they need to speak on some important matters. They are going to lay down the ground rules, and she has to be clear on them.”
Once in the family room, Fumio was led to one couch, while Calera sat on the other, and Henry sat in the main chair. Elda happened to be there, and she was leaning against one of the columns in the room, watching, but acting as if she really did not want to get close. Fumio wanted to make sure that they understood she knew that her being there was an inconvenience, and immediately said, “Please, I am sorry if I am putting anyone out of their way. I wish not to impose on anyone.”
Calera lit up the odd pipe that she liked, and began to speak, “My dear Fumio, for all that your son has done for our dear Karin; this was the least that we can do for you. It is only because of the danger that is in the city right now that we have done this. But, really, you didn’t have to do all this.”
“It’s the least of what I can do,” said Fumio, still somewhat nervous.
Henry could see her trepidation, and he smiled, saying, “Miss Usui, I know what you may have heard about our kind, but you must understand there is little truth to any of it. Oddly enough, we’re much like you: many have to work jobs, rent apartments; we marry, have children, live lives, and have social gatherings. I think Shakespeare soliloquy in The Merchant of Venice from Shylock spells it out well: tickle us, do we not laugh; prick us, do we not bleed?”
“Wrong us, and do we not avenge?” added Elda.
“Mother, please, do not frighten the girl,” said Henry.
“She has to be set straight, son,” said Elda.
“Mother Marker, she has done much already for us,” said Calera, “or didn’t you notice.”
“Well, I must admit,” said Elda, “the place did look neater. If she can stay useful, she should be no problem, just as long as she understands her limits.”
“Limits?” asked Fumio, “What do you mean.”
Calera moved over to the other couch, trying to do the woman-to-woman kind of talk, trying to assure her. She put her hand on Fumio’s, and noticed that it was trembling. She took it gently, and said, “Dear Fumio, whatever is the matter?”
“I just don’t know what to do?” she said, “things seemed to be settling down, I was getting secure, and then I find out all this. Then my life is tossed up again. Can’t there ever be any normalcy?”
“With Kenta head over heels for Karin,” said Calera, “not likely. Besides, you would have had to find out anyway. If they are married, there is just more than you knowing the truth at stake.”
Fumio looked at her, not knowing where that was going. Calera continued, “You see, there are some that would not like the fact that there is the possibility of them wedding. Many would prefer our two worlds didn’t mesh. Therefore, they do all they can to foster and grow the myths that you do, or may have, believed, just to keep us separate. Jean-Claude is a living example of what can happen. His mother and father were a mix, and his life, up until recently, has been a nightmare.”
“Are you saying that one of his parents were a vampire?” asked Fumio.
“That’s precisely what I am saying,” answered Calera, “Because of that, ignorant fools of our kind brutally murdered them, and would have done the same to him had not help come in time.”
Fumio looked upstairs, knowing that this was where the kids were, wondering what kind of life the poor boy must have suffered. Then Fumio said, “Is this the same fate that awaits them?”
“Not necessarily,” said Henry, “As long as they stay in Tokyo, they have my care. On top of that, Jean-Claude has been acting like a guardian angel for this household, so, as long as he is around, I do not think you would have to worry. After what happened to him, I think he would say, ‘Over my dead body,’ to anyone wishing harm to them, or any offspring.”
“He wants to see the two worlds mesh,” said Calera, “and he sees those two as the key. If anyone has a problem with that, they would have to get through him, and that would be a tall order indeed! If there is any being on earth that could do something about it, it would be him!”
“So, what’s the danger?” asked Fumio.
“It’s nothing related to that,” said Henry, “but there is a threat to Karin, and because of your association with her through Kenta, your life could be in jeopardy as well. Because I am the chief in Tokyo of all the vampires, I do not take kindly to vigilantes or anyone else acting violently under my watch. Because of the association to Karin, I am actually obligated to protect you. However, the safest place for you is right here. You are welcome here, and consider yourself as family for now. It seems that Anjou has warmed to you greatly, and has done all she can to make you comfortable. You can live your life as normal, work a job, whatever you want.”
“However,” said Calera, “There are certain things you need to know.”
At this, Elda came up, wearing the slinky white dress she was accustomed to wearing, (making her look like a vampyra out of a bad horror picture,) and sat down by Fumio. Calera glared at her, as if to say, “You scare this poor girl, and there will be Hell to pay!”
Elda took the hint, and weighed her words well. She then said, “Since we offer this to you, there are certain things you need to remember. Our safety is at stake as well. Therefore, you cannot say who you are living with, and say anything about your knowledge of vampires. Because of the misunderstanding that is still rampant out there, we want to avoid a witch-hunt. So, keep your yap shut!”
“Mother Marker!” snapped Calera, “That was rude!”
“The human must be made to understand the danger she creates by talking,” said Elda.
“Her name is Fumio,” said Calera, “She has a name and she is a person. Please do not refer to her in the third person while she is sitting here! I am surprised at you acting like this when you are warming up to Victor so much. Isn’t that a little hypocritical of you?”
Elda looked down as if she were a naughty little girl, and apologized, “Fumio, every one of us have our scars, and some you cannot see. I made the mistake of trusting a human at a time where there were real witch-hunts, and it left a bad taste in my mouth about humans. Forgive me, please; I just don’t want to see it again.”
Fumio looked at her, and thought about all she had already been told, and she said, “And I thought I was frightened?” and then hugged Elda. Elda was not ready for that! She was a bit surprised, but returned the gesture, and Fumio said, “You poor dear: for your sake, I will say nothing.”
Elda could not believe the things she had been learning recently. Could it be that humans had become more tolerant while she slept? Was there hope? However, Calera had to tell her the consequences about talking. She said, “I am glad you feel that way, Fumio, because what I must now tell you will give you more incentive.”
“What’s that,” asked Fumio, having a bit of the nervousness return.
“If you do say anything, we would have to erase your memory about all this,” said Henry, and Calera continued, “Yet, because of your now extensive knowledge, we would have to erase everything!”
“W…What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked.
“How would you like to be in diapers at 34 years old?” said Elda.
Fumio’s jaw was in her lap. “Okay…good point,” said Fumio, “Thank you for the safety tip,” trying to take the edge off things. Calera then said, “Other than that, welcome to our household.”
After that, Fumio said, “Um…I think I’ll get some snacks for the kids,” said Fumio, trying to extract herself, but Calera would have none of it, as both she and Elda followed behind, trying to make small talk, “So, where were you born…” was heard as the conversation trailed off as the door closed.
Meanwhile, the three were pouring over their studies. Maki was working on her English; Karin was working on her geometry, while Jean-Claude was doing calculus. They were actually quiet working, unless someone had a question of one kind or another. Karin sighed, having never been the strongest math student. “These theorems are killing me,” she said, “Why to I have to find six different proofs anyway? Isn’t one enough?”
Jean-Claude rolled his eyes and said, “Try finding the area under the curve!”
Maki tried a sentence in English, “On Saturday, we went to de basebouro game.”
“Okay, pronunciation is key here,” he said, “It isn’t ‘de,’ it’s ‘the.’ Stick your tongue between your teeth and blow.”
She did, and Karin rubbed her eye. “Make it a little less juicy next time,” said Jean-Claude, “And it isn’t ‘basebouro,’ it’s ‘baseball.’ For that ‘l’ put the tip of the tongue on the back of your two incisors and make a noise.”
She did, and then he said, “Now, try to say the sentence again.”
Maki did, although it was a bit rough, and he said, “Remember those two things. ‘Th’ can be one of the hardest consonant sounds a non-English speaker can master. Keep it up, though, it’s getting better.”
“Practice always makes perfect,” said a quiet, gentle voice from Karin’s bed. Everyone shuttered as they looked up to see Anjou sitting there with her acoustic guitar. She said, “The set for the Halloween show is fun. I just hope that the rest of the band is ready. Some of the songs you picked are a bit technical, Big Brother.”
Everyone shook with a start, and Jean-Claude said, “Girl, you could sneak up on death and scare him!”
Anjou started to play something nondescript, and she looked at Maki, and asked, “Why did you want to see me?”
Maki gave her a loving smile and reached back for a bag. She hopped up on the bed on the body side of the guitar with a big smile, and a paper bag. “Anjou,” she said, “I just wanted to let you know that I have no hard feelings against you. I don’t think you meant any harm, and I know you never sought to hurt me. I just wanted you to know that I still consider you my friend. You only did what you had to do, and I was glad I could help you, because I know you helped me.”
With that, she handed over the paper bag, and Anjou pulled out a plush toy bat with mouse-like ears and a face as cute as a button. She said, “It looked so cute that I thought of you, and I just had to get it for you.”
With her free hand, Anjou cuddled it to her, and then put her arm around Maki’s waist, as a tear betrayed her mood, and she said, “Thank you, Big Sister, I love it.”
Maki hugged back and tousled her hair, saying, “Just like Karin, I’ll be there for you if you need me. Hey, how about a song, band mate?”
Jean-Claude said, “How about that country and western one I taught you?”
He moved his chair over to the bedside and had Anjou begin, as they sang Wild Montana Skies. “Wow!” said Karin, “You’re singing is getting so much better!”
“I have rehearsed a song for you, sister,” said Anjou, “and I am going to sing it at the concert.”
“Which reminds me,” said Jean-Claude, “Do you have the outfits ready?”
“I sure do!” she answered, “When you two come over for rehearsal tomorrow, after homework, we can all try them on.”
At this, there was a knock at the door, and Fumio came in with Calera and Elda, all with drinks and snacks. “I heard the singing,” said Fumio, “and I thought that was fantastic. Was that you, Anjou?”
“Yes, Auntie-san,” said Anjou, “I hope you will be there for the show.”
“I wouldn’t miss it!” she said. Anjou then said, “Thank you for the laundry.”
“Your welcome, sweetheart,” said Fumio, with a big smile, “I can take some of your dresses and drop them off at dry cleaning tomorrow before I go to work, if you like.”
Anjou looked at her, and then at Calera, and she smiled her gentle smile, as she said, “Thank you for coming. Now I have a daytime mother, and a nighttime mother.”
Fumio had a tear well up in her eye, and she embraced the child saying, “Now you’ve really made me feel at home!”
Elda smiled as she saw this, but then began to get a glint in her eye, considering her blood taste, to which Calera gently guided her out and closed the door. She then said, “Leave the guests alone! Find someone else—you know what that will do. You will undo all we have tried to do!”
Elda looked disappointed, and said, “You’re no fun!”