The back-handed blow knocked me to the floor.
At this unexpected attack, I landed hard on a hand and hip. Pain radiated up my arm from my wrist and I focused on biting back a cry.
I carefully but swiftly pulled myself to my feet. My cheek was throbbing and I knew she had left a mark this time.
"Has my absence let you think you can freely roam around and act wanton?"
I curled my fingers into my palms tight, my nails digging into my flesh painfully. I forced a tranquil expression on my face. I wasn't giving her the satisfaction of knowing she had gotten to me again.
"No," I said in a controlled voice.
I swallowed hard and lifted my gaze.
"No, Okaasan," I answered.
My mother crossed her arms, examining me with black eyes filled with pure distaste. Her black hair was swept up in a tight, severe chignon and she wore a dark colored kimono. She was shorter than me by an inch or two but despite that, I always felt so small in her presence. Pathetic, even. It had been months since I last saw her, months of peace and respite from her terrible temper.
"I don't want to see you act like that again," she said softly and lethally. "Do you understand?"
"Good. Now get out of my sight. I don't want to see you at dinner tonight."
Immediately, I turned and started to walk into my bedroom.
My body stilled.
"I wish I'd never given birth to you."
My nails tore fiercely into my palms and tears gathered in my eyes. I kept my back to her and nodded.
When I heard her footsteps leave, I hurried to my room and closed the door. Leaning heavily against it, I pulled in another breath, trying not to succumb to the tears. But they were adamant to escape now that I was alone.
I wish I'd never given birth to you.
Pain wracked my whole body and I sank to the floor. I pressed my face into my knees, my arms wrapped around the back of my head.
I wish I'd never given birth to you.
With effort, I staggered to my feet and wiped the tears sliding down my cheeks furiously.
Damn her. Damn her.
What kind of mother would say that to her own child?
I walked to the bathroom and checked my face in the mirror. My cheek was red and swollen from the force of the blow. My lips trembled at the sight. I turned on the faucet and splashed cold water on my face, hoping it would reduce the swelling.
My eyes went to my hands and saw the deep, purple grooves my fingernails had made in my palms. My chest tightened, not because of the sight of these new grooves but because of the abundance of white, fingernail-shaped scars that surrounded them. They'd only begun to fade but if I continued to be pathetic like this, to be weak, trapped and spineless, I was going to carry them forever.
I wiped my face dry with a towel but the tears were choking me again. I buried my face into it, sobbing once more.
She hated me.
She still hated me.
After all these years, she still held to her grudge.
Pulling in breath, I blanked the memories out and threw the towel to the sink. Then I went to my bed. There was nothing left to do but sleep this horrible night away. I sat on my bed and looked out the window. The sky outside blazed with stars and but it was the bright yellow moon that drew my eye. And I found myself wishing. For a lot of things. But the one wish I kept repeating inside my head was the wish that I had the guts to change who I am and to be free from the shackles of this household.
When I got tired of looking and wishing, I let my body fall back on the bed and drew the covers over my body. I stared at the window some more. My stomach growled and I ignored the hunger pangs.
Earlier that day, Hannah, my best friend, had invited me to go to the beach with her. Dad had given me permission to go. He was never strict with me, unlike Okaasan. He was a kind father, gentle but firm.
Come to think of it, he seemed to really want me to leave the house, even telling me I could stay out as long as I wanted. Must be because he wanted to surprise me, I thought grimly. He wanted to surprise me with the return of his wife and my brother.
Hannah dropped me off my house after a long day at the beach, shouting how I should have accepted the number a guy at the beach tried to give me. I chuckled as I walked to the front door, waving my hand to let her know I heard but didn't care. She then shouted that my bikini was such a waste.
I didn't know my mother was looking out the window.
I didn't know she heard me tell Hannah to go to hell.
When I walked into the foyer and saw her standing with my older brother and my father, my blood ran cold. They were supposed to be in Japan. They weren't supposed to be here.
"Surprise!" Dad exclaimed jovially. "They're back, Terry."
He didn't know how much those words terrified me at that moment.
My brother moved toward me when I failed to make myself budge and he gave me a tight embrace. I managed to slap a smile on my face and welcomed him back. My mother gave me a smile that didn't reach her eyes and gave me a small hug. Her nails dug into my back but I managed not to wince and keep smiling.
Dad continued to crow how happy he was that the family was back together again. Feigning exhaustion, I excused myself and went to my room.
But she followed me.
And hurt me.
The sounds of footsteps out in the hall tore me out of my pensive thoughts. My eyes strained to hear where they would end. The soft footfalls came nearer and when it stopped just outside my door, I also stopped breathing.
The door slowly opened and light flooded in my room.
My hands clenched the sheets tight.
The intruder began to walk to my bed and panic began to take hold of me.
Pressing my face into the pillow, I tried to relax, to feign sleep.
"Are you sleeping, Terry?" his mocking voice came. "Okaasan said you had a stomach ache. Do you really?"
Get out. Please, get out.
I felt his fingers in my head, stroking my hair.
Get out. Get out. Get out.
"The surprise in your face when you saw us was quite amusing," he continued with a chuckle. "Dad didn't tell you, did he? I asked him to make it a surprise."
No, he didn't, I thought bitterly.
"Did you miss me?"
My body tensed when he sat down on the edge of my bed. I let out a low cry when he suddenly put his hand on my shoulder and turned me over. His brown cat-like eyes, eyes exactly like mine, bored into me.
Like my mother, it had been months since I last saw my brother. But he hadn't changed a bit. His black hair was still short, his eyes were still sharp and cunning, and he was still hateful. He was also three years older than me.
Then his eyes strayed to my cheek and they tightened briefly.
"Ah, you angered our mother again," he said in a mournful voice. "You're unbelievably stupid, did you know that?"
"Get out," I said through gritted teeth.
"Now why would I do that?" He removed his hand from my shoulder and lightly touched my swollen cheek. "Aren't you forgetting something? I own this house."
"Dad owns the house, not you."
He clucked his tongue. "Stupid, stupid little sister. Everything he owns will be mine in the future. Everything."
I turned my face away from him.
I shut my eyes tight and wished I could do the same for my ears.
"So you better watch yourself around me," he continued, his hateful touch still on my cheek. "Try to curry my favor while you're at it. Because I have plans for you, sister. Big plans."
"Get out of my room, Haru," I whispered, hating the pleading tone in my voice.
His hand stilled.
"Has living in America made you rude and disrespectful?" he spoke harshly.
I flinched and hated myself for showing weakness in front of him. Opening my eyes, I glared at him.
"Please get out of my room, Oniisan."
He started to chuckle. "What's this Oniisan business? You used to call me Oniichan."
Like hell, I would.
I turned my head. A man wearing a suit stood on my doorway. Haru removed his hand from me and exhaled wearily.
"Ah, Kabakura. Is it time already?"
Belatedly, I noticed Haru was in a suit as well.
"I'll be down in a moment. Let me finish talking to my sister first."
Kabakura's eyes flickered to me as he bowed deeply at Haru. Then he left.
"Haru-sama?" I scoffed quietly.
His eyes returned to me and I pressed my lips together. I wasn't supposed to say that out loud.
"Yes, Haru-sama," he said in a condescending manner. "Maybe you should call me Oniisama instead, sister."
I didn't say anything and merely stared. He chuckled again.
"Sheathe your claws, Terry. You know it'll be of no use to disobey me."
His hand came to cup my jaw and he tilted my face to get another view at my cheek.
"Don't leave your door unlocked next time," he said. He let me go and started for the door. "Your face is a commodity we cannot afford to have tampered."
The door closed behind him.
Then I heard the lock click.
I stared at the door, powerlessness and misery washing over me.
John Steele's eyes were on the full moon that shone high in the sky
A lit cigarette dangled from his lips as he stared. His rings clinking noisily against each other as his fingers tapped against his jeans. He was in the garden, standing at the edge of the swimming pool. Sounds of loud music and laughter wafted through the air from the large house behind him.
Disquiet had made him refuse the alcohol offered to him and ignore the girls throwing their selves his way.
Disquiet had made him seek solitude to collect his thoughts and find a bit of peace.
"He still isn't here, John."
John returned back to the present and turned his head. Skull, one of his closest friends, was walking towards him.
"Leon?" John asked.
Skull nodded and he clenched his jaw.
"Do you know where he is?"
Skull shrugged. "Maybe he's still at home?"
"Fuck." John rubbed his close-shaven hair in frustration. "He said he would be here."
"Want me to go check his place if he's there?" his friend suggested.
He shook his head. "I'll call him first."
Skull gave him a nod and John slid his phone out from his pocket. Finding the number, he pressed call and put the phone to his ear. He waited. And waited.
"Damn it, he won't pick up," John mumbled, pressing call again.
Skull chuckled. "Maybe he's busy f*****g?"
"If that's what he's really doing right now, I wouldn't be worrying like this."
Skull frowned and looked away. John exhaled low. He was starting to get pissed.
Where the hell was he?
It took him four tries to get through and as soon as the line was picked up, he snapped, "Where are you, Leon?"
"Home," came the curt reply.
"You were supposed to be here an hour ago."
"I changed my mind. I'm staying home tonight."
"Are you sure you're at home?" John challenged angrily.
"I said I'm at home," Leon's voice began to rise. "Want me to turn my f*****g GPS on so you could let Rohan confirm?"
John's frustration rose.
"Damn it, Leon," he said with a sigh. "Just... At least tell me you're okay."
Then Leon said, "f**k off."
The other line went dead and John had to resist the urge to throw his phone into the pool. He had a terrible temper as a child but he had already learned to restrain it.
Forcing himself to relax, John pulled in breath through his nose and looked down at his boots.
Fuck, Leon was stubborn as hell.
If he knew he would bail on them again, he would have gone to his house to make sure he'd come. He didn't even want to come tonight. He just wanted to let Leon have some fun. f**k knows that that little jerk needed to get off his bed and get out of the house at least once during the summer.
Leon was his best friend since they were little.
Their fathers had been college friends and when John's family temporarily moved to the town Leon and his family used to live in, the men decided to rekindle their friendship. Even though John and Leon were too different from each other, they managed to be friends and soon, best friends.
As kids, Leon was friendly and agreeable.
Now, he was plain stubborn and exasperating.
John clenched his jaw.
And it all started ever since Leon's mother died.
"Want me to get you a beer?"
John's head lifted. He forgot Skull was still there.
"Yeah," he said.
Skull gave him a salute and walked back inside the house. John watched him go for a while then turned back to the moon.
The feeling of disquiet was back again, gnawing through his gut, wrapping its cold fingers around his heart. He curled his hands into fists, uncurled them, then curled them again, restless and infuriated.
A burst of laughter made him turn his head and look behind him. A group of drunken girls had come out, teetering dangerously on their heels. Behind them, more people were spilling out.
"There you are, John," one of the girls called out. "Why are you alone?"
"Come have fun with us," another girl yelled.
Sighing, John glanced at the moon one last time.
And wished tonight was going to be different.
Okaasan - Mother
Oniisan/Oniisama/Oniichan - Brother, or in more formal situations, a young man of older age or social standing. The chan suffix is used in very familiar/affectionate situations, -san and -sama suffixes are honorifics, indicating a higher status.
Hai - Yes
(Again, I don't know much about the Japanese language except the few words I learned from anime, manga and fanfiction. If there is something you need to point out about my usage of the language, please don't hesitate.)