I’D BEEN HOPING for a quiet evening, but when I arrived at the house I found Calvin Morita was there, lounging at the dining table with Uncle Hiroshi and Tom.
“What’s going on?” I asked as I slipped off my sandals.
“Calvin took us to a very good sushi restaurant,” my father said from the kitchen, where he was making tea. “We brought some back. You must try it; it’s delicious.”
“I can’t eat right now,” I said, not even trying to sound apologetic. “So much has happened today. I think I’ll just say goodnight.”
“But we must know what happened with Braden,” my father said.
I raised my eyebrows at him, trying to give him the message that the last person I wanted to overhear our family conversation was Calvin, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“Yes, Rei-chan. We want to know why you were gone so long, and why you didn’t explain yourself better on television,” Uncle Hiroshi said.
“It sounds as if you know everything that I do,” I said.
“What I want to know is have you eaten supper at all?” Calvin asked.
“Not really,” I admitted.
“You’re under stress and this will keep you from crashing.” Calvin strode into our kitchen as if he owned it, opening up the refrigerator and removing a Styrofoam box, which he set on the dining table. “We still have left…let’s see…an assortment of tai, eel, tuna and abalone. Sound good?”
I grunted my assent, because I had a feeling he wouldn’t leave until I’d taken at least one.
“I wouldn’t use so much wasabi if I were you. This fish is top-notch,” Calvin said.
“I like wasabi,” I said, digging into the little container that had come with the sushi. It was the real stuff, made from freshly grated horseradish root, without the golfball-green color.
“That’s not how the Japanese do it.” Calvin folded his arms across his chest and looked at me. “The Kikuchis take their sushi and sashimi absolutely plain. Only a drizzle of soy sauce.”
“I’m not sure the Kikuchis are representative of most Japanese,” I said, biting into it and relishing the fiery rush from my nose to skull.
“Can you at least tell us what happened after you picked up Braden?” Tom asked.
“Michael and I took Braden to Pearl Harbor.” I took my time chewing, so I could concoct the right answer. “We took Braden home, and a lawyer arrived.”
“Ah, very good,” my father said. “I was worried we were going to have to find one ourselves. What does the lawyer say about the case?”
“I don’t know what she thinks. She figured out pretty quickly that Michael and I weren’t immediate family, and we were sent off.” I changed the subject, because anything related to the fire would be an interesting topic for Calvin to bring to Mitsuo Kikuchi-perhaps it was even the reason Calvin had spontaneously invited my relatives to dinner. “So, Calvin, how’s Jiro doing?”
“What do you mean?” Calvin was being cagey too.
“I thought you were his twenty-four-hour psychiatrist.”
Calvin smiled easily. “Even shrinks get a break, now and then. Tonight Jiro is dining with his father at a nice restaurant called Roy’s. You should try it, there’s one nearby at the Ko Olina golf club.”
“Golf?” inquired Uncle Hiroshi, who’d been looking dazed at all the English that had been flying about.
CALVIN SWITCHED TO Japanese and, as I’d expected for someone who worked for a Japanese family, his Japanese was good and swift, though slightly American-accented.
“I hope that you’re not upset about this news,” I said sotto voce to my father, remembering his condition.
“Well, I’m certainly worried-”
“You know, I think I’d like to check your blood pressure.” Tom rose from the couch and went upstairs, presumably for his medical supplies.
“It’s really not necessary,” my father protested to those of us who remained.
“Of course it is! You must drink some more water,” said Uncle Hiroshi, heading to the fridge.
“Don’t worry about me so much, Rei,” my father said to me. “I’m not the one in danger; Braden is. The boy misbehaves to attract attention from his parents, but this latest act, if in fact he did it, will change his life, as it changed the lives of the poor family who lost their daughter.”
“It’s very sad, yes. I think Braden understands how serious things are.” I spoke in an undertone, because Tom was coming back down the stairs.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been involved in forensic psychiatry, but I would like to talk to the boy,” my father said, while Tom began wrapping the cuff around his upper arm.
“Your family is working much too hard, taking care of your relatives’ troubles. Wouldn’t it be less of a conflict of interest if I did the interview with Braden? And, you know, I could advise his family on finding a psychiatrist who may be willing to testify in court that the boy has some pathological issues.”
“You mean, the insanity defense?” I shook my head. “Let’s stop this conversation here and now. Especially if we’re trying to keep my father’s blood pressure from rising.”
“The reading is one-forty-five over one-hundred; I’m not thrilled with it,” Tom said. “Ojiisan, you’re going to need to relax if you want us to include you in tomorrow’s trip to Hanama Bay.”
“I don’t know if that’s a smart idea,” Calvin began.
“Sure it is. I’ll go, too,” I said. The timing was right, because Michael and I had decided to spend the day apart. I’d been unable to explain to him how frustrating his show of interest in me was, and how restraining myself felt like torture. So I’d let him feel a little bit hurt when we’d said goodnight, because it got me off the hook. And now I was going to spend the next day with my family, which was where I really belonged.
CALVIN WAS RIGHT about one thing; it was not a good idea to commit to the next day’s plan. In the middle of the night I awoke drenched in sweat. My stomach pitched and heaved, and a sickening flow inched up my esophagus.
Trying to turn on the bedside lamp, I knocked it to the ground. I heard the sound of a bulb breaking, and a few seconds later, felt a shard pierce the palm of my hand as I crawled to the door. I couldn’t get to my feet; it was impossible. I hadn’t felt this sick in years, not since I’d been poisoned by gas in Japan. I reached the doorknob, wrenched it open, and then crawled into the cool marble hallway and toward the bathroom door, where a nightlight glowed softly, leading me on.
I made it just in time to lose my supper and a good bit more. When I’d finally stopped, I blearily noticed someone had entered the bathroom. My eyes traveled upward from a pair of short, broad bare feet to see Uncle Hiroshi standing in his blue and white striped pajamas, patiently holding a glass of water. It was only because of the pajamas I recognized him; I felt so sick that his face was just a blur.
“The others,” I whispered, because I’d lost my voice along with my dinner. “Are they sick?”
“No, just sleeping. You poor child,” he said, and put the glass to my lips. I drank gratefully, but in a few seconds the water sliding down my throat came right up, so I spun around to the toilet again. When I was through, he offered me another glass of water, and I waved it away.
“I can’t take it,” I said weakly. “I’ll go back to bed now.”
“What’s wrong? Why are you ill?”
“I don’t know-”
“Maybe it’s a virus,” he said. “I could wake Tsutomu and get him to take your temperature. I’d rather not bother your father, if that’s all right with you.”
“Don’t get Tom either,” I said, noticing for the first time that my hands were trembling. “I’m sure in the morning, I’ll be fine.”
But I wasn’t fine. Between episodes of vomiting and diarrhea, I tried to recall everything I’d eaten, which was a challenge, given my light-headedness. Sushi seemed obvious, but I’d been feeling sick earlier in the day, on the road up to Tantalus. Maybe it hadn’t been just motion sickness, but a reaction to the mainland-shipped yogurt I’d had in the morning. I could also have become ill from food at Josiah Pierce’s home. This was much more sinister, given that I’d confessed my agenda to Josiah Pierce over lunch. But we’d already been eating when I dropped my bomb. He had no idea of my motivation when I’d called him the previous day, or so I hoped.
I wanted to talk to Michael. When there was enough light in the room, I made it to the desk where I’d left my cell phone to charge. My call rang straight into his voicemail. Maybe he was still asleep, and the phone was recharging. The other less pleasant idea was that Michael was suffering his own bout of illness. I whispered something about not feeling well and asking him to call me when he had a chance.
I clicked the phone off and fell into a sickly slumber, waking to an odd, clanking sound and midday sun. I rubbed my eyes and saw a man on his hands and knees behind the bed.
“The next time you fall ill, you should wake me to help.” My father’s tone was as reproving as his words.
“Sorry, I…I didn’t see that was you, and Uncle Hiroshi did all that anyone could. Otoosan, you don’t have to pick up the broken lamp. Don’t lean down. I’ll clean it up myself-’ I struggled upward and, hit by a new wave of nausea, fell back.
“I checked your temperature, and there’s no fever. I suspect you’re suffering from food poisoning.”
“I don’t know,” I said warily. “My vision’s all blurred.”
“Really?” My father leaned close to me, and suddenly, I was flat-out terrified. “No, please, no,” I heard myself saying. Or rather, screaming.
There were more people in the room then, Tom and Uncle Hiroshi. Tom was trying to take my temperature and read my blood pressure and I was fighting him. Couldn’t any of them understand they were frightening me? In the midst of all this, I heard my cell phone ringing.
“Let me talk!” I cried in vain, but nobody did. The next thing I knew, they were bundling me into the third row of the minivan. Between vomiting and crying, my aching head exploded with panicked thoughts. I couldn’t go on, but how would I get out? The window? But the windows were locked, and my father and uncle were staring at me, listening to my every thought. Where was Michael? He’d save me from this, if only he knew.
They took me to Queen’s Medical Center, unloading me fast, and suddenly I was surrounded by more blurry people who rolled me on to a stretcher. A needle shot something into my arm, and within minutes, everything slowed, even the fear. The last thing I remembered was the sound of my father arguing with somebody about whether I needed a pregnancy test, and then everything went black.