Hiko and Tationy never got back to their conversation because Hiko’s father had sent a text saying he would be home soon. Showering and dressing he found his father in his office. The two had barely any words to say to each other under normal circumstances so as they stood silently it was not unexpected that his father had not offered a single word. It annoyed Hiko. A father was to love, teach, and guide his child and his entire life all he could remember was a wall made of cement, concrete, and mortar.
When his father finally did speak he asked a rather pointed question, “Are the two of you having sex?”
“No, what is she like? How long have you known each other? Is she beautiful, intelligent, from a good family?”
“All important questions, but I will learn those for myself when I speak with her. Now, I will ask you again. Are the two of you having sex?”
“That is not your business.”
“You are Kari; everything about you is a reflection on your family. It is my business,” His father responded as he lit up a cigarette and puffed away rather casually.
Hiko was already annoyed with the conversation. If he was having sex it would not be such a big deal he would simple announce it, but unfortunately the fact that the two of them had yet to progress in any meaningful way was a source of frustration for Hiko, one he certainly did not want to share with his father. He could feel his fathers unforgiving gaze upon him. He always hated that look. It was just a constant reminder that he was not the ‘perfect’ Kari son.
“Someone like you…” His father began and the coldness of which he said it only served to irritate Hiko further.
Snapping, “Don’t. You always say that. Someone like me shouldn’t do this or that because I am not built Kari. I have heard all of your shit about restraining my wayward emotions.”
“We are Kari. No man is more dangerous than a man that can harness his emotions.”
A soft bedroom voice drew the attention of not only Hiko, but his father as well, “But when you numb emotion Mr. Kari, you numb it all.” Hiko’s mouth hung open in disbelief as Tationy stood near the entrance of his father’s office. She looked like a fifties bombshell, “Forgive my tardiness, my hair was being rather uncooperative.”
“It is a ladies prerogative to take as much time as she needs to ready herself,” Hiko’s father spoke.
“Perhaps that is true, Mr. Kari, but a lady should never keep two handsome men waiting.”
Hiko moved toward her rather quickly. He did not like this back and forth between her and his father. It came off as flirting to him and the jealous part of him would not let anyone have her and that included his father. He wrapped his arm around her possessively as he leaned in and spoke, “We are going to have a long talk later.”
A soft almost innocent sounding laugh left her mouth, “Would that be with my clothes on or without, Hiko Kari?”
His mouth opened in utter shock that she would so boldly say that in front of his father. He noticed that his father’s gaze had not left Tationy. He could not help wondering if his father disapproved even though he certainly did not care one way or another. Even so, there was still that small part of him that wanted to make his father proud. He wanted to do one thing right. Have that one thing where his father looks at him and says I am proud of you.
Very slowly he realized that the two of them were staring at him and he understood that they were expecting some sort of introductions. He addressed Tationy first, “Tationy Tylo this is my father, Tadayoshi Kari.”
“Tadayoshi,” She said his first name which elicited a piercing stare from his father, “Means loyal and right. In ancient Aslann the name was synonymous with influence. Particularly the shaping and control of the people around you to your own liking. Somehow, seems a fitting name for a man that runs the Kari Foundation.”
“Interesting,” Tadayoshi responded. Hiko was not certain what to make of his father’s reaction to her words. It was not as though his father had ever been at a loss for words and he could be just as direct as Tationy, but this admittedly was the first time he ever saw his father not engage someone in conversation. Suspiciously he eyed the two of them as they stared at each other. He felt like there was something there. Like they were having a battle of words, but were not actually speaking.
Finally his father spoke, “Reservations are at eight. We should get going.”
Hiko noticed that his father did not wait for a response as he quickly moved toward the door. Stopping Tationy from following he leaned in close his hands upon either side of her face, “What did you just do to my father?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, he is Tadayoshi Kari and you managed to silence him without much effort.”
She spoke in a whispered voice, “Your father is cautious and smart. He calculated the odds of you bringing home a particular type of girl. Under normal circumstances his calculations might have been spot-on. However, I am the type of girl that moves outside of simple calculations.”
Sighing Hiko said, “I have no idea what that means.”
“It means, Hiko Kari. The war is just beginning.” He wanted to ask her what she meant, but was aware that his father would not wait on them forever.
There was little conversation as they journeyed toward the restaurant. Hiko was acutely aware that his father was keeping an eye on the two of them, but not a word would be spoken by Tadayoshi Kari until they arrived at their destination. He ordered a bottle of red wine, his particular favorite and one that Hiko did not mind. For Tationy, Tadayoshi had ordered her something non-alcoholic. Truth be told, Hiko had expected her to protest about his father ordering for her, but he was quick to note she hadn’t said anything. Which of course made Hiko wonder why.
It was mostly idle chitchat between Tationy and Hiko until their meals arrived. Hiko could not understand what his father was waiting for. Never before had he witnessed him take such a slow approach when dealing with a situation. Perhaps Tationy had been right and his father had made a miscalculation regarding her. “This situation with Sofore,” Tadayoshi finally spoke taking a casual drag off his cigarette before setting it aside so that he might enjoy his meal. “I think that perhaps your time would be better invested taking the entrance exam for Aslann University. There is no point for you to remain in that environment.”
“We agreed that you would allow me to continue there until my senior year was finished so I could play basketball and raise my grades. We do not even know yet if Sofore will be closed down. Can’t I at least finish out my time there until a final decision is made?”
“Staying serves only to hinder you. Kari men do not wait and see they take action and work toward the future. Hiko you already wasted two years of your life by continuing to attend Sofore. After your freshmen year, had you attended a university as I wanted you would have had your first degree completed. By your senior year, you would have been well into your second degree. The fact that you insist on playing childish games…”
“Basketball is not childish. I enjoy it and it means more to me then running some stupid company.” What was that look that graced his fathers face? He had not seen it before. Was it shock? Was it pain? Hiko looked to the food on his plate and realized he lost his appetite.
“This is just like you. Always thinking about yourself. You are Kari. There is no luxury of being selfish.”
“I don’t want to be Kari.”
“Do you even care about anything?” Their voices were raising. Part of being Kari meant that you were fairly well-known in Aslann, which thankfully meant that special treatment was afforded them. A waiter wandered over, closing the door to the private dining room they were in which forced both men to silence themselves. They exchanged heated glances.
His question lingered in Hiko’s mind. Did he care about anything? Why did it matter if he did or didn’t? He was still the same screw-up he had always been and his father would just give him that disapproving gaze or tell him that he was a disappointment. He had not even realized he looked at Tationy until his father said, “So, you do care about something. Some woman you just met….”
Hiko was angry when he interrupted his father, “Don’t call her that. She is not some woman.” Hiko pursed his lips, “I am doing all I can do to restrain myself from fucking killing you right now. How dare you. Don’t think lightly of my feelings for her.”
“You are rushing things. This, whatever this is between the two of you can’t be trusted. It is too fast, Hiko. It is lust not love.”
Tationy sighed which drew the attention of both men to her. Hiko felt guilty for having this argument in front of her. “I disagree. If he sends me a text, I am going to respond. If he wants to hang out or go on a date, I am going to say yes. If he wants to bend me over this table and take me, I am going to let him do that as well.” Hiko choked at her words and the expression on his father’s face said that he as well was caught completely off-guard. “That is called being fearless. Someone like you Mr. Kari, would probably call it being reckless. I do not want a relationship where I am wondering if he will call. There are no doubts about whether or not he wants to be with me. Maybe we will hurt each other. That is a possibility in any relationship whether you have been together for ten years or three days. I like your son. Maybe you are right and it is lust. Lust is not something that you have to work at. It is something that just takes a hold of you. Love is something that takes time and effort, it needs to be nurtured so that it can grow. Love is fragile. If you do not tend to it properly it will wither and die. If love is in our future, it will be because Hiko and I have worked toward it, together. We have not even talked about where we will be in five years or even ten. We just met and we are enjoying each other.”
“You are brazen,” Tadayoshi began and Hiko went to speak, but was quickly halted by the remainder of his father’s words. “Articulate and intelligent. I imagine the only reason my son did not walk out on our conversation was because you are here with him. So, tell me Miss Tylo do you think I am wrong?”
Hiko was shocked. He was Tadayoshi Kari, he was never wrong. “I imagine you are asking me about this situation with Sofore. To be honest, it was not my intention to attend another three years. I wanted to go off to a university. Hiko and I are different people though. His reasons for not wanting to go right away are his and regardless of my humble opinion, he should be allowed to make the decision he wants. I do not think you are wrong to want more for him, but you just lectured him about rushing things with me and you are doing the same thing regarding his schooling. He is a bull, you cannot force him to do something he does not want to or you will certainly feel his horns.”
“So, you are telling me I mishandle my son.”
She smiled, “I did it more delicately, but yes.” Her eyes settled on Hiko, “He is the type of man that needs a gentle hand. You will both have to excuse me though, I need to freshen up.”
Both men stood as she excused herself from the table, but Hiko did not let her get very far as he rested his hands upon her hips and stared deeply into her eyes. It was a silent exchange between the two of them as he tried to decide what it was that she wanted. What future was she looking forward to? Did she want them to stay at Sofore? Did she want them to go onto a university? Did she even expect them to be together for another month? After a moment she smiled, “Thinking about taking me on that table, Hiko Kari?”
“I am now.”
She teased him, “When I get back, I will let you.” He nervously chuckled and with great reluctance he let her go retaking his seat.
When he glanced across the table his father was staring at him rather intently, “Go ahead and say it, don’t hold back like you have been.”
“Do you want to stay at Sofore to play basketball or is it because of her?”
“Is any answer I give you going to make a difference?” Hiko and Tadayoshi did not manage to settle things, in fact after Tationy disappeared to the bathroom they only got worse. When she returned, the two were no longer even speaking to each other and the evening was cut short.
When they arrived back, Hiko disappeared to the kitchen to accept a phone-call from Kuro. He could hear the soft melody of a piano that he had not heard in his father’s home since his mother lived there. “I will call you back,” He told Kuro as he set his cell on the counter and moved toward the living room. He caught sight of Tationy playing and his father standing not far away.
He had been about to say something, but Tationy’s words stopped him, “You are worried about your son.”
“Hiko burns hot and wild just like his mother. Such a spirit, while free is damaging.”
“Suppressing your emotions can be just as damaging, Mr. Kari.”
“Someone like him needs to know restraint. The damage he could cause to himself or other people if left unchecked….what will you do if he hurts you?”
“I would forgive him. It might not be right away, but eventually I would find it in my heart to do so. No matter what he does, I will not abandon him. He is afraid and does not trust. He needs to know that no matter the mistakes he makes that one person will remain at his side; no judgement, no disapproval, no disappointment.”
Hiko quietly listened, “Convince him to take the entrance exam.”
“You assume I have that sort of power.”
“Don’t insult my intelligence. His behavior this evening certainly indicates he gave you that sort of power over him. I will give you whatever you want to ensure he comes to the right decision.”
Hiko cleared his throat and his father quickly made an exit. Tationy did not acknowledge him as she continued to play. He was annoyed again. The lengths his father would go to just to get what he wanted. Would Tationy really betray him? He stepped forward resting his hand on her shoulder. She brought hers up to touch his face, but he quickly caught it and laid a tentative kiss upon it, “Beautiful and talented.”
“How much wine did you drink?”
“Why do you ask?”
“You called me beautiful.”
“Not enough to impair me I assure you.”
She changed the topic, “How is Kuro?”
“He is fine. Wants to know if we want to join him and Sadamitsu for a camping trip to Progmato.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him I would have to ask you. So, would you like to go camping or stick around here and probably have to deal with my old man some more?”
“I get the impression, Hiko Kari you just want to get away from your dad.”
“Can you really blame me?”
“No, not really.”
“So, how about, we get some sleep and we can pick up some gear and stuff tomorrow then meet up with Kuro and Sadamitsu.”
Tationy yawned, “Sounds perfect.”
Hiko quickly changed and watched her as she moved about his room changing her clothing and taking off the small amount of makeup she had put on for their evening out. Her hands reached up to deal with her hair, “Leave it.”
“Hiko Kari, do you like my hair like this?”
“Ahh.” He wanted to tell her that he liked seeing her lovely face without the glasses and messy hair. He had called her beautiful earlier, but he had doubted she appreciated the words. She didn’t think she was. He could tell that he was not the only one mistreated by a parent. “I meant what I said earlier Tationy,” He said as he kissed along her shoulder when she finally joined him in his bed, “You are beautiful.”
She changed the topic again, “I hope you know my hair is going to be a mess tomorrow.”
“How is that different from any other day?”
Laughing as she teased him, “Really Hiko? Do you really want to criticize my hair. You obviously have not looked in the mirror lately.”
“Mine sort of does whatever it wants. I gave up on it a long time ago.” He paused, “I get it though.”
“You and Abe. Seeing you dressed like that with your hair off your face and makeup it was like you were a different girl.”
“Are you telling me you like me like this better?”
“No,” He responded as he rolled to his back and used his strength to pull her on top of him. “So, which side of the bed do you want.”
She looked at him suspiciously, “Why do you ask?”
“Well, I figure if you call your side now that in five years I cannot really complain about it.”
Tationy noticeably laughed, “Is that so Hiko Kari?”
“Well, this is going to sound weird. I would prefer to be further from the door.”
“Is that your way of saying if someone breaks in, it is my duty to protect you?”
“Something like that.”
He maneuvered the two of them into more comfortable positions. Even though she had the whole side of the bed to herself she still managed to make it over to his side as she snuggled into him. His eyes closed as he thought about the night, “About what my father said. Are you going to try and convince me Tationy?”
“There is nothing your father can tempt me with, Hiko.”
“Not a thing in this world you want? Money? Houses? Cars? Stocks?”
“No, I do not need any of that.”
“So, what do you want to do about this Sofore stuff? Are we going to continue to just wait and see?”
“I think we can give it a couple of weeks, don’t you? They are doing the structural inspections that takes a bit of time.”
“If they shut down the gymnasium essentially crippling the basketball team, my only reason for staying would be you.”
“Hiko, I can hear it in your tone. Something is wrong.”
“My father is never happy with any decision I make. He is even going as far as to bribe my girlfriend. I don’t want to be the future of the Kari Foundation. Doing that means giving myself over to tradition. I want the Kari to come into a modern era where shit like that is not required.”
“Do you want to play basketball professionally?”
“Could I? I don’t know. My father says it is not realistic.”
“I suppose it really depends on the bigger picture. Do you want to have children? If you do, how will a sports career effect any children you have? Will you be home for them? Do you want to get married? If you have a wife, how would she feel about you being away a lot? How will you handle celebrity? If you are injured will you have something to fall back on when you can no longer play? Perhaps even questions like, why is my father in such a rush for me to take over the business? What benefits are there for working at the Kari Foundation? Is going to college going to improve what you have now or is it going to hinder it?”
He considered her words carefully as she said them. When she was finally finished rambling off a bunch of questions he should be asking himself he said, “Tationy, do you want to have children?” He felt her body tense, “Is that question too personal to ask you or is it just too soon?”
He could tell she was trying to consider her words so he quickly rolled her over and perched himself so he was looking down upon her, “Answer me.”
Her eyes were locked on his, “When I am twenty-five if all of the important conditions are met, then yes. At least one. Preferably a boy that is just like his father.”
“How would you feel if you had a daughter?”
“Mothers and daughters are complicated. Daughters want to be closer to their mothers and at the same time push them away. They compete for the attention of the most important man in their lives. Mothers and daughters are selfish. Some mothers smother their daughters to protect them and others demoralize them to make themselves feel better. I don’t know if I have it in me to be a good mother to a daughter. I don’t want to share the man in my life. I want to be his only girl. Terrible of me isn’t it? I don’t think I would be a good mother if I had a girl.”
Hiko knew it was because of her own upbringing and experiences with her mother. He understood it because he felt the same way about having a son. In Aslann society having children was the norm. It was practically expected, especially among old families such as the Kari. If you were married it was not ‘are you going to have children’, but ‘when are you going to have children’. If he wanted a wife and children could he do that and have a career in something like basketball? The questions she asked were many and helpful. He never even considered that he could be injured. If he was, did he even know what he would do to take care of himself? His mind was wandering and only drawn back to Tationy when her fingers teased along his arm.
To Be Continued