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As tired as his body felt, Hiko was hardly sleeping. They had been coming to the hospital each day after work to visit his father for just over a month. He did not really believe in miracles, but perhaps there was some divine intervention that kept his father alive. As his girl snuggled into him he was reminded that in a single moment everything could change. Hiko had never been the type of guy that concerned himself with consequences. Now, that was all he was thinking about. Truth was, he was angry.

The door to his father’s room opened and then closed. Oddly, there were no noticeable footsteps which told Hiko that the person that had entered was light in step; most likely another Kari. Still, he felt tension throughout his body until the visitor spoke and he realized it was his grandfather, “The two of them still have not departed for Hoshino, their worry for you is keeping them from moving forward Tadayoshi. I hope you are not encouraging this behavior.”

Hiko felt the bite in his grandfathers tone and remained still while his father responded, “Whether I am or am not isn’t really any concern of yours. However, if you must know, they intend to leave today.”

“Good, I would hate to see them put their lives on hold any longer.” There was a tension filled silence that followed before his grandfather added, “I have spoken with your doctor and he has informed me that you will be released in a couple of days. Considering the circumstances, I believe it would be in your best interest to return home to Meratoia and stay with me.”

“I would rather be shot again.”

“That can be arranged.”

As much as he tried to hold it back, Hiko snorted which caused Tationy to stir. He held her tighter to relax her and when her body finally stilled Hiko spoke, “Glad to see the two of you get along so well.”

“We get along perfectly fine, when your farther does not give me lip,” His grandfather stated.

Tadayoshi noticeably sighed, “Let’s discuss something else.”

Even though the moment was open to further conversation, silence overtook the room. Hiko sighed, his hold tightening which caused his girl to stir once again, “Tationy, we should probably get on the road and leave dad to get some rest.” The wiggling of her body numbed his thoughts momentarily and when he finally managed to collect himself he caught her staring down at him. A brief smile adorned his lips as he watched her stifle a yawn and very sluggishly pull herself away from him.

It would be on unsteady legs, she moved toward Tadayoshi and gave him a hug which is father returned, “Take care of my son.”

“Of course,” She practically whispered and it was only moments later that Tationy had slipped out of the room with his grandfather giving Hiko and Tadayoshi a moment of privacy.

The two of them had never been very good at this farther and son stuff so it came as no surprise when the awkward silence overtook the room. Hiko thought for certain it was never going to end and even if it did, it would not be because of anything he said.

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Eventually his father spoke, “Somewhere in the world right this moment two loving parents are sending their child off to school for the first time. A mother and a father, holding hands and praying that their child remains safe and that every dream is fulfilled. I wanted that for you, but Ako and I failed at our responsibilities. We could not make it work and as I alone send you off to school, I can only hope that you have learned something of value from me that does not force you down the same path I have walked. No matter a parent’s hopes and dreams for their child, all they can really do is trust that their children have taken with them the best parts of whom they are and not the worst.”

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“There are some who cannot look past their own wants and desires which ultimately ends up with them hurting so many people. They just do what they want and to hell with the consequences. There is not a person in the world who has not made a mistake and sometimes they are for purely selfish reasons. Growing means accepting you are not perfect, owning your screw-ups, and fixing what you have broken no matter the cost to you. It will not be easy and there will be times that you cannot make amends.”

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“Many people think that running away is easy. They do not have to deal with the heaviness of the burden that is weighing them down. Who they are and what they want are in direct conflict because instead of speaking up, they act out emotionally or physically and wound themselves. Strength comes when you say no; put your foot down and scream it if you have to. This is my life, this is my will, and stand your ground. Certainly you will not make a lot of friends, but you will be able to hold your head high.”

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“Don’t confuse distance with avoiding. Some will run away to hide from their problems, while others will put distance between them and the source to heal. There will be moments when the emotions are too strong and the pain too heavy. There is no shame in needing space, but you have to understand that the world does not stop moving simply because your life feels as though it has. Distance can be a good thing, not just for healing emotionally or strengthening a bond, but it also comes with its own difficulties and should never be an option unless the wound is simply too unbearable.”

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“Some people are young because of their age and others because of their mentality. They will look at the world and see all the things that are fun and adventurous. Love is heart-shaped eyes and swirling romance where everything is peaceful and wonderful, but they disregard anything that forces them into adulthood. It is alright to enjoy life and stay young for as long as you can, but eventually you have to grow-up and understand you have responsibilities. That does not mean you have to stop appreciating what the world has to offer, but if you go through life seeing only flowers and sunshine you will never be able to handle when things are not perfect. Which makes it harder to survive the ups and downs that life will always give you and inadvertently you force the people around you to grow-up faster than they should or shoulder all of the responsibility.”

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“There is always that one person that has it so easy. Life is good, everything goes perfectly, and all of the ups and downs that others experience seem to somehow bypass that one individual. No one is without demons. Don’t look across the fence and see how green the grass is and assume that this person has it all because it is an illusion. We all are just magicians, tricking people into seeing what we want them to see.”

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There was a momentary pause before his father added, “I know you feel forced. The Kari Foundation was never a future you wanted. Right now there are probably thousands of young men and women living lives and following dreams that their parents laid out for them. They are confused and struggling; feel as though they have given up a part of their soul just to carry on the responsibility they are shackled with. I understand that burden, I really do Hiko.”

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Definition: Oma – Words of wisdom spoken by a Kari father to his son before the final trial into manhood. They are considered the parting words between parent and child because after the trial the Kari boy will be a man and is believed to no longer need the guidance and support of his father.

“Just before your final trial, it was my duty as your father to impart upon you some words of guidance and wisdom that you could carry with you into manhood. Like many things in your life, I failed. It has been years since your trial and most of your adult life I have treated you as a willful child. I do not have the right to ask you to accept my words, but I hope that you will take them with you as you pass into the next stage of your life.”

Even as his father hung his head and waited for some sort of response from Hiko, the words were not readily available. Tationy would remind him that Tadayoshi Kari was his father and mistakes were made, but that Hiko was still loved. As the years passed the distance between father and son became so great that they could not even be in the same room together without arguing. Sometimes it felt as though their very presence was enough to bring on heated words. He did not want to have the same relationship with his son that he had with his father. The urge to snap was always there. A few fatherly words did not change the pain and distance, but it was a start.

Hiko felt uncomfortable as he spoke, “I should probably get going. Take care of yourself.” His father simply offered a brief nod of his head in acknowledgement. Most likely, Tadayoshi Kari did not expect anything more than that, so as Hiko stopped at the door his final words to his father probably came as something of a surprise, “I don’t really blame you for not wanting to stay with granddad, but someday Tationy and I are going to have a son and he should have the opportunity to meet his papa Yoshi.”

Not about to give his father an opportunity to speak he rushed to leave and as the door closed behind him he heard a softer side of his fathers voice he never imagined, “I understand.”

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Hours later, he and Tationy had arrived to Hoshino. Due to their late start, Hiko had expected his cousin, Semei Kari to have already arrived and be unpacked. However, that was not the case and by the time he did it would be well past dinnertime and the sun had already begun its decent.

From where he was on the balcony, Hiko watched as Semei climbed from his vehicle and made his way toward the door. It would not take long for him to find his way to Hiko’s location and as he scrutinized his cousin’s appearance he asked, “Did something happen, it is unlike you to be so late?”

“No,” Semei responded curtly.

“Tationy and I did not take a room, she thought we should wait for you.”

“There was no need.”

Crossing his arms over his chest, Hiko was certain that there was something wrong, but he could not place his finger on what it was. After a moment of trying to decipher what his gut was unsuccessfully telling him, Hiko lost his temper with a snarl, “Something feels off and I don’t fucking like it.”

Semei noticeably sighed, “Don’t read into it, Hiko. I just want to unpack and get some rest.” There was a momentary pause, “Seeing the two of you have not picked a room, I rather liked the one on the lower level. If that is acceptable, I will go and get my stuff.”

“Ahh, that is fine. Do you want some help?”

“No, thank you. I can manage.”

Hiko sighed as he watched Semei walk away certain that something was off. It made his head hurt trying to figure it out, but over the past week even Tationy seemed different; tense, jumpy, and her sleeping was worse than it had ever been. She had kept telling him that she was just anxious for school, but his gut was screaming at him that it was something else. Of course, he was not as smart as Tationy and Semei, so it was certainly possible that the two of them were working themselves up over academics.

Grumbling under his breath he realized that he might actually be the more relaxed of the three of them which meant that he would have to manage the two high-strung overachievers. Just the thought made him want to get in his car and give up on school.

~Fini

The Prequel has come to an end, but the story will continue in The College Years. Coming Soon!

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