Chapter 25: Dad’s Gone, But Tomoko’s Here
If it were near silent before, now all sound seemed to have dropped away. They say it’s something that occurs with shock, as if the entire world has collapsed beneath your feet and you are on the precipice of becoming nothing yourself. The news of my father’s death wasn’t met with disbelief. The moment she said it I knew it was true. I didn’t need the discarded phone on the bed to tell me the hospital had called.
For a few moments there was nothing but this big chasm between mom and I, and then I was holding her, letting her clutch me close, my tears and tortured cries meeting her own. All kinds of thoughts ran through my head. Feelings of remorse and regret. Anger and sorrow. Confusion and moments I would never get back.
When I found my voice, I asked the inevitable. “What happened?”
Mom couldn’t say. On the first attempt she choked up. “He hung himself.”
“Hung himself? But why? He was fine yesterday.”
“They said he left a note that said he couldn’t take the ridicule anymore and the effect his paranoia had on us.”
I pulled away from her so I could see if she was being serious or not. That was not dad at all. I didn’t want to say as much to her, but it was more believable he had hung himself out of the fact he had lost his wife and would never see home again as it once was. And yet even that didn’t ring true for me. In fact, I couldn’t see dad hanging himself at all. It was just so out of character, distressed or not.
I tried to wipe the tears from my face, but despite the questions that were now rising up in my mind, the loss of my father demanded my sorrow. It also told me I needed to be here for mom. Different things would hit her soon enough. When she had time to reflect, I imagine her thoughts would lead her into all the things that had went wrong between them, and how if they had handled things different, he may not have taken his life. And that thought in itself returned me to my suspicions.
“I’m going to get us some tissues,” I said.
I got up and stepped out into the hall. Taking a deep breath, I tried to clear my head. It was no use. I went into the bathroom and closed the door behind me. I sat on the toilet seat and put my head in my hands, letting go of my tears and voicing my anguish with a cry to the ceiling. I knew mother could hear me, but I didn’t care. This was my own personal sadness. No one understands how the loss of a parent is to a child. Even more so when that parent had the biggest hand in raising you. This was not an “everything’s going to be alright” moment. This was the end of all things, or at least the beginning of it.
By the time I had composed myself and grabbed some extra tissues for mom, she was already on the phone calling whatever relatives my father had. I had never met anyone from his side of the family, but he had mentioned an estranged brother once. I always had the impression that my dad was and had been a loner most of his life. In the few years before his vampire troubles, he hadn’t been sociable with co workers or neighbors. No backyard barbecues, baseball games, or bowling nights. He was as a man without friends. That had never occurred to me then, but now with his death I began to see just how alone he had been. Did mom and I make him lonelier? Was this the life he had wanted? These were not the burning questions however. The biggest mother of all questions at this point in time was if he really killed himself. One look at his past might suggest yes, but after yesterday’s visit, I would say no. In fact, yesterday he was convinced someone was coming for him. Vampires.
I left the extra tissues for mom and headed to my room. I needed space to breathe and think. I also needed to retrieve dad’s vampire kit. After all, if vampires had come for him, it was a possibility they might come here next. And something told me it wouldn’t be Haru or Ryo. It was beginning to look like there might be some truth to dad’s colony theory, and if so I needed to prepare myself.
The vampire kit wasn’t very elaborate. An old battered briefcase stuffed with things dad had felt would be useful in event of an attack. There were two stakes, one wooden, the other made from heavy steel. The steel one contributed most of the weight to the case, and appeared to be an old railroad spike, the kind they used to nail the railway ties to the ground. There was a bible, a crucifix, vials of what I could only guess was holy water, and a sealed Tupperware container. I didn’t have to pop the top of the container to know what was inside. Garlic. I wasn’t sure how much protection the garlic or any of the Christian items would provide. I didn’t even know what kind of vampires we were dealing with, but I felt certain the stakes would come in handy.
With the kit laid out on the bed, I debated on what to do. Stay here with mom or return to the safety of Haru’s. I wasn’t sure how I could coax mom to go over there without telling her what was going on. I couldn’t tell her the truth, and yet I didn’t know a good enough lie to get her out of the house and away from the fact dad was gone. Tears threatened to come again at the thought of my father, but they were interrupted by a knock on the door. Not at my bedroom, but at the front of the house. Loud and insistent, it was a banging that was both urgent and menacing at once. I grabbed the wooden stake from the kit and went to see who it was.
“Coming!” I heard mom yell. She was already descending the stairs towards the door.
At the top of the steps I screamed, “No mom! Don’t!”
It was too late. She was at the front door and opening it. I sprinted down the stairs as fast as I could and crossed the room, stake raised. I shoved mom out of the way so I could confront the visitor. A strong hand reached through the open doorway and grabbed my wrist, keeping me from using the stake.
“I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t swing this so wildly as if it were a toy. It can cause considerable harm to an individual.”
It was Haru’s uncle, Tomoko, dressed in his usual pin stripe suit and wing tip shoes. He smiled and released my wrist. Breathing easier, I lowered the weapon.
But mom was furious. Having regained her footing from where I had shoved her aside, she nearly spun me by my shoulders to face her. “What the hell is wrong with you, Nora!”
Before I could answer, she noticed the stake in my hand. “And what is that?!” She looked at Tomoko in the doorway. “Oh my god, I am so sorry. I don’t know what’s gotten into her.”
“It’s quite alright. I have a teenager at home too.” He winked at me, and something in his eyes told me I should just play along.
I didn’t get the chance to however, as mom commanded me to go to my room and “put that damn…whatever it is…away.”
Tomoko put his hand gently on my arm in a gesture that said don’t go anywhere.
“Actually, I came over to invite both of you for some late tea and perhaps a movie. Haru is gone out for the night and I do get so lonely without him in the house.”
He rolled his eyes, but mom didn’t notice. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing.
“I don’t know if it’s a good time, Mr. Tomoko,” mom said. “We just received some very bad news and…”
“That’s the best time to be with friends,” he interjected. “And It’s a wonder how tea can soothe the spirit, and a movie can take your mind off your troubles.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” I said, believing Tomoko really wanted us to come with him right away. I was out the door and on the porch before mother could protest much.
“Well, let me just change real quick. I guess we could come over for a little while.”
“There’s no need to change,” our vampire neighbor replied. “You look great.” He flashed her a smile that was all pearly white teeth and invitation. I couldn’t see his fangs, but knew they were there somewhere. For a brief moment, I wondered if the friendliness he showed my mother was so that he could sink his teeth into her, but that suspicion passed quickly. Tomoko was a true friend and could be trusted. I don’t know how I knew it; I just did.
Days ago mom would have blushed at his compliment, but now with dad’s death so fresh in the mind she just nodded. Stepping out on the porch with us, she closed the door behind her. “Oh wait, I don’t have my keys,” she said.
“I have mine,” I told her, now concealing the wooden stake in my back pocket, before she told me to take it back inside. “Come on, let’s go have some tea.”
We followed Tomoko down the steps and into the yard. Heading across the grass, I linked arms with mom, and she glanced at me. I gave her a reassuring smile. She seemed to like the fact that I was concerned for her, and it made me feel good to act as her protector. It kept my mind off other, darker things. For a moment, my mind turned to someone else I cared for and wished to protect: Angela. I glanced over to the Winston house. There were a few lights on. Ryo had left in a hurry too. Had Angela been over there when he was summoned to join Chi and Haru? Was she over there still? Or was she home, completely oblivious to events swirling around us? I made a mental note to try and call her once we were safely inside the house.
It was then I noticed the car. I don’t know why I hadn’t seen it before. It was sitting at the curb right in front of our house. It was a small black Mazda, and I could see people inside. A flame from a lighter flickered and lit up the driver’s face. Oddly enough, he looked a lot like Charlie Simpkins, my very first boyfriend. I hadn’t seen him much since the seventh grade, and though that was a couple years ago, his face had changed little. There was no mistaking it was him, for he grinned that crooked smile that had first endeared me to him.
Another flame sparked in the back seat. Through the dim light of the flame I saw trouble. Devin McCullough, Amanda Trump’s boyfriend. He too grinned at me, but his look was not endearing at all . He looked like he was fighting the urge to snub his cigarette out on my face.
“Nora,” Tomoko said. “Come on.”
It wasn’t a suggestion, it was a command. I could feel it swirling around in my head, compelling me to forget the car and cross over into the safety of his yard. I had no choice but to follow. Still, the car and its occupants bothered me. When we reached the back porch, I dared to look back. The car was still there, like a sentinel watching and waiting.
We sat in the small kitchen waiting for Tomoko to prepare our tea. He and mom were engaged in a conversation about local politics, something I had no interest in whatsoever. Right now my interest was in the boys sitting outside my house in the black Mazda. What were they doing there? Did Amanda send them to intimidate me? It wouldn’t surprise me if she had. Nothing was beneath her in order to get her revenge. But to send along my very first boyfriend was definitely a flair of genius I didn’t think she had.
I got up and went to the window. Parting the curtains just a bit, I looked out. The black Mazda was still parked outside my house next door, but now it was joined by two others, a gray VW and a blue pickup. In the bed of the pickup sat about half a dozen boys. Normally it would have looked like they were all lining up for a tailgate party, but tonight it took on the appearance of something more mischief minded. In fact, as I stood there watching, the boys climbed out of the pickup, and the gray VW emptied its passengers as well. They started across the lawn, and I noticed some carried baseball bats. They definitely weren’t selling candy bars for the football team to go to camp.
I turned from the window and saw that both our host and my mother were gone. On the table sat a couple cups of tea. One appeared to be half empty, the others untouched.
“Mom?” I called out. “Uncle Tomoko?”
I left the kitchen and walked into the hall. “Mother?”
The hallway was dark, but up the steps I could see a dim light on the landing. I put a foot on the stairs and called out again.
“She’s sleeping,” a voice said from behind me, and I jumped, my hand reaching around for the stake in my back pocket.
“It’s okay, “ Tomoko said. “I gave her something to knock her out. It’s best if she sleeps through this.”
“Through what?” I asked nervously.
Before he could answer, there was the sound of shattering glass from the kitchen. He gripped my arm.
“Don’t worry, it’s just a rock,” he said.
A pounding began on the front door. It was so loud it nearly shook the house. Soon it was joined by another assault on the back porch door. I heard the splintering of wood as if someone was tearing up the deck outside board by board. More shattering glass, this time deeper within the house. I want sure if it was a rock or someone coming in.
“Go up the stairs,“ Tomoko whispered. “Your mother is in Haru’s room. Don’t attempt to wake her. She’s been poisoned.”
“It won’t kill her. But it will kill them if they attempt to drink from her.”
“What do you mean, drink from her? They aren’t vampires. They go to my school!”
“Well, I guess school is just about out then. Now, go!”
He shoved me towards the staircase and I knew better than to argue. I bounded up the steps two at a time. I didn’t look back until I reached the landing.
Tomoko stood at the foot of the stairs, blocking it from anyone who would follow. I saw a shadow emerge in front of him. The figure brandished a baseball bat and took a swing. The bat shattered against Tomoko’s open hand. His other hand shot out and grabbed the shadow’s throat. He lifted the figure in the air and shook him one time. It was so fast I barely saw the motion, just the outcome. He let the shadow go and it collapsed to the floor. At first, I thought he had killed him, snapped his neck right in two, but then I realized he had just shook him so fast and hard it had sent the assailant direct into unconsciousness.
Tomoko looked up at me. His eyes were red and I was afraid to look at him for long. I bolted down the hallway towards Haru’s room.
“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.