Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: A long day has started with an unusual outing – Yuriko's gone for a run. In the process she's gotten to know a little more about Midori and her family...and herself.

Volume 2, Issue 10

"Best Laid Plans"

 

"So," Natsumi's voice was smooth and mellow. "What are you ladies planning for today? We're all going to the beach. Will you join us?"

Yuriko was about to agree happily, but Midori cut in, her voice morose. "I'm afraid we can't. We've got a television interview this afternoon."

Yuriko made a face at this. She'd completely forgotten about that. "But we don't need to be there all day, surely?"

Midori smiled. "No, that's true. Would you like to go to the beach? Or stay here?"

Yuuka joined them, her hands resting comfortably on her pregnant belly "We'll be staying home and having a picnic on the lawn, if that helps – it's another option at least. I get tired easily these days..." she smiled conspiratorially, "and I'd like to be able to get in at least a little adult conversation while I'm here."

Natsumi laughed, "Funny, I come here to get some time with the children in." She reached out and ruffled Yuuji's hair as he walked by. He scowled good-naturedly and wished them a good morning. She smiled at the other women knowingly. "I love having a teenager, but there's nothing like little children to give you a sense of the wonder of life."

Yuuka agreed pleasantly.

"Who is `we'?" Midori asked her sister-in-law, apparently more eager at the idea of a picnic than a day of wonder with the children.

"Ritsuko-chan has something she's working on here, and wanted to stay in to finish it," Yuuka bit the tip of her tongue as she thought. "I'm not sure if Hayao-san said he'd stay or not. I think he was up in the air about it. And Youko-san feels the way I do – she's looking forward to a few moments of quiet.

"Well?" Midori turned to Yuriko, "what would you prefer – are you up to an afternoon with the kids or not? You can decide – I'm too tired to."

"Would it be alright if we join you?" Yuriko looked back and forth between Yuuka and Midori. "I mean, if you'd rather we not" this to Yuuka, "or you want to swim..." this last to Midori who shook her head.

Yuuka assured them that they were welcome, although Natsumi expressed regrets at not having their company. She gave Midori a hard look. "We don't get to see enough of you, Mi-chan. You should come home more often."

Midori waved the idea away. "I know, I know, Aoi is always on me about that, as well." She sighed. "I'm just so busy..."

Laying a gentle hand on Midori's shoulder, Natsumi nodded. "We know." She patted the writer on the shoulder. Smiling at Yuriko, she said, "Maybe you can join us tomorrow." With a slight bow, she turned and walked away stiffly.

Yuriko watched Midori's face, which had darkened slightly. She could feel the awkwardness in the air. Yuuka clearly was not sure whether she should change the subject or simply leave. "Well, if we're going to picnic," Yuri said cheerfully, "then I guess we'll need to make lunch – would you like us to do anything?" She paused and grinned at Yuuka ruefully. "I suppose I should say, is there anything simple I can't mess up? I'm not known for my skill at cooking."

Yuuka shot Yuriko a look of thanks. "We were going to stick with sandwiches – this way we can pack lunch for the beach contingent, too. Do your culinary skill runs that far?"

"Just," Yuriko laughed. She glanced at Midori, whose face was still blank and dark and she gestured Yuuka towards the kitchen. "Let's go see what I can ruin – it looks like Ritsuko-san has come back to life."

Yuuka glanced over her shoulder at the young woman who sat hunched over a cup of coffee, chatting with Sakura. "It looks that way, doesn't it? Let's see if she or Youko-san have any brilliant menu ideas."

Yuriko let the other woman lead the way, turning back to her lover for a second. "Join us?"

Midori shook herself visibly. Her face cleared and she smiled up at Yuriko brightly. "I'd love to. I make a mean egg salad sandwich."

"Really?" Yuriko was delighted. "I love egg salad."

"You love food." Midori corrected playfully. "Is there anything you don't like?"

Yuriko thought about that as they joined Ritsuko, who was balancing a cup of coffee and a squirming Akane. Midori picked Akane off of Ritsuko's lap and set her on the floor. She addressed the child.

"What's your favorite food, Akane-chan?"

"Ice cream!" Akane jumped up and down in an ecstasy of anticipation. "I want ice cream!" She ran to Masaki who was standing with his father. "Papa, can I have ice cream?"

Masaki looked puzzled, but agreed that she could have some ice cream when they got to the beach. Yuriko watched with delight as Akane insisted, predictably, on immediate gratification. She turned to Midori admiringly. "You're absolutely evil." Midori just grinned back at her.

Yuriko gazed into Midori's dark eyes and had her second revelation of the morning, but decided to leave it for later. It had never occurred to her to discuss it with Midori – she had never intended to, herself, but it was something they should talk about…her train of thought was completely derailed by the sound of her name.

"Do you feel up to boiling water?" Ritsuko's voice was much more chipper after a morning application of caffeine. Yuriko grinned at her and assured her that her culinary skills, pathetic as they were, even went so far as being able to butter bread and peel eggs.

***

Yuriko stared with disgust at the pile of egg slices. "How many more eggs do we need?" she said, trying to push the hair out of her mouth without tasting the egg on her hands.

"That should be the last batch," Youko glanced past Yuriko's arm at the bowl. "You're pretty fast with that slicer."

Yuriko grimaced. "Thanks, but now I'm not sure I can ever look an egg in the eye again."

The other woman laughed. "I know exactly what you mean. Two years ago Kirika-chan would only eat curried rice and nothing else. Even now the smell of curry makes me vaguely ill."

"I think that's it," Midori handed a carrot slice to Youko and stuffed another into Yuriko's mouth. "We've got all the sandwiches for the kids done, and this will be plenty for us." She saw the look that passed over Yuriko's face and giggled. "Not in the mood for egg salad anymore? I'll make a regular salad."

Yuriko sighed in relief. "I think I'm off eggs for a while." Turning to include the other women in the conversation she said, "I don't know how you ladies do it – doesn't cooking take all the fun out of food?" Yuriko bore the resulting laughter with good grace and a self-deprecating smile for her pampered ways.

The next half hour was another dance of chaos, noise and activity, as children and adults gathered important items to take to the beach.

Bathing suits were found, missing stuffed animals had to be located, food packed and after all was said and done, Aoi and Mishima were missing. A fifteen-minute hunt later found them in Aoi's study, deep in discussions about a project for the town. They sheepishly allowed themselves to be dragged out of the house and bundled into a car, under the watchful eyes of Yuuji and Akane, who reproached their grandparents soundly for delaying their trip.

Eventually the bags, blankets, baskets and chairs were packed and the company set off for their day at the beach. The silence that settled on the remaining few was as profound as a deep breath of clear air.

Yuuka sighed. "Thank god for that," she muttered, well below anyone's ability to hear. She grinned and spoke aloud. "Who's left? Did Hayao-san decide to stay?"

"No," Ritsuko held a platter of fresh fruit in her hands. "He decided to be a bad uncle and spoil the kids' dinner by buying them too much junk food."

"I approve wholeheartedly," Youko said. When the others looked at her askance, she shrugged. "I'm the mommy – I can't do it, but someone should." She smiled, "Its summer and you're only young once, after all."

"Agreed!" Midori said happily. "So I think we should all go right outside and have some lovely summer moments of our own."

The five women grabbed food, dining implements and Yuriko, being the tallest, draped a tablecloth over her shoulder. In single file, they proceeded down the lawn to the trees by the lake, ready enough to enjoy the bright summer day.

 

Continued