by Moon Momma
* * * * * * * *
"It's... um... interesting," Molly said, studying the painting that she and Masato had just unwrapped.
Masato added his opinion. "Yeah, um... interesting."
Zeb stood in front of them, nearly bouncing on his toes as he awaited further appreciation of the painting he had done as a wedding present for Masato and Molly. Mallory stood a little way back, leaning against the wall, rolling his eyes.
"Wait," Molly said, pointing to a dark brownish red area on the painting. "I think that's supposed to be your hair, Masato. And that," she indicated a brighter red patch, "that's me. Right, Zeb?"
"Right!" the artist said happily.
Masato furrowed his eyebrows, still trying to make sense of the painting. "I still don't see--oh, wait, now I do, but what... Oh." Masato actually blushed. The picture finally took shape in front of Molly's eyes, and she blushed too. "Zeb," Masato said, "if, ah, you don't mind, I don't think we'll hang this in the living room, okay?"
Zeb grinned. "I didn't paint it for the living room."
Mallory finally stood up straight. "I'd like to know what kind of a sick mind it takes to think of painting an obscene portrait for a wedding present."
Zeb turned his mischievous grin to his partner. "Hey, at least it's one of a kind."
"And I can't tell you how deeply we appreciate that, Zeb," Masato said dryly.
Mallory looked at his watch. "It's getting late, Zeb. We'd better get going. I've got meetings in the morning. Thanks for dinner, Molly, Masato."
The newly-married pair saw their guests out the door, then looked at each other and burst out laughing. "I can't believe Zeb actually did that," Masato said. "That's outrageous, even for him."
Molly was laughing so hard she couldn't talk, and tears were beginning to run down her cheeks.
"Should we hang it from the bedroom ceiling?" Masato asked. Molly sank to her knees, then rolled over on the floor, hysterical. Masato knelt and bent over her, kissing her. "It's good to see you laugh, sweetheart. I've been worried about you."
Ever since their wedding, a week ago, Molly had been having nightmares. She would awake with a cry at least once a night, but could never remember anything specific about the dreams, other than an overwhelming sense of terror and grief. Masato would have to hold her, soothe her, before she would calm down and go back to sleep. She seemed to want reassurance that he was with her and he was all right. The interruptions in her sleep were starting to take a toll on her; she had become tired and tense most of the time, and she was beginning to dread going to sleep. This evening with Mallory and Zeb, who were spending an extended amount of time in Tokyo while Mallory worked on putting together tours of the Kamchatka Peninsula, had left her more relaxed than she had been in several days.
Molly gradually stopped laughing, and gave herself up to Masato's kisses. "Let's forget about the dishes and go to bed," he murmured. She relaxed in his arms as he stroked her back. "You'll be okay tonight. You're a lot less stressed out than you've been. Come on." He stood, holding her hand, and helped her to stand, then led her to their bedroom.
* * * * * * * *
"Nooo!" Molly sat up in bed, her own scream still ringing in her ears. She rubbed tears away from her face. Masato was sitting up, too, and put his arms around her. "Molly, love, it's okay, it's okay," he murmured softly to her.
"This one was worse," she sobbed. "There was blood all over, except it didn't look like blood, and an explosion, and someone died in a park..."
He gathered her closer against him. "It was only a dream, Molly. It wasn't real. Everything's all right."
Molly pressed herself against him and rested a hand on his right shoulder. Beneath her palm she felt ridges of skin; she pulled her hand away and saw a scattering of large scars on his upper right chest. "Masato, where did those--" She looked again. No scars. She sagged against him. "Never mind. It was only a dream."
They lay down again, Molly securely wrapped in Masato's arms. She couldn't sleep, though; the enormous sense of loss and grief, left over from her dream, was still gnawing at her. "I need you to make love to me, Masato," she whispered.
He was only too glad to comply.
* * * * * * * *
It got worse over the next few weeks. The dreams were vivid and devastating, though Molly could remember no more details than before. She couldn't concentrate on her classes, she was having to scramble to keep up with her work and what she did produce was increasingly sloppy; Dr. Natsuki had begun hinting to her that maybe she just wasn't suited for Ph.D. work. Molly was starting to think that she just wasn't suited for life as a sane person.
What made things even worse was the toll all this was taking on Masato. He was also suffering from lack of sleep and the stress of her emotional upset. The morning of their one-month anniversary they woke up groggy and in bad moods. Masato was late leaving for work, and just as he was walking out the door Miss Tazuki called from the office, frantic about a contract that was supposed to have been signed the day before. Masato swore, told his secretary he'd be there as soon as he could, and slammed down the phone. "If I could get some sleep, I wouldn't forget things like that," he muttered.
Molly covered her mouth with her hands. "Masato," she said in a small voice.
He looked at her, eyes widening as he realized what he'd said, then he closed his eyes and embraced her tightly. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Molly-chan, I'm so sorry. I'll stay home with you today, sweetheart, if you need me to.
"It's okay," she finally managed to say through her tears. "You go on. I think I'll just go for a walk, then come back and take a nap."
"You're sure?" he asked. When she nodded, he kissed her comfortingly and left.
She had classes today, but knew there was no point in going. She left the apartment and walked without any sort of route or destination in mind. Eventually, she found herself in her old neighborhood, not far from where her parents' jewelry store had been. She walked down that street and stood in front of the apartment building that had been raised on the site where the store had been. Nothing. No memories, no emotions, nothing. She walked on, around the corner, and came to a small park.
She must have spent time in this park, since it was so close to her childhood home. She had walked through it before trying to call up more specific memories, but none had ever come. Today, though, emotions teased at her mind: happiness, fear, confusion. She looked around, trying desperately to remember something specific. Nothing. She walked on.
She bought lunch at a cart along a busy street in a shopping district, and ate while she continued her wanderings. After a while she discovered she was passing another park. The park. She stopped, wanting to run away, but she forced herself to continue to the next gate that opened into the park. At the gate, sensations, emotions, brief flashes of memories came crashing over her. She stood still, breathing hard, resting one hand on the wall, trying to capture each bit of information before it got away from her.
Night. Fear, danger, peace, a brief glimpse of happiness. Fear, danger, blood, screaming, noise, grief. No don't go in there danger ambush run away hide somewhere don't go in there!
"Miss, miss! Are you all right?" Molly realized that she was screaming, and someone was shaking her shoulder. A policeman. She abruptly stopped screaming and clapped her hands over her mouth. "Are you all right, Miss? What's wrong?"
Molly could only stare wide-eyed at the policeman and shake her head. Her whole body was trembling.
"Did someone try to hurt you? Have you been drinking? Taking any drugs?"
Molly shook her head over and over. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a red Ferrari screech to a crooked stop at the curb. Masato got out of the car and ran to her. "Molly," he said as he gathered her to him. "I was so worried about you, I kept calling and you didn't answer and I was afraid something was wrong. I had a feeling I'd find you here." He looked up from her to talk to the onlooking policeman. "She's my wife. She's been having nightmares about this park. I'll take her home." Molly started crying, and she sobbed into her hands as Masato led her to the car.
He took her home, helped her undress, and tucked her carefully into bed. He sat beside her on the edge of the bed, stroking her hair, until she stopped crying.
"It's that park, Masato," she finally said. "Something awful happened there. I think I'll remember if I go in, but I'm afraid."
"Then don't go in. Stay away from there. Maybe it's better not to know, if it's that terrible."
"Masato, I can't go on like this. I have to know. Something happened that must have nearly destroyed my life, and it's going to destroy it now. At least if I know, maybe I can find a way to deal with it."
He squeezed her hand, but remained silent.
* * * * * * * *
Mallory and Zeb came over for dinner the next night. Mallory was nearly finished with the groundwork for his Kamchatka tours, and they would be heading back to Seattle in a few more days. Since Molly was still feeling fragile after her breakdown the day before, it would be a casual evening of home cooking Sanjouin Masato style. Meaning stir-fry.
Molly was resting. She woke up from a doze to hear the guests' voices, and decided she'd better get up and greet them. She pulled on jeans and a blouse, combed her hair, which she had grown out to chin-length, and wandered out of the bedroom. Mallory was sitting in the living room, reading a newspaper. "Hi, Mallory," she said, and he smiled and winked at her. Then she peeked into the kitchen.
Zeb was facing Masato and holding up a chopping knife. Gut-wrenching horror tore through Molly. "Masato, look out!" she screamed. Both men looked at her, alarmed, then Zeb set the knife down on the cutting board and they both hurried over to Molly. She was shaking hard, her fists clenched against her mouth. "Oh, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, please, I'm sorry--"
"Molly--" Masato said gently, but she turned and ran from the apartment. In a panic, she ran for the stairwell, seeking a place to hide, to be alone. She didn't even realize she was running up the stairs until, lungs burning and heart racing, she had to stop and sit down. Then she buried her head on her knees and cried great, wrenching sobs.
A hand touched her shoulder lightly. She turned her head a little and saw Masato. He sat down beside her and put his arms around her. "You must hate me," she finally said, her voice hoarse in her aching throat. "For thinking that Zeb would hurt you. All of you must hate me."
"Darling, no," he said softly, as he rocked her gently in his arms. "I don't hate you. I could never hate you. Zeb and Mallory don't hate you either. The truth is, we're all worried sick about you."
That only made her start crying again. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to worry you."
"I know, love. I know. I promise, we'll do something so you won't have to go through this anymore. Now, will you come home?"
"I can't face them."
"Molly-chan, I told you, no one's mad at you. We're worried about you. You need to come home. Please."
Molly finally nodded. When they got back to the apartment, Zeb hugged her. "It's all right, Molly." She nodded her thanks, then, as he had the day before, Masato led her into the bedroom and got her settled into bed.
"Is she all right?" Zeb asked when Masato came back out to the living room.
Masato shrugged, and rubbed the spot between his eyebrows where he was getting a headache. "She can't go on like this. Something's got to give soon."
"We should leave," Mallory said.
"No, no. We've already got all this food chopped up, I need someone to help me eat it. Besides, well, I'd be glad of the company."
The three of them went into the kitchen and stood, drinking wine, while Masato worked his magic with the wok and the microwave. "One of these days I'm going to teach you how to really cook rice," Mallory said.
"I know how to cook rice. I'm just too damn lazy to be bothered," Masato replied absently.
"If you're lazy, then I'm a duck-billed platypus."
Zeb spoke suddenly. "She witnessed a murder. That's got to be it. Someone close to her was murdered, and she saw it."
Masato felt his blood turn to ice. Darkness swirled around him, the world tilted wildly. "No," he whispered harshly. He held out his hands; they were shaking. "I'm involved in this somehow." He swallowed hard, feeling sick to his stomach. "Did I--did I kill--is that what I've forgotten? I killed someone she loved, and she saw it happen?" Someone shoved his wine glass in front of his face. He gulped at it, then moved aside. "You guys--go ahead and eat. I--excuse me."
He left the kitchen and walked into the bedroom. Molly was sleeping. He stared at her, his beautiful wife, whom he loved so dearly, with all his heart... What had he done to her? He lay down beside her, fully clothed, and put his arms around her. She would be better off without him, but tonight he would just be grateful for the time they had had together. "Forgive me, Molly," he whispered.
She wasn't completely asleep. She turned in his arms to face him. Though she didn't speak, her longing was clear in her eyes.
And though he knew he shouldn't, he let her go on thinking a little longer that he hadn't destroyed her life.
* * * * * * * *
return to Index / go to Chapter 7
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury