Kazumi's Last Stand, Pt. 2
"Kazumi? Why aren't you packed? You were up there for almost half an hour."
Kazumi's father, Keiji, stood impatiently, with crossed arms and a disapproving glare adorning his face. Inoue stood close to him, watching her daughter turn the corner with a quiet, shameful look in her eyes. Tsuyoshi and Rin were standing by the front door, both wearing stoic expressions as they silently judged their tardy granddaughter.
Kazumi didn't look at them. Her eyes went straight for her parents; they were the only ones she needed to convince.
"Because I'm not going, Dad," was her confident retort. There was no hesitation in her reply, no stutter in her voice. It was the strong response of someone who meant business; someone who was not to be refused. She copied the apathetic glares of her grandparents, in a hopeful attempt to hide her inner turmoil, and crossed her arms around her impressive bust as a show of dominance. She meant business.
"We've been through this, Kazumi," Keiji said, shaking his head. "This isn't just an issue of lying to us, or being
what you are." He didn't want to use the word "lesbian;" he was already embarrassed enough as it was. "It's the money. We're finally getting the deal of a lifetime. A full ride through college
Something we've wanted for a long time," he added spitefully, casting an angry glare toward the old couple standing at the door, who made no indications of noticing the less-than-subtle hint, which they clearly saw.
Keiji had a very big problem with his parents-in-law. Ever since they first met, when Inoue began going out with him, the two forces had been at odds with each other. Not for opposing views; they actually shared many opinions in common, including some of their more traditional viewpoints. But Keiji was never a big fan of the old couple's abrasive personalities and hurtful words. Now, however, they were supposedly on the same page: getting Kazumi out to their school
and away from Ayu.
"Oh don't give me that," Kazumi shot back, taking a few aggressive steps into the center of the living room. "We've never had a problem with money. I don't know if you haven't noticed, but we're kinda rich."
"It doesn't matter how much money we have," Keiji replied defensively. "It's a full ride college; we'd be foolish not to accept."
"If you're so enthusiastic about you're 'full ride,' why is it that you never even tried to get it before?" Kazumi pointed out defiantly. "Why didn't you ever go try to convince them to give it to you, huh?"
"Because we knew we wouldn't be able to get it. We've tried before and never got any leeway."
"How hard did you try really?" Kazumi asked skeptically. "I've been around for a while, and I've never heard you even talk about me going to their school until now."
Keiji just narrowed his eyes in a much more stern glare, but didn't say anything, so Kazumi continued. "You didn't want me to go there, did you? You never wanted to send me off to their school, because you knew - as well as I did - that they would never let up if you did. If you let your daughter go there, on their bill
they would have complete control over our family, wouldn't they. And you didn't want that
"But now," she went on, "you have a 'reason' to want to get rid of me, and you have a scapegoat you can hide behind. You'll risk giving up the control, so they can just whisk me away to their magic little school so they can 'fix' me."
"We don't want to get rid of you," Inoue suddenly piped up, sounding very choked up at the moment. Kazumi looked at her, and noticed a small tear trickling down her cheek.
"You're mom's right," Keiji assured her, a gentle quality in his voice. "We would never want to get rid of you. We just want you to get a quality education, and we know you'll get one at Nara Women's University. It's a very good school."
"I've never heard you say anything good about that school; or the owners, for that matter," Kazumi added spitefully, casting an angry glare at Rin and Tsuyoshi, who remained as statuesque as ever.
"Well, I never thought you'd ever get to go there
"Oh, I see. Now that you want me to go there, suddenly it's the best school ever!"
Kazumi sighed and grabbed her brow in frustration. They were getting nowhere with this.
"Listen," Kazumi said wearily. "We could dance around this for days, or we could get down to the heart of the problem here
I'm going out with Ayu."
Keiji let out a shaky sigh, Inoue sat down on the couch tiredly, and even Kazumi's grandparents, who up until now showed absolutely no emotion, finally let a little bit of anger slip through their stoic façade.
"I lied to you," Kazumi admitted, slouching slightly and lowering her head embarrassedly. "And I shouldn't have. It was wrong, and I'll admit that -"
"You shouldn't even have gone out with her in the first place!" Tsuyoshi suddenly snapped, ultimately breaking free from his even temper. "She is a girl! It is shameful for you to have such relations with another girl!"
He suddenly turned his attention to Keiji. "See? This is why we need to get her out of here. To get her away from this city and its corrupting ways. If you two never moved out here in the first place, she would never be having these impure -"
All eyes were suddenly on Kazumi; she was furious. After holding back all her emotions for so long
Taking every insult - every degrading, judgmental lash of the tongue - without so much as a word in protest
She had had enough. No longer would she just lower her head in quiet shame, too intimidated to say what she was thinking. She was finally going to let them know what she really thought of them.
"I've had it up to here with you two!" she continued, her voice raised beyond all levels she was used to. She had never been this angry before. "You two have always tried to control me, but I'm not yours to control!"
"Watch your mouth, you little brat," Tsuyoshi snarled. For him, an anger like this was easy to come by.
"I will not watch my mouth! You two have always gotten in my way, and I'm done with it!"
"We are your elders! You will respect us!"
"I do not need to respect you," Kazumi growled. "The only people I need to respect are my parents. And if they had listened to you in the first place, I wouldn't exist! I need to stop caring what you have to say, and convince them to stop, too."
"Why you little
" It was all Tsuyoshi was able to say coherently.
Kazumi sneered at him, before turning her attention back to parents, specifically Inoue. "I know I lied about me and Ayu, and I know it was wrong
I should've told you about it when it first happened. I'm sorry for that
"Why didn't you think you could trust us?" Inoue asked, once again letting a tear run down her face. "We're your parents
We love you, more than you apparently know."
Kazumi blinked in surprise, and to also keep a tear from forming in her eyes. 'Those are the exact words Ayu said,' she thought. 'How did she know that?
"I'm sorry," she said, a crack in her voice threatening her composure. "I should've trusted you not to freak out
But I was afraid that you two were too traditional to handle it well
"We may have a more old-fashioned view than you," Keiji said now, taking a couple gentle steps toward his daughter and laying a hand on her shoulder, "but you're our daughter. We can make exceptions for you; we can change for you
You just need to be able to trust us enough to tell us things before they get out of hand
"But this isn't something that 'got out of hand,' Dad," Kazumi replied, suddenly sounding very defensive. "It's been going on for over a year, and it's only gotten better. I wouldn't change a thing about it
"Okay, poor choice of words on my part," Keiji admitted. "But you know what I mean
Before things turn out like this." He made a sweeping motion with his hand, indicating their present situation.
"Well, the only reason it's such a problem now is because we got those two involved." Kazumi pointed over to the old couple, still standing by the door, with a small bit of malice in her voice.
"The only reason this is a problem is because you can't control yourself!" Tsuyoshi blurted out once again. "This should have never happened to begin with, and now that it has, you're looking for sympathy?!"
"Sympathy?!" Kazumi yelled in protest. "You think it's sympathy to ask for your parents to not judge you for who you love?!"
"You can't be in love with her! She is a girl!"
"Oh, so I should just be like you and marry someone I don't even love?!"
"What are you talking about marriage for?!" Tsuyoshi yelled, beside himself with anger. "Marriage is sacred! It is not to be tampered with by your corrupted ways!"
"So it's better to marry someone you don't like for social reasons, than someone of the same gender because you love them?! Why do I have to be miserable like you two?!"
"HOLD YOUR TONGUE!! I will not stand here and let you defile the sanctity of marriage!!"
Once again, all they eyes in the room turned to Kazumi. But she seemed just as surprised as everyone else did. After a moment of silence, everyone's eyes turned in the direction of the true source of the outburst: Inoue.
"Kazumi, come over here," she said weakly, motioning her daughter onto the couch next to her. Kazumi did so warily, joining her mother after a moment of hesitation.
"Listen," Inoue began, wiping a tear out of her already red eyes. "Yes, lying to us was wrong; and yes, you should be sorry. But just because you're going out with another girl doesn't mean that we would reject you for it. I mean, look at me: I was in a relationship that my parents didn't approve of either. If anyone in this room who knows what you're going through, it would be me."
"I know Ayu; I adore her. She is one of the nicest young women I have ever met. The fact that you two are - or were - best friends is a blessing to me. I wouldn't want to split you two up for anything." Kazumi was surprised (and ecstatic) to hear that, but she didn't say anything. But she must've been wearing her emotions on her sleeve, because Inoue chuckled at her daughter's facial expression. "I know, I know
Even considering how 'old fashioned' I may seem, you mustn't assume that I'm a direct reflection of my upbringing. If I was - as you've already mentioned - you wouldn't have been born. I can hold my own opinion separate from my parents, as I'm sure you can, too
"But, like your father said earlier, that's not the biggest issue here," she continued, sobering Kazumi's elation. "It's not that you lied to us, or that you're in love with a girl
It's the fact that we're getting a full ride for you to go to college. We did want it, even if it never seemed like it to you. We've tried to convince your grandparents for a long time, and we did most of it without letting you know. We knew you wouldn't be happy with us trying to make you go somewhere you didn't want to
but ultimately, we knew we were going to give you the best we could. No matter how much money we may have, we knew the chance for you to go to one of Japan's more prestigious colleges - and for free - was the best for you, even if you don't believe so yourself
It's a wonderful opportunity; one that we would be foolish to decline
Kazumi sighed deeply and shakily, realizing now that, no matter what she said, there was still a very real possibility that
she would fail. As she felt the last few morsels of hope flutter away from her, she heard her mother say something that
kept her hopes alive.
without good reason," Inoue added, throwing her daughter a motherly look.
"You haven't been very honest with us recently," she said, turning her whole body to face Kazumi; she locked eyes with her daughter knowingly, as if to draw the truth out of her with just a look. "But now is an opportunity for you to redeem yourself. You must give us a reason to decline your grandparents' kind, if not misguided, offer. Tell us just how much staying here, with Ayu, means to you. And you must be one-hundred percent truthful. No more lies; and I'll be able to tell if you're lying. Are you ready?"
Kazumi nodded anxiously. This was it. All the things she had said, done, and lied about
had led her to this moment. One slip of the tongue, or a lie of omission
and it would all be over. She would never be able to see Ayu again. It was all or nothing.
"Okay then," Inoue began. "Let's get started."
'She's fighting for me. She's fighting for me. She's fighting for -'
The phone rang, disrupting Ayu's calming mantra. She looked at the phone nervously, knowing that Kazumi was on the other end of that phone. And she would either give her the greatest news in the world
or the worst.
She stared at the phone hesitantly, a deep fear resting in her eyes. This was it.
She picked up the phone.
"Kazumi?" she asked shakily, placing the phone up to her ears with quivering hands.
"Yeah." The response was too quick to gauge any immediate emotion.
Ayu took a deep breath, holding it for several unnecessary seconds. She was almost afraid to ask, but with a last ounce of energy, she asked the question that - one way or another - was going to effect her life forever.