In Gods' Good Time
C V Ford
Chapter 23: Rachels' Story
"I don't know how you do it," Jack marveled, setting down his fork, "but you do."
Another fantastic meal with Rachel concluded, the man settled back at his place at the table watching the gorgeous apparition working in her kitchen. He wasn't a believer in luck. The term, fortunate was more to his liking.
And if fortune would hold ...
He reached in his pocket, holding the ring box, nervously running his thumb over the small lid.
Yes ... if fortune would hold ...
"Just a matter of working out whatever deal needed with the cafeteria staff," said the history teacher coming out of the kitchen. "The Principal okayed my uh ... 'shopping' there so that place is like a supermarket to me."
Yes ... the principal.
"Gotta' do SOMETHING with all those meal tickets." Sitting down.
"Yeah ... well ... There's something else I'm hoping the principal would okay."
Getting up, the man circled the table. Sitting down next to her, he steeled himself as he withdrew the small box from his pocket. With both hands, he held it as he opened the lid.
Rachels' quick intake breath put Jack in an even quicker state of aprehension. The amazed and hesitant look on her face did not bode well.
"I ... made it myself. The ring and setting that is," nervous. "Cha and his bunch found the diamond ... did the cutting and mounting ... I-"
"Oh Jack! ... It's beautiful ... but ... I ... it ..."
"You ... don't have to make a descision right away. I'll understand."
"It's not that, it's that ..."
"There aren't any clergy. No one to perform the ceremony ... And we can't just move in together. It wouldn't be right, it-"
"A Quaker wedding."
A flash of recognition hit the teacher.
"I've been giving this lots of thought for more than a while," he started. "Doing some research. There is a way and is just as valid as a civil or church wedding and certainly better than common law."
"Yes," she recollected from her own knowledge. "What they did in the early days of both our countries when priests and ministers couldn't be had."
"We take it before the Lord, in the presence of witnesses and declare our intentions and vows. All witnesses present sign a statement. We file it in school records."
"That would be where the principal comes in," Rachel stated.
"And having Tachibana and Nakamura there, they being the two ... uh ... 'factions' ... would make it complete. The principal, wether human or not, is for all intents and purposes is just as authentic an authority figure as anyone could be here."
"I'm not sure if Kanade is old enough to and-"
"Yuri is ... And even if she isn't, there will be others present who made it past eighteen before coming here. Cha for instance. That and the fact most of the Battlefront have anyway. Besides, even if they had all come here before reaching legal, they've certainly passed that during their stay.
"So it comes down to this," he partly concluded. "Will you ... marry me?"
The mans' apprehension started to increase slightly as the object of his affections made a long pause of indecision. Something of her own apprehension beginning to show.
"Jack," she began, "before I say ... anything ... I ... I want you to know ... I do love you and ... care deeply ... but there's ... something that-"
"I've never asked."
"Whatever's in your past is of no concern to me. The past is what it is and stays there."
"Maybe for now. But it will always be there for me. And even though nothing would be said now, things will come out in bits and pieces over time ... Things that-"
"Things that need not be said. It-"
"But they do, Jack! I need to say them."
"I need to say them to you."
"It's only fair."
"Fair? How's that?"
"Remember some time ago? You told me about yourself. You were more than uncertain about us and felt-"
"That doesn't obligate YOU in any way."
"But you felt an obligation to yourself as well as me ... as I now. I need to clear the air for myself as well as both of us ... as have you."
"I completed my Bachelors' and that definitely opened some doors. If one is to take up working residence in Japan, a BA is one of the minimum requirements.
"4M Company is an international investment firm trading in commodities, securities and the like, particularly in Asia. They're always on the lookout for talent in languages as well as in the financial sector. They had their eye on me while I was in college and I was assured of employment on graduation. I worked for them while earning my bachelors assisting in their translations departments. I also helped teach English to their Japanese staffers who came to Canada for their two to three year stays.
"When I got my BA they offered to send me to Japan. I jumped at it."
"I wasn't under any illusions about the country. I didn't want to set myself up like some silly otaku who thinks the country is a land of happy little anime makers. My study of history outside of the required courses in college revealed a lot.
"In spite of outward appearances of being a modern democracy, I knew Japan to be a feudal state, ruled from the top down."
"Yeah," answered Duffy. "The emperor isn't some ceremonial stooge or figurehead they trot out for special occasions. The Diet being pretty much a rubber stamp outfit."
"Yes. The value of each individual is measured in how well one obeys ones' immediate superiors. I knew the country had a past of heavy sexist and racist oriented tradition. Not only would I be looked on as an outsider but as a woman as well. Business is run the same way as well.
"I knew one had to tread lightly there," she looked about her. "Or rather ... here."
"I still wanted to immerse myself in Japanese culture as much as possible and the chance to do so at company expense was too good an offer to pass up, so I went.
"My duties were still pretty much the same but my BA led to the position of a teacher of English and not just an assistant. The fact I'm able to read most of their Kanji as well as the two phonetic alphabets was a big factor in my being there."
"I was there two months, really getting into it, when I was given a temporary teaching assignment at a branch office in Kyoto, north of here and ...
Duffy cocked his head at Rachels' moment of hesitation.
"Well, cut to the chase ... I met him on that assignment ... had an affair."
"He was a charmer, I fell for it. He was married but that didn't stop me from being stupid. We started seeing each other on his biweekly trips to the main Tokyo office.
"Three months later, I missed my period. Doctor confirmed ... I was pregnant. I knew I was taking a risk, even with birth control. Obviously it didn't work."
"Pill's only 97% effective at best," Duffy speculated. "Cuts down the odds but the chance is still there."
"If I thought it through at all, it was wrong even with that. It's still an abortion drug ... works also by keeping a fertilized egg from implanting.
"When I told ... him ... He tried to talk me into an abortion. I wasn't going to do that ... murder."
"He gave me a choice. Either abortion or it was over. Would give me a month to decide."
Rachels' face darkened.
"The way he put it had me decided alreadly. Very cold, distant about it. Like a damn business proposal."
"Like you said. A real charmer."
"Next thing I know, I'm out of my teaching position and clerking in our translations department a few floors below the board offices. One of his cronies let it be known to me in that roundabout way of theirs that this was to keep me from seeing and embarrassing him during the next biweekly board sessions. I was also told it was also a prelude to my being let go in case I made the 'wrong' decision and keep the baby."
"Bastard ... " Duffy directed his disgust at lover boy.
"Yes ... he was at that.
"Then the real surprise hit."
Jack leaned forward.
"My next period came."
"The new tests showed the originals came up with a false positive. I immediately went to another doctor for a second opinion, he confirmed the same. I wasn't pregnant to begin with.
"When, a couple weeks before the next board meet, I was reminded of my descision deadline. That's when I made a little arrangement of my own."
"For making my exit from the company in as loud and flamboyant a manner as possible. None of that roundabout, reserved Japanese discreteness and politeness they're so famous for."
"Yeah ... They certainly have a thousand ways to politely screw you over while keeping things quiet."
"I let it leak about the faulty preg test and that I'd like to see him.
"I always traveled light, so it was no problem packing. Stuff was pretty much packed to begin with. A couple days before the meeting, my then room mate, who I KNEW was running into to him through one of his cronies, was off on a 'business trip' with that same associate, so she didn't see the luggage go out the door. Bags were waiting in storage at Narita, everything in place.
"A few hours before the board meeting, we met at a restaurant across from the building. I had on a dress and shoes he gave me as part of the act. The message wasn't lost on him and and his beady little eyes lit up on seeing me.
"Told me things ... WILL ... not could, be the same as they were before. I was to be his ... whore ... and I would be back to my teaching position. Maybe even an advancement of some kind."
"That was magnanimous of him."
"Yes, he could be a very kind and giving bastard.
"I agreed ... NOT!
"About a half hour before the meeting, I change into pants and sneakers and laid low 'till about fifteen minutes into the meeting."
"That's when you made your move?"
"Yes. Taking the dress and shoes along, I get to the board floor. A large room with all these clerking and secretarial cubicals in the center, ringed on the outside walls with offices and conference rooms. I practiced the speech for about a week, making it short so I could be done before anyone could do anything. I get up on the reception desk at the head of the room, and announce to one and all his and my little affair and what a weasel he was."
"Holy crud! I'll bet that stirred things up."
"Oh yes! Things like that just aren't done in Japan."
"So what happened next?" Smiling.
Rachel was relieved Duffy was not only taking this well but getting into it.
"After about a minute, I notice someone running to the boardroom. A minute after, the top staff comes rushing out, including the CEO of all people! Had I known he would be coming all the way from Ottowa I'd have had an even better speech planned.
"Well, HE was in that bunch, bowing, scraping, and apologizing to everyone like the little bootlicker he was. The Japan CEO, speaking through his top flunky, was admonishing him about keeping his whores and dalliances under control.
"I almost about lost it when I denounced HIM, the company, and the bunch in front of me. I settled on cursing them out in Japanese, English and since a couple of their Quebec people were there, some French too.
"I notice the flunky telling HIM to get me down from the desk and remove me from the room. He comes up, making with the big talk and tries to grab my leg. That's all I needed-"
"I throw the dress and shoes at him and a kick to the shoulder. Sent him back a couple feet. What happened next ... unbelievable! Little coward runs screaming back to the boardroom.
"I then turn to the rest, tell them something about how I can't be fired because I quit. That's when I got out of there."
"How'd you get out? I'd imagine security would have been called by then."
"I wasn't about to let them have the satisfaction of escorting me out. I jump off the desk, hopped an elevator partway down, switched floors where I already had my overnight case stashed and took the freight elevator the rest of the way. It was out the loading dock and into the street just as a couple uniform staff arrive. Got a cab and in a couple of hours was out of Narita, heading to L.A."
"Why Los Angeles?"
"Phoned a friend there the week before. Said she would put me up for awhile ... til I got my bearings."
"Why not back to Toronto?"
"My parents. Couldn't face them."
She noted Duffys' look of concern.
"Not that they would have given me trouble. They knew I was having problems and urged me to come home. They're always like that. They would question my decisions or chide me over consequences later but ... They were always praying for me."
"They always find out," she gave a little laugh. "I always tell them."
"So I stayed in L.A. for awhile. Shouldn't have ..."
"This is where it really gets bad, Jack."
The man, reaching over, clasped both hands over hers.
It was her turn to shrink away but couldn't. The mans' firm grasp held.
"You don't have to go on, you know."
"I do know, Jack. And I feel you SHOULD know."
"If anything, it's more for you than anyone else. A catharsis of sorts. Get it off your back like I did."
"The friend who put me up. Knew her since high school. Like you, she was a real movie buff and collecter. I was more into anime but our interests more or less coincided.
"She had a dream of going to Hollywood. Making it some way in pictures. Things didn't work out like she planned but she still got into ... movies ... If you could call it that ... So ... did I ... unfortunately."
Rachel felt Jacks' grip get firmer. In sharp contrast his voice became softer.
"I take it ... What you mean by movies in this case ... has to do something with that ... 'other Hollywood' ... In the San Fernando Valley?"
She noted the look on Jacks' face. There seemed no condemnation. She still looked away, shame starting to show on her own.
"I needed money if I was to stay in L.A.. Thought maybe I could get a fresh start of some kind from it. Fresh start to a total dead end was what it turned out to be.
"At first the ... 'work' ... looked easy ... as well as the money. That's how they draw you in. The first month anyway. After that, the pace picks up and ...
"A grueling, dirty business. Run by grueling, dirty people. Up to three eighteen hour sessions a week. And the things they have you do! I managed to keep from a lot of what they wanted but it still took a toll."
"Yeah," Duffy intoned. "The internet's created a more than constant demand for new product. Not like the days of just film and print where one had to be satisfied with a few movies and magazines."
"Yes. The work is so heavy. I've seen people heavily into drugs and alcohol trying to cope. It never works. Didn't for me ... "
"And the disease factor. It's like growing cultures in a petri dish ... worse. I got colds and flues every month like clockwork. The health clinics they had us patronize were a joke. Regularly passing HIV infected people off with a clean bill of health.
"After about six months I got out of there. Got back with my parents in Toronto and went to a real doctor. One test after another and I had to be sure. I was lucky to have gotten off with only type one Herpes.
"Funny ... Ever since I came here a few months ago, I haven't had a flare up since."
Duffy, reaching, put out a hand, stroking Rachels' cheek. She shrank away.
"I didn't care, Jack!" Small sobs started their rack. "I'd already been a whore for a vile little man. At the time, I didn't think it would be any different showing myself as one to the whole world."
Strong arms enfolded about, they drew the woman to the man. He held her head to his shoulder, soothing sounds emanating.
"I care ... ," he declared, " ... about you. You're not a ... whore. You're Rachel O'Hara. A beautiful, loving woman who I hope soon is going to be my-"
"I can't! I'm not-." She shuddered from the small sobs emanating.
"What? Good enough ... Worthy?" The man 'chided'. "For quite some time I felt the same way about myself toward you, remember? That is ... until ... YOU ... pointed out how we're all here for a reason of SOME kind. I thought that reason to be many depending on the individual ... but ... It's actually only one reason ANY of us is here.
"That reason being ... well ... We all have one life to live. A time on Earth exclusively ones' own to go through and make of it what one can. That life ... and how it's lived is the only one you have. Whatever happens in that life, things you do ... don't do ... descisions, good or bad ... circumstances beyond our control ... Our dealings with others.
"We have to accept it ... come what may ... And at the end ... know that it was a life lived and lived as well as one could. Your life ... my life ... theirs ...
"It's all about acceptance."
"After the end. How things turned out ... came to be. And no matter what ... To be able to say ... This life was mine."
"Jack .... It's a joke ... a sad little ..."
He held her tighter.
"We're here in this place ... this inbetween ... dead. Between, for all we know, Heaven and hell ... And you want to-"
"Who says we're dead?" He softly cut her off. "Yuri and her bunch? Just because they made it an off and on again battleground doesn't mean it's the same for you 'n me.
"Look at them? Sure! Why not? Let's learn from others mistakes and avoid doing them ourselves. I've found, especially after you arrived, that death, if you could call this that ... I don't ... not anymore ... Is NOT the end. I've found life can be lived ... even here.
"And I want to live it with you.
"And say ...
"This life ... even here ... was OURS."
She stiffened in his embrace for a few moments then relaxed. Looking up she noted the combination of sincerity and determination in his eyes. She could see he meant what he said. His commitment ironclad.
"Then the aswer is yes, Jack. I will marry you."
The ring fit perfectly.
Rachel stared at her left hand for a few seconds, admiring the adornment. Duffy noted her hand slightly trembling for but a moment then ceasing.
Looking about the apartment her eyes fell upon Jacks'.
"We're ... still here," she said smiling and surprised.
"Disappointed?" Jack smiling back.
"No ... ," planting a light kiss on the mans' lips, "... I'm not."
The kiss he returned much longer, arms pulling her tighter to him.
"Here ... Or where whatever THERE is. It's Heaven wherever you are."
The news traveled quickly. The crazy gaijin couple was getting married! And in such a unique way.
The emotions of both student body and faculty were mixed. Interestingly enough, NPCs among both groups also expressing interest.
The girls were mainly enthralled. The guys, a mix of curiosity and puzzlement.
Yui became less hyperactive and more doe eyed. Hinata more nervous than aggravated.
In their quiet way Sakaki and Takamatsu became closer.
The object of Shiinas' affections ... Terrified.
Some ... A bit envious.
One of whom sat at her desk in Safe and Sound trying to wrap her mind around the idea. Not so much about the marriage itself as how one could seek, let alone find, happiness in what she felt was nothing more than a land of sadness and regret.
Though all were invited to the wedding (Within a months' time.), invitations had been sent to a select few. Yuri held hers in her right hand, examining and contemplating. Wondering how one could put such a dare in the face of fate. She was certain the two would disappear any day and yet ... It didn't seem to concern the couple at all. They had even referred to the possibility of being "obliterated" as ... Going home (!?). It made no sense to her at all.
"Has to be that strange religion of theirs," she speculated aloud. "Wanting to be in the presence of-" (Psalm 16:11)
She let out a sharp gasp and pulled her left hand midway between herself and the hand she had unconsciously grasped while deep in thought. Noda had been leaning with his right on the desk reading his own invite, not saying anything when her fingers wrapped about his.
He had made no sound or action of recognition lest she drew her hand away sooner. As it was, as far as his affections for the unknowing goddess he worshiped was concerned, he was content to take what he could get. At this moment, it was far a LOT more than what he had gotten in the past.
Noda, always watching, following. Never leaving her side except when on some fools' errand in effort to please or impress. The devoted one, dedicated to his leader. A dedication meaning much more than what he let on.
She knew he had a worshipful affection for her and, when he was not being hasty and doing something foolish, felt good when he was around. In a controlled setting when led properly, he could be an invaluable asset.
The masculine hand moved over, covering hers. She, blushing, hand slightly trembling, about to backhand him but thought better of it.
Happiness ... Here? ... In this ... place?
Noda felt her tenseness ebb. Feminine fingers intertwining with his.
To be continued ...
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