Lifted

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  No Houses


Why is the world so unfair? When everything seems right, everything has fallen into place, and then it just falls apart in an instant with nothing but a simple phone call. This is what happened to
Emi.

Submitted: September 13, 2017

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Submitted: September 13, 2017

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It was all a blur. From one plane to the next, the same tight space, the same tiny windows, the same carry on suitcases, the same fluffy clouds that would eventually change color as it got closer to sunset.
During the day, you couldn’t tell sky from sea as we flew over the ocean. I didn’t usually get airsick but the time we spent in the plane, who wouldn’t, if even just a little? We just flew and flew, the view of the sky never changed, it was always that light blue until sunset when it turned orange and yellow for a few minutes, then turned black.
It being my first time on a plane, it was all very strange for me. I wouldn’t say I was excited, but I certainly wasn’t mad, sad, or any other expected emotion that you get when you move. It would be weird not to see the culture I had gotten so used to. It would be strange not to see the dark, flat asian faces on everyone who walked down the street. It would be strange not to see the familiar towering buildings of Fukuoka. It would be strange to see the night sky in Springfield, Illinois. It would be strange to be constantly speaking the foreign language of America.
I had learned English before we left Japan, but hadn’t spoken it often. I was worried for Mama. She had just recently become a single mother of three kids and I was not sure how she was handling it. After Papa died, she kept a strong face but you could tell that underneath that facade she was filled with tears of anguish. We just knew that it had to happen at some point, but there was nothing that could prepare us for it.  
… 
I closed the door, flung off my backpack and left to my room, Taeko following close behind. We went to the end of the hall of the apartment and pushed aside the beads I had hanging from my doorway. We sat on the bed as we normally did. It was Friday, after school, and every week I made sure to have Taeko over. On Monday we had gone out for ice cream. I got my normal vanilla and Taeko got Mikan. Taeko was always a very effervescent person. Her smile almost never faltering. She rarely got mad and you knew things were bad when you saw no luster in her eyes. As we sat on my bed having our normal conversations, I heard Mama come in through the door. I instantly knew something wasn’t right. It was normal for her to come home at around 5:00 but now it was only 3:30. She had almost never come home this early.
Putting a pause on our current conversation, I ducked through the beads into the hallway. “Mama, why are you home so early?”
“Emi, is Taeko here?” she asked. I got worried as I saw her expression. It looked and sounded as if she wanted me to say no. 
“...Yes. Is that a problem?”
She sighed and brushed a hand over her face. “No, just as soon as she leaves, come find me okay?”
I nodded and went back in my room. I decided I would cut her visit short as I was anxious to know why Mama was so distressed. 
“What was that about?” Taeko asked once I walked back in the room. 
“I don’t know. But I think it would be best if you would leave soon, Mama needs to talk to me about something.”
“Okay,” she said slowly as she packed up to leave. 

We were on our last plane. I glanced out the tiny window to see the beautiful nightlife of Chicago, Illinois. It was similar to that of Fukuoka. The tall buildings all lit up even late into the night. Billboards advertising several different companies, lit up in an array of different colors. It was as if the ground was kissed by the sky, the stars just fading away being not quite as bright but still ebullient. But that was the last time I saw such a sight. 
The plane landed at around 1:00am. We grabbed our bags and walked out of the claustrophobic plane and into the immense, colorless, echoey airport. It wasn’t much different from the one we had left in Japan. It was less modern. Not as many curves in the architecture. Various plants were strewn throughout the building as we walked by. As it was in most buildings. The funny thing about this airport though, was that it was the sign of no going back. Once we left, we would never be going back to our home. To where I had grown up. We left the building.
As we drove, we drove through desolate roads, the darkness so thick, so inky, so murky, all that could be seen was the few feet in front where the yellow light of the headlights extended. I sank into the plush back seat of the car, my eyelids growing heavier by the minute. The drive seemed endless even though it was only 15 minutes. I was fighting to stay awake having not gotten even a moment's sleep while on the plane, the deafening sound keeping me alert. Although most people said they got used to it, I could never seem to. Eventually, my eyelids were like fifty pound weights strapped to my eyes, forcing them closed. I gave into the darkness. It drew me in like opposite magnets and I fell into a deep sleep. 

Once Taeko had left, I walked slowly into Mama’s dull colored room to find her sitting on the bed, face streaked with tears. She looked up at me when she heard the familiar creak of the door. 
“Come in Emi,” she said in a strained voice. 
I sauntered into the room, stepping lightly across the soft carpet. She patted a spot next to her on the bed and I sat down gingerly. 
“You know papa was on a trip visiting his sister,” she started out saying.
I was worried by the way she was talking in a past tense. He wasn’t back yet, or maybe he was and I just hadn’t seen him. I nodded slightly.
“Something happened. There was an accident. When I came home, he had been taken to the hospital, still conscious. I came to tell you. Then I got a call.” She gulped back a sob. Trying to stay strong for me. I could anticipate what she was about to say. There was nothing I could do to prepare myself for it. “I’m sorry Emi. He didn’t make it.” 
Tears sprang to my eyes. I desperately tried to hold them back, but they came anyway, traitors to my wishes. They felt hot against my skin, droplets of fire, the emblem of sorrow. I didn’t understand. Papa was dead. How could he be dead? Just days ago I had waved him good-bye, clueless that it would be the last time I would ever lay eyes on him living and breathing. Mama laid a comforting hand on my shoulder. Her tears were spent, having quickly dried up. I sobbed into her shoulder. All that entered my mind was the thought of Papa, dead. All that time I had spent with him over the 15 years of my life, and that was the end of it. That time we had spent together, over. I let the tears fall until they no longer could. Mama’s shirt was wet with the salty water but it didn’t seem she minded. I sat up and asked her, “You going to tell Chie and Horoto?”
She nodded solemnly. “How will they react? Most likely same as you, though I do not want you all to feel this way. Help me to tell them. Horoto will be most heartbroken.”
Devastated was more like it. Horoto, my 18 year old brother, had bonded greatly with Papa. Him being Papa’s only son, they did much together. Always building, doing puzzles, they understood one another, and Horoto would not be happy to see that those days were over. Chie would also be sad, but not as much. She was still young, being only 10 years old and she didn’t really have much time with him. Papa, not having a solid job at the time, was around a lot so me and Horoto had time to bond with him. 

I awoke when we hit a sudden bump, jerking me sharply from my comfortable position. I looked out the window and saw that we had arrived at the house. The windows were dark, the driveway was empty, which was all understandable seeing as how no one had been in this house for weeks. The house was two stories, painted a chalky white. The front door was painted a light brown, while the porch was lined with smooth grey. Vines curled up the side of the house and weeds filled the beds in front. The roof was shrouded in black shingles with a lopsided point. 
Mama parked the car in the driveway, the two car garage in front of us but with no way to open it, we couldn’t get inside. Horoto opened the passenger car door while me and Chie got out of the back. Mama got out last. She opened up the trunk and pulled out our large suitcases. We each took our own and made our way to the door, almost blindly because of the starless, cloudy night sky. Mama unlocked the door and we stepped inside, pausing for a moment to turn on the light. The entry had a high ceiling, a dull chandelier  hanging from it. The long staircase curled upward, along the wall. The banister was black and metal, cold to the touch. The end was curved in a spiral. The walls were plain, painted a mellow greyish color.
Because it was late at night, we all just wanted to sleep, so we climbed the stairs and ventured through the second floor, in search for our rooms. At the top of the stairs, the hallway split into two. I felt along the wall to find a light switch and found a smooth slightly tilted piece of plastic on the wall. I pressed it and a light instantly flickered on. The end of the hallway breaking off  to the left was slightly erie in the dim light. At the end of the hallway was a door. Horoto went to open it and found the master bedroom. 
“Thank you Horoto. I will stay in here, I think that door over there is another bedroom and there are two others down the other hall.” Mama walked into the master bedroom and closed the door. 
The three of us turned around and opened the three other doors. I took the one at the end of the hallway to the right of the stairs, Horoto took the one next to Mama’s and Chie took the one next to mine, closer to the stairs. 
The bedroom I took was grey, like the rest of the house. The walls were empty but the floor was covered in a soft carpet. There was a door on the left wall. I went over to open it and found a small closet. The window was on the wall opposite the door and it was fairly large. I dropped my suitcase next to the door, knelt next to it and started to shuffle through it. We would start unpacking the rest of our stuff in the morning from the many boxes that were in one of the rooms downstairs, but for now, we all decided, we would sleep. 
From my suitcase I pulled out a pair of silk pajamas and quickly changed into them. I then pulled out a light colored soft blanket, laid it over me and slept. 

That night, Mama gathered us for dinner. She hadn’t told my siblings about Papa’s death yet, but I had a feeling that time was soon to come. She set the noodles on the table and had me set out the bowls. Horoto and Chie were already seated, I sat next to Mama across from them. After we ate, Mama started talking.
“I need to tell you both something, I already told Emi. I was waiting for us to be together, so I was able to tell you two.”
They looked at her expectantly.
“Papa was in an accident. He was sent to the hospital, but only for less than an hour did he survive there. I want everyone to know that he is in a better place right now.” Her voice cracked. “We can not see him, but he is still here.”
Chie looked like she was about to cry. Horoto sat stone faced. He asked to leave and was excused from the table into his bedroom. I almost started to cry all over again. Chie soon left as well. We all mourned in silence, and for now, until we were ready to come together, alone. 
...

The next morning, Mama wanted to get us registered into school as soon as possible so that’s what we did. 
Horoto was no longer in school having just graduated the year before and so his school hadn’t started yet. He would be going to the University of Chicago so he could come home regularly. Chie would be starting in her school Lindsay elementary in fifth grade. I would be starting at Lutheran High for my sophomore year. I wasn’t so ecstatic about it. 
Mama had already brought Chie to her school and had gotten her registered. It was my turn. I had my fingers linked together inside my hoodie pocket. My eyes were open and alert. My breathing was shallow but deep enough to appear normal. I walked in long strides down the blank, white-walled hall of the school, mama not far behind. As I reached the front office, I waited patiently, Mama standing next to me, for us to be called in. When a tall woman walked out from behind one of the few doors in the office, I raised my head to see.
“Emi Kai?”
“Yeah,” I muttered as I walked with Mama into the principal’s office.
“So I understand from these papers that you and your family just moved here from Japan?” she asked kindly.
I gave a small smile and nodded. 
“Alright, well, Mrs. Kai if I could just have you sign a few papers, then we can discuss what classes Emi will be taking.” She held the papers and a pen out to the woman. But when she didn’t take them she looked questioningly over at me.
“Oh, uh… Mama, kono fujin wa, watashi ga jugy? o ukeru koto ga dekiru y? ni korera no shorui ni shomei shite hosh?desu. Sorekara watashitachiha saru koto ga dekimasu.” I translated what the principal had said to Mama.
“Hai.” She nodded her head and took the papers. 
“So Emi, do you know what classes you would be interested in taking?” 
My heart started to speed up and I clenched my hands together. “Um…”
“That’s okay, here, if you don’t mind me asking, do you know how to read english?”
“Yes, but only a little.”
“Okay, can you read this?” She handed me a paper with a list of classes on it. 
I nodded. I was able to read most of what was on here but there were some things I didn’t understand like “Calculus” and “Physics”. I briefly asked her about it and she told me what they meant, that one was for math and one was for both math and science. She told me I would be starting my classes that Monday and that she would email my schedule to me. I nodded and gestured to Mama that it was time to leave. 


The next day, we didn’t go to school. Mama spent the day answering phone calls from people who heard about our loss and wanted to share their condolences, and planning the funeral. Our tears were mostly spent.
I spent the day in my room, closed off, not wanting to talk to anyone. I got a few calls from Taeko and some other people but I let it go to voicemail. Unlike Mama I didn’t want to hear the pity in their voices. They were trying to be nice but all I could think was how much they were trying to be sorry for us but they could never know what we felt unless the same thing happened to them. But it never did. And so we were left with only each other to understand.
While both Horoto and Mama stayed strong, I kept a straight face, blocking every emotion out, and Chie stayed quiet. A tear or two fell every once and awhile but most were already dry.

We spent the weekend unpacking and by Monday only a few boxes were remaining. Monday was our first day of school. I rode the bus for the first time and it was not pleasant. About 100 kids were crammed into the metal rectangular box. It was hot, stuffy, loud, bumpy, uncomfortable, and just over all not a good experience that I would not mind never doing again. As soon as the bus came to a stop in front of the tall red brick school building, everyone poured out and I had to keep moving otherwise I would’ve been trampled over. 
I walked into my first class covered in a cold sweat. My palms were clammy and I could feel my heart pounding in my chest as I walked into the room to find an empty seat. I kept my head down, trying not to be noticed though I knew that I was. I felt like an alien among the pale light haired teenagers with my copper skin, and long silky black hair, the flat features, eyes at a squint. I was normal back in Japan. It was then that I dearly missed Taeko. I could use her optimism right about now. 
I found an empty seat next to a girl with chocolate brown hair that draped across her shoulders. Her eyes were a dark blue. She wore a cherry red blouse and dark jeans.
“Hi, my name’s Ashley,” she stated, putting a hand out for me to shake it.
I paused a moment, not expecting a first hand introduction.
“Um, do you not know English?” She asked rather softy after I didn’t answer.
“No, I do. My name’s Emi.”
She smiled. “So you’re the new girl.” 
“Is it obvious?”
She nodded. “You can sit with me at lunch if you want. Unless of course you already have someone you’re sitting with.”
“No, that’d be great.”
“Good! So I’ll see you at lunch then.”
I nodded and smiled in reply.

A week later was the funeral. The sun shone bright but our hearts did not. Many people dressed in black kimonos, suits, and dresses stood by the casket as the priest chanted the sutra. Once the ceremony was over, we all placed a flower around the lifeless head of Papa. The casket was then nailed shut and transferred to the crematorium where the body would then be burned to ashes. 
As the family waited for the cremation to be over, Taeko walked over and sat next to me on the bench I was sitting on. 
“I’m sorry about what happened.”
I just nodded in reply.
“You know, if there’s anything I can do, you have my number. Just call at anytime.”
I nodded again. Not really wanting to talk.
“Okay.. I’ll see you around then.” She stood up and walked in the direction she came. I sat in silence for a few minutes when Horoto came over.
“Hey Emi.” He said, straight faced.
“Why did this happen to us?” I said in barely a whisper. “What did we do to deserve this?”
Horoto stayed silent for a second. “Maybe it was nothing we did but something he did. Maybe he was supposed to die in such an abrupt manner, at such an early age. Maybe he lived the life he needed to and it was time for him to go.”
“Do you think he’ll come back? As a ghost I mean. Like you said, it was in such an abrupt manner that maybe he has to finish the life he left behind.”
Horoto stayed silent. 
After a moment I said, “Do you think he loved us?”
“Yes, Emi. He loved us very much.”
“Then why did he die?”
“It wasn’t his fault that he died. It was no one’s fault but the forces of nature.”
“But how do you know that? Couldn’t he have had a way to live but decided not to?”
“He didn’t mean to die. If he could’ve lived he would’ve.”
“Yeah, I know.” I could feel a hot tear slide down my cheek. 
A minute later we heard our name called.
“The cremation is over. We should go.”
I nodded and we both got up and headed towards the crematorium.

As I was going to lunch that day, I thought back to the funeral. What Horoto had said. If papa could’ve lived, then he would’ve. I knew it was true. And I had come to terms with that. If only he had a way to escape from that car crash, he would’ve survived. 
As I reached the lunchroom, many teens were bustling about, sitting at tables chatting. I found Ashley to the far right, close to the doors leading outside. She smiled and waved me over once she saw me. She was sitting with a small group of friends, most of which I had glimpsed in the halls or in a couple of my classes. Introductions were made and I sat down next to the familiar brunette. 
“So Emi, where are you from?” one of Ashley’s friends, Tyler asked.
“Fukuoka. Japan,” I replied.
“So how was your trip over here?”
“Good. Lot of flying.” My long straight black hair fell in front of my face as I kept my head low enough as to not make eye contact. 
“Yeah, I guess there would be, seeing how far away it is from here,” Ashley put in. “So, why’d you move?”
“Mama just wanted a change of scenery.”
“What about your dad?” 
“He died a couple weeks before we moved.”
The group fell silent. 
“I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, it was hard.”
“So um… you know really good english for someone who just moved here from Japan,” another one of Ashley’s friends, Morgen said, trying to change the topic.
I looked up. “I was taught how to speak it in third grade. Mama still doesn't know how, no matter how many times I try to teach her.” I smiled at the memory of Mama getting so frustrated after I tried to talk to her in English. 
“Well, I can show you around the school sometime. Do you know where you next class is?” Ashley suggested.
“That would be great. I do know where my next class is though, so I don’t need help finding it.”
“Alright, well, I can give you the grand tour, how about tomorrow at lunch?”
I nodded and smiled.
After school, I arrived home with my lips stretched into a smile. I had had a good first day. I really wasn’t expecting to meet anyone willing to show me around and yet, first class I did.
“Emi, is that you? How was school?” Mama asked from the kitchen. 
“It was good, Mama! I met a few new friends and one said she would show me around the school tomorrow.”
“That’s great Emi. I was worried you would have a hard time starting at a new school in a new country, but it sounds like you’re coping well. I bet your father would be proud of you.”
My smiled slackened slightly. “Yeah. I think he would be proud of all of us for making it through this.”
Mama nodded. I could see the sadness in her eyes even as she tried to hide it.
“I’ll go work on the homework I missed.”
“Okay.”
I turned and headed up the stairs, finally content.


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