Hide and Seek (Rin)

Jul 11th, 2013
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  1. Hide and Seek
  3. The voice calls down from the hallway.
  5. “Rin, are you ready? Dinner’s waiting.”
  7. A tall, lithe, woman hangs in the doorway, but she’s young. She can’t be more than 19 and her body does extremely pleasant things to the loose shirt and jeans she’s wearing. Her hair, a tangled mass of red ringlets, hangs down past her shoulders, still wet from the showers.
  9. Rin looks up from her easel, a loose paintbrush gripped in between the first two digits of her foot.
  11. “Huh?”
  13. The woman moves into the room, like a dancer without her ballet shoes, and bends down next to an her eight-year old little sister, gazing at the easel as if it were a Picasso or Rodin on auction for millions.
  15. “What’re ya painting? Looks complicated.”
  17. Rin’s face takes on a bemused, pleased smile, as she looks up at her companion.
  19. “Just some paint and things.”
  21. Her sister ruffles Rin’s hair gently and points to an enigmatic orb in the corner, a green circle with a hole in the center, bright in contrast to the rest of the page, a muddied pile of muted grays, blues, and browns.
  23. “You know the sun isn’t green, right? And it doesn’t have a hole in the center either.”
  25. Rin flushes pink, somewhat embarassed at being caught so easily.
  27. “But Nina, what if it does? And what if the sun is really green and we just live in a yellow world and we don’t know it!”
  29. Her exhortations are met with a gentle smile as she is lifted up on her older sister’s shoulders, her paintbrush clattering onto the wooden floor.
  31. “Rin, you know that you have to obey reality sometimes, okay? Like the ocean isn’t a big pile of rocks, and you have to eat dinner instead of just painting all night.”
  33. Young Rin protests even harder, but part of her wonders why her sister can understand her paintings so easily and her mother and father can’t.
  35. ========
  36. At the dinner table, where the main course is steak, broccoli, and mashed potatoes, the Tezuka clan gathers like any other family.
  38. There’s Tase Tezuka at the head of the table, a manager of a local art store, and next to him is his wife, Nano, who works as at art teacher in the local elementary school. Tase has black hair, but Nano has dark, weather-worn red hair, as if the world had beaten the color out of it. The dinner table is splattered with remnants of paint and pencil scratchings, giving it a weathered, familiar, look.
  40. “Nina, you can’t keep babying your sister like that! She needs to learn how to eat for herself!”
  42. Mr. Tezuka’s objection is met with one of protest from the older Tezuka sister, while the younger one looks up in consternation.
  44. “But Dad, if I don’t baby her now, then who will in the future? Everyone needs a little babying now and then.”
  46. Rin’s face breaks into a slow smile, as her sister gives her a light bop on the head.
  48. “If she doesn’t learn how to function without help, she’ll never be to make it in the real world!”
  50. Nina scowls and continues to cut Rin’s steak into tiny pieces. Her green eyes, offset by her hair, still slightly wet from the shower, flash slightly.
  52. “Dad, it’s just a family dinner. Let it go.”
  54. Her voice has a stronger tinge of protest, as if she’s a rebellious teenager asking for the keys to the car for a night out, not to cut her sister’s steak with a sharp knife, because she’s afraid Rin will hurt herself and won’t be able to paint for weeks.
  56. Nano puts a hand on her husband’s shoulder.
  58. “Tase, let it go.”
  60. Mr. Tezuka looks down but says nothing. The rest of the dinner passes in silence.
  62. Dessert is served, oranges, and Rin gazes contemplatively at hers.
  64. Nina reaches over and peels Rin’s orange, breaking it into bite-size bits, and the look of contemplation fades from Rin’s face.
  66. She bites in and her face warms into a smile as the citrus flavor hits her tongue.
  68. “Nina, I’m tired.”
  70. Mr. Tezuka looks up and his voice takes on a stern tone.
  72. “Rin, you can walk up to your room by yourself. You don’t need Nina to carry you.”
  74. He’s careful to avoid using the word legs or arms, and it pains him even to let the sentence escape his lips.
  76. Someone has to play tough guy in the family.
  78. The older Tezuka sister reaches over and scoops her little sister in her arms, and Rin buries her head in Nina’s chest, smelling the watermelon shampoo of her hair.
  80. Tase Tezuka watches the scene unfold and can only feel a slow sadness in his heart. The world is a cruel and terrible place, and things like this only delay the inevitable. One day, she’s going to have to turn and face the music. Nina and Rin. The both of them are going to have to.
  82. Mr. Tezuka sighs. The local art store manager doesn’t make much money, but he makes a lot more than a contemporary artist trying to live off his paintings.
  84. A younger Mr. Tezuka had to turn and face the music. Called from a studio in France, at age 35, full of 20-year olds studying abroad, he never knew if he quit too early or tried for ten years too long.
  86. Cezanne didn’t become famous until he was 40. That was the line he kept telling himself. With enough hard work, you’ll succeed.
  88. But talent, either lack of it or latent, wouldn’t take care of his sick mother back home, so he moved back. He sold his easel and his paints and his craypas and traded them for a clipboard and a tie.
  90. Mr. Tezuka sighs and looks at his orange, unpeeled. One day Rin and Nina will have to face the music.
  92. But thankfully, it isn’t today. And he’s not going to be the one to make it today, either.
  94. ===============
  96. As they climb the stairs, Rin’s voice, already drowsy, perks up with a question.
  98. “Nina, why do oranges have peels?”
  100. Her sister considers the question seriously.
  102. “The peel protects what’s inside. But it’s not to hide it, because the peel is bright orange to tell people that oranges are delicious to eat and worth peeling. The peel is just an extra layer, a little more effort, that makes the orange even more worth it.”
  104. Eight-year-old Rin smiles. She likes that answer. Nina always knows what to say.
  106. “I like that answer.”
  108. Quiet breathing from Rin indicates that she’s gone to sleep.
  110. Nina looks down at the bundle in her arms, small and fragile, but sweet inside. No matter what her parents say, Rin is hers, and she’ll look out for her.
  112. =================
  114. The dinner table, pocked and scars by artwork past and endless sketches, has seen its fair share of war.
  116. Tonight’s battle is a silent conference. No shots fired yet. Nano, Tase, and at the request of Nano, Nina.
  118. “Dad, do you really trust this Nomiya guy? How do we know he’s legit?”
  120. Nina’s eyes are green and pleading as she looks for a way out. Any way out.
  122. Tase sighs.
  124. “He’s a certified art teacher and he has contacts in the art world I’m very familiar with. This is the best choice for Rin’s career as an artist. He’s offering her a full ride at a prestigious boarding school for the disabled, and is willing to support her art career financially and in every other way.”
  126. Nano looks down. She knows what’s going to happen next.
  128. Nina’s voice, clear and angry, rings out across no-man’s land, a shot fired from the trenches.
  130. “Dad, you can’t treat your kid like some kind of fucking prize! Just because you were never an artist doesn’t mean she has to be! She might never have this talent this Nomiya prick claims she has! Don’t send her way to chase some dream you never accomplished! She might not ever make it!”
  132. Each shot lands, and Tase Tezuka feels the impact in his lines, each a searing pain. A younger Tase would have lashed out as his daughter, asked her who the hell she was, saying such things under his roof, the roof he worked so hard to surprise. A younger Tase would have rallied the forces for an assault and routed the enemy.
  134. But that Tase died a long time ago. This Tase knows the cost of war. He knows that war is foolish and only costs lives and is at truth the vanity of men in double-breasted suits who think they are more important than the rest. So he states the truth.
  136. “She paints every day. She’s always covered in paint. She’s got the talent. You know she does.”
  138. Tase raises the white flag, the flag that makes one side appear to lose but in reality makes both sides win.
  140. “Nina, let her go. You can’t shelter her forever and neither can I. Let her go. She’s got a brighter future here than what we can provide for her. Let her get the world-class training she deserves.”
  142. Nina opens her mouth to fire another salvo, the nineteen-year-old taking dance and music classes at the local college and hoping to travel the world, but she knows the truth in her father’s words. And she hates it. Every word, every syllable, every whispered break and enunciation that makes up the truth.
  144. But the truth is unbreakable. The truth is absolute. The truth knows no emotion. So she raises the white flag.
  146. Not for her father. Fuck him. Fuck him for everything. Fuck him for being right. Fuck him for making her see the truth. Fuck the world for making the poor child in Africa hungry, and the obese child in America overfed and complaining about his TV being too small. Fuck the politicians for raising taxes and collapsing the economy, so Nano and Tase have to pore over bills every night, worrying whether they can make the next mortgage payment. Fuck the world for denying her the ability to grow up with her sister, because only she understands her. Fuck the world for denying her father the ability to lift and brush and paint masterpieces, instead of painting just splatters.
  148. Nano looks down. She knows her daughter, like her husband, has reached the truth.
  150. Nina’s hair is finally dry now, but the smell of watermelons is still present, just dry instead of lush.
  152. “Fine.”
  154. Tase does not breathe a sigh of relief. He watches his daughter move silently up the stairs to her room with the same eyes he looked at Air Japan flight 095, daily service from Paris to Tokyo, the one-way coach ticket in his hand. It was a long flight. His daughter, the old and older one, has a long flight of stairs in front of her.
  156. ================
  158. Nina crouches in front of her sister at the train station. Rin is wrapped up in a blue puffy jacket, a dark blue hue that blends into the dark blue of the early morning sky.
  160. Nano and Tase stand a distance away. They’re dressed to travel, but only Rin and Nina have luggage with them.
  162. Nina reaches into her pocket and pulls out two oranges and shows them to her sister. Rin’s eye’s light up in surprise. She wasn’t expecting Nina to have oranges, but now she can look forwards to an early morning treat.
  164. “Rin, listen to me.”
  166. Nina’s hair, wet from the shower and the morning humidity, still smells of watermelons and her green eyes, offset by her blood-red hair, drill into those of her sisters.
  168. “Yes, Nina?”
  170. Nina breathes slowly as she passes on the truth.
  172. “Rin, I have to go for a while. I’m going to travel the world and I don’t know when I’m coming back. Mom and Dad are going to take you to a school where you can paint all day, and they’ll give you all the steak and oranges you want, and teach you how to paint even better.”
  174. Rin’s face screws up in confusion. She wasn’t expecting this.
  176. “But Nina, you’re the only one who understands me. Who will carry me to sleep and peel my oranges and help me paint?”
  178. Nina’s eyes crease in the corners as they hold back tears.
  180. “Here, Rin, listen. Look at these two oranges.”
  182. Rin is distracted and looks at them carefully. One is mottled slightly, with tan callusing on the shell, the other green and slightly yellow.
  184. “They look ugly.”
  186. Nina smiles weakly through her tears. Wordlessly she peels them back, revealing the bright orange flesh inside, sweet and juicy to the touch. Rin cranes her neck forward, expecting a piece, but Nina holds back and Rin’s face is confused.
  188. “Rin, listen to me. These oranges looked ugly on the outside, but they were sweet and tasty on the inside, right?”
  190. Rin pulls a face.
  192. “Well, I haven’t tasted them yet, but they look pretty good.”
  194. Nina laughs, pain behind her laugh, and pulls herself together for the last stretch.
  196. “Listen, Rin, no matter what people tell you, there’s always something good inside you. If people don’t understand your art, they don’t and they never will. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t sweet. Keep painting what you paint. Be you. Stay true to your inner orange, not your peel.”
  198. She smiles again at her weak joke and it takes all of her effort not to break up inside.
  200. Young Rin smiles at the wordplay and reaches for the orange, and Nina feeds her a piece. Both faces break into a smile.
  202. A small bell rings overhead and both faces look up, red-headed and green eyed.
  204. “That’s my train, so stay good, okay?”
  206. Rin looks confused, but she smiles, her eyes green and cloudy with thought.
  208. Nina reaches for her sister and envelops her in one last, warm, watermelon scented red-haired hug.
  210. Tase and Nano move to her side, and she hands them the half-peeled oranges, and gives each of them a slow, hug as well. Then she moves off, quickly, and she doesn’t look back.
  212. Tase watches his elder daughter depart, and picks the little one up on his shoulder, feeding her a bite of orange.
  214. The train for Yamaku Academy leaves in 45 minutes.
  216. Someone has to play the tough guy, and you can’t dodge the truth, and the truth hurts.
  218. He feeds Rin another slice of orange, as Nano looks on carefully.
  220. But he doesn’t have to face the truth just yet. At least not for another 45 minutes. And neither does Rin.
  222. And for now, that’s more than enough.
  226. "Hide and Seek" is a song by Imogen Heap
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