Thoughts Of Home: The Reckoning
~ Chapter 3: Ins… and Outs ~
by Sailor Doc
Looking around the room in pure panic, Makoto's eyes locked on the one hiding place she could see. Diving off the couch, she sprinted toward the ramshackle, antique armoire.
"Makoto!" Ami hissed, bringing Makoto to a screeching halt. Turning, she was hit in the chest with the mock turtleneck she hadn't even realized she wasn't wearing!
Shooting Ami a look of gratitude, Makoto turned back toward the armoire. Snatching open one of the double doors, Makoto plunged inside and closed the door behind her. Unfortunately, the top hinge choose that moment to break and Makoto was forced to hold the wretched thing in place, even as she could hear Dr. Mizuno enter the room.
"Ami," her mother called again, then sneezed as she spotted her daughter. "Ah, there you are. Why didn't you answer me, dear?" she asked with a sniffle.
"Sorry Mom," Ami said, looking up to greet her mother with a smile as she unconsciously pulled the white, oxford cloth button down closer around her suddenly chilled frame. "Guess I was kind of pre-occupied when you came in."
"Oh, I see," her mother said, wiping her poor, abused nose with a fresh tissue. "That's okay. Have you been studying then?"
"Yes, you could say that," Ami said with a bright smile.
In the three seconds she'd had to collect herself before her mother's entrance, Ami had reached an important decision about how to handle this potential disaster. She had to remain calm. As long as she kept her cool, all would work out just fine. She gave a quick glance to the armoire, noting that one of the doors was slanting just a tiny bit off center. She just hoped Makoto had reached the same decision.
Inside the armoire, Makoto found that she had jumped from one awkward position into another, literally. She had crammed her lanky frame onto the middle shelf of the dusty old heap, and the centuries old accumulation of dust and dirt was threatening to fire off allergies she never knew she had. On top of that, she was forced to lay on her side, her knees practically on her chin, one hand holding the broken door in place, and the other still clutching her turtleneck to her chest. Taking stock of the situation, the thunder senshi decided that this was not good. Not good at all. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Makoto silently prayed that Ami could think of someway to get them out of this mess!
Meanwhile, outside the musty old hell that Makoto found herself in, Ami was having problems of her own. She had decided she needed to get her mother out of the living room long enough to get Makoto out of the armoire, and into her clothes again before her mom got too curious. There was no way she could deny Makoto's presence. Her books and papers were all over the table in front of them! No, she had always been pretty honest with her mother, and honesty seemed the best approach here too. Well, as far as she was ready to be honest anyway.
So. How to get her out of the room? How about the direct approach?
"Mom, you sound horrible! Why don't you get ready and go straight to bed?"
'Oh yeah! That's good, baby!' Makoto silently rooted from her hiding place. 'Please, just get her out of the room!
"Yeah, you're right," Dr. Mizuno said with a weary nod as she plopped down on the couch next to Ami. "I really should, but I think I just need to rest here a minute or two."
She looked and sounded so bad that Ami felt a pang of regret for her ulterior motives.
With another sniffle, the good doctor had continued. "I wish I had just listened to you and stayed home today. Now I'm twice as sick as I was this morning." Smiling at her only child, she reached out and affectionately squeezed her hand. "You know you're going to make a fine doctor one day," she said. After another squeeze she added, "and maybe, unlike your mother, you'll be smart enough to stay home when you feel like hell."
Ami was warmed by her mother's words, and shyly returned the watery smile on her mom's face.
"So," Dr. Mizuno continued, clearing her throat. "Is Makoto here? I see her books spread out all over the place. Where is she?"
"Oh," Ami said, as cool as one of her icier senshi attacks, "she just stepped out to go to the ladies room. I'm sure she'll be back in a few minutes."
"Hasn't she been gone a while now?" her mom asked.
"Well, you know how us girls can be," Ami said with a grin.
"True, very true," her mom replied.
'Smooth Ami, real smooth,' Makoto approved from behind the fractured door of her impromptu hideout. 'Saying I was in the bathroom was brilliant! Just brilliant!' However, the implication of her whereabouts had brought home an uncomfortable fact. It was getting close to time to pay the dues for her part of that two-liter Sprite. Really close. Shifting a bit in her cramped and uncomfortable state, she froze on the spot at the rather ominous 'creak' that issued from the ugly, old relic.
"Did you hear something?" Dr. Mizuno asked as she looked around the room.
"No!" Ami said rather quickly. "Why? Did you?" she asked, her eyes darting quickly from her mom to the armoire and back.
"I guess not," she answered. "For a second there I thought I heard something over by the armoire." With a frown she said, "I surely hope there weren't any rats nesting in that thing when they brought it in here!"
Ami cringed in horror at the thought.
Makoto, on the other hand, felt her blood run cold. 'Oh God!' she prayed as she could feel the cold sweat breaking out on her forehead, 'please, oh please, oh please don't let there be any...little creatures alive in this thing. Or dead!' she quickly amended. Swallowing loudly, she tried to breath in more of the dusty air in the cramped little space.
Instinctively, Ami knew she had to get her partner out of her predicament, and quickly! But what could she do? Her mom seemed to be feeling chatty all of a sudden. Though she usually enjoyed her talks with her mother, she could practically feel Makoto's distress.
"So," her mother began again, shifting her attention back to Ami. "You and Makoto seem to be spending a lot more time together these days."
The slightly probing tone of her mother's voice sent a small shiver of apprehension through Ami's small frame. 'Is she trying to get at something here?' she asked herself. Mentally steadying herself she decided to stick to her original game plan. 'Stay calm, Ami. Just stay calm... be honest and stay calm.'
"That's true," Ami agreed, her fingers starting to twist together in a slightly agitated fashion. "There's not a problem with that is there?" she asked, looking back at her mother.
"Oh no, not at all," her mom said. "I like Makoto quite a bit actually. She seems a bit more down-to-earth than most of your other friends." Sneezing again, and blowing her nose, she missed another 'bump' and 'pop' from the armoire as she wiped at her runny eyes.
Ami heard them though, along with the muffled moan that could only have come from her tortured girlfriend.
'Easy love,' she silently urged her partner. 'Just a bit longer!'
"I'm really glad you feel that way, Mom," Ami said, looking directly at her mother. "Makoto and I really have gotten a lot closer lately."
"Yes, I thought so," Dr. Mizuno said quietly. "So would you care to tell me just how 'close', close is?"
'Okay! That's it! I'm dead!' Makoto decided. 'She knows! She HAS to know! Yeah, I'm dead! I am so totally dead!'
"Why do you ask Mom," Ami questioned in a quiet voice, her expression open and earnest.
"Just little things really." The doctor gently cleared her throat a bit. "Mostly the way you two have been acting the last few weeks. You're together constantly, and when you're not, you're on the phone. You almost behave as if you're lovers or something."
Ami took a deep breath and closed her eyes against the pregnant silence that had descended on the room. Even the cursed armoire had ceased to creak, and Ami could practically feel Makoto holding her breath. 'Breathe love!' she silently urged. 'Here we go!'
"Would it be so terribly bad if we were?" she asked, opening her eyes to meet the blue ones so like her own.
There it was. She'd said it.
Smiling gently at her daughter, Dr. Mizuno reached forward to take her hand again. "No sweetheart, not at all. As a matter of fact, I've been expecting it."
Looking at her mother in shock, Ami has gasped out "What? Are you serious? How? How did you know? How..."
Sneezing once again, her mom had motioned for her to calm down, "Settle down Ami, please! I promise to explain everything, but first I just want you to know that I love you, and nothing on this earth will ever change that! You're my one and only baby girl, and you always will be," she said with a smile only a mother could bestow. "Second, you could do a whole lot worse than Kino Makoto. She's hard working, self-sufficient, loving, kind and loyal. Plus, anyone can see she loves you to distraction. Cherish that, my girl! That kind of devotion doesn't come around everyday. Most are lucky to see it in a lifetime. I wish I had," she said sadly.
Moving forward to hug her mom, Ami was still blown away by the conversation they were having.
In the armoire, Makoto was silently shouting alleluia's! 'She likes me! She approves! She doesn't hate us! I'M NOT DEAD!!!' Tears of joy were escaping her eyes, and she was so happy she wanted to jump up and dance! That is if her legs would ever move again 'Get me out of here, Ami! Hurry, please love!'
Back on the couch, Ami looked up at her mom, her eyes full of relief and love. "Thank you, Mom! This means so much to us! How can we ever thank you for understanding and excepting us?"
"Oh, I'll think of something," her mother mused. "Probably involving a few seven course meals, with Black Forest Cake for dessert, of course."
"Of course!" Ami said, hugging her mom again. "So, what finally gave us away?" she asked.
"What do you mean?" Dr. Mizuno asked, both so caught up in their conversation that they totally missed the wooden groan from the abused antique across from them.
"Was there one single thing that happened that threw out any remaining doubts you may have had about us?" Ami asked.
"If I had to narrow it down to one thing, I'd have to say laundry," the doctor said as she wiped again at her poor nose.
"Laundry?" Ami said. "Why laundry?"
"Well, I was gathering up laundry one day, and as I was picking up a few stray pieces in your room, I found the most damning piece of evidence to date."
"What?" Ami asked.
"A bra," her mother said. "There was no way it was yours! Compared to this one yours are just 'pockets of poverty' sweetie!"
"Sorry baby, I just call them as I see them!" her mom said with a laugh and another sneeze.
At that moment, a gawd-awful cracking and crashing burst forth from the bedraggled old armoire as one door fell off, and it shook as clouds of dust and dirt rose forth from every crevice and crack in the hideous thing. High above all the noise though, even more piercing than the roar of splintering wood and breaking hinges, came the tortured cry of a lone female voice.
"Oh God!" Ami said, her eyes fixed on the disaster as it unfolded in front of her. Before she could move, her mother had risen to her feet, stalking toward the piece with grim resolve. "I'll get to the bottom of this," she said.
A voice from the wreckage came forth and with a cough said, "I'm sorry, I think I already have..."
Opening the one remaining door, Dr. Mizuno looked inside and at first saw nothing. Moving closer as she attempted to fan the cloud of dust away, she looked down and was greeted with a sight she would never forget...
There sat Makoto. She was practically on her back, her long legs resting parallel to the left wall of the old piece, one arm across her stomach, the other clutching her top to her chest. Her hair was down, disheveled, and liberally covered in cobwebs, and the tracks of tears could be seen through the accumulation of grim on her somewhat forelorned face.
Looking up from the wreckage, she said rather formally, "Good Evening, Dr. Mizuno."
"Good Evening to you too, Makoto," Dr. Mizuno said, straight-faced. "How are you?"
"Oh," Makoto answered, blowing a bit of hair out of her eyes, "I've been better. And you?"
"Honestly?" the doctor asked.
"Yep," Makoto managed.
"I feel about like you look."
Chewing her lip thoughtfully a few seconds, Makoto looked back up at Ami's Mom and said, "My guess is that's pretty awful right about now."
Smiling broadly at the young woman, Dr. Mizuno said, "Your guess would be absolutely correct."
Makoto smiled back rather sheepishly at the doctor as Ami came out of her shocked state and rushed forward to help her out of the wreckage of the armoire.
"So, Ami tells me you're a part of our family now," The older woman said. "Is that true?"
Pausing in her attempt to extract herself from the remains of the antique, Makoto looked up at Ami, who was trying to help her out, her eyes questioning, yet painfully hopeful.
"Family?" she asked, unable to control the ever-so-slight break in her voice. Family was something she had been without for so long, she wasn't sure she even knew how to respond.
Ami gently smiled into the beseeching eyes of her momentarily confused girlfriend and grasping a grubby hand in her own, nodded her head in the affirmative.
"Family," she said as her grip tightened perceptably.
Swallowing the huge lump in her throat, Makoto felt a large grin spread across her face. Turning to face Ami's mom, she pulled herself up straight, tucked Ami's hand into the curve of her elbow and said, "Yes Ma'am, I believe it is."
She couldn't have cared less that she was standing there with one bare foot, caked with dirt, streaked with tears, covered in cobwebs, wearing nothing but one slipper, a pair of jeans, her bra, and a smile...
She had never been so happy in her life!
TO BE CONTINUED………