Yuki stepped up onto a wooden pallet set outside the door. A small sign hung by a rusty wire, it read; Wipe your feet!
She looked down to see that she was standing on a worn rubber mat; the word WELCOME was almost completely faded from what was probably years of people following the signs simple but somewhat threatening message.
Not wanting to risk upsetting her grandmother, she wiped her feet back and forth a couple of times. She looked down at Kit and said, “Don’t forget to wipe your feet.”
Kit picked up a paw and licked it.
“Thank you.” She dropped her bag and knocked on the weathered door. No one answered. She knocked again… still no one.
“Hmm.” She stepped back off the pallet and looked toward the bay; she could just make out Jordin and Caroline on the boat; they were way too far to hear her if she tried calling to them.
Kit looked up at her as though he could read her thoughts.
“Qbit said my grandmother would be here, I sure hope he’s right.” She stepped back up to the door. “Let’s try once more.” Her knuckle made it to about an inch from the door when it suddenly swung inward.
A woman was standing there, zipping up her insulated pants. “Why is it as soon as you lower your pants to pee, someone knocks at the door? You know how hard it is to get all this stuff down and back up again?”
Yuki’s brain struggled to find the correct response.
“Well, I’ll tell you what, after getting them as far as I did, I wasn’t about to stop.”
Yuki wanted to say she did know how hard it was especially when you’re in a space suit, but as soon as she opened her mouth to say something, she was cut off.
Finished zipping, the woman said, “You must be Yuki.”
Confused, Yuki thought to herself that she’s seen plenty of pictures of old, old people, but there’s no way this woman was a hundred. This can’t be her grandmother.
“Can you speak, child?”
“Uh, sorry, yes, I…”
“You have your mother’s eyes.”
“Yes, I’ve been told…”
“Are you hungry?”
Yuki wasn’t, but she heard herself say, “Yes Ma’am, thank…”
The woman noticed Kit looking up at her. “Don’t waste your time fox, I don’t do that anymore.” She looked back at Yuki, “Is it hungry?”
Your fox, is it hungry?”
“Um, uh, I don’t know.” She looked down at him.
“What do mean you don’t know? Just ask him!”
“Oh. Um, I can’t. I mean, I can’t… you know…talk to him.”
“Really?” Yuki noted the way she said the word; drawn out like she knew something Yuki didn’t.
The woman continued, “You know, there’s a difference between wanting to do something and saying you can’t.”
“Come on in, you’re letting all the heat out.” She stepped back from the doorway to let them inside, her hand still rested on the knob. But, before Yuki could take a step, she threw her hand up, “Wait, did you wipe your feet?”
Afraid of appearing disrespectful, Yuki slid her shoes back and forth, again, on the rubber mat, then stepped inside. Kit licked another paw then ran in as the woman swung the door shut.
As soon as they entered the room Yuki was hit with a blast of hot air. It smelled of wood smoke and bacon. The sudden change in temperature caused her glasses to fog up, too quickly for the built-in defrosters to make a difference.
The woman noticed, so she picked up a rag from a small wooden table sitting in the middle of the room and said, “Here, let me have your glasses.”
Not wanting to take them off (not here, not now) she said, “That’s okay…”
“For goodness sake, child.” Before she could react, the woman pulled them from her face and started wiping the lenses.
Yuki stood, frozen in place by the sudden silence.
Whatever you do, if she asks you about having something to eat, don’t choose the walrus.
Yuki raised her eyebrows in surprise then, with a puzzled look said to the woman, “Excuse me?”
“Excuse you, what?” The woman said as she handed the glasses back to her. “Here you go.”
Yuki quickly took them from her hand and slid them on. “Sorry. I, uh…did you just say something?”
The woman put her hands on her hip, “Are you sure you’re alright? You’re not sick or something are you?” The woman rested the back of her hand on Yuki’s forehead. “You don’t feel warm.”
“Yes, ma’am. I mean, no ma’am. I don’t think I am, just nervous, I guess.” She thought, if she didn’t say anything, who did?
“Nervous? About what? And stop calling me ma’am. People don’t call their grandmothers, ma’am.”
Totally confused, Yuki said, “Wait, you are my grandmother?”
“Of course, who else would be out here in the middle of nowhere waiting for you? I thought you were a trained astronaut. Shouldn’t you be able to figure those kinds of things out?”
“Yes, ma’am, but I was told you were a hundred years old. I mean, to me, you don’t look any more than, I don’t know, fifty, I guess.”
“Fifty? Hmm, my opinion of you has just changed for the better, but yes, I am one hundred years old and proud of it!”
Yuki took a step forward and peered at her face. “But how? You’re skin, it’s so beautiful.”
“Okay kiddo, now you’re over doing it.”
Yuki suddenly realized that she was being rude. “Oh, I’m very sorry. I hope I haven’t offended you.”
As her grandmother walked over to what looked like the kitchen (it didn’t have much in the way of appliances) she replied, “Not at all. A woman always likes to hear that sort of stuff especially at my age.” She opened a small cooler and asked, “What do you want to eat? I don’t have much in the way of choices so, what will it be; fish or walrus?”
Surprised at the question, she glanced over at Kit who was now sitting on the table. He winked at her.
Yuki’s mouth dropped open.
Her grandmother noticed Yuki’s expression, “Hm, I thought you said you couldn’t hear him. Yet, I’d recognize that expression anywhere. As a matter of fact, I wore it the first time an animal talked to me.”
Yuki clamped her mouth shut and turned to her, “But, I didn’t hear him say anything. I-I think he winked at me! Kinda like a I-told-you-so wink!”
Her grandmother bent down to look more closely at Kit. She said, “Told you so what?” She paused for a second then said softly, “Told you so what again as if she was trying to figure something out. Suddenly, she jumped up wagging her finger at him. She turned to Yuki, still wagging, then back at him, still wagging, “I know! I bet he said don’t eat the walrus! Right?”
Yuki’s mouth dropped again, “Yes! That’s what I heard someone say before! You heard him?”
She shook her head no and said to Kit, “One time! It was one time! How was I supposed to know the walrus was bad? It’s not like I fed it to you on purpose!” She said to Yuki, “See, that’s why I don’t talk to them anymore. They’re ungrateful little things.”
Yuki said, “Wait, how is it I heard him then? I’ve never heard anything from him the whole time we’ve been together!”
“Let me tell you, sometimes that’s a good thing!”
“Never mind.” She thought for a second then asked Yuki, “What were you doing? What was different when you heard him?”
“Uh” She tried to replay in her head the last things that had happened. Then it hit her, “My glasses! You took them off to clean them.”
“That’s right, I did. What’s with them? Do you need them to see or are they special astronaut glasses or something?”
Yuki looked at her grandmother debating with herself on how much she should tell her. She swallowed and said, “I can see okay and they do a lot of special things but, um, (she closed her eyes) I’m deaf without them. They help me hear.” There, she said it. She cringed, waiting for her grandmother’s response.
Her grandmother smiled and shook her head back and forth, “Ah, so much like your mother. I thought it might have skipped a generation.” She came over to her and said sweetly, “Honey, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Didn’t anybody tell you your mother’s deaf?”
Yuki’s face assumed what seemed to be the dominant feature of the past twenty-four hours; her mouth fell open.
“From that look I’m going to assume the answer is no.”
Yuki wasn’t sure how to feel. “No, nobody said anything. I seem to be the last person to be told anything! It’s so frustrating!”
“Well she is, has been from birth. Most descendants of pure blood Keepers are.”
“Pure blood Keepers?” Her mind raced back to the conversation her and Qbit had in the moon base lunchroom. ‘It’s true then, what Qbit said about me?”
“Well, I don’t know what he said, but yes. Your father never mentioned this when he picked you up?”
Yuki looked confused.
“Oh boy. I tell you what, why don’t you just open your mouth now, it’ll save you some time. Ready?” She repeated, a little slower this time, “Your father picked you up.”
“My father picked me up?”
Kit said, There’s an echo in here.
Her grandmother looked at him and said, Quiet, you.
Yuki figured it could only be one of two people. “Do you mean Jordin, at the boat?”
“No, not Jordin. John.”
“John? John’s my father? He picked me up at the airport and never said anything! I can’t believe it!”
Kit jumped up onto the table and shook his head, I tried to tell her the whole time we were in the truck. Kids!
He shrugged his shoulders and said, Just say’n.
Yuki asked, “What’s he saying, and did he just shrug his shoulders?”
Her grandmother said, “Never mind him.” She put her hand on Yuki’s shoulder. “Look, there’s probably a good reason why he didn’t say anything. I know your father and it must have been just as hard for him. I’m sure Qbit thought it would have been too much for you to handle, all at once.”
Suddenly feeling very tired, Yuki looked around for somewhere to sit. “I don’t know. Do you mind if I sit down for a minute?”
“Sure, would you like some water?”
Her grandmother grabbed a glass from the counter, turned it over, looked closely at it, then blew into it. She filled it with water from a gallon jug. “Here you go.”
Her grandmother sat down in a chair across the table. “I can certainly understand your frustration. I tell you what, why don’t we try this again. Let’s start from the beginning again and I’ll see if I can answer all your questions and set things straight. That should reduce the chances of your head exploding. So, (her grandmother stuck out her hand) hi, I’m your grandmother Oya. And you are?”
Yuki smiled and set the glass down. She took her hand and shook it, “Hello Grandmother Oya, I’m Yuki Leigh, your granddaughter, pleased to meet you.”
“Like wise. Now, what’s your first question.”
“Why didn’t my father say anything? Is he embarrassed of me?”
“Embarrassed? Why would he be embarrassed?”
“I don’t know.” Yuki stood up and started to pace. “Because he never contacted me… she looked at her arms… maybe he knows that, inside I’m not the same as everyone else and that I could have gone on an important mission, been somebody he could have been really proud of!” She was on the verge of tears and she really didn’t know why.
“He didn’t contact you because he didn’t know about you until a couple of weeks ago. He’s done nothing but talk about you since then. All he says is how proud he is of you. For goodness sake, you’re an astronaut who has grown up on the moon! Who wouldn’t be proud? I’m proud!”
“None of that other stuff matters to him or anyone. You could have two heads and four arms, and they would still love you and be proud of you!”
She sat back down and wiped away a loose tear on her cheek. “My mom didn’t know about me?”
“No, she didn’t, but her and I have always had a feeling that you were out there somewhere, we just weren’t sure where.”
“I see. Thank you.”
“For knowing I was there. It’s better than knowing nobody knew or didn’t care.”
“You’re very welcome.” She rocked onto the back legs of the chair, “Next question.”
“Um.” She thought for a second, “Do I have any brothers or sisters?”
“That’s an easy one. Yes, one of each.”
A smile came across Yuki’s face. “Really? A brother and a sister? Wow! Where are they?”
“I think it would be better if your mom told you all that stuff. She’d be mad if she found out I told you everything. Next question.”
“I keep hearing that I’m a Keeper and I’m not really sure what that means.” She looked at Kit. “Can I really talk to him?”
“That’s totally up to you. You’re the one that has to open yourself up to the possibility.”
“Hmm, something else, you said to him earlier that you don’t do it anymore. Why not?”
“Well, the two of us have some history, but that’s also a question for another time and, besides, I think your stalling, talk to him.”
She paused, looking Kit directly in the eyes. He peered back at her. “Okay, here goes.” She reached up and slowly slid her glasses off and placed them on the table. “Do you know sign language?”
“Okay then, um, how do I do it?”
“Relax and open your mind. It’ll just happen.”
She closed her eyes.
You don’t need to close your eyes.
Yuki quickly opened her eyes and looked at her grandmother.
Don’t look at me. I don’t do that, remember?
Kit replied, She hears me, don’t let her fool you.
Oya flicked the tip of one of his ears, Butt head.
Hey, takes one to know one.
Oh, real original.
Yuki couldn’t believe she was hearing this. It was so cool; nobody’s lips were moving, and she didn’t have her glasses on. It was incredible!”
Kit turned to Yuki. Are you going to say something or just sit there all googly eyed?
She said out loud, “Oh, yeah, I guess. What do I say?”
Well for starters, you don’t have to say it out loud. Try saying it in your head.
“Oh, okay.” She smiled and said the only thing that came to her, Yuki to Kit, come in Kit.
Oh my gosh, such a newbie. Kit shook his head.
Give her a chance, this isn’t easy, chided Oya.
Kit rolled his eyes, Okay, okay. Come in Yuki, this is Kit.
Yuki laughed out loud, How does this work? It’s incredible! How far away can it reach? Can all animals do this? How is it you can do it Kit, since you’re a cyborg? The smile was still plastered to Yuki’s face.
Hold on there, kiddo, said her grandmother. You’re going to have to pace yourself. She looked at her watch, There will be plenty of time to answer all those questions. But, right now we need to get going; the weather’s too good to dawdle.