First and foremost, I want to acknowledge Ishigreensa from the DD forums for the inspiration, as this is essentially my own take on his unfinished piece "Yukari". I wanted to do more than just finish the story, so as much as I enjoyed the suspense his first-person account gave, what with the girl's limited English comprehension, I decided to start from the beginning and give multiple viewpoints along with more background and more building of the characters. I hope you enjoy, but more importantly, I hope I do justice to his efforts.
PS: To those of you following The Panda's Ashes, this is me taking a little break from what has been a very difficult section to write. I'll get there, I promise.
Mark Austin was silent in the aisle seat of Japan Airlines flight 6505 to Los Angeles. He let loose a quiet sigh as he looked down at the little girl sitting next to him, her attention firmly fixed on a portable video game in her lap. There was no doubt that she was her father's daughter, despite her distinctive Oriental features; she had his strong cheekbones and his icy blue eyes behind her thick glasses. His mind wandered to the fateful day when his former bunk-mate, Frank, called with the terrible news…
Hey Frank! What's going on? You still stationed over…
Yeah. I ain't calling to reminisce, bro.
Wait, what's wrong?
She came to the base looking for you, Mark.
Who did? Oh fuck, not that…
Yeah, that one.
Heh, what'd she want, another helping?
Not quite. She had a baby with her, man. Said it was yours.
What the fuck?! That slut probably slept with half the platoon!
If she did, she had better targets than you, Mark. You were only an E-3, remember?
So what am I supposed to do now? I can't fly back there to take a paternity test! Janet would hit the fucking roof!
Either that or you'd better start figuring out how to send her money without Janet knowing. You know how the prefectures are about coming after Army boys.
Oh shit, don't tell me…
Yeah, she said she was going to file the paperwork if she didn't hear from you pretty quick…
It was practically extortion, but Mark hardly was in a position to do anything about it, what with a two-year-old girl of his own to take care of and an insanely jealous wife to try and hide it from. It was one night, one stupid, stupid mistake, and then the unthinkable happened. He'd only been back stateside for five months when that call came. He kept the situation pretty effectively under wraps for a good two years after that, quietly sending Frank money out of his very generous salary as head of security for a huge San Bernardino tech outfit. Then Janet got pregnant again, and when the money started getting tight, she got suspicious. He'd never forget that night he came home to her sitting at the dining room table with the bank statements. He tried to dodge her probing questions, but she was relentless, and eventually he confessed.
Shockingly, Janet didn't flip out on him. No, she did much, much worse. For eight long years she lorded it over him. She stripped him of any and all authority in the household. The finances, raising the kids, she took control of all of it. She pushed him into buying a much bigger house, forcing him to sacrifice every last penny of his "allowance" to make the payments. He sold his '62 Vette to pay for her redecorating of the dining room, including the 18th century Rococo dining room suite and matching china cabinet. He even spent the better part of three years working double shifts, putting in 70-80 hours a week, to finance her start-up business, a home medical supply company. And she didn't hesitate to rub his nose in the incredible success of that venture, either. By the time she "allowed" him to cut back his hours to a more manageable 60 a week, she was out-earning him while spending less than 20 hours a week at the shop.
Then he got word that Yukari's mother had died. And when he found out that the child was headed for an orphanage if no one stepped up to claim her, the guilt overrode his desire to keep the peace with Janet. She went completely ballistic when he announced his intention to collect the child and bring her back to the States. He was, quite frankly, surprised she didn't file for divorce. The fact that she didn't, however, made him genuinely nervous over what new blackmail she had planned when they returned.
When he picked the child up at the prefecture child guidance center, he was somewhat shocked, but also relieved to discover that her mother had apparently told the girl that her father was dead. It made things much simpler for him, really, to just let her believe he was nothing more than a family friend. He was a bit surprised at the girl's lack of English comprehension, and he worried about what sort of arrangements he… or more likely Janet… would need to make at the private school where his other children were enrolled.
His thoughts were disrupted by the flight attendant bringing around the drink cart, from which he gladly took a scotch and soda. He turned to the young girl to ask if she wanted anything, but she had dozed off in the waning hours of the evening. With a sigh, he covered her up with his jacket and gazed out the window as the sun fell behind them, watching darkness fall heavily across the ocean, much like the foreboding which cast its shadow over his mind.