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[c] “It’s about Reverie. She's latched onto Sylvia and I, calling us her parents, but she did it so quickly and easily that it worries me. Where are her real parents?”
“It’s about Reverie.” The old man stops eating the meal and stares at you. You return the stare with your own, and for a while the two of you are locked in an intense eye contact, and it takes you a great deal of effort to break the mood.
“What about her?” he asks.
“You see, old man.” You cough once before you continue. “That girl’s latched onto Sylvia and I - yes, just both of us - and started calling us her parents.”
“I don’t see any problem with it, Kirisame,” the old man speaks. “If she’s happy staying with both of you, then I should be happy for her, too.”
“It’s not whether or not she’s happy that worries me,” you speak. “It’s why she does that so quickly and easily that’s made me concerned.” You notice the old man smiling at the answer, and you quickly tip your hat low enough to hide your flushed cheek. “What? It’s not that I don’t want her to stay with us, jeez.”
“If you like having her company, then what’s worrying you?” he asks.
You tip your hat up. You stare at the old man’s calm face. There’s something about that smile that irks you. “The problem lies in the fact that I’m bothered by the lack of information regarding the whereabouts of her real parents. In other words, where are they and what happens to them?”
The old man shakes his head. “Well, I suppose I should reveal the truth sooner or later,” he utters. “You see, Kirisame, the little girl’s deprived of love and care she should have got from the moment she was born to this world.”
“You’re trying to imply here that her parents didn’t carry out their responsibility as they should?” you ask.
“More like denied of the chance to fulfil their obligation as parents,” the old man corrects. “There are times and places when people have the chance to do whatever they like and want, but they are not given the opportunity to do so, most often cruelly and without any regard of their feeling.”
“What does that suppose to mean?” The old man just snickers and stands up as his bodyguards show up. “Oh, come on! You can’t just leave me and not answering the question!” you retort.
“This is not the time and place to discuss such topic, I’m afraid,” the old man says. “I’ll tell you everything you need to know the next time we meet. If we get the chance to see each other.”
You’re furious at the answer he gave you. “You’re trying to evade the truth, aren’t you?” The old man stops walking and turns back at you. “It’s your eyes; I can tell you’re afraid of letting me know.” He stares at you, as so are his bodyguards. “Look at me, Gramps. Do I look like a secret police or something?”
The old man shakes his head again. “Always persistent to the core, aren’t we?” he speaks.
“I’m not going to question the deliveries you had asked me to do in the past, that I can assure you,” you answer. “But this? This is the matter of a girl getting loved or not.”
“Very well. You win.” He approaches you and gives you what you can only assume as a business card. “Here’s my phone number. You give it a call, and tell me where you want us to meet tomorrow.”
“Fair enough.” You put the card inside the pocket of your trouser. “So we are done here, I guess.”
“I believe we are,” the old man says. “If you don’t have anything else to ask from me, I suggest that-” His words are cut off when Reverie appears out of nowhere and hugs him in a tackling manoeuvre. He doesn’t even show any reaction to the over-the-top affection the girl is showing, and you have to resist the urge to plant your face into your palm.
“You didn’t say that you’d show up, Grandpa!” Reverie says.
“I’m very sorry for that, dear,” the old man apologizes. “You didn’t even give me a phone call, either.” He picks Reverie off the floor as to cradle her. “I assume you’re very busy enjoying your time with your parents here.”
“I am!” Reverye answers happily. “And that’s why I’m going to extend my stay with Mommy and Daddy! Can I, Grandpa?”
“No,” you answer.
“Oh you, why not?” O’Brien asks as she and Sylvia are showing up. “She likes staying with you, so let her.”
“Because I’m not a babysitter, that’s why,” you answer.
“Kirisame, surely you don’t mind letting her stay with you for a few more days,” the old man says, “until your birthday?”
“Yeah! Mommy said I could stay with you until your birthday,” Reverie adds.
You scratch the back of your head. You don’t like the direction of this conversation. “Look, everyone. I don’t give a damn about my birthday, and I don’t care if anyone’s planning to have party on that day. And besides, I have to expect myself to deliver goods around the clock, does anyone think I have time for babysitting?”
“But you have Sylvia,” O’Brien reminds you. “You can always rely on her to take care of the household while you’re at work - like a dedicated wife. Isn’t that right, Sylvia?” Sylvia shyly nods.
“Bah! Why is everyone assuming that Sylvia and I are married? I abhore that!” you protest.
“Daddy is just being mean at me,” Reverie retorts. “Daddy doesn’t like to love me like how Daddy often loves Mommy.”
“Reverie, I suggest that you drop that sensitive topic right now,” you warn her. “Gramps, don’t you dare getting any idea on what she’s talking about. I swear to God-”
“Like how Daddy often kisses Mommy at dinner?” Reverie suggests. “Or how Daddy and Mommy like to give morning kiss to each other on bed?” Sylvia blushes furiously over the remark, O’Brien and the old man are laughing, and you find yourself shrinking to the lowest point of embarrassment. It doesn’t help that everyone else at the cafeteria is sharing their own load of amusement over the drama. Goddamn it, Reverie, must you embarrass this ordinary transporter in front of the people?
An agreement is reached between both parties. You agree to let Reverie extend her stay with your family until your birthday, and in return the old man agrees to tell you in details about the girl’s past. There isn’t anything else you can do for the rest of the evening; you have taken care of Sylvia’s medical expenses, O’Brien is summoned to the emergency room and Reverie is almost done with her farewell hugs to the old man.
“So you aren’t going to tell me what will you give her for birthday?” the old man asks.
“But Grandpa, birthday present is supposed to be a BIG surprise!” Reverie protests. “I always keep it secret from you before your birthday, so why can’t I do the same to Daddy?”
“Oh, alright. Can’t afford to let down my cute girl, can I?” He kisses Reverie on the forehead and puts her back on the floor. “Have fun with your Daddy and Mommy, okay?”
Hugging Reverie once more he let go off her, who quickly meets up with Sylvia. He, then, approaches his bodyguards and leaves the cafeteria. You almost forget something so you chase after him. “What will your business be this time, Kirisame?” the old man says.
“You don’t mind if I ask you one favour?” you ask. “Actually, I don’t think I can trust myself and the police to do this, and you’re the only one with the… expertise I need.”
“Alright, speak up, but please make it quick.” You begin by telling the old man about the encounter with the purple lady and laying out the details about the mysterious woman’s appearance. The old man listens attentively while telling his bodyguards to write down the description of the woman, and when you’re done he nods in acknowledgment. “I’m more surprised that you didn’t approach the more… rightful people to help you.”
“Like I said earlier, I don’t trust the police to do the work,” you tell her. “So you think you can help me with that?”
“Of course, Kirisame,” the old man answers. “I have Melbourne under my belt, and I know what I will do, so don’t worry about it. Now go; I suppose you want to take your family out for dinner after this.”
“Will you CUT that out for once?” you retort.
The old man laughs. “Alright. I’ll see you next time.” Using his hat as an extension to his hand, he waves you goodbye and leaves the lobbym. You shrug at the old man’s complete lack of sense of respect for your private life and approach Sylvia who’s occupied with taking Reverie in a spin-hug.
“Alright, girls, we better get going,” you tell them.
“Where to, Daddy?” Reverie asks.
“I don’t know, you tell me,” you answer. “And you, Reverie, have some guts to embarrass me in front of everyone. You really have no shame, you know.”
Reverie replies by sticking her tongue at you. “That’s because you didn’t even let us see you in the ward!” she replies.
“Why, hello there Miss Always Right, Daddy was in bad shape, and do you want to see someone when she’s in bad shape?” you ask back.
“But that’s why we wanted to see you,” Reverie argues. “You’re Daddy, she’s Mommy, and I’m your daughter! That means we are family!”
You plant your face into your palm again. “Alright, Reverie, enough with this family bull crap. We’re leaving this place.” You usher them out of the lobby and shoot the staffs your annoyed glare before you follow them. Just as you join them at the bus stop you take out the business card and look at it; you notice the name “Saint Kilda General Cemetery” printed on it.
Your heart suddenly sinks.
You don’t like this feeling, so you put back the business card and meet Sylvia. “It’s still not too late to do some shopping, right?” you ask.
“Let’s go to the bookstore, Daddy,” Reverie says. “I want to find something - and no, Daddy, it will not be your birthday present.” She fumes when you snicker sarcastically at her. “Daddy, it’s supposed to be a secret! You aren’t allowed to know about it until it’s your birthday,” she protests.
“Oh, alright, we’ll go there,” you utter. “If Sylvia doesn’t mind, that is.”
You take a taxi and head to the nearest bookstore, where Reverie wastes no time running to the children’s book section, leaving you and Sylvia at the lobby. “Look at her. She’s unashamedly spilling adult people’s big secret and she doesn’t even care of the consequences,” you speak. Sylvia gives your shoulder a soft pat, and you just sigh exasperatedly. “Yeah. I suppose this is how parenthood is supposed to be.” She removes your hat and starts patting your head. “Hey, stop that. I’m too old to have my head patted like a kid.” She ignores you and keeps patting you, occassionally ruffling your hair. You blush and have to lower your head to hide your flushed cheeks. “Jeez; you’re the same as Grandma, always knowing how to strike people when they’re at their most vulnerable,” you mutter.
Almost as fast as she left Reverie returns to you and calls you aloud. “Daddy, can you choose which book should I buy?” she asks.
You look at her. “Can’t you do your own choosing?” you ask.
“I know, but I want to ask you first,” she says and shows you four storybooks. “I like all of these, and I can’t decide which one to choose. Can you help me, Daddy? Can you please?”
You look at Sylvia, who in turn looks back at you. Then the two of you look at the books Reverie is holding. “Well, well.”
[ ] Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
[ ] Pied Piper of Hamelin.
[ ] The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
[ ] Peter Pan (or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up).