”I want to teach you Japanese.”
“Look, your mom and dad, they don't like me. They think that I'm stupid, 'cause I'm not in the smart classes and 'cause we're in the Resource Room together, so I wanna teach you Japanese.”
“That isn't why they don't like you, Miyoshi.”
“I can't believe they defended that Kathy bitch when she was making fun of Rioko like that. I mean I know me an' her don't get along, but they were just awful to her!”
Sharon Porter had tried to explain to Miyoshi Yamamoto many times that it was Richie they hated because he was poor, that the reason that they disliked the Yamamoto family had nothing to do with that, but she seemed to be unable to grasp that Rita and Charles were awfully racist, which should have been evident, considering the company they kept.
Even Rioko had given up, and she was a genuine genius.
“Fine. I'll learn Japanese.”
“Okay! Just the basics, though.”
She nodded, eating a handful of M&Ms.
“Watashinonamaeha Miyoshidesu. My name is Miyoshi. You would say Watashinonamaeha Sharondesu.”
“Okay. Watashinonamaeha Sharondesu.”
“Good. I live in Stoneybrook. Watashi wa, sutōnī ni sunde iru.”
“Watashi wa, sutōnī ni sunde iru.”
“Are you okay? Anata wa daijōbudesuka?”
“Anata wa daijōbudesuka?”
“Very good, Sharon. You're safe with me. Anata wa watashi to anzendesu.”
“Anata wa watashi to anzendesu.”
She doubts very much that the Japanese will ever be useful, but she and Miyoshi have their lessons daily, with Mrs. Yamamoto helping. Sharon likes Mrs. Yamamoto.
She wishes her parents would give them a chance.
But she knows they won't.
Rioko invites her over for coffee one day when they see each other at the grocery store, and, much to Sharon Schafer's surprise, she accepts. She's never been inside of Rioko's house before, not even the time she stopped by to see Richie unexpectedly, nor the times that she'd dropped Dawn off at Rioko's for her baby-sitters' club meetings, and it's oddly enough just as she expected it. Mrs. Yamamoto is sitting on the living room couch, watching what appears to be Wheel of Fortune, and she remembers that she'd suffered a stroke earlier that summer. She remembers buying her a get well card, wanting to write the message in Japanese, because she wasn't certain if she could still read English, but settling for her native language instead when poor Claudia had been so confused with her questions.
It wasn't as if “Get well soon, Mrs. Yamamoto” was a particularly taxing phrase, but Rioko's husband had gotten on the telephone with her after his daughter started to sob and had explained to her that she didn't know much Japanese. He'd offered to explain it to her, but she'd felt uncomfortable.
She feels uncomfortable being here now, and she stumbles through the Japanese that Peaches had taught her, back when she was Miyoshi.
“Misesu Yamamoto, dono yōdesu ka? Watashi wa Sharon, Miyoshi no yūjindesu. Watashi wa anata ga yoku wa nakatta kiita.”
“I remember Sharon. I speak English. I should practice with you.”
What? No, no, no she was the one that had been trying to learn Japanese, she shouldn't have to help Mrs. Yamamoto learn English again!
Fortunately, Rioko came in, looking pleasantly surprised.
“Mother, Sharon and I have to talk about something for a moment. Perhaps she will help you with English later.”
“Okay, my Rioko.”
Sharon had heard all about the “My Mary Anne” incident and rather hoped Claudia wasn't around to hear her mother being called “My Rioko”. She smiled at Mrs. Yamamoto, following Rioko into the dining room, where she'd set out an arrangement of sweets and coffee, and despite her supposed “health nut” lifestyle, Sharon Schafer took a delicious looking brownie from the plate.
“Is this about Peaches?”
Though she thought the nickname the slightest bit childish, she'd humored her best friend from Stoneybrook and continued to use it. Rioko shook her head.
“You're dating Richard again, are you not?”
“Yes. We're seeing each other again, yes. Why?”
“It's Mary Anne. As you know, she doesn't have a mother, and as you know, she's been...developing a bit more lately. Janine pointed this out to me when Charlie Thomas insisted she tell Mary Anne to put on a dry shirt when she and Kristy were washing Louie one day over the summer. I was hoping that Elizabeth would talk to her, but I can't seem to convince her that it would be prudent to do so now.”
“You want me to give Mary Anne the sex talk?”
She nearly choked on her brownie.
“Oh, no, not that! I simply believe that Mary Anne might, you know, need a woman's perspective on some things. Womanly things.”
She could breathe again, but she was still slightly confused. She'd already had the sex talk with Dawnie and Sunny back in Palo City-they'd asked her and Betsy so many questions and they'd just decided to answer them all at once-but surely Mary Anne had-
Mary Anne had no one. She didn't have a mother, and as close as she'd claimed to be to Elizabeth Brewer (oh, Marjorie had had a field day with the fact that her brother had married a divorcee with four children and had had the nerve to be offended when she'd pointed out that Watson was divorced with kids as well as she) she somehow doubted that they'd had any sort of “womanly” talks. Kristy seemed to be a bit behind the other girl, developmentally wise, and if...
Sharon had forgotten to take her Dexedrine this morning, which explained why she kept drifting away from her train of thought. She took a sip of coffee, attempting to focus.
“You want me to give Mary Anne a girl talk?”
“Yes. I would, but she's never been very comfortable around me and I fear she'd take it as criticism but I simply think Richard is too, well, reserved to do it. And you know Mary Anne would never ask him about it, and you are his girlfriend, and your daughter is one of her best friends, and-”
All of the words are confusing her and she breaks into the conversation, making a mental note to always take her ADHD medications before attempting another conversation with poor Rioko.
“I'll do it. I'll talk to Richie, I guess, and I'll do it.”
“Thank you, Sharon.”
“You're welcome, Rioko.”
Claudia's older sister came into the dining room, and she felt awkward. She smiled, hoping that Rioko really hadn't intended her to be her mother's temporary tutor. She was, after all, the slightest bit dyslexic and her undiagnosed hyperactive disorder had led to her entire school career being mostly a joke.
“Mom, Charlie Thomas was wondering if perhaps he could spend the thirty minutes he spends during Claudia's club meetings in the house with me. We wouldn't be doing anything untoward, I promise, it's just that logically it makes no sense for him to...”
There was a mini Rioko! Oh, God, it was tedious listening to her, though mostly because she was medication-less, and she devoured a cookie, healthy eating be damned. She didn't understand why she'd insisted on becoming such a health nut in California, she really didn't.
“...It is fine with you, Mom? I thought it would be but...where's Mimi, Mom?”
Now even without her medication and her desire to focus, Sharon certainly knew that that wasn't the sort of question that should be ignored. Rioko started to panic, and she knew someone, anyone, needed to step into action. What was...oh, yes, she'd heard it earlier. Janine.
“Janine? Do you know where your grandmother might have gone?”
“She likes to go on walks. Near the brook. But earlier today she wanted to go to the Rosebud Cafe. Do you know where that is?”
“Why don't you calm down your mother, and call 911, and I will go to the Rosebud and see if she's there.”
Sharon Schafer, nee Porter, had always been rather decent in a crisis. She only wished that Richie was home, instead of on his business trip. She'd wanted Mary Anne to stay with her and Dawn and Jeff, but they'd spent an extra week in California and Elizabeth Brewer had wanted Mary Anne to stay with them.
At least she wasn't there to see the crisis with Mrs. Yamamoto. She knew that they were close.
Sharon, who still smoked, despite the fact that Dawn would kill her if she found out (she could just picture her lecture), walked outside, and remembered that pesky little detail: she'd walked to Rioko's. Fortunately, that infernal Junk Bucket was outside, and there were two of Kristy's brothers sitting in it. She steeled herself, approaching the car, cigarette in her hand. Thank heavens Richie still knows I smoke now and then.
“Excuse me, you didn't happen to see Mrs. Yamamoto, did you?”
She didn't know why the nickname came to her, but it did.
“Mimi. Claudia and Janine's grandmother.”
“Yeah. She said she was going to the Rosebud to meet Mrs. Kishi.”
“Mrs. Kishi is inside of the house! Having a panic attack because her elderly mother who just had a stroke earlier this summer has gone missing!”
“We didn't know! She said that she was going-”
“It doesn't matter. Can you bring me there?”
She didn't blame Kristy's brothers, she really didn't. Mrs. Yamamoto had seemed awfully lucid when they'd briefly spoken.
She had a feeling she was going to be rather grateful Peaches had taught her Japanese all those years ago.
They were blathering on about Mrs. Yamamoto as she searched through her purse for her pills, hoping in vain that they were buried underneath everything. She found them, at the bottom of her bag, hiding under her checkbook and half a box of tampons. She sighed, swallowing them with the disgusting iced herbal tea she'd made out of habit that morning.
Sometimes, health food was just gross.
“What?! Is Mrs. Yamamoto alright?”
“Mary Anne and Kristy found her.”
Sharon may have gotten out of the car before Charlie had fully parked it, but she didn't care. She knew that him cursing in front of her, someone who knew his mother, meant nothing good.
“Mimi? Don't you remember us? It's Kristy Thomas and Mary Anne Spier! We're Claudia's friends!”
Mrs. Yamamoto murmured something in what sounded like Japanese, and Mary Anne, Richie's daughter and Dawnie's best friend, burst into tears. She went to her, first, giving her a big hug.
“Mimi, I don't understand what you're saying!”
“Just a minute, Kristy. Why don't you go into the cafe and buy her something to drink? Here, take this.”
She handed her a twenty dollar bill, not really expecting the change back, and she rubbed her boyfriend's daughter's back, letting her cry. Mrs. Yamamoto, who was this close to getting a nonsensical lecture in Japanese from her at the top of her lungs, merely seemed a bit confused. Both of the Thomas boys got out of the car.
She had to cut the younger one off.
“She's not responding to English. If it's okay with Mary Anne, I can try to talk to her. Miyoshi taught me some Japanese.”
Mary Anne nodded.
“I just want you to help Mimi, Sharon.”
Mary Anne sank against Charlie Thomas and she approached Mrs. Yamamoto cautiously, hoping that she would remember her. Or that her Japanese would be good enough. She hadn't used it since Miyoshi, er, Peaches's wedding. She took the drink that Kristy brought out and offered it to her, watching her drink it like a hawk.
“Misesu Yamamoto, dono yōdesu ka? Watashi wa Sharon, Miyoshi no yūjindesu. Watashi wa anata ga yoku wa nakatta kiita.”
Fuck, she didn't have a damned clue what she was saying, vague memories of the Japanese lessons they'd had, her, Miyoshi, Mrs. Yamamoto, sometimes even Rioko and Richie, flitting through her head.
She knew that when Mrs. Yamamoto had come to America, she'd changed her name to Lynn, and Miyoshi had told her that there was no "L" in Japanese, but that her mother's name had been "Rin" when she'd been growing up in Tokyo. Was it really that bad? Mrs. Yamamoto had known who she was, but what if that had slipped away from her too? She drew a deep breath, unsure of how to continue. The Thomases and Mary Anne looked worried, and she couldn't really blame them. A small blonde girl was holding fast to Kristy's hand, looking confused.
Shit. There was a kid there, now. She spoke, starting off in English, struggling to find the words. She needed to know if she was okay.
Miyoshi had taught her that, too, thankfully.
“I know. Misesu Yamamoto, anata wa daijōbudesuka?”
“Watashi wa watashiniha wakaranai.”
“You don't know? I am Miyoshi's friend, Misesu Yamamoto.”
Sam Thomas approached, looking concerned. She knew he needed something to do.
“Do you think you know the Kishis' number?”
“Do you think you could go in the cafe and call them?”
Kristy called after him.
“Call Claudia's line if the main one's busy!”
Mary Anne came over, still shaken, and she knelt next to her, leaning against her.
“Sharon? Do you think she'll be okay?”
“I don't know, honey. She probably needs to go to the hospital.”
“She doesn't know who I am!”
“Shush, honey, don't cry. Often times, people who have strokes, well, this happens to them.”
“I'm scared! Mimi's like a grandmother to me.”
She stroked her hair, noticing that Charlie Thomas had managed to flag down Rioko's husband, whom she'd only met a handful of times, but whom she was very glad to see.
“What happened? I'm waiting to pick Claudia up from sculpting and Charlie Thomas is-”
He broke off when he heard his mother-in-law muttering in nonsensical Japanese.
“Dawn's mom was amazing. She made us drive her here to get Mimi and by the time we got there Mary Anne and Kristy had already spotted her and she didn't know who they were and wasn't speaking English but Dawn's mom distracted Kris by having her buy Mimi a drink at the cafe and I helped comfort Mary Anne and she spoke Japanese to her and Mimi knew who she was. I think.”
“Peaches and I were friends in high school, and she and Mrs. Yamamoto taught me some conversational Japanese, just for fun, before my math tutoring sessions with Rioko. I just remembered a bit, that's all.”
Truth was? Sharon Schafer had really had next to no idea what exactly she was saying. She just knew that someone needed to care for the woman and pretend that they could communicate with her, and she knew enough to be that person.
“Oh My Lord, Dad, Mimi!”
Sharon hadn't noticed that Mrs. Yamamoto had passed out-and neither had Mr. Kishi (she didn't know his first name)-but Claudia sure had, and had caught her grandmother just in time, before sending Mary Anne into hysterical sobs. Sam came out of the store, obviously intending to tell her that Rioko was on her way. Watson Brewer's ex-wife and her new husband ran over to assist, having recognized Kristy. It was utter chaos.
Mr. Kishi took charge.
Sharon found herself and Mary Anne in the Junk Bucket with Charlie and Sam, headed back to Bradford Court. They had been assigned to pack some of Mrs. Yamamoto's things and some of Claudia's, as the former was going in the ambulance to the hospital and the latter was spending the night with Stacey McGill.
Kristy had elected herself to be the one to stay with the Kishis.
Rioko had begged her to be the one to tell Peaches, and she agreed.
So with Mary Anne at her house (she wanted to come to the airport with her to get Dawnie and Jeff, and Sharon hadn't wanted to say no), spending the night in the guest room, she picked up the phone and called.
She and Peaches hadn't seen each other when Mrs. Yamamoto had had her stroke. She'd been studying for her real estate brokerage exam and Peaches and Russ had only been able to stay for a couple days, but she'd been there for her when she called from Rioko's house at two in the morning, sobbing hysterically about how she just wanted her mom back, just like she'd been there for her when she'd discovered that she and Jack weren't in love anymore, that it wasn't working out, that it hadn't been for awhile.
“Sharon? Is that you?”
“Yeah. Peaches, honey, your mom's in the hospital again.”
“Yeah. I was there, Peaches, she collapsed when she was downtown. She only wanted to go to the Rosebud with Rioko.”
She left out the fact that she was certain Mrs. Yamamoto wasn't all there anymore, and the fact that Rioko had been inside the house the whole time.
She shut the door to her room, knowing Mary Anne was watching movies on their entertainment system, and she listened to her best friend cry. She continued to speak.
“Listen, Mi, come to Stoneybrook. You and Russ can spend the night here, if you don't want to bother Rioko.”
She laid awake in bed long past the time Mary Anne had finally fallen asleep, thinking of the “girl talk” they'd have sometime over the summer, about how she ought to clean and organize the attic, basically anything to keep her mind off the fact that her best friend's mother might...die. That Mrs. Yamamoto probably wouldn't get better.
She punches her pillow.
It's one am when Peaches and Russ arrive.
She's about to actually mop the floor, but doesn't have to, as a result.
She gives him a kiss on the cheek and pulls her into a bear hug, not knowing what to say.
In the end, she simply leads them upstairs to Jeff's room, whispering that Richie's daughter's in the room down the hall, just so they wouldn't be surprised in the morning.
Finally, she sleeps.
Morning comes too quickly.
She rises, remembers to take her medication, and pads downstairs, surprised to see that Peaches, Russ, and Mary Anne are all up, eating breakfast, and sharing tales about their mother, mother-in-law, and almost grandmother, respectively. She smiles.
They are best friends, and that “thank you” is enough. She sips her coffee, waking a bit more.
“No, thank you. Thank you for teaching me Japanese.”