Kanoi Watanabe awoke to the sound of a pounding on his door. He had never appreciated being woken from a sound sleep, but the insistent pounding refused to stop.
He rose from his bed and retrieved his robe, hurrying to the door.
He was not sure exactly what to expect upon opening it, but what he saw was not anything like he had imagined.
It was his son, drenched from the rain pouring outside, breathing heavily and looking for all the world as though the world had ended.
“Cameron?” He asked gently, reaching out a hand to place on his son’s shoulder. Cameron jerked away, stumbled and caught himself tiredly. “What is wrong?”
His son looked up at him with the eyes of a man who was grieving, and Kanoi feared the worst. Cameron grinned in a twisted sort of way before he began convulsing with sobs.
Kanoi reached out a hand to steady his son, and this time Cam let him. He fell to the ground, shaking as tears streamed down his face, and Kanoi kneeled down next to him.
“What is it, my son?” He tried to keep his voice as gentle as possible, but he had to know what was causing Cameron such anguish, even if the words were not what he wanted to hear.
Cameron looked up at him, his lips still quivering. “Where…” He struggled to take a breath before he continued. “Where is he?”
Kanoi did not know how to answer. He was quite sure no one could provoke this kind of grief in his son but one man, and if it was simply a disappearance…
“No one…” Cameron sobbed heavily, and Kanoi attempted to bring him into the small apartment as he shook. “No one…” another breath and then, “would tell me where-”
More sobs. Kanoi hoisted his son upwards, holding him up and taking him in through the door just as another door down the hall opened.
“And then, Leanne-” He choked on the name as Kanoi helped him through the hallway and into the tiny living room. “Leanne was at the door and…”
Surely he would have heard of this, if the story were to go as Kanoi feared it would. Surely the council would have informed him…
Cameron stopped sobbing long enough to look up at him with torn eyes. “He isn’t coming back.”
Silent tears rolled down his son’s cheeks, and he understood. Cameron pulled the yellow paper from his shirt pocket and held it out with a shaky hand.
A grievance notice.
Kanoi took it, and Cameron began crying again. Kanoi moved forward to steady his son, and Cameron clanged to him. It brought a sudden wave of Deja-vu as Kanoi remembered holding his son like this once before, all those years ago when Miko had not returned.
This was a different kind of grief, and Kanoi knew it well. There was nothing he could say or do that would make the pain of his passing any easier to bear, and so Kanoi held his son as he wept.
When his tears began to subside, Cameron pushed him away. He held his head in his hands as he whispered, “Liat, and Mani… how am I going to tell them?”
Kanoi’s eyes widened. Cameron had come to him before going to his children?
Cameron looked up at him with pleading eyes, and Kanoi sighed slowly. “The only way you can.”
Cameron put his head back down into his hands. Kanoi reached over and patted his head, and then he stood and turned to the kitchen. He returned with a box a Kleenex to find his son had not moved, and he turned back to begin boiling the water for the tea his son would need to sleep that night.
He did not hear a sound, but when he returned to the living room he saw Cameron sitting in front of the alter Kanoi kept for his mother.
“Why us, dad?” The change in tone in Cameron’s voice was unmistakable. It was a sound Kanoi hated to hear in his son’s voice, but he expected no less at a moment like this.
“That is a question which I have asked every day since your mother died,” Kanoi knelt down beside him at the alter. “I still have yet to receive an answer.”
Cam was silent. His face was tearstained, and it seemed as though for the moment, he did not have enough breath left to cry.
That would not last for long, but Kanoi sat with him until the tremors came back.
“Perhaps, we are meant to suffer for others because we have the strength to endure, when others do not.” Kanoi offered. It was the same wisdom his Sensei had offered to him all those years before.
“It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.” Cameron whispered. “He wasn’t supposed to…” Cam gulped, reaching up to push his glasses up on his nose, “Leave me.”
Kanoi grimaced, and he reached over to place a hand on Cameron’s shoulder. Cameron stood quickly, and Kanoi followed him with his eyes.
“Why does this happen to us?” He shouted, his hands so firmly balls into fists that his knuckled were white. “Why did mom have to go? Why did Hunter…” He began to cry again. “Are we destined to lose the people we love?”
He fell to his knees as the sobs returned, and Kanoi crossed to him and laid a hand on his back.
“When the people we love are stolen from us,” Kanoi began, not entirely sure how his son would react, “the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, and people die, but real love lasts forever.”
Cameron’s body shook with the sobs, and Kanoi pulled him close and held him as he cried for his lost love.
This was it, Kanoi decided as he stroked his son’s hair. This was the kind of thing no parent ever wished their child to endure. To lose someone you have loved so deeply is not something one survives without scars, and Kanoi had hoped that his son would be able to avoid this pain for many more years.
Fate, it seemed, was still as cruel as he remembered it to be.
“How do you do it, dad?” Cameron wheezed, gripping onto his father’s arm. “How do you… breathe again?”
Kanoi sighed, praying silently for his son before answering. “In, and out. One breath at a time.”
Cameron wept into the night, and Kanoi stayed with him until he fell into a restless sleep on his father’s worn couch. Kanoi stroked the young man’s hair, remembering when he had once done the same thing for the boy Cameron had once been.
He stood, and walked to his wives alter. Kneeling, he said a prayer for his son, and his grandchildren, and for Hunter as well.
“Miko,” he whispered to the alter, and he felt he familiar touch of a hand to his skin. It was a touch that had never faded, just as her face was as clear in his memory as if she were before him. “Watch over our son.”
It was not going to be easy for Cameron, this he knew. But he had faith in his son, and he prayed that one day… he would breathe again.