• Published 5th May 2018
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Seven Days in Sunny June, Book V: The New Frontier - Shinzakura



The conclusion of the Seven Days in Sunny June saga! The world has changed, and those within it must cope with the aftermath of what has happened.

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TEN YEARS AGO: Time Passages

TEN YEARS AGO
Broadlands, Virginia

“Do I do it like this?” a young voice said.

“Yes, but be careful,” Glitter’s gentle voice said. “You want to make sure all the screws are in place, Soni.”

Sonata used both hands to turn the screwdriver, given that her aunt wouldn’t let her use the automatic drill. “Like this?”

Glitter mussed her niece’s hair. “Yeah, like that. You finish up here and I’m going to go check on your sisters, okay?”

The young girl nodded, her pigtails bobbing in time. “Okay, Aunt Glitter!”

Glitter smiled again and went in. She knew she’d have to check the plate later, but Sonata was showing a real propensity for mechanic work, even at her age. She probably got it from me working on my bike and Sky’s car. Such was the case around this house, though; it had been that way since she’d moved in four years ago. She’d quit her job at Hooters and thanks to some connections her old boss had up here, got a job at Virginia Tire & Auto as a mechanic. It gave her time to continue her studies at Fairfax University, especially since not all her credits from UM transferred and she had to do a lot of catching up.

As she walked into the house, she noted Aria playing with the dirty laundry, rolling up the clothing and shooting three-pointers with damn good skill for a child her age. Maybe a future basketballer, she wondered. “Heya, Ari.”

“Hi.” The distracted look on the middle triplet’s face was a dead giveaway that something was up.

“Something wrong?”

“Aunt Glitter? Can you talk to Dagi?” she asked.

Glitter knew that tone all too well. “What happened?”

“Dagi got into a fight with Homerun at school today,” she said. “I wasn’t supposed to tell you or Daddy but I’m worried about her.”

“She did, did she? Did she punch him?”

“Yeah, made him cry, too. Forest Ridge said he was going to tell the teacher, but they never did and Homerun said he ran into a tree, ‘cause he was too embarrassed that a girl popped him one!”

The woman chuckled. “That’s my girl. But next time, you’re supposed to tell the teacher, even if he deserves it, okay?”

“Okay!”

“Is she in your bedroom?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Okay, let me go talk to her. I was thinking about your dad and I taking you to Six Flags, but depending on what Dagi tells me, those plans might get cancelled.”

“Oh,” Aria said sadly.

Glitter put an arm around the child and hugged her close. “You did the right thing, Ari. Sometimes doing the right thing is hard, but it’s worthwhile. Trust me, there will come a time when you’ll have to do something harder than you know.”

“Okay,” the girl said, not quite understanding.

Glitter grinned and made her way up the stairs. Hard to believe it’s been four years. She looked at the picture of Lotus on the wall, forever young and beautiful. Glitter had made sure that the girls knew their mother loved them more than anything, and that she herself was a pale substitute for a mother figure, no matter how much she tried.

“They’re beautiful, Lo,” she said, touching her sister-in-law’s image. “You’d be proud of them.”

At that, she started to hear the sounds of a videogame in the room. Sure enough, hunched over a controller and PlayStation 2 and trying to get Sakura to throw a fireball, was Adagio. The girl’s movements were rough and rigid, a sign she was angry, and that translated to subpar play on screen.

“Dagi, you know how to do it, right? Forward, quarter circle, punch,” Glitter advised.

Adagio flinched as if scared, then turned to look at her aunt like she’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. “Uh-oh.”

“Uh-oh is right. I thought you were supposed to clean the room?”

“I didn’t want to.” To her credit, Adagio didn’t lie; she was honest to a fault. “I was mad.”

“I kinda noticed. Want to talk about it?”

“No,” she pouted.

Glitter took that as an invitation. She sat down next to Adagio, picked up the other controller and selected Cammy. As the game started, Glitter asked delicately, “I heard you punched someone.”

“He deserved it! He was a stinky butthead!” Adagio insisted.

“I’m sure he was. But I’m sure he had a reason for his stinkiness?”

The anger on Adagio’s face fell, followed by a sad look. “Mrs. Daffodil was talking about heroes yesterday at school and said Mommy was one. Then today Homerun said that Mommy wasn’t a hero because she didn’t stop the bad men from hitting the Petnangon—”

“Pentagon.”

“Yeah, that. He said that his daddy and mommy are soldiers and that they’re real heroes, and that Mommy was a fake hero and a loser.” She put down her controller and made a fist. “So I hit him when I got a chance.”

Glitter thought about it for a second. “Did you hit him hard?”

“Yeah!”

“Well, as proud as I am of you, you’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to tell Mrs. Daffodil, you know that.”

“Yeah. Am I in trouble?”

“Well, I was going to take us to Six Flags this weekend, but maybe I won’t because of what you did.”

A look of horror came over the girl’s face. “But that’s not fair!”

“You’re right, it’s not. But sometimes things happen that aren’t fair, and you need to brush them off. Your mom wasn’t a loser – she was a wonderful woman and one of the best people I ever knew. And Homerun’s parents are heroes, but for a different reason. He wasn’t being nice, but you weren’t being nice either by not letting your teacher know, got that?”

“Okay,” she said, not convinced. Then she said something that Glitter hadn’t expected: “When I grow up, I’m gonna be a soldier.”

Glitter had never heard Adagio say that before; last time she said something like that, she wanted to be Batman. “Why? Because of Homerun’s parents?”

“Nuh-uh,” Adagio said. “Because soldiers protect people – even stinky buttheads like Homerun.”

“Well, you’ve got a long time to think about that, kiddo. Don’t make choices just yet.”

“No, really! When me, an’ Ari an’ Soni grow up, we’re gonna be soldiers! Promise!”

“We’ll see. But for right now, you’re grounded, okay? I want you to put away the game, then clean up the room. And then after that, you’re going to write an apology letter to Homerun for hitting him.”

“But he—”

“Won’t do it again, because I also want you to write that if he says that again, you’ll hit him again, okay?”

The carrot-topped girl grinned from ear to ear. “Okay!”


It was then that the phone rang. She darted into her room and answered it. “Sky residence.”

The voice on the other line was tinny and crackling. “Hey, sis. How are the girls?”

Glitter’s eyes narrowed. “You’re not on a plane, are you?”

He sighed. “Look, sis, what I’m doing is important—”

“So are your children, Sky. I mean, look at me. I’m practically out of childhood myself and raising them. And I have post-grad studies to consider. You need to be here.”

“No. I need to be out here, doing what I do best, so that no one like Lo ever suffers again.”

Glitter groaned and crashed on her bed; she’d had this argument with her brother so many times, she wondered if she was now less sibling and more pseudo-spouse. “Sky…the girls need you. They need their father. I know that helping to rebuild war-shattered nations is important, but you’re missing the vital part of their lives!”

He said something, but the phone crackled once more, making the words incomprehensible. “—know. And I love my girls dearly, you know that. I wouldn’t be out here doing this if it wasn’t to keep them safe.”

Except you’re not keeping them safe, big bro, you’re running away. Even Vel would say that. “Dagi got into a fight at school today. Apparently some bully talked smack and she laid into him. Kids did the usual code of silence thing, but still….”

“Yeah, maybe it’s time they got martial arts training.”

“Your daughter just beat up a bully and your answer is to make her better at it?”

“Lo always wanted them to take it because martial arts runs in her family – her brother is a stuntman in Hong Kong, in case you didn’t know. Besides, the arts will instill some discipline in them, I’m sure.” There was some talk in the background, then: “Okay, gotta go. Flight leaves for Baghdad in five minutes. I’ll be home in a few weeks, Glitter. Take care of the girls and give them my love. Bye.”

Glitter held the phone for a second before putting it back in the cradle. “I’ll be home in a few weeks.” You said that last time. You haven’t been home in months and…. She took a breath and did that breathing exercise she learned once. She would not cry in front of the girls; they had enough concerns without worrying about her.

Fuckit. Deserving or not, she’d take the girls to Six Flags this weekend, because if their father wasn’t going to be around for that, someone had to show them they were loved.

Now, if I can find someone to go with me and keep an eye on the little troublemakers. Fortunately, I know just the person.

“Hey, thanks for coming with me, Softy. I know you had other plans today.”

Softspoken gave her friend a small smile. “Glitter, we’re best friends, right? Of course I’d do this. Besides, you know how much I love the girls.”

“Yeah, you do.” Despite their rocky beginnings, the two had grown close and became two peas in a pod despite having radically different tastes and attitudes. If it wasn’t for the fact that Soft lived at home to take care of her mother and Glitter lived with her brother and the kids, they would likely have an apartment together somewhere in the Beltway.

“So how’s your mother doing?” she asked while they watched the girls laughing and enjoying themselves on the kiddie plane ride.

“Not well,” Soft admitted. “Since Dad was killed in Afghanistan, she’s lost the will to live. She wanted to grow old with him, and she blames Dad for wanting to go out and fight the Taliban. She was never really healthy and now with Dad gone, she keeps telling me the only thing she has to look forward to is grandchildren before she dies.”

“Yeah, well, your dating prospects are a little dim, Softy. I keep trying to set you up with guys, but you never like any of them.”

“I know,” she said softly. There was a long pause before she added, “I’m going to sleep with your brother when he gets back.”

Glitter almost choked on the soda she was drinking. “What the fuck? Softy, if you’re going to joke about that—”

“I’m not joking.” Soft looked at Glitter. Her feathered baby-blue hair angelically framed her honey-brown skin and pink eyes. “I’ve…given it some thought….”

“Like hell you have! Softy, Sky is two decades older than you! For fuck’s sake, you met him when you were a teenager!”

“I know. But I love those girls and they need a mother. And you can’t be there forever,” she countered. “Have you told your brother about your plans next year?”

“No. There’s never been a really good time. And besides, I’ve been the closest thing the girls have had to a mother since Lo died. I…I don’t want them to think I abandoned them.”

“Which is why I should step in. Look, I know what you’re going to say: that there’s a million reasons why I shouldn’t chase Sky, and should look for someone my own age. That I’m probably too wrapped up in unrealistic dreams, and that I need someone to ground me. But do you know what?”

Glitter gave Soft the look that she’d lost her mind. “Sure, hit me.”

“I’ve kind of had a crush on your brother since I was a teen. I knew he belonged with Lotus; I wasn’t going to pull an American Beauty on them. But I’ve seen what your brother is like now. He needs a woman in his life to ground him.”

“Softy, we’re both twenty-four. The woman part is debatable.”

“I have girl parts—”

“And that statement just invalidated anything in regards to your woman argument.”

“I’m serious! You’re moving to Singapore next year, and you haven’t told your brother. And what will happen to the girls without you? Don’t you want someone there who loves them just as much as you?”

“I notice you’re talking a lot about the girls and not a lot about Sky. That’s a part of the relationship, too.”

Softy turned away. “None of your business,” she stammered, her cheeks flushing from within.

Five months. You’ve been gone from home for five months, Sky gnawed at himself as he got out of the taxi. You were only supposed to be gone for two weeks. Glitter is going to kill you. The girls probably barely remember you exist!

He sighed, slumping as he shut the door and watched the cab drive off. He knew he should’ve been home more. He knew he was missing out on the important parts of the girls’ lives. He loved them and wanted the best for them…but as a father, he was a failure. He knew that, too. Without Lotus, he was lost and he knew it. Without his beloved wife, he could barely hold it together.

Here he was: Everblue Sky, one of the Department of State’s finest economists and diplomats, and he was a complete wreck without apron strings attached. More than once people had joked about him being pussywhipped, but it wasn’t that: he just felt incomplete without Lotus. And with her gone all these years, he realized just how much he was lost without her.

Right now, though, he had a few weeks at home before he had to head back. It would be enough time to rekindle his relationship with his daughters and to hope that somewhere in heaven, Lo would forgive him. He certainly felt he needed it.


He opened the door and noticed the house was darkened. “Glitter? Girls? Anyone home?” He thought he’d heard soft jazz playing from upstairs, from his bedroom no less. He set down the bag and walked upstairs, wondering what it was.

He walked into the room…and into a fantasy. There, lying on the bed, without clothing, was Softspoken. She got up and approached him, a girl unpracticed in the ways of love attempting to be a seductress. Slipping her arms around him and leaning into him, she sighed. “You’re home.”

“Soft,” he began, feeling his body stir, something that he instantly felt shame about since this was once his wife’s bedroom as well. “Why are you—”

“Glitter took the girls down to King’s Dominion for the weekend,” the young woman told him. “So it’s just you and me.”

“Soft, this is wrong. You’re Muddy’s daughter. I’m practically an old man—”

She silenced him with a kiss, which he quickly backed off from. “This is all I’ve ever wanted,” she told him, looking into his eyes. “I want to be the girls’ stepmother. I love them. I want to be there for you. You need me, Sky. I know you love and miss Lotus – I know that. But please. Give me a chance. For the girls.”

For the girls. It was both the right thing to say, and the worst possible thing.

She kissed him.

This time he returned it.

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