The Yōsei - Chapter 3

I have a confession to make. I have always been slightly jealous of Julie. First off, she’s smart. And when I say smart, that’s a massive understatement. It’s like saying the Rocky Mountains are tall, or the Pacific Ocean is wide. Julie is wicked smart. She gets straight A’s and never cracks a book at home. I swear she has a photographic memory.

That alone would make me feel like she had a brighter future than I did, but in addition, she’s talented. She can pick up any musical instrument and play it after only a few days of practice. It’s like her mind is perfectly connected to her fingers. She plays the piano, the cello, the violin, and the flute. My parents found out that if they enrolled her in a few classes so she could pick up the basics, after a few months she could teach herself.

She spends almost all her time either reading like Mom, practicing some complicated musical score, or doing homework. She’s the perfect student.

On the other hand, she’s incredibly shy. I don’t know why. Even I can see that she’s very pretty, and plenty of people admire her, but when she’s in a crowd she clams up and stares at her shoes. That’s about the only thing I can do better than her. Joking around and making friends isn’t hard for me. Guess I have a big mouth. Probably comes from all those times when I’ve repeated things that the type two voices whisper. Like I said, they can be pretty funny.

The next morning, we were hanging out, eating store-bought bagels and talking about what to do on our last day in San Francisco. As we sat there, I couldn’t stop looking at my little sister and worrying about her. Last night had convinced me that something really weird was going on and that this death mark thing was probably real. That meant sometime in the near future, she was going to die.

She seemed full of life as she sat across from me at the small table and took a bite of her bagel, then dabbed at some cream cheese from the corner of her mouth. What was going to happen to her? How was she going to die? Would she be kidnapped? Would she choke on some food? Maybe a car accident? My mind raced. There must be a thousand ways to die in a big city. How was I supposed to protect her from all of them?

“Can you get me some more orange juice?” she asked as she glanced through some brochures that we’d picked up at the welcome center outside of town.

My dad started to get up when I interrupted him. “I’ll get it, Jules.” Jumping up, I grabbed her glass and went to the small fridge.

“Thanks, bro.” she said as I placed a full glass in front of her.

“So, where should we go today?” asked Dad.

“What about Fisherman’s Wharf?” My mom held up a colorful flyer advertising a restaurant on the water.

“Shopping!” said Julie. “I say we find a place to get some new clothes.”

“Ghirardelli Square is by the wharf. They have lots of chocolate.” Dad tried to steer Julie toward Mom’s idea.

“All the good shopping looks like it is by Union Square.” Julie took another bite and spoke with her mouth full. “There’s Macys, and Tiffany’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue.”

“Whoa, now,” Dad smiled. “Those are high-dollar stores. Is there someplace easier on the wallet?”

“What do you want to do?” Mom raised an eyebrow at me.

I realized I had been staring at Julie, so I picked up my half-eaten bagel and examined it carefully, like I was searching for the best place to take my next bite. “I’m up for anything. Whatever Jules wants to do.” I wasn’t going to let her out of my sight.

“We could split up?” Dad suggested. “You could go with Mom to Fisherman’s Wharf and I could take Julie shopping.”

“No!” I said too quickly. “I mean, it’s our last day here. We should stick together. You know, family bonding and all.”

“Are you ok?” Mom’s forehead was crinkled.

“Sure, why?”

“You never want to go shopping. You hate it.”

I glanced over at Julie again. She was engrossed in a brochure advertising the various shops near Union Square.

“I could use a new T-shirt.” I mumbled around a large bite of bagel.

“How about we go shopping in the morning and then Fisherman’s Wharf in the afternoon?” Dad suggested.

“Sounds good to me.” Julie smiled as she lowered the brochure to look up at our parents. I felt my stomach tighten. How much time did I have? Was today the day? Would some drunk taxi driver swerve and hit her, or a stray bullet from a bank heist? How in the world was I going to save her without knowing what was coming or when?

“It’s settled then.” Dad stood up and stretched. “Let’s clean up and get moving. The day is wasting away.”

Everyone chipped in to quickly restore order to the small kitchen and then we all got ready to go. As I brushed my teeth, I thought about Chan. The pink umbrella was lying on the windowsill above the couch where I slept the night before. How was I going to carry that around with me all day without looking like an idiot?

Grabbing the pink umbrella, I got up and headed for the front door.

“Lukey. What are you doing with that thing?”

I stopped at the RV door and looked back at my mom. “Huh?” I asked, all innocent.

“That umbrella. You don’t want to carry that around all day.”

Julie gave me her ‘are you nuts?’ look.

It does complete your outfit, a type two voice whispered in my head. You’ll fit right in here in San Fran.

I ignored the voice and grinned. “Why not? What if it rains?” There was no way I was leaving it behind. I wanted to try and talk to it in private, and I was sure that if I was to have any chance of saving Julie, I would need Chan’s help.

“Rain? The weather is perfect. Put that back and let’s get going.” My mom had a way of making decisions for all of us and expecting them to be obeyed. This was going to be tough.

“It might rain. You never know. I’ll check outside. See you all when you’re ready.” I quickly escaped into the warm morning air before anyone could say anything else.

Once outside, I held Chan lightly and pretended I was searching the sky for clouds.

“Hey, Chan. You there?”

Of course. You have a special family.

“Yeah, and I want to keep it that way. I need your help, but I’m going to look like a total douche carrying around a frilly pink umbrella all day. Can you change into something a little less, uh, visible?”

There is nothing wrong with my current form.

“I can’t walk around San Francisco carrying a princess umbrella.”

I don’t know. I think you look cute.

“Chan.” I frowned at the umbrella.

Fine. If you can get another umbrella for me I can transfer to it.

“What do you mean?”

Just get an umbrella and touch me to it and I can go from one to the other. Will that satisfy you, mortal-human?

“Well, it helps.”

I went back inside the RV and straight to the narrow closet where our coats and rain gear were stored. As I squeezed past my father he glanced down at Chan.

“Are you really taking that thing along with us?”

“Nah. I’ll get a real umbrella. Just in case it rains.”

“Suit yourself. Just hurry. We’re ready to go.”

The trouble was, the only one I could find was my mother’s beach umbrella. It was huge. Bulky. Big enough to shelter all four of us. Light blue, with a whole bunch of yellow ducks covering the inside.

“Don’t we have a black umbrella?”

“We don’t need an umbrella! Come on! Time to go.”

Good grief. I looked around in desperation. There were no other umbrellas in the closet. It was either Princess Pei Pei or Ducks Gone Wild.

Sighing, I grabbed the blue beach umbrella.

“Ok, how does this work?”

Touch them together.

There was a brief flash of light as I crossed the two in front of me and lightly tapped the blue beach umbrella with the pink paper one. Putting down the girly umbrella, I held the light blue duck one and quietly asked, “Chan? You in there?”

Yes. What an interesting choice. Ducks in galoshes. How lovely. His sarcasm was impossible to miss.

“Better than Barbie in Hong Kong.” I tried to swing the umbrella over my shoulder, which is when I realized how long it was. I couldn’t carry this thing around San Francisco! It was just too big.

“Luke!” My mom’s voice came from outside. “Come on! Time to go!”

I looked back at the pink umbrella lying on the bed. It was certainly more portable, but could I stand to carry it around all day?

This new home you’ve found me is certainly . . . large.

I sighed. There was nothing else to do. I was stuck with the pink one.

“Swell. Can you switch back? This one is just too big.”

Of course.

I touched the two umbrellas again, and there was another brief flash of light. Putting the large umbrella down, I grabbed my pink souvenir in despair.

“Luke! Now!”

“Coming!”I prepared myself for a humiliating day.

Chapter 4