The Wavering Storm

Hotel Roku-Jyuu-Kyu: Chapter 11 [Final]

Light rain tickled the sides of the building. Kyouka snored peacefully, propped up with her arms folded by Tatsu’s side. Karen had succeeded at playfully pushing Touji to the ground, where she had placed herself strategically to cuddle up to his chest. Even Sachiko had moved down from her throne-like floor cushion and found a comfortable spot free of other’s legs under the kotatsu table.

In a bright flash of light, the fixture on the ceiling lit up, bathing the room in a bright glow. Karen quickly shoved her face into Touji’s uniform shirt. Tatsu took his free hand and placed it atop his eyes. “Lets not get our hopes up this time.”

Deeper inside the building, the condensers for the air conditioning started to hum, conjoining with the the sound of a sole washing machine beginning to start from the beginning of its cycle.

“Ugh.” Sachiko groaned, still not having moved in inch from her sleeping position. “I forgot one of the machines hadn’t finished its cycle. That whole batch of laundry probably now smells like mildew.”

Karen stirred and rubbed her face sleepily, before beginning to giggle. “Sorry, I shouldn’t be laughing. It’s just that, there never seems to be a break from any of this.”

“You know, I was supposed to have a coworker come in yesterday to help me. She called out sick.” Sachiko explained. “I think I’m just going to leave all of today’s work to her. I have another job to get to anyways.”

Ibaraki stood up and stretched with loud groaning sounds and popping joints. “Well, looks like it isn’t a fluke after all. What time do ya’ got?”

“7:48.” Sachiko said after a quick glance at her watch.

“Well well, almost time for work.” Ibaraki grunted. “Maybe with any luck, they sent everyone home yesterday afternoon and they never even realized I had skipped out on them. As long as I can get in there and look at least a little bit fresh, nobody will be the wiser.”

“Its almost as if you had this planned out, big guy.” Tatsu snorted.

“Nah, I still don’t have time to grab breakfast.” He sighed. Adjusting his clothes and the loose tie around his neck, he pushed by the kotatsu. “Excuse me.”

Karen pushed herself closer against Touji to allow the large man’s feet to pass behind her back. Her boyfriend curled up more and sleepily grasp his hands around her back.

“Miss housekeeper…” Ibaraki spoke up just before exiting the door. “At least give those kids a room for an hour and let it get it out of their system.”

With a few loud steps down the stairs, the hefty man descended out of view. Karen quickly pushed herself away from Touji sheepishly and rolled over. Touji sleepily sat up and rubbed his eyes. Sachiko eyed them for a moment before looking back down at her lap.

“We should, uh…” Karen fidgeted with her hair and readjusted her crumpled clothing. “We should be going.”  The girl shakily got to her feet and grabbed at Touji’s hand.

“Hah, are you sure?” Tatsu goaded.

Karen patted herself down to check for her personal belongings. “Yes.” She answered shortly. “I need to call my dad anyways.”

“Be safe you two.” Kyouka called out as Karen pulled the still sluggish Touji along after her.

Outside, the strong wind pulled at Karen’s messy, matted hair as she fumbled with her phone to turn it on.

“You think he’ll be mad?” Touji spoke up finally as he marched a few steps ahead.

“Shh-” Karen shushed as the call tone rang in her ear. A few seconds later, an indistinct voice rattled through the speaker.

“Daddy? Yeah, it’s me. Yes, I’m just fine. Yes. No, I just got out late yesterday, it was already raining hard. I stayed the night with one of my friends in the dorms on campus. I know. I’m sorry, the power went out and my phone died. Yes. I know. I will. Yeah, I’ll probably be home early. I will. Love you. Yes. Goodbye. Bye.”

With a huff, she pulled the device away from her ear and smashed the ‘end call’ button without hesitations.

“So…” Touji hummed. “You’re gonna hold off on telling him about us?”

“Definitely yes- definitely at another time.” Karen declared. “What about you? What are you going to tell your parents?”

“They probably won’t even ask.”

“But what if they do?”

“They won’t.”

“Yeah, but…”

“Then I’ll tell them the truth, and hope they take this crazy story as just a tall tale.”

Karen let out a long sigh and picked up her pace to match with Touji’s. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand your parents.”

“You’ll have to meet them.” Touji asserted confidently.

Karen felt her cheeks flush and she cautiously stretched out her arm to grab onto Touji’s. “Don’t say things like that.” She admonished. With a quick tug, she stopped Touji in his tracks and pulled him to turn face-to-face with her. Their eyes met for a brief moment before she closed hers and went in for a deep kiss.

The seconds stretched on indefinitely, when Touji pulled away finally, short on breath. “Uhh…” He huffed. “Wow.”

Karen grabbed onto him again for a quick hug before pulling away to jog up the hill. “I’m heading to class, call me when your phone is working again!” She shouted before disappearing over the hump.

Tatsu rubbed the dried bits out of the corner of his eyes and finally sat up with a stretch. Kyouka fiddled with her long hair flung over her shoulder, picking at the loose ends and uncombed strands.

“I think we should starting heading back.” Tatsu finally decided on the words to break the silence. “We shouldn’t interfere if you need to get to work, Ms. Housekeeper.”

Kyouka let out a brief sigh after hearing the end of her boyfriend’s words. “Shouldn’t you offer up a word or two for her?” She asked expectantly.

Tatsu’s eyes intently studied the floor for a few long seconds as he chewed on his tongue. Sachiko looked up at him as he shifted towards her, his knees close together out in front of him.

Sachiko flinched slightly as the tall man bowed down to the ground, his head practically touching the mat.  “I must offer up my apology for any disturbance we caused last night. Please accept my deepest apology.”

Sachiko listened intently to the words, trying not to smile. Tatsu sat up slowly and waited for a response, his eyes studying hers.

“I can’t… fully blame you, given the stressful situation we all were in.” She smirked slightly.

The tall man let out a sigh of relief. Kyouka massaged his shoulders from behind. “If there is anything me or my family could do for this business, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

Sachiko pulled her dainty legs out from underneath her and quickly stood up off the cushion. She looked down at Tatsu as she spoke. “Well, I’ll discuss with my boss if you want to provide us with a… simple generator should another event like this happen.”

Tatsu quickly stood and took her hand from her side to shake. “Okay then,” Kyouka attempted to end the conversation. “I think that will suffice. I assume the owner here will know how to contact us, right?”

“I don’t doubt it.” Sachiko nodded. Tatsu gave her one last look as he pursued Kyouka out the door and down the stairs.

“Ugh.” Kyouka complained as her feet touched the puddle of water down at the bottom floor of the stairway beside the door. Her flat, fabric shoes slowly began to wick water up towards her ankles. “Well, I guess I should have expected something like this.”

“We can get you a new pair.” Tatsu offered. He gestured from the doorway to head outside, where the sunlight had begun piercing the cloud cover.

Kyouka felt the wind pick at her hair as she stepped outside. The morning sunlight gleamed off the slick street. The clouds above swirled as if they were being tormented by the sun above.

“Well, I’m surprised we made it through the night without anyone being killed.” Kyouka joked, and began making her way up the gentle slope ahead of them. “Either from you, or that big, drunk, Ibaraki fellow.”

“You know, he wasn’t that type of guy.” Tatsu rolled his eyes. “Drunk, maybe, but not some punk like me.” He smiled.

“My uncle was a salary-man like him. I guess that’s what they do.”

“Drink and act like pigs?”

Kyouka conjured up words in her mind to rebut the statement, but she quickly stopped herself. “You know what, yeah. I mean, not permanently. But that’s their escape. Just drinking to make up for the fact that many of them just waste away the other non-sleeping hours of their day at a desk in a cubicle in one of these buildings.”

Tatsu peered up at the tall, glass coated structures on either side of the street. Only a hand full had lights on in the windows. “I pray that I never have to work a job like that.”

“You barely work a real job to begin with.” Kyouka complained, hiding a grin.

“It’s a family business.” Tatsu grimaced. “I’ll have more work when my father retires. The only thing I wonder is whether or not you are going to be there for me when I am forced to take on his duties.”

“Will I?” Kyouya questioned, turning her head back to Tatsu, who walked along just behind her, his eyes focus above at the sky. “Is that some sort of… proposal?”

“Hell no.” Tatsu growled to deflect his embarrassment. “I just… after yesterday, and the day before, I realized that I can depend on you.”

“And you think your parents will accept me?” She interrogated him, attempting to catch his gaze.

“Are you kidding? They adore you. As long as you don’t hit me with any more beer bottles, then we’ll be just fine.” He grinned wide and finally looked up at her.

Sachiko wandered down the steps of the hotel. Her keys jingled at her waist as she fumbled with the nearly empty box in her hands. She could smell the faint odor of one of the edible undergarments left in a partially open wrapper. The door reading ‘employees only’ came into her view, and she bent down to plop the container on the ground to grab her keys.

The door swung open, unlocked, and she kicked at the box to get it inside. The concrete floor of the room was slightly damp, but otherwise seemed untouched. The tiny table and lockers beside the back door still held onto her purse and cell phone. She grabbed at the device to find it drained of power, before shoving it into her bag with a sigh.

On the opposite side of the room, the old computer systems flashed with orange lights begging to be rebooted after their power loss. Sachiko pursed her lips and ignored them. Hands now free, she quickly moved out of the room to ascend back to to the first floor.

Inside the break room, the blankets were still strewn around, remaining as a reminder that they would have to be washed. The one used by the young kids smelled lightly of cheap perfume. The one by the far wall was slightly heavier with an odor of booze. The final covering shoved into the corner still hung onto a few smudges of lipstick and orange spray tan.

After shoving the blankets into a ball in her arms, Sachiko descended again and plopped them into one of the big rolling hampers not too far from the washing machine. She found herself breathing heavily, and she wandered out to the entrance way to catch her breath.

The housekeeper planted her feet into the shallow puddle that the tiled entrance had become. With an exasperated laugh, she plopped down onto the first steps and stopped while her breath returned to her. “I guess I can do this one last thing before getting out of here.”

With her energy returned, Sachiko marched back to the utility room to grab a mop and roll out the loud, plastic yellow mop bucket. She slowly scrubbed the dingy mop head back and forth over the tile, slowly picking up a portion of the water before squeezing it out over the bucket. Slowly, the few centimeters of water turned into little more than a gleam on the ground. Sachiko inspected her work for a few moments with the mop held triumphantly in her hands and a layer of sweat on her forehead. Outside the glass door, the sun began shining bright, sending a ray of light to scatter over the shiny floor.

Just before she could roll the mop bucket back through the door, the door swung open with a squeak. A young man in business casual entered first and made eye contact with Sachiko. A girl about the same age in similar office apparel appeared behind him as he opened his mouth, ready to ask a question.

“Uh, yeah, hi… you work here?” His words tripped out of his mouth.

“Mhm.” Sachiko nodded with pursed lips.

“You guys are… open, then?”

“No, get the hell out.” Sachiko snapped. With a push, the wheels of the mop bucket grated against the floor and rattled their way back into the back room.

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