I love the airport in Fort Lauderdale and their hospitality towards those with late flights.  I flew to Texas early Sunday morning and came back to Florida late Monday night, or really early Tuesday morning.  My flight landed at 12:30 am.  I got off the plane and went to the restroom and before I even rolled down my pants, the overhead com came on: Hello passengers from Flight 51.  Your baggage has been unloaded.  Hurry to baggage claim or we’ll close and your suitcases will spend the night with us and you can come get them in the morning.  Translation: Get your stuff and get out!

So, I rush to baggage claim, joining a crowd of people from my late flight, only to stare at empty baggage carousels.  Our luggage hadn’t even been put out yet.  Airport personnel just wanted to corral us all in one place, so they could start locking down.  The bags come out and once the last bag is out, they cut the power to the carousels, so we had to walk around looking for our bags instead of having them revolve around us.

Message: You don’t have to go home, but you got to get the hell up out of here!

So, anyway… back to flying to the Lone Star State.  I took a 7:00 am flight that should have gotten me to Dallas Love Field by 10:40 am.  I got there about noon, rented a huge van and drove back to my old apartment.  Once inside, I discovered that I had left behind more stuff than I thought, and it might not all fit in the van.  I repacked and, with a friend, crammed as many boxes as I could into the van.  I woke up the next morning to make two trips to Greyhound to drop off my boxes.

Let me tell you something awesome.  I used this company called busfreighter.com.  You tell them how many boxes you have and approximately how much everything weighs together and they tell you how much it will cost.  I estimated that I had 65 boxes and that each box weighed about 40 pounds: total of 2600 pounds.  That cost about 1600 bucks.  Busfreighter.com sends you shipping labels via e-mail the next day, you tape them to your boxes, and then you drop them off at Greyhound.  Well… I got to Greyhound, they weighed my stuff piece by piece, and the total weight was… 956 pounds.  Busfreighter.com has a policy: if you underestimate the weight of your shipment, they will charge you for the extra poundage.  If you overestimate the weight and pay too much, no refund.  Noooooo!  So, I called them and explained and they generously said: Well, since you were more than 200 pounds off (hell yeah, I was), we will see what we can do about a refund.

Sigh, even if they don’t (and I pray that they do) I still will have paid less to move than I would have had I stuck with those good for nothing movers.

Ah well, now I’m back in Florida, awaiting my multitude of boxes to arrive.  Joy.  More unpacking.

😀

Yes!  I have cable, phone and… INTERNET!  I will never take having internet in my home for granted again.  I don’t know how other people do it.  I felt so disconnected.  Getting online at work is just not the same :(. 

My apartment feels a little home-like now.  Maybe I’ll be more comfortable once the rest of my stuff gets here, I build the furniture I bought for the office, get something for the living room, and maintenance comes to wash the smell of urine from my carpets.  I was so embarrassed when the technician from Comcast had to sit in the living room with that pee-pee smell trying to get my internet to work correctly.  I had to tell him that the previous tenant must have had an animal that peed everywhere and didn’t report it to the apartment, so he wouldn’t think that I was nasty and I had peed on the rug.  And I was glad I did, because once I did, his expression changed.  Oh, man… lol.

So… just wanted to give that update.  Today is my day off from work, but I have lots of errands, and maybe even handiwork to do.  By the end of the month, I’m hoping I will settled in and less homesick.  I never thought I’d say this when I finally got out of the Lonestar State, but… I miss Texas with its cleanliness regulations, normal streetlight configuratons, HEB’s, and Krogers….  I miss real suburbs where police officers don’t get into shoot-outs with their neighbors and gated communities meant rich people didn’t want you on their grass.  Here, it means the neighborhood is bad and manned gate is to keep the thugs from getting in… or getting out, without being seen. 

Oh well, I’m sure in a month, I’ll be singing about loving the Sunshine State… though there sure hasn’t been much sunshine since I’ve been here.  Oh, and the horror stories.  Florida has CREATURES.  Hurricane Andrew blew down a serpent zoo and released boa constrictors that eat alligators in the swamps.  There are iguanas the size of dogs that live in trees.  Hares, not rabbits, that attack, and raccooons that play in your swimming pools.  There are lizards that look like little alligators with curly tails and child-sized opossums.  Oh, and we can’t forget if you go out in the Sticks, they’ve got people who keep lions and tigers and ostriches as pets and let them roam the land, checked only by fences that they can easily leap. 

We’ll talk about yellow water next time :).

**Author’s Note: And you’ve found the next chapter!  Yes, so I posted the prologue and Chapter 1 at the same time, but they are both so short I wanted to give you a bigger bite.  I hope you all like where I’m going with this, please let me know!

Disclaimer: I do not own Fruits Basket or any of its characters.

Chapter 1

“I’m walkin’ a wire, feels like a thousand ways I could fall”—Three Doors Down.

Kyo was amazed to not be in the red-headed minority.  He marveled at all of the redheads he passed as he and Yuki trudged to baggage claim.  No one cast more than a glance at his red hair, though a few women did cast lingering looks on his face that trailed to his hips.  He flushed and ducked his head.

“I think those girls are checking you out,” Yuki said, his tone amused.

“They’re probably checking you out,” Kyo grumbled.  He glanced up at sign with a glowing picture of a suitcase and an arrow pointing toward the escalator.  “We need to go that way.”

“No, they’re not looking at me at all,” Yuki said.  “They’re looking at your butt now.  Did you choose those jeans on purpose?”

“What’s the matter with my jeans?” Kyo snapped.  He brushed at the dried grass stains on his knees.

Yuki snickered.  “Maybe they’re a little form-fitting.”
“Tohru loved these jeans,” Kyo said.

“There’s probably a reason why she loved those jeans,” Yuki said and Kyo shot a look back at his grinning cousin.  He looked like a rat that got the cheese.  “Maybe you should wave at them.”

Kyo stumbled.  Yuki caught his elbow.  “Are you okay?” Yuki asked.

Wave at them?  Why would he do that?  “Why would you say that?” Kyo was too stunned to be angry.  He glanced at the women sitting in leather waiting chairs by Gate C.  They sipped soda through straws and wiggled their fingers at Kyo.  He walked faster, head down, and reached the escalator in three large steps.

“Kyo!  I was just joking.  I’m sorry!”  He heard pounding footsteps and the clunk of shoes stepping onto the moving metal stairway behind him.

Kyo didn’t look back at Yuki, staring straight forward as the circular merry-go-rounds of baggage claim came into view.  He stepped onto the tiled floor and followed the signs above each baggage station to the one marked with his flight and gate number.  Suitcases revolved slowly, more coming through a small black curtain every few minutes.  Kyo kept his eyes on the curtain, waiting for his bag.  He turned Tohru’s cell phone back on; then slipped it into his side pocket.  He carried her phone now instead of his own, so that he could hear her voice on the voicemail message.  No calls missed.  He would have to call his grandmother to let her know that his flight had landed.  The plane was on time, and she knew his travel itinerary, so hopefully she was already there or almost there.

“Kyo!”

Kyo shut his eyes as he felt Yuki close in on him.  “I won’t do that again, all right?”

Kyo shrugged.  “It’s fine.”  It wasn’t.  His stomach twisted as he thought about the women watching him.  Women watched him a lot, and he ignored them.  Tohru always squeezed his hand and giggled in his ear that she was so lucky to be with the guy all the girls wanted.  She was exaggerating, but it had made him feel good, like Tohru was proud to be with him.  He could look at other women and assess them, some were pretty, some were beautiful, but he didn’t need anything from them.  His tiny little Rice Ball was it.

But now that she was gone, and his bed was cold, and there was a big hole in his chest where feeling should have been, when he looked at other women sometimes he felt something stir inside.  It was wrong, that stirring was only for Tohru.  His body was betraying her.  She hadn’t even been gone for six months.

I’m sorry Tohru.  I’m a terrible person.

            Yuki was in motion beside him and Kyo started, seeing his slender cousin pulling two large rolling suitcases off the revolving baggage tracks.  Kyo reached out to take his suitcase from Yuki, staring at the tags: Narita to Houston.   The bag was a light blue with one of Tohru’s pastel yellow and blue scarves knotted around the handle.  Tohru’s neat kanji in black marker over the fabric of the bag’s pocket read: Property of Kyo Sohma.

Yuki’s hand rested on his back, but he didn’t speak and Kyo was glad.  Yuki was good like that.  It was like he could read Kyo’s mind and he just knew when to be quiet.  Kyo stilled the shaking in his hands and took a deep breath.  He did a lot of that, deep breathing, to calm his nerves.  Yuki always knew to give him a few minutes when he did that.

Tohru’s phone vibrated and Kyo fished it back out of his pocket.  A spike of fear lanced through him as he recognized his grandmother’s number on the caller ID.  He’d spoken to her a lot on the phone, but talking on the phone and meeting in person was so different.

Kyo pushed the phone toward Yuki and dragged his suitcase to a bench.  He sat down hard, letting the rolling case fall between his legs.  He put his face in his hands.  Deep breaths.  Breathe.  Because he didn’t always remember to.

This wasn’t a good idea.

This was a mistake

He couldn’t do this.

I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.

            “Kyo?  Mrs. Washington says she’s parking her car in the garage, Section F, Green.  She’s here with her husband and your aunts and uncle.  I told her we’d be down in a little while.”  Yuki sat on the bench next to him.  “She sounds like she can’t wait, but she will if you need it.”

The contents of his stomach rose into Kyo’s throat and he tasted the lemon soda he’d had on the plane.  “Yuki, let’s go back home.”

“No,” Yuki said flatly.  “You said that in the car to the airport, in Narita, on the plane, and each time, I said, ‘No.’ We talked about this; you decided it’s time, so it’s time.  Kyo Sohma is not a coward.”

Kyo met Yuki’s dark purple eyes.  Breathe.  Breathe.  “You don’t know what Kyo Sohma is.” Breathe.  Breathe.

“Yes, I do.  He’s the guy who stood by his wife when she was sick, held her in his arms while she was dying, planned her wake and funeral, and continues to make her proud even when she’s not around.”

Kyo rubbed his dry eyes.  He did do that.

“He’s the guy brave enough to be teaching me how to cook.”  Yuki nudged Kyo with his elbow.  “He’s incredible, because I don’t know anyone else who could do what he’s doing right now.”

Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.

“I’m so scared.”

“I know,” Yuki said, “but you know what else, Mrs. Washington might be scared, too.  You’re not the only one meeting someone new today.”

“What if I’m not what she expects?” Kyo asked.

“What if she’s not what you expect?” Yuki shot back.

“I don’t know what I expect,” Kyo said softly.

“Maybe she doesn’t know either,” Yuki said.  “But you’ll never know if we don’t go outside.  Hey, we’re in America.  If we don’t like her, we’ll just have our own vacation.  Remember?  We talked about this. Do you…”  Yuki glanced at his hands for a second; then continued, “Do you want to take a pill?”

Kyo cringed.  Sedatives.  Six months had passed, and sometimes, he still needed a pill to sleep or calm down.  His insides writhed; he was probably going to throw up later, but no, he did not want a pill.  He shook his head.

“Okay,” Yuki said.  “Do you want to go to the bathroom?”

Are you going to spew?  Yuki didn’t have to ask it aloud.

“Maybe,” Kyo said.  They sat, Kyo trying to relax and Yuki practicing his pronunciation of the name “Washington.”  Kyo’s Grandmother Miki had married an American after splitting from Kyo’s grandfather.  The aunts and uncle he’d be meeting were his mother’s half siblings: Aunt Megumi, Aunt Noriko, and Uncle Eiji, who went by the nicknames: Meg, Nori and EJ.

“How does this sound Kyo, ‘Washington’,” Yuki said, exaggerating the syllables.

“You sound like a foreigner who can’t speak English,” Kyo said, letting a small grin creep onto his lips.  “Washington,” he said cleanly and Yuki glared at him; then rolled his eyes.

“You ready?”

Kyo sighed and ran his fingers over Tohru’s scarf.  You with me, Rice Ball?

His heart shuddered at the silence.

Breathe.

“Yeah, I guess I have to be.”

Yuki rose first, helping Kyo to his feet.  Kyo grabbed the handle of the suitcase and followed Yuki’s lead as he read the signs that would take them to the parking garage.  The silk of the scarf was soft and warm under Kyo’s fingers, like rubbing his palm over a smooth cheek.

They exited the air-conditioned airport and stepped onto a musty elevator that dropped them down toward the parking garage.  The numbers above the doors blinked as the car dipped from the 2nd floor, to the 1st, to ground level.  It chimed when it stopped, and the doors opened.

The night was hot and humid; the air tainted with the smell of car exhaust.  Kyo heard voices of people moving through the lot and the scraping of suitcases being dragged across pavement.  He moved like a robot, swinging his legs forward as Yuki walked, looking for the color green and the English letter “F”.

“Kyo?” A woman’s voice called.  He knew that voice.  His head jerked to one side, and he released the handle of his suitcase.  The bag hit the ground with a muffled thump.  Yuki turned to look at Kyo, then at the approaching woman.  Several more people were behind her, but Kyo only had eyes for her.

She sounded like… she looked like… but it couldn’t be….

“Mom?”

-Three Doors Down.  “Ticket to Heaven.”  Away From the Sun.  Universal Records, 2002.

**Author’s Note: So what’s the verdict?  Like it?  Hate it?  Don’t care either way about it?  Any way you liked it let me know.  Please leave a comment!