Except on special days or holidays, Monday are the most calm days of the week. It’s the day when maintenance and deep cleaning of the inn and onsen is done, planning of the week and so on.
“Are you free this morning?” asks Mari to Victor, who finished his breakfast and was just lazing around at the inn living room.
“Yes, Yuuri will be at Minako’s until noon”
“Come with me to the market then. I need to run some errands and I’m going to need some strong arms to carry the shopping back”
On their way and back, Mari talks about her and Yuuri’s younger years and Victor carries the bags for her. Not like they are very heavy, since most of the purchases will be directly delivered to the inn.
“The load wasn’t very heavy” says Victor when they reach the inn again, giving the bags to Mari.
“It’s such a good day to spend it at home waiting for my little brother, isn’t it?” she grins “And I bet you are going to put to good use the info about how Yuuri did all my chores for a month in exchange of enough money to buy some limited edition posters of you”
“For sure” Victor grins back.
Maybe it’s a sixth sense, but Victor feels the gaze on him before he even sees them. Axel, Loop and Lutz are at the barrier of the ice rink observing Yuuri’s and Victor training. They already have their skates on and slide on the ice towards Victor.
“Teach us something!!” “Let’s do a couples routine!” “How can we spin?” the girls are talking at the same time really, asking Victor for tips and techniques.
“Ok girls! Stand there” Victor points in front of him “So first, things first! What can you do already!”
The girls squeak. Victor spends his afternoon half controlling Yuuri’s training and half teaching the girls how to spin and skate backwards. The rink is quite noisy but luckyly they are the only people there.
“Ah mama!” Loop realizes that Yuuko is watching the practice “Vicchan taught me how to spin look! Look!”
“I can skate backwards!” laughs Axel.
“Look! I can spin too!!” says Lutz.
“How nice!” Yuuko beams at them “Thank you Victor!”
After Yuuko closes the rink, Yuuri and Victor go back to the inn. Yuuri grabs Victor’s hand and they walk the way back in silence.
”You are quiet tonight”
“I was thinking. I liked teaching the girls new movements, and they looked like they were having fun”.
“Of course they were, you were great at teaching them”.
“Vicchan, I’m preparing katsudon tonight; do you want some?”
“Of course! Hiroko mama’s katsudon is the best!”
Yuuri’s mother smiles at him and walks back into the kitchen. But suddenly Victor gets an idea.
“Hiroko mama! Could you… teach me? How to prepare katsudon?”
“Fufufu~” Hiroko laughs while passing an apron to Victor “You want to surprise this son of mine, don’t you?”
During the next hour Hiroko patiently explains how to prepare the dish, correcting Victor and giving tips and tricks on cooking.
“Ok! Let’s taste it!” they both pick chopsticks to taste Victor’s dish.
“It’s good Vicchan!”
“Hiroko mama’s is better!”
“Hmm it comes with age and experience. If you want we can prepare it together next time too.” she smiles at Victor.
Before he realizes, Victor is hugging her. “Thank you” his voice is soft. Hiroko just hugs him back.
“Oh, Victor, how good you are here” Toshiya calls at Victor who is already into the onsen. “Hold this”. He gives Victor a small wooden tray with a bottle and two sake cups.
After coming into the onsen, he picks the tray from Victor’s hand and places in on the water, picks one cup and gives it to Victor.
“Here, drink with me” he holds the bottle “It’s the good sake”. He pours some to Victor.
“This is really good” Victor coments after tasting it.
“Ohoho, you know what you are talking about.” Toshiya relaxes with the cup in hand and they spend the time drinkin in comfortable silence.
Friday + Weekend
The weekends are the busiest days of the week at the onsen. Yuuri’s family usually manage by themselves, but sometimes even Victor found himself bringing trays to the dinner room for the guests.
Sometimes, when the inn is not full, Victor and Yuuri will go out at night, usually ending at Minako’s bar. Minako and Victor drunk in tandem are a menace, and the last time they drank at her bar, Victor and her ended up in an impromptu karaoke contest.
Since Victor moved to Yuuri’s bed, they have an extra guestroom of sorts that is sometimes occupied, off season, by Yuri who seems to find excuses to visit more often than expected.
Victor didn’t expect this kind of life, and he didn’t think he would find it fulfilling. But here he is.
we are going to play a game, says mama, kneeling down to that she and sarada are eye level.
mama looks sad, and sarada doesn’t know why. she looks around the room they are standing in. it is her room, but it is not her room at the same time. she feels good, too, doesn’t feel hot and feverish the way she did a little while ago. she had to lie in bed, mama laying a cool washcloth across her head.
where are we, mama?
we are inside your head, sa-chan. we are going to play a game.
sarada likes games, and she is excited; mama always comes up with the best games.
what kind of game?
a tidying-up game.
because we need to organize your mind, so we need to put a few things away.
sarada doesn’t like that. when she puts things away she can never find them again.
she says so to mama.
i will help you find them again, says mama. promise.
pinky-promise, says mama, solemnly linking their little fingers.
but how do i put things away? asks sarada, looking around the weird not-room of hers.
i’ll tell you. do you trust me?
of course, mama.
mama looks really sad, and her eyes watery, like she is about to cry.
i want you to think of papa for me.
sarada perks up. papa? is papa gonna play with us too?
he will when he comes back, says mama. but until he does, we need to tidy up your memories of him.
so that we can keep them safe, so they are nice and clear when he comes back home. is that ok?
thank you, sa-chan. just think of papa, now…
sarada does. she thinks of smoke and wood and the soft furry blanket he would wrap around her to carry her home, dried flowers from the bouquets he would bring home to mama, the callouses on his hand, the tickle of his hair against her cheek when he kisses her, and mama’s giggles.
good, sa-chan. now make these memories very small, like marbles.
sarada scrunches her eyes closed, concentrating on folding up the memories, making them as small as possible.
when she opens her eyes again, her hands are full of black pearls, their weight comforting in her cupped hands.
very good sa-chan. now mama is holding a pretty pink box, with painted white cherry blossoms scattered across the lid.
put them in here.
sarada obeys, carefully spilling the pearls onto the black velvet lining. mama closes the box, locks it with a key. she stands and puts the box on sarada’s bedside table.
be very careful with this box, sa-chan, says mama. don’t open it unless you absolutely have to.
or until papa comes home?
or until papa comes home. agrees mama. suddenly the key is on a necklace, a gold chain long enough that mama can loop it over sarada’s neck without undoing the clasp. keep this for when you want to take them out again.
sarada fiddles with the key, also pink and white with blossoms. aren’t you afraid i will open it anyways, before papa comes home?
mama shakes her head.
i’m not, sa-chan.
mama…are you crying?
no, sa-chan. come on, it’s time to wake up.
“mama, where is my papa?”
author’s note: I keep wondering if there is more to Sarada’s inability to remember Sasuke beyond just the fact that she was just very young when he left. Honestly, that is probably all it is. But still speculating…