One Laundry Day
“See, Mama! I can help!” the small white-haired little girl said, lifting up a small blue kosode out of the basket of wet laundry.
“I see, Yukika,” said Kagome, taking the offered garment from the four year old’s hand. “You’re Mama’s good helper.” She threaded a rod expertly through the sleeves and hung it up on the support polls to join the other garments hanging there.
“Stop that, you brat!” laughed a voice behind her.
Kagome turned around and watched Noriko, one of Miroku’s twins, now a budding young woman of fourteen, living with them as a helper and to learn things she couldn’t at home, and Atae, small for his eleven years, and grinning with his father’s smirk, playing as they were supposed to be watering the garden with what was left of the laundry water. Atae splashed water on Noriko again, and she retaliated, dipping her hand into the bucket and throwing it at the silver-haired boy. He laughed again, as drops of water wetted his blue and tan kosode.
For some reason, it reminded Kagome of a day years ago where she and InuYasha had played in the garden, tossing mud at each other, and she sighed.
“What’s wrong, Mama?” Yukika asked. Her right ear twitched.
“Oh, I was just thinking about Daddy,” Kagome said, taking another garment out of the laundry basket. “I hope he gets home soon. He and Uncle Miroku have been gone too long.”
The little girl wrapped her arms around her mother. “Mama doesn’t like it when Daddy’s gone. Me neither.”
Kagome ruffed her daughter’s hair, then hung the kosode up.
Suddenly, Noriko yelled, “Hey!”
Turning around to see what was happening, she turned to see her son run around towards the front of the house and to the path beyond, when she felt the touch of a familiar youki brush across her senses.
“Daddy!” Yukika said. Kagome grabbed her and picked her up before she could run off. “I smell Daddy!” she said, excitedly. “Let’s go, Mama!”
Kagome, her face unreadable, seated her daughter on her hip and moved towards the front of the house, walking slowly. Noriko followed in her wake.
“Does this mean my father is home?” the young woman asked.
“I suspect so,” Kagome replied.
“Thank goodness!” Noriko replied. “I know Mama was getting so worried. The villagers keep talking about soldiers moving around the countryside. Two days ago, a traveler came by talking about a huge battle he’d seen last week. Between the armies and the bandits and the bad youkai, Mama was beginning to believe something awful had happened.”
“Your father and InuYasha are very resourceful,” Kagome said, but her voice betrayed her as well. “I remember . . . ”
They rounded the way to the front and she spotted him and saw how the light glinted off his silver hair as he gave Atae a pat on the head and handed him something. Yukika struggled in her arms and Kagome let her down. The little girl ran up to her father.
“There’s my little girl,” he said, lifting her up and swinging her around. “You’ve been a good girl for your mama?”
“Yeah,” Yukika said, laughing. “I helped!”
“I bet you did,” he said, letting her down. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a temari ball, wrapped in shades of green and blue and red. “This is for you.”
The girl turned it around in her hand and looked at it appreciatively. “Thank you, Daddy.”
“Go show your brother,” he said, and patted her on the back, as he looked up and met Kagome’s eyes.
Kagome took a deep breath as she looked at the man standing in front of her. He looked weary and dusty and tired. Mud stained his feet and spotted his clothes, but his eyes glowed, passing something electric and hot that crashed through all the mixed feelings she had, the uncertainty and worry she had been holding deep inside while he was away.
“Noriko, take the day off and go home,” he said to the younger woman. “Your father’s home, and I know he wants to see you.”
Noriko looked at him, and at Kagome, who nodded. “I’ll go get my sewing basket,” she said, and went into the house, dragging the two children with her.
Suddenly, InuYasha and Kagome were alone. She moved a few steps closer. He closed the gap between them. Not looking at his eyes, she rested her hands on his chest.
“I’ve been so worried,” she said. “I expected you back almost two weeks ago.”
He gently lifted her chin and ran his fingers into her hair. “Don’t blame me, Koibito. That damn Miroku got sick with a fever. Took us this long to get him well enough to travel again.”
“I was scared,” she said. “I kept hearing stories about armies and battles and bandits.” Her hand went up and brushed his cheek.
“Yeah, we saw some soldiers on the march,” he admitted. “But I haven’t been around this long to let an army catch me if I didn’t want it to.” He leaned forward and brushed her lips with his, a chaste kiss, but promising more later. “There’s no way I’d let something like that keep me away from you.”
InuYasha bent down to pick up the bundle he had arrived with. “Got anything to feed a hungry, tired husband?”
Kagome, her eyes misty, laughed and took his free hand. It was a pleasant sound, one that InuYasha had missed. “I imagine I can find something,” she said, and led him into the house.
Later that night, surrounded by her children and the warm arms of the husband she loved and had missed, she awoke in a panic as thunder crashed and the heavy sound of rain pounded the roof of their house.
“My laundry!” she whispered. “I forgot all about it!”
InuYasha’s arms tightened around her, and she let herself be pulled deeper into his embrace. Some things, she decided, were worth it, and feeling all was finally right with her world again, let herself fall back asleep.