As soon as the plane landed on the soils of Malta, I jumped to my feet and nearly keeled over. My legs were wobbling after sitting down for nineteen hours! Nineteen freakin’ hours! Although we had to change planes at least once, it only made the journey longer as we had to wait in a different country’s airport. I had been too nervous to care which country we had landed on.
The long journey had made me think a lot and it was making me recall Ryo’s story over and over again scaring the shit out of me. Chri, who at first had been dreading to take me to Malta, was now ecstatic to be back to her homeland.
We stepped out of the plane and were hit with the blazing sun. Unlike my girlfriend who wore a baby pink summer dress and a straw hat, I was clad in jeans, a black jumper and a black coat. I knew then she had been prepared for the summer in Malta without giving me any warning as their summer was different to summer in Japan.
The air was different from Japan. It was refreshing. The sky was the best of blue with no sign of any clouds. The soil was dry.
I was sweating uncontrollably in the crowded airport where people where talking, or more like yelling at each other. I tried to dodge the people who were waving their hands as they spoke but I couldn't avoid all of them and got smacked by several people.
“Shit,” I cursed under my breath as I followed Chri out the airport after we retrieved our luggage. “Maybe it was a mistake to come all the way to a foreign country.”
Chri ignored my regrets and hailed for a cab. We managed to get one without having to fight for it.
“God, take off your coat, Pi-kun!” she told me off. “I’m getting hot just looking at you.”
My mood lifted and I looked at her perversely. “Oh, just looking at me is making you hot? Should we stop at a hotel before we go to your parents?”
She laughed then smacked me as she climbed into the cab first.
I stood there frowning. “Does that mean yes or a no?”
“Just get in,” she ordered from inside.
I grinned and jumped in. It was quite a journey to the ferry that would take us to Gozo where Chri’s family lived. Chri had told me on the plane that there were three Islands. Malta was the biggest Island, and then Gozo was the second biggest while Comino was the smallest with only a hotel was present on it. When we got to the port a large white ferry was waiting for us. I was a little excited to see how clear the blue water was and how I wanted to swim in it. I made a mental note to have fun while I was here.
It took us twenty minutes to dock on the Gozo port where her father waited for us. When he saw his daughter, his face lit up slightly on his impassive expression and he quickly rushed to her for a hug.
“Christine!” he breathed out heavily. “I missed you so much, pumpkin!”
“Me too,” she said breathlessly as he was hugging her tightly. “Aww, I missed you too, papa.”
He pulled back and gave her a sceptical look. “If you missed me too, then why didn't you come back home once your education ended?”
They had been talking in Maltese but since I lived with Chri for six months, she had taught me her language although I wasn't so good at it and I refused to speak in Maltese as I couldn't use the pronunciation right. Plus every time I did speak in her language she would end up laughing and calling me cute. I didn't want to be called cute but I didn't mind being called hot.
“I fell in love with Japan,” she responded with a laugh.
“And with a boy as well,” her father mumbled incoherently but I managed to hear him.
“Papa!” she shrieked. “I thought you promised over the phone you won’t whine or I wouldn't come.”
“I lied so I can see my daughter,” he retorted. “Is that wrong?”
She sighed. She then let her father go and came back to me to hook her arm around mine. “Papa, meet Yamashita Tomohisa. Pi-kun, meet my papa.”
Because Chri was holding onto my arm tightly I wasn't able to bow down so I just bowed my head. “Nice to meet you, sir,” I spoke in English as Chri had instructed me to do.
I heard him grunt and quickly raised my head to find him picking up some of the luggage, turning on his heel and walking away. I glanced at Chri in alarm wondering if I had said or done something wrong. My English couldn't be that bad could it? I had a strong accent but I’m sure it was understandable.
“Don't worry,” she assured me with a bright smile. “My papa’s always like that.”
She let go of my arm and jogged up to him leaving me to follow slowly after them. Because Chri had wanted to get a lot of souvenirs for her family, our luggage had doubled to four. As I followed behind, I barely heard them talking as they were whispering in their language.
“Christine,” I heard her father sigh. “Were there no Maltese guys for you that you had to go and pick a Chinese guy?”
“He’s Japanese,” she quickly cut in to correct just before I could.
“It’s the same!” her father exclaimed. “Anyways, I’m sure there are plenty of guys here. Take Joseph for example,” Chri grunted at the mention of the name, “he’s still single and waiting for you.”
“Papa, don't talk about Joseph,” she hissed. “How many times shall I tell you? Joseph is a weird guy that I will never like.”
I wanted to know who this Joseph character was. Chri had never mentioned him to me before. They had stopped talking once we got to the car. I put the two suitcases at the back while her father put the other two. The journey to the house was silent and awkward. I sat on edge and whenever her father would say one or two words I would jump.
My girlfriend, who sat beside me, squeezed my hand every time and whispered ‘it’s okay’ but it wasn't okay. I came to a foreign country, I didn't know what their tradition was and I was frightened as I had nowhere to go if they decide to hate me or kick me out.
To distract myself I looked out the window. I finally took in the scenery and let out a small gasp. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. Through the drive I could see the sea everywhere. And there were a lot of beaches. The houses we drove by were all made of stone and they were beautiful.
I glanced at my girlfriend recalling her earlier statement that she had fallen in love with Japan. I think I have fallen in love with her country. The sea, the beach and the beautiful weather was what I loved the most and I couldn't wait to make her take me to the beach so I could swim.
The car came to a stop in front of a yellow stoned house that was similar to the ones I have seen on our journey. As I stepped out of the vehicle I glance behind and took notice of the scenery. Because the house was at the top of a hill, I was almost able to see the whole Island and it took my breath away.
I heard the door to the house open noisily and then footsteps. I turned around to find an elderly woman stepping out with two well built guys next to her. As soon as Chri stepped out of the car, the elderly woman and the two guys rushed to her and sandwiched her into a hug. I stared as they began talking at once in their native language while I stood back feeling left out.
“Christine, I’m so happy you came back,” the elderly woman, I distinguished as the mother as she had the same features as Chri, cried out. “How could you leave it so long to return?”
“Mama,” my girlfriend grunted. “I talk to you everyday over the phone.”
“That’s not the same,” one of the guys pointed out. He had a dishevelled brunette hair like Chri and their mother and the same eye colour, brown.
“Yeah, silly sister,” the other guy agreed. He was a raven head unlike the other guy, taking the hair colour of their father and the green coloured eyes as well. “Ever since you begged mama and papa to go study abroad, you didn't come back. Is that why they sent you? To forget us?”
Chri pouted. “I didn't forget. The first year I was there I was homesick. If I didn't make friends with Ayu, I would have probably gave up and returned and then Bam and Jessie joined a year later.”
I remember her saying that she moved to Tokyo five years ago to study in a University in Tokyo. Of course her study had ended two years ago with Ayu but she stayed behind since she loved Japan too much to leave. Bam and Jessie’s studies had finished a year ago yet they were in no hurry to leave as well. In a way I was happy that she didn't leave or I would have missed the chance to meet her.
“Ah,” Chri suddenly turned to me. “Come here,” she sweetly coaxed me to her side. I managed to smile when she wrapped an arm around my waist. “Mama, Jake, Joshua, meet my boyfriend, Yamashita Tomohisa. Pi-kun, meet my mama,” she held out her hand to point at the elderly woman. She then waved her hand to the raven haired guy. “That’s Jake and,” she pointed to the brunette, “that’s Joshua.”
Since Chri wasn't holding unto me this time, I bend down on my waist and bowed in respect. “Nice to meet you all finally.”
“Oh, God!” Joshua cried out in Maltese. “Why do Chinese guys always bow?”
“He’s not Chinese!” she sent a glare towards them. “He’s Japanese! I came from Japan. Don't you think I’d get a Japanese guy home?”
I stood up straight abruptly. Was bowing not liked in this country? I glanced at Chri who was glaring at me as well. It then dawned to me that she had held my hand before to stop me from bowing in front of her father. I made a mental note to have a word with her about actually telling me rather than expecting me to know something that I have done in my country for all my life. And why do they keep referring me as a Chinese guy? Did I look Chinese to them?
“They all look the same,” Jake muttered under his breath, also speaking in his own language.
“Let’s go in,” her father suggested as he had finished unloading the luggage. “Jake, Joshua, help me with those.”
“I’ll help too,” I offered and quickly advanced forward to grab one of the suit cases.
“No,” Chri’s father swatted my hand away. “You must be tired after the long journey. Why don't you go in with Christine and rest?”
He finally spoke in English as I had doubted if any of the family members actually spoke English when Chri had told me they do. It was the only way to talk to them since I wouldn't be talking in their language.
“Oh, okay,” I responded hesitantly. I was exhausted and resting sounded appealing at the moment as I was feeling the jetlag catching up to me.
“Come,” Chri’s glares had changed to smiles and she was pulling me inside.
Instead of taking me to a room where there was a bed and I could jump on it and fall asleep, she took me on a mini tour to my dissatisfaction. Yet I complied with her selfishness as I couldn't help but be mesmerised by her smiles like I usually do. I was addicted to her smiles and I got the feeling she knew it because most the time she got away with a lot of things just by showing her sweetest smile.
I was shown the long and huge lounge, the living room, the dining room, the kitchen was big as well, and there was a swimming pool in the back next to the game room. She then took me up the stairs that had six bedrooms but she only took me to her bedroom where she had stayed for most of her 18 years of life until she moved to Japan for the next five years.
The room was cute, filled with pink frills that she blushed as she hadn't expected to still stay there. The posters she had on one side of the walls were full of Japanese pop groups making me believe that she was into Japan before she moved there. She had a small desk on a side with her computer where she had post-its all around with little notes written on them. She even had some flyers of pizza places and other food joints at the side. Her room was like typical teenagers would live in.
“I can’t believe they left it the way I left it,” she said in disbelief as I traced my hands on her desk reading her notes on the post-its.
“Man, I bet you were really cute when you were a teenager,” I said out loud.
She beamed at me. “Wanna see my photo album?”
I matched her smile. “Hell yeah.”
“Actually, I don't want to show it to you anymore. I get the feeling you’ll only tease me.”
My face fell. “Don't be like that,” I protested. “After telling me you’ll show it, you dare say you won’t?”
She giggled. “Fine,” she gave into my whining. She went over to her walk-in wardrobe and pulled it open. She rummaged through it until she found three photo albums. Holding it out in arm-length as if it was contagious while it was just dusty, she brought it over to the bed and tapped the space next to her motioning me to come over.
If only she motioned me over for another reason, I couldn't help but think. For a girl to invite you over to the bed and it’s not for sex, she definitely was a dangerous woman for all men.
I dragged my feet to the edge of the bed slowly while I tried to calm my nerves down. I sat down next to her as she dusted off the layer of dust and then opened it up to the first page. The two of us sat there for maybe more than an hour going through one picture at a time. She explained each picture since most of them were hilarious as she made funny faces or she was caught on the camera unexpectedly.
By the time she finished, we were both so tired that we fell asleep instantly in each other’s arms.