Thursday, September 1, 2016

4_A New House, A New Life

      After spending the night in sleeping bags on the floor, the Taylors and Mr. Elston were glad to find some bread, milk, and cans of soup on the counter in the kitchen. Their missionary neighbors must have supplied them. Missionary life was a constant round of brotherly kindness.
      Soon after breakfast, some students from the Karuizawa Language School arrived to help carry the furniture through the basement and up into the house. The men looked hardy and happy. 
      A teenage girl with light brown hair came into the kitchen and shook hands with Ruthanna’s mama. “Hi, I’m Nicole Bailey,”  she said. “My mom and dad go to the language school, and we live over in the missionary center. We call it ‘Cabin Quarters.’ ”
      “Cabin Quarters! That’s a funny name. I’d like to see it,” said Mrs. Taylor. “Nice to meet you, Nicole. We’re so glad to get to Japan again, and we want to meet all our neighbors, right, Ruthanna?”
      “Yes, I think so,” said Ruthanna. Actually, it’s a little confusing with so many new people, she said to herself. You’d think I would be used to new people by this time, considering how many churches and houses we’ve visited. But this is harder, because we have to stay here, and really get to know these people. What if we don’t like them?
      Ruthanna backed out of the kitchen and went in the living room, which didn’t look lived-in yet. She had to wait for the house to take shape around her. Shyly, she watched the men tramping through the hall and upstairs with boxes piled high in their arms. One man stopped to smile at her from under his faded baseball cap. 
      “Hi, Ruthanna. How old are you?” he said.
      “Ten,” Ruthanna answered.
      “I have a little girl who’s nine, and she’d really like to meet you.”
      With another grin, he moved on up the stairs, and Ruthanna plopped down on the bare sofa. She wondered what his “little girl” would be like.
      “Ruthanna!” called her mama. “Would you like to walk over to Cabin Quarters with us and meet Nicole’s younger sister?”
      “Um, I don’t think so,” said Ruthanna, trotting back to the kitchen. 
      “Why not?” laughed Nicole. “She’s the same age as you. She’s turning ten next week.”
      How does she know how old I am?  thought Ruthanna. Unless she heard me talking to that missionary in the hallway. . . .  But I didn’t think I spoke that loudly.
      “Ruthanna’s probably just confused right now,” Mrs. Taylor said. “She’s a little shy about getting to know people, and there are so many new people here today.”
      “Yeah,” said Ruthanna. “It’s confusing.”
      “Well, my mom will probably invite you over for dinner, anyway,” said Nicole. “She’s fixing chicken, I think.”
      Just then, in stepped the man who had told Ruthanna about his little girl.
      “Hi, Dad,” said Nicole. “Aren’t we going to invite the Taylors for supper?”
      “Yeah, Nicole. Do y’all have any plans for supper? My wife said six o’clock,” he said.
      “No, we haven’t even thought about supper,” said Mrs. Taylor. “We’d be happy to come, if you’ll draw us a map.”
      “Sure, I’ll draw you a map. You can walk there, if you want,” Mr. Bailey replied.
      So this mysterious ‘little girl’ is also Nicole’s sister, Ruthanna deduced. I guess I’ll have to meet her. She might like to cut out paper dolls and make crafts. I will need a friend, since I’m going to live here for a year or so. But before I go to their house and meet her, I’d like to see the rooms upstairs with some of the furniture in them—especially my new bedroom.
      So Ruthanna stepped up the carpeted stairs, stopping to look out of the stairway window at the truck. Maybe there will be a better window upstairs, she thought, one where I don’t have to stand on tiptoe.
      None of the men were on the second floor while Ruthanna went exploring. Turning to the left, she found the half-bathroom. There’s a good mirror here, she noticed. Ruthanna liked to know how her braid or ponytail looked in the morning. She tried the faucet, and icy cold water rushed out. She cupped her hands and took a slurp. The water tasted fine. Because their towels were still packed, Ruthanna shook the drops from her fingers and wiped them on her skirt. 
      Ruthanna remembered how last week, she had gone into the restroom in the grocery store with Uncle Bill’s daughter Katelyn. She had been looking for something to dry her hands on, when Katelyn said,Paper towels are hard to find in Japan. You should carry a handkerchief in your pocket. That’s what all the Japanese kids do.” Ruthanna had borrowed Katelyn’s hanky to dry her hands. But I still didn’t put a hanky in my pocket, Ruthanna thought.
      Another room was right next to the bathroom. Now what will this little room be?  Ruthanna wondered, as she stepped inside. I guess Papa will want a study. Seems like this would make a good one. He could fit his computer and copy machine in here, at least.
      Ruthanna opened all the doors she could find, even the closet doors. There were double-door closets in the largest room, which would become the “library,” in her parents’ room, and in her own room. 
      Ruthanna’s room was at the end of the hallway. Pieces of bed were propped against the far wall, and a light tan bureau stood in the corner. Through the side window, Ruthanna noticed the wood shed. Dropping to the floor, she peeped through a grate, and spied the wood stove on the floor beneath. The heat will come right up to my room through this grate! How exciting! It’ll be wonderful to feel warm, even at night.
      Next, Ruthanna drew back the curtains from the front window and looked out. Sure enough, the working men and the shiny top of the two-ton truck showed on the sunken road. The men moved back and forth, hauling tables, boxes, bookcases, and desks off the truck bed and through the garage door. 
      The girl above, at the window, smiled and waved to Uncle Bill, who was standing on the truck bed and handing furniture out through the back. He disappeared inside the truck again without seeing her.

      Ruthanna sighed and spoke aloud to herself. “I wish we were all moved in already.”

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