For Sharon, there wasn’t much time to relax, let alone wonder about Mark. First, she had to finish cleaning up, then pack for the trip. Then there was the call from China that had to be dealt with right away, plus the amendments to her report for the Advisory Board meeting that she would probably miss. Then there were the emails to her Asia expert, Katie, who would have her spin on the situation. The flight to Los Angeles was a very early one, which meant Sharon got almost no sleep. She hoped desperately she’d get the chance to nap on the plane.
And while the flight turned out to be more restful than not, Sharon did not get much shut-eye. Aside from the usual avalanche of emails demanding her attention, she was seldom able to sleep while flying. As the plane landed, Sharon put her hand up to hide a jaw-cracking yawn. She was so tired, she was almost glad not to see any of her family members waiting for her near the luggage carousels.
Still, Sharon made a point of calling Karen as soon as the airport shuttle got on the freeway toward Downtown Los Angeles. The call went straight to voicemail, so Sharon tried texting, instead. Several minutes later, Sharon’s phone beeped with the reply.
“Judge put gag order on me and George. Kira just started her interview. Allie goes right after lunch.”
Sharon pressed buttons in answer.
“I’ll check in at hotel, first, then meet you at the courthouse. Got the address?”
Three minutes later, the phone buzzed with the link. Sharon checked the directions and realized she could take L.A.’s subway directly there from the hotel. Checking in took longer than it should have, and Sharon stopped to eat lunch, but she got to the courthouse well before Allie had finished with her interview. June was already there, pacing the narrow aisle of the tiny hearing room while Karen sat stoically in the audience seats. Karen’s mother, a tiny Japanese woman with inky black hair cut short and styled in a poufy do, sat next to Karen knitting placidly. Or perhaps not so placidly, as she periodically would look up and send George Watanabe a scathing look.
Watanabe, square and angry-looking, sat with his three lawyers – two women and one man all dressed in very expensive suits. Watanabe stared straight ahead relentlessly, only shifting to glare at his watch. They remained at the table immediately in front of the judge’s bench.
Sharon looked around and finally saw Kira sitting in the back of the hearing room next to Susan, Jodi and Tiffany.
“Hey, guys,” Sharon said softly as she went over to them. She bent and gave Susan a quick hug, then hugged Jodi and Tiffany.
“Hey,” replied Susan as June came up.
“It feels like he’s taking forever,” June said.
Kira shrugged. “He’s okay.”
Sharon noticed that Kira was carrying a large manilla folder. She was about to ask the teen about it when Allie came out from behind the judge’s bench, and then the judge, The Honorable Timothy Weltzer, took his place as the rest of the room stood. Karen scrambled to get to her place at the defendants table, next to her three lawyers (all women, also wearing very expensive dark suits).
“All right,” Weltzer began as he shuffled papers and glanced at his clerk. “I’m going to adjourn this hearing for today. We’ll have final arguments tomorrow, as scheduled. I’d like to remind both the plaintiff and the responding party that there is a gag order in place. Any questions or comments? None? Good.”
Weltzer gaveled the hearing adjourned. He’d barely stepped down from the bench when Watanabe stalked out of the hearing room, his lawyers scrambling behind. The others gathered around Karen.
“It’s what we expected,” Karen said. She reached over to her daughters. “How did your interviews go?”
Kira shrugged again. “They went.”
Susan smiled and touched Karen’s arm. “I’m going to take the girls back to our hiding place for tonight. No point in riling up your ex and he hasn’t told me I can’t have them. Are you okay with that?”
Karen nodded sadly. Susan led the way out of the hearing room, and the rest of the group trailed her to the elevators. But when they got there, Kira nodded at Jodi and Tiffany.
“You know what? I think we’ll take the escalators down,” Kira said quickly. “You guys okay with that?”
“Sure,” said Susan and the girls ran off before Karen could object.
“Something’s up,” Karen muttered.
“Of course there is,” said Susan, punching the elevator call button again.
“Do you know what it is?” Karen snapped.
“Nope.” Susan pushed the call button again.
They found out as they left the courthouse. They found Kira outside near the sidewalk surrounded by a gaggle of reporters. The young teen was standing calmly, talking as she showed the reporters the contents of her manilla folder.
Sharon put her hand over her mouth, then looked over at Karen, trying to decide what to do. Karen didn’t wait. All of her normal calm and composure fled, and she charged over to the gaggle.
“These are all the weekends last fall when my sister Allie and I were visiting my dad,” Kira was saying. “He worked the entire weekend every time. And you’ll note, as soon as we moved to DC, he stops working weekends. Except for the week we were here for Spring Break.”
“What about the allegations that your mother poisoned you against your father?” someone from the gaggle shouted.
“I am so sick of that!” Kira snapped. “My mother has never said one word against him, even when he’s putting her down all the time and telling us we’re just as stupid and mindless as she is. My mother is an intelligent woman and a kind person who wants my sister and me to have a good relationship with our father. But it’s my father who doesn’t want a relationship with us. He doesn’t even want to be around us!”
“Young lady.” Karen’s voice growled low, but loud enough to be heard over the shouted questions from the reporters. “There is a gag order in place.”
“On you and Dad,” Kira replied.
“We will not split hairs. You go with Susan. Now.”
“Dr. Tanaka!” one of the reporters cried.
“Gag order, folks,” Karen said, getting a solid grip on Kira’s arm and pulling her out of the gaggle.
The reporters continued to shout their questions as Karen led Kira to the car where Susan was waiting with Allie.
“Mom-” Kira began.
“Not now,” Karen said. “We will talk later. But you are so grounded you will be lucky if I let you out of the house before you’re fifty!”