Second Daughter, pt. i

She picks up her writing brush and looks left out the window. It is open, and the scent of snow wafts in. In the garden her father’s favorite tree, an old cherry, has the first signs of flower buds. A bird sings. The fireplace behind her is lit, countering the frigid air from outside. She looks back at the paper before her, steadies herself with a breath, and begins writing.

Springtime snow fallen
waiting under the cherry tree
once again you are not here.
The wall was too high
no way I could jump over,
I long to see you again.

She sighs, sets the brush on the holder, crumples the paper and tosses it into the fire. She has only ever heard poems and songs of illicit trysts. No one has ever written of someone refusing these, or if so it is because they are dead. She chastises herself for thinking of such a silly reason in her poem. She must be more serious, more worldly. Being the second daughter (and third child) has not afforded her opportunities for such knowledge however. She looks once more into the garden, bundles up in warmer clothing, and heads to the stone bench under the cherry tree.

***

The snow crunches under her feet and the stone is colder than she expected it. She thinks she is a bad poet, that no one will read her works, that she will never be married, will die alone in this house. A bird hops towards her in the snow, chirps at her, flies away. The rice-paper door to the house opens and her mother steps out, she too is bundled.

“Kaori, what are you doing out here?”

“I am thinking, mama.”

“’One does not force inspiration, one kindles it like a lone candle.’”

Kaori sighs. “It is not inspiration that I need, mama. It is… something else; talent for one.”

“Come now! Your father says your poetry is wonderful.”

“Then why doesn’t he show it to people?”

“You know your father doesn’t like to brag, Kaori. To display such fine works to others unprovoked would be improper of him.”

She sighs again, heavier.

“Come along Kaori, I’m going into town and want you to come with me.”

Kaori looks at her mother, her eyebrows raised. Her mother has not asked Kaori though, so she simply gets up, restraining the sigh that desperately wants to come out, and bows to her mother. Smiling, her mother leads to the garden door.

***

Outside the door, their eldest brother waits for them. He bows to his mother and the three of them being walking to the town. Her brother leans over to her.

“Where did she find you?”

“I didn’t know she was looking for me. I was in the garden, under papa’s tree. If I’d known I could have hidden, and hopefully she would have walked out without me.”

“That’s what you get for thinking so much.” Her brother is smiling at her as he says this.

She frowns at him, taking in the view around them as they walk. The shaded spots under trees still have snow on them, but much of what is now under sunlight has melted. The water has soaked into the earth, turning many dirt paths to mud. Kaori and her family walk on a stone path recently put down. Cherry blossom trees mark the entrance ways to houses, and down the road a gateway marks the entrance to a temple. The fading red of the wood contrasts with the white snow nicely, another poem comes to her:

Poets talk of white,
the snow, the moon and the stars.
What about color?
Where has the green of trees gone,
the brown of their sleeping trunks?

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