Second Daughter, pt. ii

Kaori keeps the poem to herself. She does not think it is in good taste to question the subjects of the great poets, but does think the trend is silly. She goes back to watching everything around the road as her mother and brother talk. Peasants and the upper classes alike walk down the road; the wagons have the hardest trouble with the cobbles, axels frequently breaking. Kaori hears a loud crack behind her and turns, startled. A barrel, poorly lashed, has fallen out of a wagon and burst open; rice grains scattered everywhere. The driver quickly dismounts as he berates a young man who looks to be his son. His yelling is heard for a good long while down the road. On one of the dirt paths to the side of the new road, closer to town, another wagon is stuck in the muddy earth. Several men, the trousers filthy from helping, try to lift the wagon so that the animals can pull it forward. They succeed and one falls onto his face. Kaori pulls her fan from her sleeve and quickly opens it, placing a barrier between her and the peasant’s humiliation.

The sun as only barely moved when they enter the town. Kaori’s mother has made no attempt to engage her in conversation, so Kaori is not entirely certain why they are here. As they have approached closer, the conversation between her brother and mother has gotten quieter, or the sounds of the city have gotten louder. Kaori is uncertain. Her mother and brother walk side by side, even though her mother is leading. All around her men are moving barrels, pulling carts, shouting and talking. Quick “Hello-goodbye” conversations mingle with work orders and condemnations as apprentices and delivery boys alike invariably get something wrong, or are found idling by fires in the late morning chill. Kaori finds herself thinking of the small garden at home, the one that houses their family altar, so narrow is the walking space between the storefronts and the wagons. Her mother says something to her brother, who takes the lead and makes way for them through the crowd.

Kaori’s nose wrinkles several times at the smells around her, but her fan efficiently hides it from most people’s views. She is almost cut off from the line of brother-mother-Kaori when they turn into a silk merchant’s shop in front of someone heading the other way. Stopping abruptly he scowls at Kaori, his face softening quickly as he realizes he is seeing a young girl and not what he was expecting. He nods to her and ushers her in with a gesture. Kaori makes note of the brocade pattern on the man’s light green, silk clothing, bows in return and enters the silk shop.

Her mother looks over as she comes in. “Kaori dear, come look at this.” She looks over at her brother instead: he is standing in a corner by a mannequin, looking just like one. Kaori goes to her mother.

“It’s very pretty, mother.” She has looked only to see that it is a deep indigo.

Her mother looks at her and frowns for a moment, then takes a deep breath. “All right Kaori, look around on your own, pick something you like, something you’d wear. You’re old enough now to be deciding these things on your own.”

Kaori’s eyes open wide as her fan snaps open and begins fluttering in her hand. Her mother smiles reassuringly. The fluttering stops, the fan closes, and Kaori looks around the shop in earnest. A germ of an idea of what her mother wants is beginning in her, but Kaori ignores it to focus on the task at hand.

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