Archive for July, 2013
“I do so love Auntie’s tea, and it is is good she has much in common with her husband.”
“One day I hope you as well have something in common with your husband.”
Kaori pauses, picks up her tea, drinks. “Is that day soon, Mother?” She hopes the jest is well received.
“I have spoken to the Matchmaker, yes. The same one that found your Uncle, even. You are old enough, experienced enough in the ways of a household, I think it is time that you made someone a lovely wife.”
She sets the cup down. “Oh…” She looks at what little tea is left, overwhelmed by the thought of leaving her household and knowing she has no power to contest this decision. Her eyes shimmer in the candle light, but she notices her cup is almost empty and her mother’s is. “More tea, Mother?”
“Please.” Kaori’s mother waits until she is done pouring, until the tears spill down her face. Her voice is gentle. “I will not let you be married to a bad man, my lovely daughter. It will be hard away from the house, but there are always letters, and festivals and visiting. Soon you will have a family of your own to raise with your husband-to-be. It will get easier my lovely little bird.” Uncharacteristically, Kaori’s mother reaches across the table and holds her daughter’s hand.
Kaori does not know what to think. She has come to love this house, her place in it, helping her mother with the house, serving her father, his rare but extremely rewarding affection. She will miss most his wit and guidance, his insight into the world around him that she has mined so often for her own work. She will miss her mother’s direct instruction; Kaori panics for a moment. She is suddenly incapable of leading a household. What if she forgets something? Even now she can feel everything her mother has taught her slipping out of her mind like tea from a spilled cup. Even now the image is retained for poems. She feels her mother’s hand and looks up at her. The sadness turns to anger. She pulls her hand back, focusing rage to force tears into stop. Kaori sits rigid.
“May I be excused? I have some work to do on a long poem before bed.”
Her mother pulls back, looking down at her tea cup. It is her turn for her eyes to shimmer, briefly, before her face composes itself into a mask she never thought to use with her children. “Of course. I will finish the tea.”
Kaori leaves the sitting room, she does not see the hallway, the lights, the other rooms. She sees the desk in front of her when she finally reaches it, and the cherry tree outside. She uses her tears to grind the ink, though she knows it is bad for the brush, she does not grind much, enough for a first verse.
Small cups fall from hands
fire and water poorly mixed.
Tea spills on long grains.
Kaori sits with her mother across the table. The two of them are enjoying a cup of tea after dinner, while Kaori’s father and brother discuss “business”.
“Are you enjoying the tea, Kaori?”
“Yes, Mama. The faint hint of lemongrass almost sweetens the chamomile, but still manages to shine through the mint.”
“I’m glad. Your Aunt Chochin sent this blend to us. Did you know she was married at your age?”
Kaori puts the cup down on the table; sensing an imminent story, she grabs her flute and prepares to play while her mother finishes her tea. It is a habit her mother has encouraged: that all good stories should be set to music. Kaori excels at musical improvisation now.
“Your Aunt, much like you, had never shown much interest in being married. She lounged around the House, perfecting the things that all good girls should know. In specific, your Aunt adored tea, and our mother would take us down to the herb vendor every week in order to acquire new herbs for your aunt to make tea from.” A quick, busy burst of notes for the town.
“I will admit, your Aunt was not always good, and several of her concoctions were nearly poisonous; her lack of real enthusiasm in anything except tea made it difficult for mother to find her a suitable husband. Aunt Chochin never went out with other girls like I did, never attending the festivals or the courts except when required to by mother or father. Her focus also made many men uncomfortable, preferring as they do the demure nature of other girls.” A more quiet, meandering melody for the home and thoughtful reflection.
“In time, without recourse, your Grandmother went to a matchmaker, and the two conversed over tea about her daughter. The Matchmaker told your Grandmother that she would do what she could in order to find her a husband, but that the prospect did not look promising. The spirits had other plans for your Aunt, though. Later that day, the owner of several tea plantations went to the same Matchmaker.” The song picks up in pace as the telling gets more excited.
“He told her that his family was pressuring him for an heir, that his previous wife had died of illness before bearing children, and that he was looking for a new wife to share his lonely plantations with. He loved all his land very much however, and so he would need a wife that could tend to herself while he sought to make tea fit for the Emperor. The Matchmaker smiled at him, and told him she had just the woman in mind.” The ending implied, the song finishes out, higher pitched, lively and peaceful. Kaori holds the last note.
“And now, Chochin helps her husband, and several of her teas have been featured at the Imperial Court, have they not, Mother?”
“Indeed. In this world, there is always someone the spirits want for you. And it may take time to find them, but never lose hope that love can spring from the most unlikely of places.”