Second Daughter, pt. vii

“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.

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