Second Daughter, pt. ix

“Knowing how to sew is a very important skill, Kaori. Your grandmother taught me when I was young.”

“Yes, I never understood that, Mother. When you married Father, didn’t you have servants to make clothes for you?”

“Your Father knows a good tailor, yes; one I do not hesitate to use for formal events like festivals or court appearances. Times when having a professional stitching is more important than knowing the effort that went into what you are making. For everything else however, all of your clothes, some of your husbands accessories and house clothes, I prefer that you know the effort that went into them, that you are wrapped not only in clothing, but in the love that clothing represents.”

A servant comes to clear off the breakfast table. The two women rise, and Kaori follows her mother into her mother’s workroom. Kaori’s various lessons in house crafts have happened here over the years, and something about the room always makes Kaori feel like she’s a young child getting lectured. The only art she did not learn in this room is poetry. The thought of no longer being at home has filled everything Kaori sees with a significance she did not previously acknowledge. There, on the center of the work desk, are the pieces of cloth they ordered just yesterday from the market. Kaori’s mother steps aside, and Kaori goes to the fabric. She examines the hand of the fabric, testing its softness and strength. She takes it over to the measuring rods and places a soft cotton around the rods to make sure the fabric is not soiled and that it doesn’t catch the silk and rip it. The shopkeep was right when he said that he had only scraps of the amethyst. The sash will be perhaps not as wide as it could be, but it is enough for a formal length. She measures just to make sure, but her estimate was correct. It will have to be sewn end-to-end. She takes the emerald brocade and measures it as well. Kaori and her mother do not speak during this. Kaori is too focused on what she is doing. Her mother is watching her, and Kaori feels the judgement of whether she is ready to handle such fabrics on her own. The end of the fabrics slips from her hand and catches on the end of the measuring rod. A small fraction of the weave frays and felts as Kaori gently pulls it away, pieces remaining on the rod. Kaori groans, now she will have to cut that entire portion away.

“Fold it to the inside, make your mistakes part of the design and no one will be the wiser.” She turns to look at her mother, who nods at her. Kaori takes a deep breath and finishes measuring.

“There is not enough for the sleeves.” She turns back to her mother after gently pulling the silk off the rods.

“Not for an unmarried woman, no.” Her mother’s fan opens.

“I see. Then it will be perfect.” Kaori looks down and turns to the work table, before the sadness makes it to her face.


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  1. #1 by zahiracoll on August 18, 2013 - 10:22 am

    I’m in love with this story! I have identified with Kaori, The way the family dynamics are presented and the setting is described really takes me there. Great writing! #Seconddaughter

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