Kaori sits in the garden. The late afternoon light filters through clouds and cherry blossoms into a haze. Kaori stares at the fish moving through the pond, her legs drawn up onto the bench. The wind blows in the smell of tilled earth from nearby fields. Her father comes out and sits next to her, gracefully avoiding Kaori’s parasol. The two sit quietly, content to share the bench for a time without speaking.
“Your brother tells me you had the chance to share your poetry in town the other day.”
“I did, Father, after a few fumbles. They are local poets, not grand names that speak to the Emperor.”
“Even the greatest tree starts as a single seed.”
Kaori sighs. This has been her father’s advice to her since she was young. She imagines the Emperor himself could say this to her and she would still hear her father’s voice behind it. Or my husband could say this… The tears come without sound, until they gently plop into the water of the pond.
Her father looks away; Kaori does not see his expression. “Your mother has told me she is consulting a matchmaker.”
“She…” her voice breaks. “She has told me as well…”
There are more silent tears.
“Thank you, Kaori. I know this is hard for you, but even your acceptance of the idea helps our family.”
Kaori cannot help sobbing. Her father holds her to his chest, taking the parasol in one hand.
When Kaori speaks again, the sun is almost behind the garden’s walls. “I do not know how…” a last sob, “…I am helping.”
As Kaori straightens and composes herself, taking back the parasol from her father, he speaks, “Our family has done well in these troubled times. We are too small to be interesting to most larger houses, yet not small enough that we cannot support ourselves. What we are, however, is too isolated. There are too few families that are friendly to us anywhere nearby, and most of them compete with us for our lands. Your brother’s marriage must be carefully planned, but you and your sister are freer.”
“You are freer to experience the joy of our marriages.” She flips her fan open and looks away, hiding the shame on her face.
“How quickly wit tempers the knife-edge of the indignant.”
Kaori sighs, too much has happened recently. She shuts the fan and looks back down at the fish. Servants come out to light the lanterns and Kaori shivers in the cold breeze.
“Come inside, my fragrant blossom, we will have tea together.” Her father rises and begins walking towards the house, he turns when Kaori does not follow.
“Is that what you and my brother have been working on, my marriage?”
“What your brother and I work towards is none of your concern, Kaori.” His hand cuts across the air in front of his waist, his tone is irreproachable. It is her Father’s turn to take a deep breath. “Come inside daughter, we have many things to discuss.”