Second Daughter, pt. xix

Kaori sits on the bench in the garden as the lanterns are lit. Hensei has left, with the poem the three of them wrote earlier. Kaori stares into the thawed pond, feeling much like it: still and reflective. She does not notice her mother approaching.

“Hensei is nice, a good friend of the family, works in the government.”

Kaori interrupts her mother’s line of reasoning before it goes too far. “He is a good friend of the family, yes. A boon to my career as well, but certainly not a husband.”

Her mother smiles at her, when Kaori looks again, she is still smiling. “What?”

“Sometimes I wonder where your stubbornness comes from. But then I ask myself if I would prefer a docile, unaware daughter, or one that notices and questions everything. Too often I find I love you just the way you are.”

Kaori tilts her head at her mother as a petal falls onto the water.

“Why do you think Hensei would be a bad husband?”

“I didn’t say he would be a bad husband, I just said he wouldn’t be my husband.”

“Even so…?”

“It would feel strange, there is so much history between him and Father that I would feel… like an intruder. Only their teacups would know exactly what has happened between them.”

“When I first came here, I was jealous of the friendship between your Father and Hensei. I even went so far as to confront your Father about it and said some terrible things. The next day, Hensei came to visit and told us he’d received a posting at the nearby records office for the city. I saw that despite the well-wishes and companionship between them, they were sad that it would mean less visits. I apologized to your Father for intruding in something that was none of my business.”

Kaori shifts, both from the cold of the bench, and from what her mother had said. No, how her mother had said it. Kaori had never heard this story, and isn’t entirely sure why she is hearing it now. Kaori reminds herself that it is not her place to question her mother and remains silent and mostly still.

“Your father says the Governor turned down your request?”

“The Governor,” Kaori pauses, “wished to express his sorrow that a verse of mine would not grace the pages of his commemorative poem, something about not having enough room at his Estate for both the Spring Festival and my sister’s marriage. He was polite and expressed his hope that he would still be made aware of my work in the future.”

Kaori’s mother places her hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “Kaori, he was not being polite. Propriety extends to his expression of sorrow and his gentle rebuke, but continued interest in your work is not required in a letter such as this. Was it his hand?”

Kaori’s brow scrunches, “Having not received letters from the Governor before, I cannot make that comparison.”

“Show me the letter Kaori, if he took the time to write it himself, the Governor is genuinely interested, and you may yet have your opportunity after all.”

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