Welcome back! I've been sharing excerpts from The Samurai's Garden, due to be released at Astraea Press in two months. Last week I shared a memory from Hiro's childhood, so this time I thought I'd share a memory of Hanako's:
Long ago, when she was about eight years old, she’d gone to Sapporo with her father. It was one of the last times she remembered her father with fondness. They went to visit a relative, a cousin of her mother. Her home had tatami floors, unlike the rough wood planks at home. Flowers, artfully arranged, graced brightly lacquered tables. But what had impressed Hanako most was the aura of tranquility. Servants came in and out of the rooms, their steps muffled by the tatami mats on the floors. Sitting in the courtyard with a tiny cup of tea, she heard nothing but the rippling of water in the pond.
The lady of the house greeted them with smiles. She had no children, she told Hanako, and was so happy her cousin’s daughter had come to see her. "Please call me obachan, since I am like an aunt to you."
This aunt, though older than her father, showed none of the signs of aging so evident on farm women. She wore her hair in a pretty style, and she smelled so nice. Her voice was gentle, reminding Hanako of a soft, comforting voice from deep in the recesses of her memory.
The pleasantries ended when her obachan’s husband came home. Hanako remembered a big man with a big voice. The servants dropped down, their faces touching the floor in a deep bow, and the temperature seemed to plunge considerably. The man reminded her of a bear, the way he stormed into the house and roared at everyone. Obachan stopped what she was doing, rose shakily, and bowed. Her smile disappeared, and she remained silent, her eyes remained downward as her husband frowned at Hanako and her father.
Hanako was sent to the servants’ quarters to wait while the adults conducted their business. She never knew exactly what her father had hoped to accomplish on this trip, but suddenly the voices in the sitting room were raised, and the sliding door opened. Her father was pushed roughly out of the room, and the magistrate was heard to say, "Do not come here again! I have already loaned you enough money to buy and supply your farm four times over! You have nothing to show for it. You are no longer family."
With sharp instructions to a servant to see Father out, the door panel slid closed with enough force to rattle its bamboo frame. A moment later, a maid came to escort Hanako outside, and the visit to the lovely home came to an abrupt end.
The walk home had been even longer than the trip there. After they returned to their hut, her father had been a changed man. Though he had once been a kind, loving man, he'd become distant and preoccupied. He no longer seemed to care about the farm or about his child. His only concern had been getting his next drink.
The experience had taught Hanako about the dangers of being in someone else’s debt. Allowing Hiro to build her a new home would put her deeply in his debt, unless they married. Her farm would be her dowry. Could she do it?
Thanks for stopping by! I love to read your comments. Be sure to check out other samples by visiting Sweet Saturday Samples.