Monday, July 23, 2012

Kaleidoscope, Ch. 6

Eventually Mitsuru and Serenity said their goodbyes to Amake and Mane and left the mall.  Back at Botan’s house, Mitsuru helped Serenity carry her portion of their shopping bags into her room; then they too parted ways.
            Serenity organized her new purchases in her closet, smiling as she thought about the day.  Running into the Tategami brothers had been completely unexpected, but to say it had been a pleasant surprise would be a gross understatement.  As children, Serenity, Kaze, and Amake had been nearly inseparable. 
            She paused halfway between the nearest shopping bag and the closet door.  The red blouse she had grabbed hung loosely from her hands as she reminisced about her childhood friends.  Amusement park trips, after-school visits, fake arguments, inside jokes…How could so much time have passed like this?  She mused, feeling a little guilty about the lack of contact among them in the past ten years.  She was suddenly fairly sure of the reason why Amake was upset.
            A quiet tap on the door broke Serenity out of her nostalgic trance.  She hung up the blouse in her hands and went to open the door.
            Botan stood in the hallway, her usual sweet smile in place.  “Hey there, Sura.  I wanted to ask you something.  I was cleaning up the house earlier, and I found this.”  She held up a simple heart-shaped locket made of gold.  “I’ve never seen it before.  Is it yours?”
            Serenity took the locket from Botan and opened it.  She silently nodded in answer to Botan’s question when she saw the photograph inside.  It was of a woman in a formal white kimono; she was seated, with her hands folded in her lap.  Her hair, a darker shade of auburn than Serenity’s, was arranged in an elaborate traditional style.  A smile just barely touched her rouged lips, yet it lit up her entire face.
            Serenity’s eyes became a deep purple as feelings of love and longing washed over her.  She positioned the open locket so that Botan could see the photograph.  “My mother, Kasumi…she died when I was younger, before you took me in.  I cut up a picture from my parents’ wedding and put it in this locket on the day of her funeral…to remember her by.” 
Serenity could still recall the way her father, Hijo, had looked in the discarded part of the photograph.  He had been standing next to his new bride.  His posture had been stiff, too serious for the occasion.  The couple’s traditional clothing had appeared quite heavy, even in the photograph, but while Kasumi had worn hers with quiet elegance, Hijo had seemed crushed under the weight of his.  Serenity had found her father’s facial expression odd as well; like her mother, he had been smiling, but the smile had been stern, almost forced, and it had not reached his eyes.
            Botan cleared her throat, and Serenity looked up from the locket.  “Is this yours too?”  Botan was now holding up a wooden kaleidoscope.  Serenity recognized the painting on the side of the tube instantly—cherry trees in the fall, robin’s-egg-blue sky, curving blades of grass.  She took the kaleidoscope from Botan, put it up to her eye, and turned the barrel.  The beads inside tumbled slowly, like the percussion in a funeral dirge.  As she lowered the tube, a shadow seemed to pass over her, and the purple faded from her irises.
            She let the noise of the beads die away into silence before replying.  Her eyes shifted away from Botan’s face as she spoke.  “My father gave it to me when I was eight,” she said succinctly, hoping that she would not have to elaborate. 
But there were no further questions from Botan.  The two girls stood as still as statues in the doorway for a few seconds.
            The bright, penetrating sound of the doorbell eventually broke the silence.  Serenity watched the pleasant expression return to Botan’s face as if the dark cloud had never passed over their conversation.  Botan smoothed the front of her kimono and enthusiastically announced, “I’ll get it!” before hurrying to answer the door.  Serenity placed the locket and kaleidoscope on her dresser before following Botan downstairs.

“So what I’m getting here,” Amake asked, “is that you expect ‘I’m sorry’ to erase ten years of neglect?”
He was standing in the den, staring at Serenity from about five feet away.  After Serenity had introduced him to Botan, Botan had left them alone to talk.  Now, Serenity almost wished Botan had stayed downstairs to offer moral support. 
She cleared her throat and forced herself to meet Amake’s smoldering gaze.  “It’s all I have to offer.  Besides, I don’t know why this matters so much to you.  People lose contact all the time.”
“You don’t know why it matters?  We were your best friends, Serenity!”
Serenity was tired of the verbal tennis match.  She frowned at Amake.  The pink in her eyes gave way to red as some of the guilt she’d been feeling was replaced with annoyance.
“You were ten, I was eight.  Did you really expect to be pen pals or something?  And it was a two way street; you could have called me yourself.”
Amake crossed his arms and frowned back at her.  “I would have,” he said coolly.  “But when you disappeared after your mother died, you didn’t exactly leave us a phone number.”
Serenity suddenly remembered packing a backpack with clothes and money and leaving her parents’ house on foot all those years ago.  She opened her mouth to say something in response, but shut it again, nervously picking at a fingernail.
There was a brief moment of wordlessness between them.  Then Amake sighed, his expression softening.  He unfolded his arms and lowered his voice.  “Ren, I don’t want to be just a part of the life you left behind.  I never wanted that, and neither does Kaze.  You understand, right?”
Serenity slowly nodded in affirmation.  Then there was another pause, longer this time.  Finally, Amake broke the silence, and the tension in the air dissipated.  “I guess that’s all I can ask for,” he said.
“Then how about we let this go?  Call a truce?”  Serenity asked.  Amake merely smiled in response. 
He stared out the window at the darkening sky.  “It’s getting late, and I biked here.  Do you mind if I spend the night and leave in the morning?”
Serenity picked up a pillow from the couch and tossed it at Amake’s face.  Direct hit.  “Only if you don’t mind sleeping down here,” she answered with a grin.

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