I’ve been so bad…I kept forgetting about this and then I’d remember when it was too late.
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Anyway, this is the opening to The Scarlet Daughter my older WiP (which was once called Promise of the Plum Blossom). It’s still very rough, even though this is the third draft of it.
Tsukiji (Foreigner’s District), Tokyo, March 1890
When I am weak, then I am strong.
Naomi recited Mama’s favorite verse over and over in her mind, as if their repetition would bring her back from the dead. But it did nothing to ease the pain. Whatever soul that resided within her was entombed in the freshly dug grave in the foreigner’s section of Aoyama Cemetery.
Her eyes were raw and heavy from the hours she’d spent crying. She’d cried so much that she’d not shed a single tear at the funeral that morning. No amount of them would bring Mama back.
Naomi stared through the frosted panes of her bedroom window at the muted blue of the late winter skies. Even the heavens were dry, the sunshine bathing the snow-covered ground. Spring was coming–the season of Tokyo’s cherry blossoms–Mama’s favorite time of the year. Never again would she be here to see the delicate blossoms bloom in Ueno Park or to smell the fragrant aroma that filled the air.
A soft knock on her bedroom door interrupted her thoughts.
She barely turned her head at the sound of her dear friend Anna Finley’s voice. Any sort of movement seemed to sap whatever strength she had.
Anna’s footsteps echoed across the wood-planked floor, growing louder as she came closer. Naomi felt her hand squeeze her shoulder. “Is everything all right? You’ve barely said two words to any of the mourners downstairs.”
“I’ve no words to say to those people,” Naomi said, a sudden wave of bitterness enveloping her body. “They were never kind to Mama or I when she was alive; why should I welcome their counterfeit sympathy now?”
“They are here out of respect,” Anna said, her voice ever calm.
“How very kind of them to show my mother respect after she’s dead.”
Anna sighed. “I know it’s never been easy for you, but it’s courteous to—“
“I don’t give one whit about courtesy!” Naomi shouted, pushing Anna’s hand off her shoulder and retreating to the other end of the room. “Each and every one of those people down there—with the exception of you and your parents—has personally gone out of their way to make our daily lives hell. Or don’t you remember?”
“I remember,” Anna said, although her voice was nearly drowned out by the general hum of people downstairs.
“How many times have I had to endure them, calling me ‘half caste’ and ‘bastard’, calling my mother a whore—“ At this, delicate Anna cringed—“looking at me in church as if I was the devil’s child?”
Anna said nothing, but only looked at her with those wide blue eyes of hers.
Naomi continued, her heart drumming frantically in her chest with the tirade of hers. “If I go down there now, I promise you I will say something less than kind to each and every one of those hypocrites.”
Anna remained silent but came towards Naomi, never breaking eye contact. “I understand. I will let them know you’re too unwell to see anyone right now but that you convey your thanks.” She hugged her—although Naomi refused to return the embrace—and quietly left the room.
Naomi rolled her eyes. How like Anna. Always calm and level headed and often played the role of older sister—even though she was only mere months older than herself.
As much as her calm demeanor irritated her, Naomi was grateful for her presence. She was as close to her as if she were her sister by blood. And now she was the only person in this world she had left. Of course there were Anna’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Finley, who had graciously given her and Mama a place to stay these past twelve years. They were kind to her, but kept their distance. Years of gossip had worn them both down and Naomi knew they would be relieved whenever she and Mama left.
Well, one of them was gone now. Permanently. And she knew she couldn’t be a burden to them any longer.
She was nearly one-and-twenty now. She needed to embark on her own adventure, her own life, and leave this city with its hushed whispers and judgmental stares.
She looked out over the wintry landscape of Tsukiji, a new resolve taking root in her heart. “I’ll be leaving you soon,” she whispered. “And nothing will ever bring me back here.”
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