When I wake up, it's still dark outside. I turn around and look at the alarm clock it's about a quarter to eight now. Well, I guess it's about time to get up, get ready for the day and fix something for breakfast. There's no need to hurry, though. Since I've taken a day off from work, I might take things slowly today. I told my parents we could meet at eleven, and that means we would have to leave here about half past ten.
Looking out of the window, I see the grey and cloudy sky. The weather has been quite unpleasant for the last few days; it was cold and rainy during the whole week. But today it seems to be dry, so at least we won't have to stand in the rain.
I feel someone moving in the bed right next to me. She's breathing softly. I know that she likes to sleep in early in the mornings, so I decide I won't wake her up and just let her snooze a little longer. There's still plenty of time. Watching her sleeping, I feel an urge to caress her soft skin, to touch her cheek tenderly with my fingertips and to let my fingers run through her hair. But I don't.
There is this feeling of tension again. Somehow she seems to be far away now, although she's right beside me. It feels as if I can't reach her, no matter how hard I try. As if there's some kind of wall between us. What the hell went wrong? What happened to the feelings we had before? I don't want to lose her. I don't want to live without her. All this time I've just been happy to have her around. I like her looks, her smile, her voice. And I like the naughty things she does in bed. I want her to stay with me forever. And that's love, right?
It hasn't always been this complicated. Not at all. My mind starts to roam and my thoughts wander back to that sunny spring day...
It's a warm day in spring and the sun is shining brightly. Yumi and I are taking a walk in the park. We started to go out again once in a while. Nothing serious, just watching a movie, or taking a walk, like today. But it's fun to spend our time together. It feels good to have her beside me.
As we walk, she keeps talking without a halt about school, about friends, about the weather, about the new clothes she just bought... As we pass by a bench in the sun, I ask her: "Want to sit down for a while?"
Just when we're about to take a seat, two little white butterflies show up. They flutter around us several times, and Yumi jumps up trying to catch them. But then they disappear between the trees, while Yumi sits down again, catching her breath. "See? I'm sure that was a couple!"
"Yeah, well, probably you know, it's springtime now, so it's just natural for them..."
"Taka." Suddenly the expression on Yumi's face has changed, and her voice sounds serious now. "Taka, there's something I was thinking about... I've been thinking about it for a while now... do you think, now... we could give it another try? You and me?" She turns her head and looks over to the bushes where the butterflies have disappeared. "Even the butterflies are mating now. So why can't we?"
Seeing that questioning look on her face, I feel insecure and remain silent, not knowing what to say.
"Look, I don't want to rush it. We'll take our time, just going out and having some fun. Then we'll see if it works out well, okay? I'll do my best not to push you, I promise, and I'm sure eventually it will be alright."
"Yumi, I..." I'm searching for words. "Look, I... I don't really know what to think. Look, I treated you really bad in the past, you know. The way I hurt you I mean, you've got enough reasons to hate me now, don't you?"
"I can't hate you, Taka." As she turns her face to me, I can see that decided look in her cat-like eyes again. "No matter what, I just can't. I was really angry at you, yes, but I definitely can't hate you. And now, when I look inside my heart, there's still a little love left. Let's say you wounded my love but you didn't kill it. There's enough of it left to try again." She looks at me seriously. "And how about you? Do you still have any feelings for me?"
I think for a while and try to get my feelings straight. "Ah yes." Finally I speak up. "Yes, I do. I really like you. I still like to be near you. It's just that one thing... that I don't want to hurt you again..."
"Well, we both did learn something during this time, didn't we?" She grabs my shoulder. "Taka, I'm sure I know we can do better. Let's try to avoid those kinds of mistakes in the future. We can do it!"
"Just don't expect too much of me, okay?"
"Okay. I promise!"
We get up again, and Yumi shows me a happy smile. Somehow our fingers touch, and we go on walking through the park holding hands. We must look like two high school kids on their first date. It's strange. We had been together before. We had sex dozens of times. Wild, passionate sex, that is. And now we're walking in the sunshine, hand in hand, almost too embarrassed to look at each other.
Finally I take a long look at Yumi. She looks beautiful in that new dress. Yes, I'm sure it was the right decision. After all, she's attractive. She's nice. She's smart. She's got everything a man could ask for. It feels good, definitely just like starting over.
Breakfast is ready. As I put down the teapot on the table, I can hear the sound of small feet rushing into the kitchen. "Good morning, Daddy!"
I feel her arms clinging to my neck. She's a lot like her Mom, I think active and lively. She's got Yumi's eyes, too. But that shiny black hair is certainly a heritage of the Todo family.
I hug her. "Good morning, my little angel! So you're already up?"
Our daughter looks at the table. "Can I have cornflakes?"
"No problem. Today you can have whatever you want." I hand her a bowl with her favourite cereal and pour some milk over it. "It's a special day today, do you remember?"
"Yeah, I know, it's Auntie's birthday!"
"And you also remember what we're going to do today?"
"Yep, we're gonna visit Auntie!" She looks excited.
"And you're still sure you want to go with us?" I ask her, while I get a spoon out of the drawer and hand it to her.
"Yes!" She starts stirring her cornflakes with the spoon valiantly. "I wanna come with you! I wanna visit Auntie, too!" I can see that she has this determined look on her face. It reminds me of her mother.
"Okay then, I just wanted to make sure. We're going to visit her together, then."
We hear a noise from the corridor. The bathroom door clicks shut. Evidently Yumi is up now.
"Um, Daddy?" Our little girl looks up to me while she's continuing stirring her cereal.
"Yes, my darling?"
"Mommy's a sleepy-head, right?"
I can't help but laugh, although I try hard to keep a serious look on my face. "Don't talk about your Mom like that. It's okay to say that we two are the early birds in this family. But we still love Mommy, don't we?"
With her mouth full of cereal, she blurts out. "Yeah, I love Mommy!"
Yes, my darling, we both love your Mommy. There's no question about that, right? I love her. I do. I certainly do...
I keep looking at our daughter while she's munching her cereal. She's so lovely. Last year she already turned four. And she's grown so fast, it's incredible. Time really flies. Wasn't it just the other day, when Yumi told me...
The doorbell rings. As I go downstairs, I wonder who might be visiting now. My parents won't return until late in the evening. And Yumi told me she would go right back to her apartment from the hospital. I open the door.
"Surprise, surprise! It's me again!" Yumi steps forward and kisses me on the cheek.
"Oh, I didn't expect to see you tonight. Didn't you say you would go right home after visiting your dad?"
We enter the living room, while Yumi continues talking to me.
"Yes, that's what I had planned to do. But now there's something I just need to tell you right away. It's another surprise a big one."
"Another surprise?" I wonder what she might come up with.
"Remember the other night, when I felt sick?"
"Yeah, I remember, you just had too many of those natto rolls. I told you that you'd had enough, didn't I? But you wouldn't listen... I never liked natto anyway..."
"Taka, it wasn't the natto." Her voice sounds serious now.
"What?" I look at her and see her eyes glancing right at my face.
"It wasn't the natto that made me feel sick."
"And when I went to the hospital today, I didn't just want to visit my dad. I went to see the gynaecologist as well."
"The gynaecologist... wait, you're not saying... you don't mean..."
"Yes, Taka, yes!" She grabs my hand as she blurts out. "We'll be having a baby! We'll be having a cute little baby..."
Somehow I have a feeling as if the living room has begun to revolve around me. My knees start to tremble like they had just turned into some kind of jelly. Unsteadily I stagger forward to the sofa and plunge down on it. "A... a baby...? And... and you're absolutely sure about that?"
Yumi sits down right next to me and wraps her arms around my neck. "Yes, Taka, I'm sure... Just imagine, now we're going to be mother and father, you and me... We'll be a real family... I'm so happy..."
My mind turns blank, while her words keep echoing in my head. A family. We'll be mother and father. Yumi and I. We'll be having a baby a cute little baby a cute little baby...
Softly she's whispering in my ear. "Now, honey? What do you say?"
Instead of giving an answer, I take her in my arms and kiss her passionately.
I hate getting up in the morning. At least today I could sleep a little longer than usual. It was a good idea to take a day off, indeed. But now it's almost nine, so it's about time. Feeling still a little dizzy, I get out of bed slowly and yawn once again. I remember, Taka told his parents we would meet at eleven. I'm not excited about this, but it's too late to change anything now. I want to look alright by that time, at least, so let's get into the bathroom and get ready.
As I head to the bathroom, I can hear some noise from the kitchen. It's Taka and our little daughter laughing; obviously they're having fun. I'd like to know what they're laughing about, so I curiously peek through the living room door, trying to get a glance at the kitchen. And then I see that picture on the wall, right above the sofa. Her picture. Although it's been such a long time now, she's still present, and she won't go away. Well, actually I can't complain, since I put that picture in that place myself. Back then, when we had just moved in...
I'm really glad we found this apartment. When I saw this place for the first time, I knew right away that this was where I want to live: the place I want to stay with my loved ones; the place where I want our baby to grow up.
Well, I have to admit, it's a little detached, outside of town, on the second floor of a newly built housing complex. But the surroundings are really nice, with lots of trees and gardens. And this apartment is quite cheap for its size, too. For two people it's rather big. But we will surely need the space soon. In about a month or two, we will be three. Taka, me and our baby...
The moving is finally done now, and we have arranged our new home nicely. Not that I could have been much of a help in my present state. Mostly I just told the others where to put things. Today I spent the afternoon decorating our new living room. It looks okay now, but there's still something missing. I want to have some plants in front of the window, and maybe one or two pictures on this wall. How about the one from our wedding but no, that one's too small, it wouldn't look good over here... While I'm thinking about that, I can hear a sound from the door. The door opens, and Taka walks in. He's carrying a photograph in his hand a large one.
"Hi, Taka! Welcome home. What's this?" Curiously I take the photograph out of his hands and have a closer look at it. It's the one with him and Kana in school uniforms the one where they look like a couple.
"Hi... uh, hi, Yumi... I... I just got it from the photo shop; I had it enlarged and framed..." He looks down to the floor. "...of course, there's no need to put it right here in the apartment... I mean, I can take it to the office and put it there..."
I take a deep breath, then I look straight in his eyes and smile at him. "No." He has a surprised expression on his face as I take the picture from his hands and hold it to the wall right across from the door, above the sofa. "Let's put it here. What do you say?"
"Right here? Are you sure? I think... that's a pretty prominent place over there... Is that really okay with you?"
"Yes, it's okay." I nod. "I want it this way. Now let's put it up there."
Taka gets the hammer and some nails and we put the picture where I said. When we're finished, our eyes meet, and now there's a smile on both of our faces. Then I look up at the picture and it almost seems like Kana is smiling at us, too. So, welcome to our new apartment; welcome home, Kana!
Without a word we sit down on the sofa. Taka puts his arm around my shoulder and starts to caress my round belly. I like that feeling; his touch is so gentle and tender. And evidently our daughter likes it too I can feel her moving inside of me. Now it will be about one more month until I'll deliver. We'll be having a baby a cute little girl. We will be father and mother, a real family. I'm so excited, I can hardly wait...
Finally I decide to interrupt the silence, punching Taka in his side.
"Darling, you know what? I made up my mind."
"Huh?" He doesn't get the point.
"Remember, the other night, when we were discussing about a name for our baby girl? Well, I finally made up my mind."
"Yeah? What do you think?"
"Let's name her Kana."
When I enter the kitchen, Taka is still sitting at the table, reading the newspaper. Neither one of us says a word. We avoid even looking at each other. I take a cup of tea and sit down, staring at the table. Why did it turn out this way? Is it my fault? No, you can't say that I didn't try. Maybe I went a little overboard yesterday. But it's definitely not like it was me who's causing that trouble...
Finally the baby is sleeping now. Taka brought me and our newborn daughter home from the hospital today. When we arrived at home, at first it took a while to get her to calm down, but now she's sleeping peacefully in her room. I feel quite tired and plunge down on the sofa in the living room. It's good to be back home. But, hey, that potted plant over there wasn't in here before. I had told Taka that I wanted some more plants in front of the window some time ago, and evidently he got this one now while I was away. It looks like grass, though.
"That new plant over there... what is it?"
"Oh, that one... I just got it the other day...You said you wanted some more plants in here..."
"Yeah, but that one looks almost like grass."
"Well, it's grass of Parnassus..."
"It looks a little...um, let's say, unimpressive, don't you think? Why did you buy a pot with grass?"
"Well, I thought... hey, do you see that small bud over there?" He gets down on his knees and points at the plant. "Look, there'll be some nice white blossoms, as soon as it's in bloom..."
I force myself to smile a little. "Actually I had thought of some flowers, when I said that, you know; something a little more colourful than just plain white..."
"Well, yes, but this one, you know... It's just that... you see, Kana liked that a lot..."
I don't respond to him anymore. Looking up, I can see her picture hanging on the wall right above me. And suddenly I get the strange notion that she's grinning at me right now...
I realize that I'm still stirring my tea. It's cold by now, and I swallow it down in one gulp. Taka is calmly sitting there and reading his paper, showing no reaction at all. He doesn't even try to say anything. As if this was my fault. I just wanted to be happy with you, Taka; is that too much to ask for? Now it's turned out to be a feeling somewhere in between pleasure and pain. I thought I could handle that. I thought it would work out with time, somehow. But by now it's just gotten really hard, you know realizing that she will always stay your number one, no matter how hard I try... and I'm only your number two and nothing more...
I think it's almost noon. It's hard to guess, though, since it's quite dark here below the trees. We walked for more than an hour now, and I don't really know if it was that a good idea to leave the path and walk right across the forest. It's warm and moist, I feel tired, and slowly I'm getting hungry, too.
Taka stops and looks around. "I'm sure it's somewhere around here."
I'm really thankful to his parents that they volunteered to take care of the baby today. They wanted to give Taka and me an opportunity to spend this day together. The last two years there's hardly been any time for intimacy, with a baby crying in the middle of the night. But now we're out here in the wilderness, just the two of us. And at first I really liked the idea of leaving town and going hiking in the mountains, when Taka suggested that. He had told me that he'd been here once before, many years ago in his childhood, and that there was a really nice place around here he wanted to show me. But now we're stumbling over roots, trying to find a way through this forest, and I'm not sure if that was a snake that just moved beneath that tree over there. Slowly I get the creepy notion that we will have to be thankful if we ever get out of here again.
And then suddenly we step into the sunlight. We have reached a clearing. At first the light is so bright that I feel almost blinded. But then I can see the small lake with the waterfall right in front of us, and I clap my hands for joy. "Hey, Taka, you were right! This is absolutely beautiful!"
I wonder if we could go swimming in that lake? The water looks clear from here. Of course we didn't bring our swimsuits, but there's nobody else around who would be able to see us. I try to walk closer to the lake, but then I see that it's all muddy around here. An attempt to go swimming would probably turn out into some kind of mud wrestling instead, so I rather decide to stay on dry ground instead. But well, how about some other kind of 'sports'...
I look for Taka. He sits down in the grass, looking at the waterfall, and I sit down right next to him, putting my arms around his neck. "Hey, Honey, do you know what I'm thinking right now?"
"Hm?" He doesn't move at all and continues to stare at the water.
I start nibbling on his ear. "You know, we haven't been doing it for weeks now... and nobody's around here, that's for sure, so nobody would see us... and by the way, we've never done it outdoors before..."
He doesn't even look at me. "Sorry, but I'm just not in the mood."
I feel disappointed and start to pout as I let go of him. "You've really changed, Taka. Or is there something wrong with me? What is it? Did I get fat? Am I not attractive to you anymore?"
"No, no, that's not it... it's just... I just can't do that right now... You know, I was here before..."
I don't get the point of what he's saying. "I know, you told me about that, but why can't you..."
"I was here with Kana..."
Finally I leave Taka sitting in the kitchen by himself and go to the living room. Maybe some distraction might be helpful right now, so I sit down on the sofa and turn on the TV. I switch through the channels, but I can't concentrate on the program at all. Don't you understand, Taka? Don't you understand what that means to me? Do you know how that feels to be your second choice? Looking up to the picture hanging on the wall right above me, I remember our argument last night...
I stand in front of my closet and try to decide which dress to wear tomorrow. Maybe the black one right here. That one looks nice...
But then again no. No, it doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel right at all. Maybe we should talk about that once more. Right away. I start looking for Taka. He's in the living room, staring at the picture on the wall.
"Taka..." There's no answer. I raise my voice. "Hey, Taka!"
Finally he turns around to look at me. "Yes..."
"What I was thinking about... do you really think it's alright to take her with us?"
He looks at me kind of surprised. "We talked about that already, and you agreed with it..."
"Well, yeah, I don't know...."
"Is there something wrong now? I don't really get your point..."
"Somehow I don't feel comfortable about this whole thing. Look, I know that you want to take her there but do you really think it's all right? I mean she's just four; it might be too early..."
"But you already told her where we were going, didn't you? When I talked with her, she was all excited about going to the cemetery. She really wants to go with us now."
"Yes, but look, she's still so young; she isn't really able to understand yet. I tried to explain, but, you know, it's hard it's really difficult to explain to a four-year-old what a cemetery is there for and what 'death' means..."
"Well, okay, you're right, it's difficult, but she will have to learn it some time anyway..."
I start to raise my voice. "Taka, don't you see what you are doing here? I don't want you to make our daughter sad about the death of someone she never knew; someone who died long before she was born..."
"Hey, it's not just 'someone' it's Kana..."
"Yes, it's Kana!" I'm getting angry now. "It's always Kana! It's Kana, Kana, and Kana again!"
"Yumi, what..." Taka's lost for words now. He just stares at me.
So I just go on, talking even louder. "Don't you see what you're doing here? It's like you're building up a wall around you. I can't even reach you anymore. You close yourself off with your memories of her, and you leave me and our baby outside here in the cold. I don't want my daughter to be drawn into that same conflict now, can't you see?"
"Yumi, I..." He's lost for words again.
"But you don't see anything. You're just... just obsessed with her and you don't even care if you hurt us... Don't you think we need you, too? Don't you think we need your love, too?"
"But, Yumi, listen..."
"No, you listen to me now. I thought I could do it. I thought I could be that strong to love you anyway. And I did, didn't I? I gave you all of my love, didn't I? I didn't let go, even after you treated me so badly back then... Regardless of what you did, I would never give up on you, right? No matter what happened, I would still love you. Didn't I show enough devotion and perseverance loving you? "
"Yumi, I... I'm sorry..."
Maybe I should just accept his apology and stop. But I can't. Instead I go on. "Think about it, Taka. And now be honest with me. Do you really think you treat me the way you should? The way you should treat your wife the mother of your child the woman who loves you..."
"Yumi, I'm really sorry..."
"Now think about it. Is it really love that you feel for me? Do you still think so? Am I more for you than just some kind of replacement for... for her?"
He's still standing there with his mouth open, staring at me as if I was some creature form another world. I run out of the room, slamming the door behind me.
"Yumi, please..." Is he calling for me? I don't care anymore, I don't want to listen to anything he might say right now. I just want to be alone. As I throw myself on my bed, I can feel hot tears running down my cheeks.
It's about time to leave now. Kana-chan's all dressed up and ready to go, but where's Yumi? When I look into the living room, she's sitting on the sofa and watching TV some documentary about medieval castles. Sometimes I just don't understand her. "It's about time..."
She doesn't give an answer, but at least she gets up, turns the TV off and follows me as I head to the door. Our daughter is already standing there, waiting impatiently. "Come here, Kana-chan!" Happily she takes my hand, as we walk over to the garage. "Let's go!"
This is the first time for our daughter to visit a cemetery. My parents have taken her hands showing her the way, and finally we're standing in front of Kana's grave now. She's looking around curiously. "Where's Auntie?"
I try to explain it to her. "Look, my darling, as I told you before, a cemetery is a place for dead people. Auntie died a long time ago before you were even born. And when someone dies, we put the body in a grave like this, under the earth. And then we put a gravestone like this on top, so that we can always can remember her at this place."
Little Kana steps nearer and inspects the gravestone. "So Auntie's under this?"
"Yes, that's right."
"Can't she come out?"
"No, Kana-chan, she can't. Remember, dying is something like falling asleep. But when somebody dies, that person will not wake up again, but sleep forever. And that's why we buried Auntie here, so that she can sleep here forever."
"Ah." Our little girl looks at the floor, as if she was trying to find some remnants of her aunt's body.
"Well, and then, when someone has died and is buried, the body slowly turns to earth."
"You mean, the body becomes earth like this?" She looks down again.
"Right, and then there will be plants and flowers growing out of that earth."
"So, the body becomes earth, and the earth becomes flowers?" Our daughter squats down to take a closer look. Cautiously, almost reverently she touches the leaves of the plants growing on Kana's grave with her fingers. "Auntie..."
I continue with my explanation. "So the body has turned to earth. But even when someone has died and is buried here, you still can remember that person. The memories stay in your mind. Although it's been a long time, I can still remember Kana..." As I feel my emotions welling up, I stop talking.
My daughter gets up again and turns to me. "Daddy, tell me, why does Auntie have the same name as I do?"
My mother covers for me. "Look, Kana-chan, Auntie was your Daddy's little sister, and he loved her very, very much. And when you were born, your parents named you after her, because they wanted to show how much they love you."
Little Kana thinks for a moment, until she comes to a conclusion. "Then my name is Kana, because you love me, right, Daddy?" She smiles at me, but I can't get a word out right now and just nod. Still smiling, she turns at the grave again. To me it looks as if she feels a deep connection with her aunt now.
Then she suddenly tugs at Yumi's skirt.
"Mommy, I hafta go to the bathroom. Bad!"
"Okay, darling, give me your hand. We have to go this way." Yumi takes Kana-chan's hand and they leave for the restrooms.
"Well, we'll be going, too," my father tells me. "We want to pay a visit to Sumako's grave as well."
As they walk away, I stand alone in front of the small grave.
Hey, Kana. It's me, Taka. I really need your help now. That argument I had with Yumi last night... I just didn't know what to say anymore. Now it looks like everything got stuck. I know that something went wrong, but I'm not sure what it is. Is it really my fault? It's worked out fine all these years, hasn't it? We've got this far, and we've been happy until now, right? Why is she coming up with something like this now? I had thought we just could go on like before.
But now I can see that Yumi's not happy at all with the situation. I don't know, but it looks as if she's jealous of you. So now here you are and there's Yumi. I don't want to forget about you, but I don't want to lose Yumi either. It's definitely not like my love for her has gone. Not at all. After all, she's my wife and the mother of my child, and I've been happy with her for all this time. Kana, what should I do now? I know I need to change something. I have to do something to make Yumi feel better. I need to be more aware of her feelings than I was until now...
Kana, you know that I'll never stop loving you. You'll be in my heart forever. But now I have to be there for Yumi. It's okay with you, right? Please, let me know somehow that it's okay..
I hear footsteps approaching. It's Yumi. Standing in front of the grave, we remain silent for a minute, looking down to the ground.
"Yumi, I..." We both start talking at the same time.
"Okay, you can go first." Yumi is looking at me, waiting for me to speak up.
"Yumi, I... I'm sorry. I just didn't realize that I've been hurting you. I didn't mean to hurt you, really... I'm really sorry..." I bow to her.
She looks at me with surprise. "Oh, I... You know... actually, I wanted to apologize to you... you know, that silly argument yesterday I think I said a lot of nonsense. I'm sorry for complaining..." She bows to me as well, as I interrupt her.
"No, no, listen. You were right somehow... I mean, with my feelings for Kana... I just didn't realize it before. I wasn't doing right by you..."
I can see her looking straight in my face now. "Taka I know how important Kana is to you. And sometimes it was really hard for me to accept that it made me jealous, I think. Like you were locking yourself away in a castle with her, you know..."
"I... I'm sorry..." I turn my eyes down to the ground. "I didn't think about it but I'll try to do better, I promise...."
"Me too." I can feel her hand touching mine. "I'll try to do better, too. You know, I still love you. And I know we can do it, right?"
I squeeze her hand, as I look up to her. She's so beautiful, as she's standing before me with that smile on her lips.
"Yes." I nod my head. "We can do it together."
For a while we just stand there, holding hands.
Then she breaks the silence. "You know, that show on TV..."
"Huh?" I don't get the point here.
"That documentary I watched on TV this morning. They were showing castle interiors..."
"What?" I still have no idea what she's talking about.
"Look, there's more than just walls in such a castle, you know. There's a lot of space inside, with many different rooms, big ones and small ones. Maybe our feelings are just like that?"
"How do you mean?"
"Look, it's like in your heart there are different rooms for all the people you love all those that are important to you. What do you think?"
"Hm, that's an interesting idea. Go on."
"Yes, and then I think one of those rooms in your heart is for me. I hope it's still one of the bigger ones, right? There are lots of other rooms as well for your parents, for example. For good friends. A really big one for our daughter, of course. And there's one for her, too..."
She looks down at Kana's grave. We remain silent for a minute.
"So, how do you like that idea?" Yumi asks.
"I think that's an interesting concept, really. I didn't see it that way before, but you're right there's indeed room for all of you..."
Tenderly I put my arm around Yumi's shoulders, seeing a bright smile on her face. "Do you think I mean, if she could see us like this... Do you think it would be okay with her?"
"Yes." I nod my head. Yes, I definitely think so. I think she would be happy. She would want me to be happy she would want us to be happy."
At that moment the clouds start to part and the sun comes out. Yumi and I stand arm in arm in front of Kana's grave and look up to the sky, while the whole area around us is flooded with the bright sunlight.
I turn to Yumi. "Don't you think..."
"...maybe... that's her smiling on us..."
It's evening, and we're back home. Kana-chan is playing in her room, and Taka went to pick up something for dinner. As I peek in little Kana's room I see her sitting on the floor, playing with her toy bricks. She already built about a dozen vertical structures that look like small towers.
"Hey, Kana-chan, what are you doing?"
"I'm building a sammy-tarry. See?" She's pointing at the small towers. "These are the gravestones."
"Oh... I... I see that's... nice, yes..." I keep standing in the doorway, not knowing how to react. She concentrates on her bricks again and continues to build little gravestones.
Then the front door opens. I can hear Taka step inside and call out for him. "Taka, please..."
"Huh?" He peeks into the room from the hallway. "What's up?"
"Look..." I show him the brick structures. "Kana-chan's building... gravestones..."
Little Kana looks up and points at the largest structure right in front of her. It's made of colourful red and yellow bricks. "Look, Daddy! This one's Auntie's!"
"Oh, I see..." He gets down on his knees to look at it. "It's beautiful!"
"See, Daddy? Now we can remember Auntie right here, too!"
"Hey, that's really nice. Remembering your loved ones is very important. And I think Auntie would have liked this one. You know, she liked bright colours like these."
Kana-chan turns around, looking at him questioningly. "Daddy, what was Auntie like?"
"Well, she was my little sister. She was very kind, and gentle. And she was beautiful, too..."
"Really? What did she look like?"
"Well, I can show you, if you like. Do you want to see some pictures of her?"
"Yeah, I wanna see pictures!" Kana-chan gets up and clings to her father. "Where are they?"
"Wait a minute, I've got the album right here."
Taka picks up one of the old albums from a shelf in the living room and they sit down on the sofa. He shows the old pictures to her and tells her about her aunt's short life. I take the food to the kitchen and prepare everything to serve dinner, while keeping listening to him with one ear.
As I look out of the window, I can see it's getting dark outside. I've finished doing the dishes and sit down on the sofa, turning on the TV. Taka joins me after bringing our daughter to bed and reading a story to her.
Suddenly he jumps up again. "Oh, wait! Now I forgot something!" He goes to the entrance hall to pick up a bag he had left there. Pulling out a large, framed photograph, he shows it to me. This is one we had taken last year with Taka, me, and Kana-chan on my lap.
"Didn't you want to give that one to your parents?" I wonder.
"Yes, but I already ordered another copy at the photo shop. I guess this one should go right here." He holds the picture to the wall, next to the old one showing him with Kana. "What do you think?"
"Well, I think that one looks really good in that place." I show him my brightest smile. "Let's do it!"
Taka has gone to bed already, and gradually I've started feeling tired, too. Finally I switch off the TV and head to the bedroom. He's already fallen asleep, so I keep quiet, because I don't want to wake him up. Quickly I get undressed, put my PJs on and slip into the bed.
Taka looks so peaceful when he's sleeping. I love you, Taka. I can't express how much I love you. Maybe our love can't be exactly like those love stories you see in the movies, but I don't want to complain. Though it's been hard at times, it's still love, right? We're a family, and you're here with me, so I'm happy. I'll never give up on you, Taka because I love you.
I snuggle up to his body and tenderly kiss his lips. Then he's mumbling something in his sleep. Is he dreaming right now? What are you saying, Taka? I listen closely.
Ouch. Kana. She's still with us, and she always will be. For half a second I let go of Taka. But then I cling to him even tighter. Closing my eyes, I start drifting off to sleep. I know there's a place in his heart for me, and for our daughter, too. We're both going to give it our best effort, and it will all work out. We can do it.I know we can do it...