Yamashita Kaze sat in gym class listening to Yomato-sensei tell them that they were going to be doing for that class period. Saki poked Kaze in the back. “What now,” she thought. Saki was kind of a friend but that was something about her that annoyed Kaze. Kaze brushed her long hair over shoulder and turned around to look at Saki.
Saki’s brown eyes lit up. “I want you to meet the new girl.”
“Great,” Kaze thought, “another one of her friends,” but instead she said, “yeah sure.”
Saki pointed to a girl in the back of the group with shoulder length straight black hair and glasses. “Her name is Himuro Kaya.”
“She is cute,” Kaze thought.
“Yamashita-san pay attention,” Yomato called attention to her.
“Gomen sensei,” Kaze replied.
- * * *
“Kaze,” Saki grabbed her arm after class and drug her toward Kaya as they were walking to the locker room to change. “Kaya this is Yamashita Kaze.”
Kaze bowed to the girl noticing that she was a few inches shorter than Kaze’s 5’ 3" and that she was not as skinny as a chopstick. “Insanely thin girls are not pretty anyway,” she thought.
“Hi,” Kaya replied. “I just moved here.”
“Where did you live before moving to Koto?” Kaze asked.
“We should all exchange numbers,” Saki beamed jumping up and down.
“Yeah,” Kaze agreed as she followed Saki and Kaya into the locker to change. “So what classes are you in Kaya?” Kaze listened as Kaya talked as they changed.
“Isn’t it great,” Saki replied happily. “The three of us are in the same class, 3-D.”
“Yeah,” Kaze said not really listening to Saki ramble on. “Kaya you want me to carry that for you?”
“Nah I got it,” replied Kaya with a smile.
- * * *
“Kaze wait up,” Kaya yelled as Kaze slipped on her indoor shoes and put on her regular shoes at she was getting ready to leave school for the day.
“Yeah,” Kaze replied turning around to notice it was Kaya who had called to her. “Hey,” Kaze instantly felt a smile come to her face.
“I forgot to give you my number this morning.” Kaya held out a piece of torn paper to Kaze.
Kaze grabbed her notebook from her bag and ripped out a sheet of paper and scribbled down her number. “Here is my number,” she said handing it to Kaya. “Which way is your house?” Kaze asked as they walked out the front of Higashi Middle School. http://www.higashi-h.metro.tokyo.jp/
“The bus I have to catch is over on,” answered Kaya.
“I go in the opposite direction,” Kaze told her. “I live at the Kameido Tenjin Shinto Shrine.” http://tokyosnapphoto.blogspot.com/2010/03/kameido-tenjin-with-ume-blossoms.html (Kameid Tenjin Shinto Shrine is located in Kameido, Koto ward, Tokyo)
“Okay see you tomorrow,” Kaya waved and ran off.
- * * *
Kaze lay on her bed with her head in Kaya’s lap. “It seems like I have known you forever but we have only known each other a few months and it seems you have spent almost every Friday night over here at the shrine.” Kaze paused.
“What’s wrong?” Kaya asked not realize she was stroking Kaze’s hair. “You seem different lately.”
“There are rumors going around school,” Kaze finally spoke.
“Yeah started by the stupid boys,” Kaya huffed.
“Have you heard the rumors?” Kaze asked. “I mean really heard them?” Kaze opened her eyes and looked right into Kaya’s brown eyes which were looking down at her. “They say we are lesbians.”
“Because we hang around each other so much,” Kaya asked. “That is what friends do.”
“Yeah friends,” Kaze sighed and looked away. “When did I start feeling like this?”
“Kaze,” Kaya spoke the miko’s name softly.
“Yeah,” replied Kaze in the same soft tone as she gaze moved back to Kaya’s face and their eyes locked.
“Would it,” Kaya began with her hand still tangled in Kaze’s long raven locks.
Kaze’s crows, , cawed outside her window breaking the silence.
“Would it be so bad?” Kaya finally asked.
“Kaya,” was the only thing Kaze said as she sat up and looked out the window at her crows.
Not getting an answer from Kaze, Kaya stood to leave. “Sorry,” she whispered and grabbed her bag from the floor as she headed towards the door.
Kaze bolted from the bed and caught Kaya’s left wrist as her right hand was ready to open Kaze’s bedroom door. Kaya turned to face the miko as Kaze’s lips met hers causing the shorter girl the drop her bag but unsure what to do with her right hand. Kaze broke the kiss and stepped back still holding Kaya’s left wrist with her right hand. “No it wouldn’t be so bad,” she smiled.
- * * *
Kaze and Kaya were sitting under the Sakura trees during lunch sharing bentos they had made. “You have a piece of rice,” Kaze said reaching up to brush away the rice from Kaya’s face. After brushing the rice away Kaze’s hand lingered on the side of Kaya’s face and pulled the girl into a kiss which Kaya quickly broke.
“What if someone saw us?” Kaya whispered.
“Who, we are the only ones out here,” Kaze replied as the bell rang for them to head back to class.
Saki watched the two girls leave from behind a bush.
- * * *
After school Kaya and Kaze were leaving and Kaze had her arm around Kaya. Noticing there was not that many people in the front of the school yard Kaze smiled and pulled Kaya into some thick bushes up against the school wall. Both girls dropped their bags as they kissed each other. After a little while Kaya broke the kiss laughing. “You are going to make me miss the bus again.”
“So,” Kaze smiled.
“So,” Kaya side back to her hitting her lightly on the arm. “I have to hurry.” She picked up her bag and started to run. “Kaze, don’t forget you promised to wait for me tomorrow since archery club and rehearsal for end of the year cultural festival play our class is putting on end of the same time.”
“Yeah I know,” Kaze yelled after her.
“I will never understand how you got out of the play since it is class effort,” Kaya said acting mad.
“I can’t act but I will be the one ushering people in after the archery exhibit the archery club is doing,” Kaze replied.
“You are making me late again Yamashita,” Kaya yelled and ran off while Kaze just smiled and watched her go.
- * * *
The next day Kaze stood in the hall waiting for Kaya to finish rehearsing as she saw Saki walk up with some other girls from their class, “Hey Saki.”
“Don’t act like nothing happened,” Saki said angrily. “I saw you the other day.”
“What are you talking about?” Kaze asked.
“Yesterday at lunch,” Saki insisted.
“I saw her after school yesterday,” the girl the Saki’s left said.
“Yeah,” the girl on the right said. “Kaya couldn’t get away from you quick enough.”
“What did you try and do to her?” demanded Saki. “Are you trying to turn her into a dyke like you are?”
“I think she needs to look like a dyke don’t you, Mai” the girl on the right asked.
“Yeah, Chaki,” agreed the girl on the left as she pulled out a pack of matches and tossed them to Saki.
“Saki,” Kaze said looking at the girl who had changed so much from the girl she had known earlier in the year. Kaze had to admit she did not know her as well as she did because about a month after the school year had started Kaze started hanging out with Kaya most of the time while Saki had made friends with some other girls in class.
Saki said nothing but smiled as she caught the matches. Mai and Chaki rushed toward Kaze pinning her arms behind her and forcing her to the ground on her knees so all she could see before her was the marble floor. Saki jerked Kaze’s face in her hand so she was staring at the burning match. “Your hair does not match who you are,” Saki said disgustedly. “I think it should be shorter. Maybe I should just burn it off?” Saki held the match closer to Kaze’s face as she willed herself not to cry.
“Crying is for the weak,” Kaze mentally told herself. Kaze felt someone pull on her hair knowing it much have been the third girl with Saki but she could not think of the girl’s name. Kaze heard what sounded like metal and then a tearing sound as the grip on her hair slowly loosen but occasionally her head was yanked back at an angle she knew it should not go.
“I hear someone coming,” one of the girls whispered to Saki.
“Let’s go,” she ordered and began to run off as the other two girls let her arms go.
Kaze laid there willing herself not to cry as her hair fell around her. Opening her eyes Kaze realized there was more of her hair pooled around her on the floor than there should have been. Her hands quickly flew up to her head and she quickly found her hair only went to about her chin. Also hearing footsteps Kaze grabbed as much of her hair as she could and ran to the nearest girl’s room. Once there she threw her hair in the trash and looked in the mirror as tears ran down her face. Not wanting Kaya to see her like this she quickly left the school grounds and headed to the shrine locking herself in her room and crying herself to sleep.
- * * *
“Kaze dinner,” Yamashita Nadine knocked on her door.
Waking quickly Kaze changed from her school uniform, brushed her hair without looking in the mirror and wiped her face. When Kaze walked into the kitchen her parents started at her and her mother dropped the bowl she was carrying to the table.
“What did you do to your hair?” demanded her mother.
“Tradition,” Yamashita Takashi yelled. “The women at this shrine have long hair.”
Kaze did not know what to say. She did not want to deal with her parents or anyone else right now. “I am not hungry,” she said and hurried from the kitchen back to her room and once again fell asleep on her bed crying.
- * * *
Kaze did not go to school the next day so after school Kaya skipped rehearsal for the play saying she was not feeling well and went to the shrine. “Kaze,” she said softly as she opened the miko’s door to find her lying in her bed with the blanket over her head.
Kaze pulled the covers tighter around her. “Go away. I don’t want you to see me like this.”
“Like what?” Kaya asked putting her bag down and coming closer to her girlfriend’s bed. “Kaze please talk to me. You weren’t at school today and you didn’t wait for me yesterday after rehearsal ended. What is wrong?”
“No,” Kaze mumbled.
“Please,” Kaya begged pulling on the blanket. Kaya stared at Kaze’s hair. “What happened?” Kaya reached out to touch Kaze’s hair but she pulled away.
“Don’t touch me,” Kaze yelled.
Kaya flinched but reached for Kaze again. “I love you. Talk to me.”
Kaze looked at Kaya with tears in her eyes and curled up into Kaya’s open arms. “Saki, Mai, Chaki, and another I could not see. Held me down and cut my hair. I think Saki wanted to burn my hair off. Saki saw us kissing the other day and Chaki saw you and me after school. They think I am trying to turn you.”
Kaya held Kaze tight and stroked her hair. “You can’t turn me when I was already like you,” Kaya smiled.
“I love you too,” Kaze whispered as Kaya slid down to lay beside Kaze. Kaya kept stoking Kaze’s hair as they stared into each others eyes. “I want to kiss you so much right now.”
“Me too,” Kaya whispered as their lips brushed each other into a passionate kiss.
- * * *
“Kaze,” a knock came on her door, “time to get up and do your chores before school.” Not getting a response from her daughter Nadine opened the door and stopped dead in her tracks. “What the hell is going on here?” she yelled seeing her daughter in the arms of her friend Himaru Kaya.
“Mom,” Kaze said bolting up in bed along with Kaya, “this is not what you think.”
“What I think,” Nadine continued to yell, “is that my daughter has been turned into a lesbian.” Nadine quickly strolled toward her daughter’s bed and yanked Kaya to her feet by her hair. “You get away from my daughter.” Nadine drug Kaya by her arm through the part of the shrine that was their home and roughly threw her out. “I never want to see you here again or around my daughter.”
“Mother please,” Kaze yelled running behind her mother trying to get to Kaya.
“Kaze go to your room,” Nadine ordered. “You are not to see her anymore.”
“No mom,” Kaze cried. “I love her!”
“No you do not!” Nadine screamed.
“What is all the commotion?” Takashi questioned coming through the house toward his arguing wife and child.
“I found our daughter in bed with her,” Nadine yelled pointing to Kaya who was still on the ground in front of the shrine.
Kaze broke through her mother trying to block the doorway and ran to Kaya. They clung to each other and kissed in front of Kaze’s parents. She did not care anymore. All she could think about was being near Kaya.
“You may be my daughter but you will not bring shame to this family,” Takashi yelled roughly grabbing his daughter by the arm and pulling her away from Kaya.
“Kaya,” was all she said as her father drug her back into the shrine and slammed the door.
“Kaze,” Kaya screamed causing the cawing birds to cease and fly into the sky.
The door to the shrine opened and Kaya’s bag came flying toward her. “Get the hell off of my shrine.” Takashi demanded and shut the door again leaving Kaya in the front of the shrine as dawn broke into morning.
- * * *
“Father please,” Nadine spoke into the phone.
“You ran away from me years ago,” Marvin Honeycutt told her. “I said if you left this house I would not see you again.”
“I am not asking to come home,” Nadine replied. “I am asking if you will take Kaze.”
“Why do I want to take in your child who I don’t even know?” Marvin asked.
“She is your granddaughter,” Nadine insisted.
“She is your daughter and has done something so bad that you and your Jap husband do not even want her,” Marvin countered.
“I can’t control her.” Nadine sighed.
“Why do you think I can do any better if you two can’t control her?” Marvin yelled. “You have always been just like your mother.”
“Don’t you dare bring mom into this,” Nadine yelled over the phone. “She did not leave you for another man as you always told me growing up. She left you because all you cared about was working for the damn CIA after the war. You were so wrapped up in your work and your secrets that you never showed any of us any affection.”
“Don’t you talk to me in that tone of voice,” Marvin huffed. “You never knew what went on between your mother and I.”
“Yes I do,” Nadine told him. “Mother died loving you. She got to meet her granddaughter and spent her last few years here. Takashi’s family allowed her to be buried in their family cemetery near the shrine. You always hated Takashi because he was Japanese but he did not wound you on Iwo Jima.”
“Clarice,” Marvin whispered. “I think I know a place that might,” he finally said after a long pause. “At least I know what happened to you after all this time.”
- * * *
Kaya never saw Kaze at school again. The homeroom teacher just announced that Kaze had moved and changed schools. When Kaya went to the shrine the after school Yamashita Takashi said that he did not have a daughter and demanded she leaves the shrine grounds.
“Child,” Yamashita Yoko said softly. “I do not approve of your relationship with my granddaughter but I do believe everyone should know love at least once in their lives. My son has shipped her off to America but to where I know not.”
“Thank you Yamashita-san,” Kaya bowed to the plump older woman before her who had her silver hair tied in a bun on top of her head.
“I found two sets of these in her room,” Yoko told the girl. “I think she would want you to have this.” She took a package out from her sleeve and handed it to Kaze.
“Thank you again,” Kaya bowed and left the shrine.
Yoko watched the young girl go as Karesu and Kuroi cawed from the perch on top of the shrine roof. “Koji watch over Kaze,” Yoko whispered into the sky.
- * * *
“I am Yamashita Roxanne Kaze,” she introduced herself to the man before her with a slight bow.
“I am Marvin Stephenson,” he replied holding his hand out to her.
Kaze stood in front of Marvin Stephenson. “Please take good care of me,” she bowed.
“It is not that I don’t want you,” he told his the young girl before him. “I don’t know you. Also as you can see I no longer live in my own place so there is no way I could take care of you. I have the means to send you to a good school.”
“I understand,” Kaze replied aloud. “Great,” she thought, “he does not even know me and does not want me. I guess here in America blood does not mean anything.” Kaze took a breath before speaking again. “I am sorry to be a burden upon our first meeting.”
“You may stay with me tonight,” Marvin smiled trying to comfort the young girl in front of him but knew he was failing. “I have a couch you can sleep on and then in the morning I will get you set up with a boarding house where you can stay until the new school year starts.”
“Thank you Stephenson-san,” Kaze bowed following the old man up the stairs into the one room space he lived in at the assisted living home.
“Please,” Marvin sat down on his bed as he motioned her for to sit on the couch, “call me Marvin. Your mother told me that you knew Clarice.”
Kaze smiled at the memory. “Clarice was an amazing lady. Even though I was very young I could tell she had a lot of love to give and hid a lot of pain.” Kaze bowed her head. “It showed in her eyes even though she tried to hide it,” Kaze lowered her voice.
“Clarice was an amazing woman,” Marvin agreed.
“How did you know my Obasan?” Kaze asked. “Sorry my grandmother,” she added.
“Clarice, your grandmother,” Marvin paused as his voice tried to crack, “was my wife.”
Kaze looked at the man on the bed. “You are Okasa’s father?” The man nodded. “She told me that she did not have a father so I always thought you were dead but then after I met Obasan I got the impression you were still alive but knew never to ask about you.” Kaze watched him as he talked and thought, “more like a vision but I will not tell you that.”
“Sadly I am not surprised Nadine would tell you that,” Marvin began. “Your mother and I had a big fight after she met your father. We argue and she left.” Marvin stopped and looked at Kaze. “How old are you?”
“I am fourteen,” Kaze answered.
“I have not seen your mother in over 25 years,” Marin told his granddaughter still trying to grasp the fact that he had a granddaughter after all this time. “You see, Clarice and I had your mother late in our marriage which is why there is so many years between yourself and I.” Marvin smiled and laughed. “I know I must seem very old to you. My body maybe old but my mind is still sharp as a tack.”
“Age is a sign of wisdom,” Kaze informed him. “I was brought up to respect my elders and that there was much to be learned from the older generation.”
Marvin laughed. “Sounds like whatever they teach you over there the kids here in America really could learn. No one seems to respect their elders here. We are just seen as past our prime and are of no use so people like me get put in homes like this.”
“In Japan our elders live with us in our home until it is time for them to go meet our ancestors. Our past and our ancestors are one of the most important things in our lives. Everyday I wake up before the sun to began my chores before school but before that I got to our family shrine to give thanks and ask for Koji Ojiisan, Clarice Obasan and the others that came before me to watch over me.” Kaze stopped talking when she noticed Marvin had tensed up.
Marvin sighed again. “I am sorry I don’t know what to do. I know I shouldn’t hate you and I don’t. Really,” he tried to assure Kaze. “It is just I was in the second Great War. I was stationed in Japan. The Japanese took many of my friends and comrades from me.”
“I never knew Koji Ojiisan,” Kaze told the man she had recently learned was her maternal grandfather. “He was also in the second Great War. He was killed by the Americans on Iwo Jima near the end of the 35 day battle. Father did not know his father. Yoko Obasan found out she was pregnant after she got the news of her husband’s death.”
“Enough talk,” Marvin said. “Let’s get to bed. It is late. You may change in there,” he told her pointing to the bathroom, “While I change out here.”
When Kaze come from the bathroom Marvin had put a blanket and pillow on the small couch for her and pulled back his own covers to his bed.
“Thank you Marvin-san,” Kaze told the old man as she lay on the couch and pulled the blanket around her.
“Goodnight Roxanne,” Marvin said turning out the lights.
“Goodnight Marvin-san,” Kaze replied with a pause. “Please call me Kaze.”
Marvin nodded in the dark. “I hope one day we will know each other well enough for you to call me grandfather if I earned it. Also maybe one day I can see your mother again.”
Kaze drifted to sleep as she thought about what the old man had said.
- Karesu means crow
- Kuroi means black
- Koji means light/shining second child
- Takashi is older than Nadine