Sakura and the Widow Tree

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SAKURA AND THE WIDOW TREE 

by J.M. Staley

Widow trees.  That’s what they called them this time of year.  Snow-heavy and bent like the crooked backs of elders.

So fragile, they could easily snap and make a widow and children at home.

     A year, and yet you still haven’t cried, she thought.

“Miss Sasaki!”

“Yes, teacher!” Sakura instantly regretted that she hadn’t paid attention.  Nanami giggled at her from the next seat over and all the boys gawked.

“Would you kindly stand and read aloud from Gatsby?  We were at “they’ll keep out of my way.”

Sakura picked up the book and stood.  She could feel her face hot with embarrassment as she stumbled through the passage.

     “They’ll keep out of my way,” she insisted. “It takes two to make an 
accident.”

     “Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself.”

“Sit down, Miss Sasaki.”  Stray laughter accompanied her as she made herself as small as possible in her chair.  Nanami reached over and patted her arm, but it was all she could do not to cry.

Later, Sakura told Nanami why as they ambled out into the courtyard and drank hot coffee from the vending machine.

“Everyone already thinks I’m weird.”  She shrugged her bookbag higher.  It kept sliding off her thick padded jacket.  “You’re the only one here who knows me from back in Okinawa.  Now I’m just the stupid transfer student.”

Nanami drained the rest of hers and belched.  “Not true.  You’re the shy, delicate flower that all the boys want to get to know.  Unlike me, the rough tomboy type.”

“Hey, sassy cherry! Nice coat.”  One of the boys in a group catcalled.

Sakura groaned.  Her unfortunate nickname.  Why didn’t my parents think carefully when they named me?

“Hey!” Nanami threw her empty can and hit the boy right in the arm.  “The sakura is a noble tree!”

He rubbed the spot she had hit.  “Geez.  Lighten up, Kobayashi.”  But he and his friends turned away from them.

One boy, who stood apart from the group, did not.

He didn’t wear a hat, though snow fell onto his dyed and spiky blonde hair.  It was Saito-san. Hiraku.

He smiled at Sakura and continued to stare.

She looked away.

Nanami poked Sakura in the back to push her onward.  “Hey, hey, Sakura.  Cheer up.  It’s Friday!  Let’s go out to karaoke tonight.”

“I can’t.” Sakura stopped next to the school gate.  “I have things to do for my mom.”

“We’re going to break you out of your shell, Sakura,” Nanami wiggled teasing hands at Sakura.  “I’m going to cast a spell on you so that you have to have fun.  Nine tonight!  Okay?”

“Fine,” Sakura leaned against the gate.  “Nine.”

Nanami ran down the street laughing.

Sakura wished she had half her cheer.   She travelled the opposite way towards home, although that wasn’t where she went.

She walked straight to the grave for her daily conversation with her father.

She cleaned a space to set down an unopened can of coffee from her bookbag.  “Don’t worry,” she told the black stone.  “I’m not lonely, really!”

A voice startled her.  “Then why come here everyday?”

She stood.  It was Hiraku.  “Saito-san! You scared me.  What are you, a stalker?”

“Call me Raku.”

“We’re not that familiar.”  She brushed snow off of her uniform skirt and folded her hands into her armpits to keep them warm.

He smiled.  “But we talk everyday at school.”  He looked at the coffee can.  “Whose grave?”

Sakura sighed.  There would be no getting rid of him.  “My father’s.”

He bowed.  Did his face turn a little red?  “I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” he said.  “Was it recent?”

She turned and he followed.

“It was a year ago, today.  A tree branch heavy with snow fell on his car and made him crash.”

“Is that why you moved?”

She nodded.  “His family grave was here.  My mother didn’t see any reason to stay in Okinawa.”  Sakura didn’t know why it was always so easy to talk to Hikaru.  She didn’t even know where he lived.

“It’s good you keep your dad company.”  Hikaru tucked his gloved hands into his pockets.

Her words became rising steam as they spoke.  “Daisy was wrong.  It doesn’t take two to make an accident.  Sometimes it just takes one very unlucky person.”

They walked in silence down the road and he was still beside her.

The dry snow swirled furiously upward with a sudden wind.

     Crack.

“Sakura!”

His arms wrapped around her and she was on the ground against his chest before she knew what had happened.

She heard the crash and turned to see a tree limb on the ground where she had just been.

She sat up and started to cry.

He held her.  “It’s okay.  You’re safe now.”

Her tears were for another widow tree in another year. “Why? Why did it have to take him from me?”

“Sakura…” He used her name so familiarly again.  She wanted to yell at him, but he kissed her forehead and she stopped.

Sakura hiccoughed.

“I don’t know why I followed you today,” he whispered, “but I’m glad I did.  Maybe your father was looking out for you.”

She sniffled and stared at his hair.  “You’re not even wearing a hat, you idiot.  In this cold!”

His laugh was rich and warm.  “Is that really the first thing you thought of to say?”

She couldn’t help herself.  She laughed uncontrollably through her tears until they were gone.

She pulled away from him, looking down.  “You’re hurt.”

He hid the angry scrape on his leg.  “Just a scratch.  Let’s get you home.”

She smiled.  “Thank you, Hiraku-kun.”

At nine that night, Nanami waited for Sakura outside the karaoke bar.  “You’re late!“

     “Sorry!”

“I asked people from school here.  It’s all part of my spell to cure you.”

Sakura saw a spiky-blonde head amidst the crowd waiting inside.

He still wasn’t wearing a hat.

She smiled. “You know, I think it’s already working.”

~*~

This was written in response to a prompt from Write on Edge. Sorry for the loooong delay in writing.  I’m working on several manuscripts and sending Ebony out, as well as participating in several workshops.  SO the blog has been very neglected.

The prompt was as follows:

“It takes two to make an accident.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The details:

http://writeonedge.com/2014/01/it-takes-two-a-writing-contest/

  • 1000 word limit, all genres of creative writing are welcome.
  • Use the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote above as an opening/closing line or draw inspiration from it, your choice.
  • Community voting opens 2/22 and closes 2/28 at 11:55pm Pacific.
  • Community and editorial choice winners will be announced on Write on Edgeand Bannerwing Books on Monday, March 3, 2014.
  • All entries must be original work, only published on your personal blog/website, and by entering you give Write on Edge and Bannerwing Books permission to reprint your entry in Precipice, Volume III‘s print and digital formats, as well as permission to edit for grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors.
  • Have fun!

~*~

Picture credit: taken by me, 2014 during the Delaware River Ice Dam.  All Rights Reserved.

10 Comments

  1. What a wonderful love story wrapped in a mantle of melancholy. You did a fantastic job of setting her up as the outsider/new kid on the block, from her coat to her very name. I thought the dialogue between Sakura and Raku hit a genuine mixture of awkward, sweet and funny. I wasn’t quite sure how old they were, the coffee and the karaoke placed them a little older and I ended up thinking of them as being around 16.I loved your first paragraph and the theme of the widow trees throughout.

    Great read, thank you!

    1. Thank you! Yes I was thinking around 16. Actually in Japan I was under the impression drinking coffee was more regular with the teens there, but that is something I was not as clear on! High schoolers and karaoke definitely go together, though.

      You are welcome for the read, do come back again!

  2. I like the interaction between the two, and the blooming of a friendship (possibly more!) I also like the common thread of the tree branch- one had contributed to the death of her father, and the other, she’d managed to avoid, possibly with help from beyond the grave. (I like to think her father still looked after her…)

  3. This is such a sweet and lovable story 🙂 I felt really bad for Sakura but then seems like things are looking up for her and yes her father is watching from above- he did send her a miracle after all 🙂

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