This is the fifth part of Rin's arc in 'After the Dream', my post-Lilly-neutral-end mosaic.
It runs from 2028 to 2029.
Rin 5: Yarrow (T +4)
I need to spend more time talking to my paper and my canvas. When I talk to people it spoils things. It helps to have my own room. But Hisao’s children come into it and they hug me and that’s nice and I get all warm inside. But my talking time is gone and my paints dry up and then I am empty of colours and I’m not Rin anymore.
The other day I told them a bedtime story. I don’t know why some stories must be bedtime. I always thought stories were anytime. So I told them a story about how once upon a time there were three sisters, and two were blonde and golden and beautiful and their father was a rich man who was never around. The last one was dark and shy and only a stepsister yet she was the most beautiful. And the younger blonde girl stole the prince’s heart and smashed it and the stepsister tried to fix it and in the end the prince married someone else and then he died. The end.
It was easy to tell that story because I painted it once and Hisao was angry with me and I gave it to him and said it was his story after all and he could do what he wanted with it because if he was angry I didn’t want it. And he was sad and said he was sorry but I don’t know what he was sorry for because the story was true.
This time Akiko is coming to eight years of age and she loves her godmother a lot and she sees things quickly. And then she said, “Is Aunt Lilly the wicked one?” and I couldn’t say no because I think that’s maybe what I’ve thought all along and I didn’t say anything. Then Akiko started crying and said she hated Aunt Lilly and how could Aunty Hana be her friend after all that.
I am trapped here, like a butterfly that can’t come out of its cocoon. I always say the wrong things even when I say what’s right.
Little Akira is six years old now. He’s named after Big Akira, who is not so big and is female and is Lilly’s sister, and also his godmother. He likes his godmother and says she is ‘powerful’. I don’t know what that means to him. But he likes his Aunt Lilly a lot too, although he has seen her only two or three times. He got into a fight with his sister about that, and now Big Akira is angry at me because Akiko told her about my story.
“Rin, how could you tell them that crap?! That’s not how it happened! It’s not some fairy tale and you know they loved each other and that was a long time ago anyway.”
And she keeps shouting at me and then Emi walks in and her face is all scrunched up and she yells at Akira. She tells her to get out and not come back. The children are crying and Meiko sighs and brings them out for ice-cream.
So I go back to my room and check my window box because sometimes there are butterflies. I’m glad Shizune let us move to a bigger apartment for Yamaku staff with families and now I have good morning light. I have thousandleaf and violets and dandelions outside, and sometimes butterflies to paint. Today there are no butterflies. Maybe the shouting scared them away. If I were a butterfly it would scare me away.
No butterflies. I close the door and call Miki. Miki is my friend who is too far away. She’s been looking after my parents in Tsushima because I’m not there and my parents are old. Miki has no parents. She came from the same orphanage as Hanako, I think.
She always says that. I think that word is used too much. Now everybody is beautiful. Sometimes she uses ‘lover-girl’, which is strange and wonderful. But I let her call me what she wants to because she knows I’m really Rin whatever she calls me.
I use pictures on my tabphone to show Miki what I feel, but she prefers voice because she says she’s bad at reading pictures. She likes seeing my face too although she says holo is too complicated for her. I like seeing her too. She’s got a very graceful line even when sitting down.
“Your parents have a new cat. This is Chiba. He’s very cute.”
In her flesh hand, she holds up a golden-brown kitten with black and grey markings. Two sharp and curious grey eyes are looking at me over the edge of her palm. He’s very fluffy.
The cat makes a thin squeaky miaou sound. I want to paint him but right now I know it won’t come out right.
“Yeah, your mother named him. You know how she is, all the classic poetry and gods-know-what. After years of saying she didn’t want another cat after Kurome, your dad just staggered out down the street and brought him home. I think they’re very caring people.”
Yesss. They sent me far away to be with Nomiya. And gave me lots of money to stay here. It makes me feel cold and sad. I don’t know why.
“Lover-girl, you really should come back over here. If anything, it’ll stop your parents from asking me everyday when I’m getting married.”
I’m missing something again. My memories are all wrong.
“Heh, not any more. Bastard punched me and I punched back. Wrong hand. This one was made by the guys who made Emi’s black legs. We both ended up in hospital and he’s gonna be there a few more years. I’m fine.”
“You had a baby.”
“Nope, was having one. Didn’t happen.”
She looks a bit sad at that. I don’t like it when I make Miki sad.
“I have to go to the cemetery next week. Can I bring Hisao a message from you?”
Miki smiles and says with a funny voice, “Tell him it was fun, things could always have been better, but no regrets yeah?”
“I’ll tell him that.”
Things can always be better, but they always end up worse than the better they could have been. I miss Miki a lot. Rin is all alone here, sometimes. Even when there are people around.
“Seriously? Think about coming home. Your parents haven’t seen you for helluva long time. And it would be more fun to be living in your room with you actually here.”
Yes. She lives in my old room now. I can’t remember that room except that the lighting was never very good. I have words to give Miki, even though I’m not sure they’re right.
“Miki. If I had arms, I would give you a big warm hug.”
“Aww, that’s very sweet of you!”
There’s a knock on the door. I look at my spycam. It’s Meiko. What now?
“I have to go, Miki. I would like to see you too. Maybe soon. Bye.”
“Bye, Rin! Be good!”
I wave my foot at her and blank the tabphone. Then I open my door with a gentle poke.
“Rin? The children don’t want to eat ice-cream without Aunty Rin. So they decided to wait for you in the common room. Big Akira’s left, by the way, and Emi probably needs a little chat. Would you go with them to the café? I’ll stay with Emi.”
Escaping Yamaku will be harder than I thought. It’s like the butterflies and thousandleaf. They always stick around for more until there’s nothing left.
It’s been almost five years since Hisao left us. Now that Hanako spends more time in Japan and even Shizune visits the staff quarters more often, I feel as if I am less and less me. I am here for Emi, but Emi doesn’t want anybody except somebody who is no longer here. I am here for Akiko and Akira, but they belong to Aunty Hana, really. My thousandleaf is failing and the butterflies don’t come anymore. The violets are dead.
I start putting my paper and canvas neatly aside in piles. I can’t talk to them properly anymore. Everything is wrong. There’s nobody I can talk to here. I thought that friends don’t keep secrets, but I learnt that some secrets must stay secret even if you are friends. There’s only one person around here who can talk to paper, so I have to try to talk to her.
Emi and Hanako have taken the kids out for parfaits with Aunty Misha. Somehow, nobody is growing fat even though everything they eat is full of cream. I get on the bus, happy for once that I am alone, and visit Meiko.
“Rin! How nice to see you!”
She always acts as if she means it. After so many years, that’s probably true. I am happy that she’s glad to see me.
Suddenly, I have to close my eyes. When I open them, she is looking anxiously at me. Over her shoulder, I see a very sad person with beautiful red hair. I think it’s Rin.
“Dear? You’re so sad! What can I do for you?”
She is already hugging me. There are butterflies in her garden. I wish I could stay here instead of at Yamaku. But I can’t.
I open my little portfolio, the one with the pencil sketches. I show her the one with butterfly-Rin, half out of the cocoon, half stuck. I show her the one where the butterfly hangs there until its wings dry out and it drops like a dead leaf. I show her all the little sketches that I haven’t shown anybody.
Last of all, I show her the only coloured one, my sketch of the butterfly I painted onto Hisao’s stone as a gift to him. I went back one day and Emi had cleaned it up, she couldn’t even leave me that last butterfly, the only one I had left in me, and now, there is nothing left of Rin.
And then my memories escape. They are pouring out of my eyes, all salt water and heat and lost butterflies, and Meiko is holding me tight and saying things I cannot hear.
I stay at Meiko’s place for a few days. Meiko collects my clothes and washes some of them. She says she told Emi and the kids that Aunty Rin was tired and needed a break. I like it that she told the truth but kept my secrets.
I show her the note I’ve printed. It says, “Please forget about me, and I will forget about you too. It’s easy. After all, I am good at forgetting things.” There is a sad smiley face next to that.
Meiko clicks her tongue at me and makes a little sad face of her own. I don’t mind. I trust her.
“Rin, that’s all true and I know you can do that. But it would be cruel to the children and to Emi. Emi didn’t mean to hurt you when she cleaned Hisao’s stone. She left your butterfly there for a week until she let it go, remember?”
That’s what Meiko keeps telling me. But I think Emi is broken more than I am, and if we go to visit Hisao every year one day there’ll be two dead broken people next to Hisao’s stone. This, I don’t tell Meiko. It would be cruel, as she says.
I take out my little sketchpad, now that I’ve started drawing again. I discovered one last butterfly in me, and it’s taking shape nicely. I have printed next to it, “Butterflies fly. See you someday.”
“How about this one?”
Meiko sighs. I’ve already told her everything about my life, and how I have nobody left here, not even Emi. I have also told her that the only person I would stay for is her, because she is Meiko and not because she is Emi’s mother.
“That’s far better. Dear, you know I’ll miss you. And Emi and the children will too. But you’re right. The butterfly must go free. Can you spend a few more days with Emi and the kids? Then I’ll see what I can do to make it easier. You don’t have to tell them. I can do that if I have to.”
I don’t know how to say it, but Meiko is more my mother than anyone has ever been. Which would make Emi my sister, but that’s sad because it doesn’t feel that way anymore.
One morning, I’m gone.
Goro has to attend a conference in Nagasaki. Three days after Goro leaves Yamaku, Meiko helps me with some stuff and waves goodbye to me early in the morning at Sendai Airport. Everyone at Emi’s apartment is still asleep. The note I’ve stuck on my old door is the one with my final butterfly.
I nap like a cat until I’m landing at Nagasaki. Goro helps me get on the shuttle flight to Tsushima. My tabphone pings gently. Meiko: [They really miss you. But spread your wings. Keep in touch. Love, Mom.]
I feel warm inside, although still a bit lonely. But Goro gave me a hug and his usual funny alarming grin, and that will keep me till later. I look out of the windows of the small plane, and the sea is deep blue-grey, like memories that don’t come to an end.
My tabphone pings once more, startling me. Miki: [Can't wait to be with you again, babe! See you at the airport!]
In my head, I see memories again. But they’ll be memories of things that haven’t happened yet. There’ll be butterflies in some new garden, and also a little golden cat with interesting markings, and a brown woman with graceful limbs. And Rin won’t be alone.