The Kabuki Dancer

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Prologue

Submitted: October 17, 2016

Reads: 411

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Submitted: October 17, 2016

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A cool summer morning announced the arrival of the dawn to the city of Kyoto.  A gentle breeze blew through the cherry blossom trees, loosening some blooms from their branches and allowing them to drift to land gently in the waters of nearby lakes and rivers.To the few people who passed by, it almost seemed like a perfect pink snowfall.Children ran happily through the falling blossoms, gathering them up in their hands and tossing the petals about so they would catch the wind.

Through this calm morning atmosphere, a black palequin carried by four man servants and escorted by four guards on horseback made its way down the path that ran alongside the Kamo River.The little group made its way into the courtyard in front of the Minami Za theatre, Japan’s most well known Kabuki theatre.  The palequin and the guards became jostled by the number of men and women making their way towards the theatre to purchase tickets for the day’s performance, as well as drinks and food to keep them well nourished for the day’s entertainments.

As the men slowly came to a stop, two little girls darted in front of the procession, happily chasing a calico cat.The horsemen came to an abrupt halt, jostling the palequin.The horses whinnied in protest, making their riders clad in full metal armor lose the balance in their saddles.  The little girls stopped their happy chasing and looked wide eyed at the guardsmen, the cat forgotten and scared of what lay behind the masks of iron that grimaced at them.

One of the guardsmen, the sternest looking among them, rebuked the girls angrily, exclaiming, “You brats need to watch where you are going.Do you realize the trouble you are causing?”  The smaller of the little girls, chubby and wearing an indigo kimono, started to bawl, and the older of the two embraced her in comfort.“Please sir,” she said in a tiny voice, “We did not see you coming.Please forgive us.” 

The guardsman made to get down from his horse, but a sharp rapport in a melodic woman’s voice came from the darkness of the palequin.  “Wait!” it spoke.  The guardsman stopped and turned towards the palequin.The little girls’ eyes widened in fear as the man servants set the black palequin on the ground and one of them opened the door to the palequin.  A slender white hand emerged and was grasped by one of the man servants.

From the palequin emerged a woman clad in a kimono made of red silk.Golden fans adorned the garment, and a pink obi studded with little cherry blossom patterns tied the garment at the waist.She wore the high black sandals of a woman of noble stature, and her sleek black hair, touched with a few hints of silver, was done up in the style of a noblewoman, and golden ornaments were set into her hair.Her face was perfectly painted as well, with white make up and red lips the color of a rose, with only the touches of aging seen at the corners of the eyes.Black eyebrows gazed down from behind a black and gold fan with the image of a dragon on it, clasped in her other perfect white hand.

The woman moved forward, slapping the fan close.She smiled genuinely at the two girls who quivered in the path.“Was any harm done to the girls?” she asked in a kind voice.The guardsman coughed a little, and then said, “No, my lady.But they could have done much harm to you.  And we know that your lord…”  The woman rounded on the guardsman, a cold look in her eyes and all courtesy gone from her voice in a frosty tone.  “My lord would understand.  There is no danger to me from a few children whose only crime might be not watching where they were going.”  The coldness in her eyes and voice silenced the guardsman, who uttered a curt, “Yes my lady”.

The woman moved forward to the two little girls, who cowered a bit underneath the height of the grand lady in front of them.She knelt down in front of them and asked, “Are you both okay?”  Both of the girls nodded furiously, seemingly stunned into silence by the woman’s beauty.One of them spoke up and asked, “Are you a noblewoman?”  The woman looked at the little girl for a moment, and then laughed a deep throaty sound from within her throat.  “I guess you could say that, my lady,” she chuckled.  Then she stood up and glanced around before turning her gaze back to the girls.  “Is your mother nearby?” she inquired.

As if on cue, a middle aged stout woman in her thirties in a brown kimono came darting forward from the crowd of people, exclaiming, “Minami!Akiko!  You should know better than to run off like that.”The little girls ran to their mother, saying, “Mama!  The beautiful lady helped us!”  The mother looked up and saw the noblewoman standing in front of the black palequin and guards with a bemused smile on her face.She immediately fell to her knees in the street, bowing and saying, “Forgive my miserable daughters, my lady!They are young and do not know what they do by blocking the path of one of your stature.  Whatever punishment you wish to give them, give to me and I will accept it heartily!” 

The lady moved forward, gliding effortlessly, barely making the sound of a footstep as she walked.A cherry blossom fell from a branch and caught in her black hair, not ruining the effect of her beauty, but adding to it.She reached into her pink obi and removed a small purse.Opening it, she removed two gold pieces.Reaching down, she took the woman’s hand and placed them within her palm.The woman looked at the gold in disbelief then up at the lady.“My lady …” she began. 

The noblewoman snapped the purse shut and tucked it back into her obi.“My fine woman,” she began “Your daughters were just doing what comes naturally at their age.Nothing more.  As a matter of fact, I can honestly say that you must be blessed to have such perfect little girls.  I offer this gold as a token of my good faith and thanks for having met two such young ones with good spirits.”  She took the woman’s hand and raised her to her feet.“Now go with my blessing,” the lady said kindly, bowing her head in the usual show of respect to a fellow human being.The mother took the girls’ hands in hers and bowed once more, saying in a voice laden with gratitude, “Thank you my lady!May Buddha shine his blessings down upon you!”  She then took the girls by the hands and left, vanishing into the growing crowd with the little girls waving goodbye to the lady.

Sighing, the lady turned and walked back towards the palequin and the waiting guardsmen and man servants.The guardsman whom she had reprimanded, whispered, “Such a show my lady.”  The lady stiffened at the curt remark.She then rounded on the old guard with a cold fire in her eyes, snapping, “It was much more than a show.Acts of charity and goodness are ones that should be performed daily.Not only for one’s soul, but also for the sake of the good people whom you help.” The guard bowed in his saddle, saying, “Yes my lady.”

The lady huffed, gave a deep sigh, and waved a hand, saying, “You can leave me.  I shall be perfectly fine proceeding to today’s performance from here on foot.”  The guards’ eyebrows rose, and the old guard asked, “Are you sure about that my lady?”  The woman turned to face the guard, and said, “Yes I am sure.I would like to enjoy a day at the theatre without you following me everywhere.  And if my husband is concerned, then just do not tell him you left me. Here.”She reached out the same manicured hand and dropped a handful of gold coins on the ground.  “Go to the pleasure quarter and enjoy yourselves,” she commanded. “Return at dusk for me.”  She then turned away and stood like a statue in the courtyard.

One of the guards got down from his mount and gathered the gold.The elder guard bowed in his seat.  “I shall return at the conclusion of your day’s entertainment,” he stated.Motioning a leather gloved hand; he turned his horse and headed in the opposite direction of the magnificent Minami Za Theatre, with the man servants and the guards following him. 

The lady remained turned until she was sure that the men had gone.Then she released a deep sigh from within her breast.She knew in her heart that she had had to get rid of the guards.  True, they knew that she was attending the performance, but they did not known why. 

 Instead of walking towards the theatre, the lady glanced around to make sure no one was watching her, and then walked towards a row of privies that stood in the corner of the courtyard, unnoticed now by the mass of people.She proceeded to the one on the end and opened it and went inside. 

The stench of human waste was repulsive, and the lady held up a kimono sleeve to her nose and mouth.For a moment, she did think twice about what she was about to do.But she was determined to attend the play tonight, in whatever capacity she could.Stifling an urge to vomit, she undid the pink obi at her waist and set her purse on the side of the toilet.She carefully turned the obi over, revealing a dark brown side.She laid it alongside the purse, and then gently and carefully removed the heavy ornamented kimono she wore.

Holding it carefully so as not to touch the dirty floor, she turned it inside out gently while standing in the privy in her white under robe.The other side revealed a stark contrast to the elegant outer coat, being dark indigo and stained with dirt and what appeared to be human waste.Unaffected, the woman carefully replaced the garment back on her shoulders, letting the dark side show to the world.With the lovely outside hidden against her under robe, her body was given different contours, almost making her a bit heavyset to the naked eye.

Sweeping the obi off the toilet, she tied the dark brown side up around her waist.She then moved her fingers quickly up to her golden ornamented hair and began pulling the golden pieces out, letting her hair fall in a sleek black and silver river down her back.After folding the golden ornaments into silken cloths and placing them in the purse, she removed a small iron box from the purse and opened the top, dipping one of her fingers into the contents inside.She then proceeded to streak a gray charcoal down the black parts of her hair.She kept doing so until her hair appeared gray to the naked eye.

After completing the transformation of her hair, she tucked the box back into the purse and withdrew a cotton rag.  After using it to dab her red lips and white face free of makeup, she dropped the rag in the toilet.She then removed her cumbersome sandals and placed a pair of straw ones on her feet.She started for a moment.  There was no way for her to hide the sandals she realized. 

She glanced down into the toilet and grimaced, realizing what she had to do.Picking up the fine black lacquered platform sandals, she dropped them into the toilet where they landed with an offending splash.She had no idea how she would explain this, but she would try.She then picked up the purse and tucked it beneath her obi, then opened the privy door into the courtyard.

It had cleared of most guests, save for a few people milling about the stalls.She glanced around and made her way to the entrance of the theatre.She approached one of the ticket mongers, saying in a squeaky voice, “I would like one ticket for the play please.”  The ticket monger looked at her like she was crazy, and then turned away.  “Go away old woman.  This play is not for the likes of you.”The woman bristled, because she could have afforded one of the best seats in the house if she had truly wanted, but she wanted to not be noticed on this day.
She reached into the purse tucked in her kimono and withdrew two gold pieces.When the ticket monger turned back to her, she held out her hand and inquired, “Is there enough here for a seat?”  The ticket monger took the gold and said, “Of course, madam.”  He then produced a ticket and said, “Enjoy the play.”  Then he strode into the theatre in a swish of wealthy silk.The woman grinned as she shuffled in.It still amazed her how much money still talked in society.

She then made her way into the hot sweaty theatre.In the upper balcony, members of the Tokugawa regime sat fanning themselves while reclining on cushions of elegance. Ladies murmured at each other through painted lips and fans held to block the words from the others around them, wearing silken kimonos.In the area between the flower path, the peasants and merchants jostled for seats.The woman made her way down the aisle and found her seat on a wooden bench.She sat down, pulling a small paper fan from her obi and began fanning herself, doing her best to not draw attention to herself.

The music began, signaling the beginning of the performance. The audience hushed as the torches around the theatre were put out and the stage was lit by an unseen light.As the woman watched along with the rest of the audience, a man dressed as a samurai emerged onto the stage, spouting some lines regarding his lost love.The audience chuckled a bit at the heavy melodrama.Then the samurai turned to the side of the stage and reached a hand out. 

Out from the wing came a small white hand.The woman held her breath as a stunning young woman dressed in an elaborate blue kimono with cranes on it emerged from the side. She took the hand of the samurai, and in a melodic voice spoke her words of true love and devotion to him.

As the woman watched, she was drawn backwards in time to memories long forgotten.To remember a time when this tradition had just began.


© Copyright 2018 Aomori-Chan. All rights reserved.

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