The Kabuki Dancer

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

Chapter 19 (v.1) - Part Two: The Dancer - Chapter 18

Submitted: November 03, 2016

Reads: 211

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Submitted: November 03, 2016

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Watching Okuni dance and sway to the sounds of the tsuzumi, it was like no time had passed, and I was back in the main hall of the Izumo Shrine watching Okuni rehearse and practice.For a second, I forgot that Hana and the audience were beside me, and imagined that this was a private show put on for me specifically by Okuni.

When Okuni ended her dance in a dramatic pose, the crowd politely applauded, bringing me out of my daydream.  I clapped politely as well, resisting the urge to run down the embankment and embrace Okuni in front of everyone there.  Hana also applauded, whispering to me, “Has her dancing not become even more beautiful after all this time?”  I looked at Okuni as she greeted the people who came down to the embankment, and murmured, “Yes, it has.” Hana grinned and placed a hand on my arm, and said, “I hope you don’t mind that I did not tell you she was here with us.  Priestess Jitsuko wanted the two best dancers in the Izumo Shrine to come with us, and she picked Okuni and Chinami.”  I turned to her and replied, “Her movements and Chinami’s … they are very similar.”  Hana frowned, saying, “Of course! Okuni is Chinami’s teacher after all.”

Upon hearing this, my full heart sank.  It made perfect sense to me.  But what if Okuni and Chinami were lovers as well? I was sure my heart would not survive the disappointment.  At this point the crowds began to disperse, and Hana tugged my sleeve, saying, “Come on!” I held back a little, saying softly, “What if she does not want to see me?”  Hana put her hands on her hips and scolded me for my trepidation.  “Of course she will want to see you after all this time!  Now stop being so nervous and come!” She started down the grassy embankment, as I gingerly made my way down behind her. 

Hana made it down first and embraced the young miko who had played the tsuzumi, saying, “Hotaru!  That was incredible! I told you if you just practiced, your playing would improve tenfold!” The miko reddened at the praise and bowed her head, saying, “Thank you, Hana-chan.”  Hana turned to me to introduce me, but my eyes were solely focused on Okuni, who was placing a box in a small cloth carrying bag nearby.  I took a faltering step, and my sandal gave a crunch.  Okuni turned around and looked at me with her bright gray eyes.  A smile of recognition blossomed on her face, and she said, “Umi-chan?” I nodded, my emotion forming a knot within my throat.

I don’t know what I had expected at this reunion, but Okuni did not run into my arms like I imagined she would after being a decade apart.  She rose slowly and bowed gracefully to me, saying in a polite voice, “It is good to see you again, Umi-chan.”  I was stunned for a moment and did not know what to say.  Hana broke the awkwardness by running forward and grabbing Okuni by the arm and pulling her forward to me, reprimanding Okuni as she did.  “Stop being so reserved, Okuni-chan!” she scolded.  “We are all friends here, and we have been apart for far too long.  Come.”  She linked one arm through mine and another through Okuni’s, saying brightly, “Let’s return to the Shrine!  We have much to discuss and catch up on! Hotaru, would you mind bringing the alms box?”  Hotaru nodded and swooped to grab the alms box as Hana dragged us back up the embankment.

Walking back to the Inari Shrine, Hana did most of the talking, trying to get me and Okuni to open up.  But no matter how hard I tried, I could not get past this reserved person that now walked in the place of the girl I loved.  I wanted to ask why had she changed?  Why had she stopped writing her little tokens of love to me?  All this was on the tip of my tongue, but I could not bring myself to ask these questions.

Arriving back at the shrine, Hotaru excused herself and scurried off to join her fellow young mikos in the main hall. Hana looked at the both of us, and pointed up the mountain, saying, “I know you two must have a lot to catch up on and talk about.  If you follow the trail of the Tori gates, you may find a secluded place on the mountainside to have a conversation in private.”I balked, and Okuni seemed to awaken, saying anxiously, “But Hana-chan…” Hana stood her ground; her arms crossed, and stubbornly observed the two of us.“I will not hear another word out of the two of you until you have sorted things out.  I will be in the main Shrine with the other miko.We will have plenty of time to talk later.”She turned on her heel and stalked towards the main hall, the white sleeves of her haori flapping in the breeze.

I turned to Okuni and attempted a half smile, saying, “Well, we know Hana-chan was always the stubborn one.”  Okuni nodded, withdrawing into herself again.  I was still hurt, but tried to keep up a pleasant demeanor, indicating the path with my willow green sleeve and inquired “Shall we find a quiet place to talk?  You know Hana-chan will never forgive us if we don’t.”  Okuni nodded, once again not verbally acknowledging me.I turned and led the way up the path.

After we had travelled for a good while, we arrived at a small sitting area, with a small stone bench and a large tree providing shade.  I turned to Okuni and asked, “Is this spot suitable for us to speak?” Okuni glanced around, and then nodded.  I smiled a genuine smile, and then extended my arms to her.  “Oh, my dear Okuni-chan, I have missed you so!” I cried, rushing forward to grip her in an embrace.Okuni raised her arms and I was so excited at the possibility of us being enclosed in an embrace together.

But her hands descended on my shoulders like the claws of a tengu and she pushed me away from her.I fell back in shock, the back of my legs hitting the stone bench.  The look on Okuni’s face was one hard as stone, and when she spoke, it was in a halting monotone.  “I would appreciate it, Umi-chan, if you were not so forward with me in the future,” she grit.The air turned cold as I looked at her with disbelief in my face.  I blurted, “But why Okuni-chan?  Why are you acting like this?  Don’t you remember that we are lovers?  That we promised to always have each other in our hearts?” 

Okuni turned away from me, but I could see tears starting to fall from her eyes.  Her fists were clenched at her sides.  With her back turned, her black hair hung unbound and blowing in the light breeze.  I reached for it, but then her retort stopped my hand.  “Do you have any idea what it has been like these past ten years?” she whispered.  “For ten years, I have been living a lie!  Everyone at the Izumo Shrine holds me to the highest pedestal, and yet I am a liar! I am not pure in any way shape or form, but I must hold to this façade, to not disappoint my family, my fellow miko!And it’s all your fault!”  With each word her voice had been raising, and she turned to me with a crazed look on her face.I flinched as she continued.  “I had hoped that by me not sending you love tokens anymore, you would realize that I had moved on!  And I had hoped that you had moved on too!  All I want in life is at Izumo Shrine, yet thanks to you, a little part of my heart is not there!  It is with you, despite what I keep telling myself!” 

I felt a surge of hot anger roil through me, spitting, “How dare you!  Do you think it was easy for me, being forced to leave the Shrine because of feelings and emotions I was ashamed of?Do you know how hard it was for me, on my own, here in Kyoto, struggling to make a life for myself?  I thought of you all the time!  I kept your little love notes, as to me they were promises that maybe someday we could make a future together!  But now I see that’s an impossibility, now I see that you have someone else in your life!”

Okuni’s eyes widened in surprise.  “What do you mean?” she asked.  I laughed, replying, “I’ve seen your little apprentice.  Chinami, is it?  She is practically a clone of you!  Don’t deny that in addition to teaching her dance, that you aren’t spreading your legs for her as well!”  Okuni’s eyes narrowed and her mouth became a thin slit.  “Just because I did something unclean with you once, does not mean that I would do it with anyone else,” she growled.

My eyes filled with tears, and I felt like she had slapped me clear in the face.I strode forward and shook my finger in her face, this time yelling and throwing caution to the wind, not caring who heard my rage.  “Well you don’t have to worry about that anymore, do you, pure miko of the Izumo Shrine that you are.  I had hope that when you came, it would be a happy reunion, but obviously that is not meant to be!  So you can take that piece of your heart back for all I care, and go back to Izumo to be pure for the rest of your life!”

I strode by her, my kimono hissing on the ground as I moved.  I shouted behind my back, saying angrily, “Don’t bother to come find me!  In fact I hope I never see you again in my life!  If you want me out of your heart so badly, then so be it!”  I made it to a turn in the path and looked back, my black hair wild about my shoulders.  Okuni was standing there, and as I watched she fell to her knees clutching her arms about her, shaking with sobs.  I turned on my heel and left, as her sobs followed me down the mountain and stabbed me in the heart with each step that I took.


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