The Kabuki Dancer

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

Chapter 2 (v.1) - Part One: The Miko - Chapter 1

Submitted: October 17, 2016

Reads: 126

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Submitted: October 17, 2016

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To the people around me right now in this smelly crowded theatre, I must not seem like much more than a foolish old woman trying to observe something that is beyond my understanding in terms of beauty and in terms of art.Especially to the noblemen and women who occupy the upper levels of society and the theatre.

But I am much more then I may seem, for I was there when this theatre first broke ground and began.A time when I was at the height of the Imperial Court, only to have it all come crashing down around me.I experienced it all.Truth be told, there is a reason why I am in hiding.So that no one will recongize me and who I really am.To understand my story, I must go back to the very beginning.

I was born in the suburbs of Izumo to a poor family that could barely afford to care for me.I was the last of the four, and therefore unexpected in many ways.Unlike my brothers and sister, I was not planned.When I was presented to Father, he turned away in disappointment, despite already having had two sons.Mother showed disappointment, and gave me the common name of Sachiko. 

Besides myself, there were my older brothers, Jiro and Daisuke, and my older sister, Miyuri.Jiro was burly and rough around the edges, and liked to engage in fights with the other boys of the neighborhood.My other brother, Daisuke, was skinny as a bamboo shoot and preferred to stay home learning from my father what little information he could.As the only two girls in the house, my bond with Miyuri formed at a very young age, despite a five year age difference.

In conventional terms of the time, my beloved sister Miyuri was not beautiful.Her hair had a tendency to always come across as matted and nappy, no matter what Mother did when washing it when Miyuri was a little girl.Miyuri used to tell me how Mother used to exclaim, “Miyuri!  Your hair is impossible.It might be better to just cut it off and began again.No man will want you for a bride.”Miyuri’s impossible hair framed a face that resembled a pumpkin, with a squashed nose, wide mouth, and tiny eyes that observed the world around her.Her frame tended more towards chubbiness then voluptuousness.Mother used to state the only good thing about Miyuri’s body was that she had wide child bearing hips, perfect for bearing sons.

What Miyuri lacked in appearance though, she made up for with a sparkling kind personality and a humorous wit.She would be the one to feed the starving dogs in the road, taking them the meager table scraps leftover after a family meal.She was kind to the neighborhood children as well, and often joined in the games much to their excitement and happiness.My first fond memories about Miyuri come from being carried around on her back like a horse, with me shouting, “Yay Miyuri!  Faster faster!” to which she always happily replied by running quicker.

My sister’s kindness and generosity were what drew us together at that young age.In the communities of the eta, to see such inner beauty was rare.Outer beauty was very common, and often led to young women being sent to houses of prostitution in either Kyoto or Edo.  From an early age, I often felt that this would be my destiny, due to the immense beauty that everyone was telling me that I was becoming.Even Mother would often say, “You are becoming a beautiful flower, Sachiko.” 

The first time that I glimpsed myself in the reflection of a nearby pond, I almost did not know the girl who was staring back at me.At the time I was seven and was accompanying twelve year old Miyuri on errands.Even in my dowdy little blue cotton kimono, I could see my face and my skin was smooth and perfect and very pale, almost resembling the winter snow in the light of day.My eyes gazed out from two sets of dainty eyelids, with a slender nose and full lips.

I reached out to touch the girl in the water, but as my finger touched it the image dissolved.I quickly drew my finger back, afraid that I had done something wrong.Miyuri, who had been arguing with a vendor regarding some rather spoiled fish,  came walking up and looked at me and then at my reflection.She grinned and said, “Sachiko, you are truly beautiful.”  I whirled around and replied, “Not as beautiful as you, Miyuri.”  Miyuri smiled, but it was one of melancholy and a sweet sadness.  “That is kind of you to say, Sachiko,” she replied.

Miyuri bent over and looked at her own reflection standing next to mine in the pond’s surface.Drawing back from the water’s edge, she took the sleeve of her brown kimono and brushed it across her eyes, bringing away tiny damp spots.  “Even though we both know it is not true,” she sighed.I opened my mouth to protest, but she seemed to forget the moment as the sad smile became a true grin, and said, “Come, let us go get some treats before we head home.I always make sure to stash a few coins away when Mother is not looking.”  And so we dashed away from the pond and stopped at a local vendor for some buns with sweet bean paste on the inside, and I completely forgot the brief incident within my mind.

Unlike Miyuri, Jiro and Daisuke, who were ten and seven years my senior, were elusive to me, mostly because of the difference in our ages.And unlike Miyuri and me, Father took great pride in both of his boys.Jiro grew over the years into a burly hairy man with more fat on his body then muscle.At eighteen, Jiro left the family workshop to join a roving gang of eta criminals, known throughout the settlement for their excessive gambling and drinking.I did not see much of him in the years I was at home, and the times I did see him he was roaring drunk fighting with Mother and Father to pay his gambling debts.  

One night Jiro went out and did not come back.  A search was held and the police eventually found Jiro in the river with his throat slit. My guess is that he must have broken a deal with some gang, and the deal had turned bad to the point where his life was taken.  Mother and Father acted like it was the end of the world, and I guess no one could blame them due to the loss of a son.

Daisuke on the other hand was as tall and skinny as Jiro was big and wide.He did not like trouble, preferring instead to remain at home with Father to learn the trade of furniture making.Although not as skilled as Father, he made beautiful pieces, and soon gained note throughout the community.Daisuke once in a while consented to play with me when Miyuri was busy helping Mother.But those moments happened less and less as he got older and ceased altogether at the age of sixteen when he declared such games were no longer fit for young men and were fine for young women, but not for him.  He never married or showed interest in women, not because he preferred men, but I think he preferred bachelorhood and leaching what little money he could from Mother and Father.

Despite all the hardship that Jiro and Daisuke brought to the family, we still managed to have a semi quiet happy existence.Miyuri and I continued to run errands in the city of Izumo, occasionally slipping away from the duties that Mother gave us to observe a Bunraku show from the back of the crowds or to try on an expensive kimono we had no intention of buying.We knew that these things were above us as the lowest class of people, but we enjoyed it once in awhile all the same to get a taste of the good life.

As I got older and approached the age of marriage, I soon discovered that I was developing faster than other girls my age.One day while Miyuri and I were taking a bath together when I was twelve, she observed, “My goodness, Sachiko, those were never my size when I was your age!”  I was shocked, thinking something was wrong, and jumped out of the tub naked and wet to go stand in front of the piece of bronze that served as our mirror.I glared at the image staring back at me.

The buds of my breasts had certainly begun to develop into slightly rounder and fuller shapes.More than that, my face was becoming more like a young woman’s.I shrieked due to not being able to recongize myself and covered myself up with my hands. 

Miyuri came wandering in wrapped in her cotton kimono and drying her hair off with a rag.  She looked at me cowering in the mirror and chuckled.  “Oh, Sachiko,” she sighed, handing me my kimono and the rag she had been using for her hair.  “Miyuri, I don’t look like myself anymore,” I whined.Miyuri came up behind me and toweled my hair off, saying, “Well of course you don’t silly.You’re reaching that time in your life when you will grow up into a woman, and then be married off to a man, hopefully of good accord.  Or I suppose you could choose to be an old maid, but what woman in her right mind would want that.” 

I looked at my sister with my large gray blue doe eyes, filling with shimmering tears.“But I don’t want to become a woman!” I wailed sorrowfully.“I don’t want a strange man to come and take me away from you and Mother and Father and …” My sister silenced me with an uplifting of her fingers.“It is all a part of growing up, Sachiko,” she remonstrated.“From the moment we as a woman are born into this world, we are destined to be wed.Now come, dinner will be ready soon.”She walked off into the home, leaving me sitting alone on the damp wood floor with a glum expression on my face.

To tell the truth, the beauty I was acquiring was more scary then exciting.I noticed when I went out with my sister on errands now that we could not do what we had been able to do when we were younger, and spent more time observing clothes and hair ornaments in the stores of vendors rather than attending puppet shows or running through the streets.In addition, I noticed the attentions of leering old men directed at me, some who licked their lips suggestively.I cringed and always stuck with Miyuri.Miyuri and I were still close, but now she was more engaged with women her own age.And soon, Father and Mother had good news to share for Miyuri.  And it was at this point they brought a man into our house who would rob both me and Miyuri of our childhood innocence.

I remember this night the food we had was more elegant than we were used to.Mother had donned a still common but beautiful gray kimono patterned with white flowers and petals, while Father and Daisuke had shaved and donned elegant dark blue kimonos complete with gray bottoms.I wore a kimono of indigo, something that Mother had made special.But soon after, Miyuri entered, and I was entranced by her appearance.  Still not beautiful, she had makeup on her face, covering her natural skin color.Her lips were outlined in red, and her hair had magically been done in a more elegant style.The kimono she wore was a soft pink, still a common cotton, but one that resembled a cloth of a finer weave.She bowed to Mother, Father and Daisuke and sent a jolly wink my way before sitting down at the table. 

I still had no idea what was going on until a man walked in.He was short and squat, and reminded me of a sumo wrestler.He wore a stained gray kimono which barely concealed his ample girth and size, and huffed as he sat down.A few gray hairs stood out in his black top knot, and he had a massive black mole over his left eye.I glanced at Miyuri, who hid her displeasure under her painted face.

The rest of the family bowed respectfully, with Father saying, “Kurosami, it does me great honor to have you here in my home to request the hand of my daughter, Miyuri, in marriage.”At that moment, I felt like my entire world had been turned upside down.I must have let my jaw drop open, because Mother reprimanded me under her breath, saying, “Sachiko, mind your manners!”  I wisely closed my jaw and gave a brief bow as well. 

The man stepped forward and looked at Miyuri up and down like she was a heifer or a cow at market.Miyuri simpered and said softly, “Good evening, master.Would you like some tea?”  Kurosami, as that was the man’s name, turned to Father and said bluntly, “She is not that pleasing to the eye, is she?”  I balked at the man’s rudeness, but Mother hurried to say, “What she lacks in her face she makes up for with a good personality and good hips for childbearing.”Kurosami observed her hips and stated, “Yes I can see that.”  He did glance at me lewdly, and I gave a shudder.

Everyone sat down at the table then and proceeded to make what I guessed passed for small talk.Mother inquired about the weather, Father asked after business affairs, and Miyuri discussed proper topics of conversation.  I was stunned due to the lack of emotion that was being expressed at Miyuri’s leaving our household and joining a brand new one in marriage.I then wisely stood up and bowed, saying, “If you will excuse me, I must go to the toilet.”And I shuffled out of the room.

Outside, I made a dash for the bathroom and heaved into the privy bucket.I was so upset at the loss of my sister that I did not hear the door to the outside click open behind me and then close.I whirled about in a flurry of fabric and hair to see Kurosami standing in the backyard, a look of lust on his face.A dread descended on me like I had never felt before.I backed away protectively. 

The man moved forward, saying, “Lovely evening is it not?”  I nodded quickly and said in a meek voice, “Excuse me, good sir, but I must go back inside to join my family.”  I made to move past him, but he grasped my kimono sleeve, saying suggestively, “Oh there’s no hurry young one.What say you to a bit of fun first?”  He took my other arm as I squealed in protest.Grasping me tightly around the waist, he pawed at one of my new breasts with a large hand, saying, “I know you want it, little one.”  He pulled the breast from the kimono and began to fondle the dark nipple.I could hear his breath coming ragged and a hardness forming in the small of my back.His hand slid down and made to slide underneath the folds of my kimono. 

Suddenly the back door opened, and Mother called, “Sachiko!  Come in for dinner!”  I took the moment to pull forward out of his grasp, making a rip in my sleeve.I quickly adjusted my kimono to cover myself, and then I ran into the house leaving him standing in the backyard. I glanced momentarily back to see a look of fury in his eyes.

When I entered, Mother immediately saw my ripped sleeve and said, “Sachiko!  What have you done to your beautiful new kimono?”  At that moment I was on the brink of tears and ready to reveal all to the assembled party when the door opened and Kurosami walked in.He looked at me with a brief glance of menace.I bowed slowly and said in a soft voice, “I’m sorry, Mother.  I tripped and fell on the ground.Please forgive me.”  In a rare show of motherly love, which I am sure was done for Kurosami’s sake; she rushed forward and checked me for scratches and bruises.All the while, I watched Kurosami go back to Miyuri’s side, and pretend like nothing had just happened as they engaged in conversation.

When the evening ended, Father and Kurosami went outside to discuss the marriage arrangements, while Miyuri and Mother gathered up the dishes to be washed.I was still horribly shaken, and crawled up into bed in the loft.I lay there shaking for a few moments, and then glanced outside to see Kurosami walking down the road waving goodbye to Father.  In the blink of a moment, I saw him look up and see me.  His smile turned into a glare in his eyes, and he turned and walked off into the night.

I was shaking so badly when Miyuri came upstairs that she immediately was concerned, saying, “Sachiko, what is it?  Are you all right?”  I turned to Miyuri to tell her what had happened, but when I looked up into her eyes and saw the bright happiness there, I knew that I could not be so selfish as to ruin this day for her.Resolving to tell her tomorrow, I rolled over and said, “It’s nothing, I’m just a little chilly.”  She seemed to accept that explanation, and happy with her prospects, rolled over to go to sleep.Only I stayed awake late into the night, terrified of what might happen if I closed my eyes.


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