The Kabuki Dancer

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

Chapter 8 (v.1) - Part One: The Miko - Chapter 7

Submitted: October 21, 2016

Reads: 123

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Submitted: October 21, 2016

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It was at this point in my life that I settled into a routine, one that was to last for a couple of years to come.

My days would start by being awoken by either the call of the rooster or Okuni waking me in some manner, whether it was jumping on the bed, teasing me, or shouting my name really loudly.  I would then get up and we would both get dressed in our apprentice miko outfits and then have breakfast with Okuni’s parents, and once in awhile a young apprentice blacksmith who had stayed overnight to assist Nakamura-sama in the morning.  Then once the dishes were clean and farewells had been said, we headed off to Izumo Shrine.

At the shrine we had many daily tasks to attend to.  Whether sweeping the floors, airing out the dusty rooms of the outer buildings, or assisting Atsuko with the wash and laundry, there was always much to do.  Accompanying the two of us was always Hana.  It was easy for me to make friends with the other apprentices once I started being at the shrine on a regular basis, with the exception of Kumiko.

Kumiko and her two minions always made sure to make my life as much of a hell as possible.  Whether that be throwing mud on an already clean walkway, setting free the chickens from their pens making us chase them about, or just plan calling me names, they always found some way to make life hard.  Kumiko was even worse when it came to Hana, and often would berate her loudly in front of the other apprentices for hanging out with me and Okuni, commoners who were so clearly beneath her station in life.  This often would end with Hana in tears, and Okuni and I would do our best to comfort her.

The one time where Kumiko could not touch us or hurt us was during our lessons.  I soon learned to love these times when I would be learning something new from one of the older apprentices.  It was from them I learned about the art of divination by gazing into a bronzed mirror.  I also learned how to communicate with the kami, or more accurately how I was supposed to communicate.  This was a skill I did not rapidly develop, not to the extent that some of the other girls did. 

Besides my divination, I did attempt to do dance at first alongside Okuni.  However, after I started taking dance classes under Priestess Jitsuko, it became quite apparent that I had two left feet that I did not know what to do with.  After the third class where I collided with the girl next to me, Jitsuko took me aside after class and dismissed me gently.  I was distraught as I felt it would take away my time from Okuni.

Hana was my savior in this instance.  Seeing in despair, Hana suggested to me that I try out playing the shamisen like her.  She introduced me to her master, one of the few elderly men allowed in the temple, Isamu.  I instantly took a shining to him, for he was very kind and there was a twinkle in his eye.As I watched him play the shamisen that first time, I felt every stroke of the strings in the depths of my body, making me quiver.  I decided to join Hana for lessons at that moment. 

As with most things that require time to learn, I struggled at first, sometimes leaving practice with hurt bleeding fingers and a bit lip from concentration.  I remember getting home during those early days and spending more time in the bath then I should, soaking my cuts in the scalding hot water.  But as time went by, I became as skilled as Hana, developing hard calloused fingers that did not so easily cut anymore, and soon I was playing beautiful melodies alongside Hana for Okuni.

Another thing learning this skill helped me in was that it allowed me to spend more time with Okuni.With the two of us living in the same home, I often brought my shamisen home to practice my music and also to accompany Okuni with her dancing practice.  I would often sit on the back porch of the Nakamuras’ little home and strum a soft melody, with Okuni twisting, moving, and turning in time with the music.  I treasured these moments to myself, as I watched the object of my affection move gracefully, her eyes closed in concentration, her black hair blowing behind her in the wind.  I would often lose concentration observing her lithe body under the silk of her kimono, and would fantasize what it would be like to touch her silky skin.

But still I did not tell Okuni of my feelings.  It was not just the fact that Okuni was soon to become a miko, but also that I had no idea at this young age what my feelings meant, or that two women could even be together as lovers.  So I kept silent, keeping my feelings in my heart and contenting myself with imaginings. 

Soon, after a couple of years, it was announced that Okuni was to become a miko.  She was so happy, but her elation mirrored my sadness.  In many ways, I was losing my savior and my best friend.  We had spent so much time together that I could not imagine any time without her.  But I knew this was her wish, and as much as it would hurt me for us to part and not spend so much time together anymore, I knew this was the right thing.

The night before the ceremony was to take place, Okuni and I lay in bed looking at the ceiling.  Okuni was squirming with anticipation, and I lay next to her, trying to keep still and silent and not give voice to my feelings.  But Okuni turned over to me, her hand propping her shoulder.She looked at me and played with my hair for a moment before she asked, “Umi-chan, are you angry with me?” I looked at her and said stiffly, “No I’m not.”  Okuni sat up in bed, saying, “Yes you are.”

I flung the blanket we had shared since I had arrived at her home back and crossed my arms.  “Fine, yes I am upset,” I stated.  “What about it?” Okuni’s face looked hurt and she said, “I thought you would be happy for me, Umi-chan. Being a miko has been all I ever wanted, to dance in the shrine before all the pilgrims who come and bring them a bit of happiness.”  I flushed red hot and blurted out, “But what about love?  Have you never thought about what it would be like to be …” I paused here and readjusted my thinking before continuing, “With someone else?It just seems like you are giving up on so much so soon, your friends, experiences, life …” I trailed off, looking off into the dark night sky.

Okuni looked at me closely.  She wrapped her arm around my shoulder and pulled me close.  I buried up against her and smelled the sweet scent of her hair.  “It’s true that I am giving up a lot, and I have thought about the fact that this will mean I am married to Okuninushi, a kami who I most likely will never get to see or touch or feel.  I am okay with that.  And be assured, Umi-chan, you are and always be dear and close to my heart.”  I smiled at that before she said, “You will always be one of my closest and dearest friends, as true to me as a sister.”  I felt the pain of that statement in my heart, but smiled despite it for Okuni’s sake.  She then kissed me on the forehead and lay back down, pulling the blanket up around her.  “Now let’s get some rest, I have a big day tomorrow, what with moving into the shrine and rituals I have to go through,” she said.

As she lay beside me that night, and I lay next to her, I cursed myself for not telling her how I really felt, how I was a coward to not confess my feelings, and that I did not just want to be her friend.  I didn’t sleep that night, but spent it staring at my beloved’s face in the moonlight and reaching out and stroking her dark hair as she slept. 

The next day dawned and it came time for Okuni to enter the shrine and to become a miko.As apprentices, Hana and I would not be allowed to accompany her, as only mikos who had entered into the service of the shrine and been possessed by the kami who protected it were allowed to participate in this secret service.  Hana did come to the house to join me and Okuni on her walk to the temple.  Hana and I helped Okuni into her bright white wedding kimono, the one she would wear when she entered the inner sanctum of the shrine and become one of the brides of Okuninushi.

Once she was dressed, she gripped Hana’s arm in hers and gave her an embrace.  The two of them smiled at each other, and then Okuni turned to me.  I gave a brave smile, and held her in a tight embrace, and whispered fiercely in her ear, “Thank you for saving me and giving me a new life.  I will never be able to thank you for it.”  She smiled at me and kissed my cheek, saying, “Thank you for being the sister I have never had.”  The tears flowed down my face as she walked out of the room, to be escorted to the shrine by her mother and father as if on her wedding day.  I sat down hard on the bed and began to weep and sob my heart out.Hana sat beside me and hugged me to her, and I cried for a good long while, feeling my world to be at an end.


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