by Katherine Allen
|Table of Contents|
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
Skoshi’s father was sitting in his study transacting some business when a young man burst in.”Sir,” he said, “I would marry your daughter. What would you take for her? My family has told me much about her and she looks as though she will bear many children. My family is in need of children.”
Skoshi’s father looked up. Finally, he thought, someone was asking about that girl, and just in time too. He needed money. He began to barter.”Five cows,” he said. He thought again how foolish it was to say “five cows.” Nobody actually used cows any more, it was merely a traditional symbol meaning the worth of however many cows, or chickens.
“Much too much, sir,” the young man replied. After bargaining for another few minutes it was agreed that Skoshi would be this man’s wife, and Skoshi’s father would receive three cows worth, approximately five hundred Edos.
The young man left with an appointment for the next day to meet Skoshi. Her father remained in his study. Suddenly he smiled; out loud he spoke his thoughts, “As much for a daughter as for a good manservant; an excellent price indeed. He must have been quite desperate. Ah well, not the kind of man to whom I would sell a goat I liked, but Skoshi is only a daughter, and if she keeps her mouth shut I should get quite a good profit indeed!”
* * *
The next day, Skoshi was out in the garden reading. She heard a whistle from Sato, warning her their father was coming. She quickly put down her book.
Her father seemed pleased, for him. It worried Skoshi because her father seldom smiled, at her anyway.
“Skoshi,” he said, “meet your husband to be.”
In one glance she summed him up. Young, conceited, fat, and rich. The kind of man who does not want a wife clever at all, let alone smarter than he is. She knew she would have to be respectful and use the appropriate words or her front of obedience and compliance would be destroyed. But she hated to.”As my father commands,” she replied bowing reverently at the waist with her hands clasped in front of her.”My greetings, ‘most exalted’ husband to be,” she continued, working hard to keep any sarcasm out of her voice. She them gave him a demure glance, as if mentally praising him. What was really running through her mind was, “Don’t touch me, don’t touch me, don’t touch... OH! I’ll have to see him without a shirt! Or worse! Eww.”
“Greetings, wife to be.” he oozed, rather like an open pimple whose core has just been scraped off with a needle. Skoshi could barely keep from shuddering.
Smiling smugly, Skoshi’s father said, “I’ll leave you for your five minute conversation, remember, I will be right over there; no funny business!” Skoshi repressed a gag. The young man merely... she supposed one could call that a grin... said, “I shall attempt to restrain my natural passions,” After her father left he continued.”You know, I am a very passionate man. I have touched few women, but they have all asked for more than one caress...” he paused suggestively, brushing his finger lightly against her arm, it took all the strength Skoshi possessed to keep a demure, humble, but slightly pleased look on her face. But when he leaned in, as if to kiss her, she could bear it no longer.
“Honorable sir,” She quickly interjected, “Pardon, but however much we would wish, we are not alone. My father watches close by.”
He smiled tolerantly, “As a woman, I imagine your self control must be quiet less well developed than mine. And your passions must be naturally higher. I, however, shall control myself.” Skoshi’s father looked over at them and raised one eyebrow. She inwardly sighed, that meant that the interview was over! Skoshi thought that her father had never looked so handsome in his life!
“I see I must now leave, but be patient, little one, we shall spend ample time together soon: the rest on our lives.” He got up from the bench and swaggered away, after her father joined him they both were smiling and laughing.
Skoshi clung to the bench, closing her eyes, and concentrated on breathing. She felt a chill run down her spine as she remembered his touch, and knew that, if she let herself marry him, she would have to feel that touch frequently, and uncomplainingly. When her breathing eased she opened her eyes to see Sato standing over her.
“My Skoshi, you are hurt?” He asked, in his slow, faltering way.
“No, my Sato, I am not hurt. I do not feel well though. Help me to Ma’may’s room.” Just then the bell sounded, calling everyone to evening prayers, the family held five prayers a day, and not one member was allowed to be absent.
“My Skoshi, prayer, we must go, father will be angry.”
“I know, my Sato, I am coming.” But, she thought, I must speak to grandmother!
* * *
After evening prayers Skoshi approached her grandmother.”Ma’may, I must speak with you. It is quite urgent.”
Her grandmother nodded, “I know, my Skoshi, I have heard. Come, we shall go to my chambers. But first, you must tuck Sato in. He will worry if you don’t.”
Skoshi nodded. She then followed her little brother to his room.
“My Skoshi, I feel sick.”
“Are you going to throw up? Do you need a bathroom?”
“No, not... not... my stomach. Here.” Sato pointed at his head. Then he added, “Will you read to me, make me better?”
Skoshi kissed him where he said it hurt.”Not tonight, my Sato. Go to sleep, in the morning it will all be better. Goodnight, my Sato.”
“Goodnight, my Skoshi.” He replied with their pet names for each other. Skoshi patted him on the head and turned out the light. She then went to her grandmother.
* * *
“Ma’may, What will I do? I cannot marry him! He is, pompous, and slimy, and... he is not intelligent enough to be evil, but there is a chilling coldness about him, a cruel, harshness. I believe if father had not been there I think he would have tried to... rape me. There is such an air of selfish cruelty about him. What can I do? Ma’may, please, you have studied the laws, surely there is something?”
Her grandmother sighed, “My Skoshi, there is only one option, you must leave. I have some money that I have set aside. I also have a plan I can get us out, away from Hon’ya.”
Skoshi shook her head, “What? How did you get money? How do you have a plan? How would we leave? And, how could I leave Sato? If we left he would have no one! And he depends on me so much. I am HIS Skoshi! I cannot leave him to fend for himself! Even if I married, I would be on the same planet. No, I cannot leave him, no! We will have to think of something else!” Then she got up and left the room.
As she walked down the hall she shed tears, either way she lost something dear to her. If she married, she would loose books and knowledge. But if she left, she would loose her brother, she had raised him! Either way, she would lose a piece of her heart.
* * *
After tossing and turning for an hour, Skoshi finally fell asleep. Only to be awakened at midnight. She opened the door to find one of the servants.”Mistress,” she began, “come quickly to master Sato’s room. He is very ill. He thrashes about and cries for you.”My Skoshi, my Skoshi” he call, over and over, it is heartbreaking, mistress.”
Skoshi’s heart stopped beating in that moment. She ran to her brother’s room without even getting a shawl. As she neared the entrance she could hear the heartbreaking cries of “My Skoshi! Come! Make me better! My Skoshi!” The cries were punctuated by cries of pain. At the door she stopped and closed her eyes, steeling herself against any tears. She walked into the room and went to her brother’s side.
“My Sato! Why do you cry for me? Where does it hurt? Show me, my own. It’s all right. Your Skoshi is here!” Though she had promised herself she would not cry, she could feel tears welling up behind her eyes.
“My, my Skoshi? My own? You are here?”
“I am here, my Sato! What do you need?”
“Hold me, my own. Hold my hand. Make me feel better! Make the hurt go away! It hurts! My head, my eyes, make the hurt go away!” With that his back arched as another wave of pain seemed to wash through his body. The bloodcurdling scream coursed through Skoshi’s veins, sending chills straight to her heart. The tears spilled unwillingly from her eyes.”My Sato, hush, my own!” She stroked his head and began to croon an old lullaby.
“Hush my baby, hush my own.
Do not murmur, do not moan.
I am near, I am here.
I will hold you, close my dear.
Do not cry, do not weep.
Dry your eyes, go to sleep.
Dream of places, you long to be.
Rest your head, next to me.
Do not cry, do not weep.
Dry you eyes my own, go to sleep.”
As she sang the lullaby his eyes began to close, he would still moan, even in his sleep, when the pain shot through his body, but he was peaceful.
After he slept the servants tried to get Skoshi to return to her room.”No! I promised I would stay with my brother. I will be here when he wakes, I will be here always.” As another moan escaped her brother she turned and began humming the song again and stroking his forehead.
* * *
All her life Skoshi hade taken care of her younger brother. The servants simply had neither the patience nor the knowledge how too.
When she was twelve, and it first became apparent that Sato was different she had gotten her brother to get her all the medical books he could find. And she had spent the last five years reading them. She knew how to keep him from harming himself during seizures, and how to administer his medicines. He had many health problems, and, since he was retarded, their father did not like calling the doctor for him. Only once had it happened, and that was to confirm the suspicions of retardation. After that, it was up to Skoshi.
* * *
The next morning Skoshi woke with a crick in her neck. She had slept, holding Sato’s hand, with her head on the bed. When she raised her head she saw Sato’s black eyes looking at her.
“My Skoshi.” He said weakly.
“Yes, my own? What do you need?”
“Leaving. Don’t be sad. You are my Skoshi, my own. I love you.”
As the bell calling the family to Morning Prayer tolled, Sato closed his eyes for the last time, and drew his last breath.
The next morning Skoshi stood, clothed completely in black, at the grave of her Sato, her own. After the brief, family ceremony her parents and brothers had left. When her second oldest half-brother tried to pull her away from the graveside she had turned and told him sharply to go and mind the latest trash that filled his bed. Then she had sunk to the ground, mourning her Sato.
“Sato, my own. I am leaving you. You are the only reason I had to stay. Now you are gone. You were the only reason I ever thought of this place as home. Without you it is just a building, filled with people who are strangers. I have never believed in heaven. And I still do not. But now I almost wish there was such a thing, because then I would be able to see you again someday. I would be able to watch you paint the mallards on the Koi pond. And see you hold, gently, ladybugs, even bees, so you could see how to put them onto paper. I know I will not see you, but I will always remember you. You are my Sato, my own. And, no one will ever replace you.” Skoshi stood and wiped her eyes; it was time to leave home.
* * *
When Skoshi got back to her house she found her half brothers and her father standing in the courtyard.
“Skoshi,” Her father said sternly, “I understand that you spoke disrespectfully to your brother.”
In Skoshi’s mind she told her father that he was no brother of hers, that he was a concubines son and a filthy-minded womanizer at that. But she knew that for such insults she would be beaten black and blue and then taken to her husband as soon as the bruises healed.”Yes father, I did speak less than respectfully to my brother.” She replied, eyes downcast and hands clasp before her.”But, father, please do not beat me, I freely admit my great error and can only attribute it to my great emotional distress as regards my poor brother.”
Skoshi’s eldest half brother spoke up, “Father, you would let a woman speak disrespectfully to your own son because she was in mourning for a idiot? Would you bring the Hara house such shame because of a retarded dummy?”
Skoshi felt the rage at these insults to her Sato begin to burn in her stomach. She hated this system she was forced to live under. She would have given anything to be able to slap that smirking face. A face glad that she would be beaten, a face that hated her for being the child of the legal wife as much as Skoshi hated him for being the child of a concubine.
Skoshi’s father was torn in two. He did not want to beat his daughter, he did, in fact love her, and he disliked beating her as much as beating his favorite dog. And he was not really a cruel man; he did not enjoy a woman’s screams. And, he mourned his son’s passing as well, in a way. “My son,” he began, “you are right, Skoshi must not be allowed to escape without punishment.” Skoshi’s oldest half brother smiled, he was a cruel man, and enjoyed beating people.
“But I have always believed that a woman is a fragile creature, subject to higher emotions and weaker tendencies. Woman are made to be tenderhearted, they can feel affection, even for the witless. As such, Skoshi would indeed be much distressed by her brother’s passing. However, that is no excuse for speaking in such a manner to her brother. But, I believe that beating will not solve this matter.
“Instead, Skoshi, you will go to your chamber, you will not leave it for the next three days. You will be allowed only to eat after sundown, and then only remnants of the meal. You must learn your place as a woman, and you must learn to exhibit whatever self-control you posses.” With that he turned and led his sons away. But as her eldest half brother past her he leaned over and hissed into her ear.
“Don’t think you will get out of that beating! Just wait!”
* * *
That night as Skoshi lay in bed, she thought. Thought of the few dear things to her. Her grandmother was now foremost, now, that Sato was gone. She realized, that apart from those two people, she had never loved anyone else.
Skoshi would gladly have given her love to either of her parents, if they had shown even the slightest affection toward her.
But when one grows without that hint of affection, how can you turn around and love the person who despises you? Skoshi did not know.
Copyright © 2005 by Katherine Allen