The lone travellers walking in heavy steps across the front yard of the Sutou family would give their head a solemn shake of disapproval as they’d pass it, noticing not the blossoms that graced the grounds or the blues that painted the sky, but only the sheer sense of abandonment that filled the atmosphere. Aika-chan Sutou had always known that her house did not give out the warm, welcoming vibrations as mentioned in books, but that day, it felt particularly stuffed. Besides the house feeling and looking bereft from bustle at the edge of the woods, it was also bereft in silence. Absolute silence. As they dined in it, Aika’s brother and father oblivious to the feud between mother and daughter, for a long time, the clink of cutlery was all that one could hear.

Aika-chan had always loved sitting down to eat with people, particularly guests. Every time a guest would come, her mother would lay out a lovely ensemble of colour and beauty, each dish radiating positivity and politeness, in a way. She was a skilled cook, having practiced the art for several years. However, not every member of the household was satisfied with her work. Appreciation came scarce and seldom- which was why Ena-chan’s lips tweaked up just a but as her husband slurped the noodles that she had prepared taking much time and effort. Slurping was considered appreciation in Japan- something that Ena-Chan’s heart craved for.

Talking was not allowed at the table. Hence, everyone stared in anticipation of the verbal parade that would follow as soon as Aika-Chan’s father would keep down his chopsticks. It was the only time in the house when one could let out a breath for he would be so engrossed in conversation that he wouldn’t notice all the unfollowed mannerisms or decorum.

His rough, huge hands that grasped the bowl with thin fingers slowly kept it down with a satisfying thud. He cleared his throat and looked up, his eyes moving across the room, examining whether everything was to his taste and finally landing on Ena-Chan for a second too long and a curled lip. Her eyes dropped down and she gripped the table, her white knuckles turning whiter still. He then moved them away.

“Aika-Chan.” 

“Yes, father.” She mumbled, hiding her surprise. She knew well enough not to show intonation or inquisitiveness in her responses. She had lived long enough to know how it could irk him.

“We need a painting from you tomorrow, for the fair.”

Aika-Chan couldn’t help looking up in surprise, for she had not expected her father to make such an unprecedented request or order or what one might call it. The art fair was not something to be joked around. Not having a significant income, their family always waited for it anxiously to earn a major chunk of their bread and butter every year. Aika couldn’t believe she would be trusted with that responsibility. Her hands quivered under the rosewood table.

“Me?” Her father had never asked her to paint before, in fact, he had never even acknowledged it.

She drew her breath and bit her lip. Her father’s face tightened.

“I need it by tomorrow morning.”

“Yes, father.” She said, lowering her head once more as her head burst with questions. She was scared that if she flailed it about too much they would tumble across the rice cake remnants in the white bowl that lay before her.

“You aren’t even going to ask me what it is about?” He snapped a second later.

She sighed inaudibly. She hated drawing for a reason.

“Apologies, father. What must I paint?” She sighed yet again, hating the way she sounded. She personally believed that questions without intonation were stupid. Why else would they be called questions? They need to be different from mere statements.

Her father’s eyebrows eased. “Draw your thoughts about…marriage.”

“What?” Ena-Chan suddenly looked up.

Everyone looked at her in surprise. She had never dared to question her husband’s words.

“Is there a problem?” He glared at her.

You cannot!” Her voice reached a higher pinnacle. Aika-chan just stared at her open mouthed.

Dinner is dismissed!” He gave the bowl before him any angry push as his heavy feet clambered towards his bed chamber.

Ena-Chan stood up, her lips in a thin line as she adjusted her kimono from sitting down so long, looking somewhat determined.

“Mama-“ Aika-Chan began hesitantly.

“Shut up.” Ena-Chan said sternly to Aika’s disheartened face as she walked away.

Her brother and she sat confused, staring at the floors. What had just happened?

***

Aika-Chan blew at a strand of her hair giving her a momentary glimpse of the blossoms from her garden. She was at the window again. 

She tilted her head. “Huh.” She said.

She tilted it again. “Huh,” she said.

“Forget it.” She sighed as she pushed her paints away to stare at the canvas.

Her work was a huge painting of a Japanese couple’s marriage- the man stood in a bright red and green robe with a cap, looking at his wife eagerly. The wife sat in white, around her draped a neat white robe, almost blending into her paper skin. 

The husband seemed extremely happy. After all, why wouldn’t he be? It was his wedding day. Made with organic dyes she had procured herself, it was a truly incredible culmination of work and expertise. It seemed flawless.

The wife too, was fine. Most aspects however, did not seem just as perfect as the husband’s. Her eyes looked beautiful, but they weren’t just as great as the other parts. They did not blend in quite as nicely.

One might almost say the artist had used too much water in them. Plus, to the keen eye, there was a slight familiarity in the painting. As Aika-Chan blew over it to let it dry, she sighed.

Her window shooed away the sigh by building a flimsy wall of mist between Aika and the view it offered. Aika-Chan swallowed some tears held in her white throat as she watched her disappear- her mother, the object of her painting.

P.S: My sincere apologies for the late publication. I was in the Ashram. 🙃 Thank you so much for reading this post. I thoroughly appreciate your time and love. Jai Sri Hari!

 

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