Acting – Each had been a familiar face to the other as long as they could remember. They just never realized at was the little lies told to the world that kept them apart. Yuri
Thoughts swirled around in her head lazily like fat, sunbathing koi fish, not in any hurry to go anywhere. Fingers as slender and smooth as willow limbs twisted around long, silken strands of hair the color of the rising sun. Deeply shadowed plum blossom petals scatters to the ground in a colorful shower as the wind shook the trees' spindly limbs. The afternoon sky was bright through the windows of the teahouse, like blue ink spilling outside of wax lining into white spaces of a kimono sleeve (1). Pale wisps of cloud drifted on the breeze, resembling steamy puffs of air that men and women breathed on chill winter mornings.
She lifted her teacup to her painted lips absently, the bitter flavor spreading across her tongue warmly. Foreigners always found the expensive green tea distasteful; it was a rather acquired taste. Her neatly trimmed fingernail traced patterns over the kimono covering her knees. A larger hand covered her hand suddenly and she straightened to look over at her Onee-san(2), ocean-violet eyes meeting soy sauce brown.
"Pay better attention, Nagareboshi (3)," the geisha chided, "Katsuya-sama (4) has asked you a question."
The pale-haired maiko (5) looked across the table at the dark-haired individual. He was a handsome man: well-kept ebony hair, dark blue eyes, toned golden skin, and rather effeminate features. But he was just that, a man, and Nagareboshi was not overly fond of men. He was an attractive man, she would begrudgingly admit, but she liked women.
"Nandesuka (6)?" She asked politely; it was, however, quite clear that she had little interest in what was to be said. Her deep indigo gaze wandered to an attractive, orange-clad geisha at the table beside theirs.
Katsuya sipped his tea, seeming as nervous and shy as a young swallow. "I was hoping that Nagareboshi-san would accompany me this evening to a kabuki (7) play."
The maiko's gaze flickered over to her onee-san's client's son. She parted her lips to decline, but her onee-san spoke first.
"I'm sure Nagareboshi-chan would be delighted, Katsuya-sama! Won't you, Nagareboshi?"
An older sister's word was law. "I would like that very much, Katsuya-san. I accept your offer." Painted rosebud lips curled upward into an overly sweet smile.
Beside them, Katsuya's father chuckled deeply, his black eyes shining like freshly harvested squid ink. "You are not fond of men, are you, Nagareboshi?" Beside her, Nagareboshi felt her onee-san stiffen and quickly spoke before the other woman could deny the truth.
"Not overly so, I'm afraid, Kaeda-sama." She replied honestly, wondering at the mischievous twitch in the man's half-moon smile. "How could you tell?"
His smile crept further along his crinkling features, his face seeming more like a landscape of hills and valleys than the visage of a man. "I have my ways. I assure you, hoever, you will find an evening with my son to be most enjoyable. He will surely not disappoint you." He winked at the two youngsters, causing Katsuya's cheeks to stain like strawberries and Nagareboshi to furrow her fair brows in confusion.
Nagareboshi clapped her hands together tree times after making her offering to the village shrine, hopefully cleansing herself of any misfortune like a hermit crab discarding its crusty, algae-covered shell for a new one. Her oceanic eyes gazed upon the magnificent jade statue of the fox god, Inari (8), and she found herself wishing that she did not have to attend the kabuki show, least of all with a man.
She sighed, her breath mingling with the crisp evening air and resigned herself to her unfortunate fate. She had already agreed to the date anyhow, and Nagareboshi way not have been straight, but she had her honor at the very least.
The mango-colored evening sun sank over the housetops in the west, surrounded by a plethora of warm sky dyes: Sakura pink, dried bamboo yellow, tuna red, Clementine orange; the swollen undersides of the clouds glowed bruised purple and dusky lavender. The setting sun glowed like a sphere of peeled peach, dripping its shiny, sweet nectar across the sky as stars.
"Konbanwa (9)." A voice drifted out of the shadows like incense smoke, nearly causing Nagareboshi to leap of her skin like a shedding snake. Her breath thickened in her lungs and clogged her throat and she turned her head slowly to see Katsuya smiling teasingly at her. The young heir's dark green kimono fitted him very loosely.
The pale haired young woman frowned, rolling her golden-clad shoulders uncomfortably. "What are you doing here?"
Katsuya's smile widened; his feathery black hair, usually loose against the tops of his shoulders, was pulled back and twisted savagely into a small formal bun, she noted.
"Nagareboshi-san is half an hour late. Your onee-san, Momomi-san, told me that I would find you here."
Violet eyes widened slightly. "I didn't realize… Gomenasai (10)."
"It is all right."
"Are we too late to see the kabuki play?"
"It is all right." Katsuya extended his hand to the beautiful apprentice geisha. "There is a street fair down Nakameiji-dori that I would like to take you to, though, if you are willing."
Nagareboshi traced the edges of her salmon-colored lips thoughtfully and decided that it would not be so bad to humor the young male. She slipped her hand into his larger, outstretched palm and marveled at the surprising smoothness. It was a good hand, she thought confidently.
The street was a symphony of delicious smells as cooks friend salty and sweet treats in their booths. Children darted around, stealing pieces of fried squid and dango (12) behind the adults' backs, shoving the food into their small, round mouths like hungry minnows. Nagareboshi found herself laughing alongside her escort as the cherry lanterns glowed overhead, snickering as Katsuya fruitlessly tried to catch small fish with a rice-paper net, tossed hoops at bamboo poles, crafted paper Temari balls (13), and played Ja-ken-pon (14).
He jumped up and thrust his fist into the air excitedly as he won his fifth round, finally winning a small wooden figurine. Katsuya handed it to Nagareboshi with a light blush. The violet-eyed woman smiled softly, her eyes glinting with something akin to sadness. In this light, with his features softened by gladness and the interaction with others, Katsuya looked very much like a girl. It was too bad he was male.
The small wooden dragon in her palm bit into her skin.
Nagareboshi exhaled slowly and, this time, she freely took Katsuya's arm as she was walked back to the geisha house. The man's sleeve was smooth under her fingers, like fish scales, she thought to herself.
"I hope you had a good time." Katsuya said hesitantly, his soft alto wavering slightly.
Nagareboshi tilted her head skyward, sea-colored eyes scanning across the heavens. "I did, actually."
"Then I am glad."
The maiko turned her to look over at the young man, only to swiftly find a pair of hands pushing her shoulders and back into a wall. The rough pressure of uneven brick on her spine startled her and a pair of lips pressed firmly against her own soft pair. Resistance came instinctually to the candle flame-haired woman and she pushed desperately against Katsuya's shoulders, feeling the ridges of his collarbone beneath her hands. As soon as Katsuya's lips were forced away, she moved her hands to his chest and pushed.
"Yamete (15)!" She cried, only to freeze up and her eyes to snap open in astonishment. Katsuya stared down at the small woman with half-lidded eyes, watching her reaction attentively.
Nagareboshi's breath was coiled tightly in her throat like a defensive serpent. Her violet gaze moved to where her hands pressed and she hesitantly shifted her fingers and palms, rolling the firm, womanly mounds under the green kimono like dough.
"You… you're a-."
"A woman." Katsuya finished.
Swirling purple met midnight blue. "Nande (16)?" Nagareboshi whispered.
"I am an only child. My okaa-san (17) can bare no other children. I have been raised as a boy to avoid dishonoring the family. Having to keep up appearances for my whole life… it is only natural that I'm attracted to women as beautiful as you, Na-ga-re-bo-shi-cha-n."
The maiko shuddered as the syllables of her name were drawn out and a hot blush flamed across her lily-pale cheeks. Her view of Katsuya had suddenly done a complete reverse now that she could see, and feel, that Katsuya was female, not male. She had acknowledged Katsuya as being attractive before as a man, but as woman she seemed like the most desirable being in all Japan, as if no one else could compare to the midnight-eyed woman's beauty and charm.
The heiress leaned down once more; a hand placed on either side of Nagareboshi's form, blocking any chance of escape. However, the maiko found that she had no desire to try and resist this time.
Nagareboshi's heart fluttered in her chest like the wings of a hummingbird as two pairs of lips met in an innocent kiss. She felt as if she were drowning in a tide of emotion; the taller woman's lips were full and firm like red barriers and were faintly sweetened by the lingering traces of dango syrup. Katsuya was not the first woman she had been romantic with, and there was no doubt that the heiress had possessed even more lovers, but a whispering voice in the back of her mind, as discreet as ripples across a lake, was hoping that maybe they could be one another's last.
Nagareboshi was so entranced that she hardly noticed when Katsuya pulled away to kiss the maiko's forehead and finally draw back.
"I'll see you at the teahouse tomorrow." The woman promised softly. Nagareboshi would look back and say it was as if the shadows swallowed the boyish woman, for it felt as if one moment Katsuya and the next moment she was nowhere to be found.
She danced all the way home.
(1)- Ever wonder how they make such elaborate designs on kimono without the colors bleeding into other areas? Wax is applied to the areas that they do not want to be dyed a certain color and is then washed out. Repeat until satisfied.
(2)- Onee-san- term for older sister. A geisha that takes on an apprentice is called "onee-san" by the student.
(3)- Nagareboshi- falling star
(4)- Katsuya- usually a boy's name
(5)- maiko- apprentice geisha
(6)- nandesuka- a more formal way to ask 'what'
(7)- kabuki- a type of Japanese puppet theatre
(8)- Inari- Japanese fox god, provider of rice, foxes are his messengers
(9)- konbanwa- means "good evening," used to greet people during nighttime/dusk
(10)- gomenasai- a very polite way to say 'I'm sorry'
(11)- Hai- yes
(12)- Dango- a Japanese sweet of steamed rice dough covered with sweet sauce. Served skewered on a stick.
(13)- temari balls- in its early history, temari balls were toys that mothers made for their children. Today, it has evolved into an art. It is also a gift given in joy and happiness.
(14)- Ja-ken-pon- rock paper scissors
(15)- yamete- stop
(16)- nande- why
(17)- okaa-san- mother
Wow, I can't believe I decided to write more about Katsuya and Nagareboshi… fate will be fate, I suppose.
I would like to point out, simply for the sake of doing so, that homosexuality is not at all frowned upon in Japan. What IS frowned upon is a romantic couple living together when they are not married.