November 16, 2004
Part 1: The Painting
He painted her in beads and silk, kept away in a cupboard and brought out to guests; to show them his precious little bird.
She felt very much like a bird, sometimes a painting or even simply an abstract ideal. He would keep company with her, love her in all physical aspects of the word, but then leave her to herself. He put her back in her neat little cupboard, with her round windows and paper walls.
Nothing lived in the cupboard, not even her, but her mind was alive. It pushed and felt and moved of its own accord. It remembered the time before the cupboard. There was a mother, then there were her friends and finally her other friends; the people that loved her, and the other people who loved her. A piece of her remembered them, but they were buried so deep beneath the dust that even the shapes and colors of their names were lost to the myriad of other things she forgot. Parts of their faces were gone; usually most of them. That moment she knew where was one who loved her differently. Her mind reached out into the fog; no, there were two of them.
And the grey light became brighter in her cupboard and the fog pushed away the thoughts of her mind again.
But slowly, like ships from the dark grey sea, they would return again. And she learned that she was not meant to know these things. A painting does not speak, it merely is, but as the faces, the eyes, the colors, the shapes returned, she remembered again more quickly.
There were two the loved her; an orange cat and a grey mouse. Their names were yet unknown. And the identities of them both eluded her even as other things returned.
Her husband looked at her differently one after. He was terribly clever. And though she seemed of stronger stock that he, he was terrible. He could bruise, he could cut, and he could hurt. And it seemed to hurt even more when she remembered.
"Hatori," he would call, and a doctor would enter in a white coat.
She felt herself cry in that instant. The aches and stings were new and yet very familiar.
This man, Hatori, made her weep and laugh together.
"Hatori," she said his name and the curves and lines of his name became clear and she could remember something.
Her husband, the leader of the family, her God, said something that was drowned in the angry rushing of her heart and blood in her ears. Hatori knelt in front of her, on the floor.
The painting was smudged and ripped by tears. She quivered.
His fingers touched her brow. In an instant, before the fog was built again, there was a word, something a part of her made her speak aloud, "Kana."
She felt the man called Hatori falter and thus the movement changed the course of his meaning.
The fog began again. She looked up, knowing she had seen the doctor before, but when or where she could not say. She saw him stand up and leave silently.
The painting was repainted. There no smudges, but there was one crack, in the back, beneath the dull colors and layers of lead paint.
And she was put back in her cupboard.
Part 2: Life
It was later, much later—long after innocence was gone – that Tohru Sohma became a widow. Her husband's long weak, torturing state had been resolved at the age of twenty eight. He had been only three years older than she.
His parting has been the quiet rotting death all people hoped for at their end. It left nothing completed or finished between them. Actually, in the moments before death, Akito openly and completely scorned her. He, she recalled, looked as though he were ready to spit on her. And then shortly after, that meeting with his wife, Akito Sohma, Head of the Sohma Family, died quietly, leaving behind no heir within his wife.
Soon after, Tohru stood with a black veil in the decaying fall watching the funeral rites. The doctor, whom she remembered seeing with Akito in his last moments, stood the closest to her. She noted that many of the other would not stand beside her, but she also knew none of them.
"Do you remember my name?" he asked her lowly, so as not to interrupt the ceremony.
She turned her head and gave the doctor a dispassionate look. She said nothing at first. She swam though her own mind, trying to recollect. "No," she admitted softly.
She turned back to the ceremony and took note of a few pairs of eyes that flickered away.
After the ceremony and family gathering afterward, she settled in a room that was not her own. She watched the time fall away until it became snow and she adjusted to her own freedom; she wore modern, western style clothes, became partial to the color yellow and read science fiction.
As she did these things on her own, without a presence to overwhelm and forbid and erase, things that she had never known suddenly became clear. There was a house, surrounded by a domestic kind of wilderness, which stirred strange, but not unwelcome feelings. There were strange, almost foreign because she could never recall feeling such things in any recent surroundings or with any people she was familiar with.
Later, perhaps merely a few days after the first snow of the season—she didn't know because her books had soaked up her mind completely by this time—she realized she was staying in a house marked by the characters for "Rat." It was only a little later that the doctor from the funeral came to see her.
"Do you remember me?"
"Hatori," she said automatically.
It should not have come as a surprise, she thought, he was talked of all the time by family members. Tohru then invited him in for tea.
They conversed on the weather for a moment before he began to talk about why he was there. "There are things that have been stolen from you; precious things that I, nor Akito, had any right to take."
He looked ashamed.
"What have you taken that I have not noticed?"
Their voices and faces were both cold, flat and almost inhuman with their lack of quality and she noticed how similar they were at that moment.
"It's something I can give back, if you want them."
She said nothing. A tilt of an eyebrow, a bend in her mouth said the obvious question: Please speak more plainly.
"By the wishes of Akito, your late husband, there were memories of yours that were removed, without your consent." A shadow passed over the doctor.
She looked away and then turned away. There was silence, but she saw the doctor move. "It's snowing," he said softly.
She said nothing, not taking to mind the simple fact that did not outweigh other matters. And so, she became absorbed into her own mind.
When the snow melts, what does it become?
Let's see…it becomes Spring, right?
She looked at Hatori. Her heart pounded and an almost unidentifiable emotion rose up, ready to choke her, kill her. She wept.
"Spring. When the snow melts, it becomes Spring," she said and felt his hand on her shoulder; it was the most tenderness she had felt in a long time.
"There are other things," he told her, "many more things-- memories that will hurt you."
"I'm sure there are, but there are good ones, too, right?" She looked up and he nodded. "Then I want them. All of them, even the ones that will hurt me."
And once Hatori had told Tohru her own story, she began to remember her own self. When she went to sleep that night, alone, there was a young voice in her memory:
But you know, there's something I believe. I want to try to live my life carrying all my memories with me, and even if those memories do nothing but hurt me, I want to keep them. Even those memories I sometimes wish I could forget.
And when she woke, there was a white-washed winter outside. That day she sought out Hatori and told him, "I remember things you did not tell me. I want to see them."
He made phone calls and the rat, the cat, the rabbit, the ox, the dog, the boar and so many others arrived soon after. They embraced and some of them transformed, but didn't care. "Oh, how we've missed you," they said. Some wept and some were just silent and others began to tell her everything that had changed: Yuki was at going to graduate from university, Kyo was living with Kazuma, Ritsu was more sociable, and Hiro was engaged to Kisa. And there were some things that didn't change: Shigure still tortured his editor, Ayame still had his shop (thought slightly more successful than before), Kagura still desperately loved Kyo, but also that they still very much needed her.
She wept again with them and spent her morning embracing all of her friends, whether animal or no. Uo and Hana were there also, since they had learned the Sohma secret long ago.
A party was set during the following days to celebrate, but that evening as she spent her time in the House of the Rat, someone knocked on her door.
Orange hair and black and white beads were standing at her door, not looking at her. "I want you to walk with me."
So, she left with him, to the dark, empty House of the cat. They sat on the dusty, creaking floor beside an ancient heater and drank some old tea, because that was all they could find.
"I wish I could have known before…before any of this happened."
She watched a few drops of anger roll down his shoulders and arms. "It's not your fault," she corrected him.
"I…I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I didn't do anything to help," she took his hand and squeezed it, pleading that he would not blame himself. "There were…things I never got to say or do."
The tea was forgotten and he looked down at the floor, defeated now that his regrets had been said.
He looks so sad…
"There were choices taken from me. I'm glad that I can live freely now, but there are so many things that have changed. I still have memories to find."
His eyes moved from the floor to her face. "I want to help you; remember, I mean."
She smiled. "Both you and Yuki will."
His other hand, the beaded one, moved and his fingers suddenly were restless. "I want to be there, but…not with Yuki."
She had never heard him say Yuki's name without anger or a curse word beforehand. But she also knew exactly what he meant to say. Her innocent naïveté had been lost a very long time ago.
"What I mean- "
"I know what you mean," she smiled. "And I will stay with you, but I have one condition: I, like everyone else of the Sohma family, have been touched my Akito's malice, but I want to stay here, in this house, so that I will always remember."
He looked down at her hand intertwined with his own fingers. "Alright."
And they both felt peace again for the first time in many years.