I finished out my schedule of entertaining. Mother worked quietly with the tea mistresses to ensure that every minuet that Gion remained open, I was working.
After Auntie's initial breakdown, she maintained a stoic, stern façade. She and Mother worked hastily, ensuring that our best jewelry and kimono were either buried or stored in a warehouse deep in the country side. Mother was skeptical that the rats wouldn't get at the kimono, but at least our possessions were less likely to be burned by bombs.
Hatsumomo did nothing except lie around the Okia, drinking water and eating salty noodles. Mother let her be. She was so large that she was no good for entertaining anyway. I imagined that she was bored out of her mind, day after day, shut up in the Okia, growing a large stomach and nothing to entertain her except kabuki magazines. Pumpkin kept her company when she came home from entertaining, but she too, like me, entertained every spare second that she was not sleeping. So Hatsumomo was left by herself. She grew more irritable as her stomach increased in size. Her temper did not improve. She acted like a caged bear towards the maids.
Nobu had left Gion for business in Osaka. He left me a hastily written note telling me when he would be back and not much else. He had briefly mentioned that he had arranged for me to stay with a friend of his when Gion closed for good. He had mentioned a name, Arashino. I believe the friend was a kimono making and would welcome the help in the dye workroom.
I was used to wearing kimono. I liked them, and could appreciate their beauty, but I couldn't imagine how much help I would be in making them. Mameha told me that I was a fortunate woman. Nobu cared enough for me to find me a safe haven away from the bomb target that Gion would become when the government began to erect factories here.
Mameha herself was frantic with worry. The regard that the Baron had held for her began to slip away as the war progressed. He was too worried about preserving his title and estate. A geisha was not a necessary thing to his particular survival. Poor Mameha was left on her own to figure out the means of her survival when Gion was no more. I told her that I would do what I could for her, but I wasn't sure what I could offer her.
Finally the last day came. I came home from a farewell banquet in the early morning hours. For the last time, the maid helped me out of my ghetta and removed my obi. I took the special hair pieces and flowers out of my hair.
Taking out Nobu's red star comb, I wrapped it carefully in a scrap of silk and stowed it deep within my jewelry box. Tomorrow, I would wash the wax out of my hair, and my hairstyle would be a simple bun. I took small comfort in the realization that I would be able to use a normal pillow again.
With special rice paper and a bowl of warm water, I wiped away the special white make-up. Blotting my lips, I removed the red lipstick until my lips were almost colorless.
Dressed in a loose cotton shirt and black peasant pants, I looked like the neighborhood women of Yoroido, albeit much cleaner. I had not believed Hatsumomo when I was a small child that I smelled like fish, but after years of being in Kyoto and smelling the sweet perfumed odor of geisha, I knew that I had probably smelled like fish scales and other unmentionable things. But even now, my perfume bottles were close to empty. They would be dried up before the end of the month.
After carefully folding the sleeves of the kimono I had worn and putting it into a clean cotton bag, I took stock of my almost empty room. I had hidden my jewelry beneath the floorboards. My make-up stand had been dismantled and taken away for firewood. It was cheap and could be easily replaced after the war, if I ever needed it again. Only my futon stood untouched.
Mother had refused to replace the tatami mats. They were fraying and old. She thought that all of our resources should go towards food. Other okias were doing the same, keeping all their resources for food and letting the small things go, such as tatami mats and fresh incense for the alters. There was no shame in letting the once proud buildings decay. Everyone was facing the same shortage. Food was everyone's main concern.
Instead of going to sleep, I slipped downstairs to see if Mother or Auntie was up. The okiya was cold, and my cotton pants did little to keep out the chill in the air. Movement would help me keep warm better than huddling in my futon.
"Okaa-san? Are you awake?" I called softly, entering the main room.
"What are you doing up, Sayuri-san? You should be sleeping while you can." Mother was sitting at one of the tables, carefully checking the balances in the monthly ledger. She no longer smoked her pipe. Smoking tobacco was a luxury that Mother could not afford.
"Did you put your wages into the coin purse?" Mother asked, quickly blotting out a figure.
"Yes, of course."
Mother nodded and pursed her old lips.
"Good, we need every sen we can get. With Gion closing, and Hatsumomo no longer working, it will be miracle if we can get rice to last the month. When is your Danna-san coming back?"
"Soon, I hope. He had business in Osaka." I shivered. It was still quite cold.
"I wish he was here now" Mother muttered.
"Why?" I asked. I rubbed my cold arms and sat down on the tatami mats. "He can't keep Gion from closing."
"No. But he could help find places for us when the factories begin to open."
I smoothed my black pants and said nothing. Mother noticed.
"Those fine hands were not meant for working on metal scrap, Miss Nitta Sayuri-san. Auntie and I are not young, we are old women. We couldn't last a week in a service line. Not with Auntie's limp."
"And Hatsumomo?" I asked innocently.
Mother went back to working her figures.
When Mother didn't answer, I clear my throat. It was impolite, but I had to know what she would say about Hatsumomo.
"Hatsumomo will go as well if we can find a place for her. I expect your Danna will do just that."
"Yes, he would" I agreed. I knew that Hatsumomo would have a place somewhere. Nobu would find the way to finance this. I did not have the slightest doubt that Nobu would refuse the Chairman's help. He would shoulder the burden alone.
I was so angry!
The polite reserve of our culture kept me from shouting my frustration.
A small plan began budding in my mind. I stood up straighter as I realized this. The irritating itch that had bothered me since realizing that Nobu was taking responsibility for the paternity of Hatsumomo's baby, was prodding me into a new direction.
I had the name Arashino and Nobu's brief note in my memory. I did not know when Nobu would be back. I did not know if he would be back. But he had ensured that I knew the name of the friend that he was intending I stay with when the factories opened.
At once, I knew what I had to do.