Well, I just have to say thank you to all who have read my fics so far, and I hope you will continue to read them! I really appreciate it!
But just letting you know, if you haven't read the first two parts of this trilogy, I highly suggest going back and reading them, because you might not get some of the details of this one, you know what I'm saying? Great.
I really hope you enjoy reading this, and I hope you give feedback, be it praise or constructive critisism.
CHAPTER 1: SEITA
The light of the glowing lanterns illuminated the night sky and bathed the area in warm colours. People walked up and down the busy streets, enjoying the lively atmosphere of a summer festival. There were bright colours everywhere you looked, from the pattens of kimonos to the colourful booths. Children ran around calling to each other excitedly, waving their toys in the air. Everyone was having a good time playing games, dancing, or just browsing.
I stood on the side of the street, taking a break from the excitement while finishing up a snack. My friends and family were doing their own things, so I simply waited for them. My sister Setsuko was hanging out with her friends, and Yuki and Obaa-chan were inspecting every inch of the jewellery booths. It was bound to take a while, so I eventually found a vacant bench to sit on. I didn't mind though, because they were all having a good time, and I had a good snack.
"Seita?" A female voice called. I looked to my left to see a young couple making their way toward me. The woman waved and called out again, "Yokokawa Seita, is that you?" At first I didn't know what to say. I could have sworn I knew the woman from someplace, but I didn't recognize the man at all. But before I could say anything, the woman gave a triumphant, "It is you, Seita! Don't you remember me? I'm Fujiwara Yoshiko!"
"I thought I recognized you!" I exclaimed. Yoshiko was one of Yuki's friends from a few years ago who had left the area to get married. I looked at the man beside her and bowed. "And you must be Mr. Fujiwara. It's a pleasure to meet you."
After bowing the man and I shook hands. "Fujiwara Isao, and it's a pleasure to meet you too! So your name is Yokokawa Seita, am I right?"
"Yes, sir." I replied. The name Fujiwara Isao sounded familiar, but I decided not to ask any questions at that moment. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Yuki coming our way. "And over there is my-"
"Yuki...!" Yoshiko exclaimed. In a flash of purple kimono, the woman ran up to Yuki and hugged her tightly. "Oh, Yuki, I'm so glad to see you! Has it really been three years? Oh my goodness!" Poor Yuki couldn't talk while Yoshiko was practically smothering her, and Isao and I chuckled at the two of them. Eventually, Yoshiko let go of her, but continued talking. "Isao, you're not gonna believe this! This is Sasaki Yuki, the friend I've been telling you all about!"
Yuki came to stand beside me and I took her hand. After we looked at each other and smiled, Yuki said with a sweet blush, "Actually, it's Yokokawa Yuki..."
For a few seconds, the four of us remained silent. Yoshiko broke the silence with a happy gasp and putting her hand to her mouth. Smothering Yuki once again, she exclaimed, "You two are married? Oh my goodness! When did you get married? Why didn't you tell us...?"
Once Yoshiko let go of Yuki (again), she was able to answer. "We got married a few months ago, back in May."
"Oh, really?" Isao asked. "Well congratulations, you two!"
"Yes, congratulations!" Yoshiko proclaimed. "The two of you seem so happy together. I hope you'll be just as happy as Isao and I are!" Before I could ask just how happy they were, Yoshiko blurted out yet another question. "So are you expecting any children yet?"
"Not yet." Yuki replied. "But we're still hoping."
"How many are you 'hoping' for?"
"Two!" Both Yuki and I said at the same time.
"Wow...!" Isao remarked. "That's the first time I've ever heard a couple agree on a number!" We all chuckled at the comment.
As we all chatted, many questions were answered. I found out why the name Fujiwara Isao sounded so familiar. It turns out that he was an old friend I hadn't seen since I was twelve. It was nice to see him again and talk about all the trouble we got into as kids. Yuki and I also learned that the couple was visiting Yoshiko's relatives for a week or so. When we parted ways for the day, we promised to see them where they were staying.
The lively atmosphere was still around as my wife and I headed to the place where we would meet up with Obaa-chan and Setsuko. As soon as she saw us, Setsuko rushed to show off the prizes she had won at the various games. She knew her friends were all sulking that she had won everything and took great pride in it.
"Wow, Setsuko, are you sure you're my sister?" I laughed. "You're too perfect!"
"Oh, I'm so tired..." Yuki yawned. "Should we be going home soon?"
"No way!" Setsuko exclaimed. "It's only eight o' clock!"
"Don't worry, Setsuko." Obaa-chan reassured. "If Yuki and your brother want to go home, they can. But you and I can stay here a little longer!"
"Oh, Obaa-chan, are you sure?" Yuki asked with her usual concerned tone. "You'll be needing rest, too! You have to be exhausted..."
"Nonsense!" the elderly woman replied with a cheerful wrinkled smile. "Just because I'm old doesn't mean I'm tired and sick all the time. In fact, I'm much better off than a lot of my friends."
"Alright, Obaa-chan... Just promise me that when you get home, you'll get some rest..."
"You've got a deal, dear." Obaa-chan smiled. "It'll be awhile before Setsuko and I think of heading home, so the two of you will have plenty of alone time."
At the mention of the words "alone time," I suddenly looked very forward to going home. Not that I didn't love my sister or Obaa-chan, but it would be nice for Yuki and I to spend some time at home without them. Setsuko was sure glad that she could stay at the festival longer and Obaa-chan could sit and chat with friends some more. It worked out for all of us.
Once we were away from the crowded streets, Yuki and I walked hand in hand as we headed home. Back then - and even now as a matter of fact - it was considered disrespectful to display affection in public, so we didn't even think of holding hands until there was hardly anyone in sight. We smiled at each other and watched the fireflies glowing in the distance. The weather had turned out nicely for the festival. Yuki looked very beautiful wearing her light green kimono and pink flowered hairpin, much more eye-catching than the simple clothes I wore. But the two of us were happy being together, and that was most important.
"Oh, I'm so glad to be home!" Yuki exclaimed as we walked in the door. "Now we can just relax..." She stretched her arms and legs before attempting to loosen her yellow obi sash. "Dear, could you do me a favour? I can't reach the back of my sash. Could you loosen it for me?"
"Sure thing." Kimonos can be very difficult to put on or take off, especially for girls and women. It's also hard to untie something from the back, so we always helped each other in those situations. Yuki sometimes complained that her sash was too tight, so we would help loosen it once stepping inside the house. Once I helped my wife, I put my arms around her, and a suggestion that had been in my head for quite a while came out of my mouth. "Need help with the rest of the kimono...?"
Almost immediately, Yuki pushed me away with one hand, and grabbed her hairpin with the other. Knowing from experience that this meant "back off, or else, you scoundrel" I screamed and jumped back what seemed to me like five feet. It's a scary thing when your wife has you trapped in a corner, her hairpin at your throat like a knife. Her eyes were burning, but it was not the kind of fire I had been hoping for. Even before I married her, I had learned that when she was very angry, anything and everything in her reach could be turned into a weapon. I would try my best not to make her mad, but alas, it didn't always work. Like I said, it's a very scary thing...
Suddenly, Yuki's death glare softened, and she lowered the hairpin. If that hostile glare had scared me, the laughter that followed absolutely petrified me. I just stood there in shock as she was doubled over in laughter, leaning against the table for support. Eventually she wiped away a tear and said while gasping for breath, "I'm sorry, Seita! It's just that your expression was so funny! I love it when you look like that...!"
"Uh..." I couldn't say a coherent sentence for a minute or so. But eventually I managed to say, "So... You're not angry with me...?"
"Oh, no, of course not!" Yuki patted my shoulder. "And I'm happy about you wanting to help, but not now, you got that? Maybe later... okay?"
"Uh... Sure! I'm... I'm good with that...!"
For the next fifteen minutes, Yuki and I sat on the back porch watching the fireflies dance across the yards and fields. Such a pastime as this never failed to relax and calm the mind, almost like meditating. Suddenly we heard a whistle followed by a loud bang, and we immediately ducked down and covered our ears. When we realised that it was only the festive fireworks going off in the distance, we both felt embarrassed about that instinct that still lingered in our minds. When the fireworks stopped, the calm mood returned, and we relaxed once more.
"I never get tired of looking at them... The fireflies, I mean." My wife sighed. "Don't you think they're the most beautiful things in the world?"
I smiled. "Well, I do admit that they're pretty. But I've seen something that's so bright and beautiful, that they make the fireflies look dim..."
"What is that?" Yuki asked. I pulled my wife close to me and kissed her hard.
A few hours later, I stared up at the ceiling from my bed. It was completely dark and the crickets chirping was all you could hear, and only if you listened closely. To my right, Yuki slept peacefully with a gentle smile on her face. To my left, Obaa-chan and Setsuko, who had come home a while ago, also slept silently. I was jealous of all of them because of this. Here I was at two o' clock in the morning, exhausted and sweating, yet unable to get any sleep whatsoever.
For something to do, I sat up in bed and looked at the photos on the shelf across from me. In one photo, Yuki sat in a chair wearing a traditional wedding kimono, her mouth in a sweet smile and her eyes warm. I stood beside her, wearing a black suit, my smile gentle and proud. When I looked at the second photo, I had to keep from laughing aloud. Yuki and I, wearing our best clothing, had been posing in a formal way among the cherry blossoms - until Setsuko came in-between us at the last second. The resulting photo had Yuki and I with surprised looks as we appeared to fall backwards, and my sister with a huge grin on her face in the midst of it all. Instead of being angry with her, we decided to keep the photo, because it was much more funny and memorable.
As I laid back down on my bed, I smiled. Our household was quite the family. But what would it be like if our little family got a little bigger? Like most newly married men, I was nervous. I was sure I'd be a good husband, but I had no idea whether I'd make a good father. Could I raise a child to grow into a respectable adult? Could I support them both emotionally and financially? Would they like me? Would they come to me for advice? It turns out that starting a little less than a year later, each and every one of those questions would gradually be answered.