Desert Flowers

Mama and our family friend, Mr. P., rode in the front of the shiny new Ford on slick seats, while I rode in the back. Mama had wanted the car for so long, and when Mr. P. surprised her with it, I almost thought she would at least hug him, but she hasn't been herself since Papa…No, I pushed the thought out of my mind. The new car scent was delightful! I sniffed the cool air and I got a whiff of the fresh flowers I held in my hands. The bright green stems were dressed in petals of reds, blues, pinks, and purples. They were wrapped in a blanket of light yellow tissue paper and baby blue ribbon. They were Marri's favorite colors and they would go perfectly with her paper white silk Kimono. Marri was marring a blonde hair, blue eyed man named Jeffery. She had wanted an all American wedding, but Mama insisted on a classic Japanese robe. Marri wasn't too happy about it, especially since she felt ashamed of our ancestors after the bombing.

As we drove along, I leaned out the window and felt the warm Hawaiian air rush into my face. I closed my eyes and for a moment I felt free of the world. I felt free of the persecution, nasty comments and side looks I got on the streets. After the bombing, my friends wouldn't even talk to me. They didn't even look at me because it was as if I would set them on fire, just as the bombs had done to the boats. Flyers were suddenly every where saying, "Jap's," with an ugly face and squinted eyes crossed out. The government wouldn't do anything. They just turned a blind eye. I felt free of it all. It felt as though a heavy burden was suddenly gone. I let out a laugh. It was the first in several weeks. But Mama snapped me back to reality, "Piper, get your head out of the sky." She mumbled something in Japanese that I didn't understand. I learned Japanese when I was young. In fact, it was my first language, but I always felt out of place when I spoke the odd language. Eight years ago, when I was six, I stopped speaking it and forgot it altogether. I slumped back into my seat and the heavy burden quickly came crashing back down onto my shoulders.

We rounded a bend in the street and began on a dirt road. A sudden rush of excitement filled my entire body. I couldn't keep still. I began to tap my foot and mother glared at me in the rear view mirror, but her lips turned down and she knitted her eyebrows together. I could tell she was nervous. She was passing Marri off to somebody else. To a person who was supposed to hate us, but we all knew they were deeply in love. Jeffery would jump off the ends of the Earth for Marri, which was good. We pulled up to a small chapel and mother began to shake and her eyes began to water. Mr. P. grabbed her hand and she. Mama cleared her throat and said, "Are you ready?" She looked back at me and smiled.

"Yes Mama!" I jumped out of the car forgetting all about the flowers, and began to run to the chapel.

"Piper! Straighten your dress and walk like a lady!"

I slowed down, but not much, not worrying about my dress. As soon as I entered the chapel and was out of Mama's view, I ran to the back room, and burst through the dressing room doors.

"Marri!" I ran to her and hugged her petite waist. She smelled fresh and alive. I stood back and marveled at her beauty, "Marri, you are the prettiest bride I have ever seen!"

"Do you really think so, Piper?" Marri didn't like to be the center of attention.

"Oh your hair," I touched her elegant and soft pinned up hair. It was entwined with silver ribbons, yet everything seemed to be too much white.

"It needs a little color!" I dashed to a vase filled with tropical flowers and plucked one from its stem. I carefully placed it behind her ear, tucking the stub of the stem in her hair. I stood back and her beauty took my breath away. Her rosy cheeks, long dark lashes, and blood red lips. It was all so beautiful, it was almost like magic. She turned bright red and giggled.

"Now, you are the most beautiful bride in the world!" I wrapped my arm through hers and we walked through the church doors to the sound of music.

The wedding wasn't much, yet it was pleasant. After the ceremony, Marri and her new husband, Jeffery, drove away, off to share a romantic honeymoon. That was also the last time we ever saw them after the bombing. It was better that way. Jeffery wouldn't have to suffer the pain we felt and hopefully Marri could escape it.

The next few weeks were terrible. Kids threw crumpled pieces of paper at me with slogans that read, "Jap's," or, "America for Americans." The only piece I found was taking walks by myself on the hidden trails of the Hawaiian jungle. Mama began to go crazy. Day after day, I would carefully watch Mama fold flowers from crepe paper just to have them become soaked by her salty tears. At night, we would hear young sailor men who were drunk calling out for my Mama and yelling insults. Our land lord shut off our power because he didn't want us in his house. Mr. P., stopped coming over, which crushed Mama heart into such small pieces, there was no way anybody could put her back together. She became bitter and angry, till one day we got a letter in the mail.

I came home from school one day to find Mama baking cookies and humming. At first I thought she had lost her marbles. She sat me down on the kitchen stool, took my hands in hers, and in a calm voice she said, "Piper, we are finally going to be free. I got a letter today saying we are being sent to a relocation camp in Arkansas. We may not have as nice of a home as we do now, but at least we won't have to be in pain. We will be around people like us. What do you think?" I wave of emotions came over me. I fell to my knees and sobbed. I couldn't bare this pain any more. We were treated like animals. Wasn't it enough to lose my friends, to have to listen to nasty remarks, to have to see my mother in pain? Now, they expected me to just leave everything. Mama picked me up and sat me on her lap. She hadn't done that in 12 years. She stroked my hair and eventually I stopped. I was ashamed I broke down so easily.

"When do we leave?" I looked up at her while she looked over the letter.

She sighed and said, "The letter says we leave tomorrow morning, at six. We must pack now," she picked up a cookie and handed it to me. I knew Mama was happy to be getting away from here. She couldn't bare the pain any longer, just like me.

I bit into the cookie and said, "Well I better get packing,"

We arrived at the bus station where we met several other families who were going to Arkansas as well. Soon, an old, stinky, rickety bus rolled up. As I stepped onto the bus, I looked down the street and took one final look at my home. I would never see it again. We were driven to an airport where we were shipped off to California, just to get on another stinky old bus. The drive was long and hot. I thought I would melt before I ever even got to Arkansas. Finally we arrived to camp Rohwer. Here in Arkansas, there was no jungle, just barren land.

They unloaded us off the bus and assigned each family a room in a barrack. A young man of about 15 brought Mama and I each had a cot for us to sleep on. He said he built them from wood that was left over when the barracks were built. Mama asked him why he performed this wonderful act of kindness. He pointed at me and said, "Because of this pretty lady here," I blushed and knew I would like this place already. He seemed only a year older than me and I thought, maybe it won't so bad here. The young man introduced himself and left us. Mama began to unpack. I knew she wasn't expecting this at all because she kept going on about how we were deserted by America and how they thought they could just get rid of us by dumping us in the middle of the desert.

That night they gave us each a candle before shutting the lights off. Mama worked late into the night making her crepe paper flowers. I tried to sleep, but it was so hard when you were sticky from your sweat, yet cold because you felt alone. My mind decided I couldn't sleep so I walked over and sat on the floor next to Mama. She was hard at work, gracefully bending and shaping her beautiful creations. Each flower was like a piece of home, but one flower was different from the rest. I carefully picked it up and examined it. It was torn and beaten, just like I was. I asked Mama what kind it was because I had never laid eyes on any such flower. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and in a whisper she said, "I call it a desert flower."