This is something of a pet project of mine. It is partially inspired by Emily Dickinson's poetry where she frequently takes a word and explores the inner lexical landscape of it. ("Hope is a thing with feathers" or "Presentiment is the long shadow on the lawn", if you want two examples.) It is also partially inspired by my interest in what the children's crests represent and why they got them. The final motivation is that I tend to write about certain characters, and want to expand my repertoire. When finished, it'll consist of eight vignettes, each about a crest and its bearer. They should be read as stand-alone pieces. Otherwise, enjoy!

For this one, I should acknowledge the inspiration of Amy Tan's "The Bonesetter's Daughter" (for the opening line) and Jeanette Winterson's "Oranges are Not the Only Fruit" (for thoughts about adoption and for some stylistic features). If you've read either, you'll see the similarities. If not, they're both amazing novels, so add them to your reading lists!

I should also say that I've fiddled Koushirou's history a bit. In the show, he seems to have been the son of one of Izumi-san's colleagues, who died in a car crash. In this one, it's a more regular adoption.




What fortitude the soul contains That it can so endure The accent of a coming foot, The opening of a door! ~ Emily Dickinson


My name is Izumi Koushirou, and these are the things I know about myself:

I'm ten years old.

I'm in class 5-A at elementary school.

I live in Odaiba.

My parents are not my real parents.

I overheard them talking last night, when they thought I was asleep. I had just climbed out of bed to get a glass of water. The door was open a crack, light shining through it in a long stripe across the floor. It let me hear everything they said as well.

"We'll have to tell him one day, Keiko," my father was saying, "He's going to find out about it sooner or later, and he'll be hurt we didn't trust him enough to tell him."

"I know," my mother replied softly, "It's just . . . I don't want to think that he's not my real son. I want to put the whole thing behind us, and move on as a family. Besides, I've had him since he was a baby, since before he even opened his eyes, so what does it matter that I didn't give birth to him?"

"It might matter to Koushirou," he replied, "And he has a right to know."

"But what if he goes back to her?" her voice was a tortured whisper, "I can't lose him. I can't."

My ears ringing with their words, I slumped onto the floor and drew my knees up to my chest.

At that moment, all the mysteries of my life suddenly made sense to me. I understood why there were no pictures of my mom when she was pregnant or when she was in hospital. Why my dad kept his 'important papers' locked away from me in a safe. Why I don't look like either of my parents. And why that strange woman had come to visit me three years ago.

Not that my mom let me see her. I remember I was sitting at the table, doing my maths homework, when the knock at the door came. She came out of the kitchen, drying her hands on a dishcloth, and went to answer it. She had only opened the door a fraction before she told me in a very quiet voice to go to my room and work there. I was curious and didn't want to go, but she sounded too serious to disobey. So, I picked up my books and went. As I passed the front-door, however, I glanced to the side and saw the strange woman standing there. She was very young and pretty with fluffy, red hair like mine and almost black eyes like mine. I guessed she was some family of ours, and wondered why my mom didn't want me meeting her. She lifted her hand when she saw me, but I was too afraid of my mom getting mad to return the greeting.

I went to my room and sat at my desk, spreading out my books in front of me again. Through the walls and the door, I could hear angry voices raised in an argument. I didn't know why my mom had bothered to send me to my room, because I could hear every word they were saying and none of them made sense.

"What are you doing here?"

"Can I see him, please?"

"You have no rights here," my mother sounded adamant, "You signed away all your rights when you were fifteen."

"I was young and stupid. I made a mistake, and have regretted it ever since. If I could just . . . ."

"Absolutely not," my mom cut the stranger off, "Get out of my home, or I will call the police. I'll get a restraining order placed on you so you can't come within fifty feet of the apartment block."

"But . . . ."

"Get out."

I heard the door slam. A few moments later, my mom came into my room. Keeping my head bent over my maths, I pretended that I hadn't heard their conversation. Where the numbers on the page had made perfect sense before, however, they were now a jumble of shapes. I kept hearing her words over and over again - "I want to see him". She had meant me. Why had she wanted to see me? Why had she looked like me? Deep inside my heart, I must have known the answer, but didn't want to admit it to myself.

I was just about to ask my mother who the strange woman was, when she put her arms around my shoulders and hugged me to her. She hugged me to her so tightly and fiercely that my own arms hurt from it. I looked up at her, and saw that her eyes were shiny with tears. And I knew we wouldn't talk about her that day or any day after it.

A few weeks later, we moved away from that block of apartments. My parents didn't tell me the reason, but I guessed it had to do with her.

Anyway, the woman never came back to our house after it, and I more or less forgot about her. It isn't difficult to forget things or people you don't want to remember. Sitting there on the cold floor, however, the memory of her rushed back into my head. I remembered the way her hair had fluffed around her young face, and the way that her black eyes had looked sad. I could almost see her standing in front of me and lifting a nervous hand to me. She was my real mother, and my mom hadn't let me see her!

I was so furious with her that I got to my feet and marched into the lounge. I didn't know what I was going to say or do, anymore than I knew what was going to happen. My bedroom door banged behind me. Slowly, my parents turned to face me. My dad's arm was around my mom's shoulders, and her eyes were red and wet. Her mouth opened and closed like a goldfish's, but no words came out of it. Her hands were twisting in her lap.

In a second, all my anger vanished, because she was my mom too. She was more my mom than the strange woman who had come to the house. And she was crying because she thought I would go back to the strange woman when I knew; because she thought it would matter that she hadn't given birth to me.

"So you know, Koushirou-chan," my dad said.

I looked at my mom, saw the pain on her face and I knew there was only one reply I could make: "Know what, tou-san? I just came to get a glass of water."

"Then get it and hurry back to bed," there was something like relief in my dad's voice, "It's past your bedtime."

The next morning - this morning - everyone acted like nothing had happened. Everything seemed so normal. My mom cooked eggs for breakfast and put too much salt on them as usual. My dad read the newspaper and grumbled over the financials as usual. I checked my e-mail on the computer before packing my bags for school as usual. On the outside, it was just another morning in the Izumi house. On the inside, however, everything was different.

I know I'm adopted.

My parents aren't stupid, so they know that I know.

But we're all happier pretending that we don't.