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I’ve been writing this novel since 2008 only last month finishing it. It is set in modern day Kyoto, but it’s also a time warp story. It will be published Spring, 2017. This chapter points up the demise of Mari’s marriage and her determination not to have an abortion. Mari has an escape valve, though. She bought a black tomesode (kimono for married women) that proves to have its own powers. It has transported her back to the 16th century where she always lands on her face in front of Lord daimyo Mori. He hasn’t killed her yet, but there is always time.
Steven drove Mari to the doctor for the abortion. She was emotionally exhausted, and couldn’t fight him anymore.
A nurse, bowing respectfully, met them in the lobby. They sat in hard chairs, Stevensaying nothing and Mari too nervous to talk.
What am I doing? Why would I kill this baby, my first and perhaps my only? What options do I have? Steven demands this and if I refuse? Can I chance a refusal?
A nurse called her name and Mari stood, not feeling herself rise. Steven placed his hand at her waist, prodding her to move. She turned and looked at him, tears in her eyes. Unthinking, like one of those Japanese robots, she moved across the room and out the door. It had been raining since they entered the doctor’s office.
“Mari! What are you doing? Come back here.” Steven’s harsh voice followed her out of the doctor’s office. She did not turn her head. She kept walking, tears falling down her face, startling a few passersby.
Mari walked through Kyoto, her hair wet with rain, her shoulders slumped and huddled in her coat. It was early spring and the rain was to be expected. Mari did not notice her surroundings, not caring where she went, what she saw, lost in her own misery.
What are my options? If I keep this baby, what can I do? Go back to the States and live with my mother? I married Steven to get away from her. He will leave me, divorce me, abandon me if I keep this child.
I am friendless here, thought Mari, biting her bottom lip. I am basically alone in this world. I have to decide for myself what to do.
She walked on aimlessly, thinking of her marriage. Flipping back and forth between guilt and resentment, she was torn in two. She knew she was not happy, hadn’t been happy with Steven for a long time. A baby would probably make it worse.
She finally returned home after tramping the streets with her hands shoved in her pockets of her coat, her shoes and hair wet, her body sodden with rain. Steven wasn’t home yet.
That night she made a decision, though in the light of reason it had none. She placed her wedding ring on the nightstand, pulled the kimono around her tightly and secured it with the red silk rope. She lay down in her bed under a full moon, awaiting the magic and dropped off to sleep.
“What? Do I hear more mice? I must remember to set traps before I am overwhelmed with invasion. Or perhaps a hungry cat? What do you think, Lord Ekei?”
Lord Mori was standing over his table, looking down at maps. Across from him was his counselor, Lord Ekei. He was looking down at Mari who had materialized on the floor by the window, trussed with her arms behind her back.
“Ho! Said Lord Ekei in surprise. “It looks more like a large, black rat to me. Perhaps a couple of very hungry cats or maybe even a dog. What should we do with such a large rodent? Ah! It is trying to speak.”
Mari struggled in her rope, rocking from side to side, her kimono splayed out from her body, her flesh on the tatami mat.
“Lord Mori, please! I am very uncomfortable. Please let me up.”
“Ah, this is quite interesting, Lord Ekei. The rat speaks clearly, implores me to untie it. Yet it comes and goes with little regard and less manners. Now, what would be the proper course to take with an ill-mannered large rat?”
Bowing to Lord Mori, Lord Ekei started to draw his long sword.
“With your permission, my lord, I would cut off its head.”
“No!” yelled Mari from the floor. “Lord Mori, please, I beg of you, untie me and let me stand up.”
“Ah! Did I hear the word beg? Perhaps this rat is learning something of manners. Perhaps I will indulge her. She squeaks like a female rat.”
Walking over to where Mari lay on the floor, he grinned down at her.
“So, girl, you make your way back to me. Is it because you missed my company or you missed writing your verse? Perhaps you can write more and entertain Lord Ekei this morning?”
Mari turned her head as far as she could and looked up at him. Tears were gathering in her eyes and her lip trembled.
Lord Mori drew his shoto and cut her bindings. Mari lay before him quietly, exhausted
Lord Mori crouched down beside her, and spoke in a whisper.
“What am I to do with you, girl? Will you stay this time and become useful?”
Mari struggled to sit up, pulling the kimono around her and rubbing her wrists
“Lord Mori, I will stay if you allow me. I have left my husband.”
Lord Mori stood up slowly from the floor.
“Ah. And how did you explain this state of affairs?”
“I didn’t. I didn’t want to be with him anymore. I just put on the kimono and it worked its magic.”
“Did you not think he would believe you? He would think that the moon had robbed you of your senses.
Mari looked up at him, shivering with emotion and cold. “How could I explain anything to him? What reason would I be able to give?”
“Come, Mari”, said Lord Mori, lifting her to her feet and leading her to the brazier. He went to a chest, took out the quilted kimono and standing in front of her, stripped the black one from her body.
“There, you will be warmer now.”
Lord Ekei was standing across the brazier solemnly watching Mari. She stared at him for a few seconds and then gave a polite bow, her hands on her thighs as she had seen Miyo bow. Lord Ekei inclined his head to her, not speaking a word.
“Mari, sit and have some tea. You look worse than usual.” Lord Mori’s eyes searched her face as he gave her the tea.
Mari’s hands shook as she accepted the cup, holding it to her and warming her hands around the bowl.
Both lords knelt on their cushions and watched her quietly while they sipped their own tea.
Mari was lost for words but the warmth of the tea stopped her from shivering.
“So, Mari-who-was-married”, said Lord Mori, with a slight smile, “you have come a long way to escape a bad marriage, neh? Perhaps you will inform us why it is so?”
Mari put down her cup and stared from one face to the other.
“Do not fear Lord Ekei, Mari. He is a very old friend with much patience in his belly.”
Mari looked down at her hands, now gripped tightly in her lap
“Lord Mori, all I can say is that there is little love between us now, and hasn’t been for a while. I left because I could not bear conditions between us.
Lord Mori stared at her, not uttering a word. Lord Ekei snorted, folded his hands over his prominent belly and closed his eyes like a cat.
Mari looked at Lord Mori and tears flooded her eyes. “I wanted to have a child, and Steven did not.
Lord Mori looked at her sharply. “What husband does not want his woman’s belly to grow large with many sons?”
Mari’s hands shook as she held the teacup. “Steven has always said a child would interfere with his career.
Lord Ekei snorted again and opened one eye. This was most interesting.
“I will send you to Lady Nyo for your comfort, Mari. We will speak later,” said Lord Mori.
He clapped his hands once, and his chamberlain, the husband of Lady Nyo, slid back the shoji screen and entered, kneeling inside and bowing low.
“Take Lady Mari to your wife and tell Lady Nyo that she is to be the advisor and companion of Lady Mari for now. I trust your lady wife is in good health?”
“Hai, my lord. She will be honored to do as you command.” Lord Nyo bowed again.
Mari followed Lord Mori’s chamberlain out with only one backward glance at both of the men. She tried to make her face a mask, but her ability was impaired by her emotional turmoil. She knew her present secret would become known in a matter of days.
“So, what of her story did my lord believe?” The words of Lord Ekei were delivered with a chuckle.
Lord Mori walked to the window where he watched the early morning unfold. The Sandhill cranes were back. He watched them dip their heads into the water, feeding on his goldfish in the big pond. The cherry blossoms were just buds, too early for their magnificent display in weeks to come. Lord Mori started to hum an off key tune. He finally turned to answer Lord Ekei.
“Most of it. I am still troubled by her story about her husband.”
“Well, my lord, perhaps he was short-shafted and dull in pillowing. You know well women have little sense. They run away with the first man who rolls his eyes, waves his cucumber of love and pledges his everlasting devotion. Perhaps she is kurage? A changer of saddles?
“No, I don’t think she is a run-away. It is something else, something unknown for now.
She reminds me of the poem:
“So lonely am I
My soul is a floating weed
Severed at the roots.”
“Ah, my lord, the great Basho! Yes, I could see how you would sense that in her. She is rather rootless. Without a strong husband or male member in a woman’s life, she is drifting through life.”
Lord Mori started humming again. Then he turned and spoke softly, more to himself.
“There is something important the Lady Mari is leaving out. I could see it in her eyes.”
“And that is?”
“She fears being a stone-woman. She feared never having a child.”
Lord Mori looked steadily at Lord Ekei
“Perhaps she is with child already. Perhaps it is mine.”
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