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Chapter 4, segment 2 of 2, 'And Again'

The helmsman was just casting off when Mizuko clattered onto the small dock.

Sumimasen, excuse me,” she called out as she leapt aboard.

“That’s cutting it really close, Mizuko-san. Next time you'll have to swim,” the grizzled boatman grinned.

Mizuko found a seat near the bow of the boat and opened her notebook. She studied the intricate rows of the latest kanji, Chinese characters that she had been assigned to learn. Already at the top of her class in school, she was determined to learn all of the most esoteric characters before the end of the term.

As her racing heartbeat slowed, she looked up from her book to the green, bamboo-covered hills bordering the waterway. The journey over the placid waters of the canal always helped to calm her after leaving her turbulent home. Thoughts of Sawano-keibo and her constant demands fell away as she watched a magnificent heron rise from the canal bank into graceful flight.

By the time Mizuko returned home from school late that afternoon, a long shadow cast by the black pine next to the road had created a dark figure-like shape over the doorway of the house.

Her pulse quickened at the sight of the front door standing wide open.

Entering the house cautiously, she quickly shed her shoes and book bag in the genkan, and hurried to the sleeping area with a sense of dread.

A silent tableau greeted her. Sawano pale and still, lay lifeless on a futon in the center of the room. Arrayed around her sat Kichinosuke, eyes downcast and silent, bookended by Mizuko's sisters Sanae, and Tomoye who held her sleeping half-sister, Atsuko. At the foot of the futon sat Masamichi with a look of disbelief on his face, and a weeping Yoshiko.

Uyeda-san, the village doctor rose to meet Mizuko as she entered the room. “As I was telling Kichinosuke-sama, I believe that Sawano-san had an embolism in her lung. It burst this afternoon shortly after lunch. I came as quickly as I could, but she had already stopped breathing by the time I arrived.

I am fairly certain that her death was immediate,” he said quietly.

“I don’t believe that she suffered. For that we can be grateful”.

Mizuko murmured her thanks and walked with the doctor to the door. The setting sun silhouetted his retreating figure as he strode down the path, his shadow adding to the dark shadow over the front of the house. Mizuko watched him until he turned the corner and moved out of sight.

end of Chapter 4, segment 2 of 2, 'And Again'

come back to this blog next week for Chapter 5, 'Lady of the House'

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