Prologue

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Hi, I’m Kino Ayako. I was born in Sendai, Japan. From what I was told, my father abandoned my mother before I was born to marry someone else. My mother…well…she gave me up for adoption when I was born. She couldn’t handle the idea of raising me on her own especially in a country where she would be discriminated. I didn’t know too much about her.  

Since I was born, I had been living at the orphanage. The kids were mean to me from what I had remembered. The kids would beat me at least three times a day. The lady who I lived with didn’t seem to care about me. Actually, she would punish me and make me do most of the chores. No parent wanted me because of my background and me being a fat girl.

When I was four years old, my biological mother came to the orphanage and took me to live with her and her husband Reiichi. He didn’t seem very nice but, he welcomed me into his big home. He had a son from his previous marriage.

He came from a big family. 

From what I was told, some of the family from Reiichi side had split and taken sides about me. Reiichi was one of four sons. He was the youngest. The two older brothers didn’t like me. Reiichi third oldest brother, Reiji and his wife Hitomi accepted me and were extremely protective of me. Actually, I was living with them most of the time. They didn’t have children of their own.

At first, I didn’t trust my new family due to my experience at the orphanage. At the orphanage, the lady told me repeatedly that nobody wanted me. If they wanted me, they would send me back after a while. Being unwanted was one my biggest fear.

At times, I would get nightmares. Reiji and Hitomi knew that I would need much care and attention. So, they decided to do something about it.

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Age 4:

March………..

There you go. You look so cute!

Hitomi helped me wear a cherry blossom printed traditional kimono. The kimono looked really pretty. The cherry blossoms decorated the sleeves, the bottom of the kimono, and the the obi [a belt]. The main part of the kimono was cream yellow.

It’s a perfect size for my perfect niece,” she said with a smile and started to do my hair. A smile grew on my face. Ever since my mother brought me into the family, Hitomi never left my side. She showed me alot of affection as if I was her daughter. She didn’t have children of her own. Still, after a couple months, I wasn’t used to affection. I was learning.

Hitomi tied my hair into a simple ponytail. “There. All done,” she said to me. I looked at the mirror to see that I was ready to go to the Cherry Blossom Festival. “What do you think?” she asked me. “I love it,” I said to her.

She fixed the front of the kimono a bit. “This should keep you warm when we go out. I made it specially for you,” she told me. “Thank you,” I said and gave her a hug. She gave me a tight hug in return.

Knock…knock….

We turned our heads to the door to see Reiji who wore a suit. He had a smile on his face when he saw me. “She is adorable in the kimono Hitomi,” he said and walked over to me. I walked over to him and gave him a hug.

You ready to go?” he asked me with a smile. I gave him a nod. He took my hand and walked me to the front door. Hitomi thought that I should wear the zori [Japanese sandals]. Soon, we were out the door and took public transportation to the festival with bags of food.

The city was blooming of cherry blossoms. “We are almost at the park Aya,” Hitomi said to me. Soon, we got to our stop. We got out of the bus and walked toward the park where my cherry blossoms were in full bloom.

People put their blankets down and opened containers of food. Luckily, we got there before the park became full of people. “Let’s go set the blanket near the grass,” Hitomi suggested. The grass was piled with blossoms.

We walked under a tree closest to the grass and set the blanket down. I sat down next to Reiji on the blanket. “I packed alot of food today,” she told us. She opened the lunch boxes to reveal so much food.

Hitomi packed rice balls, karage, chili oil cucumbers, fruits, and tea. Reiji got a stick of karage and gave it to me. “Be carful not to get it on your kimono,” he told me. I gave him a nod and took the stick carefully. 

Thank you for the food,” I said and took a bite. It was delicious. Reiji and Hitomi were happy to see me eat. 

After we ate our food, we decided to walk around the park. Many people came to the park and started to sing, cheer, and do other things. In some areas of the park, people hung lanterns and buy food from the tents.

I saw a tent selling dango [rice dumpling]. “You want a dango Aya?” Reiji asked me. “Yes please,” I said to him. We walked to the line of people to wait to get our dango. There were many people waiting for their dango.

After a fifteen minute wait, we got to the tables. The man looked at us with disappointment. “I’m sorry. We just ran out. We won’t be able to make anymore until this evening,” he apologized to us. Reiji looked down at me with a small smile.

I’m sorry Aya. They ran out,” he apologized. I shook my head. “It’s okay. We can get something else,” I told him. Reiji gave me a nod and walked out of the line to find something else. Hitomi followed behind us.

Wait!”

We stopped and looked at a boy running towards us. {That’s the neighbor boy.} He had black hair and brown eyes,. He wore a white long sleeve shirt, black pants, and white shoes. He looked like a happy boy. He had two dango in his hand. {Why did he call out to us.}

The boy ran up to me and gave me a dango. “Here,” he said to me. I wasn’t so sure. “I saw that you didn’t get one. I want you to have one,” he said. I gave him a small nod and took the dango. “Thank you,” I said to him. 

He gave me a nod and pulled something out of his pants. It was a cherry blossom hair clip. {Pretty.} He moved my bangs on one side and put the clip on. My bangs covered  my eyes easily. {Huh?} After he placed the hairlip on my head, he ran away through the crowd of people.

That’s nice of him,” Hitomi said with a smile on her face. Reiji nodded in agreement.

{I wonder if I’ll meet him again.}

The boy was my very first crush.

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