The Women | Chapter 30 of 41

Author: T. Coraghessan Boyle | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 10560 Views | Add a Review

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CHAPTER 9: THE AXIS OF BLISS
It was raining heavily as she walked up from the station to the squat wooden inn on the hillside, preceded by a porter carrying her suitcases. Her shoes were all but ruined in the rutted dirt street that resembled nothing so much as a streambed at this juncture, everything dripping and sizzling with the rain, but it didn’t really matter—they could toss them on the ash pit for all she cared. She was going native. Throwing off worldly things. Dwelling within herself. And to hell with Frank. She concentrated on the porter’s back as the planes of his muscles clenched and shifted under the weight of the suitcases, the water streaming from his straw hat that was like an inverted funnel, the hill rising ever more sharply. She put one foot in front of the other, trying her best to avoid the deeper puddles and thinking only of a bed and a hot bath. There was no one in the street. Nothing stirred. Just the rain.
Of course, she was wrought up, the scene in the apartment repeating itself over and over in her mind like a moving picture caught in a loop, but the pravaz calmed her and she took rice wine with her dinner—a kaiseki of twelve courses, faultlessly prepared, and was she beginning to appreciate the cuisine after all, or was she just starved?—and let the sound of the rain infiltrate her senses. Once the maid had cleared away the tray, she went into the little bamboo cubicle outside the bath and scrubbed herself all over, recording the process in the full-length mirror there, rubbing both hands slowly over her breasts, between her legs, into the small of her back, even lifting her feet one after the other to run the cloth over her soles and between her toes with the slow languorous ease of a bootblack, so that when she stepped through the door and onto the flagstones of the bath she felt as pure and regal as the empress herself.
Two old men and what appeared to be a woman bobbed in the steaming water, only their heads and bony slick shoulders visible. There were flowers, ferns. Paper lanterns. She shivered, wondering if it was as chilly at the Imperial Palace as it was here on these wintry flagstones, and then she slipped into the water, the old men and the woman studiously averting their eyes, and it was heaven. The next thing she knew the place was deserted, the lanterns burned low, and the maid was there with her robe, murmuring something in her own language that sounded as lovely as the whisper of cherry blossoms in the breeze, and then she was in her room, on the futon, beneath the blankets, and the rain ran a thousand fingers across the roof.
There followed a succession of days during which she saw no one but the maid and the shocked and silent cohabitants of the bath—and oh, they looked at her, stealing a pinched sideways glance as she strode naked across the flagstones, and let them, let them see her as she was in her skin: she had nothing to hide. The bath was a miracle. She lay in the water for hours at a time, dreaming, till her body felt as limp as if the flesh had fallen from the bone. It rained constantly, day and night. She kept her pravaz close at hand. She ate fried rice, boiled rice, rice with salmon and cod roe, udon noodles, skewered tofu. She drank black tea. Sake. And, finally, a bottle of good scotch whiskey the maid brought her. And was there a pharmacy in town? There was. She sent the maid out with an empty tube of the morphine sulfate tablets and the maid came back with it full.
All the while, when she could summon the energy, the desire, she sat at the low mahogany table in her room and wrote letters to Frank on the thin rippled rice paper the maid left for her on the tansu in the closet. They were angry letters, letters that dredged up all the sourness and hate of the past and the present too—Krynska, how could he?—and yet they were sentimental at the same time, rising on the wings of poetry to illumine for him the reclamatory power of her love and the hallowed bond they shared that no amount of perfidy or venality or stinking filthy philandering on his part could ever break. The letters drained her. Crushed her. The rain fell. And the maid—pretty, perfect, a bowing kimono-clad extension of her will—took the letters to the post office and sent them away.
Within the week, Frank had written back. She came in from the bath and there the letter was, laid out on the mahogany table beside a finger bowl and a single lily in the slim white vessel of a ceramic vase. The first thing she noticed was the artistry with which he’d addressed the envelope—he’d used a brush rather than a pen, his kanji as pristine and elegant as any Buddhist master’s or Shinto priest’s—and that touched her. She pictured him sitting over his drafting table with his finest brush, a look of utter absorption on his face as he dipped the tip of it in the well of the ink stone, funneling his genius into it, creating something beautiful. For her. Even before she read through the letter inside, the nine pages of apologies, pleas and regrets—he was the one at fault, a selfish unthinking lowly impostor of a man who saw what he wanted and took it, and damn the consequences, and could she ever forgive him because Krynska was nothing to him and he’d never so much as kissed her, he swore—her heart went out to him. She read through the letter a second time, then a third, every nerve and fiber of her stirring with the highest regard for the nobility of this man, for his grace, his beauty, his truth and wisdom, and she immediately wrote back, and what she wrote was so deep and so true she might as well have opened a vein and written him in blood.
But she wasn’t coming back to him. Ever. Or at least not until he made her his equal, not until the day he threw off the yoke of his prior attachment—his Pussy or Kitty or whatever she called herself—and pledged his troth before God and man alike so that no Krynska or Takako-San could ever threaten her again. That much she made clear. She had to. Just to preserve her own sanity.
His reply—more apologies, more pleas, more regrets—came by return mail, and the minute she’d read it through she clapped her hands and sent the maid for pen, paper and sake and wrote him back on the spot. Within the hour her letter was on the way to him and the following day another of his came to her, letters overlapping, reaching out, anticipating one another, so that over the course of the next two months they were able to hold an ongoing conversation through the slow but estimable Japanese mails, their pens assessing even the minutiae of their attachment, their love and esteem and mutual complaints—his snoring, eating habits, the way he sniffed his socks on removing them, his bossiness, his rusticity, and her faults too, though of course they were minor compared to his—and to branch out in the fullness of that conversation to easy companionable accounts of their day-to-day activities while they were apart.
His life was a frenzy of activity, of course. He was on the job site day and night, battling Hayashi-San and the Baron over every change and cost overrun, struggling with the permeability of the oya stone they’d quarried outside the city (it would forever leak, he feared, but it was beautiful beyond compare) and seeing to his mother’s needs. Yes, she was there. Still. She’d come all the way across the board-flat plains and jagged mountains of the West, endured the two weeks at sea and rushed to her (formerly) ailing son’s side only to come down with the very same complaint that had stricken him. It was low comedy, that was what it was, and Miriam, cleansed in the crucible of the bath and replete with the utter calm the pravaz gave her, laughed aloud at the thought of that gangling old lady—and how old was she, eighty, eight-five?—towering over the Japanese like a freak of nature only to be stretched out on a too-short futon and fed rice balls and water till she could only wish she’d stayed in Wisconsin where she belonged.133
And for her part? She told him of the sound of the rain, of the emerald beauty of the stands of bamboo that clustered on the hillside like queues of silent people waiting for something that would never come and the strange tiny birds that visited them. Of her daily rituals, her reading and writing and the solace of the baths. Of the shaven-headed monks in the temple with its painted dragons and graceful torii and the way it made her feel as if she could touch the spirits with the pointed finger of her mind when they chanted, all in unison, and let the charred spice of their incense rise round them in empurpled clouds. She was at peace, that was what she told him, and she never mentioned the pravaz or the pharmacy or the adept maid who would lay down her life for her if she but asked. All she could want, she wrote, was for him to take her in his arms. That was all. That would make her world complete. But she wasn’t holding her breath. And she wasn’t coming back.
Two months. A gap in the calendar. Slow minutes, slower hours.
Each day was a replica of the last, but she was never bored. The everlasting tranquility of the saints came to dwell in her and she lived as if she were floating free out over the earth in some aeroplane or dirigible—or no, on her own fledged wings. Still, there was the impenetrability of the language, the harshness and abruptness of it, nothing at all like the silken play of French. And the fish, the eternal fish, their opaque eyes staring up at her out of the multiplicity of the days, their sliced flesh raw as a wound, their tails, their lips, their appendages. And the mud. And the rain. Two months. She was ready for a change.
And so when, one evening after her bath, the maid’s soft swishing footsteps stirred on the wooden planks of the anteroom, followed by a heavier tread, a man’s tread, she sat up, fully alert. And when the shoji slid back with a soft click and he stood there grinning in the doorway, she was already on her feet, already moving across the tatami to him, her arms rising of their own volition to pull him to her. “Miriam,” he said, as the maid ducked away like the shadow of a bird and she fell into his arms, her blood surging so violently she was afraid she was going to crush him. But oh, the smell of him! The touch of his lips at her throat! “Frank,” she cried. “Oh, Frank, Frank, Frank.”
 
They stayed on there together for five days. She showed him the trails on the hillside, the temple, the shops, pointed out the little yellow birds and the funny old man at the tobacconist’s who’d cut a perfect pie slice out of his conical hat so he could see the sky above him. Frank found a trove of prints in an out-of-the-way shop even the Tokyo dealers didn’t seem to know about, haggling over a dozen rare specimens, including at least one he immediately inaugurated into the pantheon of his favorites—it was a Shunshō, very colorful, dating from 1777, of the actor Ichikawa Danjūrō V in a red robe. When the money changed hands, he looked as if he wanted to get up and caper round the room, but she held him back because he had to save face for the dealer and his children and everyone else who came out to stare as they all but minced up the street, arm in arm.
They bathed together. Sat out in their kosode in the evening and watched the sun plunge into the hills. They ate and laughed and made the futon rock on the tatami as if it were a creaking four-poster under the weight of the newest newlyweds in the oldest inn in Wisconsin. And when they left to go back to Tokyo—together—she had a shining promise to hold out before her, rarer and more beautiful than all the prints in the world: Kitty had relented after all these years and they were going to be married.
Just as soon as possible.
 
Three years later, as she sat fanning herself in the shade of an avocado tree in the back garden of Leora’s little Spanish villa in Santa Monica, she was still waiting. Frank had been true to his word, she couldn’t fault him there—or yes, she could, because he’d dragged his feet through every conceivable delay and evasion till she thought she was going to die unwed like some sad deluded cast-off little strumpet in a morality play. But at least he was free now, at least he’d seen to that. The divorce had been granted back in November and all that remained was to wait out the twelve-month probationary period before Frank could remarry, and the clock was ticking down on that too—in just over two and a half months she would be Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright.
“What are you going to wear? For the wedding, I mean?” Leora tipped the ash from her cigarette against the lip of the urn Miriam had brought her from Japan and then looked away, as if they’d been discussing the length of the grass or the color of the drapes in the guesthouse. She was in her bathing costume, a blue woolen suit with a ruffled white skirt, her wet hair bound up in a towel, and she idly stretched her legs and flexed her toes to admire her pretty feet and freshly painted toenails. “You don’t still have—? ”
Miriam let out a laugh. “Lord, no. God, it’s been so long. I was just a girl then. A child.” She smiled at the memory. “No, I envision a small private ceremony, something unconventional, spiritual—midnight, maybe.”
“Midnight? Well, I guess that would be unconventional. People will think—”
“That’s just it—we don’t care what people think. And I don’t want the press there. You know what a nuisance the newspapers have been.”
Leora didn’t have anything to say to that. She set her legs back down on the wooden slats of the chaise, lifted her drink from the table. The wind—some sort of Californian sirocco, dry as dust—chased a scatter of spade-shaped avocado leaves across the patio and into the pool. She let out a sigh. “At least you don’t have to worry about the mother,” she said.
The old dragon’s face rose up briefly in Miriam’s consciousness—Don’t you dare call me by my given name: I’m Mrs. Wright to you and don’t you ever forget it—like a lump of driftwood bobbing in the murk of the Wolf River. “Yes,” she said, “and thank God for small mercies.”
Of course, now that the war had been won, she could be facetious about it, not that she’d ever disrespect the dead. But there was a time when it was no laughing matter. Taliesin had always been a trial to her, but when they came home from Japan for good134 and Frank insisted on dragging her all the way across America to play at being the country grandee, his mother was entrenched there, undisputed mistress of the house, and she wasn’t about to give an inch. From the minute they arrived, the old lady had started in, carping about her accent, her mannerisms, her dress, contradicting everything she said out of pure spite. If she said she’d like to open the windows to get a breath of air, the old dragon practically nailed them shut. Mention the menu—hadn’t anyone ever heard of a salad?—and she’d have the cook boil the lettuce. If Miriam wanted Frank to take her to Chicago or out to a restaurant or even into Spring Green to watch the dust settle in the street, the old lady suddenly developed the flu or her sciatica flared up and if her boy wasn’t there to cluck his tongue over her she’d just about curl up and die. It was as if they’d never left. It was 1916 all over again.
And Miriam wouldn’t tolerate it. She told Frank that point-blank. But this time she wasn’t going to lie up in her room like some dog he’d abused—oh, no, she’d had enough. She directed Billy Weston to bring the car around and take her into Spring Green, where she was going to put up at the hotel until Frank could give her an answer to the question she’d put to him back then—“Who’s it going to be: her or me?”—and hang the expense, because hitting him in the pocketbook was the only thing he could seem to understand. The mama’s boy. The waffler. And before she left, with the car standing in the drive and the motor running and Frank wringing his hands in the studio or out in the stable or wherever he was, she marched right into the old lady’s room to give her a piece of her mind.
It was mid-afternoon, hotter than the front porch of the devil’s place down in Hades, and she took her by surprise, startling Anna up out of a nap in the armchair next to the bed. There were flies at the windows. A smell of camphor, ointment. Medicine bottles crowded the table beside her. Two of Frank’s prints were propped up on the bureau, gifts he’d brought back for her. The old lady’s head snapped up. “You get out of here,” she growled, her voice caught low in her throat.
Miriam dispensed with the preliminaries, because this was it, the battle joined at long last. “You know you’re destroying your son’s last chance for happiness, don’t you?” she demanded.
Anna made a shooing motion with the back of her hand and tried to push herself up out of the chair but fell back again. “I won’t talk to you. You’re a cheap woman. A tramp.”
“You will. You will talk to me. Because Frank is going to marry me whether you like it or not.”
A glare. A tightening of the mouth, as if a noose had been pulled tight. “Not while I’m alive.”
She loomed over the woman, so full of hate and rage and frustration it was all she could do to stop from snatching her up out of the chair and shaking her like a bundle of rags. The tremor ran up her spine and shivered the back of her neck. She felt as if she were going to faint but she fought it. She had to. Had to have this out once and for all. “Then you’ll just have to die,” she said. “Frank and I are engaged, do you understand that? Engaged to be married. As soon as the divorce is final—the very day, I promise you—I’ll be Mrs. Wright and I’ll be giving the orders around here. And I won’t let you or anyone else stand in my way.”
There was more. The old lady crying out like a parched peahen, struggling to get up out of the chair and nobody there to hear or help her either and Miriam acquainting her with the truth in all its unvarnished detail. Then it was the hotel and Frank running back and forth between the two of them, the biggest crisis of his life, the days burning into the sweated nights, and within the month Anna was gone and Miriam had Taliesin all to herself, triumphant at last.135
And now, sitting beneath the avocado tree in Leora’s garden while Frank oversaw the construction of his block houses in Pasadena and Hollywood and Leora’s husband slapped a little white ball around a golf course, she took a moment to let the weight of it sink in. Her nemesis was dead. And she wouldn’t speak ill of the dead—or think ill of her either. All that was behind her, a bad dream dispelled in the light of day. “Yes,” she said finally, “there’s that, at least. And I was thinking of designing my own gown, something—oh, I don’t know, artistic, Grecian, a simple little thing. Not satin. Crepe de chine maybe. And not white. White’s for the first time around.” She paused to lift her eyes to the rich foliate canopy above her, the leaves dancing on the breeze. “Something in taupe maybe. Or pearl. And my furs, of course.”
Leora let out a little hoot of a laugh and treated her to her half smile, the one she used for intimacies, ironic or otherwise. “Amen,” she said. “Outdoors, at night, in Wisconsin? In November, no less?”
Miriam was feeling insuperable, at peace with herself and Frank and the specter of his dead mother too. All the stars were aligned. Everything was in place. She could indulge in the luxury of anticipation. “Yes,” she said, returning the smile, and she was almost giddy with the joy bubbling up in her, “it’s not exactly Palm Beach, is it?”
Later, after a light luncheon and a girlish frolic in the pool, they sent the Chinese houseboy in to mix another round of cocktails and had separately turned back to the magazines they’d been flipping through off and on all afternoon, when the gate from the drive swung open and Leora’s husband appeared in his golfing togs and crisp white cap, a bag of clubs slung over one shoulder. “Dwight!” Miriam sang out. “Come join us—we’re just about to have cocktails.” “Yes, do!” Leora called. “It’s that kind of day, don’t you think?” And for some reason, they both broke out in giggles.
Miriam watched him set down his clubs, prop them carefully against the fence and start across the lawn in his loose easy strides, his shoulders slumped in the conciliatory way of very tall men. She’d always liked Dwight. He was uncomplicated, stalwart, mild without being wishy-washy, and he treated Leora as if she were the only woman on earth.
“Don’t mind if I do,” he said, ducking in out of the sun. “Hot out there on the course, what with this devil’s wind . . .” He stood a moment, arms akimbo, grinning down at them, and if Miriam had the sense that he was looking down the front of her bathing costume and admiring her bare legs, well, so much the better. He was a sweet man. And appreciative.
The conversation ran off on its own, light and amusing, the banter of three old friends united under an avocado tree on a late summer afternoon within sight of the distant sun-coppered crescent of the Santa Monica Bay, and the Chinese brought the beaded cocktails on a lacquered tray and Miriam felt her mood lift to yet a higher plane. They were midway through their second cocktail when Dwight suddenly leaned back in his chair and slapped his forehead. “Jeez,” he said, letting out a hiss of air, “I nearly forgot—did you hear the news? Because I thought of you right away, and Frank, because you were over there—”
“News?” Leora’s smile expanded till her lips drew tight. “How could we hear any news”—and she giggled again, this time in a thicker, throatier way, the gin at work—“when we’ve hardly moved between the chair and the pool all day?”
“The earthquake. In Tokyo. Everybody in the clubhouse was talking about it.”
Miriam felt her own smile fade. Frank had been obsessed with earthquakes the whole time they were in Japan, and there was the one that struck when they were in their rooms at the hotel, terrifying in its suddenness, as if a freight train had come right on through the door and out the window all in a minute’s time. “Was it—is it serious? I mean, do they know if there’s been damage—?”
Dwight turned to her, the wind rattling the stiff leathery leaves overhead. His eyes faded a moment and then flickered back to life. “Oh, yeah,” he said, “yeah. They’re saying it’s bad. Buildings down, fires, the whole works.”
“And the hotel? Did they say about the hotel?”
In the next moment she was up out of her chair, the suit clinging damply to her as she hurried barefoot across the yard and into the house to call Frank. Her heart was pounding as she stood dripping on Leora’s carpet in the dim hush of the front hallway and waited for the operator to connect her—she was imagining the worst, the Imperial in ruins, Frank’s reputation destroyed, the Baron and the Ablomovs and Tscheremissinoff transformed into refugees, or worse, injured, killed—when Frank came on the line. “Hello? Miriam, is that you?”
She didn’t have to ask if he’d heard—his voice betrayed him. “Yes,” she said, and a calm came over her because she was going to stand by him no matter what, prove herself, defend him in the face of the whole world, “it’s me. I’ve just heard the news.”
There was a crackle of static. “They’re saying”—his voice sank so low she could barely hear him—“that it’s the worst earthquake in the history of Japan. And that Tokyo took the brunt of it.”136
“Any word of the hotel?”
“No. Nothing.”
She couldn’t seem to catch her breath. The receiver of the phone was dead weight in her hand—it took an effort of will just to hold it to her ear. “I don’t care,” she said, the words coming so fast she could scarcely get them out, “because I can see it standing there now, not a window shattered, a testament to you, to you, Frank, even if the whole city’s destroyed around it, and I don’t care what they say, I don’t—”
They were in limbo for twelve interminable days.
The papers were full of the story, headlines trumpeting disaster, the least detail pried from the wreckage by the ghouls of the press, but nothing was certain, no one could be trusted till the full accounting was in. Frank was so distracted he couldn’t seem to sit in a chair for more than two minutes at a time. He paced endlessly. Lost his appetite. Let his work lag while he twisted the radio dial and worried the newspapers. The cruelest moment was when they were awakened by the phone ringing in the middle of the night only to have a reporter from the Examiner, full of himself, full of the joy of Schadenfreude, crow over the line that the Imperial had been destroyed and wondering if Frank had a statement to make. Miriam came up out of the morass of sleep, groggy, drugged, buried in a river of oneiric mud, saying, “What? What?” And his voice was there, in the dark, crackling with outrage, truth against the world: “On what authority? How do you know? Have you been there and back on a magic carpet? No, no: you listen to me. The Imperial Theater might have gone down, the Imperial Hospital, the Imperial University and all the thousand other buildings that trumpet the Emperor’s connection, but if there’s a structure standing in all that torn country it will be my hotel. And you can print it!”
How she loved him for that—for his fierceness and certainty. Get his back up against the wall and he’d fight like a lion. She lay there that night listening to his breathing decelerate, declining through the layers of consciousness till he was asleep beside her, her man, her fiancé, her very own personal genius, Frank Lloyd Wright, creator of the Imperial Hotel, may it stand ten thousand years. And even as she drifted off she heard the workers chanting all the way across the spill and tumult of the waves, Wrieto-San, Wrieto-San, banzai!
The telegram finally reached them on the evening of September 13. It had been forwarded through the Spring Green office to their apartment in Hollywood just as they were sitting down to dinner. Frank’s hands quivered as he tore it open. And then his face flushed and he was reading it aloud:
FOLLOWING WIRELESS RECEIVED FROM TOKIO TODAY
HOTEL STANDS UNDAMAGED AS MONUMENT OF YOUR
GENIUS HUNDREDS OF HOMELESS PROVIDED BY PERFECTLY
MAINTAINED SERVICE SIGNED OKURA IMPEHO137
 
 
 
And now the press could feed on him to its heart’s content. Now she and Frank could open the doors and stand there arm in arm for the photographer’s flash and Frank could prance and crow and sermonize and she, in the shadows no longer, could stand at his side and broadcast his genius to the wide world. She was so proud of him. And he—beaming, glowing like a one-hundred-watt bulb and offering up his grandest smile—he was proud of her.
 
In the wake of that—the tumult of the press and the international outpouring of awe and gratitude and congratulation that rocketed Frank so far ahead of his competitors and critics that he became, in a single heroic stroke, the most famous architect in the world and no one even to raise a whisper to deny it—the next two months slipped by so quickly she scarcely knew where they went. She kissed Leora on both cheeks, in the French way, her eyes full and her heart luminous, and then she and Frank returned to Wisconsin to make themselves ready, one more shriving of the soul and the flesh too. She was a new person altogether, newborn, and she stood at the tall living room windows looking down the long avenues of light and felt herself open up inside, lifting higher and higher till she was a bright fluttering pennant on a breeze that could never chill her again. The trees gave up their leaves. The weather turned bitter. The lake froze so hard it could have supported the weight of every automobile and tractor in the county. And the night sky was clear all the way to the rooftop of the universe, the stars strung from its beams in a cool white shatter of bliss. For her. For her and Frank.
They could have been married in Los Angeles or even Chicago (quietly, quietly, because whether they bowed to convention and he legitimated her with his ring and a kiss as if they were just any common Joe and Jane was nobody’s business), but the symbolism of Taliesin was irresistible and when he proposed it she didn’t demur or even hesitate. “Yes,” she said, “there’s no place I’d rather be,” and for once she meant it. This was where his heart was, this was where his mother lay buried and the ghost woman too, Mamah, the phantasm she’d had to compete with through all these gratuitous years at his side. It was perfect. She’d have it no other way. And if the wind screamed down out of Canada and the hogs threw up their stink and the rubes sat stupefied in their parlors while her light shone out over the ice-bound river in the witching hour of the night, then so much the better.
But now it was a question of shoes. Of her dress. Flowers. A midnight supper. The cake. Would there even be a cake? Did it make any sense? Who was going to eat it? If it were up to Frank they’d dine on cheese sandwiches and apple cider, but she would have champagne, crepes, caviar, and she wouldn’t discuss it, not for a minute. If he thought she was going to get married without a champagne toast and at least the semblance of real cuisine, then he’d gone mad. Clear out of his mind. Cuckoo. She fought to stay calm as the day approached, though she wanted to fly out at the maid, the cook, at Billy Weston and anyone else who crossed her path, and she could see that Frank was wrought up too. More than once she heard his enraged voice echoing through the caverns of the house like the report of distant thunder, but he put on a face for her—and she for him. In fact—and it moved her so deeply she found herself dabbing her eyes to realize it—they were tenderer with each other than they’d been since that fraught and glorious week when they first met, when she was his ideal made flesh and her every movement bewitched him.
She hid herself away on the night of the wedding, bathing and dressing and making herself up with a precise measured care that took her through each step of the way as if she were rehearsing her catechism, and no, she didn’t need the maid’s help or the pravaz’s either. She was purposeful, calm, utterly absorbed in the moment. On her lips was the poem she’d committed to memory for him, the best translation she could make of the scroll that had hung in her tatami room in the green fastness of the mountains above the Kantō Plain when he came to take her away. It was from the hand of a woman who’d lived a thousand years ago at the court of the Empress, in a time devoted to the fulfillment of the senses, to beauty, poetry, art and love, and she would give it up to him there, in the cold of the primeval night as the stars wheeled overhead and the judge intoned the immemorial phrases and the ring slipped over her finger.
She spoke it aloud one final time, lingering over the rhythms and the aching sweet release of its sentiment. “ ‘The memories of long love, / gather like drifting snow,’ ” she murmured, watching herself in the mirror—beautiful still, still unspoiled, still capable of ascending to the very highest plateau of love and grace abounding—even as her voice dropped to a whisper, “ ‘poignant as the Mandarin ducks / who float side by side in sleep.’ ”
She held her own eyes a moment, looking as deeply into herself as she dared, and then she went out to marry him.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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