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Cherry Blossoms

Akemi rested her head on her soldier’s shoulder and breathed out a sigh. She realized halfway through that Paul had told her the constant sighing was stressing him out even more, and sucked in the remaining air. She glanced up at him, but from her viewpoint could not see that he had heard her. He felt her gaze upon him, and lowered his eyes to meet hers. He gave her a warm smile and laced his fingers with hers. He turned his face back up to the scenery in the park – blooming flowers, people walking dogs, parents picnicking with their small children.

Ever since Paul had told Akemi that he was no longer to be stationed in Japan, they had spent all their time in deep conversation, on extravagant dates around Nagasaki, and watching springtime explode around them. But they could both feel that now was the time for silence. No more noise – just quiet and touch and love.

After an hour of sitting in peace, Paul checked his watch. Akemi saw him glance at his luggage next to their spot on the grass, and felt her heart split down the middle. No, rather her heart shattered in a billion pieces – there was no room for anything else in it but him.
“I’ve got to catch my flight,” he said, looking straight ahead. His voice was strong, but when Akemi sat up properly, she could see the terror in his eyes. He made to stand up, but Akemi pulled him back down. She reached into her bag.
“Wait. I have something for you,” she said with the halting accent that Paul had always found so endearing.
“Akemi, no, I told you –”
Akemi shook her head. She pulled three items out of her bag: an ornate box encasing a dagger, a matching box containing decorative chopsticks, and her geta, traditional Japanese shoes. First she passed over the dagger.
“Protect yourself. I don’t know where your army will send you next, but it might be dangerous for you.” Paul nodded and accepted her gift. Next she took the chopsticks out of their box and twisted them expertly between her fingers.
“Take these to remember the culture here, rooted in tradition and respect.” Paul stowed them in his suitcase, and smiled as he remembered the disastrous date when Akemi tried to teach him how to use the utensils.
“Finally, take my geta. To remember me by.” Paul held them in shock, as he knew how much the sandals meant to her.
The couple stood up and for a moment just stared at each other. Suddenly, Akemi lept forward and embraced Paul, kissing him as hard as she could. As she broke away, she slipped a black and white picture of herself into the breast pocket of his jacket. She hoped that he would discover it, and her love letter on the back, sometime during his flight back to New York.
“I love you, Akemi,” Paul said as he picked up his luggage and turned to walk away. Akemi stood rooted to the spot, trembling.
When Paul was almost out of hearing distance, she shouted, “Write to me!” In response, Paul looked over his shoulder and gave her one last smile.
Akemi sat down hard on the grass. “Sayonara,” she whispered to herself, as tears and swirling cherry blossoms obscured Paul from her sight.



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