The Two Scheherazade:The Storyteller and The Poet. Illustration

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The two Scheherazade are sitting under the Tree of Magic, where stars grow like apples on the branches….

Drawing on paper in aqua color pencils and ink gel pen. Enjoy!

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Touch the Stars. Illustration

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Touch the fabric of the Universe and stars will bounce on the tip of the waves….I Illustration drew on paper, in acrylic, ink gel pen and aqua crayons.  Enjoy!

Shooting Star. A Love Story. Ch. 14-16. The answer. Aishiteru. Itoshikute.

  1. The answer

 

  The wedding ceremony was glamorous and joyful. Sumiko and Kenzo were making a beautiful couple and  after that, everybody cheered and enjoyed the party. With a beaming Hanako by his side, Ren was calm and polite, but very much silent. Half disconnected from what was happening around him, his thoughts were drifting away. When his father announced the renewal of the engagement between Ren and Hanako and that they were due to marry next June, the youth rose to his feet with a courteous smile, bowing politely but had nothing to say.

  During the party, he danced Hanako dutifully, then taking Sumiko from the hands of her husband, took her to the dance floor.

-You are so beautiful, Sumi!-he said lovingly. Are you happy?

-Yes! How could I not be, Ren? I am very happy and I wish you to be happy, little brother. Take care of Father while we are on honeymoon,will you?

-Of course, Sumi! Enjoy your trip and don’t forget how much I love you!

She embraced him and left a loving peck on his cheek, then returned to Kenzo. The party went on till midnight, then guests and family spread to their homes, while the young couple boarded a plane and left to their two weeks trip around the world.

    The next day, Ren walked to the pond and sat on the gravel shore, waiting for his Koi friends to emerge. Light was twinkling on the ripples as the red spotted white Koi swam up to his feet. Soon, the black one followed, waiting patiently his turn. Ren split the greenery between them and fed them slowly. The black Koi looked restless, swimming up and down, like looking for someone else to come.

-He’s not coming anymore, my friend…-said quietly Ren, swallowing the lump in his throat. It’s over….

 The fish seemed to understand his words. After nudging gently his colorful mate, they began to swim back and forth, faster and faster, in a hypnotic entanglement, bending the layers of water into a swirling tail of shimmering froth. Then, with a coordinated hit of the tails, they disappeared in a  final splash of sparks and rainbow droplets, like a shooting star in the skies of the water.

  As the surface of the pond quieted down, Ren stood up.

-I see…-murmured the youth. He’s got an answer to his unvoiced question.

 

 

  1. Aishiteru

 

 Two weeks passed and Kenzo was returning with Sumiko, content with himself, but eager to see Ren. He was missing him badly. Looking for the youth at the apartment,he learned that  the tenant moved out recently but left no address. The young man was baffled. He asked around family and friends; but no one knew where Ren lived. He took a vacation, he was visiting his father, but aside from that, he had vanished into the thin air. Yes, he had spoken with Sumiko after they came back from the trip but he wasn’t returning Kenzo’s calls.

-What did he say?-asked Kenzo slightly exasperated, turning to his wife.

-He said that it was about time for him to become independent. Oh, Kenzo! Don’t be so upset! I think he needs a bit of time to sort out all these recent changes in our family life. He’ll be back when he’ll be ready. Anyway, I’ve told him about the party for our new home and that he won’t be excused-added Sumiko with a sweet smile.

-You’re right, my dear. We should give him a break. Let’s go out and take advantage of what’s left  of our vacation !

   On the other side of the town, an inconspicuous car was rolling casually in a street with neat but modest flats. He stopped near one of the buildings, waiting patiently for the arrival of a particular tenant. JT knew him well. There he was: a gracious, slender young man with dark, melancholic eyes. Kenzo’s confidence-man waited till the light turned up in the room of the apartment, then  he sent a message to his boss: “I’ve found him.”

    Two days later Kenzo was knocking on Ren’s door. The door cracked open and the youth was standing there, pale and visibly upset.

-Hello, Ren…

   The youth opened the door to let Kenzo in.

-So….you found me- he said with a sigh.

He shut the door and showed Kenzo in. The young man sat on the couch, watching his beloved as he moved around, placing two beers and some crackers on the coffee table next to him. He looked fragile, almost ethereal and the bluish shadows underlining his eyes were speaking of sleepless nights and deep inner turmoil.

-Why, Ren? Why did you move out?- Kenzo’s question broke the silence.

-Because that was a place filled with memories I had to leave behind. You should do the same, Kenzo! It’s over! It must be!-said Ren, pleadingly.

   Kenzo jumped to his feet and grabbed him.

-How could it be over when all I have in my mind is you?! I love you, Ren and I know you love me too! Look at you: you’re like a ghost since I’ve left!

-I feel like one….-said Ren and his voice cracked. Oh!…..

He buried his face in his palms, snuggling in Kenzo’s arms. “ I can help it… Aishiteru” he whispered. “Aishiteru” murmured Kenzo, kissing away his tears, easing the pain. “Aishiteru”echoed every caress that followed, each passionate kiss and intimate touch. “Aishiteru=I love you” was the name of the maelstrom of feelings that swept them away that evening, entangled, entwined, embraced….All the yearning summed up in the days of separation was bubbling up , unstoppable….

-I have to go now-said Kenzo finally, dressing up. Don’t forget to come to visit us on Sunday noon! Sumiko is cooking something special !

-I know-said Ren softly. He stood there smiling, reminding Kenzo of his first impression at the pavilion:“His beauty can put the Moon to shame.”

-Please, keep an eye on him, JT!- said Kenzo in the car. I want him to be safe and well. I count on you!

 

16.Itoshikute

 

   JT followed with increasing anxiety Ren’s movement after Kenzo’s visit. The youth made some small, odd shoppings, then spent most of Saturday in the park, sitting at the pond and feeding the Kois. He woke up early on Sunday and JT could see him through the open window pacing up and down his room. Then….nothing. No move. Silence. JT sent a quick message to Kenzo:”I think you should come here! Something doesn’t feel right.”

   Ten minutes later, they were speeding up the stairs. JT opened the door with a spare key. They found the youth in the room, lying on the floor, gasping for air. Kenzo kneeled and held him up, shouting desperately:

-Ren!!! What have you done?!

-Itoshikute…..whispered the youth. Hold me….It’s cold and it’s…getting… dark….

Kenzo squeezed him, muttering helplesly:“ Don’t leave me, itoshikute….Don’t leave me, my shooting star…..Hold on….”

But when the paramedics arrived and then took him away, Ren’s already lost consciousness. The medical team took a sample of the liquid left in the glass on the floor, hoping to find the antidote. Slumped in the rear seat of his car, Kenzo was clutching to the pile of addressed letters left on the coffee table by his beloved, while they were following at high speed the ambulance. His mind was racing from Ren’s broken image to that of Sumiko waiting at home, unaware of the unfolding tragedy. How was he going to tell her about it?! He leafed through the letters and found the one written for him. He held it for a moment in his palms, barely touching it… but he was unable to open it yet. Instead, he slipped the small envelope in a hidden pocket of his jacket. He sighed, trying to calm down. The family needed him and he wasn’t going to fail.

  Ren didn’t come back from the coma. For days, Sumiko and Kenzo kept watching him, hoping in a miracle. But there was no change for the better. Finally, Kenzo sent her home to rest and sleep, while he stayed at the hospital. Leaning back in a chair next to the bed, he was reading the diary of Ren’s mother. It explained a lot. On the last page, there was a line, written by her:”I don’t want to be saved!”. And right there, the youth has made an addition: “ I understand now, Mom! I know the feeling.” Reading it, Kenzo swallowed hard; rising his eyes, he looked at his love lying on the bed. He was visibly slipping away…Kenzo grabbed his hand, desperate to hold him back. As the new day was dawning, Ren quietly set forth to the stars, leaving behind all his loved ones in grief. After he was cremated, Kenzo took the urn of ashes up to the mountains, to that place where they were once counting stars together. He made that trip alone. Sumiko and her father were in no condition for such an endeavor.

 Once arrived to the plateau, Kenzo waited till nightfall. He left the cabin, looking for the place where once they stood together. The skies were teaming with stars and the nightwind was whispering in the grass….He stood there,holding the urn to his chest, waiting for a sign.

    The shooting star emerged from the depth of the Universe, crossing the night sky in majestic arch. It slowed down above the plateau area, waiting. Kenzo opened the lid of the urn and the nightwind slowly lifted the soft ash towards the blazing traveller…The shooting star blinked; then retook its flight, delving into the night and leaving behind a trail of sparks….

 

Shooting Star. A Love Story. Ch.10-11. Labyrinth. Hanako

  1. Labyrinth

 

   The next morning, Kenzo accompanied his uncle to the airport and took a warm farewell from him. He then hurried to the park to meet Ren. He took the path to the red pavilion  in a breath! It never felt so faraway…

    Ren was leaning against one of wood columns supporting the roof, lost in thoughts when Kenzo burst in the pavilion. Ren turned to him and for a moment, they gazed at each other, motionlessly. Then, they flew in each others arms, clinging desperately to one another. Were they trees, with that surge of love and bursting emotions they would’ve grown into one in a split of a moment, unbreakable, inseparable!

   Before the youth could say something, Kenzo cupped his face in his palms, kissing him deeply, passionately and then held him strong again.

-Don’t say anything….I won’t give up on you. I love you like I never loved anyone before!-he breathed in Ren’s ears.

    Ren shuddered. He slowly unfolded from Kenzo’s embrace and faced him.

-She’s my sister and she seems to love you. Tell me how can I deal with this without jeopardizing her happiness?

    He walked to the railing of the pavilion, leaning over it , breathing heavily.

-We still have time till June next year-pleaded Kenzo. We can spend time together and work it out. I can handle everything  for your love! Ren! Ren….listen to me…This is not an ordinary love that we have. Don’t give up on it!

  He stepped to the youth, delving a hand in his rebellious strands. Ren turned with a sigh.

-I will stay with you till the marriage. I don’t want to cheat on Sumiko, Kenzo! I can’t do that!

-It’s fine with me, Ren. We’ll get through this together! Come, let me take you home. I would like to talk with your father.

    As JT drove them to the Shibata family house, Ren was leaning against Kenzo’s shoulder in the car; he was exhausted. It all happened so sudden! He needed that slim ray of hope to cope with all that occurred lately. Reading his late mother’s diary was offering him a way out of the entanglement but  he wasn’t ready to use it….Maybe, just maybe there was a miracle lying ahead.

     Late that evening, Professor Shibata had a talk again with his son.

-Ren, Kenzo came and offered you a  job as his private secretary. I know you still have courses to attend; but he’s leaving you the choice of time you can spend by his side, learning and working. I hope that you’d accept his offer. It would be a good opportunity to strengthen family ties and it would offer you some financial independence.

“ Hmm. He’s moving fast!” thought Ren.”Oh, well. Let’s see what will come out of this!”

-I’ll take the offer, Father-he said loudly- and I’ll do my best to comply. I will call Kenzo-san in the morning.

 

  1. Hanako  

 Kenzo’s arrangement for Ren worked surprisingly well. The youth moved out from home to a small apartment close to Kenzo’s place. As a private secretary, he could spend more time with him and they didn’t have to hide anymore. It was a perfect cover up for both of them. Kenzo’s engagement created a small tide of guesses and regrets in the media and in the heart of so many wannabe ladies; but after a while, they found new eligible bachelors to pursue and dream about. Life was good.

   One day, while Ren was at work, someone tapped his shoulder, calling him.

-There’s a girl outside, looking for you-said his colleague.

   Ren raised his eyes and looked at the door. Here she was: Hanako Ikeda, his fiancee. Surprised, the youth stood up and walked to her.

-Hanako! What are you doing here? Why did you come?

  Visibly annoyed, he took the girl out of the room and dragged her to a corner of the hallway.

-I wanted to see you!-she protested. We are engaged and I want to spend more time with you, Ren!

-Hanako….-the youth sighed. I’ve told you before, I tell you again: I cannot give you what you desire. Please, try to understand that. Go and find yourself a  young man who would love you and make you happy! Leave me alone.

   Hanako protested, tears building up in her eyes.

-I don’t want another young man! You are my fiance and I want you!

-Won’t you introduce me to this lovely lady, Ren?

Kenzo was standing there, with a mild smile on his lips. Hanako blushed while Ren made the introduction in a restrained voice:

-Hanako, this is Kenzo Nishimura, my boss! Kenzo, meet my fiancee, Hanako  Ikeda!

-Nice to meet you,Miss Ikeda!! Kenzo’s smile widened. -I didn’t know you’re engaged, Ren!-he continued, playfully raising an eyebrow.

-I’ve also learned  about that only recently-murmured Ren. But she’s leaving,anyway. Come, Hanako! Let me lead you out!-he said, grabbing her firmly by the elbow.

-Goodbye, Miss Ikeda!-said Kenzo with a courteous bow.

-Goodbye, Nishimura-san!- she replied, trying to keep up the pace with her annoyed fiance.

  Ren lead her out of the building and said once again:

-Goodbye, Hanako! Don’t come again, please. I am busy; I work here.

He turned swiftly and shut the door, leaving the unhappy girl standing alone in the street. Kenzo was waiting for him at the escalator.

-Hey! What have you done with the poor girl? Why are you so hard on her?-he said, teasingly rising an eyebrow.

 But Ren was visibly distraught and didn’t take the joke. He bit his lips nervously, then turned.

-Kenzo, I love you and I wish I could be so easygoing and pragmatic like you. But I am not. I don’t want Hanako to have expectations I can never fulfil. I can only hope that my harshness will drive her away and that she’ll find the love she deserves in someone else’s arms! I have nothing to offer her…

-I know, Ren. I walk the same shoes, remember!-said Kenzo, trying to appease him.

-No, you are not, Kenzo! You, at least like Sumiko and her love is not a burden for you. But I can’t even think of Hanako in that way…And I don’t want to make her life loveless and miserable! I have to go back to work, boss- he added with a small smile. You won’t pay me for small talk, will you?

He turned and left Kenzo alone in the hallway.

   “ Me and my big mouth!” thought Kenzo, hoping that he could comfort his love at home, in the evening.

Shooting Star. A Love Story. Ch. 8-9. Hard times. Old secrets

  1. Hard times

 

  Ren slipped into the house, trying to avoid his father and the other guest. He couldn’t face them. Not now. He was shaking  from inside and nauseating. He reached Mom’s room, unlocked it and fell on the floor after a few steps. Cold sweat was running down his spine as he lied there, desperate to cry and desperate to hold back his tears. “ Mom! How am I going to survive this?!”-he moaned. “I wish you were here….I need you…..Mom…”. But nothing happened. Silence in the room was deafening. Ren lied there motionlessly until he heard the front door closing behind Kenzo and his uncle. He swallowed hard and gradually relaxed. He couldn’t let his family know his chagrin.

   Gathering all his strength, the youth stood up and walked to the door, when he noticed the awkward position of a painting on the wall. When he tried to fix that, a small booklet fell out from behind it. It was a diary. His mother’s diary. “Thanks, Mom!”-whispered Ren and hid the booklet in his pocket, shutting the door carefully.Half an hour later, Sumiko found him in his room, resting. She sat on the bed and ruffled his hair lovingly. She was glowing from inside.

-You like him?-asked Ren in a muffled voice. “Oh, gods!….”

-Yes!-smiled Sumiko. He’s different from how the journals were depicting him. He’s gentle and considerate, a very enjoyable company.

-He is….-agreed Ren with a small sigh.

-This means that you will accept him?-asked Sumiko, full of hope. I want so much to see you both becoming good friends! I would not give up on your love for anyone, my little brother!

  Her words ripped through Ren’s heart. He embraced Sumiko, whispering:

-You don’t have to, Sumi! I love you and I am happy for you.

He kissed  her and jumped off the bed,masking the surge of emotions.

-Tell Father that I’ll be down in a moment.  

Sumiko left happy and relieved while the youth took his cellphone and sent a message.

“Sumiko likes you. Make her happy. Ren”

  Travelling almost instantly, the message found Kenzo pacing up and down his room and having a difficult debate with his uncle.

-Is there anything you dislike about this girl?-asked uncle Seiji.

-No, no! She’s wonderful and anyone would be happy to marry her. But….I cannot commit to her.-blurted out Kenzo.

-May I ask why? Is there someone you love maybe?

Silence. Kenzo pressed his forehead to the window and shut his eyes. Anger and despair was all he could feel.

-…..and from your silence, I assume you cannot marry that person.-concluded the old man. I see. Then I must ask you, Kenzo to put aside your love interest and act responsibly towards your family and peers. Marry Sumiko Shibata and build a family of your own. You are the only hope we have for the future of our family. Please consider this, before rejecting her.

  In the silence following his words, the clicking of the message reverberated around the room. Kenzo grabbed the phone and read the row of letters dancing before his eyes: “Sumiko likes you. Make her happy. Ren.” He squeezed the cell-phone until it cracked.

-Please make the necessary arrangements with Professor Shibata. Tell him I ask his daughter in marriage.-said Kenzo, turning to his uncle.

“I’m not giving up on you, Ren. Never!”

 

  1. Old secrets

 

-I am happy that you support your sister’s marriage, Ren- said Professor Shibata contently.

He  had asked his son into his study after dinner. Now, that he got the confirmation call from Seiji Nishimura, he had one more problem left to deal with and he knew that it might prove difficult. Ren was hard to grasp, despite his mild appearance.  

-Sumiko will be well cared of by her future husband and his family-he continued. She deserves that. One cannot wish for a better daughter than her. Now, it’s time to talk about your future!

-Yes, Father…replied Ren, muffling a sigh.

The Professor opened the drawer of his desk and took out a carefully rolled document and slowly unfolded it, handing it to his son.

– The time you were born, the Ikeda family was blessed with a little girl, Hanako. Our families were very close and we have decided then to unite them by engaging the two of you at birth. We’ve decided to share the news now because you are both of age and you are also finishing your studies. Ikeda-san and I, we agreed to renew officially your engagement at the time of with Sumiko’s marriage in June. What do you say about that?

  Ren took a deep breath before answering. He was on the verge of exploding but he didn’t want to hurt his father. He could see him getting more frail with each year so he was trying hard to keep his emotions under control.

-I wish you wouldn’t take such a decision in my name. I know Hanako and I have no feelings for her. I sincerely believe that she deserves a better man than I could ever be. But since you’ve already made the arrangements, I will not bring shame on your name, Father. I leave this whole matter in your hands. May I leave now?

  He stood up briskly and left , without waiting for an answer. He locked himself in his room and cursed his own existence, face buried in his pillow. When he finally calmed down, he took the secret diary and started to read, ignoring the message on his cell phone….

  Kenzo desperately tried to reach Ren after his uncle went to sleep. Though he sent a lot of messages, there was no answer.

“ Dammit, Ren! Say something!!”

No reply. The messages were lost to a connection deafened by pain. Finally, Kenzo decided to go and sleep. Tomorrow was another day and he had plans for the future. He wasn’t going to let fate drag him down.

       Sitting atop his bed, Ren was reading the diary breathlessly. It was both heartbreaking and shedding light upon certain events. The arranged marriage have had put a strain on the delicate hearted young girl that was to become Sumiko and Ren’s mother. Her confessions in the diary were speaking about her loneliness, her sense of emptiness and her efforts to repay somehow the kindness and care of her husband. She was dying with each day and only the birth of her children lifted the gloom of her life. She showered them with all her love and convinced her husband to rebuild the garden according to her plans. She wanted to create a dreamland for both her children and herself; a place to soothe her aching heart.

    Then , one day she learned about the arrangement made for her little boy’s future marriage and her world collapsed. She tried to argue with her husband but he told her that he cannot undo what was already agreed. Breaking the engagement would damage their position and ruin the future of all. There was no return! She couldn’t take that…..

“ I lived this loveless life in the hope that I could protect you and your sister from such an ordeal. I failed you both….I cannot go on with this anymore. Ainonai=Loveless. This is not life. I hope one day you’ll understand and  that you will forgive me….”

     She died two days after the last entry of the diary.

Ren slowly closed the diary, holding it in his hands, pensively. He smiled inwardly. The diary has answered his questions. He put it on the shelf and took his cell phone to read and reply to the messages.

“I’ll be at the pond.Ren”