- The letters
Dest: Professor Hideo Shibata
“ Dear Father!
Forgive me for the pain I have caused to you! I know I was always your odd child, the one no one could comprehend but I had to leave this world to set everyone free.
I cannot live without love, I cannot live a lie and I don’t want anyone to suffer because of me.
You have Sumiko by your side and her love is boundless.
Take care, Father! Thank you for all your love !
Reading the letter in the privacy of his study, the elderly man slumped deeper in his chair. He was both angry and pained. How could this happen? Why were all his loved ones running away from him, finding solace in death?! He had loved them, cherished them, protected them ! Why did they desert him in such a cruel way?! He shut his eyes, nervously scrutinizing the darkness behind the eyelids, trying to summon the shadows of his lost wife and child… But the moment of bitterness was soon replaced by the deep sense of loss and failure. He had meant well, but he had missed the truth of their feelings….In the solitude of his chamber, Professor Shibata was crying inside….
Dest: Miss Hanako Ikeda
Don’t cry for me. I couldn’t let you become prisoner of a loveless marriage! You are free now.
Go, find yourself a good man who would love and cherish you as you deserve! Be happy!
For Hanako, Ren’s suicide was a hard blow, shattering all her dreams and leaving her in an awkward position. She always had a crush on Ren; he was beautiful and gentle but the truth is, he never showed any interest on her. But Hanako tended her dreams of him all along, knowing that they were meant to be together. Even his moments of anger against her were not deterring the girl from her hope of happiness by his side. Unrequited love doesn’t just go away. It haunts the heart , painting illusory hopes on its sky.
Hanako read the letter , throw it away angrily , only to pick it up and read it again,crying….She cried but slowly calmed down. It was the loving kindness in the words that were making her slowly realise that there’s à future before her, one where she can find happiness. She read the letter one more time, attentively; then she put it the drawer of her desk. She left her room, determined to fulfill her dreams.
Dest: Mrs. Sumiko Nishimura
My sweet, loving sister! Please don’t cry! I know you are upset but I couldn’t enter a loveless marriage. I knew I couldn’t make Hanako happy and such a life would’ve been an ordeal for both her and me. You know that I’ve tried to make her change her mind.
But I leave this world at peace because I saw you happy and knowing that I have left you in good hands. Kenzo will always take care of you; he is a good man. Please, keep an eye on Father and promise me that you will be happy!
Remember me and know that I loved you more than anything in this world….
Your little brother,
The tearful Sumiko could hardly read Ren’s letter. Images of her little brother, cuddling up in her arms after Mom’s death were rapidly alternating with those of the soft spoken, reserved adolescent and later, the beautiful yet elusive youth. She had always lived with the feeling that Ren has grown more on the inside and that what they were all witnessing, was both a creation of their hopes and his way of protecting them from constant worries over him.
“But he looked so happy lately!”- murmured Sumiko. “Why didn’t he confide in me?! Oh, Ren! I wish you have told me about your chagrin!”
She kissed the letter, crying, unaware of the reality behind Ren’s last line:
“ ….I loved you more than anything in this world….”
Dest: Mr. Kenzo Nishimura
You were right: I love you and I cannot live without you. But I cannot live on the expense of Sumiko’s happiness. You made me a promise; make her happy! She deserves that.
Please,take my ashes to our place, where we saw the shooting star. Wait until it’ll come for me. Live a happy life, my beloved. One day, we’ll meet again! You’ll see….
For Kenzo there was no place to cry; at least not at home. The heartbroken family was relying on his strength and support; outside his home, all eyes were on him. Once again, he was on the front page of magazines, followed by paparazzi eager to ask him over and over again about the mystery behind the suicide of his brother-in-law. Those questions, relentlessly repeated were tearing his heart to pieces. He knew the answer but he couldn’t tell them or anybody else. The truth was buried deep inside his aching heart. JT was his only confident in this tragedy.
Then, up in the mountains, after the shooting star took away Ren’s ashes and the silence of the night became unbearable, Kenzo returned to the cabin. Numbed by the emptiness inside him, he crawled in bed, hoping to fall asleep fast. He grabbed the pillow and froze: hidden under it lied a small,withered maple leaf, the one that Ren had picked from the forest the first time they came here. Kenzo stared at the leaf in disbelief…..till his eyes filled with tears and he cried and cried…..
18.Shooting Star. 23 years later.
Life had been good for Kenzo Nishimura. One year after Ren’s death, his son, Takashi was born. The arrival of the little boy brightened everybody’s life, lifting the veil of sadness. Happy woman and happy mother, Sumiko was blossoming and her ailing, elderly father had found solace in his nephew. Takashi was a child born under a lucky star. Though they never spoke about it, both his parents were determined to insure for him all the freedom he would need. Ren’s tragic departure had changed the mindset of the family elders too. Neither Professor Shibata, nor uncle Seiji Nishimura would’ve interfered with Takashi’s life choices.
Two years later, Hanako Ikeda married the man she fell in love with and who was in love with her. Sumiko and Kenzo joined the wedding preparations and they helped in organizing a beautiful ceremonial for their friend.
So after 23 years, Kenzo could say that he was an accomplished man. Takashi was finishing his studies at the university. He was becoming a doctor and he was already nagging his father to rest more and to take care of himself. Kenzo has developed a heart condition lately and Takashi was keeping an eye on him.
Deep inside, Kenzo knew that his days were numbered. He was slowly withering. He didn’t want to frighten Sumiko,but he could foresee the outcome of the process. So, one evening after she was asleep, Kenzo descended to his study and called Takashi in.
The young man was sitting in a chair facing his father. A few moments, Kenzo watched him lovingly and with pride. The boy was the living image of his mother, seasoned with a pinch of Kenzo’s charm. Responsible and straightforward. A worthy legacy of his parents.
Kenzo took out two envelopes from his desk drawer and laid them on the table before him.
-Takashi, I need you to do something for me- he said. You have here two letters that I wrote some time ago; one is for you, one is for your mother. Keep them safe! If anything occurs to me, you can both read them. I rely on you!
-I wish you would rest enough, so that nothing unpleasant could occur !-replied the young man with a serious face.
-I will follow your advice anytime soon, doctor-chuckled Kenzo. No worries! I promise you that I’ll stay here a few moments more, then I’ll go to sleep-he concluded with a smile.
-Don’t make promises you cannot keep, Father!-said Takashi with a grin. I hope I won’t find you still sitting here in the morning. Good night and pleasant dreams, Dad !
He kissed his father, took the enveloppes and left. Kenzo relaxed for a moment. He opened the drawer of his desk and took out a small, lacquered box. It contained a heart shaped pebble, polished by the sea. The heart of the shore. The memento of his love. He held it in his palms, eyes closed, breathing in the scent of the sea and recalling the memory of those days….
-I’m coming, itoshikute….I’m coming soon.
They found him in the morning, gone to the stars , with a peaceful smile on his face, holding the pebble in his fist. After the incineration ceremony, it was Takashi’s turn to climb the mountain, carrying the urn with his father’s ashes, to wait for the night and the sign from the skies.
Under the sizzling dome of the Universe, he recalled the story he had read in his father’s personal letter.
“ My dear son!
24 years ago, a year before you were born, I have fallen in love, deeply and hopelessly with a unique, wonderful person. I’ve met him a few months before uncle Seiji introduced me to your mother. The person I am talking about is your late uncle, Ren. He was close to your age at that time. He was beautiful,gentle and fragile I’d say, body and soul. We fell for each other in an all consuming love. But the marriage arrangement and the prejudice of time against such a love was putting things in a different perspective.
Knowing that it was impossible for us to part, Ren decided to leave this world and save his beloved sister’s happiness. Your mother never knew about this and I did my best to protect her from this painful secret. I wanted to make her happy. I loved her in my own way; but I have never forgotten my one and only love! 23 years have passed and I still see Ren’s face before my eyes, I still remember his scent and I feel the touch of his skin on my fingers. You might think that I am delusional, but I know he’s waiting for me.
I am ready to go. You are a brave and admirable young man and I know that you will take care of your Mom. She’s young enough to survive the loss and find happiness again. My dear son! I’ve shared my secret with you in the hope that you will understand. Life is full of unexpected. Take care and be happy! I love you, Takashi! Kiss Mom from me, will you?
After cremation, spread my ashes from the plateau of the mountain at night. You’ll know when to do it. There will be a sign. Goodbye, my dear child!
Your loving father,
Once again, the shooting star arose from the dark belly of the Universe and followed its path in the skies. Takashi opened the urn and the wind lifted the ash towards the blazing traveller. The star blinked. In the silence of the night, Takashi heard a faint whisper:” Wait for me, Ren! I’m coming.” An invisible hand touched him gently, then the light faded into the night.
He woke up, sitting alone on an unknown shore. Around him, the sand was blindingly white and smooth.The clear blue sea was calmly moving back and forth, its playful ripples fingering his bare feet. He looked up and saw a much brighter sun than he remembered. It was a mild summer day and he was feeling surprisingly well. He curiously examined his hands: they were smooth and younger than he remembered. He felt his face and found none of the familiar wrinkles.
A small breeze ruffled his hair and Kenzo shuddered.What happened? What was he doing here?-he wondered. How did he end up here? And where is this “here”? He shook his head:he couldn’t find the answers; his mind was a blur.
He felt someone moving behind him and then, two arms embraced him lovingly. He breathed in the familiar scent and closed his eyes, leaning against the one embracing him.
-Itoshikute….I’ve told you we’ll meet again!- whispered Ren in his ears. Nothing can separate us from now on! This place is for us forever!
Somewhere, in this mysterious and vast Universe, on the shore of the Shooting Star, two hearts united by a boundless, timeless love had been finally reunited. Somewhere, sometimes, the river of Time brings such forever entwined threads of fate to rest on the blazing white sands of a turquoise sea, under the light of the blue sun….
I dedicate this story to all loving hearts because love knows no gender! And in this unforgiving world, under the careless blink of faraway stars, love is all that we have to keep us warm inside. Love and let love. It’s simple as that.