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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The Children of Pygmalion-Illustration

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”

Shooting Star. A Love Story. Ch.4-5/Shooting Star. Love

4.Shooting Star

As darkness crawled out from the cracks and crevasses,it filled the premises and seeped into the blue of the sky. The cooling breath of the land, slowly condensing into translucent threads of mist, swirling and coiling, flooded the depths below the plateau. Like a bird,  Night opened its wings of black velvet upon the world. Calmness set in all round the place.

-Come!-said Kenzo , holding out a hand to Ren. Let’s catch some Star-Kois!

Light flashed through Ren’s eyes, watching the inviting hand. He quickly swallowed his inner turmoil and grabbed Kenzo’s hand with a playful smile.

-Let’s go!

   They stepped into the night and stood there, mesmerized. The Milky Way was up in the sky in full glow and glory, bridging the gently rocking ocean of stardusted mist. Undisturbed by the city lights, stars looked bigger and brighter, shining like apples in the Tree of skies. The chorus of crickets was under toned by the the humm of the Universe. Walking closer to the rim of the plateau, the two young men sat in the grass, following with eyes wide open the turning wheel of stars. Suddenly, one of the twinkling spots began to grow in size and brightness, seemingly approaching them. As it came closer, it lit up the entire place with its blazing trail.

-A shooting star!-exclaimed both watchers.

-Make a wish! Quick!-said Kenzo.

-I did-replied Ren softly.

   The star crossed in slow motion the space before them and dissolved into the cloak of darkness. The midnight wind blew through the foliage of the forest, ruffled the blades of grass and sent ripples across the sea of mist. Ren shuddered at the chilling touch of air.

-Let’s go inside-proposed Kenzo. Nights can be cold at this height.

     They returned to the warmth of the cabin and Kenzo noticed that his guest was very silent and lost in thoughts. Kenzo poured some warming drink in two glasses and handed one to Ren.

-So you made a wish?-he asked with a smile playing in the corner of his mouth.

-I did……-replied the youth, turning to him. But I cannot reveal it, or it will lose it’s magical power-he said, fixing Kenzo. His intent gaze made his eyes look deeper than the night sky outside.

-Then I have to guess it-said Kenzo, stepping close and leaving his glass on the table.

He gently cupped Ren’s face in his palms, reading the depth of the dark eyes and finding the answers for all his unspoken questions.

 

5.Love

 

 

From the passion of countless kisses , from the half whispers and sighs, from the heat of the bodily entwining, from blaze and hidden tears, the Phoenix of Love was rising victoriously, bursting to the star spotted expanse of the Universe. She was catching speed and growing in splendour with each heartbeat and with each flapping of her fiery wings, leaving a trail of sparks in the air. Tonight, she was unstoppable! Down on the planet,warmth, Ren and Kenzo were sleeping peacefully in the cabin, cuddling in each others arms.

  The following days and weeks, Kenzo took out Ren to various places, spending all the possible time together, in love filled intimacy. JT drove them to remote and inciting spots where they could enjoy those moments , far from the crowd and curious eyes. To the average bystander, they looked like two buddies having fun, or maybe like a young businessman with his private secretary. Despite the romantic aura of such love in Ancient times, the two of them were fully aware that nowadays their love was not socially acceptable; at least not publicly. But the heart has nothing to do with the rules of history and it has definitely its own, unbreakable logic of choice. Whatever society might have thought, Ren and Kenzo’s love was genuine and rightful none-the-less. And they were both blossoming under its touch.

-I haven’t seen much of  you brother lately, Sumiko! -said Professor Shibata, shaking his head thoughtfully one morning. He’s always out, chasing fun or travelling with his friends! I wonder when will he settle down and mature.

-Oh, don’t be upset,Father! He’s finally out of his shell and enjoying it! You know how difficult it was for him to grow up without Mother….And besides, this is his last summer vacation before finishing his studies. Let him be and you won’t be disappointed, I’m sure!

   Sumiko set the table for breakfast and poured a tea for her father. He took a sip of the warm drink and sighed. Yes, he remembered those times when his young son was crawling out of bed in the middle of the night, to cuddle up and sleep on the mat at the door of their late mother’s chamber. Ren had always been a delicate, sensitive child and after his Mom’s death, he had shut down for years. It was Sumiko’s love and constant care that finally put the boy back on track.

-You are a very good daughter, Sumiko and you’re a wonderful sister!-said the father aloud. You’re right; Ren needs his time of joy and freedom. I trust your opinion.

     So, when the youth expressed his wish to go on a two weeks trip to the seaside, Professor Shibata agreed.

-Enjoy your vacation, Ren! But I expect to have some serious talk with you, now that your schooling is at its end. This autumn is going to be a turning point in the future of our  family.

-Thank you, Father! I will not skip my duties, you’ll see-said Ren, bowing respectfully. Despite their temperamental differences, he loved his father and didn’t want to upset him.   

 Kenzo  has chosen a small resort on the tiny island of Kuroshima for their summer vacation. It was remote enough to offer them intimacy and it was also homely and romantic. It became the base for travels to all the other islands and it had a small, hidden shore where they could swim, walk, talk and  bask in the sun without being disturbed.

-I wish this summer would last forever….-whispered Ren, lying in the sand, head leaning on Kenzo’s shoulder. Sometimes I sense a black shadow hovering above me, counting my days of happiness with you….

-Don’t say that!-replied Kenzo, turning to him and placing a reassuring kiss on his lips. I won’t let anything and anyone to come between us. I would never give up on you, Ren! Never!

   He held him closer, breathing in the scent of his hair, his skin. Ren was inhabiting the depths of his heart,his blazing yet gentle touch imprinted in the walls of his soul forever.

-Let’s take a walk before sunset-proposed Kenzo,helping up his love. I bet you cannot run faster than me!

-We’ll see!- chuckled Ren, springing forward, splashing the waves.

-Cheater!- shouted Kenzo between bursts of laughter, rushing after him. Wait till I catch you!!!!

    The slim and light boned Ren was quick in putting a distance between himself and his lover but Kenzo was stronger and determined to catch him. They splashed the waves rushing under their feet, they stumbled in the soft sand and ran again till Kenzo got close enough to jump forward, plaquing Ren , rolling , fighting and laughing together on the shore. He finally managed to hold him down ….and the kiss felt like summer dusk and sea salt.

-Aye! -cried out Ren, catching his breath and turning to get something from the sand. Look!-he said with a smile,opening his fist under Kenzo’s eyes.

 It was a heart shaped pebble, polished by the sea in its continuous back and forth, with a small hole in the center.

-You have found my heart!-winked Kenzo-I thought I buried it safely…..

-Then I will keep it, if you don’t mind…-replied Ren, hiding the pebble in the warmth of his palm.

-I’ve never been so happy in my life…-murmured Kenzo, holding him close.

-Me neither…..-whispered Ren, leaning against him softly.

     Up in the skies, the stars were twinkling in the Night’s chandelier while the sea kept rocking gently, caressing the shore.