Like a Flower in the Stream
It was not a large stream, but its waters ran quicker than normal, gurgling as they swirled around the rocks in the stream channel. At one point, just below an interesting mass of stone, someone had built a foot bridge. It was a simple rustic affair, wooden planks with side railings, but standing there, one had a lovely few of the higher ground in the distance, and a wooded drop towards the river and village below. A girl dressed in soft lavender colors stood on the bridge watching the water pass beneath it.
The air was sweet and cool, there on the hill at the edge of the village, away from the smells of the paddy fields and cooking smoke and bustle of everyday life. A breeze, almost too cool for comfort, played with her hair, driving a wisp of hair across her face. She pulled it back from where it had wrapped across the bridge of her nose and looked up. The sky was gray, not with the thick leaden sky of winter, but with a thinner coating of cloud, not unusual on a spring day. Upstream from where she stood, a stand of sakura trees in full bloom graced the landscape, cloaked in a pale, almost white pink while most other trees were still barren. Brown grasses lined the stream bank, left over from last summer. In places, new green growth was poking through, taking away the sense of barrenness.
But the girl on the bridge was ignoring the signs of the season changing. Looking at the water, she could see petals from the cherry trees floating on the surface of the stream, being carried off on the current.
Softly she sang:
“A single blossom
blooming on the branch
and then another,
watch them open one by one
as the warbler’s first song blooms.
“Spring, you are coming,
you have arrived here again,
in song and blossom,
you only make my heart yearn
to see his eyes once again.”
Feeling like one of those flower petals cast aside by the wind and caught by the water, it seemed to her that her life was drifting off down a current she had no control over. She rested her cheek on one hand on the bridge railing, and sighed. Lost in her thoughts, she did not hear soft footsteps approaching.
“Rin-chan, are you all right?” a kind voice asked.
The girl swirled around and looked at the speaker. Kagome stood at the edge of the bridge, smiling at her, but with concern in her eyes. The miko smiled hesitantly, if unsure of what to say; the silver-haired child on her hip, though, had no such reservations. Atae, almost a year old, reached out his hands and said, “Ri!”
Rin smiled at the miko, who was not dressed at all like a miko today, wearing a kosode of pale flowered blue with a jacket of darker blue to keep the cold away. Looking over Kagome’s shoulder, she saw InuYasha coming, carrying a large bundle.
“Rin is fine, Kagome-sama,” she said, forcing a smile. “Hello, Atae-chan! How are you today?”
The baby wiggled his ears, and babbled something, still reaching out. Some of the sadness dropped from the girl’s face as she held out her arms to him. Kagome, happy to see the change in the girl’s eyes, passed him over.
“You looked so sad standing on the bridge,” Kagome told her.
“Rin was just thinking,” the girl replied. To change the subject, she focused her attention on Kagome’s son. “Oh, you’re getting so big, Atae-chan.” Balancing the small boy on her hip, she wiggled fingers at him, and he laughed. “Pretty soon, you’ll be able to carry Rin!”
“I think you’ll have to wait a day or two more,” InuYasha said as he reached the bridge. He rested a hand on Kagome’s shoulder. Kagome looked up at him and smiled. “Isn’t that right, little guy?”
Atae put his hand up to his mouth, and pulling it away quickly, made a popping sound.
“Aren’t the trees lovely?” Kagome said. “We thought we’d come out and watch the blossoms today.”
The girl looked up, as if noticing the stand of trees for the first time. “They’re very pretty,” Rin said. She pointed into the stream. “Rin was watching the petals from the trees caught in the water. Still so pretty, but then they drift away, forgotten.” Her face darkened a moment as her voice faded, but then Atae reached up and grabbed a strand of her hair. “Ah, but we’re not going to forget about you, are we, Atae-chan. You’re too cute.” She deftly rescued her hair and tickled his ear.
Kagome’s face grew thoughtful for a moment, but then she shook it off. “Then you should come and sit with us, Rin-chan. I brought treats. I know you like chimaki,” the miko said. “That is, if you don’t have to go back to Kaede’s right away.”
“Kaede-sama is meeting with Tomeo-sama,” Rin said, shifting Atae from one hip to the other. “She told me she would be busy most of the afternoon.”
“We have noodles, too.” InuYasha said. He grinned at her.
Kagome looked at her husband, and raised an eyebrow, then turned back to the girl. “InuYasha must think you’re very special, Rin-chan. Nobody loves noodles better than InuYasha. And if he’s willing to share . . . ”
“You have to join us,” InuYasha said.
Rin looked up at the hanyou who was smiling warmly at her. His silver hair and amber eyes reminded her of his brother, who was so like and so not like InuYasha. She looked at Kagome’s warm smile and nodded. “Thank you.”
“Well, let’s cross the bridge and find a good spot to lay out the blankets,” Kagome said.
“Ba!” Atae said, as if agreeing.
Rin laughed, and together they walked over the bridge to the sakura grove, Rin and Atae leading the way.
“I wonder what’s bothering her?” Kagome whispered to InuYasha as they followed behind. “She’s been acting unhappy for a while now. You don’t think someone in the village is giving her problems, do you?”
“Don’t know. Maybe you should talk to her?” InuYasha replied.
“And maybe talk to Kaede.” Kagome took her husband’s free hand.
“Good idea,” the hanyou agreed. They grew closer to the trees, and he looked down at his wife with a serious look in his eyes. “You did make a lot of noodles, right?”
...to be continued...