DISCLAIMER: Spider Lilies belongs to Zero Chou. I’m just borrowing her characters for a bit. The song that Takeko sings is also by Zero Chou. The story was inspired by Tegan and Sara’s Are You Ten Years Ago from their 2007 album, The Con. Check them out!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I honestly can’t remember exactly how Takeko’s parlour looks. Things probably got switched around in my mind. Go easy on me, please! :)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Ten Years Ago…Today
She blinked and looked up at the girl – a mere girl – who held her. She raised her hand and gently stroked her cheek, and kissed her softly on the mouth. Her other hand slid across pale skin, the perfect combination of silk and ivory. Takeko moaned as Jade danced above her.
I had waited since dawn. I had watched the sun rise, and took it in with a sense of accomplishment. The blinds were up – I had pulled them up myself. I glanced over at the frame, at the pattern I had based my whole life upon. Already, it showed signs of decay. And so there was balance.
It was Father’s turn. I had been wasting away for ten years. The key difference lay in the fact that I was still alive, while Father was dead. Had it all been out of honour, out of respect for his memory? Not even that. Everything I had done, I had done for Ching.
The memory of that night, and of the choice I made had driven me all these years to be everything I could be for his sake. I had abandoned him for love, and he had paid the greatest price for my actions. And so I had repented again and again, trying to make it change. I had etched upon myself the memory of Father in the hopes that it would somehow allow Ching to remember what had happened…to remember me.
But I had done my penance for ten years now, and it hadn’t even been my sacrifice that had made him remember. It had been those damned spider lilies that he had only seen because I had once again betrayed his trust, one that had been so hard to gain over the years. He had never been convinced that I was his sister, only allowing me to fuss over him because he could see how much I needed to.
A shadow passed by the door and I started, expecting it to be her. It wasn’t. The passer-by continued on, barely noticing the tattoo parlour before turning his eyes back to the road. I strained against my own need, telling myself that she would come back, that I hadn’t yet driven her away.
I had told her to forget me, that everything she had done to draw me out of my cocoon had been worthless, and that there was simply nothing else that she could do. It had almost worked, she knew. She had entered into my life with her green wig, bringing with her the memories of my life before everything had come crashing down.
I’d only seen that wig twice in my life, and they both turned out to be pivotal moments. Both times, it had started the chain of events that would destroy the way of life that I knew. Jade made me soft, made me trusting, made me weak. Even as a child, she had snuck in and made me actually give a crap about what was going on around me.
It’s easy to not care about anybody except for yourself. Ching was merely an excuse. I took care of him, but it was out of my own guilt. I needed redemption and the only way that I could possibly seek it was to make things better for my little brother. Ching was just my reason to draw away. He represented the validity of my inaction.
But as Jade’s appearance had started that landslide ten years ago, she had returned and done it again, as if to begin to right all the things that had gone wrong in the time between our meetings.
I had not thought much of her, writing her off as a naïve little girl who was trying to be older than she was. She could deceive the world with that guise. But behind the bend of her arms and the sway of her hips, she was a world-weary traveller who at eighteen had already lost more than some people lost in a lifetime. I hadn’t known, but she had shown me.
She chose to live in her fantasy. I had scoffed at this, not knowing and not caring for the reason behind her decisions. And then I had seen her, baring her body and her soul for strangers, only wanting to be wanted. I had not thought I would want her, but I did. I needed her boldness.
Jade hadn’t come into my shop to save me, but she had. She had made me want something enough to actually take it; and once I had taken it, there was no going back. It was easy not to live when I couldn’t really remember what it felt like; but I had had a taste, and then the choice was obvious.
My head snapped up from where it had been resting on the padding of the chair. “Jade.” I rose and crossed the room to where she stood, eclipsing the light that flooded through the closing door. She was wearing that damned wig again. I didn’t dare embrace her, settling with standing just before her. “You came.”
“I got your text message,” she explained. Her voice was cold, shielded against me. Had I hurt her that much?
I nodded and gestured towards the chair. Without a word, she took up the position I had instructed her to stay in the day before and took off her jacket. She slid down the strap of her bra, revealing the intricate pattern of lines I had etched in, sonly barely formed.
She didn’t move, didn’t make a noise as I took up the tattoo gun and continued my work. The room was silent save for the steady hum of the needle as it stitched in and out of her skin. My right hand rested on her bare shoulder. It was meant to balance the movement of my left, and I normally thought nothing of the act, but I could tell from the way Jade was breathing – frequent shallow breaths – that she was doing everything she could to keep from moving even a hair’s breadth.
“I need to know…” she gasped as I, startled, let the gun move too deep. I put it down immediately and grabbed a wet cloth from the counter.
“I’m so sorry, Jade,” I said, dabbing the cloth gently where the blood welled up. The tattoo process usually involved some degree of bleeding, but with Jade, it felt like I had stabbed her.
“It’s okay,” she answered. “This is normal, right?”
“Yeah,” I mumbled, nodding.
My careless slip had silenced her courage, and she didn’t say anything for a while, instead staring straight ahead at the wall of designs. I studied her, looking for permission to continue. When she didn’t react, I had no choice but to turn the gun back on and resume my work.
“That’s enough for today,” I said after I had done some more. “You’ll have to come back tomorrow. I’ll finish it then.”
I turned away to wash my hands and to rinse the cloth, grasping onto any excuse I could find not to look at her. I waited for her to go, my ears straining for the sound of the door opening and closing.
Instead, she was standing behind me, waiting for me to turn around – waiting for me to say something. I couldn’t stand at the sink for the rest of the day, and so I complied. I leaned against my work bench, and jammed my hands into my pockets. “Jade…” I couldn’t look at her. “I’m sorry.”
“Are you going to go away too?” she asked softly. “Are you going to leave me?”
“No, Jade,” I answered, pulling her close to me. “I won’t.”
With those words, she relaxed into my embrace, her arms slipping around my waist. Her head rested in the crook of my neck, and she sighed. Her eyes closed as she squeezed me tighter. “Thank you.”
“Evening wind breezing over grassland,” I sang, “sunset dyes little jasmine.” She wept, and I wept. My voice cracked, but I kept singing. “Smile bursts, silently and soundlessly; I cannot see your secret. Iridescent moonlight, the haze covers little jasmine; little jasmine, please remember me.”
“Takeko,” she sobbed. “Takeko…”
I held her to me, nuzzled my face in her hair. I had needed somebody to love. She had needed somebody to love her. We had been searching so long that we had almost forgotten that we were searching at all. It had taken ten years to remember.
I glanced up at the frame again. I watched the pattern dissolve as rays of sun ate into it. Goodbye, Father. Goodbye.
Their fingers entwined, clenching and grasping. She ascended the girl’s body slowly, tenderly, trailing butterfly kisses up her stomach; through the valley of her breasts; and ending at her lips. Takeko was the first to break the kiss, gasping for breath as she pulled away. They didn’t say anything for the longest time. Finally, Takeko lowered her lips and tasted Jade once more – softer, almost in reverence. She whispered to her, a hair’s breadth away.
“My little jasmine.”
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