Sakura looked absently in the mirror. Her long hair flowed over her slender shoulders. She wore a bright blue kimono with pink cherry blossoms scattered about. Her face was as soft and pale as freshly laid snow. The two of them laid on top of luscious bedding, only a divider separating them from the rest of the sisters. They both could hear the bustling of the city through the lattice walls of the lounge.
“Hold still sister,” Kitsune softly spoke as she brushed Sakura’s hair, “It took me a long time to get this right.”
“Big Sister will be upset if she sees us behind this screen.” Sakura replied.
“She’ll be more upset if she sees the mess you’ve made of your hair.” Kitsune snapped back.
“He was dreadful, such a brute and didn’t pay in full once he left. Big Sister took away my earnings to cover the difference.”
“He won’t be welcome back any time soon.”
“No, that’s the problem. He won’t be back. I cannot afford to keep losing my earnings…” Sakura stared down at the fan in her hands. Her delicate fingers clutched in anger.
“How is she? You’re mother?” Kitsune asked.
“I haven’t heard from them recently. They usually write back once I sent them some money.”
“Is she still ill?”
“What did the physician say?”
“He doesn’t know what’s wrong with her, she is just wasting away.”
“Surely you can get another opinion?”
“It doesn’t matter, sister. She may already be gone for all I know.”
“Sakura, don’t say such things! Her only daughter is here in Yoshiwara working for her sake. One client mustn’t ruin your mood so simply!”
“It doesn’t matter, Sister. None of this matters!” Sakura looked directly into Kitsune’s eyes through the mirror. Kitsune looked at her back sternly. Once again, Sakura looked absently into the mirror.
“Have you heard the phrase, mono no aware?”, Kitsune asked as she tied Sakura’s hair into a bun. Piercing it with a hair stick.
“I haven’t…” Sakura responded.
“Mono no aware is the feeling you get when you see the cherry blossoms bloom. They are beautiful, come in many numbers, and are vibrant with life. Mono no aware is the tragic beauty of realizing that those blossoms must fall off their trees. You realize that the most precious things in life are fleeting, impermanent…” Kitsune paused, but Sakura didn’t respond, “We are all only here for a moment. The wind will eventually blow us away from our trees. We can only wish that we were beautiful to someone who was watching.”Behind the screen, the rest of the courtesans played their instruments, lounged throughout, and read their texts. Those lattice walls displayed them all to the bustling city streets. Sakura thought for a moment, and then she said, “I think I understand…Thank you, Kitsune.”