The girl stopped writing and took a deep breath, the scent of lush greenery filling her lungs. She’d been putting this off for too long, she thought as she shouldered her backpack on. Chai, her orange tabby cat, leapt into her arms, clambering up to ride atop her shoulder. To her, his weight lightened her step.
Time for one last walk.
The cherry blossoms fell like snow, painting the world in pink softness.
This particular path in Kyoto was as familiar to the girl as her own home. She had walked it at least once every year. As she made her way down the worn stones she brought her headphones up over her ears. Before long the sound of slow, gentle beats of music entered her ears and she thought of her parents.
It was here that they had met on this very same walk. Her Dad had been an exchange student from France and her Mom was a local of Kyoto.
“I don’t believe in love at first sight, so I’m going to make sure to show up every day possible to see you,” he’d said.
The girl let out a small huff of a laugh, causing Chai to perk his head up with a small trill of a question. She answered silently with a scratch on the top of his head, her hand trailing off of him and down onto her red scarf.
Soon, she reached a fork in the path and paused. The left led to a Shinto shrine, but she had never been there. Instead the girl lingered at the torii, the archway, that announced the shrine’s presence.
The large, gnarled tree that grew here held the sweetest blossoms, and a low bough that she would normally climb, but not today. She gave it a gentle pat instead.
It was here that her Dad had sat for an hour, waiting for Mom, to tell her he had to go back home to France. In response, her Mom had taken a red scarf from around her neck and draped it over his shoulders.
“Now you have a reason to come back,” she’d said.
The girl continued on, soon, she could hear the gentle trickle of water, a signal that she was almost there.
Chai hopped down, his body landing almost silently, and began to follow alongside her, occasionally stopping to casually smell a wayward blade of grass, or a freshly fallen petal. When they reached the bridge he began walking across a handrail.
It was a small bridge for a small stream of water. It meant nothing to most people, it would never be as famous as the Togetsukyo Bridge, for example, but to the girl it meant a lot.
It was here Dad had returned and gotten down on one knee, giving Mom her red scarf with an extra surprise bundled inside.
“Come to France and Marry me,” he’d said when she unwrapped it.
The girl removed her backpack and sat down on the bridge. She removed her headphones, the lack of music replaced with that of distant birdsong. The girl took out a small, rounded container and held it for a moment.
It wasn’t here when her Dad had asked her Mom if she had any final requests, or any regrets, but the girl remembered the word’s clearly.
“I want to take one last walk in Kyoto,” she’d said.The girl took the top off the container, pouring the ashes out to mix with the water and the blossoms. When it was empty she placed the cap back on and returned it in her backpack.
“Let’s go home,” the girl said to Chai.(Voiceover by Maggie Ross)