Cranes II

Today was my birthday. I couldn�t help but feel uneasy today. I kept thinking something is going to crack. I wished I was wrong, but my gut told me otherwise.

I awoke to my mother smiling at me with a gift in her hand. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. I smiled back.

�It�s okay, mother,� I said. �Thank you for the gift. You don�t have to say anything.� My mother�s eyes lit up with joy. For once, I felt happy to see her with a little bit of normalcy in her.
I couldn�t figure out what to do for my birthday that year. Mother made a good breakfast with my favorite foods like she did every year. We ate in silence as if it was habitual. My eyes stayed on her the whole time. What do you want to tell me so badly? It was times like these that I wished that I could hear her thoughts just once. I thought her mind�s stable enough for me to give it a try. But then, I�m worried about what I would find. I happened to look up at the wall and notice that in was almost eight o�clock. My eyes widened fast.

�Oh crap!� I said, gasping. �I�m going to be late!� I quickly cleared away my place at the table and grabbed my book bag.

�I�m leaving now!� I said as I rushed out the door. I wasn�t sure if she tried to respond or not and I didn�t have time to look.

The rest of my day went on as usual. I didn�t feel thirteen today. However, I knew I�m not a boy anymore. Everything looked the same around me. Okay, maybe there is something a little bit different. Since when did the girls at school get cuter? When I looked at them, they seemed to giggle at me. Juriko appeared to be much nicer to me now that I�m a bit older. Things between Haruka and me, however, hadn�t changed. She still looked evil and angry at me. I didn�t think I�ll ever get through to her at this rate.

By evening, I made it home for dinner. I expected that Mother had made me a nice birthday dinner like she normally did. In fact, I counted down to it. However, I would get something more than I could swallow that day. I opened the front door and went inside.

�I�m home!� I called as I started to take off my shoes. When she didn�t respond, I assumed that she was sound asleep in bed. I had gotten off my shoes and was about to go to my room when I noticed my Mother sitting right in front of me in the doorway. I leapt up at her pale face, trembling hands, and dark, tired eyes. My stomach turned as I eyed her.

�Mother?� I asked. �Is something wrong? Did something happen?� She crawled her hands into tight little fists.

�Iwao-kun,� she forced out of her mouth. I quickly held up my hand.

�Mother, stop,� I said. �You don�t have to speak.�

�No!� she cried. �I have to say this!�

�Mother�� I said.

�I have to tell you about your grandmother and those girls� family!� she blurted out.

�Mother�� I could see that her head was starting to ache again. She tried her hardest to fight it.

�No, damn it! I�m going to tell him this even if I have to die!�

�What are you talking about?� I asked.

�The man who found your grandmother was those twins great-grandfather!� she shouted through her torment. My eyes widened.

�What did you say?� I asked. She forced her hands down to the tatami with such force that I started to back away in my own fear.

�You�re not feeling well, right now, Mother,� I said. �Maybe we should get you to bed now.�

�No, listen!� she cried. I closed my mouth. She swallowed through her growing pain.

�Your grandmother ran away from home ran when she was only sixteen,� Mother began again. �After six weeks, she wandered around the woods, half-naked and starving. By sundown on one summer day, she wished for death or someone to take her away. That someone was their grandfather!�

�You mean�� I said.

�Yes!� she cried. �Anzai Heiji!� My schoolbag hit the floor with a thud.

�The Anzai Heiji?� I asked. �The thirty-seventh head of the third generation Eda clan?�

�Yes!� Mother screamed. She held her head tighter as she took in heavy breaths to talk.

�He was going to kill her, but�� she said.

�But what?� I asked. �What happened?� My mother breathed in as she huddled into a ball at my feet.

�She was pregnant with me!� she screamed. �That man took your grandmother and gave her over to his younger brother, Kosho, to keep his bloodline from dying out.�

�So, you�re saying�?� I began to ask.

�Yes!� my mother cried with the highest pain. �Your grandmother is their grandmother�s adopted cousin!� Suddenly, her pain faded away and she lay on the ground, panting. My jaw dropped as the words disappeared from my mouth. Juriko and Haruka were my third cousins?

�No,� I said. �It� can�t� be�� I said in a slow voice. My mother�s eyes looked up.

�As much as I wish it wasn�t,� she said as her voice returned. �This is the truth.�

�But, why didn�t grandma Mimiko run away?� I asked.

�Because of me,� Mother mumbled.

�What?� I asked. Her hand weakly grabbed my foot.

�Despite that her knowing all about the clan�s blood-filled history and the horrors she came to witness in fourteen years, she stayed to take care of me. Kosho told her that if she left, she would be leaving alone and couldn�t take me with her.�

�So how did you and grandma get away?� I asked.

�My mother packed up our things and we ran away in the night when I was only thirteen,� Mother said. �We tried to live a normal life. Because of our history with the Eda clan, we were shunned into the woods. However, your father came along and saved me.� This felt like someone else�s life and not my own.

�This is what you struggled to tell me?� I asked.

�Yes,� Mother said in a weak voice.

�But why?�

�Your father put a spell on me to never talk about if we to have any children. I promised to keep this secret buried. But when you met those twins, I had to break it to save you from them.�

�Why? What will they do to me? Where is Papa now?�

Mother rested her head at my feet. �Can�t talk anymore. Too tired. Need to sleep�� She went to sleep before me. Suddenly, my life just wasn�t the same anymore.