Butterfly's Shadow by Lee Langley

By Lee Langley

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Between them was the child. Nancy called to the rickshaw man to go faster. Neither she nor Pinkerton noticed that seeping from the sleeve of Joey’s silk kimono into the green leaves of her dress a garish flower had begun to bloom: a bright red bloodstain. * Pinkerton, in a hurry, threads his way through the crowd towards the harbour where he is to meet Nancy, to say goodbye before she leaves. He is late, and he sees her now, leaning on the rail of the liner, searching for him on the quayside, anxious, looking this way and that, and close beside her the child, dressed in a plain cotton outfit, staring down, eyes wide with fear, at the water widening between the harbour and the hull as the liner pulls away.

They were the same age, twenty-three last birthday, but Eddie seemed years older, and he knew the territory; he’d lay dollars to buttons Eddie would have the answers. They went ashore next morning, early, in a sampan that set them down on the waterfront. The encircling hill was steep, in some places too steep for houses. Here and there it had been terraced for gardens that looked no bigger than a handkerchief and Pinkerton could see tiny figures bent low over whatever modest crop they were tending.

She persuaded herself that like two differently coloured threads entwined, as their bodies were so often entwined, they might form a strand that was strong enough to hold them together. On his last night Cho-Cho prepared a special supper. She dismissed the maid, Suzuki, and did the whole meal herself. One dish was served, somewhat to Pinkerton’s dismay, on an oval leaf plucked from a nearby tree. Given the choice, he preferred his food on a plate. She noted his bafflement. ’ She had prepared her words, she wanted to tell him, as her father had explained to her that in the old days when a samurai left his home to follow his lord it was customary for his wife to serve him a farewell dish on a tegashiwa leaf.

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