The Blue Kimono

Excerpts from my story on Wattpad

Ikebana by Keith Stanley from keithstanley.com

Chapter 6- Blue Kimono

Kathrina was pleased with what she saw in Kenneth’s apartment. The place was clean and neat. Walls and ceilings were painted white, the huge glass windows were draped with candy stripes blue soft cotton fabric, and the mahogany furniture in the dining and living areas were reddish-brown and sturdy. There was a living plant on a huge clay jar at the corner. A hanging lamp encased in capiz shells provided the room a soft, tender glow.

Kenneth took out a bottle of chilled sake, opened it and poured on the wine cups. He handed the cup of sake to Kathrina as his eyes seemed to already drink all of her. Kathrina had perfected the skill of keeping her soft gaze on the neutral level which was neither exactly on Kenneth’s eyes nor on his shoulders but surely she was not playing evasive or coy, it was a ‘blank stare’ meant to show interest but not desire, allowing only a split second of ‘flame’ to spark. Kenneth smiled innocently which relaxed Kathrina.

Sugoi

They brought their cups together and partook of the premium sake. Sugoi meant great, tremendous… while Kanpai is reserved only for excellent wines but which were not as awesome as sake, a kind of rice wine rumored to be an aphrodisiac.

Kenneth encouraged Kathrina to open his box of gifts for her. There was an elegant blue kimono for her, complete with accessories, including a bracelet of rice pearls embedded on silver florettes. Kenneth opened the bracelet snap and helped Katrina put it on her wrist. She thanked him with a quick kiss, which he seemed to expect and accepted calmly.

Allow me to give you this, said Kathrina as she pulled from her tote bag the Invictus [Unconquered] eau de toilette by Paco Rabanne. He thanked her and she expected a kiss and got it — a gentle bite of his lips on her lower lip, progressing to a more passionate and lingering play on full mouth and his breath smelled of fresh mint that made her giddy as if in flight, while his arms gently hugged her body. He knew just when to stop.

Kath, you said you want to be photographed in a kimono…

Ah, yes…

You may get dressed in that room, just call me if you need help.

Okay, thanks, Kenn…

Kenneth’s bedroom had a large bed, huge soft pillows and blue linens. It smelled of forest trees and subtle floral scents. There again was the soft light from a shaded hanging capiz lamp. How nice it would be to sleep here, so calm and comfortable. She had not had a good rest for the longest time, thought Kathrina. I want to sleep here, she whispered. But she must change into a kimono, precisely the reason she came into this room.

It was an elegant Tsukesage blue kimono with chrysanthemum design and red obi to be worn during a tea ceremony, wedding or funeral. Kathrina took off her travel clothes and shoes. She put on first the juban or undergarment and then wore the tabi or socks. Then she reverently slipped into the blue kimono, arranged it in such a way that the edge of the juban was visible above the kimono collar, and then tie the wide red obi on her waist. She studied how to do all these on YouTube. Then she wore the geta and they felt good on her feet, the heels were not too high. She worked her shoulder length hair into a chignon and then placed the kushi [hair ornament] meticulously chosen by Kenneth for her. She retouched her make up then took the small bag that goes with the kimono and opened it. Inside was a fruityscented note where Kenneth scribbled in strong, masculine script

Kath, honey, I’m so honored by your visit. I ‘ll do everything in my power to satisfy you and make you content, that you would never ever want to leave. -Kenn

A tender ache gripped her heart. Kathrina would never ever want to leave Tokyo, never ever want to go back to Manila. She wanted to spend the rest of her life here, with Kenneth Matthews, reinvent herself into a noble human being, die at age 70 y.o. and be buried here in the land of her country’s former enemy.

Chapter 7- Reminder of Death

Honey, are you okay…

I’m good, almost done now.

One final look in the mirror and then Kathrina emerged from the room.

You are so captivating beyond words, said Kenneth. Has anybody ever told you that you looked like the younger Aung San Suu Kyi…

Kathrina smiled. No one ever… Thanks, she’s a remarkable woman, so strong and courageous.

She admired Suu Kyi, the opposition leader of former Burma, now Myanmar. She was a freedom fighter, placed under house arrest for so many years because of political principles, now considered one of the most influential women of the world.

Love your chignon, Honey… Oh, but wait a minute…

Is there anything wrong…

The kimono must be worn left fold over right. Right fold is worn on top only by a corpse and those attending the rites of burial… I insist you wear it properly, Kath.

Kathrina would never want to argue.

No problem, Kenn.

She went back to Kenneth’s bedroom, rebellious inside her. Every life must come to an end, so what’s the big deal in wearing the elegant and expensive kimono like one who’s dead, Kathrina thought. It’s good that I know now how I would look on the final journey… Okay, remember — left over right for the living, right over left for the dead.

The tripod was in place, the camera set and timed. Kathrina and Kenneth stood close together by the immaculate wall at the corner where the potted tree was and put on their most charming smiles. Their precious moment was thus immortalized in digital medium and they kissed, this time with hunger and thirst, their passion smoldering from the depths.

They promised each other that tomorrow they would visit Kyoto, the old capital, the imperial city for a thousand years, the city of 10,000 shrines, where Gion was, the abode of geishas and where vegetables and gourmets abound.

Before dark, they left the apartment to go to Sakura Hotel where Kathrina had reserved a room for the duration of her stay. Again, they crossed Shibuya. Kathrina recalled this was were Lost in Translation was filmed.

I would be lost here without you by my side, Kenn…

I would always be by your side, Kath, never leave you for as long as you want me…

Kenneth suggested they drop by Starbucks before proceeding to the hotel but Kathrina thought she wanted more the taste of sake to linger on her buds. She had more than enough coffee in Manila.

Sakura Hatagaya was a budget hotel but still expensive. Kathrina’s room was just the right size, clean, peaceful. The hotel was surrounded by homes and gardens.

He went up with her at the 8th floor. Kathrina invited him to stay for a minute but Kenneth insisted she has to rest and have a good sleep for tomorrow, a busy day awaits them both.

Kenneth called on the telephone upon arrival at his apartment to check if Kathrina is okay. She was happy and uttered a prayer of gratitude. May everything be alright, may this be the beginning of her new life, oh God… It was the most peaceful night she ever had for the longest time.

At break of dawn, Kathrina woke up fully rested, filled with hope and excitement. She went down to have breakfast at Sakura Cafe at 5am — Japanese soup, French baguette, coffee, fruit juice. Life is so good, she would want to live like this forever and spend all the mornings of her life with Kenneth Matthews.

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