Maki's Goodbye

Maki's Goodbye

A Story by Takeshi Yamada
"

A young woman takes a furlough from the afterlife for one last day with her love.

"

Maki’s Goodbye

It had been a rainy day, that much she remembered. She was wearing a bright, blue yukata with a yellow obi now--not the flowery dress she had worn when the truck driver killed her. He had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Maki hadn’t felt anything at all. One moment she was walking home on the sidewalk, grocery bag in one hand and an umbrella in the other. The next, she was looking down on a woman wearing her dress and lying face down on the pavement, vegetables scattered and rolling around her. It had taken her a moment to realize that she was the woman and those were the carrots, potatoes, and onions she had just bought to make nikujaga, Nicolas’ favorite. After that realization, things had become even stranger.

Now that she was back, though, memories of what had happened after her death were fading fast. But Maki didn’t care. That was the last thing on her mind now as she sat on the Ferris wheel next to Nicolas, her hand clutched tightly in his.

He wasn’t wearing a yukata, as he normally would have during a summer festival in Japan. Maki had offered to tie his obi, as she always did, but he had refused, not wanting to waste their precious time together. Instead, he wore a collared shirt with a black, nylon jacket and his favorite jeans.

“Isn’t this amazing, Maki? Look how huge Kyōto is!” She scooted closer to him, her heart pounding. Being this close to Nicolas made her feel alive again, and she looked out his window. From up there, Kyōto seemed to stretch on forever.

She rested her cheek on Nicolas’ arm, and he looked down at her, smiling with what was not quite his normal smile. He was afraid of the same thing she was. Even so, through the glass of his spectacles, his eyes comforted her. They held in them what she had always searched for.

Shifting again, she looked out the window. “Nicolas-san, do you think we can see the Urasenke Center from here?”

“Maybe, if we can find Honpō-ji Temple.” He pushed his glasses up his nose and squinted, searching the tiny, model city below. “There’s the Imperial Palace! So that means Honpō-ji and Urasenke should be just beyond that.” He strained to look, but finally gave up, laughing. “Too small to see from here, I guess.”

Almost a minute passed in silence as the two sat together. Then, as they crested the top of the ferris wheel, Nicolas spoke excitedly.

“Look, Maki! You can see Fuji-san!” He pointed ahead. Her eyes followed Nicolas’ gaze and she gasped in amazement at the radiant sky, a spray of brilliant pinks and purples. The sun, its red warmth glowing, had begun to set on the slopes of Mt. Fuji and, somehow she knew, on her life.

At that thought, Maki squeezed Nicolas’ hand and tears welled in her eyes. She didn’t want to leave him. She pressed her face firmly into his shoulder, bittersweet tears drying on his jacket, and inhaled deeply, taking in his smell, burning it into memory.

She reprimanded herself for wasting time earlier changing clothes and bandaging herself at the convenience store before seeing him. But she couldn’t bear to let Nicolas see her as she had been. Even dead, Maki was still a woman.

And Nicolas had hugged her so tightly the moment he had seen her again. The warm feeling inside still hadn’t left her. They had spent so much time together these last few months, and yet never even kissed. But that hug had told her everything she needed to know.

“Maki…” Nicolas put his hand on her head and pulled her close to him. “I’ll wait until I see you again. I promise.” But somehow Maki knew that wasn’t right and she pushed back from him, shaking her head firmly.

“No! You can’t do that, Nicolas-san. You should have a full life. Family, children, all of it.” She looked into his eyes, knowing what she said was right, and she felt better having said it.

“But…” He looked at her sadly.

“No. I wish I could stay with you, but I can’t.” Her eyes teared up again, but she plowed on, looking down at her feet. “We’ll see each other again, I know it. Have a full life, it will make everything better.” She clicked the dark, lacquered wood of her geta together as she studied them thoughtfully. ”Find someone and love her--it won’t mean you love me less. We always think so, but things aren’t really like that.”

Nicolas was quiet, that slight pouting look she had always loved on his face. After a moment he spoke again. “Wh…what is it like, Maki? After we die?”

She tried to recall for the first time, but it seemed like a dream. Phantoms of memories. “It’s more like feelings, I guess...love, comfort, wonder. The things you feel as a child. And things are much more connected than we think.” She furrowed her brow, struggling to bring back something for him. ”Eternity is a moment, and moments last forever. What matters is right now.”

As if struck by lightning, Maki stood suddenly and turned in front of Nicolas. “Hurry! Fast!” Maki motioned up with her hands like a conductor, the sleeves of her yukata billowing. She glanced over her shoulder. The sun was already starting to sink behind Mt. Fuji. Hearing the urgency in her voice, Nicolas stood obediently.

Maki began undoing her obi. It fell off and her yukata loosened, held only by a thin, white cord.

“Maki?! What are you doing?” Nicolas stammered nervously, blushing.

If the sun set, they’d never get another chance, she thought. No time for talking. “Nicolas-san, turn around.”

He turned around, a baffled look on his face. Still holding the bright, yellow-gold obi in her right hand, Maki threw her arms around his waist.

“Watch and remember, so you can know how to do it yourself.” She pulled out a length about fifteen centimeters from the end and folded it over on itself.

“Maki, you don’t have to teach me this. I can figure out how to do it later.”

“No! I need to teach you.” Her voice wavered and tears were in her eyes again. She was going fast. She could feel it now. Countless times tying it for him and this was the last time she’d be able to. All she could do now for him was teach him how. He’d have to look out for himself here in Japan without her.

“This part here--fold it like this and hold it, okay?” He nodded, following her instructions.

She began wrapping the obi around his waist, almost three times, tightening it. “It needs to be tight like this, okay?”

“Yeah. Got it.”

“Now, take the right side and tuck it in and under like this.” She continued until her obi was tied neatly around Nicolas’ waist. He watched her attentively as she worked. Glancing out the window, she saw they were halfway down the height of the wheel and the sky had already begun to darken.

“Finally, just slide it around clockwise until the bow is in the back, like this.” She did so and adjusted the belt so it sat just above his hip bone.

“I’ve got it, Maki. I won’t forget.” Nicolas turned around and looked at her face, the last of the daylight shining in her eyes.

“Do your best in your tea ceremony practice. I know you’ll do great.” She smiled at him, her best smile.

“When the sun sets, you’re going to go, right?” He looked at her, and she saw panic in his eyes. “Don’t go.”

“I would stay, if I could.” Tears streaked her bandaged cheeks now. She sniffled and forced a smiled again. “Nothing is gone forever, Nicolas-san. Remember that.”

He reached forward and took her cheeks in his hands, wiping the tears away with his thumbs. “See you again soon, Maki.” He leaned toward her.

“Sayonara, Nicolas-san.” Their lips met for a moment and then she was gone.


© 2016 Takeshi Yamada



Author's Note

Takeshi Yamada
I wrote this piece a year and a half ago for a flash fiction contest. It was the first piece I completed since I decided to become a writer. I hope you like.

Wrote this story while listening to the song "Gitai" (Mimicry) by the Japanese rock band Mr. Children. The part in the chorus where the melodic line rises up and down is what gave me the image of the Ferris wheel:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pS8cl5hAGAQ

Word count is 1,380.

(20-Feb-2016: Submitted to the "Send in Anything" competition, Judge: Frantic Fangirl.)
(24-Feb-2016: Submitted to the "Romance" competition, Judge: Courtney.)
(24-Feb-2016: Submitted to the "Souls" competition, Judge: Devi.)
(28-Feb-2016: Awarded a "Silver Soul" in the "Souls" competition.)

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Reviews

I enjoyed this piece very much. The characterization, claroty, and flow are spot-on. I hope there's more and I hope you publish. : ) Thank you for sharing.

Posted 7 Months Ago


Takeshi Yamada

6 Months Ago

Thank you, Anastasia. I'm happy you enjoyed it.
I found this really poignant. Full of pathos. The whole mood and feel were delightful (although just like Thomas I thought the YouTube reference jarred somewhat). I was particularly taken with this idea of leaving one's body and being granted, as it were, some final moments to try for closure or just say goodbye.

I thought it was very well written. There are 2/3 places where I would replace your commas with full stops and a new sentence, but I'm a bit nerdy on that kind of thing.

Like Norman, I liked the way the reader started to wonder whether she was going to reveal herself to him, perhaps leading to lovemaking; but the way she helped this westerner with tricky Japanese clothing instead was very touching, and in some ways even more intimate. I also like very much the device of the ferris wheel, as the reader can see the inevitability of descending into shade. However, it did take me a while to realise that you meant one of the slow-moving large London Eye type wheels rather than the kind at funfairs or circuses.

Beautifully sad. Nice job!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago


Takeshi Yamada

1 Year Ago

I can see how the use of "Nicolas-san" outside of Maki's dialogue might have seemed strange. I chose.. read more
Nigel Newman

1 Year Ago

Fine with me. Makes sense.
Takeshi Yamada

1 Year Ago

Thank you for the feedback, and also the private message with your flow/punctuation suggestions. I'l.. read more
Oh! It was so wonderful to read this story! I'm finding it difficult to mention everything that I loved about the story. You do a great job to touch the emotions of the reader, especially me.

I'll speak about the character of Maki because I feel she was well described throughout the whole fiction. You build on her personality to show that she is both selfless and caring to the life of her partner, especially when she sets him free from her love.

And you can feel the significance of Maki teaching Nicolas how to tie his obi. It's a beautiful idea that she is leaving him with something to remember and I feel that you expertly handled this concept while sharing the traditions of Japan.

"“Maki, you don’t have to teach me this. I can just figure it out by watching a YouTube video.”"

This response from Nicolas was the only thing that irked me a bit in this story. I feel that it takes the reader out of the emotional moment when you mention a YouTube video. I still recognize the need to show that Nicolas does not yet understand the significance to her teaching it, but I think it can be done without the reference to YouTube.

Thank you so much for sharing this. c:

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago


Takeshi Yamada

1 Year Ago

Thomas, thank you for reading "Maki's Goodbye" and for giving me your valuable feedback, especially .. read more
Amazing work Takeshi :'( the ending had me in tears!

"“Sayonara, Nicolas-san.” Their lips met for a moment and then she was gone."

I really loved the idea and the start was a good hook for me to keep reading. Loved this one! Beautiful description as well I must say.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago


This comment has been deleted by the poster.
Takeshi Yamada

1 Year Ago

Thank you again, KingJoseph for your kind words! I still need to get to your Fairy Box story, but do.. read more
I absolutely loved it!!! Pure brilliance! Very many elements that intrigued me very much, great job!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago


This comment has been deleted by the poster.
Takeshi Yamada

1 Year Ago

Hi Leslie, thanks for the read. I'm glad you loved it. :)
Tears in my eyes.
Beautiful story.


This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago


Takeshi Yamada

1 Year Ago

Thank you again, Seira'sworld!
Great storytelling bud. I am fascinated by your works. Good job

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago


Takeshi Yamada

1 Year Ago

Thanks Terrence! I will check out some of your work as well.
Terrence Chang

1 Year Ago

Sure anytime bud
Takeshi, this was brilliant. Your story had so many elements that led the reader along so many paths. The pathos of the accident , the tenderness of the re-union of her spirit with Nicholas,and then the masterly slightly comic inference that she was about to make love with him,, only to fool the reader yet again with a far more gentle and innocent outcome.

The sad parting with the hope of reunion closed the story with a satisfying finale. I could see this made into a short symbolic film. Shades of Kurosawa... Wonderful!!

Norman

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago


Takeshi Yamada

1 Year Ago

Norman, thank you for your kind words and attention to detail when reading "Maki's Goodbye". I'm thr.. read more
“Sayonara, Nicolas-san.”... the feels. Great story

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago


Dear Takeshi, I agree with Robert. A wonderful story, indeed. You really gave depth to your characters, an emotional tug is present for both of them. A lot of people fail to pull emotions properly for their characters and they fall flat, but you have done so flawlessly. More importantly, you have the rhythm. It is very clearly present in the following stunning sentences:

"He turned around, a baffled look on his face. Still holding the bright, yellow-gold obi in her right hand, Maki threw her arms around his waist."
"I would stay, if I could.” Tears streaked her bandaged cheeks. She sniffled and forced a smiled again."

And especially here....

"He reached forward and took her cheeks in his hands, wiping her tears away with his thumbs. "

Might I add that, aside from the part "the last of the daylight shining in her eyes", which is also melodic, the above sentence is the most emotionally poignant and beautiful sentence in the entire story. Your ending sentence is also pure perfection. I Love this story. Keep writing...
... Misty


This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago


Takeshi Yamada

1 Year Ago

Dear Misty, thank you for the amazing review. I'm really honored to read words like 'flawlessly' and.. read more
M. L. F.

1 Year Ago

You're welcome... ;)
... Misty
M. L. F.

10 Months Ago

Takeshi san.. Just had to drop by here, not that I don't tell you when we edit, often enough, but..... read more

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Added on February 12, 2016
Last Updated on November 18, 2016
Tags: fiction, flash-fiction, japan, love

Author

Takeshi Yamada
Takeshi Yamada

Pasadena, CA



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