Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s serialized historical novel, “Picture Bride — A Family Saga,” based on the Japanese immigrant experience. Malaghan’s trilogy takes readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond.
The novel begins with 12-year-old Haru-chan, fleeing her home in Amakusa, Kyüshü, for Hiroshima, where she becomes the picture bride of a Buddhist priest in Hawai‘i.
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Florida and Japan.
Kenji honked the horn when he took the turn onto the gravel road fronting their home.
Alerted by the sounds, Sachi and the three boys bounded down the porch steps to greet the car. Ko surveyed the family scene from the porch. When Haru ascended the porch steps, Ko offered the perfunctory “oohs” and “ahs” as she fussed over the new baby. But she avoided eye contact with Haru and tripped over a toy on the way into the front door.
After bathing little Kenta with her enthusiastic children looking on, Haru carried the baby into her bedroom to place him in the bassinet next to their bed. The room glistened, its condition pristine — a surprise, given her absence. Haru sneezed. Then she noticed that her Chinese vase held cut plumeria, their blooms perfuming the room.
What was this? Kenji had placed cut flowers in their room?
She opened her valise and began unpacking. As she hung up each garment, a niggling suspicion pushed its way into her mind. Ko’s downed eyes and her reserved demeanor; Kenji’s lack of anger over the premature birth and his sudden flurry of matchmaking.
She closed the valise and stored it on the upper shelf of the closet. Then she turned and fixed her gaze on their marriage bed. She stood motionless, paralyzed with dread for several minutes. With one bold stroke, she pulled back the comforter.
The sheets were fresh.
She picked up a pillow. The cover, too, was fresh. She sniffed and felt a jolt. Still, she wasn’t sure. Did she really want her suspicions confirmed? Haru pulled back the pillowcase halfway and sniffed again. Still faint, but it was there. Perfume. It had been years since Haru had worn any perfume.
Kenta stirred and cried at the pitch Haru recognized as, “I’m hungry.” She picked him up with a tenderness born of sorrow. She could not bring herself to recline on the bed, so she lowered herself into the room’s only chair, an unforgiving hardback with a cushioned seat that faced her vanity table. She opened her yukata to Kenta’s eager lips and then stared at the forlorn face in the mirror.
Suddenly, the door swung open and in rushed Taka bouncing with a child’s enthusiasm.
“Mommy, why are you crying?” he asked, looking into Haru’s eyes, then turning his attention to his new brother, feeding at her breast.
To be continued . . .
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