WHAT’S BEEN TAKEN
By: Masked Maiden
Sakura held out her palm and watched the snowflakes melt as
they landed on her warm skin. January snow was such a rare sight in the city,
especially compared to the snow that accumulated in the countryside. It never stuck,
and even if it did, workmen on plows and with shovels cleared the streets and
the sidewalks before the early signs of the morning hustle appeared. After
that, any snow left behind was melted by salt sprinkled onto the ground and the
“There should be more snow like this,” she thought out loud.
“January snow is much better than December snow.”
Mamoru stretched his back, hearing it pop a couple of times.
“Why do you say that?” he asked.
“Well, think about it. When it snows during Christmas, you
don’t get any extra days off from school. But when it snows during January, the
students get a couple of days off, and the staff and faculty have optional
His little sister’s logic amused him. “Oh man…” he laughed.
“Usako would say the same thing.”
“Well, that proves she’s a very smart woman. And besides all
that… It’s snowing on her birthday. That has to be a good omen. Don’t you think
Mamoru blinked and gazed at the cross-shaped tombstone they
stood in front of. Sakura was right. Exactly fifty-four years ago, their mother
was born. Now Mamoru understood why Sakura was so insistent on coming to the
cemetery on this particular day. He’d forgotten their mother’s birthday.
“Oh… Yeah. I guess it is.”
In his defense, he’d forgotten many things, and it was hard
for Sakura to take that into consideration at times. One thing was for certain,
though. He would never forget when she died.
It happened on his sixth birthday and Sakura was only a few
months old. On that rainy night, their father swerved to miss a mysterious
figure standing in the road and the car slammed into the metal side railing,
turning over twice and then falling twenty feet onto a lakeshore. Since their
Uncle Akio was taking care of Sakura that night, she was saved from a likely
death. Their family, however, was never the same.
Mamoru was missing for over twenty years. Everyone except
their father had come to believe his body was somewhere at the bottom of that
lake. Speaking of their father, Hitori barely survived. He was in a coma for
two months. The bones in his left leg were crushed; even after three
reconstructive surgeries, he was now forced to walk with a cane. When he woke
up from the coma, he nearly suffered from a mental breakdown. The only thing
that kept him sane was his daughter. That was what Sakura’s uncles told her
when she was older, and she supposed that was the reason why she was always so
protective of her father, at least until her step-mother came into their lives.
As for their mother, she died on impact. That’s what Hitori
told them. She had been his first love, and the tombstone marking her grave
proved this. The epitaph described a young woman who was dearly cherished by
her husband, who had placed her and their children before anyone else. Sakura
knew no one could ever get over a love and a loss like the one her father
experienced. Even though he remarried and found another love, even though she
and Mamoru now had step-siblings and two half sisters… they weren’t
replacements. Additions was a better word. Hitori had
a special place in his heart for all of them.
“Do you think Dad will come today?”
Sakura shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know,” she replied.
“Some years he comes, some years he doesn’t. He comes every Obon,
though. No one else from Mom’s family visits, aside from Aunt Karei.”
That struck Mamoru as odd and familiar at the same time.
“Why is that?” He had wondered about their mother’s side of the family,
considering the fact Hitori had only mentioned Karei. She was Megumi’s older
sister and traveled a lot, as a photographer for a well-known magazine. Mamoru
met her during Christmas, and she didn’t mention her family either.
“Well, Dad told me that Mom didn’t get along with her
mother. Neither did Aunt Karei. And when Mom married Dad, her mother disowned
her. They were ‘old money’, you see… so her mother didn’t approve of Mom
marrying a cop.”
“… That’s wrong.” His statement seemed very insignificant.
There were other words Mamoru wanted to say, but standing in a cemetery and in
front of his mother’s grave caused him to remain respectful. Foul thoughts and
vulgarities didn’t belong in the final resting place of so many people.
Sakura could sense what Mamoru wanted to say, and she nodded
in agreement. “Yeah… it is.”
“I wish I could remember more, though. You or Dad has to
tell me everything.”
“… Mamoru…” She stared at her brother for a brief moment,
and she was reminded of how much he resembled their father. They both have the
same deep, sapphire eyes and the same thick, ebony hair. She even noticed how
they both had the same pensive expression on their face whenever something was
troubling them… and so Sakura could tell Mamoru was bothered by his lack of
memories. Things that were obvious to everyone in their family weren’t to him.
When he didn’t understand something, he always had to ask for an explanation,
and she knew he was getting tired of having to do that.
Sakura could understand that better than Mamoru probably
thought she could. After all, she had no memories of their mother. She was a
baby with she died. What she had was information and photographs, things their
father had given her.
“It’s okay,” she assured him. She rested her head
against his shoulder and wrapped an arm around him, hugging him gently. “I wish
I could remember her, too.”
Leaving flowers on your grave
To show that I still care
But black roses and Hail Mary’s
Can’t bring back what’s taken from me
~ “Gone Away” by The Offspring ~