Clara Carlisle stood in the early morning sunlight as the sakura shed their petals, resembling the gently falling snow of a Tokyo winter.
"You had better hope that Father does not find out the true meaning of this outing or we'll both regret it."
She turned to her brother, Warren, who was propped against one of the trees, glancing at her over his newspaper.
"What is there to worry about? Many people are out here viewing the last few days of the cherry blossoms."
Warren sighed and went back to his paper.
Clara smiled. Though they weren't very close, she was thankful that he had agreed to escort her to visit a forbidden beau one last time. Her father's harsh, uncompromising voice echoed in her mind.
You are a Carlisle. We do not involve ourselves romantically with a servant.
That had not been the true reason why Father had forbidden the relationship. Not only was his youngest daughter pursuing a relationship with a servant; it was a Japanese servant.
Clara turned at the sound of the voice. Behind her stood a tall, broad-shouldered young man wearing a faded dark blue kimono and hakama. Generations of samurai blood ran through his veins, and it showed in his stoic and distinguished manner.
"Good morning, Ryousuke-san," Warren said, with a stiff formality in his voice. "I trust you're doing well?"
"As well as possible, Mr. Wyndham." Though Ryousuke was not one to show emotion easily, a hint of resentment was present in his voice.
Warren turned to his sister. "Clara, I will be over here. Please keep it brief." He walked a few steps away and began reading his newspaper again, keeping a close watch on the two.
Clara ignored her brother's presence and looked at Ryousuke. Though his face was expressionless, his dark, almond-shaped eyes were filled with a hidden sadness.
"II'm sure you know I'vecome to say farewell." She struggled to keep her voice steady as a veil of tears clouded her vision.
"I know. It is what has to happen."
His calm assurance grated Clara's fragile sentiments. "Why does it have to happen, Ryou-san? We could have run away, never to worry"
"You are speaking foolishness, Kurara-chan." His voice was stern as he said her name in Japanese.
"Why is it foolishness to run away with the one you love?"
"You would break your family's hearts. And if Kumiko-chan was alive, her heart would break as well."
Kumiko. Ryou's older sister and her closest friend. She had been a paradigm of faith, love, and sacrifice.
"GogomennasaiI am sorry, Ryou-sanI"
He came closer to her and put a gentle hand beneath her chin and lifted her face towards his. "Do not apologize, Kurara-chan. It is your passion for life that I have always loved." He wiped her tears away with his thumb and took her hand. "Let us spend our last moments together looking at the sakura trees. You have always loved those."
The two walked closer to the trees, watching the petals gently waft away in the breeze.
"These blossoms bring beauty to the world for a short time, and then they pass away, as quickly as they came." Ryousuke picked a fallen petal from Clara's shoulder. "But the memory of that beauty will always be there; those who see these blossoms will never forget their loveliness."
He turned to her and grabbed both of her hands, staring into her eyes with intense adoration. "God has blessed me with knowing you, Kurara-chan. I will never forget the beauty that you brought into my life."
The two stood there, captivated with one another as they both remembered this last moment together.
"Clara." Warren's tense voice broke the silence. "It's time to go. Say goodbye now."
Clara swallowed back the sob that had welled in her throat. "Will Iwill I ever see you again?"
A small, yet sad smile appeared on Ryousuke's face. "The sakura are never gone forever. They come again in time, with the passing of seasons."
Ryousuke then took her hand and kissed it, the first kiss she had ever received from him. She took that as his promise that they would someday meet again.
Ryousuke bowed to her and Warren and walked away, disappearing in the growing crowd.
As Clara watched him go, his words lingered in her heart.
The sakura are never gone forever.
Dara Lowe is an aspiring young writer hoping to one day become a published novel author. Her main focus is general historical fiction, ranging from a Biblical setting to settings in different cultures and time periods.