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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write in the ROMANCE genre (04/19/07)

TITLE: Beneath the Sakura
By Dara Sorensen


Tokyo, Early spring, 1878
Ueno Park

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.

“Ohayou gozaimasu.”

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.

“I…I’m sure you know I’ve…come 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.

“Go…gomennasai…I am sorry, Ryou-san…I…”

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 I…will 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.

“Sayonara, Kurara-chan.”

“Sayonara, Ryou-san.”

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.

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This article has been read 1208 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Chrissi Dunn04/26/07
Wow - I'd love to know what happens next. That last sentence gave a little bit of hope! It was very original to set this in a different culture.
Stevie McHugh04/26/07
A captivating story -- reads like it's part of a great novel.
James Wood04/26/07
Enjoyable, and very visual. As far as content, however, I've don't preffer the the Guillaume de Lorris-type of "unattainable love" idea. I want my cake, and eat it too, dangit!
Sheri Gordon04/28/07
I loved the way you used the Japanese culture and names. This sounds like a good novella -- I want to know what happens next. Nice job.
Julie Arduini04/29/07
A historical Japanese story, wow, not easy to do I'm sure but you make it look easy. This was a treasure. The dialogue made it all the more authentic.
Loren T. Lowery04/30/07
Well written romance that reminds us that love in any language at any time is truly universal.
Teri Wilson04/30/07
Dara, very nice. I loved all the Japanese touches. I'm so glad you're back in the Challenge - I always looked forward to reading your entries.
Jacquelyn Horne04/30/07
very good writing of a very difficult situation. Good story.
Jan Ackerson 04/30/07
Wow, this was beautiful! You painted such a lovely word picture. It unfolded like a scene from a movie; I could almost hear Japanese music playing in the background. Very, very good.
william price05/01/07
Elegant. Great writing, story, voice and flow. This story is so fresh, I have to make one comment. If I was to edit this I would beg you to take out the line about her father's voice, "echoing through her mind". It's the only line that bugged me. I know that;s picky, and I apologize. But the story was so pristine, that one line seemed out of place.
I only wish I could write so smooth and passionatley as you. You are an amazing talent. Again I apologize if my comment offended. but, this was sooooo good, borderline perfect, I had to.
God bless.
Rita Garcia05/02/07
As others have said, you have the beginning of a great novela or even or a novel. Masterwriting!
Donna Powers 05/02/07
Bittersweet, but absolutely lovely. I like the open ending; I can imagine that they one day came together. Beautifully written!
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/25/07
This story is like a beautiful painting with unforgettable images--excellent writing.
Sharlyn Guthrie06/25/07
I love this story! It is just full of fragrance (I could smell the blossoms!)and cultural atmosphere. I couldn't comment on it at the time because I was judging. I assure you I gave it high marks.
Seema Bagai 06/26/07
The story is wonderful. I want to read more about these characters. If you turn this into a longer story, please let me know.
Dee Yoder 06/26/07
I enjoy reading stories that take me into another time or culture and yours did both. Very good story!
Joanne Sher 06/26/07
Such atmosphere. You absolutely painted a portrait with your words. Lovely!
Loren T. Lowery06/27/07
Enjoyed this the first time through and it still holds its charm the second time around. Thanks for re-posting!