by Tari Gwaemir
Anna and Yoh eat watermelon one summer afternoon.
Anna sits outside the door, her back stiffly straight, her legs crossed at the ankles. She wears a plain white kimono, the cotton worn and soft, and her damp hair has curled in wet tangles about her shoulders. In her hands, she holds a slice of watermelon and primly spits out seeds into the bowl beside her. She is nine years old.
Next to her, Yoh sprawls out his legs as he looks up at the cloudless sky, a pale watercolor blue like the tube in his paintbox. He imagines painting the sky every night with broad sweeps of his paintbrush, and he yawns, the sweet sticky juice of melon running down his chin. He ignores the ghosts giving coy but longing glances at the platter of fruit behind him.
"When do you go back?" he asks, turning his head.
"Already? But I don't want to go back to training so soon," he says without thinking, then cringes, waiting for the inevitable slap.
But she hasn't moved at all, her hands frozen in air, holding the half-eaten slice of watermelon. Her eyes are looking somewhere very far away, he thinks. Who is she speaking to? He leans back, half-listening to the faint buzz of whispering ghosts, the chirps of the late afternoon cicadas.
"Yesterday," she says, in a voice so quiet he can barely hear it, "I spoke to my parents."
He shifts imperceptibly closer. "What did you say to them?"
"I asked for their blessing," she says, scowling. She takes a large bite out of her watermelon and just as fiercely spits out three more seeds into the bowl. She looks up to find Yoh smiling at her, his half-closed eyes cheerful, young, and perhaps a little silly, and she bites her lip to stop herself from smiling shyly back.