Gryffin

United States

Message to Readers

We all have our own complex stories to tell. We all have the issues that plague us. Even when we think we are alone in the world, the world has a funny way of getting into our business. I hope my story can show you just one perspective of this dual reality.

Letters from War

September 22, 2020

“Mrs. Shima? A visitor's here for you.”

My head turned away from the window towards the doorway. A young, blond woman in bell-bottoms and a crop top was standing next to a small girl wearing a tie-dye shirt. 

"Can I let her in?" Janet asked, but before I could reply, the girl had already strode in. The young woman gave me a look and shrugged. "Have fun!" she called out as she left the room.

The girl stood still, but her eyes latched upon mine with surprising intensity. Flustered, I dropped my gaze, but the girl simply walked a few steps until we were at eye level.

"Is your name Eloise Shima?" she asked suddenly in a business-like tone.

I looked at her strangely. "Yes" 

"When were you born?" 

I frowned. "You know, it's not polite to ask a woman their -" The child had pulled out a leather notebook and was writing on the pad. "What are you doing?"

She didn't look up. "I need to record our conversation."

"Why?" 

"School project. We have to conduct an interview with an adult."

I scoffed. "Don't you have any parents for this? Grandparents?"

"My parents are dead," she said in a steady voice, but I could hear the pain in her words, raw and unexposed yet buried under layers of hopelessness.

"Why me?" I blurted out, the words inadvertently escaping me. I couldn't understand what an innocent child-like she would want to do with me.

The girl shrugged, coolness replacing her emotion. "This place is nearby, and Ms. Janet said you never got any visitors."

I stared at her. Her kindness touched me, and it somehow reminded me of Hiro - she even looked like him. They both had the same dimples, the sparkling black eyes, an almost mystical aura. It was almost as if he was sitting there in the room himself. 

"Are you crying?" the girl said suddenly. I realized my cheeks were wet, and I wiped off the tears.

"No," I said roughly, "you just reminded me of my late husband."

"How did he die?" 

I gave a heavy sigh. “He sacrificed his life for another soldier in the War."

“Who was it? Were they close?”

I snorted. “Close? Smith made life in the Army hell for my husband, all because he was Japanese and wanted to serve. As if being locked up in those internment camps wasn't bad enough." I sniffed. "I reckon Smith fancied me though. Must’ve thought I was white.”

The girl pursed her lips. "Shouldn't the officials have done something?"

I rolled my eyes. "The only 'official' we had was the Commander, and all he did was drink."

"Father?"

I shrugged, mindful of the pencil gripped in her hand, but inside I burned with hatred for my coward excuse of a father. A man who left his family because he was scared of what others thought didn't belong in the Army. At least that fear kept him from revealing Ma was Black.

The girl watched me curiously. “I thought Ms. Janet said you had Alzheimer’s," she said at last, "how do you remember all of this?"

"What use is the past when the present always escapes you?" I muttered. "Speaking of," I said, clearing my throat, "do you have a newspaper?"

The girl pulled out a wad of paper from her pockets, unfolding it so that I could see the black ink from the other side of the paper.

"Could you read the headline for me? My eyes aren't what they used to be."

 The girl nodded. "Wednesday, August 28th. 'King Leads March on Washington." She looked at me hopefully. "Do you have CBS? We could watch the broadcast in color!"

I sighed. "We can't even afford a radio set, much less a fancy tube."

The girl deflated slightly. "What about the World Series? Can't listen to Bob Dylan? Or the Beatles?" I shook my head, and the girl seemed aghast. "Have you at least seen Dr. King give a speech?"

I smiled. "I've done better than see him give a speech, I grew up with him. His father even helped Ma get a job when..."

A loud thump from the outside cut me off unexpectedly. I exchanged a look with the girl and peered through the window. Crowds of people gathered below were throwing stones at armed police officers, some of them striking the walls. The girl tried looking outside as well, but I blocked her view.

"It's not safe for children," I warned, and the girl's face darkened. She looked like she was about to argue when the door flung open, and Janet walked in.

"A bus is waiting to pick the girl up," she told me.

I waved my hand. "She lives nearby, that's not for..." The girl was cramming her things back in her pockets. I stared confusedly at her. "What are you doing?"

She girl didn't reply. Keeping her eyes trained on the ground, she walked towards the door where Janet was standing. The woman nudged her. "At least say goodbye to your Grandmother. Didn't you come here all the way just for her?"

I laughed. "What Grandma? There's no..." My voice trailed off. The girl had frozen in place.

"Didn't she tell you?" said Janet somewhat pointlessly.

I stared back blankly. "Tell me what?"

Janet looked back at the girl. "It's not my story to tell". The child sighed, still avoiding my gaze.

"Your son's name is Max Shima, correct?" she said to my surprise.

"How do you-"

"He died yesterday."

My mouth fell open and a gasp escaped. "What? M-my son? He's alive, we..." With a start, I realized I couldn't remember the last time I had talked or written to him. I felt my heartbeat quickening, and I settled on an easier, more digestible question. "How do you even know about this?"

The girl took a deep breath and lifted her head to face me again. Her cheeks were streaked with tears. "Because I'm his daughter."
I worked really hard on this, and I appreciate all the criticism I got. As much of a pain it was to edit and revise, I loved watching my characters grow and develop alongside the storyline. Thank you!

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