"It's so nice to be out here tonight..." Mother said, her arms linked behind her back as she looked up at the sky.
I stopped abruptly when we reached a familiar place. "Mom," I said, as I pointed towards the school park, "can we go there? I haven't been on a swing for a long time!" I looked at the swings, remembering just how much I loved going on them back in daycare. Mother sighed. "We came out here to walk, not to play on swings, Inari."
"Aww, but I wanted to swing on them too!" Satoshi exclaimed.
Mother looked at my brother and I, and finally made her decision.
"Fine, but only for a minute."
"Yay!" I cried as I ran down the concrete grounds, my arms outstretched as I looked up. I felt the rushing wind as I continued to run, and heard Satoshi behind me.
"Inari, wait for me!"
I ignored my brother's calls, and finally I slowed down as I reached the set of swings before me. Satoshi came by a few seconds later, and he got on the swing beside me. I pushed my legs out, and soon, I swung as high as the rusted chains could go.
“This swing is scary, because it's so old. And it makes sounds every time I go forward!”
“I don't really mind. I’m just glad that I get to swing again. It's not gonna break down Satoshi, trust me.”
“How would you know?”
I pushed forward again, and this time, as my hair flowed in the direction of the wind, I tilted my head to the sky. I could only see a few stars, the rest weren't visible. Thick branches of a large oak tree filled a portion of my view. I didn't want to move my eyes away from the sky, because I knew that I would only find tall buildings and the city before me. I missed my home back in Kyushu, where I could see green, grassy mountains and the beach. Every night, hundreds of stars littered the sky. We moved to a city in America after my father’s death from an illness. It’s been a year since we came here. I was devastated, knowing that one of the most important figures in my life was gone. Father left me, he left us all. Forever. I thought about my father, with his bright and happy grin that never failed to make me smile too. I remembered the earliest memory that I had with my father, when I was four. The sky was dark, the breeze was cool, a night similar to this one…
6 Years Ago
Tatsuya looked up at the faint whisper coming from the door of his study room, as it opened a little wider, revealing a young girl with a lavender-purple and white nightgown on.
“Inari? What are you doing, awake so late at night?” Tatsuya glanced at the clock hung right beside the door. “It’s almost midnight, sweetie.”
Inari pressed her lips together. “I can’t sleep.” she said in a small voice, and looked down, playing with the hem of her nightgown.
Tatsuya looked at his daughter, and gave a faint smile as he opened his arms. Inari ran to her father, and he welcomed her in his embrace. Tatsuya brought her daughter to the roof of the house, where they sat, watching the sky. A shooting star caught Inari’s eyes, and she gasped and pointed to the star, as she grabbed her father’s arm and pulled feebly.
“Daddy, look! I see a flying star!” she cried, her eyes wide as she kept her gaze at the shooting star that flew past in their view. Tatsuya grinned.
“I'm going to make a wish.” Inari stated, and placed her hands together as she closed her eyes. After a moment of silence, she opened her eyes and placed her hands down.
“What'd you wish for, Inari?” Tatsuya questioned.
Inari giggled and placed a finger to her lips. “If I say my wish, it won't come true!”
Tatsuya chuckled. “Oh, that's right-well, it better be about your mother cooking better food!” Tatsuya whispered to his daughter. “Don't tell your mother this, but her cooking always tastes a little off.” he joked. Inari stifled a laugh and nodded her head, smiling wide.
The two figures continued to examine the starry sky. Inari adjusted her position so that she was sitting on her father’s lap. She rested her head on his chest, as she took in his familiar smell of trees, the forest, nature.
“Inari, look at all the stars in the sky.” Tatsuya said.
“What about the stars?” she asked.
“They're very pretty, aren't they?”
Inari nodded her head. “They are also very bright and shiny too.”
Tatsuya gave a little laugh. “Yes, they sure are.”
For the next few minutes, Tatsuya pointed at the sky and told Inari about what they looked like connected, and all the constellations that they can form. Even though Inari still didn't quite understand constellations, she enjoyed having her father speak about the sky, as if it was a foreign place that held many beautiful secrets. Finally, Tatsuya finished his long explanation, and they sat together in a moment of silence. After a while, Tatsuya spoke again.
“Inari, sweetie, I want you to know something. Something very important.”
Inari perked up at the sound of something very important. “What is it?” she asked, eagerly.
“If mommy or daddy isn't with you, and you feel lonely, just remember that you aren't-because the sky will always stay with you. It's always the same, it never changes into another object, it never breaks away. It will always be here and watch over you, and protect you. No matter where you are. If daddy one day disappears, don't feel lonely. I will always be with you, in the sky, watching over you and the family, even if you have to go somewhere else.”
Inari looked up at her father. “Daddy, are you going to disappear?”
Tatsuya looked at his daughter, and gave a faint smile. “Hey, how long have we been out here for? You have to be in bed now! Or else your mother’s going to get very mad at me for making you stay up so late.”
Inari gave a slight frown. “Aww...we can't stay a little longer?”
“Nope. We can always come out here again tomorrow night, before bedtime. How does that sound?”
Inari smiled. “Good!”
Tatsuya carried his daughter back into her room, and stayed there until she finally fell asleep. Or at least, until he thought she did. He lightly pushed her hair out of her face, and planted a gentle, light kiss on her forehead.
“I love you, my little shining star.” he whispered, and stepped out of the room.
Inari cracked open her eyes and looked at the ceiling above her, as she gazed at the faint glowing stars placed on her ceiling. “I love you too, daddy.” she whispered back. She closed her eyes again, and dreams of stars and the sky and her father filled her mind.
I wish that our family will be happy together forever and ever.
Ever since that day, the two of us would always sit on the rooftop every night before my bedtime, and we chatted about anything and everything…
“Inari! Satoshi! Come on, let's go now! It's getting late!”
I blinked, and realized that tears caressed my face. I slowed down my swing, while I quickly rubbed my eyes and smeared the tears that traveled down my face. How could I forget the one very important thing that father told me?
“We can't swing for a little more? I like looking at the sky. It reminds me of home.” Satoshi exclaimed. I looked at him, bewildered, and then smiled as I took one last good look at the sky, and jumped off the swing.
I jogged up to my mother, Satoshi right behind me.
“Let’s come back out here tomorrow night, and you could swing on the swings again. How does that sound?” Mother offered.
Satoshi nodded his head. “Good!"
The three of us we walked together, side by side, as we spoke about the stars on the walk home. I tilted my head up, closed my eyes, and breathed in deeply, as I reminisced about the smell of trees, the forest, nature. Father never left us, I thought. He was here, the whole time.
He’s watching over us, protecting us, in the sky.