Fresh Beginnings. There was always a day to celebrate one of those. Just like how birthdays were a special occasion, so was New Years. But for Akira, that didn’t seem the case.
Being born in the soothing countryside of Japan, the style of celebration meant something else. Instead of the wild parties with flashing lights with hazy smoke and mad deafening music, celebration here meant enjoying the company of your loved ones as you immerse yourself in tradition.
Until this year, Akira truly did enjoy them, no matter how annoying it did get to stick to the strict rules and regulations of what her ancestors followed. And not that she would readily admit but she did complain a lot. Her only regret, she didn’t complain enough. Because this was the first year where she had no one to complain to.
It was the day of celebration where she didn’t really have any one to spend it with. The day when she turns seventeen and the beginning of a new year. But there was another event that took place on that day. The exact one-year mark of when her parents passed away.
She had to admit, it was all her fault. If her parents hadn’t gone their way to make her day special as she turned sixteen, they wouldn’t have been the victims to the stab and run incident that frequented then. She didn’t take the entire blame of her parent’s murder and the broken home that came with it. She blamed the caught murderer and hoped deeply that he would burn in hell.
She kept asking herself. Why? Why did my parents do as per what I wished? Why did we finally have to break the rules of tradition and do a western celebration? If we had stuck to how my birthday was truly supposed to be celebrated, would they be here, safe and alive? She kept questioning herself.
Since then, as she already lived in the city, she had to stay with her aunt's family that unwillingly took her in. They were a small family of three and she could never find herself to fit in. Even though her birthday and New Year’s was coming soon, nobody really cared. They were too busy with their own plans. Celebrations in the city were way different from the ones back in the village. She really missed those day.
Not wanting to spend the day alone and crying in the room, she began to ask around for their plans. She wanted to see if she could be included in them or if anyone was free; they could give her some company. She would really appreciate it. But who doesn’t have plans on New Year’s? Only the sad and the lonely.
She went on asking around. Her aunt and uncle had a party to attend to and weren’t willing to take her. What if she spoils their well-kept name? Her cousin was going to party with her friends and it was clearly stated that the outsider wasn’t invited. What if she causes an embarrassment? Even the people she knew seemed to have plans with their family and close friends. It was clear she didn’t seem to fit anywhere. But still, she wasn’t going to sit and cry. She was going to go out and not be her pathetic lonely self. She wasn’t going to wear that face on that day.
So, without telling anyone, she planned to do something for herself. To go back to her home village and visit her parents grave. It was their wish to be buried there and together. Akira respected that but that also meant, that she couldn’t visit easily. But at least, this was one occasion they could spend together even if they weren’t actually there.
The day came. Preparations were made. As her new family had prepped up their bodies and faces to get fancy for the occasion, she booked a train ticket. Half a day’s journey and she would be where she truly belonged.
Flipping a two-sided coin, she was going to cry her eyes out, blaming herself for her parent’s death or it was going to be a place to be thankful and cherish the moments they had together. She chose the latter. She didn’t want her parents to see her cry nor wanted her tears to litter their grave. She was going to smile and show her parents that she was doing okay. Give them a reason to be happy in afterlife.
As she prepared herself to face her parents, it didn’t take much time to reach. Akira had reached faster than she expected. But before visiting them, she needed to stop by a few shops. She bought sake, flowers, a few snacks as well as juice as she was still a minor. The sake was for her parents. And then made her way to the final destination. The place where she was going to sit with her parents and as night would fall, the family would be able to watch the fireworks spark across the sky.
When she did appear, her jaw dropped wide as she struggled to not drop the things she bought. Instead of an empty yard where only the gravestones and offerings lay, it was filled with people, making offerings to only one pair of graves. She realized that she recognized the people as she understood that it was her parents they were worshiping to. This brought tears to her eyes as she collapsed on her knees. Her friends turned to her and smiled, cheering in celebration as they ran to her, engulfing her in a warm embrace. It was a special day. She finally turned seventeen.
Akira truly felt happy, but she couldn’t stop the tears that kept rolling down. It was seen that her friends weren’t just here for her, but for her parents as well. Anyone could see that by the amount of offering placed by their grave. After all, her parents did mean a lot to them as well.
So, it not only became a day of sorrow but also a day of happiness. Akira enjoyed and mingled with her friends. When asked about their plans, they sheepishly let her know that they lied so they could surprise her. It was then Akira truly knew. She wasn’t alone.
Far away, a pair of shadowy ghosts lay await in the light of the coming dusk. They got a clear glimpse of what was happening in the so-revered land where the dead lay, a soft smile graced their lips. They could finally see their daughter being taken care of in the physical world. She was happy and content. That was all they wished to see.