Nabiki watched her sister transform before her eyes. They had been the same before, both in simple dresses, both with long black hair hanging free, but this was Sakura’s festival, her name day. The cherry blossoms drifted on the breeze outside the window, behind the woman that used to be her sister.
Nabiki had the very beginnings of breasts, but Sakura, three years older, filled out her kimono perfectly. The red and golden fabric shone brightly against her yellow-brown skin. Would it still darken in the summer? They both spent more than enough time outside to turn dark before fall, but as a woman, would Sakura change? Would she hide from the sun the way her mother and Yukiko did? Mother said the sun turned their skin rough and added lines before their time.
The kimono was old, Nabiki wasn’t sure how old, but Yukiko had worn it a few years ago for her festival, Yuki-matsuri, the snow festival . It would be Nabiki’s turn soon. It seemed too thin when Yukiko wore it in winter, and too thick for her festival in the summer, but perfect for Sakura.
Mother powdered and painted Sakura’s face while Nabiki watched. Her long hair was coiled and pinned, completing her sister’s transformation into a woman. Sakura’s eyes watered and Mother snatched a tissue to dab the corners.
“No tears,” she warned. “Such bad luck.”
“You are beautiful, Sakura,” Nabiki told her, still in awe.
Her thin but bright red lips split in a familiar smile. Her sister was still in there somewhere. Yukiko poked her head in. “Nearly ready?” She was dressed and made up in the same fashion, looking more like Mother than Nabiki. Yukiko had selected her own kimono, gathering pieces to match her. It was white and pink with an icy blue obi. She looked like she just fell out of a snow cloud. What would Sakura choose? Something pink like the cherry blossoms?
For now she wore Mother’s first kimono, Yukoko’s first kimono, Sobo’s first kimono and many other women before that. After the festival, the kimono would be carefully folded, sealed and stored until Nabiki’s turn.
“Father is waiting,” Yukiko reminded them. Sakura leaned back into her heels, carefully rising so as not to snag her skirts. Mother was already on her feet, so Nabiki trotted out the door, past her oldest sister and toward her father, standing in the entry with his shoes on.
Nabiki kicked off her slippers and tossed them on the rack, slipping into her pretty black dress shoes with silver buckles. Mother, Yukiko and Sakura all slipped on geta that disappeared under their skirts. As soon as they arrived at the festival grounds, Yukiko took Sakura’s arm and led her past the first trees and toward the stalls set up.