Written for the "What child? There was no child" theme on the 31 Days community on LiveJournal (January 9, 2007). Contains spoilers for chapter 23 of the manga.
I was born in Germany, on the outskirts of the Black Forest, and although I was a daughter of my era I was also raised on tales of witches and heroes, of scullery maids raised above their station with a mere glance from a prince passing by on horseback.
I did not believe in such stories--I was German, born understanding hard work and just reward--but by the same token, I knew the tropes and patterns of the tales, knew to keep my hair smooth and golden, knew to catch the eye of strangers in my land and smile.
My prince, when he came, was from further away than my mind could conceive, although I could certainly point at a map and name his homeland: Nippon, Land of the Rising Sun, set into the Pacific like a jewel.
We were exotic to each other, and although he spoke my language haltingly and I spoke his not at all, he was drawn (he said later) to my laughter. At first we saw each other only among friends, as one of his companions was fluent in German and could translate the subtleties of our discussion, but one night he came to my door professing love in words made hesitant only by his fear that I would turn him away.
He was gifted with languages, he told me later; he had in fact only started to learn German at all a few months before coming to my country, while I'd thought he'd studied for years.
In time, I discovered that all his family was so gifted, if not in language. Music ran in their blood, and their hands and bodies bent naturally to all artful endeavors I could name, and many I could not. My new love was, he admitted modestly, hardly gifted at all in comparison to many of his relations; from his descriptions of his home I imagined something sprawling and lovely, buildings housing people as graceful and generous as he.
His money was something of which he hardly spoke; he had inherited a small fortune on his father's death, and had quadrupled it on his own within a year, yet he dismissed it as being of little importance. It was enough that, had I wished to turn down his proposal when it came, my mother would have disowned me for it.
But I had no wish to turn him down, and we were married, and in the way of fairy tales--for there was no other explanation for the life I had come to lead--I found myself with child almost before we had time to catch our breath. Despite my jests to friends about the certain fate of a young bride in a tale, I was happy.
My husband claimed to be happy as well, but there were occasional shadows in his eyes when he looked at my swelling belly. Halfway through my term, he took me aside and told me that it was the way of his family--our family--for children to be born on the family estate. He added that he had thought it was only an old tradition, needless, but that as the time came for his firstborn child to enter the world he was coming to understand the value of tradition--and besides, his mother wanted to meet me. We would return if I wished, he said, once the child was old enough to travel, and once I had seen the sun rising over the Japanese waves.
I saw no reason to deny him.
I had studied Japanese intently since our engagement, but I was still illiterate when I entered his country for the first time. Still, I knew when we were home: the finely-crafted nameplate on the entrance to the estate bore two of the few characters I could read. I had come halfway around the world to see them, the shape of my new name.
Inside those walls, I learned the price of my fairytale life. I did not die in childbirth, no, nor at the hands of my husband's mother. None of the maids attending my lying-in looked at me with envy or murder in their eyes as I came to term early; indeed, no one around me seemed alarmed at my child's premature demand to be born. Only my husband stood apart from the strange excitement that electrified the air as soon as my labor began, although he took my hand and comforted me when I worried aloud for the baby's well-being.
"The child will be healthy," he told me, and the shadows in his eyes were darker than I had ever seen, but I saw no trace of a lie beneath them.
When my son entered the world, there was a moment of awkwardness that I saw clearly through my pain and joy. "A boy," one of the maids told me, stepping back so that the family doctor could lift him. I watched while he was bathed, noting the golden fuzz atop his head--hair unexpectedly like mine--and handed to his father.
"Name him," my husband said, kneeling beside me with our son in his arms. "Name him before--"
His request had the weight of tradition, and two months among his family had taught me the value placed on it. I touched the crown of the tiny head and spoke the name we'd chosen. "Momiji."
He looked up at the doctor then, clutching our child against his chest. "You're sure . . ?"
The doctor turned to me, but answered him. "Have you explained anything at all?" My husband, my prince who had brought me out of my home, shook his head, and the doctor uttered only one more word: "Fool."
And my son was placed in my arms.
Fruits Basket is the creation of Takaya Natsuki, and is licensed in North America by FUNimation (anime) and Tokyopop (manga). Used without permission or the intention of making a profit. Please support the original work!
"Firstborn Son" © 2007 by .
Comments and criticism welcomed at the above address.
This story may be reproduced and archived so long as the original text is preserved and the author's name and contact information remain attached. Notifying the author of any such use is an appreciated courtesy. NO CHANGES OF ANY KIND ARE PERMITTED.