By the time Margot reached the Ryokan, it was snowing. The lobby was a bubbling riot of Japanese in the process of checking out. She strode past them down the corridor to her room.
“Mrs. Stevens!” a little voice squeaked behind her. One of the female staff came sweeping down the hallway. She was carrying something in her arms. As she neared, Margot eyed the package with consternation; it was suspiciously familiar.
“A person from the village delivered this for you. They said you left it behind by mistake.”
Margot almost launched into a tirade of how this didn’t belong to her, she didn’t want it, and she wouldn’t take responsibility for it. But it was obviously not this poor girl’s problem. Margot took the parcel from her, thanked her politely, and slid open the shoji panels to her room.
“Can I bring you some hot tea, Mrs. Stevens?” called the girl.
“Yes, thank you. That would be very nice.”
Sliding the doors closed, Margot walked over to the table, flinging the package onto it. It was that damn kimono from the antique shop, she was positive. What the hell was she going to do with that crazy old lady? Perhaps she should buy it. A thousand dollars was nothing for a good kimono; some of the vintage ones went for tens of thousands.
She shrugged off her jacket and padded into the bathroom to wash her face and hands, but she left the bathroom door open and glanced back at the package on the table. Finally, intrigued and frustrated in equal measure, Margot went to the table and tore open wrappings. It was the kimono from the shop, of course. As she held it up, two things happened almost simultaneously: the sides parted to reveal a lining that was a rich burnt orange, and something slithered out and landed on the tatami mat. An obi. A discrete knock shifted Margot’s focus.
To her surprise, it wasn’t one of the staff, but Katsumi, the ryokan’s owner, who slid the panel-door open.
“I brought you some tea,” she said, stepping out of her sandals and padding into the room to lay the tray on the table.
She looked up. “Margot! What a wonderful kimono!”
“Yes, it is. Isn’t it? It seems that I’m condemned to own it whether I want to or not,” joked Margot.
Katsumi drew her brows in confusion, but her gaze shifted back to the kimono and she came closer. “It’s very old, you know. Early Meiji or perhaps even Edo period.” There was a tinge of awe in her voice. “Most kimonos nowadays are so bright, so gaudy. But in those days the designs were subtle and elegant. This is a winter kimono — black cranes against new snow.”
Margot held it up against her body. Katsumi giggled.
“Yeah, I think Westerners look stupid in them too!” said Margot, attempting to read Katsumi’s mind.
“Oh, no! You are mistaken. Every woman is beautiful in a kimono. But this one is a furisode, for an unmarried woman. See the long sleeves? And the pattern that reaches up past the waist?” Katsumi gave Margot a conspiratorial look. “Why don’t you try it on?”
This was so damn girly! Margot was dying to try it on, but felt silly for saying so. “I have no idea how to wear it, how to tie the obi.” She pondered the swathe of brocade coiled on the floor.
Katsumi twittered in a consummately Japanese way. “No one puts them on by themselves, Margot. Not the old-style ones. It’s impossible. Let me show you how to do it.”
“Are you sure you have the time?” Margot was trying to sound sensible but she could hear the excitement pierce the edges of her own voice.
“Of course! It’s Saturday afternoon — everyone is out sightseeing. But there are things we must have. Let me fetch them.” With that, Katsumi scampered out of the room.
Pulling off her jeans and sweatshirt, Margot regretted her habit of not wearing a bra. But considering the boyishness of her figure, there never seemed much point. She grabbed one of the guest robes and put it on to make herself decent.
Returning, Katsumi drew the screens closed behind her, burdened with an armful of unrecognizable things. She laid them out on the table: a pair of fabric covered thongs, a small, odd-looking pillow, and a white cotton garment which she shook out and held up.
“This is worn underneath.” She stood in front of Margot, holding it open for her.
“Umm… okay,” mumbled Margot. She felt a little shy, so she shrugged the robe off, turned around quickly, and slipped her arms into the sleeves, wrapping it around herself tightly.
“Now the kimono.” Katsumi held it open, just as she had the under-robe.
Margot carefully slid her arms into the enormous sleeves; the silk was surprisingly heavy and smelled of camphor and wood resin. As the full weight of it settled on her shoulders, it forced her to stand a little differently. The sense of being grounded was eerie and, as she crossed the lapels over her chest, it felt as if she were covering herself in dry winter snow. She shuddered.
Katsumi stepped around and smoothed the edges of the collar flat with delicate, purposeful fingers. She eased the under-robe from beneath the neckline just slightly, so it peeked out. Finally, she took Margot’s hand and placed it on the side of her waist.
“Hold, please,” she ordered and took a couple of steps back to survey the effect. Katsumi clicked her tongue in displeasure.
“What?” asked Margot defensively, “does it look stupid? It must look ridiculous, with my short hair.”
The smile the woman gave her was wry and a little lopsided. “Not stupid…” she said.”Too…nice, too prim. Don’t move.”
Katsumi stepped behind her and began tugging the neckline away from Margot’s body. The whole outfit shifted. “Japanese women were not always as innocent as they seem now. I think this was not the kimono of an innocent. It needs to droop down at the back.”
Again she confronted Margot and looked at her handiwork. “Mmm… better. Much better. Yes..” she breathed softly. “You see, the quieter the design, the more of an invitation to explore the woman beneath it. This… this is a very quiet kimono. Please look.”
Katsumi guided Margot to one wall and pushed aside what looked like another screen. Instead, it revealed a full length mirror.
“Oh my god!” Margot exclaimed, stunned.
“Mmm… yes.” Katsumi stood behind her, smoothing the shoulders. With one finger, she traced a straight line down from the nape of Margot’s neck to where the collar of the kimono began. Margot shivered involuntarily; the electricity of the touch snaked down her spine and made her buttocks tingle.
“In my culture the back of the neck is considered very erotic. It is an inverted image of the space between the navel and the vagina.”
Quite suddenly, Katsumi reached around Margot’s waist and pulled open the bottom half of the kimono, exposing the flame-red lining inside.
“Cool and serene on the outside…”
“…red hot on the inside,” finished Margot.
She couldn’t pull her eyes from the image in the mirror. Pinned in place and yet floating, she failed to recognize the reflection; it smiled back at her, looked through her towards something in the distance. The woman who stood behind and slightly to one side slipped an arm around her waist.
“Show me,” whispered Margot. The lips of the woman in the mirror moved and she heard her own voice from a great distance, ringing, rippling.
Katsumi glanced down at her own pale green kimono and, taking the edge between her thumb and forefinger, drew back the silk. The lining was the color of blood.
Dizziness crept through Margot like a fever rising; she closed her eyes to shake it off and steady herself but blindness made it worse. She turned her back on the reflection, but somehow it turned with her, took her, and became her. Raising her hands to Katsumi’s face, she let the kimono fall open. Margot pulled Katsumi towards her and kissed her with an immense hunger.
A small, sensible part of what had been Margot could see what was unfolding with great clarity; it protested the violation, the indignity. But it was hard to scream too loud or long when she herself was the aggressor — irony made her weak. The hunger’s voice was much stronger; it called, it demanded, it burned her skin and took what it desired dragging Katsumi down with her, to her knees on the tatami.
As one hand cradled Katsumi’s neck so she could feast on the woman’s mouth, the other pulled Katsumi’s robes apart and plunged into the dark forest between her closed, kneeling thighs. Brilliant shafts of deja vu carved into Margot’s mind as she cupped the moist thicket and pressed her fingers inwards. So hot. So wet. So familiar.
The woman in her arms shuddered, eased her knees apart and tilted her hips forward. Margot ate the mewing sounds that escaped Katsumi’s lips. The circuit was frighteningly addictive. As she grazed the tiny, erect nub of Katsumi’s clit, and dragged her fingers through the flooded gorge to the source of the wetness, there were more urgent moans to devour. But it was not enough for the hunger.
Impatiently, almost brutally, she pushed Katsumi backwards onto the mat. With her feet and calves beneath her, the woman’s cunt was open and offered up to her. She took hold of Katsumi’s open thighs and, spreading them wider, bent down to feed.
Her tongue wasn’t patient; it lunged deep into the dark, sweet cave of flesh. She could feel Katsumi’s clit, pulsing like a beacon against her upper lip, demanding attention. Margot’s mouth traveled upwards to cover it, sucking and nipping at it delicately. Katsumi’s wet, urgent smell spoke to the hunger and the hunger spoke back; Margot pushed two fingers deep into the greedy tunnel and felt Katsumi’s muscles hold them tight.
Drawing lazy, fluid circles around and over the throbbing nub, Margot stirred the woman with her fingers, pressing in, curling, and drawing out. Katsumi arched her back further and keened. Yes. This was what the hunger wanted — this and more of this. And it seemed Katsumi wanted it also, for she threaded feverish fingers through Margot’s hair and tugged. Her hips, almost immobilized by her position, quivered and twitched.
As Margot began to fuck Katsumi in earnest, driving fingers into her again and again, she sucked harder, flicking her tongue roughly against the little soldier in her mouth. Then she smiled. The first wave of spasms took Katsumi, forcing hoarse cries from her throat. The hunger grinned and drove onwards — her feast within sight. Margot stilled her buried fingers and felt her own cunt flood as Katsumi’s orgasm grasped and tugged at her hand and soaked it in come. Margot lapped now — long, wet strokes with the flat of her tongue — drawing the orgasm out and gorging on the serum that came of it.
Katsumi lay panting, whimpering. Aftershocks shook her in series. Before rising, Margot closed her eyes and pressed her face into the dark, twitching heat, painting herself with the woman’s wetness. The hunger marked time, still there, still unsated.
Grasping the lapels of Katsumi’s kimono, Margot pulled her upright and kissed her again.
“Go now. He’s coming.”