Never before had Tomoe felt as uncomfortable as she did while sorting through her father’s belongings. Goro should be responsible for this, she thought, a thought she had been thinking ever since the will was read. A daughter should not have to dispose of her father’s past.
By the third day she had become numb to her task. Clothes would be donated; furniture would be sold; papers, mostly old bills and outdated tax records, would be burned. On the fourth day she found a box, a beautifully lacquered and ornate box of the sort that would not normally be filled with such crumpled and torn papers. The faded script written on the brittle pages was formal, ancient. But as she struggled with the writing, she came to realize that what she was reading was about to change everything she thought she understood about herself.
The writing was that of her great-grandmother’s, a woman whose name she had never once heard mentioned during the whole of her life. She read that, in 1904, as Japan consolidated its forces in Korea in preparation for war with Russia, her great-grandmother, and many young women like her, were also consolidated there to keep the forces comfortable and war ready.
Mostly what Tomoe read was heartbreaking: it was a time of misery and hardship and of suicidal desires. But on the final, most tattered page, she read that one cold February night a fair-skinned and near-frozen American writer named Jack London suddenly arrived. Her great-grandmother and four other girls were specially chosen to bathe him. Her great-grandmother, alone, was chosen to prepare his bed and to comfort him as best she could.
After carefully smoothing out the pages and returning them to their box, Tomoe found a pen and some paper and began to write in a newly found voice.