Abby’s dark bangs scattered as she glanced over her shoulder, scanning the market for the source of the voice.
“Is this yours?” it persisted. An elderly man emerged from the crowd. In one hand, he cradled a shiny cerulean item.
“Oh, ye—” Abby’s voice broke as she glimpsed the state of her mother’s gift.
“My wife saw it fall from your bag. I didn’t think I could catch you—you’re so fast!” he panted, clutching at his side with his free hand.
Abby had eyes only for the bowl. It had split into three—no, four!—pieces.
Tears collected at the corners of her eyes and she reached up a sleeve to blot them away.
The bowl was blue and mottled like a robin’s egg. When Abby had first glimpsed the vessel, she knew she had to have it. She had saved up the lunch money her father had given her—every day that month—to finally purchase the little vessel for her mother’s birthday. Her mother was still in the hospital and had been for months. Abby hoped the bowl would cheer her up.
“Are you alright, child?”
She shook her head. “Thank you, but it’s nothing now.”
The elderly man squatted in front of her. She recognized his features, she realized: cropped dark hair, kindly eyes and small, ovular glasses. He was usually the one at the tiny shop offering the sesame balls and other treats.
Her mother – who was half-Japanese – adored the sweet desserts. She used to bring them home for Abby and her father—rewards for a long day at work and, in Abby’s case, middle school.
The man smiled kindly. “You’re one of Hina’s daughters.” It wasn’t a question.
Abby nodded. “It was for her. The bowl,” she choked out.
“I have something to show you. I think you’ll like it.”
Abby gazed up at the elderly man. A sparkle twinkled in his eye, causing her curiosity to pique. “I really don’t have money,” she admitted, “or else I would’ve bought all your desserts like mom used to.”
The elderly man chuckled. “It’s been a while since we’ve spoken, your mother and me.”
“She’s…in hospital.” Abby stared at the ground as she followed the old vendor. She didn’t know why she was following him. Perhaps it was because she had nothing else to do now that she had to come home empty-handed on her mother’s birthday. Perhaps it was because she wanted to know what the elderly man wanted to show her. She hoped he had good intentions. The summer street market was bustling with customers and tourists, however; if she had to, she would cry out.
“Your father told me a few months ago. I am sorry, Abby. I wish her a safe recovery.”
“Thanks,” she mumbled, too quietly for him to hear.
“You’ll have to wait here for a few minutes. My wife isn’t as spry as she used to be.” He chuckled again.
Abby glanced at him in confusion but he was already disappearing into the shop. She turned and smiled as she watched the lanterns bobbing in the breeze.
After a few minutes, the man’s wife emerged from the back of the shop, a small bottle of what looked like paint in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. She passed it to her husband as he came up beside her.
“May I?” the elderly gentleman asked, indicating the shards of blue porcelain.
Abby’s brows furrowed but she nodded. The man popped the lid of the paint bottle and dipped the brush in. He coated one edge of the broken bowl with an ample coat of paint and then pressed it onto its companion. He repeated this with the other portions.
“Kintsugi, they call it, Abby.”
He held up the completed bowl. Webs of intercrossed golden paint held together the pieces of porcelain.
“An old Japanese tradition. The art of precious scars.”
“I have something, too,” the vendor’s wife added, and before Abby could reply, she’d disappeared into the shop again.
The gentleman excused himself to help a customer. Abby used this time to examine the bowl. It was still beautiful, she realized, despite the fact that it was broken. The gold lacing was rather pretty.
And then the man was back at Abby’s side, gently testing the paint with his thumb. “It needs a bit longer to dry, but you must have to go soon.”
“You’ll need this, too. Put it in when the paint’s dry.” The elderly woman smiled, handing Abby a paper bag. “Tell Hina happy birthday from us.”
Abby beamed. “I will,” she said, peering inside. To her delight, the bag contained four sesame balls. “But I don’t have anything to give—”
“There’s no need. And look,” the old woman said gently, pointing at a vase in the window of the shop. From its mouth sprouted a couple of white lily buds, their stems intertwined.
As she took a step closer, Abby realized the vase was decorated with the same lines of golden paint, delicately applied so as to prolong the vessel’s life.
The gentleman said softly, “People are like this vase and bowl. They are delicate, but they are strong. Your mother will recover, especially when she has you and your father by her side.”
Abby left with the porcelain bowl and the paper bag. She couldn’t help but compare her family to the repaired bowl. By remaining together, they could conquer anything.
OMP Admin Note: K.V. Wilson is a fantasy author obsessed with mythology and culture. Born in Alberta, she currently lives in British Columbia, Canada, where she spends her spare time playing the piano, hiking, songwriting, and reading and writing stories. She is honoured to be a part of the One Million Project as an author and editor.