Lyre (Olympiana Book 2)By: Helen Harper
TSUSHIMA STRAIT, JAPAN, 1995
It shouldn’t really have happened. If Yuri’s mother hadn’t been away in England visiting her family, then it definitely wouldn’t have happened. She had very clear, very English ideas about how children should be treated. And they most definitely didn’t involve going sea fishing, even if it was supposed to be a beautiful summer’s day.
But her father, who had always secretly wished for a son, had decided he wasn’t going to treat his only daughter as if she were made of glass. He didn’t often adhere to stereotypical Japanese notions, which was one of the reasons why he’d ended up with a Western woman for a wife in the first place. If Yuri wanted to act with ‘tomboy tomfoolery’ as her mother so caustically put it, then he certainly wasn’t going to deny her. So when she had begged him to take her out fishing with him, he didn’t put up much resistance. Truthfully, he was thrilled.
The day had started out normally enough. They’d risen early, carefully packing bento boxes for lunch and ensuring they had enough water and suncream to be out all day. Even her father wouldn’t risk Yuri’s light delicate skin. The other fishermen had called out jovial greetings, with a few murmurs and raised eyebrows at Yuri’s presence, when the pair had boarded the little boat. Her father had beamed cheerfully at them all, dipping forward into a series of little bows as he did so. Yuri tried to copy him, her face a picture of tight concentration.
‘Sugoi, Yuri-chan,’ he murmured to her under his breath. ‘Well done.’
A warm glow spread through Yuri’s body, setting her fingers and toes tingling. She darted up onto the deck, kicking off her sandals so that she could feel the smooth warm wood under her bare feet. Then she quickly stowed her stuff inside the small cabin and stood beside her father as he checked off the equipment, occasionally picking up a lure or net and turning it over in his large lined hands.
‘It’s important to be prepared,’ he said softly, sensing her impatience to get underway. ‘We must respect the sea.’ His eyes glinted. ‘Susanoo will get angry if we don’t.’
Susanoo was the Japanese god of sea and storms. Yuri’s father often invoked him while her mother expressively rolled her eyes in the background. Yuri loved watching the biting backplay between her parents during such moments. Their conversations would regularly take the form of familiar bickering, invariably ending with her mother’s skeptical ‘so desu ka’ and her father’s amused rejoinder of ‘so desu ne’, followed by a brief brush of his lips on hers, and a flicker of contented pleasure in both their eyes.
‘Honto desu ka?’ she asked. ‘Really?’
Her father ruffled her hair. ‘Honto desu. Really.’
Despite his slow careful movements, it was still dark when they finally set sail. Yuri revelled in the sounds of the sea as they slid away into the open water. There were many who would suppose that unless chatter filled the small boat, there would be silence. But instead there was a harmonious symphony; the creak of the boat, the lapping of the water, her father blowing out air from his cheeks as he attended to the tiller, and the occasional distant shout travelling across the salty still air from another nearby vessel.
By the time the sun finally decided to announce itself, their little boat was already far out to sea. The wind was picking up, causing Yuri to dig into her little bag to find a ragged elastic bobble to keep her hair out of her eyes and mouth. Her father glanced upwards as if watching the gusts, then nodded firmly to himself.
‘We’ll anchor here,’ he called out.
Yuri grinned. Now that the day was light, and the horizon clear, it was apparent they had left the other working boats far behind. Even the shore of home was imperceptible. There would be no interruptions to their special day together. Her father pulled out a small transistor radio and turned it on, filling the little boat with the tinny sounds of the Japanese pop music he knew Yuri loved. Then they got to work, setting up the fishing tackle and getting down to the business of the day.
Her father’s movements were slow and methodical. As a salaryman, he rarely had the opportunity to take his own father’s old boat out to the sea, meaning that his own skills at the demanding art of fishing were rusty and tempered by years of working in an office, rather than out on the open water. It wasn’t long before he found his rhythm, however, gently directing Yuri to set the lines and cast the lures. When a yellowtail finally caught one of the lines, he allowed her to try and pull it in, his own arms curving round hers to help should need be. It was a small fish though, and typical of these waters. Eventually he stood back and watched, pride in his eyes as Yuri managed to land it on her own. The fish flapped on the deck, gulping in distress.