i. Rewriting a Fairytale by Angel Liang, Class of 2024 [cw: character death]
ii. Photography by Melania Danilkovas, Class of 2023
iii. Maybe Clouds Will Be Playing by India-Mae Fraser, Class of 2023
iv. Lycoris Radiata by Anonymous, Class of 2024
v. Orange Peels by India-Mae Fraser, Class of 2023
vi. Letter From a Friend by Elle Gordon, Class of 2024 [written & visual versions]
Rewriting a Fairytale by Angel Liang, Class of 2024
The people of the village all knew of the old man living at the edge of the bamboo forest. Even through his old age, he faithfully entered the forest to chop bamboo, day after day after day.
He could be seen in the market with a wagonful of the long, sturdy stalks. He didn’t smile, but he was comforting. Everyone called him “the grandfather” of the village. He was known to be wise with the twinkle of age in his eye, and kind as a loving father, despite not having any kids himself.
His name was Oda Sakunoske.
It was summertime when Oda’s life was upturned. The time when farmers were grueling away planting crops and children were out playing in the streets until dark.
A hot summer day was never a good time to work for an old man’s body, so Oda had decided to wait until the cool evening. The sweltering heat could be walled out in the shade of his small hut.
Cantankerous children ran through the dirt paths, bringing with them their boisterous laughter and youthful exuberance. Oda’s eyes brightened at the young kids, but his lips still remained set. He let his attention drift from the printed bamboo scroll for a moment.
He heard a high-pitched female voice break through the stifling summer heat. His eyes crinkled into a small smile at the waving child. He nodded in acknowledgement before returning back to the carved words, letting his chest inflate with happiness.
That night it was quiet. There was a beautiful full moon resting comfortably in the sky, plump and shining with light. Oda carefully packed his bamboo cutter in an old silk bag, letting his haori hang loose around his shoulders. Age had worn down his body, making it harder and harder to keep making his trips to the bamboo forest.
Although it was the dead of night, light still washed over the small village, filling every crack with a beautiful, innocent paleness. As Oda trekked to the edge of the forest, he adjusted the blade’s strap. He carefully inspected each stalk, testing the sturdiness and flexibility of the jade culms.
The moonlight bounced off the reflective bamboo walls, enticing Oda further and further into the forest. The forest was beautiful that night under the full moon, and Oda couldn’t help but notice. As he walked, he let his fingers skim the smooth bamboo stalks and their luscious leaves.
Then, something glimmered at the edge of his eye.
Oda carefully turned his attention toward the sparkle.
In an enclosure of bamboo, there was a baby, resting on top of tender bamboo leaves. The leaves seemed to shine under the moonlight distinct from the rest.
Oda found his feet moving before his legs and his arms moving before his head, gently scooping up the baby wrapped in bamboo leaves. As he stared at the small nose of the baby, the edges of his lips twitched.
Oda had always loved children.
Oda named her Sakura, after his late wife. The name of a flower blooming in the midst of a shady forest.
As the baby grew, so did her needs. Soon, Oda realized his meager returns from selling bamboo weren’t sufficient enough to feed the two of them. Oda spent three days tirelessly nurturing the baby before he decided to go outside to stretch his legs.
After he made sure the baby was fast asleep, Oda hiked up the trail to the forest, reassuring himself along the way that the baby would be alright for a few hours.
He spent hours and hours by himself in the forest environment, repeatedly hacking at the stalks of bamboo. His arms ached and his knees shook from repeated effort. Sweat dripped down from the sides of his face, dampening his clothes and hair.
Oda came to the sinking realization that he would have to cut down the entire forest before he could feed the baby. Even then, he went back to the forest the very next day.
Oda decided that the only way he could make sure that the baby would be safe was to bring her with him. He wrapped the baby up in a warm blanket and carried her through the forest until he found a nice patch of green stalks. Oda carefully set the baby far enough so that she wouldn’t be hurt, but close enough so that he could keep an eye on her.
Then, he got to work.
Cutting bamboo was a tiring job for an old man. It was repetitive and intensive. It made Oda’s bones creak and moan, and his muscles stretch and twist. At last, his axe cut through the hollow walls of the stalk.
Oda let himself rest for a few beats, walking a few steps toward the baby to check up on her. Her eyes were open this time, round pools of sparkling obsidian. Sakura’s tiny fists were curled in on itself, her nose was as small as a button and her lips were pink petals on her face. She blinked innocently up at Oda, a giggle bubbling through her lips.
Oda managed a small smile in response, the corners of his mouth moving foreignly on his face.
He turned away from the baby towards the open stalk of bamboo. The sun was a shining bright coin in the pale sky, letting its rays wash over the leaves.
Something reflected those rays back.
Confused, Oda inched closer to the hollow root. His hands shook as he raised the object to eye level.
It was a gold nugget.
Amazed, Oda let the pads of his fingertips run over the outer texture of the metal. It was warm underneath the sun, sending rays of its own bouncing out from it.
A cry from Sakura interrupted Oda’s gawking. He quickly bundled up his bamboo cutter in its bag, stashing the gold in his haori.
That day, Oda made enough to buy food for Sakura and him for the next week.
The next day, Oda returned back to the forest with Sakura on his back. He decided to return to the same place that he had gone to the day before, wanting to test his luck. Although he didn’t have high hopes, he got to work almost immediately, making sure Sakura was a safe distance away once again. He hacked away at the tough outer wall until the blade went through.
Oda’s eyes widened.
Another nugget rested inside.
Soon with Oda’s daily discovery of gold nuggets, he was able to move into a better house along with the quickly growing Sakura. He thanked the gods for his newfound wealth as his bones grew weaker and his hair thinned.
When his legs weren’t able to take him to the market anymore, Oda sent Sakura out to buy food for the two of them. Sakura bloomed like her namesake, attracting the gazes of many when she went out to the market. Men were drawn to her, and women envied her.
Sakura ignored them all.
Soon enough when she had grown to adulthood, suitors were lined up outside Oda’s humble home. Oda had tried his best to conceal Sakura’s existence from the rest of the world, but his attempts were futile as more and more men sought her hand in marriage.
One night, Oda called Sakura into his quarters.
The man had greatly aged in the time it took Sakura to mature. Spiderweb veins stretched across the expanse of Oda’s hands and his skin had turned wrinkled and rough. Every passing day it became difficult to breathe and wake from his slumber.
“Yes?” Sakura questioned her bedridden father.
“Sakura.. Your beauty has drawn many suitors to this small village, and I am certain that one will eventually catch your eye.” Oda let his next words hang in the heavy summer air. “Do not be swayed by greedy fortunes or beauty. Find a man whose heart is strong and his spirit is vibrant.”
And she held onto those words even after his death.
As the suitors lined up behind her front door, Sakura sent each of them to do five impossible tasks. First, to collect the stone begging bowl of Buddha, then the jeweled branch from the fantasy land of Horai, a robe from Chinese fire-fish scales, a dragon’s jewel, and a cowry bowl born from a phoenix.
Soon enough, as the months passed, Sakura’s suitors dwindled down to only a handful. Many gave up from her seemingly hopeless tasks, but Sakura held onto her father’s words of hope. Each night she watched as the flowers on her doorstep wilted from the sun’s heat, only to be replaced by fresh ones the very next morning.
One day, a new man showed up at her front door.
He introduced himself as Dazai. Osamu Dazai.
“Hello,” he smiled, “My name is Dazai! I’m a friend of Odasaku. Your father, correct?”
She nodded with a blank expression on her face. “Yes. My father has passed away, unfortunately. Why do you ask?” Dazai smiled, “Is it alright if I come inside?”
Sakura hesitantly opened the door further, watching skeptically as Dazai removed his shoes and followed her into the guest room. She poured him a warm cup of tea and directed him to the chabudai on the floor.
“My father passed away months ago..” She trailed off, “Is there any reason why you would give me your condolences at this time?”
Dazai carefully set his cup down, reaching to his right. “I am sorry to hear of Odasaku’s death. Let me reintroduce myself. I’m part of the Dazai family in the village and I had just been sent out of town for work, so I hadn’t known about his death until I came back. My family is a writing family and we would often purchase bamboo from your father.” He reached into his bag to bring something out. Sliding it toward Sakura, Dazai continued, “When I heard of your father’s death, I wanted to give you this.”
Sakura carefully unwrapped the bamboo scroll, letting the binding strings loose from the cylindrical shape.
“My father was always an avid reader.” She gripped the scroll tight. “I’m sure he would have loved to read this had he been alive.”
Dazai nodded, “Is it alright if I tell you a story?”
Sakura’s brows furrowed, “A story?” She couldn’t understand the expressions of the man in front of her. “Yes, I might not look like it, but I’m an author, a devoted storyteller, you could say.” The same bittersweet smile adorned his face once more.
Feeling a sense of pity, she nodded and poured both of them more tea. “Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess. She charmed all the people in the land and many men fell in love with her beauty. But she refused them all and assigned them five tasks. One man refused to give up, each day he wrote a poem for her to remind himself of his love for her. In the end, however, even he couldn’t complete these tasks.”
Dazai let his last sentence curl itself in the cusps of Sakura’s ears. He cautiously took another sip of his tea.
“Is that all?” She finally broke the silence, voice shaking.
The princess in the story was obviously her.
Dazai let his head dip down. “Miss Sakura, tell me. Why do you push all of these men away? My older brother was once much in love with you as well, and in the end, he gave up just like all the other suitors entranced with you.”
“Is that so?”
He chuckled, “Enough to fill a book with love poems.”
She took a deep breath, “All who have come before me, have failed to complete these tasks. My father once told me to find a man whose heart is strong with a vibrant spirit.” Sakura let her gaze rise to eye level with Dazai’s. “I have given hope on finding someone who truly loves me for who I am. Whether it be for my beauty, or my father’s money, I won’t allow anyone to touch either.”
Dazai closed his eyes in thought. “Sometimes humans are blinded by beauty. Although the sun is vital to the growing of crops, through the passage of time, it is the nurturing hand of man that makes them grow.” His breath became wistful and imaginative. “My brother was once an admirer of yours, he failed the tasks that you had assigned him, but everyday he recited a poem for you.”
She held her breath.
“Sakura, do not measure the love of someone by tasks, for love resides in one’s actions.”
Sakura finally realized that she had interpreted her father’s dying words wrong. In truth, her father had never meant that a man’s heart could be measured in impossible tasks. Oda had meant that a man’s love could only be shown through his actions.
by Melania Danilkovas, Class of 2023
Maybe Clouds Will Be Playing by India-Mae Fraser, Class of 2023
Maybe you’ll be a sunshine storm in my arms Bright chaos and silent pain I’ll hug you close to ward away the cold Maybe Clouds will be playing again
Maybe we’ll sit under an Autumn sky Like we did so long ago Green in the trees turning to red and gold Maybe I’ll still love you so
Maybe your hair will still tickle my nose Pine needles against my skin I’ll giggle and brush it away from my cheek Maybe you’ll let me in
Maybe your hands will be ice against mine The way they’ve always been My Harry to your Draco, like it’s meant to be Maybe Clouds will be playing again
Maybe I’ll taste the nutty chocolate That melted on our tongues Addictive sugar in bright yellow packets Maybe we’ll still be young
Maybe the world will just freeze for a while And peace will befall me once more With you in my arms and the sun shining brightly Maybe my heart will still soar
Maybe I’ll have far more courage than now Enough to say I’ve loved you since then You’ll smile and mumble “I love you too” Maybe Clouds will be playing again
by Anonymous, Class of 2024
Orange Peels by India-Mae Fraser, Class of 2023
The faded yellow bedroom was silent in the early morning air. Ophelia sat in the window across from Orion, watching with quiet awe as he carefully peeled an orange. It was vibrant and bright in his large hands, color popping against the faded pastels and dull grays that so often inhabited their room. The young woman silently wondered at how such rough hands, calloused and scarred from years of adventures, could hold so gently to such a fragile thing. Then again, she supposed, he often held her in those very same hands, and wasn’t she always a breath away from shattering?
Or maybe it was the opposite. Maybe he held her because she was a breath away from shattering. Maybe he held her to ward away the darkness and the storms that might just blow her away. Ophelia could never be sure, when it came to love.
She’d been told once, by an old widow at the market, that youth knows love the way age knows ache. It’s sharp and vivid at first, all hard edges and new experiences, but over time it softens. The ache dulls, the love becomes a new normal.
Ophelia didn’t think anything had ever been particularly sharp or vivid with Orion. Ever since they were little, he was just this quietly restless spirit, always with her in the forests or the hills when they both should have been doing chores. Where she was loud and bold and so entirely alive, he had always been reserved and steady, moving with a calming grace through the storms of her chaotic life. In truth, the only thing the two had in common was their love for adventure. It was a side of him few others had the chance to see, the man who so fearlessly dove into murky springs, who led the way into pitch-black caves, who climbed to the highest branches of the tallest trees. The man with a brilliant smile, a warm voice, and rough hands that held her waist as gently as an orange. The man who had always been as light and still as an early summer morning. Was it really love if there had never been anything sharp or vivid about them? Ophelia supposed it probably was. Just because their love was quiet, was soft touches and soothing warmth, didn’t mean it wasn’t real.
Her eyes drew back to the bright orange in Orion’s hands, nearly fully peeled now. He gently tore the last of the rind free and carefully broke a single slice from the fruit.
“Ophelia,” he spoke softly, hardly daring to breach the tranquil morning silence as he stepped forward and held the orange piece out to her with a warm smile. She took it in her own hands and they ate in silence, brilliant color blooming over their tongues.
No, Ophelia thought decisively, their love wasn’t sharp. It wasn’t vivid. It was this. Silent, contemplative mornings in faded yellow bedrooms with early sunlight cascading through the air. Rough hands gently peeling oranges and offering to share without a single thought, just a habit of instinct, a small action of love. Colorful flavors mixing together on soft tongues when lips touch.
Ophelia and Orion’s love was the simple act of sharing an orange with the person you want to share one with every morning for the rest of your life. It was an orange peel love, and as Orion held her waist gently between rough hands, Ophelia supposed she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Letter From a Friend by Elle Gordon, Class of 2024
I am going to be your closest companion. I love me. I love you. Why can’t you give me love in return? I will fight for you. I will help you carry out your mundane tasks. I will sit in bed and cry with you. I’ll laugh with you. I’ve been here since the day you were born and here I will stay. I’m going to be there to help lift boxes when you go off to college. I will heal you. I will grow older and wiser with you, each wrinkle and scar telling a story. I am here for you but I can not do this alone. If you have a friend who supported you, you wouldn’t try to change them. So why do you try to change me? No matter what you choose I’ll be here fighting. I love being yours. Playing with the fall leaves. Biking in the moonlit rain. Protect me and I will protect you. Love me and I will love you. - Your body