"Are you sure about this, Yuka?" Chie asked her older sister.
Yuka nodded.
"But why do you want a divorce? What has Ryoji done to you?"
Yuka remained silent.
Her husband Ryoji was a quiet man, but he finally opened his mouth before his wife and her sister. "Not once have I ever cheated on you, nor do I remember ever slighting you. Now that we've just married off our son, it's time for the two of us to live our lives together, don't you think? But if you say you want to leave me, there's nothing I can do. At any rate, why don't you tell me why you want a divorce?"
After shedding tears, Yuka opened her mouth. "I'm sorry, Ryoji, but I've never really loved you. It's been thirty years since we were married at my parents' urging. But T, whom I met half a year ago through my volunteer work, made me realize something. You may laugh at such behavior in a woman my age, but I'm in love for the first time in my life. I've never known such a feeling until I met him. You may call it a woman's joy. He's made me experience such romance."
"Don't be ridiculous, Yuka." Chie leaned forward. "What do you know about love? A married couple is supposed to stick together through thick and thin. Romance is an illusion for young people. Look at me, I'm a good example. I married a man who said he would die for me, but he ended up leaving me for another woman. So I've been single for twenty years. T, or whatever his name is, has been fooling you, Yuka. He's after your divorce settlement. The man knows that your husband has been successful in business. No doubt he's in it for the money."
"He's not like that. I'm not asking you for any money, Ryoji. He says that's fine with him."
"Well then, I'll be a witness. You won't get a single cent."
Yuka nodded. They kept silent for a while.
Chie broke the silence. "Okay then, Yuka." She sounded irritated. "I'm moving in with Ryoji. Is that all right? I've always been fond of you, Ryoji. You remember you once said, 'You and I would have gotten along well, too, Chie.'"
Ryoji gave a wry smile. "Chie, that was just a hypothetical situation."
"I know. But I can't just leave you alone now that my sister is walking out on you for no good reason. When she's gone, I'll move in here and look after you, Ryoji. I hope it's all right with you, Yuka."
Yuka gave a deep nod. "I'm feeling happy as a woman now. So if you just sign divorce papers, Ryoji, I won't ask you for anything." She wiped tears from her eyes.
"Well, I suppose there's nothing I can do to change your mind. It's painful for me, too, to live with someone who doesn't want to stay with me." Ryoji signed the divorce papers with a trembling hand.
Half a year had passed since Yuka left. Every day Chie would speak to Ryoji in a cheerful tone to keep him from sinking into dark moods.
Before long, Ryoji began to think he should get on with his life.
Then a lawyer paid Ryoji a visit, demanding Yuka's alimony and her share of the property.
"She can't be serious! You agreed to give her a divorce because she said she didn't want anything from you, Ryoji. I don't see why she has to bring this up now. I'll be a witness. Let's have it settled before the proper authorities," Chie rattled on.
"We'll discuss specifics at a later date." That was all the lawyer said before leaving.
Three more months had passed before the lawyer returned. However, unlike before, he spoke in a soft voice. "Actually, T, Yuka's partner, went missing when he learned that it would take time to divide the assets."
Ryoji leaned forward. "Does that mean Yuka is coming back?"
"No. She did you wrong when she left you. And besides…"
"What is it?"
"You may find it hard to understand, but she said she would live in the afterglow."
"Afterglow?" Ryoji tilted his head to one side, looking doubtful. Then he said quietly, "Okay then. I'll send her money to cover her living expenses."
"No. I didn't come here to negotiate today. I'm just reporting what she said."
"I don't mind. I'd like to cherish her afterglow."
As Chie heard Ryoji's words, tears welled up in her eyes. "Ryoji, do you mean a married couple's afterglow?"
Ryoji flashed a smile and gazed up at the sky. Chie gently rubbed his back.

    About the Author: A retired high school science teacher, Yoshiro Takayasu lives with his wife and fellow poet Mitsuko in Togane, Chiba. He is the author of several poetry collections, including Mukashi mukashi (1982) and Jigenkyo (1987). 

English translations by Toshiya Kamei of Yoshiro's fiction and poetry have appeared in various journals, including The Broken Plate, The Dirty Goat, Gargoyle Magazine, Metamorphoses, Nebo, and Visions International.

                                                     (編集)  (アーカンソー大学モンティチェロ校