Here is the story synopsis:
When Kate Bennett first meets Jo Hitachi, she isn’t sure what to think. How can a person make a decent living selling origami in Washington, D.C.? But with each new paper sculpture that he makes, the simple artist hints that he’s more than he seems. He’s asking her to trust him, but can Kate really afford to trade in the security of her ambitious career for a life built out of love and paper castles?
Want more? Check out the excerpt:
If the sun was out and the skies were clear, I would find the paper artist sitting by the water below his pink canopy of cherry blossoms in the National Mall, selling his folded miracles to tourists and children. Most of his washi paper stock was patterned in these fantastic shades of oriental reds and royal purples, but he always kept a few sheets of snowy white on hand just in case I stopped by his table.
“Good morning, Kate! What would you like me to make for you today?” he would always ask in his quiet way.
I would always answer him with a request for an animal of some sort.
“May I have a bear?” I’d ask; or I’d say, “Make me a paper crane, please!”
And he would. His strong, tan hands would fold the warm white paper in a series of crisp-edged angles that would invariably become the very animal I sought. I would give him his money and then I would walk away cradling some new treasure. In one month, I must have collected thirty animals to place on my bookshelf at home beside Jo’s paper cat. By the end of April, I had run out of room on my bedroom bookshelf and had to add them to the top of my desk. May found me hanging all of the birds from my bedroom ceiling with golden thread—my own miniature flock in mock flight. Each bird would wheel and turn at the slightest breeze from my apartment’s second-story window. At night, I would watch them fly until their quiet rustling lulled me to sleep.
One day in May I asked Jo if he could make my animals a zoo. It was better, I reasoned, to house my entire paper art collection all in one place rather than to sacrifice my bookshelves, desk, bedroom ceiling, and half of the kitchen table to display their scattered kind. Such beautiful works of art deserved a true home of their own after all, and I had a blank corner in the living room just waiting for the proper decor.
Jo considered this latest request in serious silence for a moment before answering, “Tell me, Kate, have you gathered every origami figure that you desire?”
I shook my head. “No, not yet.”
“When you have all you want, I will build you a castle!” he declared. “Now, what shall I make for you today?”
“A swan,” I said eagerly.
Jo smiled. “Ah, the elegant swan. Even the ugliest of their ducklings becomes beautiful with enough maturity.”
I smiled. “That’s my favorite Hans Christian Anderson story!”
“Ah, you’re well-acquainted with fairy tales then. Good. I love fairy tales of all kinds, but I must admit that I like those with happy endings the best.” His hands moved like tan lightning across his little table and soon a snowy swan was born from the blank paper twisting between his deft fingers.
“Why is the ‘The Ugly Duckling’ your favorite?” he asked as he finished shaping the bird’s graceful neck.
I rubbed my hands up and down my suit-sleeved arms even though it wasn’t particularly cold.
“Because I’m not a pretty woman,” I finally admitted. “Growing up I felt more than a little like that ugly duckling. Most days I still do. I still hope that maybe I’ll grow out of my awkward nose and bulldog cheeks and become a beautiful swan in my own way, even though I know it isn’t really possible anymore.”
“The truest beauty is the one we carry in our minds, not in our bodies. Besides, you’re beautiful to me in both ways,” Jo said, his expression sincere. “Just like a queen—a swan queen.” He gazed at me a long moment before presenting the paper sculpture to me. “Tell me when she truly flies.”
I blinked at him in astonishment and then nodded. I handed over my monetary thanks, which he refused, and hurried down the blossom-strewn lane so he wouldn’t see the blush overtaking my face or the tears stinging my eyes…
I hope you liked this sample from “Paper Castles”. To pre-order the story, go HERE. Thanks!
Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!
The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!