Aiko laid out the flowers on the row of graves. Jasmines, always jasmines. But today, she'd brought carnations as well. White carnations. It was her mother's birthday.
"They stand for pure, innocent love." Ryo used to tell her, when she was young. She hadn't bothered to ask after she'd grown up.
"Really? They're so beautiful!" she would say. As a little girl, flowers had always fascinated her.
"That's what your mum used to say, too. They were her favourite."
She put the carnation down, and closed her eyes. Because I love you, mum, she whispered in her mind, I will always love you.
Her youngest daughter peered from behind her, trying to read the name on the headstone. She didn't bother telling her that it was her grandmother, or the grave next to it was her grandfather's. What was the point, she thought. They are just names to her.
One day, I'll be here too, just a name on a piece of stone. She couldn't stop the thought from running through her head, but strangely, it didn't scare her. It didn't scare her at all, she only felt a vague longing. Maybe this was how it felt, waiting for death. Maybe she was looking for a place to rest her soul. Maybe, like everyone else, she was looking for a place to die.
Her other daughter hovered a little distance away, near Umibozu and Miki's graves. She remembered Miki a little from her childhood, for her, it was the only name that had a face to go with it.
Norio would tell them about their grandparents sometimes, the funny things that Ryo did, and how Umibozu would be scared of a tiny cat. It made them laugh, but other than that she thought it useless. What was the point, telling them about someone they'd never get to know?
She knew how it was, to know someone through other people's memories. She didn't want to pass the legacy on.
But deep down somewhere, she knew that if Kaori had lived, she would have loved her, no matter what, no matter who she was. Not just because she was her mother, but because she couldn't live without loving everyone around her. Because she had too much love inside her, and it spread to everyone.
That's all the matters, in the end, she thought as she walked away, her daughters following at her heels. It's love that stays.