Women's Fiction

Twelve - stories from around the world


This book will launch on Nov 14, 2020. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒

Choices. Life offers us plenty. How do you know you chose correctly?

From the streets of West Berlin to the lush tropical climes of Bali, from New Delhi to New York - these stories follow characters faced with choices that could send their lives in different and sometimes opposite directions.

A daughter who wants more from life, a father who contemplates ending his; a love lost, a love retained, a love forgotten. Regret, retribution and remorse are liberally sprinkled through this diverse and eclectic collection of short stories. In surprising, vivid and thought-provoking journeys across continents, cultures and landscapes, an indubitable truth emerges - human emotions are essentially the same world over.

Savour this collection of tales that range from smooth to dark, nutty to silly, and bitter to sweet.

Which story would you like to bite into today?


Okasan was a careful gardener. She had ensured that the cherry blossom tree in our vast garden was watered, pruned and tended to well. Tall and majestic now, it had been a mere sapling as a wedding gift to her, and in its yearly blossoms, she had seen her own contentment grow. Otosan and she had been a happy couple. That rare couple that spoke with their eyes, finished each other's sentences and seemed to live in their own enchanted bubble that not even us three children could penetrate.

I have inherited this tree, along with everything else - the businesses, the properties, the vast and intricate network of our family fortune. 

The blossoms are a delicate pink. One falls on my lap, and I look at it lying there. Midori reaches for it and brings it up to my nose. I inhale deeply. They lie when they say that the sakura has no fragrance. To smell the sakura blossom, you have to close your eyes and open your heart.

* * *

It was on a bed of fallen blossoms that my heart had been awakened to love and to pain.

His kiss was like a brush of a petal against my lips. My eyes had met his, in longing and in confusion. He'd brushed the hair out of my eyes and leaned in again. My lips had parted of their own volition, letting his tongue collide with mine, to explore my mouth; to probe, feel and arouse. His fingers had caressed my face, his touch setting off a thousand little explosions in my body. His arousal mirrored mine. We'd fumbled with each other's clothes, scarcely pausing to think, hoping that the dusk would conceal our lust. Hoping that no wandering feet or prying eyes would find us, limbs entwined, gorging on one another with an insatiable urgent desire.

What a strange thing!

to be alive

beneath cherry blossoms

He'd quoted Kobayashi Issa when he first saw our sakura tree, this peculiar guest from America, this boy-man with his blue eyes and his blonde hair, and his odd way of lisping our names. Okasan had taken him under her wing. He was her replacement son, the boy who would substitute for Masahiko whilst he was away being Americanised. This boy who spoke Japanese with a Californian drawl that made me snigger behind his back. My sister Noriko had followed him around like a lamb, fascinated by this strange entity who had invaded our closed but happy world. I, however, had held back. Perhaps even then I had sensed how fatal he would be.

Our assignations were always set under the tree, the only place we were unobserved from the house. Just one look from him was enough to send the blood rushing to my head. His gentle exploration of my body, limb by limb. His teaching me what my own body was capable of. His watching me climax, delaying his own gratification. His amusement at my greed, at my contrastingly frantic hunger for him. His placing a sakura bloom behind my ear then his tongue inside, making me come unexpectedly.

Forty years of living a lie.

How can it be that memories from an age ago are as fresh as this blossom, while everything else is dried like parchment? Dried, crumpled, forgotten. 

Was it in those stolen moments that I had fallen in love? In those mysterious glances that passed between us, in the beading of the sweat that lined his upper lip, in his whispered promises? We were young, it was true, but I had never felt more alive than when he held me in his arms. Alive to the possibilities of life and love.

And yet.

I had planned to follow him to America; to convince my parents to let me do what Masahiko had done before me. Such plans we had had. Such dreams. And the kami had laughed in their celestial abode.

Forty years of living a lie. 

Why did I survive? If anyone had to perish that day, it should have been me. Okasan, Masahiko, Noriko - all gone in a freak boating accident. It was meant to be a fun picnic that I had instigated and then been unable to participate in. Otosan, who was too busy with work that day, and I, too ill to go, were the only surviving members of a once happy family. Watching Otosan crumpling into himself, unable to process the loss of the other half of him. And I - I, with my survivor's guilt, watching my dreamt-of future receding farther and farther away, even as the furious waves of grief and remorse knocked me down each time I tried standing up.

One never questioned duty. It was my duty to marry, to produce the heirs and to carry forward the lineage. So I did what was expected of me, breaking it off in a letter that said so little, that it said it all.

Forty years of living a lie.

* * *

Every Wednesday, Midori, my granddaughter visits me. She is the only one out of six grandchildren who has the time for me. We used to talk a lot when she was little: her curious little queries, her amicable silences and her silent observations reminding me of myself at her age. I would amuse her with my origami birds. We would lie under this tree and I would recite the haiku of Basho, Buson, and yes, even Issa. She still retains an affection for me, perhaps a legacy of those early days. 

She humours me by bringing me to the tree every week. Even when it is not in bloom. She senses my need and indulges it with her usual grace and sensitivity which I worry might lead to great pain in her own life. 

As for mine, it is nearly over. This prison of a body is letting me down gradually. I will be free of it soon, of this I am sure. Yet I will never be free of a love that I let go of voluntarily, nor the idea of the life that I might have had. 

Forty years of living a lie. 

Pretence and regret have been my closest companions in life. If I were to do it all over again, would I do the same? Would I submit my life to duty, denying myself the happiness of honesty and love? Maybe. Maybe not.

I let out a little grunt to tell Midori that I am ready to return to the house. 

She lowers me onto the bed, shooing the otetsudai-san away. My eyes thank her. She leans forward and moves the hair out of them. Her touch is feather-light, reminding me momentarily of another touch from another time, long ago.

“Rest well, Ojiisan. I will come again next week.”

She slips out of the room silently, leaving her old, paralysed grandfather to dream of blushing sakura and trysts with golden-haired gods.

About the author

Born and raised in India, Poornima moved to the UK over twenty years ago. Her love of writing began at a very early age and has remained with her all her life. She has authored four short story collections and one novella. You can find her at: www.poornimamanco.com view profile

Published on July 29, 2020

50000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Women's Fiction

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