*Continued from Pearl, Harbour: Safe Harbour
He endures his internment peacefully. Outnumbered and unarmed, there seems little choice. Mistaken for one of over a thousand Japanese soldiers - confusion at his accent merely eliciting treatment as a possible spy - and with no paper to authenticate his claim of being Australian, he is ushered into No. 12 Prisoner of War Compound near Cowra. Just 800-yards across, fenced with nearly impenetrable barbed-wire entanglements, it is clear this will be home for some time to come.
She pines outside the perimeter while he's fed, learns to wrestle and play baseball. The camaraderie among his alien compatriots is strong, but his heart is not like theirs. He serves no emperor, no pantheon of god. Only a desire to return to suntanned arms and pale bosom of a lover impossibly near, and to take her with him to the coast he reluctantly left. She is the oyster too deep, barely visible amid the sea of incarcerated men and just out of reach.
He is outcast among outcast. His spirit does not rise with the rising sun. He doesn't know their tongue and he doesn't share their arrogance that his captors are weak and spiritually corrupt. He does not change his name to avoid family shame and he does not share their strange bravado in the face of death. Proximity alone dictates a reluctant friendship with a junior officer whose English is not as broken as the others.
"The white woman. She is with you?"
Kintaro withholds a smile, this place undeserving of such a gesture. A poetic sigh escapes lips, encouraged by the memory of soft flesh and inviting warmth. There is no answer, but its meaning universal and clear.
"Mono no aware." The lieutenant also withholds a smile, memory of wife and child left behind.
"Ah. I apologise. She is your cherry blossom."
Kintaro shakes his head. His father sometimes called his mother this, but he never knew why. "I don't understand."
Pursed lips in concentration, the Jap officer struggles to find the proper word. "She is sensitive. To you."
A nod. "She's my cherry blossom." His pearl in the water.
She's been a regular and recognizable presence along the fence-line for months, so much so that several of the older Aussie sentries ignore her and younger believe themselves to be in love with her. Some have learned her name, attributing it to the span of post and wire she is most frequently stationed. The Elise Line. It is a hard, cruel joke, though the intent was merely one of immature convenience.
Elise was initially not allowed so close, held at bay by overly-paranoid men following overly-paranoid orders that resulted in Australian citizenry piled in with Japanese infantry for no other reason than they looked like each other. Day after day begot familiarity and once a private managed to retrieve her story, few had the stomach to prevent her touching the flexible metals that restricted her lover's movement. There were whispers of rescuing her from the wretched love of a yellow, degenerating quickly into wondering how tight her vagina was or how supple her breasts. She ignored it, unimportant to her purpose. Together they had run far enough, then not far enough at all. The war cannot last forever, and she wants him know that she is waiting.
He is still too far away. She remains vigil, ever visible, taking care to wear bright colors and let her hair sway in sympathetic winds. They do not speak, voice finding it too hard to carry and what wished to be spoken finding it too public for speech. He barely acknowledges her presence, refusing to wave or otherwise expose either of them to unnecessary risk.
There is gossip among the inmates. Plans are poor, but well afoot, as his comrades plot escape. Tonight, this spurious band of brothers are told that all interns but the officers and senior enlisted will be transferred. He hears the beginning of the ruckus when a small group rushes the barely guarded gates, shouting and gesticulating what looks like a warning to the handful of sentries. Unable to understand, he watches and waits, returning himself to shadow, seeking an opening, an opportunity in the dark to slip from his confinement.
A prisoner's bugle blares, a warning shot is fired. More gunfire releases airborne and three mobs scream 'Banzai,' pushing forward, breaking through the wire. Still crouched in his vantage point he waits, poised to slink through the breach. Bodies fling and dive across the wire, buffered by their army-issue blankets, armed with knives, baseball bats, clubs studded with nail and hook, wire stilettos and garotting cords.
Within minutes, 400 men break through, enduring fire from a Vickers gun, sinking poorly sharpened knives into the flesh of its operators and clubbing them to death. Half-clad, sleepy guards shocked into arousal fumble from their camp beds, frantically forcing rounds into and from their rifles, adding to confusion. Huts now ablaze as slaughter continues. Horror abounds as some Japanese slit their own throats rather than be captured - this the honourable thing to do - but Kintaro maintains his calm, recalling method used before attempting a dive possibly too deep. He lives by a different code and takes flight in the opposite direction, breaking free into open country. He maneuvers blindly through razor wire and pas palum before losing himself in the dark. He's wounded but oblivious to the stream of blood coursing from a deep wound around his thigh. It is not what he's running away from that preoccupies his mind, but what he's running to. She propels him, provides him with the strength and will to avoid capture. His shadow, barely visible under star and moonlight, leads the way, intent on finding hers.
Because the setting sun left her in the dark, he never knew she sometimes waited at night, studying Kintaro's silhouette until it was as familiar to her as his image. Now-friendly guards had guided her to safety, her eyes never leaving Kintaro's hut. Via starlight and lover's insight, she follows him until his wound allows her to finally surface in his embrace.
*Continued in Pearl, Harbour: Cherry Blossom
The Complete Pearl, Harbour
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