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Cherry Blossom Girl

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Prologue

“Auntie Lins?”

I paused on my way into my in-laws’ kitchen at the sound of my name. A quick glance down to my left, and I saw one of my many nieces and nephews standing a couple of feet away.

“Yeah, Mia?” I asked, hoping I’d got my niece’s name right. There were so many smaller Hansons these days – my two notwithstanding – that I was beginning to have trouble keeping track. She didn’t correct me, much to my relief, instead giving me a smile.

“How did you and Uncle Taylor meet?” Mia asked. She’d put her hands together behind her back and was rocking back on her heels as she studied me, deep brown eyes fixed on mine.

“Did you ask Uncle Taylor?” I replied, and resumed my walk through to the kitchen. Just out of the corner of my eye I could see Mia trotting alongside me, skipping a little so she could keep up with my long strides.

“He said I should ask you.”

I bit back a laugh. Of course he did.

I stopped walking just outside the kitchen door and lowered myself into a crouch so that I was at my niece’s level. Once I was sure I wasn’t going to overbalance I shook back the right sleeve of my hoodie and turned my hand so that Mia could see the underside of my wrist. In very faint writing that I recognised as Taylor’s was a date – March 17 2017. He had the same date on his own wrist, only in my hand.

“We met after a concert,” I said. I brushed my left thumb across my wrist, over the writing. “Did your mum and dad tell you about your timer?”

Mia nodded. “Mom said it would be all zeroes when I meet the person I’m gonna marry.”

“Well, you don’t have to marry them. Lots of people don’t. But they’ll be the one person in all of the world who knows you as well as you know yourself. Maybe even better than that.”

She seemed to consider this for a little while. “Is that what happened with you and Uncle Taylor?”

“Yeah, pretty much.” I let out a quiet chuckle. “I swear he would have chased me down after the show that night if I hadn’t gone after him first.” Mia giggled at this, and I cracked a smile. “Do you want to hear the whole story?”

“Yeah!”

“Thought you might. Come on then.”

It wasn’t long before I had what I’d gone to the kitchen for – a cup of tea for me, along with a mug of hot chocolate for Mia – and the two of us had settled ourselves at the little kitchen table. Over Mia’s shoulder I could see into the living room, to where Taylor was sitting on the floor reading to our girls. He looked up from his book just long enough to give me a smile, one that lit up his bright blue eyes.

“So, a story,” I said once I’d drunk some of my tea. “It starts off like many stories do – with a boy and a girl.”