Wayback Wednesday Photo Writing Prompt The Price of Beauty #WW #fridayflash #samplesunday

Onsen geisha Matsuei, who Yasunari Kawabata me...
Image via Wikipedia


Once Upon a Time and Way Back Then

My recent Goldfish for Dinner #fridayflash which was inspired by a goldfish vase I saw on Antiques Roadshow has put me in the mood to start posting visual writing prompts using old photographs. To kick off my Wayback Wednesday I’ll start with this photo of Onsen geisha Matsuei.

Write a story, write a drabble, write a poem, write anything. If this inspires you drop me a link to your post in the comments, or send it to me on Twitter.


The Price of Beauty

     I could hear the girls in the next room giggling. My heart pounded inside my bound robes. Tonight was the night I would become a woman. My flower had been purchased for a very high price. It was enough to pay back the house-mother, buy a strand of pearls and get me one step closer to being a kept woman with my own apartment.

My sister waltzed into the room, her oval eyes were riddled with worry. “Are you ready sister?”

     She fitted a jeweled ornament into my lacquered hair. I averted my eyes. I did not want to tell her that giving myself to Shujan would not be difficult. Whenever we sat next to each other at the tea house he was always kind in thought and manner. His smooth voice made my heart race. I was fortunate the others did not out bid him.  

“I think so.”

My sister brought her delicate fingers up to her mouth and hid her teeth while she laughed. “Tomorrow you can tell me all about it. I want to be prepared when my time comes.”

Her words stilled my heart. “Father would not like you to say such things.”

Her eyes flashed with anger. “Our poor father does not have the luxury to shame us. Afterall, he is the one who brought us here. “

     I understood her anger, even felt it sometimes. But, being the older sister my memories reached further back than hers. To a happy time, when food was on the table and laughter filled the air. A time before mother was sick and death had reached our doorstep.

My sister fixed the collar of my robe. Her eyes glistened with tears. “Would mother have liked Shujan?”

     I grabbed her hand, it was soft like flower petals. I often forgot she was too young to remember mother and too young to understand how heartbroken father was when she died.

“Yes, she would say he is a good man.”

She straightened her shoulders. “Then we must find such a man for me.”

I kissed her. My red lipstick marked her check. “We will, I promise.”

My sister’s small face leaned toward me; her voice was soft. “Sometimes at night, when the house is quiet, I can sense her watching over me while I sleep. “

“You are lucky dear sister. I have never had that feeling.”

She squeezed my hand. “Don’t worry older sister, I know she watches over you too.”  

     That night as I got into the carriage I looked up into my window. For a brief moment I thought I saw my mother smiling down at me. Her long, black hair hung loose about her shoulders, her palm rested again the glass. My mind was flooded with memories of the sound of her voice and the smell of her skin. I blinked and she was gone.


19 Comments Add yours

  1. I love these sorts of challenges – besides it takes care of a daily post, exercises my brain, and I get to read other great entries on the ame subject. I’ll let you know when it’s posted! Thanks, Lara!

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      Yes please do! We all see the same photo, but the stories are so varied – that’s the fun part.

  2. Er, that’s “same” subject, not “ame,” “lame,” or “tame,” etc. . . :mrgreen:

  3. My first reaction is WOW … you did it again. Then it flashed … start sending these in to different short story mags … both on line and in print there are dozens of places.

    This is a heart-felt story and I loved how it showed the tender moments of what the life of the geisha once was in Japan.

    Lovely story, Lara 🙂

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      You are such a great supporter! Thank you for your encouragement, always pushes me when I need it.

  4. Hi there Lara – liked the multitude of layers in here, and the detail of the older sister being able to remember back to better times. Good story and interesting photo prompt.


    1. Lara Dunning says:

      Thanks Stephen. I really enjoyed writing this story. Changed the ending a few times before one felt right.

  5. Sonia Lal says:

    The ending is perfect! Loved all the layers in the story. You put so many in such a short story.

  6. John Wiswell says:

    Found the notion of her flower being purchased more disturbing than anything you’ve done with vampires. Glad you found the ending you liked – I think it works, too.

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      In undergrad I wrote a paper on women as cash crops. It is disturbing that even today in some countries a girls virginity will bring her parents a hefty some of money. One of the benefits of having a girl. The Geisha is an interesting subject as she was trained in various arts and mannerism that would be appealing. Those attributes would make her beautiful. Thanks for your comments. Always appreciated as I admire your work.

  7. Steve Green says:

    I am sometimes saddened by what a young woman has to do to survive in the world, even if it is an accepted practice.

    A well-crafted, story with plenty of emotion written in.

  8. Lara, here mine is at last. It is probably not what you expected. It isn’t what I expected either.


    1. Lara Dunning says:

      That made me want to read what you wrote even more.

      1. Lara – this is the work I started and abandoned on this prompt. I worked on it in an attempt to finish what I had started. It’s still not really finished, but for some reason or other, I decided to post it today! Here’s the link:


      2. Lara Dunning says:

        Made a comment on your site. I liked where you took this.

  9. adampb says:

    The image is very beguiling and provides an interesting context for the story. A very emotional piece.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  10. Maria Kelly says:

    I’m sad for the girl losing her mother, so painful. You’ve conveyed that wonderfully without actually saying it…which is the finest writing there is. 🙂

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