Aki perched on the boulder looking out over the bay. She watched the sun set over the green waves. Ever since the storm had taken her home last year it had become her custom to sit here each afternoon, face pointing to the west, bidding a kind and solemn farewell to the day.
She boarded with the old woman Tanaka, and this spot was a short walk from that house. Her ritual was to take her last meal of the day while the sun was still high, and then make way down here to watch the light fade from the sky.
Aki was alone in the world now. A strange illness had claimed many lives in the town a few years ago, and her had succumbed. Their only son was away in school. She had no other family, and the only person she considered a friend was old Tanaka, who was mostly deaf.
She had lived her entire life in this village. She’d watched a generation come up after her and move away. She had watch the generation before her slowly die off. There seemed to be nothing else to do except to wait her turn.
Looking down at her folded hands, she knew that the bloom of youth was long gone from her. But these were not old woman’s hands.
So she waited. Patiently. Quietly. Living her days with duty and simplicity. Finding a gentle rhythm to the seasons that brought her comfort. She tended the garden at Tanaka’s place. Helped neighbors, and tried to make herself useful.
The sun was almost to the edge of the water now. The sky was pale and translucent, like a fine plate. Long, golden rays swept over the sea and she closed her eyes, breathing in light.
When she opened her eyes, it took a moment for them to adjust and she cast them down to where her feet were resting. Something caught her eye. She stared. A glint of something that didn’t belong among the countless gray pebbles and drying seaweed.
Bending over she moved some of the stones away to reveal a large, red gem the size of her thumb. It could not have been there naturally. It was polished and faceted, but it not part of anything. She glanced around.
No one had just dropped it. And as far as she knew, no one in this village had ever owned anything so spectacular.
She picked it up and allowed herself a brief moment to marvel at its beauty. Then she drop it into the small pouch she carried with her.
Whatever it is, she thought dutifully, I’ll find its owner. I’ll start searching tomorrow.