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I was hoping someone might come by to see me as I rolled over on the shrine’s roof. Little did I know the person to appear would change my whole life. The sun glinted through the branches of the overgrown trees that fluttered in the breeze. The metal tiles under me were getting hot in the sun’s rays. I let out a breath, bored as fuck. The sky was its same water blue and the roofing tiles were still just as uncomfortable as every day before.
The breeze rusted the bells so they rang softly and with that, the girl appeared. I tipped my head back off the edge of the roof and watched as she bowed at the Torii. As she lifted her head and her vibrant eyes locked on me I fell right off the roof and onto the moss-covered stones below.
Scrambling to my feet, I ran behind the shrine and grabbed my face. I studied my hand to make sure my nose wasn’t bleeding. Then I leaned back and peeked around the edge of the building. She was standing at the water place, though I swear it had been dry for years.
She passed the scoop between her hands as if there were water there to purify her. I jerked back behind the building as she turned to face the shrine again. On my tippy toes, I crept around the shrine to the other side as she walked up the stone steps and inside the shrine.
I poked my head around the corner just enough to see her place a coin in the offering box. She bowed deeply twice and I could feel my heart pick up. I walked into the room as quietly as I could and despite the creaky floorboards, didn’t make a sound. Standing a few feet to one side of her, I bowed my head and placed the palms of my hands together.
“Dear god whose name has been lost to time, I seek your blessing to repair your shine. My deepest apologies for leaving your temple unkempt.” She thought and then clapped twice. I didn’t move as she bowed again but I could hear her jump when she saw me standing there.
I clapped my hands twice and bowed, keeping my eyes closed. She stood still until I stood up straight and looked at her. Her hair was tied back into a bun with a flower pen holding it in place. It matched her purple skirt with flowers splashed on one side. And on her face, she wore the most stunning look of contempt.
“Were you the one who fell off the roof earlier?” She asked with arms crossed.
I winced slightly at her words but a small smile crept on my face. “I didn’t fall, I just wasn’t graceful as a flew.”
She shook her head at me. “This shrine is under enough stress, it can’t handle some jokester wearing out its beams.”
I shrugged and leaned back against a support pillar. One of the panels fell out of the ceiling and hit my head. She shook her head at me again and started towards the door where she had left her shoes.
“Can you tell me where the nearest spring is?” She asked over her shoulder.
I furrowed my brow slightly and walked towards her. She turned to look at me.
“I’m sure you must come by here often if you knew the bell rope was broken.” Her eyes were narrowed slightly as she looked back at me, “Unless you just didn’t care to summon the god who resides here before praying.”
I grinned and sat down on the mat with my legs crossed. “It’s nearby, you can hear it just to the east.”
The look in her eyes shifted and she nodded her thanks to me before leaving. I leaned back against the beam and looked out of the hole up at the roof. I let a burst of air out of my lips. I knew she wouldn’t come back to clean the shrine, no one had bothered with it for years.
I was still staring up at the few flickers of light that shone down through the hole when the girl returned. She had a bucket of water in one hand and an old cloth in the other. She jumped when she saw me, nearly dropping her water. I laughed at her, making her glare at me.
“Why are you still here?” She set the bucket down and glared at me.
“I stay here until my prayer has been fulfilled.” I stood up and walked to the top of the steps.
She did her best to ignore me and scratched the moss off the steps with her rag.
“You’re cleaning up this dump?” I leaned against the door and heard something snap behind me.
She rolled her eyes. “A shrine is a shrine and it must be taken care of.”
I laughed at her and lay down at the top of the steps. Biting the inside of my cheek, I watched her scrub. She ignored me for a while, which was quite alright because I knew she’d come around.
“Are you just going to lay there and watch me?” she hissed.
“Yes, if it’s quite alright with you.”
“Well, it’s not. Hit the road.”
I looked up at the graying sky. “I told you, I’m not leaving until my prayer is fulfilled.”
She stood up and stormed off with the bucket in hand. I happily waited for her to return with clean water. She worked hard on those steps until they seemed to glow with her pride.
“All done?” I asked as she whipped her brow.
“And what will you do tomorrow?”
“I’ll move debris from the grounds.”
“Well I hope you sleep well, then, that will be hard work.”
She nodded and turned to leave. I watched her walk out as the sun started to set. I rolled my eyes and walked back to the shrine.
Against my every prediction, the pissy little girl showed up again the next day just after lunch. I was asleep on the roof when the prayer bell rattled loudly. Jolting up, I lost my balance and tumbled feet first off the shrine. I looked up at her from the well-shined steps, rubbing the back of my head. She was standing on a block, tieing a new rope to the frayed end of the last one.
“You know they say the god who lives here is evil. That’s why they cut the rope; so no one could ever call him again.” I said.
“Well what do you know, you’re still here.” Her voice was dull.
I couldn’t help but assume she tied the rope on first in order to wake me up. Standing up, I dusted off my stained white and red yukata. She stepped down and walked past me into the garden. She picked up a fallen branch and started pulling it away. Her eyes latched on me standing there, watching her.
“You could help me you know.” She tugged the branch and a piece of hair fell in front of her face.
I tipped my head to the side and grinned. “Only God can help you.”
She snorted and kept about her business. She pulled up weeds and swept the ground and took the leaves off the roof. I watched as she went about her busy work.
“Come sit with me,” I called from the steps of the shrine.
“I have to finish the garden before nightfall.” She said softly back.
“It’ll all still be here tomorrow.” I put my hands behind my head and leaned back into them, “Myself included.”
“I have to finish it.”
I looked around. “Does that include trimming the bushes and trees?”
“And washing the stones?”
“And rebuilding the sei-chu? And making the shimenawa, cleaning the lion dogs, and planting a new sacred tree?”
She yelled something indistinct and then looked at me. “I have to get it done!”
“Alright,” I said and watched her work.
The birds chattering stopped at nightfall and in the last light of the day, the girl was still working. The plants had all been restored to their proper size but little more than that had been done.
“Will you be okay? Walking back in the dark that is?” I said in the doorway of the shrine.
“I don’t know.” She said softly and picked up another few trimmings, “there doesn’t seem to be anyone else in these woods so I should be fine.”
“You won’t trip?”
She dumped the scraps and then walked over to the shrine where I stood. Sitting down, she looked at the garden in the last rays.
“I didn’t get enough done.”
I looked at her and raised an eyebrow. “I suppose you will need to get here earlier tomorrow.”
Crickets rubbed their wings together in the absence of our talking.
“Go home,” I said after a moment and then turned to go inside.
“You too.” She said and stood up.
“I’d love too.”
I could feel her eyes on me as I watched the light fade from the offering box.
This short story is finished! If I get 10 likes I’ll publish the second have and don’t forget to subscribe you so can read it! Thank you for reading!