Writing this short story helped me come to terms with a piece of island history. The protagonist is Japanese, but he's also an islander; he's a Canadian. We share a commonality. I'm outraged that a Mayne Islander had to endure what he had to endure. My intention is to pay tribute to his courage.
He looked across the bed to where his strawberry blonde beauty slept. Her chest rose and fell with each breath. He lay there wanting to stay, knowing he had to go.
Fighting his desires, he eased back the quilt. He dressed quickly, but quietly ensuring not to wake her, and as if on cat paws he hurried into the kitchen. Ladling water into the basin, he washed his face. The cold water enlivened him. He looked up, through the kitchen window.
Two solid beams of light cut through the darkness.
Returning to the bedroom, he retrieved his suitcase from under the bed, lay it on the chair, and unfastened the leather straps. He grabbed underwear, shirts, pants and slipped them inside.
Being unable to resist her magnetic pull, he walked over to her side of the bed. His heart longed for her. He bent down and kissed her cheek. "I will always love you," he whispered.
Boot heels struck the porch floorboards. That was his signal. Suitcase in hand, he rushed out of the bedroom, through the kitchen to the door. He pulled it open before they knocked. Wordlessly, he followed them.
In 1942, bowing to public pressure, the Canadian government began interning Japanese nationals and Japanese-Canadians citizens. Nationals and citizens were stripped of their rights, homes, possessions, and way of life. In 1944, Japanese Canadians were ordered to leave BC or face deportation to Japan. It was not until 1988 that Japanese-Canadians received compensation for the wrongs done to them during the Second World War.
On Mayne Island, a Japanese garden grows as a living tribute to the Japanese-Canadian islanders who were forced to leave.