It is a pale, dusty pink, a color once called ashes of roses. I don’t know if that’s the right name now. Without thinking, I rub the fabric between my fingertips, judging. Silk crepe, the best quality I’ve ever felt.
Flowers spill over the shoulders and down the open front of the kimono, with pale tendrils ending just above the hem. The inside is a darker pink, making me think again of roses, though that’s not what these flowers are.
“Cherry blossoms,” Claire days, reading my mind. “It’s Japanese.”
“I thought you said it was French?” I take the kimono from her, spread it across my lap. It is simultaneously weightless and substantial. The embroidery is heavier on the back, pink-and-white flowers massed across the shoulders, interspersed with vivid green leaves. The silk thread has texture under my fingers. The flowers are so lifelike I almost expect them to have a fragrance.
“We bought it in Paris,” she says patiently. “It’s from Japan. Stand up, let’s try it on.”
“It’s too nice—” I try to fight her off but I’m afraid she will damage the kimono in her enthusiasm to dress me up. “Fine.”
Putting it on, I look at myself in the triple mirror I normally avoid. The dampness outside has loosened my hair, and it falls in waves to my chin. My cheeks are flushed, my eyes bright. But for the telltale tightness around my mouth, I am almost unrecognizable.
“I can’t wear this.” I slip it off regretfully, trying not to think about how it felt. How I looked.
Claire bundles it up and thrusts it into my hands. “You have to.” She reaches into the box and throws the sash—pink on one side, green on the other—on top of the pile. “If you don’t take it, I’ll put it in the rubbish.”
“You wouldn’t.” In spite of myself, I clutch it to my chest.
“I would, Ava, and I will.” Claire laughs delightedly. “Now, will you take it?”
It is the most beautiful thing I have ever touched, and I want it so badly I can barely breathe. I think of the skill and the hours devoted to the embroidery of all those blossoms, the many thousands of miles it has traveled to reach my hands; I can’t let her destroy it, and she would, just to prove her point.
“Fine,” I mutter. “I’ll take it.”