Violet Evergarden: Chapter 2
That a young woman had come.
Sitting there, quietly, she would write letters.
The figures of that person… and of my kindly smiling mother.
That sight… surely…
I would not forget even if I died.
Amanuensis is a profession that has existed since ancient times. It had once come to a point of decay due to the popularization of Auto-Memories Dolls, yet professions that have a long history are loved and protected by no short amount of people. The increase in number of amanuensis machine dolls was precisely what caused nostalgic hobbyists to claim that old-fashioned professions were better off keeping their charm.
The mother of Ann Magnolia was one of those people with fascinatingly old-fashioned taste. With her wavy dark hair, freckles and slender body, Ann’s mother was just like Ann herself in looks and had come from a wealthy household. She was raised as an elite woman, got married and, even after aging, something about her still resembled a “young lady”. The gentle smile she wore whenever letting out a high-pitched laughter was indescribable to whomever saw it. Looking back at how her mother was, even now, Ann thought she was like a little girl. She was vigorous in spite of being a clumsy person, and whenever she would enthusiastically assert, “I want to try this out!”, Ann would retort with, “My, my, again?”.
She was fond of boat rides and dog races, as well as oriental flower arrangements that could be found in quilt embroidery. She was a person who loved learning and had a hobbyist side to her, and if she went to the theaters, it was definitely to watch romance plays. She was keen on laces and ribbons, her dresses and one-pieces mostly similar to those of princesses from fairytales. She imposed them on her daughter too, as she fancied parent-children matching outfits. Ann had sometimes wondered what was up with her mother for wearing ribbons at her age, but never once said it aloud.
Ann treasured her mother more than anyone in the world – even more than her own existence. Although she was a young child, she had believed to be the only one that could protect her mother, who was not a strong person by any means. She loved her mother that blindly.
Around the time when her mother became ill and the date of her passing was approaching, Ann had her first meeting with Auto-Memories Dolls. Even though she had countless memories with her mother, the ones Ann recalled were always about the days they had welcomed a mysterious visitor.
“It” had showed up on a very blue day. The road was bathed with abundant sunrays of a beautiful spring. Next to it, the flowers that had started to bloom from within the thaw were swayed by the feeble wind, their tips shaking. From her home’s garden, Ann was observing the way “it” walked.
Ann’s mother had inherited the top left side of an old but stylish western-architecture building from her family. With its white walls and blue roof tiles, surrounded by huge birch trees, the place was like an illustration out of a children’s book. The residence was peripheral, having been built secluded and quite far from their prospering town. Even if one were to search in every direction, no neighboring houses could be found there. That was why, were there ever any guests coming, they would easily be sighted through the windows.
“What… is that?”
Clad in a smock one-piece that had a large cyan-stripped ribbon collar, Ann looked a bit ordinary yet lovely. It almost seemed like her dark brown eyes would jump out of her head,
given how they were wide open. Ann then peeled her pupils off “it”, which walked towards her direction under the sunlight, and, with her flowery enamel shoes, hurried out of the garden and back into her house. She passed the huge front entrance, climbed the spiral staircase filled with family portraits and burst open a door decorated with a lease made of pink roses.
While her daughter sucked in ragged breaths, the mother reprehended, raising her body a little on her bed, “Ann, don’t I always tell you that you must knock before entering someone’s room? Also, you should ask for permission.”
Upon being lectured, Ann let out an annoyed “muh” in her head, but bowed deeply in apology regardless, her hands clasped together in front of her skirt’s hem. One might wonder if that action was what could be called her “young lady side”. Truth be told, Ann was just a small child. It had been no longer than seven years ever since she was born. Her limbs and face still appeared soft.
“Mom, excuse me.”
“Very well. Then, what is it? Did you find some odd bug outside again? Don’t show it to Mom, okay?”
“It’s not a bug! It’s a walking doll! Well, it actually was really big for a doll, and it looked like one of those bisque dolls from that photo collection you like, Mom.” With her limited vocabulary, Ann spoke as though having a coughing fit. Her mother clicked her tongue at that with a “tsk, tsk”.
“You mean a ‘young woman doll’, right?”
“Come on, Mom!”
“You’re a daughter of the Magnolia family, so your wording should be more graceful. Okay, one more time.”
Puffing her cheeks, Ann reluctantly fixed her manner of speech, “A young woman doll was walking!”
“My, is that so?”
“Only cars pass by our house all the time, right? If she’s on foot, it means she got off at the nearby railroad operation terminal. People who come from that terminal are bound to be our visitors, right?”
“I mean, there’s never anything happening around here! It must mean that woman will be coming to this place!” Ann added, “I… have a feeling that this isn’t a good thing.”
“So we’re playing detective today, huh?” In contrast with the frantic Ann, the mother concluded leisurely.
“I’m not playing around! Hey, let’s close all doors and windows… let’s make it so that this doll… this young woman doll… won’t come inside! It’s alright, I’ll protect Mom.”
The mother gave Ann, who determinedly snuffled through her nose, a strained smile. She probably thought that was just a child spouting nonsense. Even so, at the very least, she decided to go along with the game, getting up in a lethargic fashion. Her peach-colored negligee’s hem dragging along the floor, she stood next to the window. Under the natural light, the silhouette of her slim body could be seen under the fabric.
“My, isn’t that an Auto-Memories Doll? Come to think of it, she was supposed to arrive today!”
“What’s an ‘Auto-Memories Doll’…?”
“I’ll explain later, Ann. Help me get changed!”
A few minutes thereafter, the mother went to her daughter to ready her with the stylishness that was demanded from the Magnolia family. Ann did not change her clothes, but had a ribbon that matched the color of her smock one-piece placed on her head. Her mother, on the other hand, wore an ivory-colored dress with double-layered lace frills, as well as a light yellow shawl over her shoulders and rose-shaped earrings. She sprayed a perfume made of thirty different types of flowers in the air and spun around, wrapping the fragrance around her.
“Mom, are you excited?”
“Even more than if I were to meet a foreign prince.”
That was not a joke. The get-up her mother had chosen was the kind that she would only put on for big occasions. Watching her like that caused Ann to fidget. Such fidgeting was not out of delight.
——I don’t like this… it would have been fine if there weren’t any guests coming…
Children normally look forward to visitors while feeling a bit nervous, but Ann was different. That was because, from the moment she had become aware of the things around her, Ann deducted that any visitors who were coming for her innocent mother would fool her to get to her money. Her mother was a carefree person and visits always made her happy, so she was quick to trust anyone. Ann loved her mother, but her poor monetary management abilities and scarce sense of danger were troublesome.
Not even a person who had the looks of a doll could be guaranteed to not be after the possession of their residence. But what Ann felt more wary of than that was how she could tell with just a glance that the woman’s appearance resonated with her mother’s taste. To Ann, it was nothing but unpleasant for her mother to be invested in anyone other than her.
Since her mother had said, “I want to hurry and meet her!” and not listened to Ann, the two of them had come outside to greet the guest – something they had not done in a long while. Ann assisted her mother, who was out of breath just from descending the stairs, as they walked out, into a world overflowing with sunlight.
The whiteness from the pale skin of her mother, who usually only moved around inside the mansion, stood out too much.
——Mom is… somewhat smaller than she used to be.
Ann could not clearly see her mother’s face in the excess of brightness, but felt that her wrinkles had increased. She squeezed her chest tightly. No one could stop death from reaching out for a sickly hand.
Ann was a young child, but she was the Magnolia family’s sole successor after her mother. She had already been told by doctors that her mother’s life would be short. She had also been told to be prepared. God did not take easy even on seven-year-olds.
——If that’s the case, I want Mom all to myself until the very end.
If her time was running out, Ann wanted her to use it all for herself. Into the world of the girl who had such a mindset, a stranger intruded.
“Excuse me.” Something even more radiant emerged from the sun-bathed green road.
As soon as Ann saw “it”, her bad feeling was confirmed.
——Aah, here’s the one that will steal Mom from me.
Why did she have that thought? Upon looking at “it”, she could say that had been her intuition talking.
“It” was a bewitchingly beautiful doll. Golden hair shining as though she had been born out of moonlight. Blue orbs that glowed like gems. Bright rouge-colored lips so plump as to seem like they had been pressed hard. A Prussian blue jacket under a ribbon-tie snow white dress that bore a mismatched emerald brooch. Cocoa brown knitted boots that stepped steadily onto the ground. Placing the frilly, white and cyan-striped umbrella and bag that she held onto the grass, “it” displayed an etiquette much more elegant than Ann in front of the two.
“Pleased to meet you. I rush anywhere to provide any service a client might need. I’m the Auto-Memories Doll Violet Evergarden.”
Its voice, just as exquisite as its appearance, resounded in their ears. After overcoming her shock from being overwhelmed by its beauty, Ann looked at her mother, who was at ease next to her. Expression painted like a small girl that had just fallen in love, stars twinkled in her eyes out of amazement.
——And, as expected, that’s no good.
Ann thought of the beautiful guest as someone bound to steal her mother away from her.
Violet Evergarden was an Auto-Memories Doll who worked in the automated writing business. Ann questioned her mother as to why she had hired someone like that.
“I want to write letters to someone, but they’d take too long, so I wanted her to write in my stead.” Her mother had laughed. Indeed, she lately was relying on her maids even for bathing. Writing for an extended period would certainly be too hard for her.
“But, why that person…?”
“She’s pretty, isn’t she?”
“She is, but…”
“She’s a celebrity in the industry. The fact that she’s so pretty and doll-like is one of the reasons of her fame, but she’s also said to do really a good job! Moreover, having a woman write letters for me while it’s just the two of us, and having to recite it to her out loud… you don’t need to be a man for this to make you shudder!”
Her mother valued the beautiful, so Ann was convinced that was the main motive why the young woman had been the chosen one.
“If it’s just letters… I could be the one to write them.”
At Ann’s statement, her mother laughed nervously. “Ann still can’t possibly write difficult words. Besides… this are letters that I can’t have you write.” With that last sentence, it was clear who the one doing the writing would be.
——Surely, she intends to write for Dad, huh…
Ann’s father was, simply put, a family abandoner. He never stayed home, albeit not working that much, prospering in taking over the family’s main business. Apparently, her mother had married him out of love, but Ann did not believe that at all. Not once did he visit her mother after she had become sick, and when they thought he was going to come back after a while, he had actually only stopped by to take vases and paintings from the house and sell them, as he was a pitiful man who took refuge in gambling and alcohol.
It seemed he had been a family heir with a promising future in the past. But a few years after getting married, his side of the family had faced minor commercial issues and crumbled down, so the finances had become dependent of the Magnolias. And, from what she had heard, it appeared that the reason behind those minor commercial issues had been her father himself.
Ann swallowed down all the circumstances and despised her father. Even if he had fallen once due to business failure, should he not have continued to do his best? Not only did he not do so, he also turned a blind eye to her mother’s illness and necessities, and kept running away. That was why Ann’s expression would become distorted just by hearing the word “father” coming out of her mother’s mouth.
“Making this kind of face again… it’s a waste of your cute features.”
The creasing between Ann’s eyebrows was stretched out by a massaging thumb. Her mother seemed to lament that she hated her father. It seemed her affection for him remained even while being treated so terribly.
“Don’t think severely of your father. Bad things don’t last. This is just what he wishes to do for the moment. He’s lived his whole life seriously. It’s true. Although our paths are slightly different, if we wait, he will properly return to us someday.”
Ann knew that such days would not come. Even if they did, she had no intention to warmly welcome them. If things turned out the way her unwittingly wavering mother said they would, the fact he did not come see his wife even as she had become terminally ill and repeatedly found herself hospitalized, was not an escapism from reality but an act of love.
He most likely knew that she did not have much time left.
——It’s fine without Dad around.
It was as if he was not there from the start. For Ann, her mother was the only one who classified in the word “family”. And those who saddened her mother were enemies to her, even if one of them was her own father. Anyone who would steal her time with her mother, too. And if that applied to the Auto-Memories Doll who had come as per her mother’s request, she would also be an enemy.
——Mom is mine.
Anything that could destroy hers and her mother’s world was marked by Ann as a foe.
The mother and Violet started the process of writing the letters while seated at a table on an antique white bench under an umbrella, which had been placed in the garden. Their contract period was of one week. It seemed the mother really did intend to make Violet write incredibly long letters.
Perhaps they were addressed at more than one person. Back when she was healthy, the mother used to often throw salon parties and invite many friends over to the mansion. However, she currently had no contact or involvement with those people anymore.
“So there’s no meaning in writing those…”
Ann did not come near the two, spying on their actions while hiding behind the curtains instead. She had been told to not disturb as her mother’s letters were being written.
“There’s need for privacy even between parents and children, right?”
That was a cruel demand for Ann, who was always glued to her mother.
“I wonder what they’re talking about. Who is she writing it to? I’m curious…” she squeezed her cheek against the window frame.
To get them tea and snacks was not up to Ann, but to the maids. Therefore, she could not put on a good girl façade to eavesdrop on their internal affairs. All she could do was watch, just as she could not do anything about her mother’s disease.
“I wonder why life has to be like this…” Although she attempted to spew out an adult-like line, since she was a seven-year-old, it did not have effect.
As she kept observing them with a shabby expression, she was able to take notice of many things. The two worked very quietly, yet they occasionally seemed to either become quite solemn or be enjoying themselves a lot. In the fun moments, her mother would laugh loudly while smacking her hand with force. In the sad ones, she would wipe her tears on a handkerchief lent by Violet.
Her mother was a person of intense emotional vicissitudes. But even so, Ann thought, wasn’t she opening her heart too much to someone she had barely just met?
——Mom will be deceived again…
Ann learned the ruthlessness, indifference, betrayal and greed of people through her mother. She worried sick about the latter, who was too quick to trust anyone. She wished her mother would simply figure out how to be suspicious of others. Yet, perhaps her mother did intend to entrust that Auto-Memories Doll, Violet Evergarden, with whatever mystery was hidden within her heart.
During her stay, Violet was introduced in the household as a guest. At mealtime, the mother invited the young woman to join them but was refused. When Ann asked why, she coldly replied, “Because I wish to eat by myself, Young Mistress.”
Ann thought she was a strange one. Whenever her mother was hospitalized, no matter how warm were the meals prepared by the maids, they tasted of nothing. Food that she had to eat alone was just too irksome. That was what meals were about.
As she caught a maid off to deliver Violet’s dinner to her room, Ann claimed she would be the one to do it. To know the enemy, she first needed to interact with her.
The menu was soft bread, vegetable soup with chicken and colorful beans, fried potatoes and onions garnished with salt, garlic and pepper, roasted beef with sauce and pear sorbet as dessert. That was the usual in the Magnolia house. Though it could be considered rather luxurious, as Ann had grown up in a wealthy environment, it felt plain to her.
“There’s no helping it since Mom overlooked this. We need to increase the amount of meat for tomorrow. And no sorbets; it has to be a cake. In a way… she’s a guest.”
To not forget about hospitality no matter what was the gift of good families.
As she reached an oak wood door – the one of the guest room –, she called, as her hands were occupied with a tray, “Heeey, it’s dinner time.”
Rustling sounds came from inside, and after a while, Violet opened the door and stuck her head out.
As she did so, Ann grumbled, “It’s heavy. Hurry and take it!”
“I’m terribly sorry, Young Mistress.” She immediately accepted the tray with an apology, but as her expression was too apathetic, in the eyes of a child, she looked eerie.
Ann peeked through the open door behind Violet, who placed the tray on a desk. The guest room was a beautifully decorated one that the maids cleaned regularly. She noticed the luggage on the bed. It was a trolley leather suitcase filled with customs clearance stickers from various countries. It was open, with a small pistol protruding from inside.
In the split moment she was lost in thought, Violet came back. Just like in a pantomime show, the two of them kept moving in perfect synchrony.
Finally, Violet lost her wit. “Young Mistress, is a gun something usual for you?”
“What’s up with that thing? Hey, is it a real one?”
As Ann asked with excitement, Violet answered, “Since self-defense is a necessity for women that travel alone.”
“To protect oneself, Young Mistress.” As she narrowed her eyes slightly, Ann’s body trembled at the movement of her lips. Were she a little older, the girl would probably have recognized that reaction as a sign of fascination.
A woman capable of numbing people with words and gestures was nothing short of magical. Ann felt far more threatened by Violet’s charms rather than the fact that she was holding a gun.
“So you… shoot that thing?” As she imitated the shape of a pistol with her hands, her arm was immediately straightened by Violet.
“Please enclose the sides more. If your hand is loose, you wouldn’t be able to withstand the recoil.”
“That isn’t the real deal… it’s a finger.”
“Even so, it should be able to serve as practice for a time when you’d possibly need it.”
What was that automated doll saying to an infant?
“Don’t you know? Women aren’t supposed to use these kinds of things.”
“There’s no separating women from men when it comes to carrying guns.” As Violet replied without hesitation, Ann thought she was the coolest.
“Why do you have that with you?”
“The next place I’ve been called to is an area of conflict, so… be at ease. I won’t use it here.”
At Ann’s sharp attitude, Violet lightly forced a question out of curiosity, “Is there no such arming in this mansion?”
“Normal homes don’t have that.”
Violet gave a puzzled look, “Then what do you do if a thief ever appears…?” Seeming truly doubtful, she tilted her head. Doing so, her doll-like features stood out even further.
“If someone like that shows up, everyone will know right away. This is the countryside, after all. It was the same when you came.”
“I see. The low crime rate in depopulate areas could be explained by this.” While nodding as if that had been a lesson, she looked like a child despite being an adult.
“You’re… kinda… weird.” Ann declared tensely, pointing her index fingers at Violet. Though she had merely said so out of spite, at that instant, the corners of Violet’s mouth lifted just a little for the first time.
“Young Mistress, shouldn’t you go to sleep? Staying up until late is prejudicial for women.”
Because of the unexpected smile, Ann was blown away to a certain degree and could say nothing else. Painted red, her cheeks denounced the truth behind her palpitations.
“I-I will sleep. You should sleep too, or else, Mom will scold you.”
“If you stay up even later than this, monsters will come to tell you that you should go to sleep.”
“Good night, Young Mistress.”
Ann could not bear staying there or even standing on her feet anymore, leaving the place hurriedly. However, as she walked away, she found herself curious no matter what, glancing backwards the very next second. She could see Violet holding the gun behind the door that was still half-opened. Violet’s expressions were mostly deadpan, so it was hard to tell her mood changes. However, even the all too young Ann could understand what she had seemed to feel at that moment with just a look.
She was somewhat of a lone wolf. Incompatible with her current appearance, she held onto a brutal, fierce weapon. Ann could hardly imagine becoming attached to her, yet she was becoming familiar with the black gloves wrapped around Violet’s hands. As she gripped the gun with those same hands and pressed its edge against her forehead, she looked like a pilgrim uttering a prayer. Before turning around the hall’s corner, Ann’s ears were able to catch said prayer.
“Please give me an order.” She said to no one.
Ann’s chest suddenly began to thump faster.
——My face is hot. It stings.
She did not understand very well why her heart beat so rapidly, but it was because she had caught a glimpse of a woman’s adult side from Violet.
——Strange. Even though I don’t like that person, I’m interested in her.
Interest was just a step behind of love. Ann did not yet know that, sometimes, feelings such as “like” and “dislike” could easily reverse.
Ann’s observation of Violet went on even after that. It seemed the progress of
writing letters was doing well, as the bundle of envelopes increased. Violet would glance discreetly at her direction every now and then, making her wonder if the woman was aware of her peeking through the window. In those moments, Ann’s heart would throb. She ended up acquiring the habit of grabbing onto her chest, to the point her clothes became wrinkled in that spot.
The changes in her behavior continued.
“Hey. Hey. I said hey. Put a ribbon on my hair.”
Although she was sad that her mother was being monopolized, she could not bring herself to feel angry.
“What’s with this bread, so hard that I can’t even bite it?”
“I believe it will soften if you dip it in the soup, is that not the case?”
During the breaks in-between the letters’ writing, Ann would inadvertently chase after and hang out with her.
“Yes, Young Mistress?”
Before realizing, instead of being referred to with a demeaning “you”, she was being called by her name.
“Violet, read me books, dance with me and catch bugs with me outside!”
“Please state the priority order, Young Mistress.”
Violet was hard to stick with, but did not neglect her in any way.
——What a weird person. I kind of also become weird when I’m with her.
Regrettably enough, Ann became obsessed with Violet.
The peaceful times met a sudden end later on. Ann’s mother had become a little healthier a couple of days after Violet’s arrival, but her already poor physical condition gradually worsened. Perhaps it had been a mistake to expose herself to the wind outside. She had a fever, and the fuss over it came to the point of a doctor being called over to the mansion.
Even in such a state, she and Violet did not halt their work. The mother lay on her bed while Violet resumed typing the letters, sitting next to it. Not having consideration for her mother’s condition, Ann came into the room with an apprehensive posture.
“Why do you push yourself so hard to write these letters? The doctors say it’s useless…”
“If I don’t write it now, I might never be able to. It’s okay. See, it’s… because my head is not doing so good that, when I was reciting, I ended up having this psychological fever. How unpleasant…”
As her mother smiled weakly, she could not return it. It was a smile that pierced Ann’s chest. The fun moments had disappeared as if they had been a lie, and the bitter reality had abruptly come back.
“Mom, stop it already.”
Although her mother had been fine ten seconds before, she could stop breathing in a matter of three minutes. The sorrow of living with someone like that wound up resurfacing.
“Please, don’t write this letter anymore.”
If doing so would give her fevers… if doing so would shorten her life…
…even if it was something her mother wished for, Ann did not want her to do it.
“Just stop it!” Her accumulated anxiety and depression burst out at that instant. Even Ann herself was surprised by her voice, which had come out much louder than she had thought it would. Just that once, she spurted out the selfishness that she would normally not hammer onto anyone, “Mom, why don’t you ever listen to me? Do you prefer being with Violet than with me? Why do you not look at me?!”
It might have been better for her to have said it in a cute manner. She had accidentally let her distress show.
With a trembling tone, she ended up asking in an accusing way, “Am I… not needed?”
All she had wanted was to be paid attention to.
Her mother shook her head with wide eyes at her words, “That’s not it. There’s no way that would be the case. What’s gotten into you, Ann?” She panicked in attempt of lifting the mood.
Ann evaded the hand that stretched out to pat her head. She did not want to be touched. “You don’t listen at all to anything I say.”
“It’s because I want to write these letters.”
“Are the letters more important than me?”
“There’s nothing more important than Ann.”
“It’s not a lie.” Her mother’s voice was internal and full of grief.
However, Ann did not stop her arguments from coming. Her resentment from how things were not going the way she hoped bled out of her. “Liar! You’ve always been a liar! All the time… all the time, it’s only lies! Mom, you haven’t recovered in the slightest! Even though you said you’d get better again!”
After having said the one thing that she knew she should have not, Ann immediately regretted it. Such was the kind that would normally be said in a fight devoid of love between parent and child. But that day was different. Her mother, red-faced from the fever, continued to smile silently.
“Mom… hey…” Ann called out to her in such state. The spur-of-momentum heat was suddenly gone. But as she tried to speak, her mouth was covered with a touch.
“Ann, please, go outside for a bit.” Tears spilled from the eyes of her whispering mother. The large droplets shook loose and eventually cascaded down her cheeks. Ann was shocked that her mother, who always smiled despite the pain she had to endure from her illness, was actually letting her tears be seen.
Since her mother was not the type to cry, Ann had believed adults to be creatures that never cried. After realizing that was not the case, the fact that she had done something terrible rang within her mind.
——I’ve hurt Mom.
Even though she knew that she, more than anyone, was not supposed to place herself before her mother. Even though she was convinced that the task of protecting her mother the most was up to her, she had made her cry.
“M-Mo…” She tried to apologize, but was driven away by Violet, who proceeded to drag her out of the room as if dealing with a dog cub. “Stop! Let go! Let go!” Ann said, unable to put up resistance, left alone in the corridor. Her mother’s sobs could be heard from the other side of the closed door. “M… Mom…” She clung to it, distraught. “Mom, hey…”
——Sorry. Sorry for making you cry. That wasn’t my intention.
——I just wanted you to take care of your own body. So that… So that… I could be with you even for a second longer, if possible.
——It was just that.
——Is this… my fault?
Due to the frustration of not receiving any response, her loneliness reverberated. She tried banging her fists against the door violently. Yet, even without hurting, her hands became weak and numbly fell down.
——Was I being selfish?
A mother that was at death’s doorstep. A daughter that would be left alone.
——Was being together with her… something so bad to wish for?
A mother that kept writing letters because she might not be able to do so in the future. A daughter that hated it.
The tears that had dried out were on the verge of overflowing again. Ann inhaled deeply and shouted in one breath, “Was someone else more important to Mom than me?!” As her shouts came out, she started bawling. Her voice was muffled, her timbre cracking. “Mom, don’t be writing letters and spend time with me!” The child begged.
To wail when their requests could not be fulfilled was simply what children did.
“Without Mom, I’ll be alone! All on my own! How long will this last? I want to be with Mom for as long as I can. If I’ll be by myself after this, stop writing these letters… For now, be with me! With me!”
That was it; Ann was just a child.
“Be with me…”
Still too young to be able to do anything, a mere child that had barely lived for seven years and adored her mother.
“I want to… be with you…”
Someone who, in fact, had always, always wept over the fate granted to her by God.
Violet came out of the room. She stared down at Ann, whose face was wet with tears. Just as the girl had thought that was a clearly cold treatment, a hand made its way to her shoulder. The warmth of such act abated her hostility.
“There’s a reason for me to be taking your time with your mother. Please don’t be angry at her.”
“But… But… But…!”
Violet crouched down to meet the small Ann’s line of sight. “It’s evident that Young Mistress is strong. Even with such a small body, you take care of your sick mother. Children usually would not complain or care for someone that much. You’re a highly respectable person, Young Mistress Ann.”
“That’s not it. That’s not it at all… I just… wanted to be with Mom for a little more…”
“Madam feels the same way.”
Violet’s words sounded like nothing but pity. “Lies, lies, lies, lies… because… she’s concerned about that letter for someone I don’t know rather than about me. Even though there’s no one else in this house that really worries for Mom!”
——Everyone, everyone is all about money.
“I’m the only one… I’m the only one who cares about Mom!”
The way her dark brown eyes saw it, adults and everything related to them were enveloped in untruths. Her shoulders shivered as her tears trickled to the floor. Distorted by said tears, her vision was as blurry as the world felt to her. Just how many things in that world could actually be considered real?
The young girl believed that, regardless of how long she would live afterwards, if the world was filled with so much hypocrisy and treachery from the very start of one’s life, the future did not have to come.
The things Ann deemed as true could be counted with one hand. They shone unrelenting within such a false world. With them, she could tolerate any sort of dread.
“This is how it is… but even so…”
——Even though I wouldn’t need anything else if Mom was with me…
“Even so, Mom doesn’t love me the most!”
As Ann yelled, Violet placed an index finger against her lips at a speed that could not be perceived by human eyes. Ann’s body quivered for a moment. Her voice was perfectly ceased. In the quiet corridor, her mother’s sobs could still be heard from behind the door.
“If it’s about me, you can get angry as much as it will satisfy you. Hit me, kick me; I won’t mind whatever you feel like doing. However… please refrain from using words that would sadden your beloved, honorable mother, for your own sake as well.”
As Ann was told so with a severe face, tears started to rapidly form in her eyes again. The cries that she had suppressed and swallowed back in were fresh and painful. “Am I in the wrong?”
“No, there’s not a single thing you’re at fault for.”
“Because I’m a bad child, Mom became sick, and… will soon…”
To Ann’s question, Violet answered in a whisper with a tone that was still a little dispassionate, but not thrown-off, “No.”
The tears traveled down from Ann’s stroppy eyes.
“No, Young Mistress is a very kind person. Sicknesses have nothing to do with this. This is… something that no one can predict or do anything about. Just as I can no longer have a skin as soft as yours in place of my robotic arms, it’s something that can’t be helped.”
“Then, is it God’s fault?”
“Even if it were, even if it were not… we can only concentrate in how we should live the lives that have been granted to us.”
“What… should I do?”
“For now, Young Mistress… you’re free to cry.” Violet opened her arms, her machine parts letting out a faint noise. “If you will not hit me, is it okay if I lend you my body instead?”
That could be interpreted as “you can jump on and hug me”, even though she did not seem like the type to say such things. Ann could cry securely, so to speak. Without hesitation, she embraced Violet. Was she wearing any perfume? She smelled of many different flowers.
“Violet, don’t take Mom away from me.” She said as she tightly pressed her face against Violet’s chest, soaking it with tears. “Don’t rob me of my time with Mom, Violet.”
“Please forgive it only for a few more days.”
“Then, at least tell Mom that it’s alright if I stay by her side while you’re writing. It’s fine if you two ignore me; I just want to be close to her. I want to be by her side and squeeze her hand tight.”
“I’m sorry, but my client is Madam, not Young Mistress Ann. There’s nothing I can do to change this.”
——I really can’t stand adults after all, Ann thought.
“I hate you… Violet.”
“I’m sorry, Young Mistress.”
“Why do you write letters?”
“Because people have feelings that they wish to deliver to others.”
Ann knew she was not the center of the world. However, the fact things never went as she desired caused more tears to pour down out of frustration. “Things like that don’t need to be delivered…”
Violet merely continued to hug the frowning Ann, who bit her lip out of displeasure. “There’s no such thing as a letter that needn’t be delivered, Young Mistress.”
It seemed her words were directed at herself rather than the girl. Ann pondered on why. Because of that, the phrase was somehow engraved strikingly in her mind.
The time Ann Magnolia spent together with Violet Evergarden was only a week. Her mother managed to finish writing the letters one way or another, and Violet reticently left the mansion once the contract period was over.
“You’re going somewhere dangerous, right?”
“Yes, since someone is waiting for me there.”
“Aren’t you scared?”
“I rush anywhere to provide any service a client might need. This is what the Auto-Memories Doll, Violet Evergarden, is about.”
“Can I call you if I meet someone I’d like to write letters to someday?” was what Ann could not bring herself to ask.
What if the woman died in the place her next client was at? Even if she did not, what if Ann ended up never finding someone she would want to write to? Taking that into consideration, she could not ask such a question.
While being seen off, Violet shook her hand briefly. It was several months after she had left that the mother’s illness reached its worst. She soon passed away. The ones who took care of her in her last moments were Ann and a maid.
Until she closed her eyes, Ann kept whispering, “I love you, Mom.”
The mother simply nodded slowly, “Yes, yes.”
In a silent, calm spring day, her dear mother died. From that point on, Ann was always extremely busy. In regards of her heirloom, after a discussion with lawyers, it had been decided to freeze the family’s multiple bank accounts until she was of age. She also hired a private tutor to live in the mansion and studied hard. As she wished to deeply mark the land with her mother’s memory, Ann worked to become a qualified bachelor with the same level of education as her.
She never again saw her father. He had attended the funeral, but they had merely exchanged two or three words. After her mother passed on, he completely stopped coming home. His mindlessness towards money was soon over as well. Ann did ask directly the reason behind his change of mindset, but believed it to have been a good one.
Ann opened a law counseling office at home after graduating. She did not earn much, but she no longer had maids, so it was about enough for her to sustain herself. She was also in the middle of a small love affair with a young entrepreneur who often came for counseling.
As she did not succumb to sorrow even after having lost her mother at seven years of age, people would ask, “How come you don’t break down?”
And Ann would answer, “Because my mother is always looking after me.”
Her mother was, of course, dead. Her bones resided in a family grave where their relatives had been buried for generations.
Yet Ann would say, “My mother has been rectifying and guiding me all this time. Even now.”
There was a reason why she would affirm that while smiling. It was connected all the way to the time she had spent with Violet Evergarden.
Ann’s eighth birthday was her first without her mother. A package arrived for her on said day. It contained a big stuffed bear with a red ribbon. The name of the sender was of her late mother, and the present was accompanied by a letter.
Happy 8th birthday, Ann. Many sad things might have happened. There might be several others to work hard on. But do not give in. Although you might be lonely and crying desolately, do not forget: Mom will always love Ann.
It was unmistakably a letter written by her mother. At that instant, the image of Violet Evergarden resurfaced in the back of her mind. Was that kind of service also included in her letter-writing job?
In the old times, although her mother had said she was going to write letters, everything had been written by Violet Evergarden. Could it be that that Auto-Memories Doll had written all of it imitating her mother’s handwriting?
When Ann questioned the postal agency about the surprising delivery, she was informed that they had signed a long-term contract with her mother and were supposed to deliver her gifts on her birthday every year. And it had indeed been Violet Evergarden who wrote the letter. All the others had been carefully stored.
Ann had not been told for how long those letters would keep coming as part of contractual secrecy, but they had arrived every single following year. Even as she turned 14.
You’ve already become a wonderful lady by now. I wonder if you have found a boy you like. Your way of speaking and attitude are a little boyish, so be careful. I can’t give advices regarding romance, but I’ll protect you so that you don’t get involved with a bad boy. This is about Ann, who has always been firmer than me, after all. Even if I don’t do that, surely, if you’re the one choosing, it will be a really great person. Do not be afraid of love.
Even as she turned 16.
Have you ridden in a car by now? Would you be surprised if Mom told you that I actually can ride in cars too? I used to drive a lot in the past. But I would be stopped by the people riding with me. They would go blue.
My gift for your birthday is a car with a color that suits you. Just use the enclosed key. But I wonder if it is now considered a classic model. Don’t say it’s lame, okay? Mom is looking forward to you becoming able to see various different worlds.
Even as she turned 18.
I wonder if you’re married by now. What do I do? To become a wife at a young age is troublesome in many ways. But your child will definitely be cute, no matter if it’s a boy or a girl. Mom guarantees that.
I don’t mean to precipitously say that parenting is rough, but… the things you did that made me happy, the things you did that made me sad… I want you to raise your child with those in mind. It’s alright. No matter how insecure you become, I am here. I’ll be by your side. Even as you become a mother, you’re still my daughter, so it’s okay to let out a screech sometimes. I love you.
Even as she turned 20.
You’ve already lived 20 years now. Amazing! To think the little baby that was born from me would become so big! Life is truly whimsical. I’m sad that I couldn’t see you grow into a pretty young woman. No, but I shall be watching over you from heaven.
Today, tomorrow, the day after; you’ll always remain a beauty, my Ann. Even if disagreeable people discourage you, I can say this with a puffed-out chest: you’re gorgeous and the coolest young lady. Have confidence and move forward with full responsibility towards society.
You’ve managed to live this long because you’ve been taken care of by countless people. This is thanks to the structure of the community you’re in. You’ve been helped out a lot without knowing. From now on, in order to pay back for that, please work even for my part.
I’m kidding, sorry. You’re a hard worker, so saying something like this is overdoing it. Have strength and enjoy life, my dearest. I love you.
The letters kept reaching her forever. The words written by her mother were recited in Ann’s mind by a voice that she would occasionally forget.
Back in those times, the feelings of her sick mother had all been addressed to her. Each and every one of them were future birthday cards to her beloved daughter. Meaning that the one Ann had been jealous of was herself.
“There’s no such thing as a letter that needn’t be delivered, Young Mistress.” Violet’s words echoed in Ann’s ears beyond the borders of time. The letters still found their way to her, even as she was married and with a child of her own.
She – a woman of long, wavy dark hair, who lived in a huge peripheral manor owned by herself, which was located far from town – would make sure to go outside in the morning on a certain day of a certain month. She would wait while taking in the scenery spread out before her. When the noise of the bike ridden by the postman, clad in his green flock coat, could be heard, she would stand up with her eyes shining. Her figure as she anxiously waited while thinking, “Is this it, is this it?” was certainly similar to that of her late mother.
The postman arrived at the residence, handing to her a big package with a smirk. He who knew about the gifts sent to her every year offered warm words of his own as well, “Congratulations on your birthday, Madam.”
She replied with slightly wet dark brown eyes, “Thank you.” and, at last, she asked what she had been wanting to for a long time, “Say, do you know Violet Evergarden?”
The post office and the amanuensis business had a close relationship. Once Ann inquired with her heart pounding ‘what-if’s, the postman replied while grinning, “Yes, since she’s famous. She’s still active. Well, then…”
Once the postman took his leave, Ann watched him as she caressed the gift with a smile. Her tears slowly poured down. Still smiling, she whimpered a little.
——Ah… Mom, did you hear that just now?
That woman was still working as an Auto-Memories Doll. The person whom she had shared a part of her time with was still doing fine, and continued to do that job.
——I’m happy. I’m really happy, Violet Evergarden.
From within the mansion, she could hear a call, “Mom!”
She turned to the direction of the voice. Someone waved from the window she used to be at when observing her mother and Violet. It was a girl with slightly wavy hair that keenly resembled Ann.
“Another present from Grandma~?”
Ann nodded at her innocently smiling daughter. “Yes, it has arrived!” answering enthusiastically, Ann returned the wave.
Inside the house, her daughter and husband were about to commence her birthday party. She had to hurry back. Crying softly, she walked towards the mansion. As she did so, she was deep in thought.
——Hey, Mom. You said before that you had wanted to give to your child all the happiness you’d once experienced, right? Those words… made me incredibly happy. It really resonated with me, is what I thought. That’s why I’ll do the same. This isn’t an excuse to see that person. That’s part of the reason, but it’s not all. I, too… have feelings I want to deliver. Even many years after our first meeting, I have a feeling she definitely will have not changed. With her beautiful eyes and clear voice, she will write about my love for my own daughter. Violet Evergarden is that kind of woman – the one that does not disappoint. On the contrary; she was the type of Auto-Memories Doll that one would want to see doing her work once more. When I see her again, I shall thank her and apologize to her without shyness. After all, I’m no longer that girl who could do nothing but cry.
Ann Magnolia would never forget that woman who had embraced her back when she was young.
That a young woman had come.
Sitting there, quietly, she would write letters.
The figures of that person… and of my kindly smiling mother.
That sight… surely…
I would not forget even if I died.