Read Sisters of Heart and Snow Online

Authors: Margaret Dilloway

Sisters of Heart and Snow


How to Be an American Housewife

The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns


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Copyright © 2015 by Margaret Dilloway

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The author gratefully acknowledges permission to quote lines from “Around the time Naishi died, snow fell, then melted away,” by Izumi Shikibu, from
The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono No Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan
, by Jane Hirshfield, translation copyright © 1990 by Jane Hirshfield. Used by permission of Vintage Books, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. Any third-party use of this material, outside of this publication, is prohibited. Interested parties must apply directly to Random House LLC for permission.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Dilloway, Margaret.

Sisters of heart and snow / Margaret Dilloway.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-0-698-16071-2

1. Sisters—Fiction. 2. Domestic fiction. I. Title.

PS3604.I4627S57 2015 2014040675


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



Also by Margaret Dilloway

Title Page




Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three



Author's Note

For Cadillac
In a realm of his own.


Why did you vanish

into empty sky?

Even the fragile snow

when it falls,

falls in this world.

CA. 974–CA. 1034

Some Warriors look fierce, but are mild. Some seem timid, but are vicious. Look beyond appearances; position yourself for the advantage.


Obedience: Yoshinaka's Mistress Tomoe, from the series
The Eight Virtues
by Utagawa Yoshikazu

Photograph © 2015 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

omoe held the round bronze mirror with steady hands, fighting her nervous pulse. A warrior stared back at her, in full battle dress. The close-fitting wrapped jacket and ankle-length pants worn under her armor, her
, were fuchsia silk, embroidered in a repeating light pink depiction of the Minamoto crest, bamboo leaves fanning above a gentian flower. Over this she wore her armor, a crimson damask cover hiding the sturdy bamboo plates.

A bronze crown of intricate scrollwork served as her helmet, with long red tassels dangling near each high cheekbone. Her full lower lip and pronounced Cupid's-bow mouth stood out crimson in her pale face.

Behind her, Yamabuki's dark eyes shone like wet pearls. If Tomoe's skin could be called pale, then Yamabuki's was white, luminescent as sea life in the deepest waters. Yamabuki's hair was black, too, but shot through with silver and white strands.

Yamabuki worked through Tomoe's thick long hair with a tortoiseshell comb and fragrant camellia oil, her small hands working quickly to undo the knots. “There. You are ready, my captain. Your hair is so well oiled, a typhoon cannot disturb it.”

Tomoe's throat went dry. Yamabuki had begun as her rival, but soon she found that she needed Yamabuki as much as Yamabuki needed her. Tomoe the warrior, Yamabuki the poet. The strong and the gentle. Two sides of one coin. Now she could no more imagine her world without Yamabuki than she could imagine cutting off her own arm.

Yamabuki blinked rapidly and Tomoe grasped the other woman's hand. “And you? Are you prepared?”

“As ready as I need to be. What can I do? Offer the enemy some tea? Play him some music?” Yamabuki stood and retrieved Tomoe's short sword from the corner. The tiny woman staggered under its weight. Tomoe watched her, knowing Yamabuki would refuse any offers of help. “I do not understand how you can carry this, much less fight with it.”

Tomoe took the sword. Their fingers touched. Tomoe's insides seized, and she took a deep breath to steady herself. “I should stay here and protect you.”

“No.” Yamabuki retrieved the quiver of arrows and bow next. “You must go.” For a moment, she looked again like the girl she had been on her arrival. A wobbly newborn chick finding its way among piebald eagles. “I will be all right.”

There was a saying for a dear female friend you held as close as a relative. Sister of heart.

Unlike Yamabuki, Tomoe had never been good at putting what she felt into words. Instead, she retrieved her
, a small sword attached to a long pole, from its place in a corner of the room. With a bow, she presented it to Yamabuki. The woman didn't move. “Take it.” How Tomoe wished Yamabuki would heft up the
and arc it through the air with a shout. Stab at something. But the woman could barely wrap her tiny fingers around the pole.

Yamabuki inclined her head toward Tomoe, and laid the
carefully on the floor. “And I have something for you,” Yamabuki added, reaching into her pocket. It was a piece of braided red cord, hung on bright blue fabric. A good-luck amulet. “An
To protect you.”

Outside, the army chanted for her. “Tomoe, Tomoe!” The drums and horns sounded and the men stomped their feet on the ground, banging swords against metal. Tomoe felt the vibrations in her eardrums, in her heart.

Yamabuki took a step back and bowed deeply. Tomoe bowed in return. Both filled with unspoken words that would always remain so.


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