Shrine Maiden

A Walk Almost to the Orchard

again, but it was harder to ignore them when I made sure to leave them out in the open. Repacking my school bag with my swimsuit, a swim cap, and a towel, I hung it on my door for tomorrow.

The shrine needed some cleaning, though luckily summer was an easy season to clean during. There hadn been any rain to cause muddy footprints and the leaves hadn started to fall yet. When I got up to the shrine, there were already half a dozen people milling about. That was typical on Fridays and Saturdays, families wanting to offer their prayers to loved ones, parents introducing their children to the old ways, or even just the occasional person out for a stroll.

As I cleaned I kept half an eye on the donation box but most people seemed to ignore it. A few more people had shown up while I was cleaning and the place actually seemed pretty lively. One person was even taking a few pictures around the shrine, something we didn discourage at all.

After an hour nearly everyone had left for the afternoon and I saw my father walking into the shrine grounds. He smiled as he saw me finishing up with the cleaning. Pulling his keyring out, he walked over to the donation box. I made sure I was nearby when he opened it, curious at how the week had been. At first as he was looking through it he didn indicate a change in expression, but as he reached the bottom, his face lit up. Letting out a long whistle he turned to me, ”Someone donated ten thousand yen! Either that or five people each gave a good donation. Either way, this has been a good week. ” He gave me a hug, something he rarely did, but it was nice. It actually made me happy that I could help our family so much. Sure, the donation money wasn as much as my dad made in a week of working, but it was the little bit that would help around the house to make things more comfortable for everyone. ”I wonder who could have given such a good donation. You know, I mentioned the shrine to some guys at one of the offices I work at, they had some visiting consultants in. I was trying to hype up the shrine as a good place to relax, think, and pray about business decisions. Maybe one of them stopped by. ”

I tried to give my best unassuming smile, shrugging my shoulders, ”Who knows, though hopefully word will spread and we can get some more visitors this summer. ”

Dad walked back towards the house, taking the side path that led straight to our backyard. I started straightening up what I was doing and putting things away. Looking around, the shrine grounds were deserted and quiet. I squirmed a bit in place. I had worn a bikini under my kosode today. I knew Toin wasn expecting me to swim in the lake today, and I wasn really hoping to go swimming with him, but the whole idea of it was playing around in my mind.

Once I had locked up the storage shed and checked one more time that no one was around, I crept back through the brush and bushes behind the shrine, hopefully heading to the lake. It only took about a minute before I could see the sparkling water in the sunlight. There wasn much of a shoreline, the trees grew right to the edge of the water, some of them even having large gnarly roots that descended into the lake. I slipped off my shrine outfit, setting them on top of my shoes as I stepped out of the tree line and into the water. I hadn really planned on ever wearing this bikini again but it was the only swimsuit I had other than the school one. I bought the bikini two years ago when my family went to the island where my relatives live. Dad didn approve of it, but it was my birthday money so he dropped it. Of course last year it had barely fit me after growing so much over the year, and now I could barely tie it on to me. The cup of the top barely held my breasts in, and being two years old it was starting to wear out a bit.

The water felt amazing, colder than the pool by far, but in this heat I didn care at all. Rather than my usual laps and practicing, I chose to just lay in the water, floating under the sunlight. After a few minutes I started to look around the lake. About halfway down the lake I could see a section of shoreline that looked like it had a man made beach, probably where the trail led up to it from the orchards. There was no one on the beach though and the rest of the lake was completely walled in with trees.

After half an hour or so of swimming, I heard a noise back up on shore in the trees. I didn see anything, and guessing that it was likely a squirrel, I decided that I should head back before it got too late. I still needed dinner and a good nights rest before my meet. Pulling myself back up onto the bank, I let myself dry for a couple minutes before I put my kosode back on. For now I left the hakama off, carrying it in my hand as I walked back to the shrine. I checked to make sure no one was in the shrine before scurrying across the grounds and taking the side path to get back to the house. Dad and Hara were distracted in the family room while mom was in the kitchen, so it went unnoticed when I slipped upstairs. I dropped off my shrine outfit in the laundry hamper and grabbed some fresh clothes before taking a shower.

I felt invigorated, I had been swimming plenty of times in the ocean, but there were always people around and rules to follow. Just living my life, jumping into a lake when I wanted, it was amazing. Clean and looking proper again, I made it back downstairs just in time for dinner.

”Oh Shizu, I didn hear you get back from the shrine already. ” Mom was still setting the table when I walked in, ”and you already showered and everything. I guess someone is eager for their big swim meet tomorrow. By the way, your father told me the great news about donations from this week. I put a little spending money in your school bag for you, not very much, but more than just a lunch. ” She gave me a little wink and handed me plates to start setting around the table.

With dinner finished, I helped clean up and was almost to the foot of the stairs when mom called me to come back to the kitchen. ”Im making a few pies for a bake sale for Hara, can you run down to the orchards and get a dozen from the fruit stand there? I heard they just got their first harvest of pie apples in. ”

”Oh, a friend from school was getting apples today too. ” Mom wasn really listening to me, handing me a few hundred yen for the apples. The orchards were just past the parking lot for the shrine, you could almost see it from in front of our house if the road didn curve slightly from going around the hill. As I passed the parking lot, I saw that there was a bike locked up in the bike rack, someone was visiting the shrine late in the day. Not too concerned about late visitors, I pressed on to the fruit stand where an old toothy woman sat behind a couple baskets of apples. Most of the apples were pale green or golden, mostly what the orchard needed to prune away so the branches didn get too crowded.

”A dozen apples please, ” I gave the old woman a big smile. I never knew her name, but she was always at this stand whenever I stopped by. Looking at the sign that said how much apples were, I counted out the yen and handed it to her. She silently accepted it and gave a little half wave goodbye as I trotted back down the road. As I passed back by the parking lot, the bike was gone. I didn see anyone on the road, the way back to town seemed empty. Shrugging, I headed back into the house a minute later and dropped off the apples before heading to my room.

With no studying, and no computer or television in my room, I reached under my bed for a manga I had hidden there. I knew mom didn care if I had manga, but dad thought it was a waste of money, even when I told him I was borrowing it from a friend. So to make everyone happy, I hid them under my bed. This manga was a sappy romance story, the main two characters constantly saying and doing the wrong things that would cause them to stay distant, but both secretly wanting to be together. Here and there I would blush as I turned the page, the content on the page being less than appropriate for a girl like me. Still, I enjoyed reading it, and it wasn long before my mind began to wander, to Toin and what inappropriate things we could have done in the orchard, as my hand slowly drifted down to my dampening panties.

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