By this time I was concentrating so hard on holding myself back from crying, I could no longer speak at all.
"Nobu-san is a good man", she said, "and very fond of you."
"Yes, but, Mameha-san... I don't know how to say it... this was never what I imagined!"
"What do you mean? Nobu-san has always treated you kindly."
"But, Mameha-san, I don't want kindness!"
"Don't you? I thought we all wanted kindness. Perhaps what you mean is that you want something more than kindness. And that is something you're in no position to ask."
Of course, Mameha was quite right. When I heard these words, my tears simply broke through the fragile wall that had held them, and with a terrible feeling of shame, I laid my head upon the table and let them drain out of me. Only when I'd composed myself afterward did Mameha speak.
"What did you expect, Sayuri?" she asked.
"Something besides this!"
"You're eighteen years old, Sayuri," she went on. "Neither you nor I can know your destiny. You may never know it! Destiny isn't always like a party at the end of the evening. Sometimes it's nothing more than struggling through life from day to day."
"But, Mameha-san, how cruel!"
"Yes, it is cruel," she said. "But none of us can escape destiny."
"Please, it isn't a matter of escaping my destiny, or anything of that sort. Nobu-san is a good man, just as you say. I know I should feel nothing more than gratitude for his interest, but... there are so many things I've dreamed about."
"And you're afraid that once Nobu has touched you, after that they can never be? Really, Sayuri, what did you think life as a geisha would be like? We don't become geisha so our lives will be satisfying. We become geisha because we have no other choice."
"Oh, Mameha-san... please... have I really been so foolish to keep my hopes alive that perhaps one day -"
"Young girls hope all sorts of foolish things, Sayuri. Hopes are like hair ornaments. Girls want to wear too many of them. When they become old women they look silly wearing even one."