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Midori by Moonlight
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Midori by Moonlight

4.3 3
by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

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Midori Saito's dream seems about to come true. Too independent for Japanese society, Midori is a young woman who has always felt like a stranger in her native land. So when she falls in love with Kevin, an American English teacher, she readily agrees to leave home and start a new life with him in San Francisco--as his fiancée. Kevin seems to be the perfect


Midori Saito's dream seems about to come true. Too independent for Japanese society, Midori is a young woman who has always felt like a stranger in her native land. So when she falls in love with Kevin, an American English teacher, she readily agrees to leave home and start a new life with him in San Francisco--as his fiancée. Kevin seems to be the perfect man. That is, until he dumps her for his blonde ex-fiancée, whom Midori never even knew existed. Midori is left on her own, with just a smattering of fractured English, not much cash, and a fiancée visa set to expire in sixty days. Unable to face the humiliation of telling her parents she's been jilted, and not wanting to give up on her "American Dream," Midori realizes she's in for quite a challenge. Her only hope is her new acquaintance (and potential landlord) Shinji, a successful San Francisco graphic artist and amateur moon gazer who fled Japan after a family tragedy. And eventually, Midori surprises even herself as she proves she will do almost anything to hang on to her dream of a new life.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Midori By Moonlight is part wasabi, part ginger, and as scrumptious as a California roll. You'll devour this book in a day!” —Cara Lockwood, bestselling author of Dixieland Sushi

“A delightful fusion of East meeting West, as if Banana Yoshimoto and Meg Cabot got together to create a romantic comedy.” —Lauren Baratz-Logsted, author of Vertigo

“Midori is endearing, feisty, and funny: the novel is a delight.” —Ellen Sussman, editor of Bad Girls and author of On a Night Like This.

“Shedding light on Japanese culture and modern dating, relating, and living woes, Tokunaga blends both with an insider's eye for nuance and a real love for her characters. Delightfully sweet, just like Midori.” —Margo Candela, author of Life Over Easy

editor of Bad Girls and author of On a Night Like Ellen Sussman
Midori is endearing, feisty, and funny: the novel is a delight.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.57(d)

Read an Excerpt

Midori by Moonlight


MIDORI SAITO RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING WARNING FROM HER MOTHER right before she left Japan: "Running off with a foreigner will bring you nothing but trouble," she said. "You'll end up just like poor Emiko-chan on Longing to Hug."

It's insulting enough to be compared to a hapless, naive soap opera character, but it's a far greater insult to discover that your mother's prediction couldn't have been more correct.

Now, a little more than a week since her mother's admonishment, the morning sun casts a pleasing light through the curtains. But Midori's mood is far from sunny. Kevin disappeared during the party they attended the night before. She doesn't know where he went, but she does have a hunch.


Kevin knocks before entering her room. They're staying at his parents' house in the Presidio Heights district of San Francisco. Midori thought it odd when Mr. and Mrs. Newbury insisted the couple sleep in separate bedrooms, but she wasn't about to raise a fuss. Instead, she accepted the rule with good cheer. "I don't want to wrestle any feathers," she said to Kevin. He laughed at that, but she wasn't trying to be funny.

As Kevin walks in, Midori is making her bed, even though Kevin's mother advised her to leave any chores for Consuelo, the maid. Midori is grateful for her presence. Fresh from El Salvador, Consuelo is the one person in the house whose English is worse than Midori's. But Midori is determined to keep her room neat without any help from a maid—she doesn't want her future mother-in-law to think of her as a lazy pig.

"Yes?" Midori says to Kevin.

Kevin is dressed not in the sweats that he always wears to breakfast, but in neatly pressed jeans and a white button-down shirt. Midori is puzzled by his appearance, but filled with relief. At least he has come to give her an explanation and apologize for what happened last night.

Kevin sits on the upholstered easy chair next to the window, perching on the edge of the cushion as if he isn't intending to stay long.

While she waits for him to be the first to say something, Midori folds the lace-trimmed, lavender-flowered sheet over the pink blanket, tucking it securely under the mattress. So frilly, she thinks. Midori prefers sheets with more muted earth tones. That's what she plans to select for their wedding registry. Yesterday Mrs. Newbury asked her where she wanted to register. Being in San Francisco for only eight days, Midori knows nothing about the stores here. Kevin's mother gave her two choices: Gump's or Saks Fifth Avenue. Gump's sounds like a disease so Midori is leaning toward Saks.

Since Kevin has only coughed and has yet to say a word—let alone an apology—it might be best to first bring up something pleasant before confronting him. She asks him which shop he prefers.

"Midori, I can't marry you."


What did he say? I can't carry you? I can't bury you? Did he really say he couldn't marry her? It isn't possible. She must have misunderstood. Midori spins around, peering at Kevin's face.

"What did you say?"

"I can't marry you."

His subdued tone reminds her of a misbehaving little boy, cowering from the inevitable scolding.

"What happened last night?"

He averts his gaze to the hardwood floor and says nothing.

"Where were you?" Midori's voice shakes. She doesn't wait for an answer. "Kevin, I know I just arrived here and do not understand everything, but I was not born the day before yesterday."

He gives her a slight smile. "Yesterday."


"Yesterday. The correct way to say it is, 'I wasn't born yesterday.'"



The night before, Mr. and Mrs. Newbury threw a combination welcome home and engagement party for Kevin and Midori in the Newburys' seven-bedroom home. Midori had never been inside such a huge house. Kevin didn't tell her how rich his family was. When he said they were "comfortable," she thought he meant they would be easy to get along with.

The party was held in the ballroom. Kevin had told her it was large enough to fit one hundred and fifty people, which was the exact number of guests attending the party. Already it seemed near capacity.

The decorations reminded her of an elaborate display in an exclusive store window or scenery from a stage play. Miniature trees shaped into sculpted balls of green leaves topping slender trunks lined the walls. Midori could only half remember what Mrs. Newbury called them. Tipperaries? That didn't sound right. Tiny white lights twinkled from each one. Swans made of ice swam motionlessly on buffet tables. Gold chandeliers bursting with clusters of electric candles shone from the ceiling, giving the room a warm yellow glow. At the base of a spiral staircase that led only to the ceiling, a young red-haired woman in an angel costume sat on a stool, plucking "We've Only Just Begun" on a harp.

The only people Midori knew at the party were Kevin and hisparents. Kevin left Midori on her own, saying he was going to get her a glass of wine. But about fifteen minutes passed and he still hadn't returned.

Most of the guests were middle-aged; the women dressed in sparkling gowns, the men wearing business suits. All Caucasian, their hair boasted a variety of colors ranging from chocolate-browns to buttery blonds. Midori, in her black hair and decidedly unglittering, tan linen dress, felt as out-of-place as a pair of chopsticks thrown in the silverware drawer.

The only nonwhite people were those serving the food and drinks, including Consuelo. But in a far corner Midori spotted a man who was clearly nonwhite and clearly not part of the help. He was a guest with black hair who looked Asian. Could he be Japanese? Speaking nothing but English for more than a week, Midori's brain was as stuck as a clogged kitchen sink. It wasn't supposed to be this way. When she first met Kevin at the Let's English Language Academy where she had worked as an office lady back in Fukuoka, the first words out of his mouth were How do you do? My name is Kevin Newbury. So nice to meet you! spoken in perfect Japanese. Smooth and creamy, his voice sounded like a Japanese television announcer's, but so wonderfully mismatched, coming from a six-foot-tall Caucasian man with curly hair the color of marmalade. It wasn't until later that she found out this was the only Japanese he knew.

This nonwhite man at the party looked like he could have been Japanese, and at a party in Japan one could safely assume he was. But here in San Francisco he could be Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese. Or, perhaps, Japanese, but born in the United States and fluent only in English. As Midori contemplated whether to go up to him, Kevin finally arrived with her glass of wine.

"Where have you been?" she asked. He acted as if he didn't hear her so she tried a different question. "Who is that person?" She pointed to the man.

Kevin's face lit up. "That's Shinji," he said. "You have to meet him." He led her in the man's direction.

Kevin hugged Shinji, patting him on the back. "Shinji," he said. "I want you to meet my fiancee, Midori Saito. I never would have met her if it weren't for you." Kevin turned toward Midori. "It was Shinji who convinced me to go work in Japan."

Kevin had never mentioned a Japanese friend in San Francisco.

Shinji broke into a big smile. He looked to Midori about her own age—thirty—and his hair, cut and gelled into jagged upright stalks, reminded her of a haystack. She couldn't figure out what his job might be—even in a black suit and white shirt he looked too cool to be a regular salaryman. She was surprised to find herself thinking he was actually good-looking, at least for a Japanese guy.

"Nice to meet you," he said in Japanese. "I am Shinji Nishimura."

The reassuring sound of her native language was like hearing a favorite old song unexpectedly on the radio.

"Saito Midori to moshimasu ga. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu," she said, introducing herself. Shinji was from Japan, all right, but when he bowed with a droop of his shoulders, he looked stiff, out of practice. Midori figured that would happen to her once she lived in the States for a couple of years. It was obvious Shinji had been here for quite a while—the naturalness of his Japanese was marred by a slight American accent meandering throughout his speech.

Midori continued on breathlessly in Japanese; it was like receiving a glass of water to soothe a parched throat. "Thanks for taking care of Kevin and getting him to Japan. I really appreciate it."

"It was my pleasure. Kevin's a good friend," Shinji said. "Congratulations on your engagement."


A piercing female voice cut through the din of conversation and harp music. Startled, Midori pressed her hand to her chest and turned around to see an extremely striking woman, about a foot taller than her, sliding next to Kevin's side. Interlocking her arm with his, she rested her head for a brief moment on his shoulder. Her clingy pink jersey gown hugged her breasts, cinched her waist, and caressed her hips—all in hourglass-perfect proportion—a figure Midori had always understood was the most desirable for an American woman. And theopposite of hers, she thought, which more resembled that of the stick lady on the door denoting the women's restroom.

A wave of blond curls cascaded down the woman's back. Her eyes—darting from Midori's to Shinji's and back to Midori's again—were almost as blue as Kevin's.

"Hey, Shinji," she said.

"Hi, Kimberley," Shinji said. Midori noticed the surprised look on his face; it was clear he hadn't expected her to be here.

But Kevin didn't look surprised—just embarrassed. His cheeks turned into two patches of red, like when he drank too much sake. "Kimberley ..."

Kevin had repeatedly told Midori that she should always make eye contact with Americans so as not to be considered rude. It was never easy for her to look someone in the eye, but she made a point of it this time. Fixing onto the woman's gaze, she smiled. "Hello, I am Midori Saito."

Kimberley extended her hand. "Oh, the Japanese girl. I'm Kimberley Hobbs."

"Kimberley's an old family friend," Kevin said.

Kimberley ran her hands through her hair, tossing her curls like a salad. She laughed. "Yes. An old family friend."

Midori laughed too even though she didn't know what was so amusing about this.

Kimberley resumed holding on to Kevin's arm. "Kevin, I wonder if I might have a moment with you."

"Sure." Kevin kissed Midori's cheek. "I'll be back in a minute."

Midori watched as Kimberley maneuvered Kevin through the crowd. It seemed that every person she brushed by smiled and said hello to her.

"Who is she?" Midori asked Shinji.

"Just an old friend of Kevin's, I guess," Shinji said, frowning and raising his eyebrows. His friendly smile returned. "So this is your first time in the States, right?"

"Not exactly. When I was in college I took a two-week trip here. I saw New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco."

"Two weeks isn't too long."

"No, it isn't. Do you live in San Francisco?"

"Yeah, for six years."

"How did you come to find yourself here?"

He smiled but rolled his eyes. "It's a long story," he said. "Maybe I can tell you someday."

Midori was curious about Shinji's story, but her train of thought was disturbed at the sight of Kimberley and Kevin hovering in the corner of the room, their heads nearly touching. She seemed to be doing all the talking. Couldn't she finish and leave him alone? And why were they huddled so close together? Midori felt as if she were trying to breathe underwater.

"You're staying with Kevin's parents right now?" Shinji went on.

"Yes, while we look for a house."

"And I heard he's going to start a job at one of the colleges?"

"Yes, teaching English as a foreign language." Midori could see Kevin and Kimberley laughing. She certainly was quite a comedian. What could she be saying that was so funny?

"How great," he said. "And the wedding is soon, right?"

"Yes, June 24. I hope you'll be coming."

"I wouldn't miss it." He paused, then cleared his throat. "I know you'll probably be busy, but if you ever get homesick and want to speak some Japanese, give me a call." He plucked a pen from his coat pocket. "This is my home number," he said, writing on the back of the card.

Sawyer & Jones Advertising, it said. Sean Nishimura, Graphic Artist.

"Thank you. It's been painful to speak only English. It feels so good to talk in Japanese." Midori paused. "Sean Nishimura is your name?"

"That's what I use here. For Americans 'Sean' is easier to remember than 'Shinji.'"

Midori thought this was strange, and vowed not to change her own name, except to Midori Newbury, of course. Her head throbbed as she glanced in the direction of the garden. "Can you excuse me, please?" she said to Shinji-Sean.

Midori's heart fluttered as she headed for the sliding glass door leading to the backyard. But just as she got there, Kevin's mother rushed to her side. She was tall and slim like her son, and with the same blue eyes. Her white hair was cut in a chic short style, framing a face mostly devoid of lines or wrinkles, even though she was probably sixty. Kevin had told Midori that his mother had worked part time as a fashion model when she was in college.

"Midori, you must meet Kevin's uncle Ralph," she said, pushing Midori's arm. "He was engaged once to a gee-sha girl when he was in the Korean War."

"Excuse me, Mrs. Newbury, but who is Kimberley Hobbs?"

Mrs. Newbury blinked several times, as if she were trying to get her eyes in focus. "So you met Kimberley? She's an old friend of Kevin's. From college."

Mrs. Newbury kept Midori busy with introductions to various people. Aunt Ralph, Uncle Agnes, Mr. Church who worked for a bank. Or was it Mr. Bank who worked for a church? Midori couldn't keep anyone straight. Their faces had all blurred into a dull, doughy similarity.

Midori extricated herself from Mrs. Newbury by saying she had to go to the restroom, but instead headed toward the garden. Strings of white lights shimmered on the rosebushes and rhododendrons. Midori saw several guests enjoying the balmy evening but she couldn't locate Kevin or Kimberley.

Midori decided to go to the powder room after all. The ballroom bathroom resembled one in a department store, with a large room separate from the toilets and expansive, lighted mirrors and flower-painted ceramic sinks. Opening the door, Midori's chest burned as she recognized the back of some familiar blond curls. Kimberley stood in front of one of the mirrors, dabbing her face with a small round cloth.

"Hello, Kimberley," she said, which sounded more like Hah-row, Kim-bah-ree, in what for Midori was a loud voice.

As Midori had hoped, Kimberley jumped. Her compact slipped from her hand and fell into the sink.

"Oh, Mitori," she said, turning around. "What a nice party." She retrieved the silver compact and turned on the water to rinse the powder dotting the basin.

"Yes, but it has nothing to do with me. It is thanks to Kevin's parents." Midori thought afterwards that it would have been better to just have said, "Thank you" to this, but that would have seemed like bragging. She couldn't take any credit for this party.

"Of course."

Midori placed her hands under the gold faucet as water magically poured over them. "Where did you meet Kevin?"

"In high school." Frazzled, she jammed the compact into a pink, beaded evening bag.

"Do you know where he is? I can't find him."

"No, I don't know where he is," she said, her tone implying that there was no reason to believe that she would be privy to such information. She twirled her fingers through her hair, looking at her watch. "So nice to meet you, but I have to run. It's almost midnight."

"Will your car become a pumpkin?"

Kimberley gave Midori a puzzled look. Did she mix up her fairy tales? At any rate, Kimberley didn't seem to get the joke. It had been a risk, Midori thought, attempting to be humorous in English.

"Good night," Kimberley said, rushing out the door.

Back in the ballroom, the party seemed to be winding down. The angel had removed her wings and was wheeling out her harp. Midori still couldn't find her fiancé. She tapped Mrs. Newbury on the shoulder. "Have you seen Kevin?"

"No, dear," she said. "Maybe he already went to bed."

Midori didn't think that was true, but rode the elevator to the third floor anyway. At first, she couldn't believe that a family would have an elevator in their home, but after living here for a week she'd become used to it and found it rather thrilling, and handy as well.

The door to Kevin's bedroom was open, but the only occupant was Snowball, the Newburys' white Persian cat, who stretched leisurely on the bed, gripping the spread with her claws.

When Midori turned on the light, Snowball rolled on her backand let out a loud, contented meow. Midori gazed around the room as she scratched the cat's belly. Kevin's open suitcase, still adorned with Japan Airlines tags, lay on the floor; his shoes and socks were strewn about as if they were homeless. His striped cotton robe was draped leisurely over a chair. On the dresser a bottle of cologne rested on its side, surrounded by a scattered collection of pennies, dimes, and quarters mixed with 100-yen coins.

Midori grasped the handles on the dresser drawer, pulling it open. What did she expect to find? A secret diary? Mysterious letters stashed away in an old cigar box? Perhaps she was acting silly to be so nosy. It was something Emiko-chan from Longing to Hug might do. But that didn't stop her from rummaging through the disarray of underwear, socks, and pajamas.

All she found was Kevin's sterling silver pen. It was his favorite. When they lived in Japan he used it to correct student papers. Midori had never looked at the pen closely until now. Rolling it in her palm she noticed the engraved, swirling lines, which gave it an elegant look. But there was something else. On the other side of the clip she spotted an inscription: K & K Together Forever. She had to stare at the letters for what seemed like minutes before she realized their meaning. Her body, frozen and chilled like one of those swan ice sculptures downstairs, couldn't move until she heard a familiar voice.

"Looking something?"

Midori turned around to see Consuelo standing in the doorway, her eyebrows arched in surprise. Snowball jumped off the bed and bounded toward her, rubbing enthusiastically against her legs.

"Yes," Midori said, trying to put on a smile. "But I found it. Good night." She clasped the pen in her hand as she eased past the housekeeper and the cat, walking in a hurry toward the stairway to her room on the second floor. Midori gave up searching for Kevin. Still in her party clothes, she lay stiffly on the bed. Holding the pen between her fingers, she couldn't stop staring at the engraved message until she drifted into a troubled sleep.

Now, in the bedroom with the freshly made bed, Midori can feel Kevin looking at her as she stares out the window.

"I couldn't find you last night," she says. "You disappeared. Were you with Kimberley?"


She crosses her arms, holding them to her chest. She puffs out her cheeks.

"I'm sorry I never mentioned this, but I was engaged before."

"To her?" Midori says. Of course the answer is obvious, but she wants to hear it from him.

He nods.

"Why didn't you tell it to me?"

"I don't know. I didn't think it was important."

What other things has he considered too unimportant to tell her? When they first met, she asked him why he had come to Japan. He said he wanted to "get back down to earth." What was he—an astronaut?

"When she broke the engagement, I decided to go to Japan." He reaches for Midori's hand. "And now I realize that she and I ..."


"Midori, I'm sorry."

"You just realized now?" Has she been such a disappointment ever since arriving here that he suddenly changed his mind?

He shakes his head. "No. I've been in touch with her for a while."

"When we were in Japan?" Midori nearly loses her balance as she sits with a thump on the bed.

Kevin rubs his temples with his palms. "Yes."

"And you still brought me here?"

"I was confused, Midori. I wasn't sure what to do."

She stares at his blue eyes, which now seem to have turned gray—the color of mold infesting a slice of bread. How mortifying to recall that from the first moment she met Kevin, she thought he was the one. When the school administrator at Let's English introduced him to the office ladies Midori became so dizzy she thought she would faint. Gazing at his muscular frame, his blond hair, his blueeyes, and hearing his charming Japanese, she thought, I'll put up with any of his faults, if only he'll be my boyfriend and, maybe if things work out, my husband.

And his face had looked so familiar. Where had she seen it before? Was it Robert Redford in Out of Africa? Brad Pitt? Tom Cruise? Maybe, but not quite. Then it hit her. When she got home she immediately went to her room, to the bottom row of the bookshelf that held her childhood books. Spying the familiar green cover, she pulled out the picture book Tamanokoshi, the Japanese translation of Cinderella. Because it was a European story, all the characters in the illustrations had white faces, not Japanese. She turned the pages, then stopped when she saw a portrait of a man wearing a belted, bright white jacket with gold-fringed epaulets—Kevin was a dead ringer for the prince.

Now, instead of Prince Charming, Kevin seems to have turned into his evil twin, Prince Alarming or Prince Harming or something.

"You will marry her instead of me?"

"I'm not sure. But we found that we—we"—he is stuttering now—"we're still in love with each other. I just feel so terrible about this, Midori."

"You feel terrible? You cannot feel my terrible feeling." She sighs. It isn't how she wants to say it. She wishes she could do something dramatic to make him feel her hurt. Throw herself on the floor and beg him to take her back, rip the curtains from the rod and threaten to jump out the window. Those are definitely scenes worthy of a soap opera. But instead she grabs the silver pen from the bed table and throws it to the floor.

"Congratulations, Kevin. Now the K and K can be together forever."



It's as though Midori had been cast in Longing to Hug, but was abruptly killed off because her character hadn't been popular enough with viewers.

Kevin said good-bye to her that morning and left the house. Sheassumed he was rushing off to be with Kimberley. Now it's up to Mrs. Newbury to deal with Midori. The two women sit across from each other in the bright, sun-filled kitchen as Consuelo rinses dishes in the sink and loads them into the dishwasher.

"It's a shame, dear, but sometimes these things happen for the best," Mrs. Newbury says.

In Japan, an incident like this would have been of extreme embarrassment to the family. Endless apologies would be expressed and who knows how long it would take the affected parties to recover. And relatives would be tsk-tsking all over the place, bestowing looks of great pity toward the jilted bride-to-be. But Mrs. Newbury never says she is sorry and never apologizes for her son's behavior. To her, it seems the wedding plans had simply been a picnic that required cancellation because of a rainstorm.

At first Midori was offended and hurt by Mrs. Newbury's behavior. There's that English expression ... What am I? Chopped asparagus? But, no, that didn't seem quite right. Yet as Midori sits in the kitchen staring at the bouquet of shiny copper pots and pans hanging by hooks from the ceiling, and the enormous preparation counter—they call it an island—where Consuelo is now slicing a plump purple eggplant, she feels a strange sense of relief that this transaction is turning out to be short and sweet. Yes, she is beyond disappointed; and yes, she is livid with Kevin; and, yes, she doesn't know what she's going to do with her life now. But she takes comfort in the straightforward simplicity of it all, the complete lack of decorum.

So when Mrs. Newbury says it might all be for the best, Midori simply nods.

"I've arranged for an electronic ticket to Tokyo on Japan Airlines for next Wednesday. Here's the information. They sent it in Japanese for you." She pushes a fax in Midori's direction. "And until then you can stay at one of the hotels, as I'm sure you wouldn't be comfortable staying here any longer."

Midori nods once more.

"Which would you prefer, dear? The Fairmont or the Mark Hopkins? Of course we'll pay for everything."

It reminds Midori of the choice Mrs. Newbury had given her between Gump's and Saks. She has no idea which to select. Her throat tightens as she thinks of the wedding registry that is no longer necessary.

She decides to choose the hotel that doesn't sound like a man's name. "Fairmont?" she says as she listens to the rhythmic tapping of Consuelo's knife on the cutting board.

"Fine. Mr. Newbury knows the manager so it'll be no problem getting you a nice room. I'll make a reservation and have a cab come over and take you there. By the way, they provide some wonderful tours. You can see all the sights with a Japanese guide before you go home. Just charge everything to your room." She stops for a moment and places her index finger on her temple, reminding Midori of an executive's secretary, making sure she hasn't forgotten any details. "You're all packed, correct?"

"Yes." Midori pauses. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Newbury." Kevin had warned her that she would look like a weakling if she constantly said "I'm sorry" to Americans, but it came out automatically, the way your leg pops up after the doctor hits your knee with a hammer.

"Nothing for you to apologize for, dear."

"Thank you for everything."

"You're welcome. Too bad things didn't work out." She gets up from the table. "But life goes on, doesn't it?"

Out of the corner of her eye, Midori can see Consuelo staring in her direction. As she looks to her for a comforting glance, the maid quickly bows her head and stabs another eggplant. Perhaps Consuelo had tattled to Mrs. Newbury, and figures Midori was being dismissed for stealing from Kevin's room.

Consuelo doesn't know the half of it, and perhaps neither does Mrs. Newbury—unless Kevin has told her. This is much more than a breakup for Midori. This is a big fucking deal, as Kevin would say.

When Midori left Japan, she planned to leave permanently and live her life in the States married to Kevin. She would have received a green card through her marriage and eventually become an Americancitizen, as she had no interest in returning to Japan except for an occasional visit.

"Why can't we just get married in Japan and then move to San Francisco?" Midori asked Kevin. "All we have to do is register at the ward office. We can still have our wedding in San Francisco." She had read an article in a Japanese magazine about a couple that took their vows in a picturesque village called Sausalito, with the Golden Gate Bridge behind them. It was so magnificent—it looked as if they were standing in front of a backdrop photograph at Universal Studios.

"My parents really want to meet you," he said.

So that was why Midori entered the United States on a fiancée visa. But now she wonders if Kevin had only wanted to put off the marriage because he wasn't sure what would happen with Kimberley. Anyway, it was necessary to marry Kevin to acquire the proper credentials to stay legally, but now that was impossible. And if she stays for more than sixty days, and the authorities find out she hasn't married Kevin, she'll be deported, and banished from the United States for years, if not forever.



One time, back in Japan, Kevin had been complaining to Midori about Howard, one of the other teachers at Let's English.

"He always goes round and round when he talks," Kevin said. "He's so indirect. He never gets to the point."

"He's always going in the bushes," she said.


"He's always going in the bushes."

Kevin laughed so long and hard it looked as though he were having a seizure. He smiled warmly as he put his arms around her and kissed her lips. "I love you so much," he said. "'Cause you're so funny."

Midori liked how Kevin always said, "I love you"—so unlike a Japanese man. But she didn't know why he thought she was "funny."

"What is so funny?"

"When you say he's going in the bushes it sounds like he's taking a piss or something. I think what you wanted to say is, 'He beats around the bush.' It's just an idiomatic expression."

From then on Midori was determined to correctly learn as many English idiomatic expressions as she could. But she called them idiot-matic expressions, because she felt like a complete idiot when she got them wrong. She memorized dozens and tried to use them as much as possible. She was proud of her accomplishments, much like a foreigner in Japan learning to write her first Japanese characters. But still she made mistakes and Kevin would correct her when she spoke of getting egg on her eyes, or pulling the wool over somebody's face.

Now, slumped in the backseat of a taxi on her way to the Fairmont Hotel, climbing the steep hills like the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland, Midori bites her lower lip. As tears fall on her cheeks, she is oblivious to the bright blue sky and the clanging of the cable car bells. But she knows the exact idiomatic expressions to describe her situation.

I'm in deep shit, she thinks, and up the creek without a saddle.

MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT. Copyright © 2007 by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Meet the Author

WENDY NELSON TOKUNAGA's short stories have appeared in The Abiko Literary Quarterly Review, The Plaza, The Timberlake Review, and Yomimono, among others. She lives in San Francisco with her Japanese-born surfer-dude husband Manabu Tokunaga.

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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Midori isn't having the best year. To escape her parents and the potential marriage prospects they throw at her, she agrees to marry an American and move to San Francisco. The night after the couple's engagement party, Kevin breaks off the engagement and Midori moves into a hotel.

Alone in a foreign country, she knows that nothing's waiting for her back home, so she decides to stay. She calls up the one man she met at the party and asks for advice.

Soon, she's sharing an apartment, baking goodies, and looking for a way to obtain a green card.

MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT shows the struggle of one woman to make it in a world completely foreign to her and finding herself fitting in more than ever. A fun read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am very interested in the Japanese culture, so when I saw the title (her name being Midori, meaning the color 'green') I picked it up. Not five minutes into reading it I new it was a winner. I devoured within a week! Charming and different, a nice change! I wouldn't reccomend it for children though, as it has some sexual things in it. But for any adult looking for a good book, GET THIS!