Gill's story was translated by Nurse Fin.
When I was seven years old, my mother passed away.
I was told the spring sunlight shone onto my resting mother's face, surrounded by a bed of flowers, looking as beautiful as a goddess I had once seen. My father quietly stood by my side, and held me close.
"Gil... I... I've lost everything."
I couldn't hold back the tears, and cried out loud.
I was a weak child. My father, as well; now that there was no longer the support of a mother, he appeared terribly unreliable.
When my mother was still alive, she seemed a beautiful woman even through the eyes of my child self. Perhaps it was all the fault of her poor constitution, but I know she was a person with an irreplaceably kind atmosphere about her. My mother could always be found knitting by the fireplace, and I liked to sit by her side and watch her. When my father came home from work, we would have stew cooking from that same fireplace, and we were a very happy family.
The state my father was in after my mother died was, quite frankly, pathetic. Many of the townspeople came by to ask how he was doing, but my father shut himself in his room and wouldn't meet with anyone, he would instead spend every day looking at old photos of my mother.
Around that time, I started to learn everything on my own. It didn't matter whether it was cooking, cleaning, or sweeping the streets; I did everything. When I looked at my father's sloughy appearance, I felt that if I didn't take over the role that my mother played, what was left of our family would fall apart.
One day I tried making my mother's favorite dish, Ratatouille.
I thought that if I did that, even my father would be able to cheer up a bit.
However, no mater what I did, the flavor couldn't match my mother's cooking... I began to miss her, and cried alone.
Ever since then, we've never used the fireplace.
I wanted to become a stronger father than my own. I held more respect for my father than anyone else. He would always work for the sake of everyone in town, he would grow flowers for my mother, and pat me on the head, telling me his favorite phrase:
"Always do things for the sake of others. Always be kind toward others."
But after my mother died, my father changed entirely.
He'd never consider how others felt, and wouldn't even look at me.
It was like he had become a different person, a miserable father, and it felt like he began to resent me.
That's why one day, I came to a resolution. I took my mother's wedding ring that my father always spent hours gazing upon, and hid it inside the fireplace. I figured that if he didn't have any of these memoirs to distract him, he would eventually forget. Surely he would regain his footing, I thought.
As soon as I had carried out the plan, my father burst into my room in a rage.
"My... you don't know, do you!? It's really important! I can't find it!"
I was shocked. Because when I saw my father's face for the first time in so long, his eyes were bloodshot, his cheeks were hollowed, and looked nothing like the father I had known.
After that, my father unsteadily turned toward the living room, and fell to his knees.
"I... I couldn't save my wife. I wonder how that makes me fit to run a town.
Without my wife, I'm all alone, and it's too..."
I felt like I had seen the full extent of my father's suffering for the first time.
Until now, I wonder if I had really spoken to my languished father.
If I had talked to him......
The words came naturally.
"Father, I'm here. You are not alone."
My father turned his face, and quietly murmured,
"What are you saying..."
There was a prolonged silence as my father looked pensive, and then he calmly made his way across the living room, softly touching his way across as if he were looking over everything, one by one.
The three matching mug cups... mother's favorite stew pot... and the different-colored sweaters that my mother had knit for the both of us.
"I see. So that's it. My wife left behind all of these things so that we could continue to live on. We've got to hold on to what we have and make the most of it, you and I..."
"This fireplace holds many dear memories of your mother. When the day our scars heal finally arrives, we should light it."
When I looked at my father, I began to cry. But this time, they were tears of happiness. We'll work hard together.
That was 10 years ago. Our family has been working on the preparations for the coming winter.
"Father, is it all right if I throw away this old book over here?"
As I peered into the study, I saw my father looking at an old picture album.
"Gil, I think it's about time for us to clean out the fireplace...
A looong time ago, I stored some old folklore books in there, you know.
It won't do if we don't take them out of there."
Suddenly, I remembered the ring that I had hidden.
"You know that new farmer that moved in recently, don't you? I was thinking of giving her those books."
Father looked like he was enjoying himself. Everything should be fine now.
Finally, we were able to decide we should light a new flame.
As my father began to clean out the fireplace, a visitor arrived in the house. When I entered the living room, having heard my father's pleas for help, I was shocked to see that he had gotten himself stuck in the fireplace, and that the new farmer was helping him out.
My father held out the books he had retrieved from the fireplace to the farmer.
At that time, my father looked like the perfect mayor... I didn't ask him whether he found the hidden ring or not.
From this winter forward, our fireplace yields a warm light.