“Are you Japanese?”
I raised my eyes from the book I was reading and looked at her, an aged woman with thin, grey hair and deep lines on her face. Her light-blue eyes looked kind and curious.
“Oh no, I am of Chinese origin but I have been living here since I was 16.” I replied, smiling and stretching my body from this wonderfully comfortable sofa.
“Oh I see, you know I have recently been to a conference about Japan, a country that fascinates me immensely.” I saw a sparkle in her eyes.
She turned her eyes to the boys who were sitting on a couch in the corner of the bookshop.
“Are they your boys?” she wondered.
I nodded to her. The boys were absorbed in their books.
“They look just like you; you know I am not fond of mixed-race. I think people should marry those who are of the same race as themselves.”
I didn’t expect remarks of this kind and felt slightly puzzled.
“Your boys look delightful, they are pure-blood.” She carried on.
“Oh thank you.” I said quietly, sensing the glance from my elder son. There was neither harm nor sarcasm in her voice. She simply had absolute faith in what she claimed.
“Your viewpoint is not welcomed in our bookshop.” The sudden appearance of the bookshop assistant surprised me, and the old lady.
“Oh what? We certainly have no right to say anything at all these days, I suppose.” She cast a quick glance at the bookshop assistant and then turned her eyes to me, as if she were expecting a response, or a confirmation, from me.
“Not comments of this kind, I am afraid.” The shop assistant, a young woman in her twenties, replied calmly. Her blond curls fell lightly on the shoulders, her blue eyes showed no sign of hesitation.
The sparkle in the eyes of the elderly lady disappeared. “Well, that must be the case,” she said lamely.
“Please take my seat, and we are about to leave”. I made sure my voice was soft and my smile gentle. She nodded mutely and sat down.
I paid for the books at the counter and turned around. The elderly lady sank down onto the three-seater sofa covered with sharp yellow fabric. She seemed lost in thought.