Given Name
by Lady Grey

She wouldn't be afraid. Haku and Kamaji had both said that if she asked and kept asking, Yubaba would have to give her a job. So she wouldn't be afraid. "Please give me a job!"

"Okay, okay." The old witch sourly wafted a paper and pen towards her. She caught them before the green heads could roll under her feet again. "Sign it."

She printed the characters as neatly as she knew how, so Yubaba wouldn't wriggle out by claiming she hadn't signed properly. Her father was--had been? No he, was and he would be again--a lawyer, and he said people did that all the time. The instant she lifted the pen, it and the contract flew back to the witch's desk. Her huge eyes blinked once as she studied the signature. "Midori?"

"Yes ma'am."

"A lovely name." She pressed her hand over the paper, and the characters fluttered into her lined palm like mayflies. "Mine, now. From now on, you are Lin."

Lin? That didn't fit. She was Midori.

Yubaba's voice snapped harsh. "Do you understand, Lin?"

She snapped to attention. "Yes, ma'am!"

"Good girl. Haku will be here shortly to take you down."

When Haku came in, and stared at her as if he'd never found her crying under the hydrangeas, that was when Midori started to fade.

There was a faint rustle. She shifted position, tugging her blanket over her head and trying to sink back into sleep.


That tickled at her brain. She knew someone by that name. But she was tired and wanted to sleep.


She opened one eye, then both eyes, staring up into Haku's dark gaze. "What do you want?" She started to sit up, remembered in time that she was just wearing her apron, and settled for propping up on one elbow to glare at him. "I don't know a Midori."

"Don't you?"

He was staring at her so intently, and it irritated her. "It's going to be busy tonight. The tengu are coming in, and that always means a party. Go away and let me sleep."

"Do you want to see your parents? It'sŠbeen a while since you did."

"What are you talking about?" Being around Yubaba must have melted his brain. "I'm a grown woman, and my parents areŠareŠI don't need them. And my name is Lin. Lin. It's what everybody calls me. You should know. You were there the night Yubaba hired me!"

Her voice was rising, and a couple of the other girls stirred. "You're going to get me in trouble, Haku. Go away."

He did, almost silently. She flopped back into her blankets, resisting the urge to stick her tongue out at his back. Midori. Ha. As if she didn't know her own name. Her given name.

"Šshe'll stink up the place!"

Lin paused on her way to the kitchens, the frog's annoyance reverberating through the lobby. She peered around, then leaned against the doorjamb, hiding her smile as Haku and that skinny little girl faced down the frog. Well, Haku was facing him down, the kid was clearly trying not to cry. She'd looked like that all the way to Yubaba's, too.

"Lin! You take her!"

She didn't know why it pleased her to be put in charge of the new girl. She did know she had to pretend not to like it, or someone else would get her. "Oh no, not me!"

"Yes, you!" Now the laughter was directed at her, but she didn't care. At least the girl was spared it. She made her voice disgruntled. "Come on."

The new girl's name was Sen, and she was having a rough time. Lin had no experience with kids, but she patted Sen's head until the threat of sickness was past, helped her put on her apron and fold up her clothes, and tucked her into the flowered blankets. Poor kid. Well, she'd learn. Everyone was new once.

Except her. She'd been here forever. She'd always been Lin of the bathhouse. Who else would she be, really?


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