Chapter 10:

Ch.8 It’s a Date

Sleeping Princess

The alarm clock cried out to me. I wasn’t prepared for it though, so I flipped out of bed and nearly met my face to the floor. Waking up that early in the morning is seriously going to take a toll on me today. As I rubbed my eyes the memory of Mari-san filtered back into my mind.Bookmark here

“Ahh…”Bookmark here

I sighed. Now I didn’t want to see her. It’s embarrassing thinking back to not only her stepping up and telling me to go to bed…but her coddling me like a child who was afraid of the dark. My shoulders slumped slightly. With all my might I pushed away my nerves and ventured downstairs still feeling a tad groggy. First things first, I triumphed over to the kitchen and started making some morning coffee to ease this feeling of tiredness.Bookmark here

“Grrrraaa…”Bookmark here

A roar came from behind me. Slowly I cranked my head to see a beast I’ve never seen before. Its hair matted wildly as it reached out its claws at me. Fear took over as it sprinted my way and latched on my shoulders.Bookmark here

“Ah?!”Bookmark here

I shrieked.Bookmark here

“She needed to die, Madoka-san! All she needed to do was die!”Bookmark here

The beast cried lifting its head, revealing an exhausted-looking Mari-san. Any anxiety I had in seeing her this morning washed away in this instant.Bookmark here

“M-Mari-san?”Bookmark here

“She just needed to be killed, Madoka-san! That’s all! That’s all I wanted so I could have my Sunday off but no…She lived!”Bookmark here

Mari-san gripped her palms in rage. It looked like it hurt. Reactively, I squinted my eyes.Bookmark here

“I should have killed her myself! I probably would have been fired though…but at least I’d have my weekend!”Bookmark here

Taken aback by Mari-san’s murderous rage, I stepped away only for her to draw closer to me.Bookmark here

“But no, Madoka-san! He wanted that... bit- ah…dog…to live! I shouldn’t call her that word…but everyone else thinks she is! Even your mother was fine if she died! Nobody cares about her!”Bookmark here

“Mari-san…you’re scaring me.”Bookmark here

“I wanted her dead! Let her die! Nobody likes her anyway!”Bookmark here

“Mari!”Bookmark here

Mom peeked out of their room door. Her expression seemed panicked as she exited and raced over briskly.Bookmark here

“Mari, you shouldn’t be telling Madoka about that! That’s on a need to know basis!”Bookmark here

“Who cares, Ayumi?! Everyone knows should have just killed her and went about our day but no! He had to reconsider!”Bookmark here

“We just can’t kill everyone though, Mari! You know that better than anyone!”Bookmark here

“But she needed to die!”Bookmark here

What the heck is going on here?! Why are mom and Mari-san talking about committing murder? Is this something I should be hearing?Bookmark here

Mari glared back to me as if pleading for a response.Bookmark here

“She should have just died and given us our weekend, right Madoka?”Bookmark here

“Ahhh… I’m against killing people...M-Mari-san.”Bookmark here

That’s all I could muster. My mouth jawed in awe. If anyone would have told me I looked like a fool I wouldn’t be able to deny them right now.Bookmark here

“You see Mari, even Madoka doesn’t think it’s right to kill everyone off.”Bookmark here

“Kill… everyone off?”Bookmark here

My head spun now. There was no rhyme or reason to this entire ordeal. I wanted to slam my head into the cabinet and wake up in my warm bed as if this was all a wild dream. I nearly did it too, but I was reminded by Mari-san’s tight grip that I was still in her clutches. Abruptly, Mari let go of me and replaced me for my mom.Bookmark here

“But because the writer wanted a change in the ending, we had to spend the entire day retracting the prints and editing out the fine ends! What an idiot! How could he be so selfish?!”Bookmark here

Then like a brick to the head it all came into view. They’re talking about killing off a character in a story. Geez, these two need more subtlety. Especially when there’s no context to anything!Bookmark here

“Morning…”Bookmark here

Hana came down the steps last, yawning. The tiny bear waking from her mini hibernation. She looked cute rubbing her eyes. But then Mari-san rushed over to her next victim.Bookmark here

“She should have died, right Hana?!”Bookmark here

“W-What mom?!”Bookmark here

I don’t know how she could have so much energy in the morning. Out of the four of us, she had enough energy for all of us in one and then some. Now if only she could get her act together and properly leave the house without forgetting things, she’d be quite the opponent.Bookmark here

With all the morning excitement died down Mom laid us out a small breakfast. We all sat down while Mari-san took hold of the paper and rustled it. With a yawn, she flipped through leisurely. I wondered how late was she up after I went to sleep?Bookmark here

“So, Hana, did you get all that you needed with big sis?”Bookmark here

Mom asked while eyeing me from the side.Bookmark here

“Yep!”Bookmark here

Hana exclaimed before picking at her food some more.Bookmark here

“Hana, you’ll be going on a long trip so make sure you eat lots before you go.”Bookmark here

“Ngg…”Bookmark here

Hana moaned. Mari lifted a piece of toast then without warning, pushed it in mom’s mouth.Bookmark here

“Like this Hana!”Bookmark here

Mom nibbled on the end before taking the rest out of her mouth.Bookmark here

“M-Mari! Stop it.”Bookmark here

“Eat up Hana and grow up to be as tall as Ayumi.”Bookmark here

Hana giggled not to mom’s liking.Bookmark here

“Mari, you’re teaching Hana bad habits!”Bookmark here

That reminded me of yesterday at the food court. Hana was feeding me like I was a bird or something. It seems feeding others is something only found on the Koda side of the family.Bookmark here

“Hehe, sorry Ayumi.”Bookmark here

Lately, our meals have been more lively. It seemed mom and Mari-san have broken out of their shell and regularly tease one another. It’s a constant back and forth of flirtation. It’s nice to see mom happy I guess… Mari-san seems like an entirely different person now in comparison to last night too. She has a childish tone about her that she…actually hasn’t shown me for a while...Bookmark here

“Madoka, eat your food too.”Bookmark here

Mom called out causing me to refocus on my meal. Without saying a word, I continued eating. After our breakfast, we all stepped out the door like usual. Hana held her bags full of camping gear to her side. It was larger than her body and I was afraid it wouldn’t even fit into the car.Bookmark here

“Heeep!”Bookmark here

She cried as she shoved it in the back seat.Bookmark here

“Hehe.”Bookmark here

Seems my fears were unfounded as Hana pushed it in with ease. I found myself crossing my arms and nodding as if accepting her offering so to speak. Or at least saying “good, good.” Like an old dojo master complimenting their pupil's work.Bookmark here

“Now Madoka, go straight to the train. Don’t take any detours and if anyone tries to talk with you run!”Bookmark here

“Mom, I’m 16 years old. Heck, I turn 17 in November…”Bookmark here

“But you’re still my baby! A-Are you sure you don’t want Mari and I to take you to the train? It’s no trouble for us!”Bookmark here

I cross my arms in an X. If I had a buzzer on me it’ll be going off right about now.Bookmark here

“Nope! I’m fine!”Bookmark here

“A-Are you sure?!”Bookmark here

“Ayumi…”Bookmark here

Mom glanced at Mari-san who firmly sat in the driver’s seat of the car.Bookmark here

“She’ll be fine Ayumi. She’s a smart, capable young lady. Like you.”Bookmark here

“A-Are you sure, Mari? She doesn’t have Hana with her and might get lost. I don’t want anything happening to my baby.”Bookmark here

“Mom!”Bookmark here

I cried out. Now she was just being overdramatic.Bookmark here

“Ayumi, she’ll be fine. Now let’s go. Hana has to get to school early so she can catch the bus. Madoka insisted she wanted to take the train alone and I’m all for it.”Bookmark here

Mom sighed and slumped her shoulders.Bookmark here

“You’re stronger than me…Mari.”Bookmark here

“Oh stop. Now, let’s go.”Bookmark here

With that mom reluctantly got in. She rolled down Mari’s window and forced her tall body across the inside of the car.Bookmark here

“Bye Onee-san!”Bookmark here

Hana cried from the back seat.Bookmark here

“See you soon, Hana-san! Have fun!”Bookmark here

“Madoka, make sure you call me when you reach school! Don’t forget-“Bookmark here

Mari drove off mid-way through her speech. There I sat with the gas’s fumes prompting me to go on. I could faintly still hear my mom’s words as the car turned the corner.Bookmark here

“She’s…a bit too overprotective.”Bookmark here

I checked my phone, lamenting over it.Bookmark here

“I should make sure I call her when I get there…else I might get in trouble like when I went out with Mae and Conway-san to the arcade…”Bookmark here

With that, I began walking to the train. Immediately I noticed my left hand was empty this time, unlike the previous days. In other words, Hana wasn’t there to take hold of my hand. Only then did it become apparent that I was truly alone. When’s the last time that I had this time to think about it? Other than being in the home alone on occasion it’s been a while since I did something this independent. I can only imagine why mom is acting this way.Bookmark here

When I thought back to it, how Mari-san said she wouldn’t even smile for weeks after my comatose, guilt crept up in me. Even though I’m sure it was beyond my control, I never want to see that smile leave her face again. My mom is certainly the reason why I worked so hard in the past and I wouldn’t want that to be taken for granted or anything.Bookmark here

The cool breeze took hold of my thighs. I lifted my scarf under my chin. I wasn’t good with the cold, I admit. I’m more of a summer person despite my birthday being close to winter. Why did I have to wake up in the cold season? Probably I should have kept hibernating until the spring?Bookmark here

“Hehe.”Bookmark here

I chuckled. Taking light of the comatose matter. It was the only way I found myself not dwelling on the time I lost. If I joked about it then it would just be a time to look back on and push away from my mind. Now it was time to look forward, I guess. Before I realized it, the train station came into view. Congratulations Nakagawa Madoka for making it this far.Bookmark here

With the screech of metal bringing the train to a stop, I stepped on. I couldn’t help but feel eyes on me. Unsure, I looked around but didn’t see anyone. Everyone seemed to have their head in a book or a phone. Others seem to be listening to music and whatnot. So, why does it feel like I’m…being watched?Bookmark here

I shake my head. This has to be me growing self-aware that I’m alone now. At least today I won’t have to stand in strange places at Hana-san’s request. See, there are good sides to not having to walk with Hana-san!Bookmark here

I shimmy my way over to the side and take a hand-holder as it was the only thing empty in the pact train. What raced in my head was “stay to the side, in the open, and watch your surroundings.” Religious things Hana would always chant when I was going on the train.”Bookmark here

Unable to shake this feeling of being watched still, I began looking around when I caught eyes with someone staring my way. Her fiery eyes captured mine. It took me a bit to recall who she was. Reactively, she darted her eyes to the left and right as if searching for something. She inhaled animatedly causing her ash hair to bounce.Bookmark here

“Oh, it’s you.”Bookmark here

As if my words stapped her she jumped slightly then began making her way away from me. It was sudden but after her third glance back my body finally reacted.Bookmark here

“W-Wait a minute.”Bookmark here

This wasn’t the first time she actively avoided me. Something in me told me that I should try and see why. Not as if I could run, I shimmied my way closer to her as she did the same in the opposite direction. We weaved our way from one end of the cart to the other. I silently rebuked my decision after a minute or so. Hana being gone, and I thought I might have a normal ride to school but there I was, making people turn their heads.Bookmark here

“Ah.”Bookmark here

She turned back to me once she hid a wall of people. Her cheeks a deep rosy tone.Bookmark here

“Ah…”Bookmark here

Now that I caught up to her, we glanced at one another. Only then did I realize how awkward I was being by pursuing her in the first place.Bookmark here

“I…”Bookmark here

Without anything to say, my eyes fell downward. The ash haired girl stood taller than me which kind of gave me a sense of inferiority. She wore our school uniform with a warm scarf.Bookmark here

“N-Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

We faced each other now. Her long ash hair trickled behind her shy face. My name slipped from her thin lips, prompting me to ask the next question…Bookmark here

“So, you do know me, don’t you?”Bookmark here

Her lips shielded themselves behind her scarf as she tilted her head in seeming confusion.Bookmark here

“You don’t know me, Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

Her voice peaked out from under her shawl. Despite being so tall, I didn’t get the sense that her demeanor would hold up to her outlook. Like her height was a façade making her look more assertive than she is. To answer her question I shook my head.Bookmark here

“I… don’t think so.”Bookmark here

She blank mindlessly a few times. I might have looked the same, to be honest... Should I explain why? Maybe I met her during my gap of memory and now she’s been erased just like Mari-san was? But how should I go about breaching that subject? It felt kind of weird in this sort of place…Bookmark here

“Ahh… I’m… ahh.”Bookmark here

To my surprise, I could see tears welling up in her crimson gaze. It was if she was struggling to get her words out to the point of pain. Suddenly, a voice over the speaking rang out and the doors flew open. Before I could gather what was happening, she rushed past me and melted into the storm of people.Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

I admit, I was the one who aggressively approached her, but I didn’t expect for her to take the chance to actively run from me. If I did know her… why is she running from me? Did I do something to her in the past? Is this my divine judgment for my wrongdoings? Nah, I think I’m being overdramatic now.Bookmark here

But something about her… reminded me of a certain someone from my basketball team. I can’t recall her name, but she was shorter and had her hair up in a bun most times. Could that be… the same girl? As my mind circled it, I was washed out of the train by the crowd. What an eventual morning...Bookmark here

“Nnngg…”Bookmark here

“Hmm…”Bookmark here

“Hehehe…”Bookmark here

Lunchtime came around and here I was sitting at a round table with a deck of cards in my hand. Ma-chan on the right, Conway on the left. Something sparked the blueberry and Ma-chan texted me about wanting to play Old Maid. A simple game about trying to get the card pair you want without mistakenly ending up with the singular queen in the deck or the “Old Maid” if you will.Bookmark here

“So, it’s my turn!”Bookmark here

Conway declared with pride as she took a card from me. She was quite forceful in the matter. Like I was being robbed at gunpoint. Her smile as she did so was sinister which made her cute. A mini villainess.Bookmark here

“Hehe, just what I wanted.”Bookmark here

I can’t lie, I don’t have the proper poker face for this. I turned to Ma-chan who’s only been smiling the entire time. Her expression doesn’t have much variety on it nowadays actually. I haven’t seen her do anything besides it. It makes me a tad happy knowing she’s enjoying life so upbeat. It’s one of the main reasons why I haven’t brought up the subject of her… fight.Bookmark here

“So, your sister is in the mountains for a few days, Mado-chan?”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

Breaking my train of thought, Ma-chan spoke up beaming with excitement.Bookmark here

“Yep, she sent me a text earlier saying her ride would take around three hours.”Bookmark here

I take a card from Ma-chan as I speak… What would you know? I picked the old maid… Dang, she’s good. Her expression didn’t even change one bit. It didn’t take long from there that I was done for.Bookmark here

“You lose, Nakagawa-san!”Bookmark here

Conway gloats being the first one safe.Bookmark here

“Oh, old maid! Can I join?”Bookmark here

The group peered over to see an ivy haired delinquent standing over us.Bookmark here

“Ehh….?”Bookmark here

Conway’s face soured to my expectations. Not wanting to be rude but knowing full well these two don’t like one another I tense up slightly.Bookmark here

“Sure, Okabe-san!”Bookmark here

To my surprise, I turned to Ma-chan who seemingly failed to read the tension between them…Bookmark here

“Ah, you know each other?!”Bookmark here

Conway questioned tilting her head at Mae.Bookmark here

“Yep, we met a while back.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, at the mini-mart a bit away from the school during class hours.”Bookmark here

The exploits of Ma-chan. I looked back at her still with her smile on her face. Such an innocent look despite the crazy hairstyle she chose. But then if she did get into a fight… was that why she quit the team? I want to ask but for some reason…she seems much happier nowadays than she did before. So, would it be right for me to open that wound?Bookmark here

“So, are you going to let me join?”Bookmark here

“Are you guys alright with that?”Bookmark here

I found myself nodding but I wasn’t paying attention. My thoughts were mainly on Mae-chan.Bookmark here

“Sure…what about you, Conchi-san?”Bookmark here

She soured at me.Bookmark here

“Oh, shut up Nakagawa-san.”Bookmark here

Not a reply but Okabe-san took it as a “yes” and sat down too. The tension between the two became as thick as smog immediately. I figured this would happen.Bookmark here

“Your turn, Conway-san.”Bookmark here

Okabe leered, something told me she was enjoying this atmosphere. It was a bit off-putting, to be honest. Ma-chan however hummed, not a care in the world for her. Conway-san reached out her stubby hands and pulled a card out of Ma-chan’s deck.Bookmark here

“My turn!”Bookmark here

Ma-chan cried before ripping a card from me, creating a pair, and tossing it in the pile.Bookmark here

“Eh…”Bookmark here

That was a good one. I swear she’s reading me through her charming smile.Bookmark here

“I’ll grab this one…eh?”Bookmark here

I cried, taking it from Okabe-san.Bookmark here

Not good, I screwed up again taking hold of the Old Maid. She and I knew each other well by this point. Okabe smiled a tad sinisterly as she turned to Conway-san, her rival.Bookmark here

“Mine!”Bookmark here

She cried out, not to Conway’s pleasure. This continued and at some point, Mae finished first leaving the three of us left in the game. Conway-san lost concentration and took the old maid from me. For the first time today, I was safe before the end of the game. Now I leaned back watching the remaining two.Bookmark here

“Oh, I can read you like a book. Why not just give in?”Bookmark here

“Shut up and pull a card.”Bookmark here

This game’s gotten tense. I worried that if I don’t step in something bad might happen.Bookmark here

“So, how’s your little sister Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

Abruptly, Okabe smirked and turned to me as if losing interest in the shark ready to bite her head off at a moment's notice.Bookmark here

“Ah, she’s fine. She went on her camping trip this morning.”Bookmark here

“Oh, I hope she has fun. She’s quite the cutie.”Bookmark here

She turned back to Conway-san still with the same leer.Bookmark here

“I’m sure Conway-san would love to meet her too! Wouldn’t you? I mean, you have a thing for stepsisters, right?”Bookmark here

Her tone was full of something... Nothing nice either. It could only be described as complete and utter malice. Conway-san didn’t say anything, she just sat there waiting for her to breach her deck of cards. I glanced at Mae-chan who seemed to have taken notice of the mood and settled down.Bookmark here

“Just take a card… Okabe-san…”Bookmark here

Conway’s demeanor changed too. For whatever reason, even I could tell that Okabe was in some way… bullying her. But before I could open my mouth to appease the situation, the bell chimed, cutting away my words.Bookmark here

“Let’s just leave it here.”Bookmark here

Okabe-san stated before ripping a card out of her hand, revealing the old maid.Bookmark here

“I’ll just say you won this time, Conway-san.”Bookmark here

She chuckled and stood up. With a victory pump, she made her way out of the cafeteria. I peeked over to see Conway-san motionless. With her mouth a jaw she just focused on the cards in hand. She flicked the cards off her fingers like cleaning her dirtied hands. They fell on the table with a click as she crossed her arms in distaste.Bookmark here

“I hate that girl. She just doesn’t let old wounds heal…she’s terrible.”Bookmark here

The high mood soured. Not sure how to recover it I sat there debating my words carefully.Bookmark here

“Okabe isn’t a nice person…is she?”Bookmark here

Ma-chan spoke out first.Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

Conway-san turned back to Ma-chan. Becoming self-aware she waved her hands.Bookmark here

“Sorry I didn’t turn her away, Conway-san…”Bookmark here

“O-Oh, it’s nothing you should concern yourself over, Watanabe-san. It’s…my own vendetta against her that neither of you should concern yourself with.”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry too, Conway-san.”Bookmark here

My shoulders slumped. All I could do to console her was follow up on Ma-chan’s direction. That itself felt a tad distant of me though.Bookmark here

“W-Will you both stop it. We had fun and that’s all that matters.”Bookmark here

Her shoulders slumped as she said this. Her words didn’t mirror her actions at all.Bookmark here

“Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll be leaving early today... I don’t feel like attending afternoon classes anymore.”Bookmark here

With that, Conway stood up, making her schedule as she always does. It was apparent if anything now that I won’t let those two be together if I’m here to prevent it.Bookmark here

“Hey, Mado-chan…”Bookmark here

“Hm?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know much about Conway-san…”Bookmark here

“Yeah…me neither.”Bookmark here

She nodded.Bookmark here

“I think we should try to get to know her better. I’ll think of something and send you a text!”Bookmark here

A smile went on my face. One thing Mae-chan was good at was moving forwards. One thing I wanted to be able to do too. But that’s not the only person I want to get to know better…Bookmark here

I glance at Ma-chan. Something about her is completely different. She’s always so bright and happy now…But I can’t shake the feeling that…she’s holding something in. As if that wasn’t the Mae I grew up with anymore. And that worried me.Bookmark here

She held my hand with that beam on her face. How rude would it be of me to break her happiness by trudging up something that may upset her? My mouth opened but all I could say was…Bookmark here

“Sure, Ma-chan.”Bookmark here

The day slogged on then finally, the twilight sky met my gaze as I walked outside the school front doors. Conway-san wasn’t in the afternoon classes like she said. So, of course, I didn’t walk out with her. It was just me this time, I guess. I checked my phone and surprised I had a text from…Mari. It read:Bookmark here

“Make sure you’re home on time mom said…”Bookmark here

I giggled. She sounded like an older sister rather than my stepmom. But as I read the message a few times it seems the text was only sent for mom’s sake. I didn’t know why I felt hung up on that fact. I decided to reply with a emote instead. Something on the lines of a shrug or “bummer” to lighten our chat a little. As I searched through…Bookmark here

“Ah, Mado-chan!”Bookmark here

Suddenly I was grabbed from behind. The beast buried her hands into my stomach and swung me around causing me to nearly drop my phone.Bookmark here

“Mae!”Bookmark here

But she didn’t stop. She pulled me like a merry-go-round to the point that I began to feel sick. I’m sure the students passing us found this confrontation either entertaining or highly annoying.Bookmark here

“I give! I give!”Bookmark here

I cried until her toned arms finally set me down. My head was spinning so I grabbed onto the nearest support I could…only that happened to be Mae-chan.Bookmark here

“You look so funny!”Bookmark here

Mae chuckled.Bookmark here

“You jerk!”Bookmark here

I pushed her shoulder, but she didn’t budge. Why do I feel so weak all of a sudden? I rubbed the back of my head as I put my phone down in my pocket. My eyes glanced at Mae. Her face was soft, but her joy was mirrorless. It worried me a bit now.Bookmark here

“Oh?”Bookmark here

Mae’s mouth opened slightly. With a tilt, she looked at me.Bookmark here

“Everything alright, Mado-chan?”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“You look a little sad…”Bookmark here

Was it showing on my face? My worry for…Ma-chan? She was here, I was here. So, I gathered my courage and opened up to her.Bookmark here

“Hey, Mae-chan…why did you stop playing volleyball?”Bookmark here

Mae’s eyes widen but then she made a smile and tilted her head.Bookmark here

“Where’s this coming from?”Bookmark here

I scratched my cheek.Bookmark here

“…I’m worried about you Mae-chan.”Bookmark here

I wasn’t expecting to say something like that, but it just came out. Again, that habit of mine seeped out when I least expected it. But that was the truth that was in my heart…despite my mind not wanting to say it.Bookmark here

Mae chuckled and scratched the back of her head.Bookmark here

“Got bored...I guess?”Bookmark here

My heart sunk a little…Mae-chan was lying to me with a smile. The crowd of students passed us. Life was moving around us but between her and I everything was standing still.Bookmark here

“Mae-chan…”Bookmark here

I tried to be more firm but all that came out was a soft plead. I didn’t mean to sound that way…But Mae rubbed the back of her head likely feeling my unease.Bookmark here

“Ain’t buying it, huh Mado-chan…?”Bookmark here

I shook my head silently. With a sigh, she knocked her forehead with her hand.Bookmark here

“I knew eventually…this would come up.”Bookmark here

She’s known me for a while now so, with little motions I make we are able to read each other… well before my coma that might have been true.Bookmark here

“Can we talk about it on the phone tonight?”Bookmark here

Mae looked up and then shook her head to the side.Bookmark here

“I… kind of want to tell you in person, Madoka. About that fight, you heard about…”Bookmark here

I thought back to Okabe. I wouldn’t put it passed her mentioning it to Mae-chan by now. That seemed to be the kind of person she was. Someone who likes to bud into other people’s lives.Bookmark here

“Do you have time to go to Karaoke with me like our middle school days?”Bookmark here

“Sorry, not tonight. But how about tomorrow after school? It can just be the two of us.”Bookmark here

“I would love that, Mado-chan.”Bookmark here

She didn’t make a smile. No, her expression was neutral. It reminded me of her, the black-haired spirit from before my coma. Like that was a side to her she hid now…Bookmark here

“It’s a date then?”Bookmark here

“A date!”Bookmark here

We both chuckled knowing full well that what we were going for most likely wasn’t going to be the happiest of occasions. But the fact that we felt close enough to each other to do it made it all the better.Bookmark here

“Well, catch you tomorrow then!”Bookmark here

“Yep.”Bookmark here

She rushed off opposite her home. My guess is she’d plan to hang around town more, hints why she asked me to Karaoke today.Bookmark here

With the day over now I somberly rode the train back home. As the rays of light flickered through the twilight my phone chimed a cute noise. I almost forgot I changed it to a STARS sound effect. A cute chime that is known all too well from the popular idol group I listen to. As I sat there in my seat my face became warm from the image that stared back at me.Bookmark here

A lone heart from the sender, Mari-san. I opened the text revealing her message in full. She sent me a heart. But then I looked at my text above. Seems when Mae-chan tackled me I sent her a heart. So, she was just sending it back to me.Bookmark here

“Stupid Mari-san…”Bookmark here

I say that but she didn’t do anything. That was my mistake first. I’m not sure why my heart was racing a bit though. The next buzz caused me to jolt. But the sender was a lot shorter than the previous one.Bookmark here

“Onee-san.”Bookmark here

It was Hana. I searched through the remainder of her email.Bookmark here

“I had a rough first day but I’m getting used to it out here. I miss you and goodnight.”Bookmark here

A rough first day? I’ll have to hear all about it when she comes back, I guess. I hope she enjoys her time up there. So, I replied:Bookmark here

“I miss you too! Goodnight and I hope tomorrow is a better day!”Bookmark here

She replied with an emote of a dog sleeping. A very Hana-Esque emotes if I do say so myself.Bookmark here

When I finally reached the door, before I could open it myself the nob turned, and a tall woman appeared.Bookmark here

“Oh, mom.”Bookmark here

“There you are! I was worried.”Bookmark here

“Mom, I always get home at this time…why are you here?”Bookmark here

Mari waved at me from the living room.Bookmark here

“Ayumi insisted that we come home early today.”Bookmark here

“Not as if I haven’t been at home alone before, mom.”Bookmark here

Only then did I catch an aroma of something. It reminded me of the 4-star restaurant quality. Not believing it was coming from our kitchen I stepped in there to see Mari-san with an apron on. It was a rare occasion to see Mari-san make anything. The only thing I remember her making were those sandwiches the first night she came home.Bookmark here

“Ah, Madoka dinner is almost ready.”Bookmark here

Mari waved with her spatula in one hand.Bookmark here

It was breathtaking seeing her move about the kitchen for some reason. I’ve compared her to a model before but now was even more apparent. Mari-san moved about from one end to the other with chef-quality skills. The added ingredients together without measurement and even skillfully multitasked with a smile on her face. The food smelled amazing…if it tastes as good as it smells I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s the best cook in the house.Bookmark here

“Go get undressed and meet us down here when you’re ready, Madoka.”Bookmark here

Mom chimed in after.Bookmark here

“…Sure.”Bookmark here

I felt as if I take my eyes off this rare version of Mari-san she’d escape and vanish into my memory. Never to be seen in the outside world again.Bookmark here

“M-Mari, can I help!”Bookmark here

Mom raced in now, breaking the surreal atmosphere. Mari took her hand and brought her over to the sink.Bookmark here

“Do the dishes for me.”Bookmark here

“B-But I want to cook!”Bookmark here

Mari then did something I wasn’t expecting. The fox put her hands behind her back mirroring a schoolgirl admiring their crush. She then brought her face closer to mom and before I knew it their lips connected.Bookmark here

At first, mom was on the defensive, taking the surprise attack. But then she embraced her lover, bringing her closer to her. Their breast pushed against one another, her hands gripped Mari’s soft curves brushing down her waist until she reached her butt. Firmly mom gripped her there, raising her up slightly. It was brief but full of something I can only describe as passion. Only then did I realize that I never saw them kiss before. This moment of intimacy solidified their relationship in my eyes.Bookmark here

My heart was noticeably pounding now. If my face wasn’t turning red, then the heat around my cheeks was a lie. I never thought about doing something like this with someone of the same sex before. Just earlier in the day, I was that close to Mae-chan. But it never came to me to do what they are doing together right now. But I couldn’t lie…it felt normal…natural even.Bookmark here

But as soon as I began to hone those emotions my stomach began to tense up. I balled my fist for some reason and my mouth opened slightly, bringing in dry air. My body became warm now that I became self-conscious. For some reason…I didn’t want to take my eyes off of…Bookmark here

“W-We should stop, Mari...”Bookmark here

I came to my senses hearing my mom’s soft voice trickle from between them.Bookmark here

“Are you going to do the dishes now?”Bookmark here

With a sharp gaze to the floor, mom nodded. I…never seen mom so submissive before. But then Mari-san turned to me causing me to jolt. My eyes raced around but all I could do was stare at where my mom’s hands still were. Tightly gripping Mari’s seemingly soft butt.Bookmark here

“Are you going to eat dinner in your school uniform, Madoka-san?”Bookmark here

“Oh…n-no. I’ll be right back.”Bookmark here

“Take your time.”Bookmark here

Mari said, flashing me a smile.Bookmark here

Take my time? Did that mean…she wanted to more while I was gone? As abrupt as that thought came, I pushed it out of my head. Closing my eyes, I revealed something I didn’t notice. The sides of my eyes were wet. Probably from staring so long without blinking. But I decided to ignore it and raced up the steps. When I got into my room I hesitated once I shut the door.Bookmark here

“They…really love each other.”Bookmark here

As stupid it sounded, I came to an understanding of what kind of love they truly had now.Bookmark here

As I searched in the mirror my figure came to full view. There I found myself looking over my image. Before I came to the realization of my actions, I was touching my thin lips. I…never found time to be interested in anyone like that. But then I stopped and recalled that Mari-san told me that we spoke about…love.Bookmark here

Without prompt, I circled my lips as I shut my eyes. I wondered about it…how that would feel to be kissed like that. Maybe even be touched like mom did to Mari… As I thought about this an image melted into my view. My eyes shut off from the world, taking me into a strange but new euphoria. As my face warmed up, I felt as if I breached a new sensation. It was then I saw a thin pair of lips approaching me. Pink with a gloss like Mari-san…Bookmark here

Then I opened my eyes. Why did my mind go to…Mari-san? I shook my head in protest. It was obvious why she came to mind. I just saw her kiss my mom. It could have been anyone else if it was two people. There I crossed my arms and shook off the odd sensation. I needed to get undress and clear my head before walking down the steps. It’s not as if I’ve never seen two people kissing before...Bookmark here

But to question now one thing that’s been on my mind still…Bookmark here

I never considered falling in love while aiming for my scholarship…Bookmark here

So, was there someone I took a liking to…enough to confide in Mari-san about it? Just the thought of bringing it up to her gave me butterflies to the point that I avoid it.Bookmark here

“Madoka! Are you ready?”Bookmark here

There I stood still in my school uniform. I shook off my strange thoughts and called back.Bookmark here

“Give me a minute!”Bookmark here

After getting changed I came down the steps to meet a collection of food at the table.Bookmark here

“Ooohhh, I want my Hana!”Bookmark here

Mom wept at the table. Since Hana-san wasn’t here I could relate to her pain. But it seemed a bit over the top. Mom then pulled out her phone.Bookmark here

“Hana…make…sure…you…eat…your…dinner!”Bookmark here

With those words mumbled out loud she clicked her phone. I take it she was sending her a text. Almost instantly a reply filtered in.Bookmark here

“I know, mom?”Bookmark here

Mom tilted her head.Bookmark here

“That girl... doesn’t she know that I only want the best for her?!”Bookmark here

“Calm down Ayumi, she knows.”Bookmark here

Now I sat down only to be greeted with a smile from Mari-san.Bookmark here

“Ah, glad you could join us, sweetie.”Bookmark here

“Sweetie?”Bookmark here

That word felt too old for Mari-san to be using.Bookmark here

“Eh, not working, huh? I’ll think of something else…”Bookmark here

Seems she’s testing for a more motherly word to associate me with. Not that I mind but she has to remember how young she is. It’ll be kind of fun seeing what else she shoots my way over time though.Bookmark here

After all the food was at the table Mari-san sat next to my mom and lifted her bowl.Bookmark here

“Here Ayumi, try this!”Bookmark here

“Oh, does it have pickles in it?”Bookmark here

“Eh, heck no! You know I hate pickles.”Bookmark here

I leaned back, eyeing the situation. Mari-san fed my mom and laughed while doing so. I knew this was coming so I pulled forward and began eating as well.Bookmark here

“Wow…”Bookmark here

Mari turned to me who unconsciously complimented her food. This food…truly was better than anything mom or I could make.Bookmark here

“Ah, so you’ve discovered the love for my cooking?”Bookmark here

I glanced up at Mari-san who smiled dearly.Bookmark here

“Eat up. I rarely cook so enjoy it while you can.”Bookmark here

“It’s because you’re too lazy, Mari!”Bookmark here

Mom pushed her shoulder only for Mari to retort by doing the same back. They act like kids when they're together. Even when mom was with dad, she was more controlled then this…I started to understand the true meaning of being the third wheel now. It’s like this dinner is a date for two and I have to be here out of obligation…Bookmark here

“Oh…mom, I’m going out with Mae-chan after school tomorrow...Is that okay?”Bookmark here

Mom perked up and turned to me, holding off Mari-san’s food plane.Bookmark here

“Is that so? Where are you two going?”Bookmark here

“Karaoke.”Bookmark here

With a slight grumble of reluctance, she nodded.Bookmark here

“Make sure you stay together and call me to confirm that you’ll still be going tomorrow. And don’t come home too late…ooooph!”Bookmark here

Mid speech Mari shoved more food in her mouth. It reminded me of what Hana-san did to me when we ate with Okabe the other day.Bookmark here

“You have fun Madoka. We can have some alone time while you’re out.”Bookmark here

She then poked her nose as she said this. Mom tensed up but then her shoulders fell slightly with a soft expression in her eyes.Bookmark here

“It’s a date, Mari.”Bookmark here

My face grew warm now. What they spoke of was nothing close to how Ma-chan and I had in mind. Our version of a date had no equation to theirs. One full of passion…and love. But for some reason, I felt slightly irritated now. The food was great. Mom was happy. Everything was right but here I was still finding something to complain about. So, I began eating a bit faster. The longer I stay here the…more annoyed I’ll be. Even with the delicious meal prompting me to savor it. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to endure this any longer than I needed to!Bookmark here

“Ah, Madoka! Slow down!”Bookmark here

Mom warned as I now scarfed the food down. It got to the point that I didn’t even taste it anymore. By the harsh the scrapping of the plate did I come to my senses. With my plate clean, Mari-san gazed at me in awe. Only then did I become self-conscious…Mari-san was watching me eat like a pig…Bookmark here

“I’ll cook more often if you like it that much Madoka-san!”Bookmark here

Unable to come up with a proper reply I settled for an escape.Bookmark here

“I-I have homework to finish. Thank you for the meal!”Bookmark here

With that, I rushed up the steps. My stomach was punishing me as it started to feel heavy. From the kitchen, I could hear sounds not equating to dinner. Ones of soft…flirtation. My stomach at first felt heavy but now it was certainly upset.Bookmark here

“Take it to your room…at least you two…”Bookmark here

I muttered out loud. Only then did I cover my mouth. Not understanding where that outburst came from, I went into my room to hide. I don’t know why…Bookmark here

But I couldn’t be as happy as I wanted for them…Bookmark here

…When they are together.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.