Chapter 12:

Ch.10 The Ghost and the White Coat

Sleeping Princess

When I opened the door, I found Mari-san and mom on the couch. A movie was on but nobody was watching it anymore. Seems they both fell asleep…holding one another. With a cover wrapped around both of them, as if merging into one majestic being, they fit together wonderfully. Bookmark here

“You two…”Bookmark here

I shook my head as I turned off the television. So, I decided to help them to bed. Starting with the harder of the two, mom grumbled as I guided her. Something told me she was drunk. Not that the wine on the nightstand gave me any clues.Bookmark here

“Come on, mom.”Bookmark here

“Nnn..thank you, Madoka...”Bookmark here

Once I lied her on the bed, I draped the blankets around her so she wouldn’t get cold.Bookmark here

“When she comes to, she’ll adjust her clothing.”Bookmark here

Now was the sly fox’s turn. Mari-san was a little harder despite her weighing less. She struggled and even wrapped her arms around my neck. Most of her weight was on my back. As she brushed up against me, I smelled a mixture of lemon with flowers….in other words, her, and mom.Bookmark here

“Thanks, Madoka...”Bookmark here

“Y…Yeah.”Bookmark here

After I finally got her into the bed, I did the same, draped the blankets over her so she wouldn’t get cold. Her deep charcoal hair brushed over her eyes. My hand moved on its own and brushed them away, revealing her soft skin. Now that I thought about it…I don’t think I’ve ever touched Mari-san’s hair. It’s unbelievably soft despite it being so straight. I…kind of wanted to ruffle it a little but I stopped myself.Bookmark here

As I watched them lie there, quietly, mom rolled to the side and held Mari from behind. It…was natural for her, wasn’t it?Bookmark here

“They really are…perfect for each other.”Bookmark here

A sense of something I could only describe as…melancholy came over me. As if I wasn’t allowed to explore this perfect world that they made with each other. My body tensed slightly. So, I left the room, shutting the door behind me.Bookmark here

“Goodnight.”Bookmark here

I whispered.Bookmark here

The living room was…quite the mess if I was being humble. Sprawled around were DVDs of all kinds. Like Mari-san and mom couldn’t decide what they wanted in this…romantic evening. So, like the neat freak I am, I began picking up the clutter. It only took a few moments before the room was clear enough for my head not to hurt.Bookmark here

“That’s enough for now.”Bookmark here

I sighed.Bookmark here

But no one replied. It was only me. Hana being away was starting to burn a hole into this home. That must have been the reason why I felt…a tad lonely.Bookmark here

“Oh?”Bookmark here

On the counter next to the couch sat a phone. It was a deep crème color and not much larger than my own. When I lifted it, my finger swiped the front. The main screen opened up without me entering in a code. This wasn’t mom’s phone…it was Mari-san’s.Bookmark here

Before I knew it, I clicked on an application…bringing up the picture list.Bookmark here

Why was I doing this? As if being possessed by a ghost, my fingers moved on their own. Images of all kinds filtered through. Pictures of Mari-san, mom and, Hana in various places…places that I’ve never seen them in.Bookmark here

Like lakes, bridges, restaurants, and more. It reminded me that there was a life…during my coma. That the world didn’t stop while I was asleep. No matter how much I wish it did…that wasn’t true.Bookmark here

As I scrolled through, I ran into a certain picture that caught my attention. I wasn’t expecting anything like this…but here it was.Bookmark here

There was a picture of Mari-san sitting in a chair. Her face was flushed as she was looking at a certain someone…me.Bookmark here

This must have been in the hospital. The look on her face was one I’ve never seen before. Her lips were parted, as she gazed down at me. I could see her hand…wrapped in mine. My heart was drumming as I squeezed my free hand.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

…She must have not noticed when it was taken. Making me believe mom took it while she wasn’t aware.Bookmark here

“Mari…”Bookmark here

Her name pushed out of my mouth suddenly. My chest felt tight…something about it felt nostalgic but painful now. But then regret began to take over and I turned off the phone. When the screen went dark, I put the device to my chest. I wanted to give it back to her, but my body was holding it close to my heart. Something was…strange about how I felt…Bookmark here

I shook my head, blowing away these strange sensations. Then walked back into their room and set her phone down. The sight mom holding Mari-san melted back into view. But now…Mari-san slept…with a childish smile. She was cute and something in me wanted to ruffle her hair again.Bookmark here

Feeling an itch on my cheek I rubbed it…revealing…tears.Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

As I stood there in the darkroom my eyes began to water. Hiccups assaulted my chest and…I didn’t know why. This spectacle should be heartwarming but…my stomach ached.Bookmark here

My body moved on its own now as it made its way out of the room. I must have still been riled up from my outing with Mae-chan. My emotions were everywhere because of what we talked about.Bookmark here

That’s what I concluded…Bookmark here

The rest of the night I idled in my room until bed. As I lied there, I couldn’t stop thinking about that look on Mari’s face. Not the cute one tonight but the daydreamers gaze in the picture. My chest flared up and I tossed and turned. I couldn’t settle down…Bookmark here

The tears kept persisting…Bookmark here

I was confused…Bookmark here

…Why am I always so confused…Bookmark here

…When it comes to Mari-san?Bookmark here

There I was, standing on the train to school…It was just another meaningless morning as the world pulled me by. I finally fell asleep last night…but with all the emotions so high yesterday with Mae-chan, I was more drained than usual. This morning wasn’t eventful.Bookmark here

We ate our breakfast earlier with little chats here and there. Feeling as tired as I am now, I didn’t bring up my coma with them…I had to collect my thoughts more before I do.Bookmark here

“Hm?”Bookmark here

I caught eyes with her again…the ash haired girl. But I wasn’t planning to pursue her, no, all I did was give her a wry smile before turning back to the window.Bookmark here

What was at the forefront of my mind was…Mari-san now. How I tried to speak with her the night before Hana-san’s trip to the mountains. How she turned me down because it was late at night…like a mother would.Bookmark here

I sighed.Bookmark here

“I feel…like she’s pulling away from me.”Bookmark here

Hurtful words pushed away from me. But what did that even mean? That…she’s pulling away from me? Mari-san certainly has been…respecting my space lately…but…Bookmark here

“Ah…Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

I wasn’t expecting her to approach me. I turned now looking at her. She stood taller than me, enough that I had to crank my head to look at her. Her body seemed slim, fragile as her eyes bounced around. I could cut her anxiety with a knife. This was the first time she’d came and contact me instead. So, I pushed the name Koda Mari out of my head and focused on her.Bookmark here

“Sorry…I don’t remember you...”Bookmark here

I stated calmly, putting my hand up as if surrendering to her.Bookmark here

“Ah, it’s not like I forgot you overtime or anything though…”Bookmark here

“Oh…”Bookmark here

Her mouth bobbed up and down as she turned to the side. Her cheeks puffed slightly as her eyes welled up, causing me to panic.Bookmark here

“Ah, a-are you okay?”Bookmark here

Tears began to roll down her translucent skin. Taken aback I sat there in confusion.Bookmark here

“I…ahh…ahhh...”Bookmark here

The train arrived at a stop. As if being prompted, her body slowly backed away from me. She then sprinted out the doors.Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

But wasn’t she the one who approached me? Nothing made sense about her. The way she acted around me. As if being in the same place as me…hurt her more than anything.Bookmark here

I knew her…and certainly, something happened between us. Like in the case of Mae-chan, me being complacent brought on that I didn’t know she was hurting for so long.Bookmark here

“What the heck…?”Bookmark here

I scorned. I have to find out what I don’t know. Before the doors shut, I found myself racing out after her. In the morning bustle of people, I spotted her long, ghostly hair. She was holding her body up on a support beam. By the way her shoulders were raised, I thought she might be hyperventilating.Bookmark here

“Excuse me.”Bookmark here

“Eh?!”Bookmark here

With her back against the support beam, tears rolled down her cheeks. Unable to come up with a coherent sentence I take it, she just mumbled.Bookmark here

“Are…you okay?”Bookmark here

She didn’t respond though. Her head hanged low as if sandbags were pressing on her back. This stop had the shopping district. So, I gently pulled her by her blue school sweater.Bookmark here

There was a small coffee shop outside the station so, I sat her down in a chair. Her lips pursed as she glared at the table. The intensity of her gaze made me feel uneasy.Bookmark here

“Ah…two mocha’s please?”Bookmark here

After I was served, I made my way back. Wordlessly, we sat for a moment before I opened my mouth.Bookmark here

“I… don’t understand how I made you cry…but…I’m sorry?”Bookmark here

That sounded less sincere than I wanted it to.Bookmark here

“Y-You don’t have to apologize …N-Nakagawa-san…”Bookmark here

She rubbed her cheeks as her hesitant voice finally escaped.Bookmark here

“You’re always…looking out for me and this…is how I repay it, Nakagawa-san...”Bookmark here

“Ah…like I said before…”Bookmark here

Now steeling my resolve, I spoke.Bookmark here

“I was in an accident and suffered some memory loss. I don’t remember a lot of things from a few years ago. So, you’re going to have to help me understand…what I did to you…”Bookmark here

I stated firmly, clear, cut. If she were someone I knew, it would only be right for me to try and mend something like this.Bookmark here

“…Mihara…Yuko.”Bookmark here

“Hm?”Bookmark here

“My name is…Mihara Yuko.”Bookmark here

“Ah…Mihara-san.”Bookmark here

Her name made me feel a tad warm. That was the first spark that led me to want to know more.Bookmark here

“And…ah…W-we…use to be on the same basketball team, Nakagawa-san.”Bookmark here

So, my recollection was correct? Does that mean at some point Mihara-san had a growth spurt?Bookmark here

I recalled a shorter version of her. One with a bun in her hair. But when I opened my eyes, I saw her fidgeting like a leaf. I was beginning to think her scarf wasn’t keeping her warm in the slightest.Bookmark here

The tension grew awkward now. Silence cleaved in as we both listened to the iron of the train hitting the grain of the rock below. I glanced back her way only to reveal a blush on her cheeks.Bookmark here

“N-Nakagawa-san…do you really not remember?”Bookmark here

The tone in her voice reminded me of a disappointed mother looking down on her child. As if she was punishing me. Guilt raised in me as I turned to the side. My head hung down as silence once again persisted between us.Bookmark here

“…A few…years ago my grandmother passed away.”Bookmark here

Mihara-san’s voice shriveled as she continued.Bookmark here

“Y-You…Nakagawa-san…you looked after me during that time…and…you helped me out a lot. You were so…kind”Bookmark here

Her cerise eyes met mine. But her head still angled down to the table.Bookmark here

“I was so happy that you were there for me, Nakagawa-san.”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry for your loss, Mihara-san.”Bookmark here

She lifted her head, but her eyes wouldn’t do the same.Bookmark here

“I…I…I wanted us to…be…”Bookmark here

Mihara-san tried to meet my gaze. Her reaction was extreme though. Silently, I stared at her alien movements.Bookmark here

“Ah…I wanted us to be…F-Friends, Nakagawa-san.”Bookmark here

Mihara-san seemed to be extremely shy. So much that this chat seemed to be causing her anxieties. I had to change the mood, make her feel more at ease or this will be painful for both of us. That’s when I realized that she hasn’t tasted her coffee.Bookmark here

“Do you not like coffee?”Bookmark here

“Oh…I… don’t…drink it much.”Bookmark here

At my suggestion, she tasted it. I made sure it wasn’t bitter, a bit of candy to brighten up her mood. Not sure how I brought her to tears still though.Bookmark here

“It’s sweet.”Bookmark here

“S-Sorry, do you not like sweet things, Mihara-san?”Bookmark here

“N-No! I…I like it a lot.”Bookmark here

A smile melted her face. It felt as though that was what I was searching for this entire time.Bookmark here

“So, we weren’t friends, Mihara-san? Then how about we become friends now?”Bookmark here

Her ruby eyes danced across my face, unable to pick a spot to land on.Bookmark here

“R-Really?”Bookmark here

With an exaggerated nod, I continued.Bookmark here

“Sure, I’ll ask you a lot about our time in the basketball club together though. If you don’t mind?”Bookmark here

“Okay, …we can start over then, Nakagawa-san.”Bookmark here

“Start over?”Bookmark here

“Huh? ...No, it’s nothing.”Bookmark here

Silently, she sipped on her mocha as her head turned away. But then she jolted, looking at the station’s clock.Bookmark here

“Oh no, we’re going to be late because of me…”Bookmark here

Yeah…mom was going to kill me if she found out and I knew it. I can’t become a delinquent like Conway-san. So, I stood up.Bookmark here

“There’s nothing we can do about it now Mihara-san. So, I just decided that if we’re going to be late, we might as well enjoy our time.”Bookmark here

Believe me, I’m more serious about school than I probably led on saying that. Right now, wasn’t the time for me to be worried about that though. A person was crying in front of me for reasons I still can’t understand. I think…she took priority.Bookmark here

So, we began walking. We could wait for the next train but the time that’ll take opposed to us just walking would be significant. We marched in silence on the cold, cloudy day. Fog danced about the streets. Like I was in a spirit realm haunted by the tall ghost beside me. That being said her steps were much greater than mine.Bookmark here

“Ah…a-are you still in basketball, Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

“Oh, no. I’m not in any clubs at the moment...I started school only around a month ago so…I haven’t had the chance to look around.”Bookmark here

“Oh, so does that mean you’re a first-year?”Bookmark here

I rubbed the back of my head, bashfully.Bookmark here

“Looks like you’re my senpai, Mihara-san.”Bookmark here

Her cheeks hid in her scarf. Despite being so tall she still pulled off the cute vibe.Bookmark here

“S-Senpai…”Bookmark here

“That’s my line, Mihara-san.”Bookmark here

“N-no! Ah…I use to call you…Nakagawa-senpai sometimes.”Bookmark here

“But weren’t we in the same year, Mihara-san?”Bookmark here

“Yes…but you were so much better than me at basketball. You even exceeded the captain.”Bookmark here

“I don’t know about that.”Bookmark here

I scratch my cheek. Now she was being kind.Bookmark here

“No! It’s true…”Bookmark here

Her voice peaked like a mouse’s squeak. It was super cute.Bookmark here

“Nakagawa-san…you was the only one in the team who was offered a scholarship.”Bookmark here

“I was offered the scholarship?”Bookmark here

I remember working towards one. One that would follow me all through high school and save up the funds until I entered college. I didn’t know I was offered it though.Bookmark here

“Y-Yes. But then you…stopped showing up to practice.”Bookmark here

“I stopped showing up?”Bookmark here

“Yes, that’s what our coach said. She said you…had family matters and wouldn’t be around for a bit.”Bookmark here

The cool wind blew my hair to the side, causing me to shield my face. Despite my thighs being assaulted by the breeze, my body felt warm.Bookmark here

“Family matters?”Bookmark here

Her words correlate to what Ma-chan was telling me the other day. That I suddenly stopped coming to school because of a family matter. But in her words, mom said the matter was being settled and that Mae shouldn’t pry into it.Bookmark here

“I see…”Bookmark here

Feeling the back of my head a strange sensation brushed up against my stomach. I’ve become complacent with how things are now. I need to ask mom and Mari-san about my coma soon.Bookmark here

“…I’m glad.”Bookmark here

“Hm?”Bookmark here

I turned to Mihara-san as we walk up a flight of steps. It led to an overpass. I couldn’t see the expression she’s making under her scarf, but I can see her eyes shining like gems.Bookmark here

“I’m glad that you’re okay, Nakagawa-san...”Bookmark here

For some reason, I could feel the sincerity in her voice. As if it took a hold of my heart and held it close with her words. It made me slightly embarrassed. As we walked over the pedestrian bridge. Cars cried below us, but the mood was peaceful.Bookmark here

“So, what club are you in, Mihara-san?”Bookmark here

“Fine arts. I’m learning how to draw traditional art now.”Bookmark here

“So, you don’t play basketball either anymore?”Bookmark here

She chuckled, warily.Bookmark here

“No…I don’t like basketball all that much, Nakagawa-san.”Bookmark here

“Really? So, why did you join the team?”Bookmark here

Mihara-san’s eyes darted around before landing on her school bag. Her feet were clumsy too as they kicked one another.Bookmark here

“Because I...”Bookmark here

Her body stiffened up.Bookmark here

“I wanted to get away from home. I just…kind of joined it.”Bookmark here

What a strange response. I didn’t know how to reply so I just nodded.Bookmark here

“N-Nakagawa-san…”Bookmark here

“Hm?”Bookmark here

We reached the other side of the impasse now as we made our way down the steps. Her glistening white hair bobbed.Bookmark here

“You…used to be so much taller than me, Nakagawa-san...”Bookmark here

Her neck shrunk into her scarf again. Now she lagged behind me as we reached the bottom of the platform.Bookmark here

“Yeah…I remember that. That’s one reason why I wasn’t sure if that was you, Mihara-san.”Bookmark here

She then stood beside me once we reached the bottom of the steps. It prompted me to look at her. I cranked my neck, doing my best to meet her eyes. The Mihara-san that I barely remember used to be way shorter than me. She would still be as timid as she is now though. Seems that hasn’t changed about her.Bookmark here

“It’s strange…seeing you from up here.”Bookmark here

“Are you calling me short? Did you forget the woes of being a shorty already?”Bookmark here

I teased.Bookmark here

“Oh, no! Nothing like that.”Bookmark here

Waving my hands, I stop her.Bookmark here

“I’m only kidding, Mihara-san.”Bookmark here

Her neck pushed in her scarf further now. But I could hear a slight chuckle coming from her as her face cast a rosy tone.Bookmark here

“You…always teased me like that.”Bookmark here

Her eyes closed.Bookmark here

“I liked that…a lot.”Bookmark here

My chest pinged. Mihara-san is timid yet honest. If I had to compare her to someone so far, oddly enough, it would be Hana. It seems Mihara-san can express her feelings when she pushes herself too. But she’s certainly not as confident as Hana. It made her a completely different flower than my little sister.Bookmark here

Soon enough the school gates came into view. We’re only about twenty or so minutes late. The outside isn’t bustling with students adding to the sense that we’re doing something taboo.Bookmark here

“Ah, Nakagawa-san!”Bookmark here

Mihara-san suddenly shrieked, causing me to jump a bit.Bookmark here

“Hm?”Bookmark here

“Ahh…I don’t have any…clubs in the afternoon today.”Bookmark here

I nodded unsure why she told me this, I tilted my head, expecting a reply but all I got was...Bookmark here

“Ah…goodbye!”Bookmark here

She cried before rushing off towards the second-year's classrooms. No doubt, she’s unique. Coming to terms with the morning, I shrugged and continued making my way to class.Bookmark here

“Now isn’t the time for this!”Bookmark here

Voices echoed out as I passed the garden of the school.Bookmark here

“Hm? Was that…”Bookmark here

That voice sounded too familiar to pass up. So, I journeyed deeper in the garden to a secluded spot hidden behind a small tool shed.Bookmark here

“Is that any way to speak to me, Sophia?”Bookmark here

“You’re not even supposed to be here, Linda! What would my dad say if he found out?”Bookmark here

I silently approached only to see Conchi-san wrapped in the arms of another foreigner I’ve never seen before.Bookmark here

With her voluptuous figure, tall but with curves all in the right places, she pressed against the shark. Her hair swayed back and forth. Frizzy and long. The color of gold. Her eyes were grape purple, it added to her presence. She wore a white coat with long sleeves and a business dress shirt underneath. One that a nurse would wear. But she appeared too young to be a nurse. If anything, she might be a college student.Bookmark here

But going back to their position, Conway was engulfed in her arms. There was nothing friendly about it either. I could see her teeth chattering together as she glared at the one holding her hostage.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about it…”Bookmark here

Suddenly, she began speaking in English. I couldn’t make out what they were saying. But the unknown girl's voice was soft, charming even, as she lifted Conway’s chin. Their lips nearly met until…Bookmark here

“Oh?”Bookmark here

She caught me, the voyeur who had been awing this strange situation.Bookmark here

“Ah?!”Bookmark here

“Nakagawa-san?!”Bookmark here

Conchi-san screamed before pushing the white coat to the ground. Unamused, the seeming doc petted her skirt as she sat up.Bookmark here

“Ouch! Damn, now I’m going to have to change before work…”Bookmark here

“You brought it on yourself, Linda!”Bookmark here

Conway-san cried before rushing in my direction.Bookmark here

“W-What the hell are you doing here, Nakagawa-san?! Shouldn’t you be in class, like a good girl?!”Bookmark here

A good girl? Is that what she calls me behind my back? Slightly annoyed, I answered.Bookmark here

“Ah…I was running late to school. Who is she, Conchi-san?”Bookmark here

“Conchi?! That’s so adorable!”Bookmark here

Her face spun red as she gazed back over to the white coat now standing to her feet. With a small mirror, the golden-haired woman adjusted her frizzy hair.Bookmark here

“She’s…a problem is what she is. Nakagawa-san!”Bookmark here

Conway spewed as she approached from behind, tucking her arms around the shark once more.Bookmark here

“W-what are you doing.”Bookmark here

“I’m holding you, silly!”Bookmark here

“You have issues, Linda! Nakagawa-san is right here! You can’t do this in front of her!”Bookmark here

“Oh, does that mean I can do it when she’s not around?”Bookmark here

The woman named Linda nuzzled her nose against Conway’s hair, giving it a sniff. I was too bewildered at the point to comment.Bookmark here

“I missed this smell, Sophia.”Bookmark here

But then Conway swung her head back with all her might. I could hear the smack of her face crashing on the shark's skull. The woman fell to the ground once again. This time, I swear she was out for the count.Bookmark here

“What a bothersome idiot!”Bookmark here

Conway exploded with rage as she rubbed her head. I felt sorry for the Linda girl. I doubt she’d recover from a blow like that.Bookmark here

“Sorry, you caught us in…such a passionate embrace.”Bookmark here

To my surprise, the white coat rose from the dead. She took out a small mirror and adjusted her hair slightly.Bookmark here

“Oh, hush you.”Bookmark here

“Is this a friend of yours, Sophia? Aren’t you going to introduce us?”Bookmark here

“Shut up, Linda!”Bookmark here

“Feisty as always, aren’t you? Fine, I’ll introduce myself.”Bookmark here

She rubbed the back of her neck like saying, “This is a pain.”Bookmark here

“My name is Taylor Linda. I’m the new assistant nurse. Well, I’m still in college so this is more of an internship. And I just happen to be Conway Sophia’s older stepsister.”Bookmark here

“Stepsister?”Bookmark here

But I remember Conway-san telling me that she had no siblings. Now confused, I turned back to her who’s arms are crossed with seething rage.Bookmark here

“You shouldn’t have come to Japan! Nobody told you to show up out of nowhere like this! Why are you always so selfish, Linda!”Bookmark here

“Oh c’mon, you know you wanted to see me for as long as I wanted to see you. Why don’t you just be honest?”Bookmark here

“Arrggaaaa!”Bookmark here

Conway cried in an unholy wail before digging her claws into the golden girl’s shoulders. She shook back and forth, violently. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d fallen apart from all this abuse. But instead of growing upset, this odd woman…seemed to be enjoying it.Bookmark here

“Aren’t you worried about the consequences of your actions?!”Bookmark here

“Of course not! I did this for you, Sophia.”Bookmark here

My mouth opened slightly as I spoke softly.Bookmark here

“For you?”Bookmark here

Those words caught my chest. They sound strangely familiar. Like…the tone of voice Mari-san used on me when…she played with me and that stupid lemon-scent perfume I gave to her.Bookmark here

Conway’s face flared; I was afraid it might pop with irritation.Bookmark here

“Screw you, Linda!”Bookmark here

She erupted then trumped away in a fit of rage. I’m sure if anyone stood in her way now, they’d get a fist to the face. With that in mind, all I could do is watch as she disappeared in the distance.Bookmark here

“That girl…”Bookmark here

Now alone with the oddball, I met her gaze. From up close she does appear to be more mature than I originally took her to be. With light skin touched up with a hint of blush she didn’t look like a run-of-the-mill nurse at all.Bookmark here

“Sophia is something else, isn’t she?”Bookmark here

She giggled, prompting me to answer her. I felt a tad awkward but reluctantly I agreed. As if I wasn’t there, she squatted back down and began hitting her forehead.Bookmark here

“Hopefully, I didn’t come on too strong. It’s just been so long…and my feelings have changed so much…”Bookmark here

Her body shook like a 7.0 earthquake. I could feel the pulses resonating from her.Bookmark here

“Oh Linda, you came all the way to Japan just for this moment. You have to see this entire thing through else you’ll never live it down.”Bookmark here

Something in me told me to run far away from this weirdo. I almost made good on the bells in my head when she shot back up and turned back to me.Bookmark here

“Right! Push forward, Linda!”Bookmark here

The alarms were blaring by this point in my head. Yep, it’s time to run! But before I could make good on my escape, the white coat hopped to me.Bookmark here

“I didn’t catch your name, glasses.”Bookmark here

Glasses? Are we seriously going that way? She pushed her redden cheeks into my view. There was nothing close to personal space in her mannerisms.Bookmark here

“Ah…Nakagawa Madoka.”Bookmark here

“Nakagawa…Nakagawa…”Bookmark here

Silently, she chanted my name like summoning it back into her memory.Bookmark here

“Oh wait, I heard about you. Are you the first year who suffered from the coma a few years back?”Bookmark here

“Oh, you know about me?”Bookmark here

Well, it was apparent that I would have been talked with amongst the staff. Not only as gossip but as a professional since especially for their medical experts. I would have to be known just in case I have another medical emergency like that.Bookmark here

“I’m sure you had counseling in the hospital before your departure?”Bookmark here

“Oh…yeah they spoke with me for a few hours each day.”Bookmark here

Taylor nodded then tilted her head. She reminded me of a puppy for some reason.Bookmark here

“Well, if you ever need to speak to someone about your condition my door is always open. It might be a bit hard to talk with students your age or even your family. Sometimes they just don’t know how difficult it is to adjust to life after such a trauma. And not just your trauma…anything you want.”Bookmark here

Her words resonated with me…as if they were constructed for me. Despite my initial thoughts about her she seems to be more mature than I imagined.Bookmark here

I closed my eyes and tried to remember something from that time. But all I could come up with was mom coming home late…and me working hard to earn that scholarship…that apparently, I was accepted for.Bookmark here

Why can’t I remember?Bookmark here

My body felt like it was being pulled away from me. Everything continued to move forwards. It was Wednesday, almost November, and my birthday would be right around the corner. But I still feel fourteen but I’m sixteen turning seventeen this year. I still feel like I should be in middle school but here I am in high school. Why does time continue to manipulate me when I want it to slow down…to stop and give me time to think?Bookmark here

“Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“You seem to be running late. How about I write you a note saying you were with me instead?”Bookmark here

My mouth parted.Bookmark here

“Ah…Taylor-sensei, why would you do that for me?”Bookmark here

With a calming smile, she put her finger to her lips.Bookmark here

“Well…let’s just say you witnessed something, and I like to buy your silence.”Bookmark here

Now it was apparent that this strange woman wasn’t just being nice. No, she’s quite the devil under that smirk. That interaction between her and Conway-san wasn’t normal in any way. Nor were all the things she blurted out loud…Bookmark here

“…It’s a deal, Taylor-sensei.”Bookmark here

Mortified by how easily I was bought, I took her offer.Bookmark here

Her people skills were on a whole different level. Contrasting to how Conway-san is, she seemed to be completely different. But then…they’re stepsisters? So, why would she lie about not having any siblings?Bookmark here

Taylor-sensei handed me a note. Bowing slightly, I turned and ran inside.Bookmark here

“Hope to see you around, Nakagawa-san!”Bookmark here

She cried. But I didn’t turn back. The memory of her holding Conway-san came back into view. I couldn’t imagine taking Hana in my arms like that. Certainly, something was different about their relationship. It reminded me a little of me and…Bookmark here

Again…her name came to mind…Bookmark here

Mari-san…Bookmark here

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