Chapter 25:

Ch.13 Partners (2/6)

Sleeping Princess

“Madoka, will you be okay walking to school alone?”


My hand touched the cold nob as I attempted to leave before mom stopped me in my tracks. With a casual shirt and long yoga pants, she couldn’t be going to work looking like that.

“Are you staying home today, mom?”

The cup in her hand covered her thin lips. With a light sip, she nodded to me with a smile.

“Yep. Mari still isn’t feeling well so I called my boss and told him I wouldn’t be there.”

“Oh…I see.”

Mom is taking care of Mari-san. That’s right…it makes sense. They are together so why wouldn't she stay by her side at a time like this? My body felt warm and suddenly I couldn’t breathe well. I turned slightly to try and appease my discomfort and reached for the cold doorknob when...



My voice peeked. I was more worried that she'd seen the redness in my eyes and was about to question me about it. I unconsciously swallowed and rubbed my finger through my straight hair.


"Y-Yes, mom..."

"When we get the time...let's talk, just the two of us."


She walked over and tried to put her hand on my head. But if she looked me in the eye right now...she'd notice that I'd been crying. So, I changed the subject as fast as I could.

“What about Mari-san’s boss?! Mom, did you contact them and tell them she won't be in?”

Mom’s mouth opened as wide as a watermelon. With a slight tingle of her fingers, she rushed away in a panic.

“Oh, I completely forgot! Thank you, Madoka! Ah...have a good day at school!”


Mom rushed about to her room, likely getting her phone giving me the chance to escape. My hair blew in the wind. It was cold, prickly, and relentless. The day felt overwhelmingly chilly as the winter months assaulted me. Hana-san will be home today, but I don’t think her soothing hand could warm me up. With a step on the sidewalk, the world cracked below me.

Not like it actually broke, no that’s not what I meant. Everything around me reacted to stimuli…but me. I was a doll walking along. I couldn't recall the walk from home to the station. I was a motionless skeleton as the train moved about, drifting me further away from reality. One major question mercilessly beat me over repeatedly. All I could think about was…

“Why would Mari-san become special to me?”

Her name would cause my frozen heart to beat once…then like a shock of thunder passing through me, my body would jolt and I’d fall back into obscurity. I couldn’t wrap my head around anything. If what I’m saying is true, then at some point in time…

That’s when the train doors opened. There I was being pulled out by the sea of people as I lazily let the tide take me.

“Oh, sorry.”

An older woman likely a few years older than Mari-san bumped my shoulder. With burgundy hair that mirrored lushes wood and a powerful violet iris, she couldn't be anything less than beautiful in the rough crowd of working men and women around us. Without another word she continued her stride, leaving me in the dust.

Soon after she apologized the storm of people passed by us, causing the tide to pull me along. Looking at her from behind…I started doing something I never thought about before. I searched her thin back in the business suit. As I followed her line I came to her small hips and business skirt.

As I groped her with my gaze, her butt swayed in a tantalizing manner. Like fire she moved, burning an image into any nearby guy attracted to her swagger. There was no way she stepped out of her house without knowing how she'd look to the public. As I peered closer she turned the corner fading into the abyss of workers. Now I asked the question to myself…

“Was she…attractive to me?”

I whispered.

And if she was attractive to me, what would I want to do with her? Would I want to kiss her? Maybe I'd like for her to touch me? Would I want to touch her the way mom touched Mari-san in the kitchen that day? Put my thin lips on hers and embrace her in a....loving way?

I couldn’t understand when I noticed that…I might like someone of the same sex as me. When did I come to that conclusion…if I did come to it? Do I find women attractive? Do I like girls? Or maybe I like both guys and girls? Is it really something I could just say that I do or don’t…Or is love a bit more complicated than that?

That’s when I gripped my shoulder as it began to shake. Here I was standing in the middle of the crowd…People around me going about their everyday lives but I couldn’t conform to them. My mind was crippling me and…and I felt lost.

“I….I don’t know.”

I don’t know? That’s what I thought. I…don’t know anything, do I? The person before I woke up is a stranger to me. She scars me with her actions that I don’t understand. When I think about Mae-chan and Conway-san I don’t see them as people I could have…that kind of relationship with. But is that really true? If Mae-chan told me she'd love me...would I reject her because I don't like women in that way? But then…But then…These feelings of wanting to be known by Mari-san are strong. So powerful that I’m...scared to explore them.

“I wish I didn’t ask about my coma…”

My mind snapped as I whispered these words. Tears began to roll down my cheeks. I couldn’t help it anymore and I was beginning to break down. I don’t know what to do or where to go from here. Maybe I could go back home and say that I’m sick? No, I don’t want to be in the same home…with mom and Mari-san right now. Just being there makes me feel strange. But…I don’t want to go to school right now. I don’t think I have the willpower to hide my feelings. I might have an outburst or start crying during class.

I pushed myself to move at the least. In a panic, my mind havocked across with vigor. I’m tired but there’s nothing I can do to calm myself…

“Ah, Nagakawa-san!”


That voice…

I spun around and caught eyes with a certain foreigner…Her blonde hair washed in waves like the sea as she jogged over to me. In her lab coat with grape purple eyes, Taylor-sensei caught hold of my arm.


“Hey…you look a bit upset. Is everything alright, Nakagawa-san?”

She whispered in my ear. Her breath made my ears tingle as she cupped her hand to me. The students around us passed by with odd glances, for good reason.


I need to…Hold it…In…


I wanted to lie and tell her I was fine. That there wasn't anything wrong with me...but I couldn’t finish my sentence…so instead, I shook my head from side to side as my voice began to quake. My fears were realized as the floodgates that threatened to cause a scene. Before I knew it Taylor-sensei latched onto my shoulders and beamed that ever tranquil smile.

“I have cookies and tea and even hot cocoa! Let’s go to my office room.”

I then followed her with my head down. I don’t get it…why is she so willing to talk with me. I don’t care about what I saw from her and Conway-san. I don’t want to be mean but that isn’t my top priority…I’m too busy trying to piece together normality to care about that.

She unlocked a door and, in the room, were two deep wine-colored couches. They faced one another and the room even had a gentle hum of a heater going. It was spacious. It didn’t feel like an office space but the lack of furniture however left something to be desired. When we entered, she locked the door behind me and pointed to a couch hugging the corner wall.

“Please sit down, Nakagawa-san.”

I slumped my shoulders and complied. There I sunk into the nice seat and immediately I began to feel a tad more at ease. My mind focused on the light humming…for the first time today, I was thinking about something other than what happened last night. Taylor-sensei didn’t say anything. She just sat down the food on the table and sat across from me. I was expecting her to speak but all she did was nibble on the cookies and sipped the tea. When our eyes met, she would beam then continue eating. So, I did the same and taste the cookie. It wasn’t anything special, but I was satisfied.

As I chewed…a mixture of salt was evading my mouth. Oh, that’s’s because I was still crying for some reason.


“…Yes, Taylor-sensei?”

My voice peeked unnaturally.

“The room is soundproof. I’m not writing anything down that we discuss. Nobody will interrupt us. This…is a safe place.”

A safe place? What does she mean by that? But then it occurred to me that I didn’t want to go home because I didn’t feel…in a there. I…was just thinking about…this. How does Taylor-sensei…do this?

My lips began to move…


But all that escaped was wasted words and tears. I set the cup and cookies down as I cried out in my palm. My face was warm, I was embarrassed, ashamed that everything my mom and Mari-san said... was true. I’m nothing but a crying child who can't even keep it together.

“I’m…so lost, Taylor-sensei...”

I sobbed as my face went deeper into my palm. I was hoping I could just vanish and wake up in a world that isn’t so complicated. One where I was back in junior high school. A world where I was with dad and we were happy. One without Mari-san….


“I’m sorry, Taylor-sensei…”

“Don’t apologize. Express yourself and tell me everything… hold nothing back.”

I lifted my head to meet her lush purple eyes. Her calming voice guided me to a…safe place. So, I searched the walls to avoid her tender gaze.


I was going to do it…

Something I’ve always wanted to do…

Express my feelings openly. It’s the only way to clear out what's thrashing about my heart.


My stomach tensed up as I veered to the side.

“…I think…I…”

Nobody was here but...someone who wanted to help me. So, I begged for strength as I continued.

“I think I...have feelings…for someone…someone who I’m not supposed to have feelings for.”

Taylor-sensei leaned back.

“…And it’s causing you heartache?”

My head bobbed lazily. Her image came back into my mind causing my head to spin.

“…I never felt this way before for anyone…and…it’s so messed up.”

“…Nakagawa-san…why would you say that. Having feelings for someone is a beautiful thing…”

“No Taylor-sensei! It’s horrible! I shouldn’t be having feelings for her like this!”

I lashed out. However, her expression wasn’t judging but instead, she nodded. She reached her hand out and touched mine. Her warmth contrasted with the coldness prickling in my stomach.

“It’s okay if you feel that way for a person of the same sex, Nakagawa-san…”

“…You don’t understand, Sensei…”

I cleared my throat and let out the pain that's been captivating me the entire night.

“…I think I used to like my new stepmother, Koda Mari-san.”