Chapter 29:

Ch.13 Partners (6/6)

Sleeping Princess

I touched the cold doorknob and let myself in...Bookmark here

“Welcome back.”Bookmark here

I open the door to see Mari-san. She’s wrapped in her warm sweater and holding up the papers. My face immediately looked away from her as I closed the door behind me. Why did it have to be her that I saw first?Bookmark here

“I-I’m home.”Bookmark here

“…Your mom went to pick up Hana from her trip. They should be home in about a few minutes…”Bookmark here

Silently I prayed to whatever god I could for them to come as quickly as possible. I still couldn’t look at her. Not after the events of last night. Where she stood, in front of the steps so I can’t go around her without likely touching her. To be honest, she’s the last person I want to see right now…Bookmark here

“I…see…”Bookmark here

We sat there quietly for a moment. We were frozen in time as if someone cast a spell around us forcing the two of us into this uncomfortable situation. My stomach tensed up and I found myself twisting the ends of my hair.Bookmark here

“Ah, I’m still feeling under the weather, and…ah, thank you for…taking care of me, Madoka-san.”Bookmark here

“…Oh…yeah...sure.”Bookmark here

The papers rustled in her hands as we both gazed away from each other. I could hear her breathing softly, that's how tense this atmosphere was.Bookmark here

“…Did you…go home with Mihara-san today?”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

Out of everything we talked about the previous night…why did she bring up Mihara-san all of a sudden? Not like it would matter the fact that she’s working on the Cultural Festival and hasn’t been on the ride home in a while. But to appease her in hopes that she notices my unwillingness to continue I answered.Bookmark here

“No…She’s busy at school right now. We have the Cultural Festival and she’s a part of it…”Bookmark here

“…Oh, of course...I see.”Bookmark here

That’s when she lowered her shoulders. Her eyes seemingly grew dim and she stepped back slightly. The room became silent again…This atmosphere was suffocating, and I wanted it to end as soon as possible. My heart was rummaging against my chest to the point that it felt as though I wanted to cry.Bookmark here

“…Madoka-san…”Bookmark here

For some reason, I jolted as a bunny scared of a predator.Bookmark here

“…Yes M-Mari-san?”Bookmark here

I etched out but my voice was high and unnatural…silently I prayed she didn't notice that.Bookmark here

“…I don’t remember everything I talked to you about yesterday…and…”Bookmark here

“Is that right?”Bookmark here

Slightly irritated, I set my school bag down now getting a tad tired of being a stone in the same spot. The heat of this tension was getting to me so I removed my scarf and set it on the bag too.Bookmark here

“You mentioned that you were there…when I had my accident, Mari-san.”Bookmark here

Mari-san’s body stiffed up as she searched me again.Bookmark here

“…Yeah…I was there when you hit your head.”Bookmark here

“At the amusement park, right?”Bookmark here

She nodded softly.Bookmark here

“…I promise…we’ll talk about it soon. I'll be honest...and tell you everything, Madoka-san."Bookmark here

She approached me and placed her fingertips on my head. How gentle yet fragile they felt. As if at any moment they'd turn to dust and float away into the murky afternoon.Bookmark here

"Just give me time to gather my own feelings…please, Madoka-san?”Bookmark here

“Feelings?”Bookmark here

My chest tingled for a moment. The way she serenaded with her tone of voice influenced me. With a deep breath, she looked away from me. Her lips pursed as she turned around and she blurted out a line I have known all too well now…Bookmark here

Mari…you're such a dumbass…Bookmark here

As if a bolder was lodged in her back, she slumped sightly still holding her mail in hand. Without another word she went into her room and shut the door. How…could she justify saying something like that and running off with her tail between her legs? I wanted to just walk into the room and yell…scream at her about all my pent-up feelings. How she confronted me then ran off without another thought…but then…Bookmark here

How does Mari-san feel about this? …How deep are her wounds from two years ago?Bookmark here

I questioned as I twisted my hair. I don’t know what we had between one another before I went to sleep but what I do know is that for at least two years…Mari-san might have felt guilty for what happened. And to be confronted by me who is prying for answers…I wonder if she’s scared? Maybe it’s honestly...simple…Bookmark here

Mari-san might be more like me than I initially thought.Bookmark here

She has a hard time displaying her true feelings. That is the reason behind her porcelain smile. Because Mari-san might be the kind of person who tries to hold in her feelings if possible.Bookmark here

"...I want to understand you...Mari-san."Bookmark here

I…want to shatter that barrier she has and understand who we were in the past. My fist clenched but not out of rage…but something stronger...determination.Bookmark here

“Onee-san!”Bookmark here

The door opened abruptly, causing me to swing around in surprise. My gut was assaulted by a rabid puppy, pushing the wind out of me. Luckily, my glasses didn’t fall over too.Bookmark here

“Oh! S-Sorry Onee-san!”Bookmark here

Hana-san stood back. Fear crept into her eyes. She seemed to be worried about my health and for good reason. I nearly keeled over.Bookmark here

“H-How was your trip, Hana-san?”Bookmark here

My ribs hurt but my adorable sister was finally back home. So, I gave her the widest smile I could muster after a day like this. She then lunged back at me and took hold of my stomach once again.Bookmark here

“I have to tell you all about it!”Bookmark here

She rubbed her cheek on my school uniform. The scent of fresh flowers in a clearing caught my nose. This settled my heart knowing that she'd finally returned. I won't be exaggerating in the least if I said it's been the longest week of my life without her by my side.Bookmark here

That’s when mom entered in after her. She towered over the both of us.Bookmark here

“Hana, go see your mother! She’s sick and seeing you will cheer her up.”Bookmark here

“Ah, okay mom. Onee-san let’s chat later! I want to show you the award I got.”Bookmark here

Hana-chan rushed off without another word. Mom then approached me with a wry glance.Bookmark here

“Madoka?”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“Are you okay? You look upset.”Bookmark here

I touched my cheek making sure that all the tears from today were dried up and gone.Bookmark here

“Upset? No, I’m okay. I’m tired from school…that's all mom.”Bookmark here

She frowned and reached her hand out to me. Instead, I backed up again.Bookmark here

"...Madoka."Bookmark here

“Mom! You need to take better care of yourself!”Bookmark here

From the other room, Hana rushed out covering her mouth. Seems Mari-san gave her a big hug or even a kiss despite her being sickly. She needs to stop playing around like that. So, I took this chance to grab my little sister's hand and pull her with me to the living room.Bookmark here

“C’mon, tell me all about your trip Hana-chan.”Bookmark here

“O-Oh, okay Onee-san! Let’s go chat on the couch!”Bookmark here

I could hear mom grumble. But instead of calling me out for my misbehavior, she seemed to give up and settled on something else entirely...Bookmark here

“Don’t stay up too long you two. Get to bed at a decent hour, you two!”Bookmark here

“Yes, mom!”Bookmark here

Hana bounced up as if that would amplify her voice. It was...adorable. How I missed her here. As mom walked by, disappearing into the comfort of her room all I could think about is what she said to me that day at dinner. How she knows what happened and that she’d rather me enjoy my life…look forward and now dwell on the past. That’s when I looked back to what Taylor-sensei said…Bookmark here

That I must mature emotionally…Bookmark here

Mom…can’t trust me with the truth. That’s that it. She cares for me to the point that she’d readily lie to me to “protect” me. But if I want answers from her…if I want them to look at me as an equal, I’ll need to show them that I’m changing…Bookmark here

“Onee-san, you look upset. Is everything alright?”Bookmark here

My body moved on its own as I took my dear little sister in my arms. I forgot how soft her body was. It briefly worried me as I didn't want to mistakenly break her. That flowery scent that reminded me of those botanical gardens from when I first woke up took me back to meeting her, my little sister. How...I'm so glad she was here with me.Bookmark here

"I'm...just so glad to have you back home...Hana-chan."Bookmark here

"Onee-san? Are you okay? What happened? You seem different..."Bookmark here

I shook my head from side to side. Now wasn't the time for this. I...just wanted to have a good time with the only person I could trust right now. My little sister...Hana.Bookmark here

“Oh? N-No, everything is fine Hana-chan. I’m tired from school that’s all. I...had a long day.”Bookmark here

I let go but Hana jumped back into my arms. She held me back now. Her hair flowed over me as we lied on the couch now. Her on top of me, she nuzzled her nose deeper in my jacket.Bookmark here

"I missed you so much too, Onee-san! I'm...glad to be back."Bookmark here

"Welcome back."Bookmark here

Someone open, honest...that's who Hana is. She can be a bit of a brat I'll admit but...she's always there for me. But would that be true...if I confessed to Hana about these entangled feelings I'm having right now...about her mom? What would she think...if I told her everything I confessed to Taylor-sensei earlier today? As I swirled around this thought, finally, she pulled off of me as we both sat firmly on the couch. Her smile...washed those fears away in an instant.Bookmark here

Right now wasn't the time to think about Mari-san...or any of that...This time was for me and my cute little sister.Bookmark here

“…Oh, that’s right. Hana-chan, would you like to come with me to the Cultural Festival at my school tomorrow?”Bookmark here

As expected, Hana-chan’s eyes lit up. It was cute that I had to hold my chest so I wouldn’t be absorbed by her adorableness. I wanted to hold her again but stopped my impulses. It was like this because it's been so long since we've seen each other for sure.Bookmark here

“I would love to Onee-chan!”Bookmark here

She agreed, hopping slightly. We sat up chatting well into the night despite mom warning us not to. Hana had a lot to tell me and I had been excited to hear her. Now it was time, the day I declared that I would mature and understand these unruly feelings swirling inside of me. If anything, this will help me focus on other things besides this strange situation between Mari and me. I’ll be able to get to know Conway-san more too. Taylor-sensei put her trust in me. I probably won’t be able to solve her problems…but I want to support her.Bookmark here

And to do that…Bookmark here

I'll need to change and learn more about my feelings…Bookmark here

And become someone stronger.Bookmark here

That’s how I’ll be able to understand this chaos and stop this tornado from destroying my body from the inside.Bookmark here

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