“Wow, the high school is so big Onee-san.”
Hana gawked at the exterior of the school. It being Saturday, the 3rd of November, cultural day, the school festival is now in full bloom. I promised I’d meet up with Mae-chan and Conway-san at the front gates. That’s what brings me here with Hana-san now.
“We’re going to wait here until the other’s arrive Hana-san. And mom gave me a hefty...allowance for today so…we can play all day I bet.”
Hana hoped up like a frog.
"How much, Onee-san?"
I scratched the side of my cheek...this was far too much for a teenager to have without a job. Shamefully, I admitted it...
“Woohoo! Wow! Which mom?”
“Hana, I only call Nakagawa Ayumi, mom.”
“Oh…that’s right. Usually, mom doesn’t allow mom to give me that much…That’s a lot, Onee-san.”
“Yeah…I feel guilty having all this.”
Before I left mom forced this on me...Maybe I should stop mom from pampering me too much like this. I already feel guilty…thinking of feelings about her partner like this. If I want to distance myself from mom and show her I’ve matured…this might be a great starting point.
"By the way, you look lovely today Onee-san!"
Taken aback by her candor, my little sister gazed at me intently. From my small chocolate jacket to my platted grape skirt. It was a fashion I saw online a few weeks back and after collecting the necessary parts, I placed it in my delivery box online and it arrived a few days ago. I wasn't able to find a good time to wear it until now. But...I didn't think Hana-chan would point it out like this.
"Oh...yeah, I bought it online."
"You seriously are a fashion buff. Kind of like mom."
"Fashion buff? Is that what you think I am...And what about my mom?"
"Not your mom...my mom."
Hana snickered as her signature blue ribbon flickered in the wind. With her simple snow-white sweater and black skirt, the flower perked up with excitement.
"Oh, you didn't know Onee-san? Grandma owns a fashion business. Mom used to work at her store when she was growing up."
...Mari-san likes fashion....like me? There's probably quite a lot about her that I have no idea about...since I forgot all about her from two years ago. What if...the Me from back then knew that about her? What else did the Me from back then know...that I don't about Mari-san?
“Hm, are you okay, Onee-san? ....You’ve been spacing out a lot since I came back.”
I turned to Hana-chan whose cheeks were bloated now. To appease her worries, I pet her on the head.
“Just…thinking of things. Nothing to…worry yourself over.”
Hana swirled her long hair to the side. With an exhale, she whispered back to me.
“…You can trust me if there’s a problem, Onee-san. I mean…I’m your little sister, aren’t I?”
Hana-chan sounded a tad dismayed.
"I...want to make sure you can trust me with anything, Onee-san. Because...I care for you."
Those words lifted my spirits. Here was someone worried about my worries. Hana-chan…truly is awe-inspiring at times.
“…How about I tell you all about it soon, okay?”
“O-oh, alright. I’ll listen to everything, Onee-san!”
I of course will null all the information about my strange feelings towards Mari-san, but I can at least tell Hana about the chat we had recently. The one with mom and Mari-san hiding my...trauma from me. That's when a hint of bitterness crept into my mouth...I can't think about this...today of all days.
“Sora-san’s coming too, so cheer up, Onee-san!”
“Oh? You didn’t tell me that.”
Hana-san lifted her finger to the sky. She stretched out so far that I was afraid she'd hurt herself.
“I wanted it to be a surprise since you wanted to meet her in your text the other day.”
I thought back to the picture she sent me over her field trip. The one with her and this Sora-san all muddy. It’s going to be interesting meeting Hana-san’s friends. I’m more worried about a certain somebody out of everyone else though. A short girl with a temper.
Coming to view, the fiery child from the picture. She approached in a flower pink dress shirt and dark baggy pants. Once we made eye contact her expression immediately brightened. It being nice that we don’t have to wear our school uniforms today since it’s a cultural festival she looks quite comfortable.
“Oh, you must be Hino-san.”
She rushed to us. Me being taller than her but her being taller than Hana. Seems Hana will never catch up.
“I’m Nakagawa Madoka, Koda Hana-san’s older stepsister.”
“I’ve heard a lot about you. So, you’re the infamous Onee-san, eh?”
Sora put her hand on her hips. She looked me up and down and then took a deep breath. She then faced up to me, cutting directly into my personal space. As the fiery-haired middle schooler approached with a vigor I leaned back as our faces were nearly about to touch.
“Wow, you certainly share your mom’s genes. Both of you are beautiful, Nakagawa-san!”
My face felt warm like her hair was resonating its fiery aura onto my cheeks. I could feel her sweet citrusy breath on my nose causing me to feel a tad light-headed. She…doesn’t hold, back does she?
“T-Thank you. You are too, Hino-san.”
“Hehe, thanks Onee-san! Wow, you even smell nice too!”
“Sora-san! Don’t tease Onee-san.”
“Oh, sorry Onee-san.”
“Just kidding, just kidding! Lighten up, Hana-chan.”
Hino-san put her hands up as Hana punched her shoulder. It made me giggle at how honest they were to each other. Seems as though they’re good friends.
"Okay, let's cut to the chase here, Onee-san!"
Hino put her finger to my nose...
"Hana-chan, my best friend, calls me Sora-san!"
Taken aback by her spirit she approaches scrunching up my nose.
"Let's skip the formal stuff and go right to given names, shall we?"
"Ohhh, A-are you sure? That seems a bit impolite..."
That was way too informal for me. Going right to given names out of the gate was...difficult for me.
"Sora-chan! Don't do that to Onee-san! And stop calling my Onee-san, Onee-san!"
Hana seemed to be getting visibly riled up. So, to appease everyone I blurted it out.
"J-Just call me, Madoka-san....S-Sora-san."
"Sora! Why are you bullying Onee-san?!"
"Hana-chan, it's fine!"
I tried to ease her frustration. Sora-san just laughed. She is...something else entirely.
"Well...Hana-san talks about you all the time, Madoka-san. Glad to finally put a face to the name. So...please take good care of me today!"
From the back of us, my favorite blueberry came sprinting along. From behind her the noble blondie casually walked in, her purple striped jacket blew in the wind. It being unzipped in this weather, it made me wonder if Conway-san is used to the cold. Mae sprang forward and hovered over Sora-san.
“So, this is your little sister, Mado-chan?!”
“No, the other cute one Mae.”
Mae jumped up and switched targets, immediately.
“So, this is your little sister, Mado-chan?!”
“Did you have to repeat that, Ma-chan?”
I hit my head. She's seriously embarrassing me right now!
“Are you going to introduce us, Nakagawa-san?”
From behind the foreigner stood without a smile on her face. The average Conway-san expression.
“S-sorry. Hana-san, Sora-san, this is Watanabe Mae and Sophia Conway. Ma-chan, Conway-san, this one here is Koda Hana-san and the firey-haired one is Hino Sora-san.”
After that long-winded explanation, I took a deep breath and exhaled sharply. What a mouthful of words...
Mae took the initiative and spoke up first. All cozied up in her ocean blue coat and comfy pants, she bowed slightly to the fiery teen.
“Pleasure to meet you both. Are you Koda-san’s friend, Hino-san?”
“Yep, this squirt and I go way back to elementary.”
Nudging Hana, Sora-chan teased.
“I’m not that little!”
Hana rustled her best friend's hair back and forth as a retort.
They both look at my Mae-chan and Conway-san. With a deep bow, they both concluded in harmony...
“Nice to meet you both. Please take good care of me!”
With all introductions settled Sora-chan put her arms behind her back and asked the fated question.
“So, where to first girls?”
Mae jumped with glee.
“I heard the third-years have a gentleman's café with all kinds of pastries and delicious foods. The cooking club is in charge so everything is going to be scrumptious! We should go there after we get hungry.”
Mae’s mouth flooded in bliss. This was unbecoming of a proper young lady...The shark chimed in after, hands on her hips.
“I just want to play some games. If they have any then I’ll be happy.”
Conway-san nodded content with her answer.
Sora-san looked at Hana. With a tap of her feet and a beam of innocents she reached out and took her hand.
“I heard the Jinda High School has plenty of attractions. Hana-san, you want to go to the ghoul house with me?”
Hana kicked her feet together in excitement.
My little sister squealed.
That's one attraction I seriously don't want to step foot into. Why do people like scary things? How is it fun to be frightened?!
Sora began her lecture like a scholar who's studied the cultural festival to the highest of levels.
"It turns out that the sports club turned the old gymnasium into a make-shift dungeon with horror elements added in. People say the attraction is to die for...literally!"
"S-Stop that, Sora-chan!"
"What Mado-chan? You don't want to go to the ghoul house? You were just fine with horror when playing in the arcade that one day."
"That was different Mae! It was a stupid game. This is...real life."
I wanted to curl in a ball out of embarrassment. Conway-san smirked as she circled me like the shark she was.
"Ahh, so Nakagawa-san doesn't like scary things?!"
She latched on that like a predator to a hunk of meat. Dang, it...she might have something to tease me back with from now on...
"Don't worry, Onee-san! I'll go with you!"
Hana nodded with vigor.
"Will you, Hana?!"
Even now she was reliable. That calmed my nerves a bit...but I still don't want to go to the ghoul house.
Seemed like we have a long day ahead of us. Everyone wanted to do different things. So, why not do everything? I mean...I have the money for it.
I turned to see Conway-san gazing from the side at Hana-san’s reactions. She then turned to me noticing my eyes on her I take it. She slowly approached me and whispered in my ear something I wasn't expecting.
“You have a cute little sister. She’s freaking adorable, Nakagawa-san…”
Her face turns red as she looks away. I giggle at her response. Suddenly, a group of students dressed in frilly clothing walks past. They stride in gaudy fashion so wild that students around us heads turn in awe. My heart begins to race. I know that group far too well and just seeing them make an entrance into the school made my body jump with glee.
“What’s the matter Mado-chan?”
STARS is a popular idol group that I listen to all the time. They started their trend three years ago and once I woke up their music is still my favorite of all time. They’ve fallen out of 1st place over time but they’re still continuous of poppy idol music. Even if they aren’t the actual STARS group, I still find myself wanting to get their autograph.
“Oh yeah, you’re into those obnoxiously cute idol things, aren’t you?”
“It’s not obnoxious!”
I pull on Conway’s cheek highly annoyed.
“They look like good friends, Hana-chan.”
Suddenly, a hand rested on my shoulder. I spun around to see Mae-chan with a wary expression.
“It’s okay Mado-chan. We’ll go watch their performance too.”
“Arrgg, we will?”
Conway-san and I chimed in harmony. Despite being on different levels of excitement. Mae-chan jumped up and took charge.
“Alright girls! Let’s move! First stop, games!”
Sora hopped up from behind.
Something tells me she and Mae-chan will get along fine.