Chapter 36:

Ch.14 Cultural Day (7/7)

Sleeping Princess

When we left the midday, sky greeted us. We exited out the gates and conjugated together.Bookmark here

“That was so fun, Mado-chan!”Bookmark here

“Wasn’t it?!”Bookmark here

“Thanks for the day guys.”Bookmark here

Sora-chan announced as she nodded her head.Bookmark here

“Hana-chan, your Onee-san has some awesome friends.”Bookmark here

“Doesn’t she, Sora-chan?!”Bookmark here

With that Hana-san looked at me.Bookmark here

“I promised Sora-chan that I’ll go over her place for a bit afterward.”Bookmark here

“Does mom know, Hana-san?”Bookmark here

“Yep! I discussed it with her over the phone!”Bookmark here

That’s a bit sad. I was hoping to see her more when I got home. But I nodded and let it go as I sent my little sister off with a beam.Bookmark here

“Okay then, I’ll see you when you get back home.”Bookmark here

She smiled and began moving behind Sora. They took each other’s hand as they briskly walked.Bookmark here

“You have a great stepsister, Nakagawa-san.”Bookmark here

Both Mae-chan and I turned to Conway-san.Bookmark here

“Did you have fun, Conway-san?”Bookmark here

Mae-chan interjected with a smile.Bookmark here

“…You both did this for me, huh?”Bookmark here

A smile came on her face.Bookmark here

“You know…you two are good friends.”Bookmark here

With her face turning pinkish she closed her eyes.Bookmark here

“Madoka-san…Mae-san…thank you.”Bookmark here

This is the first time I’ve seen Conway-san act so pointed and honest. She opened her eyes to us.Bookmark here

“Mae-san…do you mind if we chat later tonight?”Bookmark here

Mae toned her excitement down and nodded enduringly.Bookmark here

“I figured you two had a chat or something in the haunted house. Something just told me that my Mado-chan was…doing what she’s good at.”Bookmark here

“What’s that supposed to mean, Mae?!”Bookmark here

I knocked her over the head, but she kept laughing…so, I knocked her again.Bookmark here

“Well, it’s time for me to get home. C’mon Conway-san, let’s get going!”Bookmark here

Mae grabbed Sophia-san’s hand and tugged her like a ragdoll. They seem to walk the same way home as they left me on a dusky day. What an eventful morning…and I even got to know a new side to the delinquent named, Conway Sophia.Bookmark here

“N-Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

I turned to see Mihara-san holding her bags from the club. She separated from us to get the rest of her things before leaving for the day.Bookmark here

“My shifts over…do you want to go home together?”Bookmark here

As we walked to the station it was quiet between us. Mihara-san shivered back and forth.Bookmark here

“Your fortune-telling booth was pretty fun.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, our club leader liked that kind of thing. I did a lot of the art…work.”Bookmark here

We stepped on the train and made our way home in silence. It wasn’t uncomfortable, no it was the opposite. It was calming that we both enjoyed each other's company like this.Bookmark here

“So, N-Nakagawa-san…”Bookmark here

“Yeah.”Bookmark here

We sat next to each other on the train. Luckily it wasn't as packed yet because the festival is still going in full bloom.Bookmark here

“Koda…Hana-san is your stepsister?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, she is.”Bookmark here

I put my head down for a moment. Mihara-san had been honest with me so far so…Bookmark here

“My mom Nakagawa Ayumi and her mom Koda Mari are seeing each other.”Bookmark here

Mihara-san’s eyes went wide. The curiosity in her pecked most defiantly.Bookmark here

“Koda Mari-san…is seeing your mom?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. As simple as that.”Bookmark here

Mihara-san nodded gently.Bookmark here

“Does that mean…she lives with you, Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

“Naturally, yes. They do live with us. Mari-san is a weird person, but I would never say she’s a...bad person.”Bookmark here

“She loves your mom, right?”Bookmark here

I bit my bottom lip. Yes, she does love my mom. I've seen the passion between them in full and there was no one that could say otherwise. Noticing the bitter feelings I had rummaging in my chest...I concluded as best as I could...Bookmark here

“Yes…they do love one another. Do you think that’s strange, Mihara-san? You know...two women loving one another?”Bookmark here

“No…n-not at all Nakagawa-san. D-Do you?”Bookmark here

I turned to the side away from her innocent stare. Do I think it's strange? That was something I will be tackling for a while now as my heart tries to settle these unruly feelings of mine. So, to give her an answer I shook my head from side to side.Bookmark here

“...At first I did but not anymore…”Bookmark here

My stomach difficult this conversation was starting to become. But...I pushed forwards. I closed my eyes and imagined her...face. Her lush black hair and forest green eyes. That mysterious smile she holds...Bookmark here

“Mari-san is very mysterious. She’s kind, considerate, energetic…I can never find out what she’s thinking in time. She’s smart…and it’s a bit intimidating sometimes, Mihara-san...”Bookmark here

I opened my eyes and looked at her now crimson gaze as they flickered off the midday light.Bookmark here

“So, when you told me that you think she’s a mean person that day we shared our lunches…that didn’t register with me. I don’t think she’s mean…just… just...”Bookmark here

“She just doesn’t express herself easily?”Bookmark here

Surprised, she took the words right out of my mouth. Stripped them down to the bare bones of what they were. The same conclusion I came to yesterday...Bookmark here

“…That might be it. Yeah...Mari-san can't express herself easily...despite being how she is.”Bookmark here

Maybe Mari-san has trouble expressing her true feelings. Kind of like me. Maybe she feels certain ways but doesn’t show it. That’s probably why she perfected such a calming smile…To hide the emotions she feels. But why is she like this? Why can't she say what's on her mind? How did she grow up and what has she been through that made me assume it would be best to show that porcelain smile instead?Bookmark here

“I…just want to understand Mari-san…I think…”Bookmark here

Mihara-san looked at me. Her eyes danced across my face. My feelings escaped my mouth...I wanted to express it openly, train my mind not to hold in important feelings as much. But it starts with change...Bookmark here

"I see..."Bookmark here

Mihara-san finished, sinking lower into her seat. We sat in silence for a bit longer. Something was different about Mihara-san though than usual. Her feet rubbed together occasionally. She would start a sentence then stop it abruptly.Bookmark here

“Is everything okay?”Bookmark here

“Oh…ah… November 18th…”Bookmark here

I tilted my head.Bookmark here

“What about my birthday.”Bookmark here

“Ah…is it too soon for me to…bring you a present?”Bookmark here

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about something like that!”Bookmark here

I waved my hand back and forth.Bookmark here

“Ah…but I want to get you something.”Bookmark here

Mihara tugged on my sleeve. I was unsure what this was supposed to mean though. It was starting to become commonplace that she would pull on me in a way to gauge my attention.Bookmark here

“…You seriously don’t have to…”Bookmark here

I sigh. I think Mihara is too self-conscious sometimes.Bookmark here

“I’m thinking about inviting some friend over that day…would you like to come, Mihara-san?”Bookmark here

I have to remember one fundamental thing about us. Mihara-san has known me far longer than I remember her. We've shared moments that I've long forgotten that might be special to her. So, if I can be a little be less distant with her, bring her in as a part of my friend circle...then I think that would be beneficial to both of us.Bookmark here

“A-Are you sure?!”Bookmark here

I nodded with conviction.Bookmark here

“Of course, Mihara-san. Here, I'll give you my email so we can chat.”Bookmark here

"O-Oh...ah...o-okay."Bookmark here

As I got off the train I waved back to her. Mihara-san didn’t do the same though. She just stared with that pink face of hers...despite being so tall and seemingly more mature than me...she was certainly cute at times.Bookmark here

“Welcome back.”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

From the living room, her black hair filtered into view. Wrapped in warm ocean blue pajamas she typed away on her laptop. Hair in disarray, still sniffling, Mari-san sipped on a warm drink as she worked her fingers on that bright laptop of hers. Reluctantly I walk over to her.Bookmark here

“What are you doing out of bed, Mari-san?”Bookmark here

A little concerned I questioned.Bookmark here

“Your mom went to help your Uncle’s girlfriend. So, I took this chance to get my work done since I missed a day.”Bookmark here

She stretched out her hands and pretended to crack her knuckles. Little mannerisms like these from Mari-san were common and I'm becoming more aware of them as time goes on.Bookmark here

“Can’t get behind else I won’t be able to slack off…You know, Madoka-san?”Bookmark here

“I can’t tell if you’re a hard worker…or just lazy so you work fast...”Bookmark here

“Hehe, that’s a good thing.”Bookmark here

Mari-san lowered her head and looked back at the screen. The typing stopped as I was about to make my way up the steps...escape from her before I said something I didn't mean. The anxiety I have around Mari-san is so thick one would have to use a butcher knife to chip through it.Bookmark here

"Oh, Madoka-san!"Bookmark here

"Huh, Mari-san?"Bookmark here

She called out to me so sharply it felt like mom was scolding me. I straighten my back as I faced her...With a slight smile, her eyes widen as large as Hana-chan's before she expressed something.Bookmark here

"Oh...ah...and you look wonderful, Madoka-san..."Bookmark here

"...What Mari-san?"Bookmark here

"Your look wonderful. I wanted to mention it this morning but you left before I could say anything...."Bookmark here

"Oh...ah...T-Thank you."Bookmark here

That's when I remembered Hana-chan mentioning that Mari-san likes fashion too. So, I gathered up my courage as I twisted my brown hair dangling on the side of my cheek. I could feel the heat blaring from them as I twirled those pesky brown locks around and around.Bookmark here

"Do you...know what brand these are, Mari-san?"Bookmark here

She glanced up at me. The heat of her eyes bearing on me was almost more than I could handle. I reactively did something...I didn't look her in the eyes, no...I was fixated on...her lips. The thought of Sophia-san and I mashing our lips together by accident came to mind. But soon after she cut my reminisce away in an instant.Bookmark here

"The chocolate coat is a designer brand called Magenta. It's not only stylish but warm for the winter season. And you paired it with its sister skirt from the company Shiva. That brand is not only fashionable but durable and long-lasting. You can wear it for years and the color won't fade easily."Bookmark here

She warily giggled.Bookmark here

"The bag is too much even for both Ayumi and my salary put together though...but there is a necklace that Shiva sells that is made to match with pretty much all their designer products."Bookmark here

"Ohh that necklace! It was...more than my budget so I couldn't afford it."Bookmark here

"Is that right?"Bookmark here

With a cute giggle, she concluded...Bookmark here

"But even without it you...make it look great. You' cute...Madoka-san. "Bookmark here

Her words melted my legs as they began to wobble. I wanted to hear more from her. This feeling of her tender sweet voice complimenting me roared at my emotions. Certainly, Mari-san was...acting differently than the previous day and it threw me for a loop.Bookmark here

"T...Thank you, Mari-san."Bookmark here

"Mhm..."Bookmark here

I wanted to sit next to her and chat more about Magenta and Shiva products but then it occurred to me...we are alone right now, right? Hana-chan was over at her friend's was out with Ryuji's girlfriend...Why would I be thinking about this? My mind went to a place...that it shouldn't have. One that might have been less innocent than. I wanted to sit on the couch next to her...explore what was going through my mind...Bookmark here

"..."Bookmark here

Mari-san lowered her shoulders and closed her eyes.Bookmark here

"Hey...Madoka-san."Bookmark here

"Y-yes?"Bookmark here

I tried to sound normal but I couldn't with that day going back through my head...Bookmark here

"I...want you to know something..."Bookmark here

"Hm?"Bookmark here

She bit the bottom of her tender lip and turned away from me.Bookmark here

"I'm...trying my best to be more open with you...about things. So...please bear with me. Today might not be the best day to have a chat about things with me still being sick but...ah...but I spend more time...with you...Madoka-san."Bookmark here

Quietly, she spoke softly as my face began to flare up. She sounded so docile as if she's been struggling to get this out for a while now.Bookmark here

"Oh, too, Mari-san."Bookmark here

"I'm glad you feel the same...Hehe."Bookmark here

She giggled warily before turning back to her computer.Bookmark here

"...So, I’m going to keep working…if you don’t mind…Madoka-san.”Bookmark here

“Oh…yes, Mari-san.”Bookmark here

So, in other words…Mari-san didn’t have time to talk right now. Without another word, I walked up the steps. When I entered the room I met my gaze with my full-sized mirror. As I looked at the designer brand she listed off with precision my heart began to hurt... Mari-san really does like fashion.Bookmark here

...No matter how I looked at it…Mari-san feels awkward around me…and I do too. But...Bookmark here

I was...Bookmark here

So happy that she noticed my clothing...but that was all the more reason to cut through this tension. And I also noticed one other thing about Mari-san that didn't strike me until now...Her lips...are cute...they're really small but full and cute. Maybe...just maybe they taste like...Sophia's? But as soon as that thought ravaged my mind I hit my head to pull it out. I...can't do things like that. I need to be careful.Bookmark here

"Mari-san and I will need to talk it out soon. I can't keep avoiding this forever..."Bookmark here

I groaned.Bookmark here

That's when my phone lit up, breaking my idle thoughts of...Mari-san. On the calling end was a name I changed from Conway Sophia to simply...Sophia.Bookmark here

"Oh, hello..."Bookmark here

Her rugged voice cut through my stomach.Bookmark here

"Is now not a good time...Madoka-san?"Bookmark here

"No, nows a great time Sophia-san."Bookmark here

I lied in bed and searched the ceiling as I journeyed back to that day where I first woke up...Now was the time to let someone else enter into my life even a little. So, I closed my eyes and conjured up those unique feelings that are still thrashing about my soul.Bookmark here

"Well, Sophia-san...I woke up September 12th...."Bookmark here

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