As I followed behind Mari-san now...I couldn't get Yashiro-san's words out of my head. Like they were trapped in a vacuum swirling within my head, I repeated them constantly...Let Mari-san take me places, huh? Is that why I should be following this black-haired troublemaker? So she can lead me on the right path like a beacon of hope?
The day was beginning to cool down slightly as I followed behind her. As she made her way back to the car I slowly lined her body with my eyes. That slender figure of hers curved in all the right places too.
It reminded me of how I watched that burgundy-haired businesswoman the other day. I groped her with my prying eyes like a beast hungry for meat, watching her sway her hips back and forth.
Now thinking back to that day...I felt extremely guilty.
I disrespected that woman's body trying to feed into my own curiosities. But comparing the two of them now...they both had a way about their strides. As if the world were their catwalk to make the eyes of everyone see their beauty, Mari-san showed off her figure with ease just like that burgundy-haired woman from before.
From the short purple jacket that kicked out before her hips, to her dress skirt that showed off all the right places but still leaving more for the imagination. They both looked so mature and to be honest...it was little exciting thinking about it that way...
Is this what it means to be attracted to someone? Could I now with purpose say that the businesswoman that day...was actually attractive to me? Could I with certainty say that Mari-san...might have bewitched me with her beauty? Raptured me with her charismatic style and personality? Allured me with her body?
I certainly can’t equate my feelings to love right now…but for sure, Mari-san is someone special to me...but will I be willing to one day...express that to her with the chance that it may ruin everything her and mom created while I was in my coma? That's when Mari-san turned around and caught my eyes.
"Hm? Are you okay there, Madoka-san?"
With one hand on her hip, she questioned with a tilt of her head. That charcoal-black hair of hers fell to the side alluring me more into just how...cool she looked.
"Are you spacing out, intern?"
"I-Intern? Are you still on that?!"
Annoyed, I swung my head causing my ponytail to spin wildly.
"E-Enough of that dumb nickname..."
I cried while getting into the car. Even her dumb teases cause my heart to jump a little. I couldn't deny that no matter how much I wanted to. This was stupid...when I first met Mari-san these feelings weren't there at all... I found everything she did even creepy or annoying. Touching my hair, spewing odd teases at me left and right...
When and why did they start to form into this over the last few months we reconnected? How were these feelings in the past before my coma?
"Sorry, Madoka-san. I'll stop teasing you."
Mari-san chuckled while getting into the driver's seat.
I puffed my cheeks again like Hana-chan. It wasn't because I was actually angry...no, these feelings rippled in my chest and I was afraid I'd say something...Still fighting the urges to speak my mind out of pure emotions still. Today wasn't an easy day. No, it was like boxing with emotional blows and painful feelings. One wrong hit from Mari-san might knock me out and I would end up spilling all kinds of harmful secrets. But...this was the test I primed up for. It was too late to back down now.
Once Mari-san started up the car we made our way back onto the open road.
But my mind couldn't get off of these uneasy feelings...Like, what if I asked Mari-san directly...if in the past I loved her...what would she say? Would she...
“Alright, onto the bigshots home then we can run by the mall really fast and pick up Hana’s game.”
Breaking my train of thought, I turned back to her as she listed off the schedule.
That was the road Mari-san set us on. Me being a spectator for the most part had no reason to deny her path and rested back into the seat. Like Taylor-sensei told me beforehand...that is for another day. The day when all my feelings are calm and I can clearly say if I want to confess to Mari-san or not. But now I should focus on exploring my feelings rather than solving them...
I looked around now. I’m not used to being in the front seat of this car and with Mari-san driving I felt a tad out of place, to be honest. I wondered if they have any good music to listen to as the soft rumble of the car was starting to wane on me…and that way I could also try and escape these uncertain feelings if even for a little bit longer...
“Hm, what are you looking for Madoka-san?”
Mari-san question as I searched the small compartments.
“Oh…I was seeing if you had music in here?”
She chuckled warily.
“Eh, I think our tastes are a little different. I…don’t listen to all that cheery idol music stuff.”
I crossed my arms, visibly annoyed now. There they go again labeling me like I was some unknown creature doing foreign things. Nakagawa Madoka the neat freak, fashion buff, even the good girl like Sophia-san called me behind my back!
“Hey! I don’t only listen to K-pop and idol bands! Why do you all have such strange stigmas about me?”
“Fine fine, check the glove department Madoka-san...”
As if my act of defiance I, with vigor, looked out the passenger window....but eventually I got bored of that and did as I was told... Mari-san just chuckled to herself. Needless to say...I was embarrassed that I didn't win anything by doing that but a brief blowback to being a spoiled brat. Rustling through the clutter of CDs I saw everything from classical to non-lyrical music.
“What’s your favorite music, Mari-san?”
I questioned, now with a pile of disks in my hand.
“Me? Hmmm...I like anything I guess…”
Mari-san gave a vague answer. She reminded me of Hana-chan when I tried to ask her about food when I first met her. Maybe Mari-san isn’t interested in music? As I searched through the collection I came to a strange-looking case…The cover was deep green and it appeared to have chips and cracks everywhere...
"Wait, I know this artist…Isn’t this…Hasu-kun's older album? While he was still in the music group Rush?”
“Huh? Oh…I forgot I had that in here.”
I touched the sides and there were chips rippling on it. That’s when a wave of emotions rushed past me. Memories poured through my heart. The time when mom used to come home late at night came back to mind...
“Wait, isn’t this my disk? Yeah, that’s right…this is the edge that I dropped. Why is it…in here?”
“Maybe your mother put it in here?”
Leisurely, I inserted the disk into the player. There I selected the first track. It skipped for a bit then began to play. But that brief introduction from wear and tear reminded me that I use to play it repeatedly…while I studied. As the lyrics came in…I began to sing them softly. The tempo was calming and didn’t sound like your regular K-pop song. It was more soothing and level than what I usually listen to.
Hasu-kun was like that though. He could make his voice as strong as a lion then as soft as a sheep. That’s why he was so popular amongst the girls and guys alike. As I softly mumbled the song an unexpected guest filtered in with her own charming hums. It was gentle…and calming…
“…Do you know this song, Mari-san?”
“Ah…I probably heard it places.”
“Is that right?”
She giggled like the weirdo she was as she turned onto the highway.
I questioned, now staring daggers into her. Her eyes winced slightly...maybe she felt the pain of my glare? Now I felt a tad guilty...
"Fine...I'll admit it."
Her shoulders pushed forward.
"I recall hearing that song a lot when I came back to your place. You...seriously liked this song back then, Madoka-san..."
Mari-san remembered that? So, during that time I still played this even when she came over?
"...But why would that be hard to admit, Mari-san?"
I scrutinized bringing about a timid laugh from the troublemaker. She scratched the side of her cheek as she confessed.
"Well the thing is Madoka-san...that disk got broken and..."
"It broke? But it's right here?"
I tapped the disk player as if to ensure in my head that it was in fact working.
"Well...it eventually broke and I bought you a replacement."
She scratched her ear as she admitted it.
With a nod, she continued.
"That disk was one of the last gifts your father gave to you...you were pretty broken up when it got scratched up after dropping the corner of it."
I nodded softly...
"Ah...that's right. Dad did give this to me...on my last birthday with him."
"So...I offered to buy you another one and you didn't want it because it was a gift from your dad...and that was understandable."
Mari-san sighed while changing lanes.
"You sat in the corner of your room and...cried a lot about it. That gift was precious to you, Madoka-san."
As if the image of my selfish self was forming in my head I concluded as I opened my mouth, cutting into her retelling...
"So...you bought me a brand new disk but I kept the cracked case from my father, right Mari-san?"
"Yeah...I said: 'How about I give you this disk but you cherish the case?' And eventually, after some fighting...you agreed."
So, in a time where I was down...Mari-san found a way to break through my spoiled mood and make me happy? Slowly, I was beginning to piece together the type of person Mari-san is.
"Hmm...thanks then Mari-san..."
That warmed my chest a bit. If what she's saying is true...I may have relied on Mari-san like my father at some point in time. She seemed to be the caring kind as Yashiro-san helped me discover earlier too. Like a knight in shining armor who at a drop of the hat would come to the rescue of her princess...
I shook my head from side to side at my strange comparison now. Princess? What the heck am I going on about? Mari-san...is just a caring person despite how strange she is at times, isn't she?
But I think I stumbled onto something...Mari-san could have been the person who kept me stable after my father passed away. She and my father...share similar traits. There could be the chance that she...helped ease the pain of my father....causing me to latch onto her. Is that why...she became special to me?
I smiled as I expressed her name through my lips.
"Hm, what is it Madoka-san?"
I let that slip. I had to be careful not to let my guard down especially around the fox...
We listened to Hasu-kun until we reached the gates of a manner. The home was certainly one of higher quality. With lush iron gates and an air of higher class, it felt a tad overwhelming as we drove up to the gate. If the manuscript was digital then she could have sent it via mail but it seems Yashiro-san likes to do everything on paper with her typewriter. She seems extremely high maintenance if I do say so myself.
“This will be quick. Wait here, Madoka-san.”
I watched as Mari-san hopped out of the car. She ran up to meet with a young burgundy-haired girl around my age it seemed. She looked familiar but I couldn't place where I've seen her before. After exchanging the manuscript Mari-san tattered back over with a beam on her face. She reminded me of a kid when they take their first bite of delicious ice cream. After she got in the car I had to question now...
"Hey, Mari-san...is your boss that rich?"
"My boss...well she works side by side with your uncle Ryuji-san."
Oh...so she's a bigwig too? I didn't even consider the amount Uncle actually makes. With him being out of the country so often he doesn't own a place in Japan anymore. When he comes home he's usually on a plane within the next few days. So this person who lives in this large manner...works beside him?
“Now, let’s head to the game store in the mall and pick up your sister's video game."
With a pump of her fist, she gave herself the energy to press on. Mari-san sure does a lot...
I closed my eyes and imagined myself being the one driving. Mari-san would be in the passenger seat and she wouldn’t have to do all this mindless busywork alone. I could help her...be as useful as her.
But first I’d have to get my license and by that time…will I still be in the house?
“What’s going through your head, Madoka-san?”
The thought…made me too embarrassed to share so I just shook my head and gave her a wry smile.
The devilish woman snickered. But instead of pushing me further, she pointed onward.
"Alright, to the mall Madoka-san."
I nodded in agreement as she took the wheel and drove off...leaving my childish daydream behind.