"Madoka-san...I don't talk about this to many people, I want you to know that starting out..."
She began with that...That would mean that Mari-san is opening her heart to me, doesn't it? That Mari-san wanted to confess the feelings deep in her chest to...me?
"...I understand, Mari-san."
With our bond now connected, Mari-san let out a slight sigh and began...
"All through my life, while I was growing up I was taught to never show my true feelings in the public's eye, Madoka-san..."
"What do you mean, Mari-san?"
Mari-san nodded slightly...
"Coming from a wealthy family whose main goals were connecting ties into wealthier businesses...my older brother and I were rigorously taught to always save face. If you're angry...you better damn well not show it else you'll be punished."
"Nothing but rich people and politicians. That's all they are in the end... I was brought up to be the perfect housewife for any suitor who would like to join the Nakamura family. They beat cooking into me like nobody's business too...hehe."
Mari-san giggled...but it felt forced. Could that have been why she's such a good cook? Because Mari-san...was forced to be one as a child?
"So, your family name is Nakamura Mari-san?"
Her charcoal black hair washed over her face as her garnet gem eyes passed through me now. They shined that blissful forest glow as they resonated with my body.
"...I hate the Nakamura family with a passion."
The tone in her voice was one I haven't heard before. There was no gentleness in it. No...it was certainly full of malice.
"I had Hana when I was sixteen years old. Her father was a childhood friend of mine that I grew up with. He was the sweetest man you'd ever meet."
Mari-san bit her bottom lip.
"He...could read through all the bullshit my parents indoctrinated me with. And...I liked that about him so much. We eventually started dating in secret because...he wasn't rich enough for me..."
She turned back to the midday sky now partly clouding as if resonating with her honest mood.
"Coming from a wealthy family that's stricter than hell Madoka-san...my father was furious...the moment they found out about my pregnancy...I was out the door. "
Her hand mindlessly tattered on the table as if lost and looking for a place to call home...
"My dad screamed at me saying: ' If my daughter wants to be a whore she can live on the streets just like one...'"
"I remember crying my eyes out...pleading with him to help me...but he didn't care."
Mari-san scoffed, as she kicked her feet on the wooden flooring.
"But little did he know...Hana's father truly loved me. He took me in without a second to waste...and we got married that summer."
Mari-san's eyes began to shine just a bit. I could only imagine the images going through her mind right now.
"Hana was the most adorable little thing I could have ever dreamt of. For the first time...I was truly happy, Madoka-san. For four years...he made me the happiest woman alive."
She swallowed gazing towards the table now. Those emptied eyes brought my chest to a halt.
"Then one night he went out to buy Hana a treat...it was such a simple thing to do. Hana wanted ice cream...and I wanted a small treat too..."
Her hand began to shake.
"That night...he was killed in a corner store robbery, Madoka-san. It was...so tragic...how I suddenly lost him. That my knight in shining armor was taken from me and Hana in an instant..."
"Oh god...Mari-san...I never knew..."
I expressed as a light tear cut down her cheek.
"But...how could I explain it...to a four-year-old that her daddy wasn't coming back home ever again?"
That hand dangled freely still...So, I had to do it...I rushed out of my seat and reached out...finally, I took her tender fingers in my hand.
They shook for a moment as she gazed at our connection. Her fingers were soft, warm...and, sad all at the same time. That's when she pushed herself to continue. I wanted to...no, needed to be her stability right now.
"Hana cried for days...and since then...she never had the same appetite she used to. I doubt she remembers anything from that time...so, it might just all be my imagination..."
Mari-san shrugged as if trying to wash away those horrid feelings.
"It was from that day forward...that I couldn't rely on anyone other than myself to make sure Hana had a good life. My husband's family never liked me because they believed I took him away from them...and my family...well, they are nothing but bastards and snakes anyway."
Her voice trembled.
"So...I...decided that it would be best...if I tried to close myself off again. Learn to smile when I was hurt. I...had to be strong for my daughter."
She washed her arm over her face, casting away those salt-ridden tears.
"That's when I used up the rest of my husband's money, went back to school while paying for Hana-san's babysitter fees. I finished up college and made the pitch at the Ojima Editorial Bureau. Only by some miracle did I get in..."
"It was a few weeks after that your mother was hired on...and I had to train her. Teach her the ropes of the bureau. And to be honest Madoka-san...Nakagawa Ayumi, your mother, was a complete and utter mess, to say the least."
I giggled, timidly.
"So, mom was your kohai then, Mari-san?"
"Yeah, I was her senpai...despite her being older than me. I mean...I just figured she only got in because of your Uncle so...I didn't think much of her."
Mari-san shrugged as she continued.
"After we hit our first big book sell our team hit the nightlife. That's when she got stupidly drunk and I had to take her home..."
She rubbed my fingers now...it was so tender the way she went about it. My blood was raising at her gentle embrace.
"That's when I met you...my coworker's daughter who diligently worked the night away...listening to Hasu-kun and occasionally snacking away on cut sandwiches with a single pickle in the middle. But despite how happy you looked..."
"That first night I dragged her in...and I was stressed about work and other things... and I came down with a fever. I don't even remember much of what happened but you took care of everything and even told Hana's babysitter that I'll be late. It was then...that you, Nakagawa Madoka-san, entered my life..."
The troublemaker now vulnerable gazed at me. Our eyes met tenderly as she continued.
"When I woke up, you said...' you can't take care of others if you can barely take care of yourself, Koda-san.' With that snarky personality of yours."
"Snarky? I'm...not...that snarky."
I teased...that's when she held my hand up to her cheek. There, she rubbed my hand against her...passionately.
"My heart would tug...seeing you alone. Because your mother was being overworked at the editorial company...Yet her daughter would willingly stay up and wait for her... You...had to be independent at such a young age. You reminded me a little of myself in the past. I wanted to...protect you, Madoka-san."
"I wanted...to be there for you...and eventually you connected with me...in a similar way."
That's when she gripped my hand tighter...she freed one hand and masked her quivering lips as she continued...
''I want you to know something...something very important that's always deep in my heart, Madoka-san."
"Nakagawa Madoka-san...you are precious to me. You are...so special in my eyes...and because of that...I...I tend to..."
She bit her lip...seemingly trying to get her point across as best as she could. It was evident now that both of us shared this problem. We both had a hard time expressing ourselves openly.
"I tend to do things...act in ways that don't portray my feelings all too well."
"...What do you mean, Mari-san?"
She wrapped her fingers in mine like our two souls were finally merging together.
"Like...not telling you about your coma when you hit your head at the amusement park."
She admitted it...
"When I finally convinced you to come out of your room...to go with me to the amusement park that day you were so excited. We were going to have a fun time, introduce you back into society."
"Because of my trauma I suffered from that made me not want to leave the house, right Mari-san?"
She nodded still holding onto my hand.
"We went out...together. Something you always wanted to do..."
She cleared her throat then continued.
"But then...over the time we were there, you began to get a bit uncomfortable. So, to ease your mood I sat you down on a seat and ran in line to pick us up some ice cream...and if your mood didn't change by then I decided I'd take you home immediately..."
Her head angled to the table.
"But when I came back...you weren't there in your seat...I assumed you started looking for me out of sheer panic. That's when I heard you scream... the scream that haunted me for the last two years."
Her hand began shaking now.
"The people around you said you panicked...and backed off an overpass. You hit the back of your head when you landed, Madoka-san."
Tears dripped on the table...Mari-san didn't even bother to try and catch them anymore.
"There was so much blood on the back of your head...and there was nothing I could do to help you...I...I couldn't pet your hair like I used to...and tell you that it'll be okay anymore."
Her words brought me back to that time when we first went out together...how she was feeling my hair.
“What…the heck are you doing?”
When I thought she was creepy, weird...what if all she wanted to do at that time...was feel my hair? Tell me that it'll be okay...like she used to?
"If I wasn't being so complacent that day...then maybe the two years you lost wouldn't have happened. That choice...easily tore me up inside...Madoka-san."
We sat in each other's hands for a moment. How hot my body was didn't register to me. Mari-san felt guilty...She didn't have to go into why she asked mom not to tell me about that anymore. It was simple...Mari-san just honestly felt guilty...to the point that she was afraid.
"I'm...so sorry for causing...your coma, Madoka-san..."
Mari-san...was tired. After two years of watching me in bed, wondering if I'd ever wake up again...There's no one who wouldn't harbor guilty feelings because of it. Again...my coma subject is the source of pain...
So, if I put what she told me all together now...Mari-san at the age of sixteen got pregnant with Hana-san by her childhood friend and future husband. When Hana-chan was four years of age her father was killed going out to buy her a treat. That's when Mari-san had to take everything into consideration and hardened her heart to make sure her daughter had a good life, a future. She went back to school, finished up, and was hired onto the editorial bureau. There she became mom's senpai and taught her the ropes after Uncle Ryuji got her on.
Eventually, she took mom home one night...and met me. She already told me that I helped her when she got a fever...and treated her just like the night we had that fight. Over time I grew close to her but something happened and I suffered trauma and I didn't want to leave the house. But she...guided me and held my hand. She lifted me out and took me to the amusement park...where I fell off an overpass and...fell into a coma for two years...
Mari-san still blames herself for that event...
Could I say it's her fault though? As it sounds...she just wanted to help me and tragedy struck.
I...personally believe Mari-san did the right thing not telling me that she was there when I fell into my coma. Our relationship might have been ruined the moment I woke up if she did...In a way...she saved what we have now because of that choice...
She finally set my hand down. This honest Mari-san...the one who also wanted to change just like me finally came out. I wonder how long she wanted to talk about this? ...Maybe that's why she was so distant this past week? Probably in her heart, she wanted to express her true feelings...but didn't know how to. I walked back to my seat and faced her now. There was still one important step to our chat here.
"...What about my trauma, Mari-san? What happened back then?"
I needed to know...the level of her honesty now. Would she be willing to breach this with me? Mari-san nodded before continuing.
"I suggest we talk about that with your mother around, Madoka-san. She...needs to be with us when we finally have that...chat."
She looked me in the eyes not sternly...but soft, caringly. It caused my heart to...sway towards her more.
"Because just like I feel guilty regarding your coma...your mom was devastated about what happened as a result of your trauma. Ayumi...blames herself with a passion for what happened. And like me...I don't believe she'd ever forgiven herself for it."
My heart sank...
Could it be that the true reason why mom doesn't want to talk about it...isn't only to protect me? Could it be similar to Ma-chan's case where the truth not only hurt me...but changed her life? Could mom be suffering still...and wish to not bring it up because it pains her? It was a fact now...I don't know the level of depth my coma and trauma had on mom. I...don't know my mom anymore, do I?
"...Okay...We'll have a chat with mom about it soon, Mari-san..."
That's when I reached out to her...the caring Mari-san that guided me in the past. I touched her tender fingers again...
"...Thank you...for being honest with me, Mari-san."
Slowly...I'm starting to understand how emotionally hurt my family is because of...my coma. This chat between us...was certainly tough but was necessary. This was the first time that Mari-san broke open her shielded heart by her own volition and confessed what was going through her mind...
But there is one monumental thing I won't ask her right now...
And that is if...
I was in love with her...