The warmth of my blankets cradled around me as my consciousness started piecing together slowly. As my eyes opened, the world of blissful dreams faded behind me. I rolled to the side revealing in the early hours of 5:00 AM. It would seem as though I woke up an hour before my alarm.
My bangs washed over my face like weeds, shielding the bleak winter sun’s rays. Despite how I'm awake now...my body didn't seem to want to respond as I lied there quietly in solitude. My heart wasn't rampaging. My mind wasn't racing...no, I was simply in a state of tranquility. How I missed the days where my body wasn't constantly waring with my mind. Where I woke up in the morning...excited to find a new song that brightens my day or a cute outfit that would awe my naive heart.
But now those simple days were gone. Almost instantaneously, Mari-san would enter my mind as soon as I woke up. She'd crumple my feelings and plague my mind to only think of her. Like I was entranced by that black-haired troublemaker's beauty.
My lips spoke her name. How I wished now that she'd be beside me once I woke up, ready to embrace me in her slender arms...
As I tried to fade back into dreamland, a hint of miso soup touched my nose scattering that crude daydream. The aroma caused my body to spring up like a flower chasing the morning sun. The smell of sweet garlic was alluring to the point that there was nothing that could stop me from craving my morning breakfast.
Unbecoming of a proper young lady, I raised from my bed, yawning all the while. Out of habit, I checked my phone confirming that I have indeed woken up an hour earlier than usual. With a swipe of my fingers, I discovered a message I received last night before bed. It was highlighted in red marking how important it was. This email would be my first step to change.
As I scanned through the remainder of my list of emails, right under the marked message was another that hasn’t been opened yet. It was from a certain blueberry, Ma-chan, and it threw me off guard.
The single messaged line read…
[I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep…]
This email was sent an hour ago at 4: 00 AM in the morning. I wondered if she made it back to sleep alright... It was unusual for Ma-chan to message me this early. My stomach swirled in a panic as I replied...
[Are you still awake, Mae?]
After a moment or so…she responded.
That’s when I decided it’ll be best to give her a call. After the first initial ring, the drowsy voice of Mae-chan filtered in.
“Hey, good morning Mado-chan!”
“Hey, Mae. So, what are you doing awake this early?”
She giggled but it felt a tad low energy. Could it have been associated with her waking up too early?
“…I’ve been awake since midnight, Mado-chan.”
“Huh? Why, Mae-chan?”
“…I just had one of those nights…”
My stomach sank as if rocks had been slammed down in me. My breathing became shallow as the situation manifested... It’s been some time since Mae-chan had a relapse and with how high spirited she’s been lately …I silently hoped that she was completely out of her slump. But...of course, it's not as easy as forgetting about it and smiling to move on.
“Mae, you should have texted me earlier.”
“No, Madoka-chan! I just didn't want to…be a bother...”
I rubbed my feet together as my fingers gripped my sheets.
“…Do you have the energy to go to school today, Mae?”
For a moment she didn't say a word. The fear of her answer crept in all the more.
“Hearing your voice…always gives me some peace of mind."
Her tone was weak...timid even.
"I…I knew hearing your voice would help me. Hehe...”
I held my phone with two hands as I pressed it closer to my ear. That’s when I heard a slight banging sound on her end.
“Mae-chan…are you putting your feet on the wall again?”
She teased as we both chuckled together. This felt like the old days before my coma. Sometimes Mae-chan and I would have these early chats just to hear one another's voice. It truly showed that even back then we would rely on each other to keep us motivated...to keep us going.
“So, what have you been thinking about, Mae-chan?”
She paused and held her breath, then after a brief sigh, she exhaled as she confessed.
“The time...when I punched that girl, my teammate. You know, the one I sent to the hospital…"
"There was so much blood, Madoka-san...thinking back it still bothers me."
I could hear her fall on her mattress now. I decided to do the same and rolled over on my side.
“I…I’m not a violent person…Madoka…I just made a mistake…”
She pled in a whisper.
“I just wish…I could take it all back. That image of her crying and bleeding on the gymnasium floor…always comes back to me.”
“I know you’re not a violent person, Mae-chan. I know you better than anyone.”
“Then…why can’t others be like you and see me for who I am? Why can't mom just understand that...I made a mistake?"
I wanted to wrap my arms around her. But even if I could…I doubt it’ll change her feelings right now. Mae-chan was certainly stuck in this endless loop of regret. The word, “if.” was the bane of her existence. There are so many ifs in her world…that it’s slowly tearing her apart. With all the ways things could have turned out…why is it like this?
There has to be a way…for Mae-chan to accept what happened…and…
“I…I’m coming to school today. Don't worry about that. I...think I want to do something that’ll help me move on from all of that.”
My heart leaped with relief.
“Oh, what are you going to do, Mae-chan?”
“I was speaking with Sophia-san a few days back…she asked me if I were in any clubs after the incident? That’s when I realized…I’ve been stuck in this same place…for a while now.”
Her tone simmered down on the other end of the phone. I wanted to reach in, grab her and pull her to me, rescue her if I could. But right now I couldn't. So, I listened to her pains.
“So, what are you going to do, Mae-chan?”
“I'm a little tired today...so I’m…going to look for a new club tomorrow on Wednesday...sometime around lunch. Probably not a sports club…but something that makes me feel…you know…useful.”
“Mae-chan…you already are useful.”
“Oh…that’s not the word I wanted to use…but more like…ah…”
“Make you feel like you're changing, Mae?”
I thought about it…maybe Mae-chan is in a similar situation as me. When she dyed her hair blue…she wanted to change. But she only did so physically. Maybe now it was time for her to move on emotionally.
“Yes…that’s just it. I want to change…for real now.”
“Do you want me to help you look for clubs?”
“Hehe…if you want. I would be happy if you did.”
“I’ll be the first one signing your name on a roster for a club. Tomorrow at lunch then!”
She paused briefly before confessing...
“Hehe…I love you, Madoka-chan.”
She whispered. Her words were soothing…honest, yet a tad wounded all the same.
“I love you too, Mae-chan.”
“I’m…going to try and get some more sleep before I have to wake up. See you later. And…thanks for hearing me out, Madoka-san.”
“I'm always here for you, Ma-chan.”
When the call ended…my heart dropped a little. Mae-chan is dealing with something that isn’t easy to handle. At any time, it could creep up on her, threaten to bring her to her knees. She’s…such a strong person and I'll make her remember that. I love her from the bottom of my heart...and it pains me to see her struggling like this.
So, I will become just as strong. That way I can be there for her if she ever needs that little bit of help.
After my emotions settled back down, I got dressed in my school attire. The signature blue and plaid design at one point in time would make me feel as though I was walking on air. I wore this with excitement but now it’s just an average school uniform. I was a high school girl...nothing special about me. After getting dressed and fixing my hair I grabbed my now special purple box. The gem shone that brilliant violet. The gift that I want to cherish gazed back at me as if tempting my heart to throb. With a clip on the back, it fits perfectly around my neck…
I echoed her name. How happy it made me knowing she brought it for me. It was a pure innocent kind of happiness and I couldn’t help but smile. Even though it was only a small gift, it meant the world to me and that's what mattered.
After finishing up I walked down the steps, following the deciduous aroma that tenderly made its way to my room. To my surprise it wasn’t mom cooking like I assumed, it was Mari-san.
She danced about the kitchen with renewed vigor. As if nothing was weighing her down any longer her feet glided from one end to the other. With her spotted blue apron, an honest smile complimented her humming. This…warmed my chest all the more as the corner of my lips raised slightly.
Did I look like a fool? I wouldn't know but I wished for the moment to last for eternity.
Her tender green eyes caressed my body as they captured me.
“Good morning, honey!”
"Eh? Too much?"
The look on her face was priceless to the point that it caused me to giggle. Mari-san was still trying to find that perfect name for me. One that she'd only use for me. How sweet...so deliciously sweet.
“Not working out is it, Madoka-san?”
She shrugged and set a plate on the table for me.
“Eat up, Madoka-san! I…felt like cooking today.”
Since our chat Mari-san has been much happier when around me. As if a cloud of darkness had been released from her she would always smile brightly when I entered the room. This...was how I've always wanted our relationship to be.
The food's aroma guided me to gaze at my plate. It was roasted fish and white rice. Simple and plain at first but as I tasted it the flavors became richer with garlic and pointed salts, decorated my palate.
Mari-san told me at the Red Roses that she…doesn’t care for cooking. It was her family that forced it on her in the end. In order to be the perfect housewife. Now here she was…making a meal for the family as bubbly as always. Mari-san…is a special person to me...
I added, biting into my meal. With just the two of us here it felt like in my eyes that she was less of a mother and maybe a wife cooking for her spouse? Is this how it would feel for the person I love to make meals for me in the morning?
An instant sense of dread came over me as I chewed away. It wrapped its horrid claws around me. The moral compass known as guilt rose up and stopped my impure feelings.
No...I couldn't think like that. It'll only hurt in the end...
“Oh, Mari is cooking?!”
Mom stepped in, eyes glowing like diamonds as they broke my delusion of her lover and me. Doing my best to ignore their tender embrace of a morning kiss...I continued eating away. It was my fault that I'm feeling this way right now. I shouldn't have enjoyed that brief delusion of a reality that will never exist.
"Good morning everyone..."
Hana-chan walked in yawning all the while. She was like a little cub moving about in a stooper, trying her best to get to the table. I couldn't help but watch her cute motions as she waddled about. With a sharp leap, she made her way to her seat and smiled blissfully. It never gets old watching my little sister and all her cuteness. The rest of the morning was uneventful.
The meal was fantastic and everyone was happy...despite the turmoil in my chest that was encroaching on this perfect world.
Our family is happy and I was too...even though it hurt so much.