With breakfast over now, the usual three suspects rushed about looking for whatever they needed to before leaving the house. I, being the only organized one, had to help them find all kinds of things. Nothing would change, I've accepted that by now...but they could at least try and be more organized!
"We'll see you once we get home girls! You both be safe!"
We both chimed in harmony. Hana-chan giggled and I couldn't help but laugh a little too.
"Have a great day at school, Madoka-san, Hana!"
Mari-san and mom waved to us as they drove off, taking the left onto the road ahead. The days were certainly getting colder as we slowly moved into the late winter months. Once we made it to the station, I leaned back on a support pillar as Hana-chan and I diligently waited for the morning train to bring us to school.
It’s Tuesday, only the second day of the week and there’s already so much to consider as of recently. Like Mae-chan and her depression...and the fact that I haven’t been able to speak with Taylor-sensei as of late also. It seemed like she’s been overwhelmed with her workload of being an assistant while going to college.
“Onee-san, the train is here!”
Waking me from my thoughts, Hana-chan pulled on my arm. So, I shook off my fatigue and walked on with her. But here lied another problem that I still had no solution to.
“Oh, morning Mihara-san!”
Like ice, these two froze over the moment they stared at one another. It’s been like this since the Cultural Festival.
They don’t see eye to eye…likely because Mihara-san doesn’t like Koda Mari…and she sees her in Hana-chan but that begs the question…why does she dislike Mari-san so much? I still haven’t grasped the full extent of her feelings towards Hana-chan’s mother.
The woman…that I love…
Unconsciously, I sighed deeply as my chest started to burn with intensity.
“Is something wrong, Onee-san?”
“A-Are you okay…Nakagawa-san?”
"Ah...Yeah, I'm fine you two."
They mixed as well as oil and water. Even when on the same page while being concerned for my well-being, they are on opposite teams. This was getting old and fast. Hana-chan doesn’t deserve to be shunned by Mihara-san despite what may have happened between Hana’s mother and her.
But then I don’t know the extent of what happened, do I? Maybe…I can have a chat with her later today and talk to her about it?
Hana cut into Mihara-san’s question likely on purpose. So, I decided to play along and turned to the flower who barely sprouted up over the ghost's tall body.
“D-Did you remember to bring your lunch?! Mom made it just for us and I want to make sure you’re eating well!”
This conversation felt forced…Yeah, it’s because it was just that…forced. Hana-chan was grasping at straws to prevent Mihara-san from having my undivided attention. This needed to stop before my head exploded with frustration...
“Don’t worry about me, Hana-chan. I brought my lunch.”
Like she just won a victory, Hana-san smirked as she crossed her arms. She puffed her chest as if being awarded a medal of honor for protecting her dearest Onee-san.
But sadly, I had to cut this awkward tension with a knife. Slice through this oppressive atmosphere and soon.
“Mihara-san, would you like to share box lunches with me today?”
Hana shrieked, turning back to me instantly. Her hair swung so fast it snapped on my arm like a whip. It hurt a little too but I didn't say anything.
Mihara-san was a bit more subtle, but her timid pink lips escaped her scarf like a turtle, peeking from its shell. It was a bit cute I had to admit. It seemed that I have a soft spot for little things like that.
They both tensed up per my expectations. I needed to express my feelings else nothing will change between them. I didn’t want to avoid talking about this… as my old self would. So, this is what I decided I'd do. If I want something to be done, I'll have to push myself to fix the problem head-on. I won’t wait until the problem is far too complex for me to solve...Like with my feelings for Mari-san is right now.
“I wanted to chat with you more and I think lunch will be a good time today, Mihara-san."
Hana crossed her arms and tapped her feet. I could feel that she was livid over this. But there was a big reason why I’m doing this also. And because so...this needs to be settled between them before the inevitable happened soon.
The ghost beamed as she tilted her head like a kitten.
"That's great! You can join me, Mae-chan, and Sophia-san at our lunch table."
Suddenly, her expression instantly soured like a flip of a switch.
“With Watanabe-san and Conway-san? Not...the two of us?"
"Hm? You don't want to eat with my friends?"
She pursed her lips defiantly.
"Why can't we...eat...alone?"
Mihara-san’s shouldered slumped slightly as she suggested. This was something that was actually quite normal for her. When I’m around my friends, Mihara-san won’t approach or even ask to eat with me. She’s like a mouse, scared of anything and everybody. I’m sure if Hana-chan wasn’t here she’d certainly hover around me relentlessly.
“You have got to be kidding me..."
"Fine, Onee-san! You can eat lunch with Mihara-san.”
Hana sparked up, casting away my thoughts. I don’t remember having to get permission to do so but…I understand my little sister’s feelings.
Mihara-san is acting rude to her, there's no doubt about that and I should at least stick up for her, shouldn’t I? So, I constructed a plan that might work for the time being...
“Would you please ask my little sister if it’s okay for me to have lunch with you?”
The ghost squealed causing the riders on the train to look in our direction. Today was already turning into a hectic day.
“N-Nakagawa-san…are you…serious? Why...do I have to do that?”
“Yes, I am. I want you to mind my little sister Hana-chan, Mihara-san.”
Hana smirked cunningly. So, I held her tiny fingers to her surprise. Giving the middle schooler a sharp nod, I warned her silently not to be mean.
Now that I thought about this situation more…it felt as though Mihara-san and Hana-chan were two younger sisters and I was the eldest, trying to make them get along.
Mihara-san struggled. Her eyes began to water as she shielded her cheeks with her hand. But before she could get any words out, the doors opened revealing our stop.
“Agggnnn…you just…don’t get it, Nakagawa-san!”
That’s when Mihara-san rushed out the doors along with the crowd, leaving the two of us still on the train.
I called out...but it was too late. Her tall figure washed into the sea of people.
“Wow, she actually ran, Onee-san?”
I crossed my arms now seeing her tall figure vanish in the wind. Maybe I was too forceful on her but it’s for good reason why these two needed to get along. With our initial shock of Mihara-san's actions faded, Hana-chan and I started our journey to school. It was only a five or so minute walk to the point that we split off. When that junction came I turned to my little flower.
“What is it, Onee-san?”
I shrugged my shoulders silently regretting my next choice of words.
“Could you please try and get along with Mihara-san for me?”
Her eyebrows twitched as her fist shook violently.
“Why am I being scolded, Onee-san?! I tried to be nice to her during the Cultural Festival, but she blatantly ignored me!”
I leaned back…Hana-chan was right…I was in the wrong here, wasn’t I? No matter how I thought about it the buck stopped with Mihara-san’s feelings towards Mari-san.
“If she doesn’t like me then I won’t like her! I refuse to suck up to anyone who dislikes me for literally no reason, Madoka!”
Gently, I touched Hana-chan’s soft hair in an attempt to calm her down.
“You’re right, Hana-chan. I shouldn’t have spoken out of turn like that. I'm sorry.”
“…Oh, no I didn’t mean to yell at you, Onee-san.”
She shook her long dark locks from side to side.
“I…I just want Onee-san to…know my feelings. That's all."
“Your feelings are loud and clear, Hana-san.”
I placed my hands on her thin shoulders. She twitched slightly as I nudged her.
“I…might be going home, less often with the two of you soon, Hana-chan. So, I want to make sure if I get off the train early that you two won’t fight.”
“Huh? What do you mean, Onee-san?”
It was turning out to be a little harder than I imagined to say this. Hana-chan’s adorable cheeks puffed slightly as she came closer to me. She’ll be the first to know and I think that’s the most appropriate. Her being my sister and all…
“Well, I was asked to come for an interview at the Red Roses tomorrow after school.”
“An interview…You’re getting a job, Onee-san?”
I nodded sternly.
“Yeah…I think it’s only right for your older sister to start becoming more independent. I want to tell mom and Mari-san later tonight.”
Her eyes lit up like fireworks were dancing around in her eyes. With her mouth opened as wide as a watermelon, Hana shook her head up and down like a spring.
“Wow…Onee-san is such a cool person.”
I could feel my face growing warm. But Hana-chan shook her head from side to side with care.
“Onee-san…I remember when we first met…”
Her heart came out to me now as she expressed honestly.
“I've always thought that...you…were a really cool person. When you want change…you make it. I…I want to be just like you, Onee-san.”
Like me? Is that what Hana really wanted to do? If she knew who the person inside me was…The one who fell in love with her mother’s lover and her stepsister’s mother…The me who still wants to be coddled like a baby…the me who is emotionally weak and still needs plenty of support. How…am I a “cool person” as she says it?
“…No, I’m not cool at all, Hana-chan.”
“But you are!”
Shattering my moment of self-reprimand, Hana-chan jumped in. Students from both of our schools cast odd glances at us. I’m sure they were wondering why a high schooler was talking with a middle schooler because we look nothing like sisters.
“Onee-san…you need to have confidence in yourself! You’re a beautiful person who is smart and can do everything she puts her mind to! So please…don’t look down on yourself anymore...for me?”
Has that been a fundamental problem for me? Was I always looking down on myself, acting as if who I am isn’t good enough for what I want to become? Here on this foggy morning, my little sister was giving me a pep talk of some kind.
“T-Thank you, Hana-chan.,”
I rubbed her cheek to her surprise.
“I’ll make sure Mihara-san respects you when we get on this afternoon.
But to make that happen…I’ll have to find out the truth that’s surrounding her and Mari-san. Why doesn’t Mihara-san like Koda Mari? Is it because of those…carnations that went missing or could there be a deeper problem that lies there? I was under the impression that Mihara-san might have been completely honest with me. Maybe she wasn’t as simple as she appeared to be. What if our relationship was something different than what I remember?
“Thank you, Onee-san.”
I closed my eyes and imagined that white-haired specter from the past. She wore her gym attire and normally would sit in the corner when she wasn't up to play basketball with us. I don't remember much about her...to be honest. I just remember bits and pieces about Mihara-san being a loner for the most part...
Maybe that was the key to fixing this problem between her and Hana-chan? I'll have to dive deep and find out what I don't know. Mihara-san...the ghost from the past is still an absolute mystery to me...
With my newfound resolve, I concluded in my heart. Now was the time to explore and find out who Mihara-san really is...and why she doesn't like Koda Mari-san.
That's the only way that I can assure Hana-chan and her will get along when I'm not around.