Chapter 45:

Ch.17 Red Carnations (2/6)

Sleeping Princess

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!Bookmark here

"We'll see you once we get home girls! You both be safe!"Bookmark here

"Yes, mom!"Bookmark here

We both chimed in harmony. Hana-chan giggled and I couldn't help but laugh a little too.Bookmark here

"Have a great day at school, Madoka-san, Hana!"Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Onee-san, the train is here!”Bookmark 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.Bookmark here

“M-Morning, Nakagawa-san.”Bookmark here

“Oh, morning Mihara-san!”Bookmark here

Like ice, these two froze over the moment they stared at one another. It’s been like this since the Cultural Festival.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Koda Mari…Bookmark here

The woman…that I love…Bookmark here

Unconsciously, I sighed deeply as my chest started to burn with intensity.Bookmark here

“Is something wrong, Onee-san?”Bookmark here

“A-Are you okay…Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

"Ah...Yeah, I'm fine you two."Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

“Aah…N-Nakagawa-san…”Bookmark here

“Onee-san!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Yes, Hana-chan?”Bookmark here

“D-Did you remember to bring your lunch?! Mom made it just for us and I want to make sure you’re eating well!”Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about me, Hana-chan. I brought my lunch.”Bookmark here

“Good!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

But sadly, I had to cut this awkward tension with a knife. Slice through this oppressive atmosphere and soon.Bookmark here

“Mihara-san, would you like to share box lunches with me today?”Bookmark here

“Huh?!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“What, Nakagawa-san?!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“I wanted to chat with you more and I think lunch will be a good time today, Mihara-san."Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

"Oh..Okay N-Nakagawa-san!"Bookmark here

The ghost beamed as she tilted her head like a kitten.Bookmark here

"That's great! You can join me, Mae-chan, and Sophia-san at our lunch table."Bookmark here

Suddenly, her expression instantly soured like a flip of a switch.Bookmark here

“With Watanabe-san and Conway-san? Not...the two of us?"Bookmark here

"Hm? You don't want to eat with my friends?"Bookmark here

She pursed her lips defiantly.Bookmark here

"Why can't"Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“You have got to be kidding me..."Bookmark here

Hana scorned.Bookmark here

"Fine, Onee-san! You can eat lunch with Mihara-san.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

“Mihara-san…”Bookmark here

“Ah…Y-yes Nakagawa-san?”Bookmark here

“Would you please ask my little sister if it’s okay for me to have lunch with you?”Bookmark here

“Eeeeh?!”Bookmark here

The ghost squealed causing the riders on the train to look in our direction. Today was already turning into a hectic day.Bookmark here

“N-Nakagawa-san…are you…serious? I have to do that?”Bookmark here

“Yes, I am. I want you to mind my little sister Hana-chan, Mihara-san.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Ehhh…”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Agggnnn…you just…don’t get it, Nakagawa-san!”Bookmark here

That’s when Mihara-san rushed out the doors along with the crowd, leaving the two of us still on the train.Bookmark here

“M-Mihara-san…”Bookmark here

I called out...but it was too late. Her tall figure washed into the sea of people.Bookmark here

“Wow, she actually ran, Onee-san?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Hana-chan…”Bookmark here

“What is it, Onee-san?”Bookmark here

I shrugged my shoulders silently regretting my next choice of words.Bookmark here

“Could you please try and get along with Mihara-san for me?”Bookmark here

Her eyebrows twitched as her fist shook violently.Bookmark here

“Why am I being scolded, Onee-san?! I tried to be nice to her during the Cultural Festival, but she blatantly ignored me!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

Gently, I touched Hana-chan’s soft hair in an attempt to calm her down.Bookmark here

“You’re right, Hana-chan. I shouldn’t have spoken out of turn like that. I'm sorry.”Bookmark here

“…Oh, no I didn’t mean to yell at you, Onee-san.”Bookmark here

She shook her long dark locks from side to side.Bookmark here

“I…I just want Onee-san to…know my feelings. That's all."Bookmark here

“Your feelings are loud and clear, Hana-san.”Bookmark here

I placed my hands on her thin shoulders. She twitched slightly as I nudged her.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“Huh? What do you mean, Onee-san?”Bookmark here

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…Bookmark here

“Well, I was asked to come for an interview at the Red Roses tomorrow after school.”Bookmark here

“An interview…You’re getting a job, Onee-san?”Bookmark here

I nodded sternly.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Wow…Onee-san is such a cool person.”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

I could feel my face growing warm. But Hana-chan shook her head from side to side with care.Bookmark here

“Onee-san…I remember when we first met…”Bookmark here

Her heart came out to me now as she expressed honestly.Bookmark here

“I've always thought…were a really cool person. When you want change…you make it. I…I want to be just like you, Onee-san.”Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

“…No, I’m not cool at all, Hana-chan.”Bookmark here

“But you are!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“T-Thank you, Hana-chan.,”Bookmark here

I rubbed her cheek to her surprise.Bookmark here

“I’ll make sure Mihara-san respects you when we get on this afternoon.Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

“Thank you, Onee-san.”Bookmark here

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 be honest. I just remember bits and pieces about Mihara-san being a loner for the most part...Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

That's the only way that I can assure Hana-chan and her will get along when I'm not around.Bookmark here

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