After a drawn-out goodbye, Hana-chan made her way towards her middle school. So, instead of waiting any longer, I did the same. As I made my way to school a certain dirty blond was sitting against the wall of the entrance. Looking like a proper delinquent she gazed at me with her death stare as I entered the gates.
The shark crudely called out my name. I won’t lie, that tone slightly bothered me. My given name is cute…Conchi-san should respect it more...
"Good morning, So-chan."
"Give it a rest!"
Her banter didn't reflect her expression though. I had to admit, despite looking like a girl who'd push me in a room and beat the living daylights out of me, Sophia-san had quite the angelic smile when she wanted to. Ever since we had our talk on the school roof during the Cultural Day Festival, I've started to see her mannerisms in a new light.
“What’s wrong, Conchi-san?”
She rubbed the back of her head and exhaled deeply.
“Have you had a chat with Linda lately?”
“No, I haven't. She’s been busy with nurse work ever since the Cultural Festival.”
Conway-san tapped her forehead with her pointer finger. I was unsure what that represented...if anything at all.
“Hm…She hasn’t even tried to stop by the classroom to find me. And as you know, Madoka-san....I can't ask her about it...”
I understood what she was getting at. Because of their complicated situation, I will have to be the so-called mediator between them for a bit. Tell them about each other for the time being. Just until they find a way to see one another without the eyes of their parents hawking over them.
“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure I speak with Taylor-sensei soon. I…have some things I want to discuss with her too.”
We settled down for a bit as the cool wind caught our legs. Sophia-san gazed towards the cloudy sky as her hair flickered in the wind.
"Still thinking about Taylor-sensei, Sophia-san?"
She shrugged and gave me a direct answer.
"Hm...I just hope they're not increasing her workload in an attempt to make her quit..."
That would make sense. It would be cruel...but an effective way to go about ridding of her. Taylor-sensei is already alone...no one wants to be associated with her because of the position she's in...being against her family. If they decided to overload her in work and isolate her further...I can see how the pressure could make her quit. But then this might just be an honest workload and our worries would be unfounded. Sophia certainly loves her older sister. It was this devotion that prompted me to ask...
“Hey…can I ask a personal question, Sophia-san?”
She chuckled slightly.
“Ask away, idiot.”
“You don’t seem to question that Taylor-sensei has feelings for you. Isn’t it strange that a woman is pursuing you?”
She shook her head from side to side.
“Not at all, Madoka-san.”
That bluntness was a surprise. I didn’t expect her to be so forthcoming with her feelings on the matter. It made my question feel a tad lackluster.
“Because I don’t care for all that…If a girl likes a girl or a guy likes a guy who am I to say otherwise.”
“But in this case…it’s a girl who likes you, Sophia-san…”
She crossed her arms and turned to the side.
“Yeah…but I love Onee-san. And if her feelings developed that way there’s no reason for me to dislike her because of it. I mean…how would you feel if your stepsister, Koda-san, came to you and told you she was in love with you?”
What if Hana-chan told me that she was in love with me? Would I turn her away? How would I respond? Well…coming to terms with me loving Mari-san now…wouldn’t that mean I’m physically attracted to girls? Emotionally…I am in love with Mari-san I know that for sure. I want for her…but could that move onto another female or is it just Mari-san who struck a chord in me? But back onto the question at hand...If Koda Hana came to me and said she loved me...
I held my head down...thinking about it further. My thoughts were going rampant now...
Hana-chan has nice eyes, her lips are cute...she's smart, loyal to a fault...a bit gullible but...generally a nice person. I...don't think I'd have the heart to turn her down...
Probably noticing my internal struggle, Conway-san spoke up.
“I guess that was an unfair question, Madoka-san.”
“…Oh no…I understood what you meant...Sophia-san.”
“All in all, what I’m saying is…if someone falls in love…that’s just who they fall in love with. Nobody can control that."
"Yeah, I guess so..."
I thought about my feelings for Mari-san again. I still wonder...why did it have to be Mari-san? Why did it have to be my mothers...lover?
Conway put her finger to her lip as she interrogated.
“Madoka-san…I didn’t want to ask yesterday but seeing as you’re the same today…I’m going to be blunt with you.”
“I’m your friend…why are you hiding things from me?”
My mouth opened wide at her candor. Sophia-san had every right to question me though and I knew it.
“Not only me but Mae-san as well. We both can see that lately you’ve been going through something and it’s been causing you to space out more often.”
I took a deep breath. I couldn’t hide it well…could I? Maybe there’s no point in hiding my love for Mari-san from them? Well…maybe not Conway but Mae-chan’s family is closer to me than that. What if they somehow heard about it and it reached my mom’s ear? I'm most afraid of it hurting my family more than anything right now. So, I caved and gave her my response...
“Sophia-san…please give me some time and I’ll tell the both of you about it. My feelings are still being sorted out.”
That was the best answer I could give. And it was the truest answer I had on me at the moment. Sophia-san grumbled but shrugged defeatedly.
“...Fair enough. Just make sure you talk with Linda all about it. I…I don’t want my friend to have to go through something…and not be able to help.”
Was she giving back to me because I helped her out on the roof during the cultural festival? No, it wasn’t anything that petty. Sophia-san was being a genuine friend. She mentioned that she confided in Okabe-san about her problems in the past and was mocked for it. Maybe she’s taking a second leap at it to open her heart to others?
“Sophia-san, thank you.”
I bow slightly.
“Oh, none of that.”
Seems she wasn’t taking my half-honest thanks and bonked me on the head. My glasses almost fell off because of it. It’s only been a few months, but things have certainly been lively lately. Her face lights up slightly a cold tint of red. With a cross of her arms, she concluded.
“Now, are you going to class today, Madoka-san?”
“I always go to class, Conchi-san. “
“Ah, that’s right...Such a good girl aren't you?"
I wanted to pull her cheeks extra hard for that comment. Why does everyone have strange labels for me? Neat-freak, fashion buff, and the list just keep getting longer. Sophia-san then leaned in closer to me. In a whisper, she spoke...
"Soon will be finals week and I’ll have to start studying harder soon. So, I might need to borrow your notes since I've missed so many days of class, Madoka-san.”
All the skipping was finally coming back to her and now she has to act like a proper student, huh? It made me giggle that the delinquent was asking the good girl for help. Wasn't that something that could be found in a corny rom-com television show?
"What the hell are you laughing about, Madoka?!"
Sophia nearly lunged at me as I took a step away from her. As we made our way through the front doors, I thought about the Cultural Festival briefly. It was still mind-boggling that the festival was all cleaned up as if it never happened. It was such an eventful day too. Not only for the school as a whole but for us personally. I thought back to that day where we all had fun getting to know one another. How I finally shattered that barrier with Sophia-san to get closer to her. How I had my first ki-
I squealed, suddenly.
"Hm? What is your problem, Nakagawa-san?"
I shook my head, trying my best to destroy that strange thought. We already agreed that it was nothing more than us...pecking lips. But for some reason, my mind kept wandering back to that moment. I still couldn't grasp the feelings in that brief kiss...It was too sudden to make it worth anything.
"So, Madoka-san...did you happen to bring a second serving of lunch today?"
An odd question took me away from the woes of my heart. I turned back to see Sophia-san rubbing her small belly. Could it have been that she missed out on breakfast and was trying to stave off her hunger or something? But that brought me back to something else of importance.
“Ah, that's right Sophia-san, I’m going to have lunch with Mihara-san today.”
Conway-san turned towards me with a glare. Something told me that she was suspicious about this...even though I wasn't hiding anything. It was like Sophia-san turned into a detective again as she crossed her slender arms and scrutinized me.
“Why don’t you just invite her to join all of us in the cafeteria?”
She asked a simple question, but it struck me like a needle in my chest because I truly had no answer to it.
“I…don’t know Sophia-san. I’m going to figure that out today actually by asking Mihara-san.”
She put her hand on her hip now.
“Well, I think it’s a little unfair that she’s monopolizing your attention like that.”
Her words pulled me back to Mihara-san’s from last month. Back when I was trying to figure out more about my trauma…my coma. The first day we had lunch together and she mentioned that Mari-san would…monopolize me while I lied asleep in bed.
“Yeah…I get what you mean...Sophia-san."
There was certainly something different about Mihara-san. The more I thought about how she acted when I first met her the more everything started to feel...off.
“I mean…how fair is it to Mae-san and me that our friend Is being tugged along by some scarce mouse?”
The tone of her voice was a tad strange. I turned now to see her redden cheeks and crossed arms. It was as if she was...
“Are you jealous, Conchi-san?”
She whipped her dirty blond hair around and kicked the ground in a fit.
“Pff, as if. I’m just annoyed that you’re buying your time for someone who doesn’t even want to give others the time of day.”
I felt as though she wasn’t being honest, but her words were just like Hana-chan’s earlier. Mihara-san seemed to only want to be around me and because of that, she wouldn’t give any of my friend's much attention. Mihara-san…seemed to only be attached to me. But why?
“I understand, Sophia-san. I…just don’t know Mihara-san as well as I should I feel..."
We were running a little early so before going into class, Sophia-san guided me behind the gymnasium and plopped her arm against the wall. With a rough pose reminding me of a Yakuza member, she leaned to the side, sloppily. She seriously looked like a delinquent with this stance but there’s no way I’d tell her that.
“Tell me, when did you meet Mihara-san again Madoka-san?”
“From what I remember…it was when I was in basketball. She used to be my teammate.”
“Well she’s tall so, I can see her taking up a sport like that."
She kicked the ground once again, burying the sole of her shoes into the dirt.
"I never liked basketball or any sports for that matter.”
“Actually…she was around your height when we were in middle school, Sophia-san.”
She lunged back in a dramatic fashion.
“That giant was that short?! What the heck did she eat, magic beans?”
I reached out my hand and pulled on Conchi’s left cheek. I knew I was going to do it at some point today...they were just there for the taking.
“Hey, don’t be rude Sophia-san.”
“Nggg, stop that Nakagawa-san!”
The foreigner literally jumped back from my embrace and soldiered up to me.
I chuckled. It’s a little funny how we both still revert back to our family names every now and then. Sophia-san and I are still trying our best to come to the conclusion that we’ve breached that familiarity barrier a week ago. It was apparent that we still struggled to accept that and it was a little adorable I would say.
“But anyway, Madoka-san…”
Sophia began while kicking up one leg on the wall.
“You and her met in basketball? Is that when you became friends?”
I crossed my arms now…trying my best to reach back.
“Well…I don’t remember. Mihara-san told me that she wanted to ‘be my friend’ when I first confronted her. So, I don’t believe we were friends.”
That’s when Sophia leaned her head to the side. Her dirty blond locks washed over her face. From this angle, she didn’t look too much like a delinquent. No...she reminded me of an angel oddly. But with her attitude, she would have to be a demon in an angelic yet cute body.
“To me…it sounds as though Mihara-san is not being honest with you, Madoka-san.”
For a while now I saw Mihara-san as an honest person. Someone out of everyone I met when I came out of my coma. The person who was certainly doing her best to be open to me. But…what if there’s a scar I don’t know about deep within her that she’s hiding? And would that scar have something to do with the woman I love…Koda Mari-san?
Now my body began to tense up and become uncomfortably warm. So, I touched my necklace in response. It’s been two days since she gave me this necklace and I’ll always cherish it…no matter how much it hurts right now. Casually, I find myself rubbing it as if it was made to give me strength, help me brighten the life around me at these dark times.
“My guess is something may have happened between you two…that you’ve forgotten, Madoka-san. Kind of like…with you and Mae-san fighting.”
It took me a moment to realize but…Sophia-san was guiding me, wasn’t she? Naturally, she took me under her wing and started helping me come to conclusions I would have never if I didn’t open up to her. Is this the true meaning of a friend? Someone I can not only rely on…but to help support me and give me different perspectives on matters like these?
My closest friend in the past was Mae-chan. I never was the kind to make more than a few acquaintances and rarely did I hang out with others. Certainly, Conway Sophia is one of the few I would gladly call...a close friend of mine, just like Watanabe Mae.
“I think you’re right, Sophia-san. I don't believe Mihara-san is being one-hundred-percent honest with me. But…how do I ask her about it?”
With her arms crossed and her lips pursed she continued.
“I suggest you do just what you wanted to…go find her at lunch and force it out of her.”
The way she spoke was a tad aggressive. If it was her in my shoes, I bet she beat the answers out of everyone who dared lie to her. Conchi-san was a bully for sure!
“Does that mean you’re telling me to have lunch alone with her?”
I swung it back to that with a hint of sarcasm just to tease her.
“Oh, shut up, stupid. Is it so bad that I…just want to have lunch with a friend too?”
Her face was the color of the sunset...it made me giggle slightly. The atmosphere between Sophia-san and I is certainly less volatile now. Ever since she opened up to me on the roof that day…showed me that she’s just a girl honestly worried about her sister’s wellbeing. She's just a person who acts out because she doesn’t know what else to do. She and I have connected in a way that I like. Despite how rough she is...I like that about her. I can honestly say that.
“Anyway, you have your chat with Mihara-san. Mae-san wanted to look at different clubs to join tomorrow though.”
“That’s right, Mae-chan mentioned that to me this morning.”
It would seem that Mae-chan had come to a similar solution as I did. We both want to move past what the past took from us. Mae-chan wants to try out different clubs. I want to try my hand at having a job. Also…so I can buy a gift for…Mari-san. Something that she’d cherish as much as I do this. My fingers touched my necklace again as if it gave me the motivation I needed to move forward.
“That blue-haired idiot is nothing but an annoyance…but she has a hard time too. The least I can do is hear her out, you know Madoka-san?”
“Yeah…we’re both going to have to be there for Mae-chan, Sophia-san..”
Conchi-san squared up to me.
“That means, we both will find her a suitable place. I’m sure there’s a club out there that’s begging for a blue-haired nimrod to fill a seat.”
I giggled. Conchi-san is certainly rude when she speaks about others…but that’s part of her charm, I guess. She shook her hair violently now as if something was crawling up her back.
"Geez, all this talk about emotional bullshit is making me feel queasy.”
With that, she kicked her body off the wall.
“So, while you have your lunch date with that ash-haired behemoth I’ll keep Mae-san company so she doesn't get depressed. Try to not choke on your meal, Nakagawa-san.”
"It's not a lunch date, Conchi-san~!"
I cried to no avail.
With that, she made her way into the corridors alone leaving me in the cold elements. However, I was unsure why she is going off alone despite us being in the same class... I don’t know why but it felt as though Sophia-san was still upset with me because of it. I’ll…have to make it up to her if she’s really upset about me blowing them off today. But what was done is done. I’ll have to make sure that Mihara-san treats Hana-chan right on the days that I go to my job. I wouldn’t want her to keep pushing her strange resistance on my little sister because of the conflict between her and Mari-san.
But what was that conflict?
Mihara-san stated that we weren’t friends in the past…
But she visited me while I was in my coma…Could there be something more that was going on between her and me in the past? My heart began to throb thinking about this mystery that’s sprouted up suddenly. A story that might intel more of the relationship between the woman I love…and me. If something happened between the two of them…it might merit looking into. That way I could understand more of my coma and even better be able to confront myself from the past...