Chapter 46:

Ch.17 Red Carnations (3/6)

Sleeping Princess

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.Bookmark here

“Madoka-san!”Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

"Good morning, So-chan."Bookmark here

"Give it a rest!"Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“What’s wrong, Conchi-san?”Bookmark here

She rubbed the back of her head and exhaled deeply.Bookmark here

“Have you had a chat with Linda lately?”Bookmark here

“No, I haven't. She’s been busy with nurse work ever since the Cultural Festival.”Bookmark here

Conway-san tapped her forehead with her pointer finger. I was unsure what that represented...if anything at all.Bookmark here

“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...”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure I speak with Taylor-sensei soon. I…have some things I want to discuss with her too.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

"Still thinking about Taylor-sensei, Sophia-san?"Bookmark here

She shrugged and gave me a direct answer.Bookmark here

"Hm...I just hope they're not increasing her workload in an attempt to make her quit..."Bookmark here

That would make sense. It would be cruel...but an effective way to go about ridding of her. Taylor-sensei is already 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...Bookmark here

“Hey…can I ask a personal question, Sophia-san?”Bookmark here

She chuckled slightly.Bookmark here

“Ask away, idiot.”Bookmark here

“You don’t seem to question that Taylor-sensei has feelings for you. Isn’t it strange that a woman is pursuing you?”Bookmark here

She shook her head from side to side.Bookmark here

“Not at all, Madoka-san.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Why…is that?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“But in this case…it’s a girl who likes you, Sophia-san…”Bookmark here

She crossed her arms and turned to the side.Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

I held my head down...thinking about it further. My thoughts were going rampant now...Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

Probably noticing my internal struggle, Conway-san spoke up.Bookmark here

“I guess that was an unfair question, Madoka-san.”Bookmark here

“…Oh no…I understood what you meant...Sophia-san.”Bookmark here

“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."Bookmark here

"Yeah, I guess so..."Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

“Hm…?”Bookmark here

Conway put her finger to her lip as she interrogated.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“Hm?”Bookmark here

“I’m your friend…why are you hiding things from me?”Bookmark here

My mouth opened wide at her candor. Sophia-san had every right to question me though and I knew it.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

“Sophia-san…please give me some time and I’ll tell the both of you about it. My feelings are still being sorted out.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“...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.”Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

“Sophia-san, thank you.”Bookmark here

I bow slightly.Bookmark here

“Oh, none of that.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Now, are you going to class today, Madoka-san?”Bookmark here

“I always go to class, Conchi-san. “Bookmark here

“Ah, that’s right...Such a good girl aren't you?"Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

"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.”Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

"What the hell are you laughing about, Madoka?!"Bookmark here

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-Bookmark here

"Ehhh...."Bookmark here

I squealed, suddenly.Bookmark here

"Hm? What is your problem, Nakagawa-san?"Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

"So, Madoka-san...did you happen to bring a second serving of lunch today?"Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Ah, that's right Sophia-san, I’m going to have lunch with Mihara-san today.”Bookmark here

“Hm?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Why don’t you just invite her to join all of us in the cafeteria?”Bookmark here

She asked a simple question, but it struck me like a needle in my chest because I truly had no answer to it.Bookmark here

“I…don’t know Sophia-san. I’m going to figure that out today actually by asking Mihara-san.”Bookmark here

She put her hand on her hip now.Bookmark here

“Well, I think it’s a little unfair that she’s monopolizing your attention like that.”Bookmark here

“Monopolizing?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Yeah…I get what you mean...Sophia-san."Bookmark here

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 here

“I mean…how fair is it to Mae-san and me that our friend Is being tugged along by some scarce mouse?”Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

“Are you jealous, Conchi-san?”Bookmark here

She whipped her dirty blond hair around and kicked the ground in a fit.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

“I understand, Sophia-san. I…just don’t know Mihara-san as well as I should I feel..."Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Tell me, when did you meet Mihara-san again Madoka-san?”Bookmark here

“From what I remember…it was when I was in basketball. She used to be my teammate.”Bookmark here

Sophia scoffed.Bookmark here

“Well she’s tall so, I can see her taking up a sport like that."Bookmark here

She kicked the ground once again, burying the sole of her shoes into the dirt.Bookmark here

"I never liked basketball or any sports for that matter.”Bookmark here

“Actually…she was around your height when we were in middle school, Sophia-san.”Bookmark here

She lunged back in a dramatic fashion.Bookmark here

“That giant was that short?! What the heck did she eat, magic beans?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Hey, don’t be rude Sophia-san.”Bookmark here

“Nggg, stop that Nakagawa-san!”Bookmark here

The foreigner literally jumped back from my embrace and soldiered up to me.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“But anyway, Madoka-san…”Bookmark here

Sophia began while kicking up one leg on the wall.Bookmark here

“You and her met in basketball? Is that when you became friends?”Bookmark here

I crossed my arms now…trying my best to reach back.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“To me…it sounds as though Mihara-san is not being honest with you, Madoka-san.”Bookmark here

“Honest?”Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

With her arms crossed and her lips pursed she continued.Bookmark here

“I suggest you do just what you wanted to…go find her at lunch and force it out of her.”Bookmark here

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!Bookmark here

“Does that mean you’re telling me to have lunch alone with her?”Bookmark here

I swung it back to that with a hint of sarcasm just to tease her.Bookmark here

“Oh, shut up, stupid. Is it so bad that I…just want to have lunch with a friend too?”Bookmark here

Her face was the color of the 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.Bookmark here

“Anyway, you have your chat with Mihara-san. Mae-san wanted to look at different clubs to join tomorrow though.”Bookmark here

“That’s right, Mae-chan mentioned that to me this morning.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

“Yeah…we’re both going to have to be there for Mae-chan, Sophia-san..”Bookmark here

Conchi-san squared up to me.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

"Geez, all this talk about emotional bullshit is making me feel queasy.”Bookmark here

With that, she kicked her body off the wall.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

"It's not a lunch date, Conchi-san~!"Bookmark here

I cried to no avail.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

But what was that conflict?Bookmark here

Mihara-san stated that we weren’t friends in the past…Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

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