Once I shut the door of the Fine Arts classroom my stomach began to tense up in a fit of pulses.
When I finally began piecing together the "me" from the past, she threw me for another loop once again. What happened before my coma had to have been more complicated than I could have ever imagined. The world of Nakagawa Madoka today was not the same world as the Nakagawa Madoka from before I woke up. She must have come to terms with her feelings for other girls in a completely different way. She fell in love with Koda Mari-san...who is now my stepmother now too.
"Why are you such a mystery to me, Nakagawa Madoka?"
I scorned myself. It wasn't as if a second me would come out and give me all the answers I sought though. I knew this by experience by this point. I'll have to keep digging, keep searching out what I wanted to know. That would be the only way to clear my mind of all this chaos. There was a chance that Mihara-san...might have been more than what I initially thought to me.
Despite the shaky feeling on my nerves, I pushed forward. The next spot I decided to check would be where we had our chat the first time. Mihara-san usually would set up camp there when she’s alone.
So, I made my way up the steps to the next floor. It felt like I was climbing up Mt. Fuji as my legs quivered with the elevation. Why were things like this showing up out of nowhere? First my intense feelings for Mari-san and my acceptance to loving her...and now this understanding that Mihara-san could see me in a more...intimate level than I could have ever imagined?
But no…I’ll have to ask her about it…it might just be my own misunderstandings. I won't know how she feels about me until I confront her and talk about...that day.
The day where her carnations went missing...
The pinnacle of the problem between her and Hana-chan. As I thought back to the things, she did in the few months that I’ve known her now…they seemed to be friendly enough. But what if all that was…more romantic than I could have thought?
I woke up from all my questions slamming against the back of my head. It would seem that I became so entranced with all of these thoughts right now that I guided myself to her without thinking. As I searched her crimson eyes, they timidly looked away as they met my gaze.
I spoke softly, trying my best to stave off my insecurities. In her hand was a bento box as she sat on the floor. Nobody was around, just a ghost haunting the corner of the staircase landing. She liked this spot a lot it seemed.
“Mihara-san…do you mind if I sit with you?”
She looked around as if trying to find an escape route. Knowing her she’s no stranger to running before I had a chance to do anything about it. So, I stood over her doing my best to cast a shadow and hopefully prevent her from wanting to leave.
“I…need to chat with you, Mihara-san.”
With a slump of her shoulders, she scooted over, opening up space for me. There I sat down. As I opened my lunch it came to me…
"Mihara-san, I like being your friend."
I stated clear, cut, dry. That had to be established first off.
"But...I can't be your friend if you don't trust me."
I turned to her now, catching eyes with her gemstone gaze. Her lips shone slightly from underneath her scarf.
"W-What do you mean, N-Nakagawa-san?"
Now was the time more than any, to be honest. Like Sophia-san told me...If need be I'll force it out of her.
"Mihara-san, I like you. You are a kind person who is timid but super sweet."
My emotions poured into those words...
"But...I can't shake the feeling that you are lying to me even after I called you honest. And...that hurts, Mihara-san."
That's when she turned away from me and set her lunch down beside her. With her hands, she cradled them around her legs and pushed her soft cheeks close to them. It was obvious that she was trying her best to disappear from the world but I wouldn't let her. I felt like a bully...but it needed to be addressed.
“…Nakagawa-san…you…you don’t understand.”
“What don’t I understand, Mihara-san?”
She puffed up her lips. It was…adorable the way she did it. Like a child pouting over not being able to play with her toys.
“…I don’t hate your friends…or even Koda Hana-san…”
"Then what is it?"
“I…I just want…I just want time with you…alone, Nakagawa-san. It's...not fair.”
She sparked up…I could see a slight chill go down her back as she pushed her chin on her knees.
“Koda Hana-san…is your now stepsister... She…lives with you. She gets to see you every day. You’re always around Watanabe-san…and that mean girl…ah…Conway-san too. I…don’t know when it’s my turn. It’s…never my turn...to have your attention...”
Her eyes began to water. Now I really felt like a bully...
"I wanted time alone with you…like Koda Mari-san would get while you were in your coma...”
That's when she hit her soft hands on her snow-white hair.
"Koda Mari-san was the worst though. She took all your time...she wouldn't give me any time with you and I-I hate her for that! I...I hate her so much!"
Her emotions were honest. She...a tad feels rejected, doesn't she? So does that mean that Mihara-san...just wants time to be alone with me. But...why? I was still confused by her words if I had to be honest. So, I lead her to another more pressing subject...
"You brought me flowers while I was asleep, Mihara-san...they were carnations, right?"
Her teary eyes looked at me now.
"Can you tell me about that day, Mihara-san? What...happened that day?"
Her eyes went wide as she bit her bottom lip. As her shoulders slump, she silently whispered.
"I...wanted to bring you a gift."
"Tell me everything, Mihara-san... and please...be honest with me."
Her shoulders slumped as a pled to her. If she truly...has feelings for me then I needed to know. The true meaning behind those red carnations was my aim. Understanding her feelings will better help me approach this situation more clearly. But that started...with her being honest with me.
"That day...I went to the store and spent my hard-earned money to buy you a gift. I...decided what I wanted to get you..."
Her mouth jawed as she turned to me. Her eyes darted to the floor as she cowered down into her scarf.
"Yes, I...I bought you red carnations."
Her fingers began to twitch she buried her head in her knees.
"B-But you don't understand Nakagawa-san! Y-You just don't understand!"
I leaned back as Mihara-san pushed forwards to me.
"I know red carnations mean love! I know they are for passion between lovers and...and..."
I rested my hand on her head now. Her movements froze as if time stopped the instant our bodies touched.
"Calm down...take it easy and tell me everything slowly. I'm...here to listen to you, Mihara-san."
"...You're here to listen to me?"
Her panic calmed down as she took a deep breath. A smile came on her face as she nodded softly. With tears still in her eyes...she continued.
"That's all I've ever wanted...was for you to listen to me again."
I moved closer to her now. Something told me my initial conclusion...wasn't right at all...was it? But to make sure I listened in and heard all the feelings engulfing the heart of Mihara Yuko-san.
"It was my grandmother's birthday the previous day and...I wanted to express how I felt. You took care of me Nakagawa-san. You called me on the phone, talked with me when no one else would...listened to my stories about grandma and even told me about your dad."
With a deep breath, she continued.
"Because of you, I didn't quit basketball...even though I wasn't good at it. You...kept me stable even though I was so socially awkward."
"After your coma...it felt like I lost someone special to me...someone so important. So, I wanted to show my gratitude for everything you did for me..."
She turned to me now. Her honesty was in full bloom as she confessed what happened.
"I went to your hospital room and there she was...as always...Koda Mari-san sat next to you holding your hand. Out of all the days...I wanted to express how happy you made me...talk to you about grandma but...but she wouldn't let me have time with you."
She closed her eyes as her brows scrunched up.
"I hated that about her! I needed someone to confined in. But the only person who I'd ever talk about it with was you, Nakagawa-san! My parents hated my grandma so they talked bad about her all the time. It...it was the only reason why I joined basketball...because they would constantly talk bad about her and I didn't want to be home as much."
She hit her head now in a childish rage. I had to hold her shoulder to keep her from abusing herself further. Mihara-san...certainly had a side that was childlike just as her club leader told me.
"I sat there for a while...hoping she'd get up and leave so I could...talk to you alone. I felt lost, I wanted to tell you all of my feelings about how I missed my grandma. But she wouldn't leave your side. And not only that...she finally spoke up to me. Koda-san said..."
“Do you know what carnations mean in the world of flowers? If they were lighter, they’d symbolize admiration…innocence and I might be able to call them…cute. But these…aren’t admiration flowers…are they Mihara-san?”
She rubbed the side of her cheek now.
"The tone of her voice was like a machine, Madoka-san. As if she was judging me without even knowing who I was. She didn't even know me and she acted like I was a nuisance. Like I was the one monopolizing your time! But it was Koda-san who was doing it!"
She sighed deeply as I gripped her hand now in an attempt to calm her down.
"But then I came back the next day. I wanted to come in and see you...see if it was my chance to have time alone with you. But once I arrived there she was...Koda Mar-san in the same place as always."
She bit the bottom of her lip as she continued.
"And that's when I noticed that they were missing...my red carnations were the only flowers around you...gone."
Like a tremor, her fist began to shake.
"I didn't feel comfortable being in that room anymore so, I-I asked to use the bathroom...and by chance, I saw a single red petal...behind the toilet bowl...
"That's when I came to the conclusion that Koda-san must have ruined my gift...but not only that...she discarded it in the toilet like it was garbage. She treated my hard-earned present...like it was worthless. It...made me so angry, Nakagawa-san."
My mouth hung open. I was in literal shock. I couldn't believe what she was saying. That kind of behavior wasn't anything like the Mari-san I knew.
"Koda Mari-san, the woman who monopolized you didn't like me giving you red carnations...and I think understood why..."
Bitterness took over her sweet face as she accused...
"It's because Nakagawa Madoka belonged to her! That's the statement she was making!"
"So, I decided to leave just you alone and...never come back. Even though…that hurt. Because I wouldn't be able to talk with you anymore...about my feelings. About my grandma...my pains and worries...and it was...all because of her!”
Her tone calmed down now. All that was left was her silent whimpers. She stared a the floor with intensity. This was the side to Mihara-san that her club leader spoke of...
Her eyes widen as she turned to me.
"Huh? W-Why are you apologizing...Nakagawa-san?"
"...Because I never knew..."
I wasn't apologizing for myself...but for Mari-san if what she said was true. Mari-san took Mihara-san's gift that she brought from the bottom of her heart...and destroyed it? But why would she do that? No...why else would she do it? Could it be that the answer was always in front of me? But I was blinding myself to the truth because it hurt more than a lie? The answer was simple...it was so simple that it tore the fabric of everything in me into literal pieces...Mari-san was special to me and...I'm special to her...
"I get it...."
I whispered under my breath.
Everything would make sense then, wouldn't it?
I think I fully understood it now. I don't believe Mihara-san feels love for me in the sense that I concluded earlier...
No, I think Mihara-san just wanted to express herself as honestly as she could. She wanted to give me red carnations and tell me that she loved me...for everything I did for her while she was suffering during her grandmother's death. So, after my coma, she came to the hospital frequently hoping to catch me when I wasn't with Mari-san. Alone with me so she could pour out her feelings that's been deep inside of her chest... But Mari-san never let me go and this created a conflict with her. So, the day she came with that gift...because it was close to her grandmother's birthday she brought those carnations as the utmost appreciation for me... But Mari-san...
She ruined them...
And...I think I understood why now. It all began to add up like puzzle pieces connecting to this picture. The reason why Mari-san wanted me to become good friends with Mihara-san...why she suddenly came down with a fever after I told her that I...met Mihara-san again. She told me that when she gets stressed...she usually has fevers.
"I...get it now."
Mari-san believed Mihara-san was in love with me too, didn't she? And she was worried about it. But that would mean one thing...Mari-san was jealous of Mihara-san, wasn't she? But why would she be?
That was a simple answer too...
It's because I'm...special to her, aren't I?
Mihara-san doesn't love me like how Saitou-san put it. She...just loves me for what I did for her, doesn't she? She was being honest when she said she wanted to be friends with me. The crying when she approached me...all the emotions that she wanted to talk to me about...Mihara-san had always been the most honest person.
Everything was coming together and...it hurt.
It hurt so much...
"Dang you, Mari-san..."
She's been lying to me still...about us, hasn't she?
I was special to Mari-san...and she was special to me. Mihara-san confirmed that today.
But...Right now these feelings for Mari-san had to be put on hold. Despite my heart hitting like a jackhammer...
“I’m…not giving you enough time, am I Mihara-san?”
Quietly, she moaned in embarrassment.
“Now I have to share the ride home with…someone else. I…I just really want to talk with you like I used to Nakagawa-san. I-I want to...tell you everything that happened”
There was something I’ve realized about Mihara-san. She…might be a little selfish. Thinking back to all the times that we’ve had alone time together. I can’t say it was many. Maybe I do need to spend time with her...get to know her better and let her open up to me again like in the past. Who am I to not stay open to her and let her explore what she needs to?
“Why don’t we hang out soon, just the two of us, Mihara-san?”
Like a light, she shone brightly.
“On one condition though…”
“I applied for a job that will start pretty much after school.”
“I have an interview tomorrow after school…and I’ll have to get off the train early. That means that Hana-chan will be riding the train from the shopping district to our stop alone for two days out of the week if I do get the job...”
Her mouth opened slightly causing her pink lips to part.
“You want me…to watch over Koda-san on those days?”
“If you don’t mind…just keep her company. She’s capable to walk home alone…but she’s still my little sister. It’ll be nice if she had a reliable friend with her...someone she can talk to.”
Mihara-san’s face turned slightly pinkish.
“If…if I can have my turn with you…Nakagawa-san then…”
I tilted my head and gave her the brightest smile I could.
“Don’t worry, you pick the day and I’ll be there. But not just that day…let’s hang out more often, okay Mihara-san?”
With a giggle, she turned to the side.
“…You’ve always looked out for others, Nakagawa-san. I…remember that side to you so well. You…haven’t changed in that way…and I like it a lot. I...I like it a lot.”
Her words were sweet…Mihara-san is genuinely a nice person. A nice...honest person.
She then took a deep breath.
“…I’ll try. I’ll…try to get along with Koda Hana-san…”
We silently ate our lunch now. Mihara-san kept that smile on her face. But I wasn't hungry...not at all. My stomach was light and fluffy...but heavy and troubled. If what I believe is true then everything would come together. The way Mari-san treated me when I woke up. How she acted to Mihara-san...maybe even why she wanted me to be friends with Mihara-san so badly.
Maybe Mari-san...believed Mihara-san would love me in her place?
And why she got a fever over it...because it stressed her out knowing that Mihara-san was back in my life, ready to take me away from her? But wouldn't that imply that Mari-san...
...is in love with me too?
Before I knew it the school day was over and Mihara-san and I walked side by side to the train. Here at the junction where the high school and middle school collided, we waited for a certain short beauty to meet us.
She cried with a beam on her face. With an overly intense hug, Hana-chan pulled me in, nearly causing my glasses to fly off. She needed to stop this. My prescription is pretty spendy if they end up breaking.
Mihara-san sighed deeply. It was so loud that others were giving her odd glances as they passed.
With a face as blown up like a blowfish, Hana-chan kicked her body out and crossed her arms.
Now I had to hold her hand like putting her back on a leash. I’ve compared this little beast to a puppy before but right now she’s a pitbull trying to mercilessly eat the cat in front of her.
Sadly…this didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. That’s when unexpectantly Hana-chan spoke up.
“You’re rude, Mihara-san!”
“No, Onee-san! I need to speak. You want to be friends with my Onee-san but don’t want to deal with the other things that come with it like her friends and family. That’s…being rude.”
There was this awkward moment of silence between them. Mihara-san didn’t say a word…Hana-chan didn’t either. Something told me…that this relationship between them will be a strained one for a while longer...From this point on they'll have to come to their own conclusions. Because tomorrow I'll be interviewing for my new job.
But now there was a new kind of pain within me...
What happened that made Mari-san leave me?
I closed my eyes and thought about a past I couldn't remember. I had to decide what I needed to do in order to solve what must have happened. Without confronting Mari-san yet at the risk of destroying the relationship we have now...I need to talk to my mom about my trauma.
That would be the key piece to understanding what truly happened in the past between us.