Chapter 3:

My Big Brother Hates Me, I Think.

My Dad is an Otaku, My Mom is a Fujoshi, and I Wish I Was Dead

“What about you, Kaede? What are you going to do for summer break?” My friend Saya stares at me from across the table in the family restaurant, an expectant glimmer in her eyes as she awaits my all-important answer.

I twirl the straw in my melon soda float around as I try to think of an answer that will be enough to satisfy her. Saya loves to pry into others’ personal lives. Mention something going on with your family or your friends, and she will not leave you alone. Sometimes I think she’s a vampire who feeds off the intimate details of others’ personal lives, and if she doesn’t get them, she’ll die.

“Nothing special. Just sitting around watching the Koshien and stuff. My family’s not the type to go on vacation or anything like that.”

“Ooh, are you going to hang out with your brother? Maybe get some sibling bonding time?”

“Cut it out, Miku! Of course not.” My diplomatic answer intended to sate Saya’s curiosity had set off my other friend. Miku is now bent halfway across the table, with the remains of her special parfait pushed out of the way as she waits for any morsel of information about my brother like a dog waiting for something to fall off the table at dinnertime.

Miku is the exact opposite of Saya- she doesn't care about any personal drama, but she’s a romantic and loves dating rumors. She gets a crush on some guy every six months, and spends all her waking hours obsessing over him and fantasizing about him. Despite all that, she’s never had a boyfriend. She’s too shy to go up and ask a guy out anyways, and even if she wasn't, she'd scare them away when she inadvertently mentions all their embarrassing habits that she knows about.

Normally, her habit doesn’t concern me. I just chuckle at the latest stud she’s got a crush on and wait for when she does the exact same things for the next guy. But this time is different.

This time, the target of her crush is my older brother.

“He’s probably going to be training and doing all the boring stuff he normally does. He wouldn’t hang out with me if you paid him, and I feel the exact same way.” I reply indignantly.

My brother doesn’t like me very much. At least, that's what I think. I’m about the same way. Well, I guess…sometimes I kinda wish we would do something together every now and then. But there’s no way he would ever do that. All he does is study and train and make his own lunches. I doubt he even knows how to have fun.

But when we were kids, we used to play together and it was so fun and he was always there for me whenever I needed help. But then as soon as he got into middle school he started getting distant...Aaaaaaah, forget it. Why do I care? People change, and it's not any of my business why. He can do what he wants.

“Aw, that’s a shame.” Miku throws her hands up in exasperation. “I thought you could finally introduce me to him.”

“In your dreams.” I take a sip of my float. “Why do you even like him? He acts like an old man.”

“Hmm…” Miku is deep in thought. “But that’s a good thing, don’t you think? He’s responsible! I've seen how hard he works and how organized he is and how close attention he pays to detail...he even packs his own lunch and it's organized, it's got the egg on one side, and the chicken on the other side, and the vegetables at the bottom, and the rice even has an umeboshi on it...I know I’d want a husband that’s as dedicated as he is!”

“HUSBAND?!” Crap, I didn’t mean to shout so loudly. All the other customers are staring now. But she said that, and I just couldn’t help myself…my brother? And Miku? I know I said he could live his life how he wants, but absolutely the hell not!

“Oho, Kaede-chan, you’re blushing.” Saya grins deviously. “Hit too close to home?”

“Uh…I…that’s ridiculous!” I turn to stare out the window, my cheeks still stinging.

I hear Saya still chuckling in the background. “He’s still single, isn’t he? You really should help Miku-chan out. That’s what friends are for.”

She doesn’t actually care about friendship or the “girl code” or whatever, she just wants to stir up some drama. I know that much. That is what Saya Asahi lives for. I can still see that obnoxious smile even if I’m not looking at her.

“It’s none of your business whether he’s single or not! Find it out yourself. And when did you get the chance to see how he packs his lunch? We're in middle school and he's in high school...are you being a creep again?”

Miku doesn't say anything, but blushes, fidgets, and turns off to the side. Busted. She's definitely trying to watch him from a distance, like she did with that basketball club senpai a few months ago. Or, as normal people would call it, stalking. It's a miracle she's never been arrested.

“Come to think of it, you’re single, too, aren’t you, Kaede? Maybe it’s because you…heh…want to keep him to yourself…hahahaha!” Saya snorts.

Another thing about Saya is that she thinks she’s the funniest person in the world. She’s the only human alive who thinks that way.

“If you want to know about my stupid brother so much, you can start by paying for my food!” I say curtly. “Maybe I’ll be willing to tell you then!”

“Okay, okay.” Saya puts her hands up in a mock praying pose. “I’m sorry, Kaede-chan. Forgive me, forgive me.”

“That’s better.” I sigh, sinking in my chair. I’ve got to figure out how to change the topic of this conversation, fast. “What are you doing for summer break, Miku?”

“Uhh…” Miku twirls one of her twintails around. “My family is going to Okinawa the second week, but other than that, I don’t know. I might go attend the festivals and such…maybe a cute guy will hit on me there…”

You were just saying that you loved my brother so much you could see yourself married to him. See, this is why she shouldn't be dating him. Or anyone. She'll dump him as soon as she sees someone else she likes. Maybe I should encourage her to go find someone else. Subtly, of course.

“You’d better pass your midterms, or else you might end up in summer school while your family’s having fun…” Saya chuckles.

“Aaaah, don’t remind me of that!” Miku shakes her head. “Sayaya’s being a bully! You gotta help me out, Kaechan!”

“She’s right.”

“You too, Kae-”

Suddenly, I catch a flash of long hair and a blue Shinchoushi Middle School uniform, the same as ours, outside. “Shhhhhhh!” I push Miku’s head down under the table. Saya instantly realizes what’s going on and follows suit.

We stay deadly quiet for a few minutes, before the prim and proper girl with the long dark hair and her followers pass by the window and out of sight. I’m waiting for the sound of the doorbell and an instant lecture, but neither of those things happen. I slowly exhale and peek my head back above the table.

“Do you think she saw us?” Miku asks timidly.

“If Senjuuin and her merry bunch saw us, we’d be getting a lecture right about now.” I sigh.

Asako Senjuuin is our student council president, which means that she has the authority to enforce the school rules wherever and whenever she pleases. Right now, she was probably out roaming the streets for students in uniform doing things that would “hurt the school’s image”, like going to an arcade…or shopping at the mall…or having fun with your friends…or doing anything any normal middle schooler would. I silently say a prayer for any of the poor bastards she catches today.

“Well, it wouldn’t be Senjuuin. She’d be standing in the background, grinning like a fox, going ‘My, how unfortunate.’ It would be Nagahama. He’d be standing there, yelling about what kind of disgraces we are.” Saya replies, exasperated.

Yukiyoshi Nagahama is the all-too-serious vice president, a tall boy with glasses who enjoys enforcing discipline way too much. He and Senjuuin make for an obnoxious pair. Because my friends and I occasionally like doing our hair and wearing makeup and accessories, the student council constantly gets after us. It’s not like we’re dressing up like ganguro or anything. The school’s just too stuffy and every time someone shows a little bit of individuality, they act like you’re some sort of dangerous delinquent. I can’t wait to get to high school- maybe I can finally be free of obnoxious rules enforcers like them. What do they even accomplish? They’re not running the school, they’re not setting budgets, they’re not doing anything but persecuting students who set one pinky toe outside the lines.

“They didn’t see us. Where did you guys want to go next, anyways?”

“I was wanting to…” Miku replies. “Oh! I forgot. My class is doing a haunted house for the cultural festival, and I’m in charge of the costumes…I still haven’t done that! I’ve got to go look for those, too!”

“Don’t worry, there’s a fabric store in the mall, isn’t there? We can go there. I bet the used clothing stores will have some pretty good stuff for costumes, too. You can find a lot of bargains there.”

The first week of June is Shinchoushi’s cultural festival week. Both schools hold it on Friday- Shinchoushi is a combined campus, so its cultural festivals are really more impressive than normal. That said, it probably means my parents are going to drop by…please, don’t. Please go bother my brother instead. It's not like I hate them, but if they showed up and Saya saw it, she'd never let it go until we're grandmothers.

My class is just as unoriginal as Miku’s. It’s always either a play, a cafe, or a haunted house, and 2-3 picked the play. I wonder what my brother’s class is doing? Are they doing a play, too? Is he going to be-waitwaitwaitwaitwait, no!

“Isn’t your class doing a maid café, Kaechan?” Miku asks.

“Worse.” I sigh. “Romeo and Juliet.”

“Huh…” Miku ponders. “What’s so bad about that? I think it’s a pretty safe idea.”

I grimace. “They cast me as Romeo. There’s boys in the class and they still cast me. I’ve never even acted before.”  Saya smirks as soon as she hears this- she was there to witness the whole class vote.

“I think you’d make a great Romeo, Kaede.” Saya grins. “You’re very prince-like.”

“Please,” I snort. “You ever seen a 160 cm prince with makeup on?”

“Maybe it happens somewhere in Europe?”

“I don't think any country has nobility like that, outside of TV.” I reply. “Oh! That reminds me. Have you heard the new Lara yet?”

“I didn’t realize she came out with a new song!” Miku exclaims. “Do you have it?”

“Yeah, I bought it on *-tunes the day it came out.” I grin and take my phone out on the table, scrolling through my song list until I find the one I want. “Here, take a listen.” A soft, ethereal voice begins to play.

“Wow, this is great!” Miku looks like she’s in heaven. “This is even better than her last one! I had no idea how she could top herself, but she did!”

“Huh, what’s so great about Lara?” Saya says skeptically. “I don’t see the point of a singer where you don’t know what she looks like.”

“That’s the best part!” Miku and I slam our hands on the table in unison. “It’s an air of mystery!”

Lara underground idol. She’s part of the new generation of internet-savvy musicians who get their start through social media. I guess she’s what could be called an utaite. There are a lot of these out there- everyone wants to be the next big star. Most of them never get anywhere in music, but not Lara. Her talent was too much to ignore and now she’s putting out an album. The thing with these people is they never show their faces. You have no idea what they look like, but I think it’s better that way, since you can focus on the music. Some of them eventually reveal themselves and go on to big careers as mainstream stars, but it seems like Lara has no plans on doing that. She posted about it on her blog and Twitter (I follow both).

“I guess she’s pretty good, but still…there are no concerts or anything?” Saya asks.

“Uhh, yeah, but I guess when she’s ready she’ll do one. There’s probably ways she can hide her face on the stage, too. Miku, did you get the CD of her album yet? While we’re at the mall, let’s go to Tokai Records and see if they have it.”

“Yeah, sounds like a plan!” Miku is positively beaming.

Since I’m sitting on the side of our booth that faces the door, I see it first. The doorbell rings, and then through all the frosted dividers I see the top of a dark head of hair bouncing through the door, followed by the top half of a head with a pair of glasses…and then slowly the glasses turn in our direction. A chill runs down my spine.

“Everyone, back door, RUN!” I yell, and before they can even turn the corner I’ve already slammed down the 3000 yen on the bill and bolted out the door into the shopping arcade.

Pope Evaristus
Steward McOy