Story: Estrogen (all chapters)

Authors: Juxtaposition

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Chapter 1

Title: Chapter One

[Author's notes:

Disclaimer: The below is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The characters and plot are my properties, please do no reproduce unless permission has been given.


Estrogen - Chapter One 


Do you remember a love story that touched the deepest part of your heart even 'till this day?  How we all wish that it could be our own, but more often than not, it's just an illusion of love that we all hold.  When the bubble of illusion has been broken, we turn our head back to look and realize that perhaps indeed, our own is truly the best love story there is. 

- 4:56PM, School Court Yard - 

"... mi... gumi-chan... Megumi-chan!" 

 With a startle, I realized that it was my name that was being called.  A surge of blood welled up and reflected in the reddening of my cheeks as I turned my head to the source of voice.  Even though they're all friends of mine, the urge to sputter some kind of pathetic response was automatic.  "Yeah, no, I was just... looking at the design on the..." 

"Oh give it up, you were more than obvious with the starring at Hoshimura-sempai!"  Fuuyu declared with a loud laugh, throwing her head back for the full effect.  Oh how I wanted her to disappear right this moment! 

My face flushed even more, I could feel it!  No matter whether the mid-November chills were dusking over, my body temperature rivaled that of one who had just walked out of a hot spring. 

"No, no, I wasn't..." 

"You know, there is nothing wrong with that."  Hitomi interrupted -or carried on- without a care for my furious shaking of head.  "Everyone likes Hoshimura-sempai, it's nothing new.  I can't say I'm immuned to her either."  She ended with a giggle and a hopeful sigh as her gaze stopped on the moving figure of Hoshimura as well. 

And so, when I deemed the situation safe enough, I peeked at them before directing my gaze towards my object of... previous starring.  Okay, so I was looking at Hoshimura-sempai, but not because of the afore-implied frivolous reasons (not all of them anyways), but I was simply captured by her glow.  The way she moved on the court, how she stopped, how she accelerated, how she glanced before smiling... every little thing, I liked to take into deail. 

"You know, if I swung that way, I really would chase after Hoshimura-sempai like everyone else."  Chiharu concluded with a nod, eyeing the amount of fangirls that crowded the open door way of the basketball court. 

"But... Hoshimura-sempai graduated so long ago, how come she is still playing here?"  I voiced my question slowly, definitely careful not to rouse another round of laughter and teasing. 

"You know she's on the national team, and our school seems to affiliated with the team somehow that their designated practice place is here.  Heck, the principal even built this new basketball court just for them!" 

"I don't really care who built what for whom, I just wish I could be in Ito-sempai's spot!"  Hitomi hissed out, her gaze was on the girl who was now handing a towel to Hoshimura-sempai and talking non-stop, appearing to be giving out feedback regarding what had happened on the court moments ago. 

Ito Shina, also another graduate from their high school.  She is famous for her strict personality and a perfection striving determination.  When one is around her, one couldn't help but feel inferior to her dominating presence. 

"Come on, we need to go, or else we'll be late for the meeting." 

The only sane voice interrupted our own thoughts of fantasy, I turned and saw Maki-san... ah, Erikai-san (as she had told us to address her) already a good distance away, turning her head back to look at us.  Seemingly puzzled by our stop, yet, the twitch of her eyebrow told us that she was approaching not amused with our giggling. 


An unanimous chorus of agreement sounded and the four of us quickly followed with light snickering.  So, I concluded, at least one person seemed to be immune to Hoshimura-sempai's charms. 

- 5:08PM, Drama Club Wardrobe Room - 

Having separated from the group, only Chikaru and I turned left when the other three turned right.  Although we were all under the large umbrella of being in the drama club, there were those who stood under the spot lights and those who worked in the shadows.  Chikaru and I were of the latter group.  Chikaru, for what reasons, I would not know.  For me, it was the intricate reasoning of wanting to be a fashion designer and the pure fact that I could not imagine standing and performing in front of a huge crowd. 

Behind the scenes is just as glorious, I decided. 

Yet, as they say in gestalt psychology, we're all in fields of our own, but we cannot live with relationships with other human beings.  So in this wardrobe commitee, my gaping eyes were no match for the excitement of the rest of the group when a frivolous suggestion came up. 

"How about we design the jersey for the national basketball team?" 


We must examine the situation. 

In this group, it was no surprise that there were only girls since this is a girls-only senior high.  The suggestion, I thought, was a joke, until more and more members caught on.  Then somehow, it became a great idea. 


"But... what about our school's team?"  I questioned, still somewhat stupified at the turn of events. 

Almost immediately, I received a room full of blank stares.  Okay, question was surely retarded. 

"Obviously, the national team is much more important!"
"Who cares about our school team?  They suck anyways."
"Why should we do anything for them?!"
"They don't really play anyways!" 

A plethora of answers greeted me, in short, our basketball team just wasn't important enough.  All of a sudden, I felt more than sorry for the girls. 

- 5:45PM, Work - 

Minutes of this silence and I was already fidgeting internally.  I could hear the dim humming of the television as background noise; the sound of her flipping through papers and the sound of tea cup sliding against table top. 

I wanted to ask.
I wanted to inquire.
I wanted to know. 


I started tentatively, peering over at the model and designer carefully.  Hoping that I could potentially read her mood today. 


"Have you..."  Clearing my throat, I sniffed and looked around for a diversion.  "... you know..." 

"I don't know." 

The blunt reply had me wincing before squaring my shoulders, as if that would give me more courage.  "Have you ever desired for someone to like... you know... do... very intimate things... with you...?" 

"You're thinking about fornication when it's near winter.  Interesting phenomenon." 

Boom.  Just like that, color exploded upon my face, from forehead down to chin, every cell was tainted red. 

"Fornication?!"  My voice screeched and hit an extreme high. 

And she finally spared me a glance.  "What?  Need a dictionary?" 

"No!  I understand what that means!" 

Okay, second pause. 

I didn't come here to torture myself, really.  Ever since the summer, I have been working with Fujimaru Asuka.  Better known just as Asuka.  She is argubly the most popular model in Japan right now, young and ambitious, a glance could kill or revive someone.  Last year, she was named the most beautiful woman by the nation's top fashion magazine.  The year before, she was named the more desirable woman by the same magazine. 

And she graduated from my senior high. 

In the hallway of our school, there was an enlarged picture of her as some sort of materialized pride for our school.  So big that even a blind could not miss it.  Beside her picture is a picture of Hoshimura Natsuki, the other celebrity of our school even 'till this day.  Apparently, they attended school the same years. 

With all those words above, I only wanted to illustrate her influence and power in the fashion field.  A field that I strive towards.  So when I heard that she was looking for a personal assistant, I literally jumped on the job. 


Let's not get into just how and why I jumped. 

You'd think with her gorgeous smile, seductive gaze, and that beautiful appearance, she'd be as untouchable as a star, kind as a goddess.  Untouchable was very true, kind was... questionable.  Yet, it's always been clear that she meant no actual harm. Okay, play! "What do you think I am?  A tree?  Of course I've had those desires before." She carried on easily, as if that little interlude never happened.  Sometimes, I wonder if she had only meant to say things to herself internally, but something went amiss and thoughts were projected aloud. 

"And...?"  I cleared my throat again, waiting patiently for the heat to disappear.  "What did you do?" 

"I told the person." 





Simple as that, and yet I could only stare at her.  Easy for her to say! 

Running my fingers over the papers I was supposed to read and fill out, I figured I might as well come clean.  As blunt as she could be, I've learnt that she could be the most objective voice and reasonable smack on my face.  

"Sempai, when you were in school, did you hear about a Hoshimura?" 

There was a brief pause before she glanced over again, a split second longer than the previous one before she nodded and went back to her work. 

"Well, I saw Hoshimura-sempai in school today.  You know, she's on the national basketball team now, and their practice court is at our school.  And for a moment, when I looked at her, I felt as if..."  And my face began flushing again, adding to the lingering heat from the previous round. 

"As if you wanted her to fuck you senseless?" 

I wondered if I could possibly suffer a heart attack from her words alone.  What kind of woman would speak such words as if talking about the weather?! 

"Did you know Hoshimura-sempai well?"  I pressed on and ignored her question. 

"Everyone knew her." 

"What sort of person is s..." 

"If you have so much free time, do your work!" 

The command of a boss, I shrank back immediately and buried my head back down in my work.  Oops, that was her patience level today.  That was another thing I learnt almost within no time, beautiful people had their own temperaments.  Hers was short and easily flammable. 

- 11:30PM, Home - 

With a huff, I threw myself towards my bed and groaned with appreciation.  Between school, club activities and work, there was barely any time for myself.  Especially with winter exams coming up, it seemed like there was never enough time to study for all my subjects. 

A light chime from my cell phone had me rolling towards my right and reaching, the sound was indicative of a text message.  Even before I flipped open my phone, I already knew the content of the text message.  It was the same every night ever since the beginning of the school year. 

You've worked hard today, I hope work and studying went well.  Good night.  --- Erika 

I smiled and replied with a short message of my own before tucking it away, underneath my pillows. 

Maki Erika, classmate first and then friend.  Unlike Chikaru, Fuuyu and Hitomi, we've only become friends with Erika at the beginning of the school year.  She had long straight hair and an exquisite face.  My friends thought she was beautiful, and I won't deny that either.  However, perhaps it's because I work with Asuka, beauty just didn't seem like beauty when it wasn't Fujimaru Asuka. 

Yet, despite Erika's somewhat frigid appearance, she was surprisingly easy to get along with, forging a quick friendship 

It was with Erika's influence that we all joined the drama club, although under different groups.  Erika was the type of person who loved to be on the stage, and with her looks, I don't see why not either.  I've seen bits and pieces of her practicing, as embarrassing as it is, I was captivated. 

An aspiring actress, I was certain from that second on that she will make it big! 

The little message before bed was something that started when we exchanged phone numbers.  She was surprisingly encouraging and supportive, and even a most horrid day could seem to disappear when I read her message. 

What a great person she is! 

I extended my gaze to my windows, though I could not see anything beyond with the obstruction of my curtains, I knew that the next house over was dark with slumber.  Most importantly, his room was dark and untouched.  It's been this way since he went away for university months ago.  Before, I used to wait 'till his light went out before closing my eyes. 

His face could still be remembered, an onii-chan whom I've known since my diaper days.  I wonder what he's up to these days. 

Snuggling into my blanket, with the closing of my eyes, it was someone else's face that appeared in my mind. 

I wonder what Hoshimura-sempai is doing right now. 

You're thinking about fornication when it's near winter.  Interesting phenomenon. 

Asuka's voice was a bucket of cold water over my entire body. 

- 4:38PM, Wardrobe Room - 

"You finished the design?"  I did not bother with holding back that shocked cry falling from my lips. 

The team leader yawned loudly before thrusting a few pages of paper into my hands.  "I was so excited I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd get the design ideas done so they can approve them and then we can finally get started!"

Silently, I flipped through the different designs that she managed to come up with over a night.  It scared me yet excited me at the same time.  Excited because they all looked so amazing, scared because I wondered if I'll ever have the same dedication. 

"So now, you can run over and get it to the basketball team for their approval." 

I nodded before realizing the implication of her words.  My index finger pointed towards myself.  "Me?!" 

A chorus of complaints rose in the room, with the content being the same "why not me?!"  Including Chikaru, whom was practically clinging to the leader with the strength of her life! 

"But she's so clumsy!  What if she freezes up and can't say anything?!" 

Oh thank you, Chikaru!  Towards my oldest friend, I could only roll my eyes and fume silently.  Yet I could find no word to refute her, for I had the same concerns.  What if I freeze up?! 

"Because I'm worried that all of you will just jump and rape Hoshimura-sempai!" 

The complaints notched up a level and I slowly backed out of the room before anyone could take notice.  I wonder what the leader would say if she ever discovered of my thoughts towards the object of everyone's desire. 

Seems like I was no exception. 

One step was light with a bounce, the next would be hesistant with dread, I was divided between anticipation of possibly meeting Hoshimura-sempai and the utter fear that I would make a fool out of myself!  With each meter's decrease between the basketball court and my current coordination, my heart rate grew exponentially. 

I prayed for them to be practicing so I can slip in unnoticed.
I then prayed for them to be off today so I can go back and shove the task to someone else. 

When I found myself situated in the hallway leading up to the court, my heart was beating so fast I wondered if I was even breathing. 

Nothing else!  To all the deities up there, let me just talk to Ito-sempai and get this over with! 

Yes!  Ito-sempai would be much easier to deal with!  She was the manager of the team -though more like the personal care taker of Hoshimura-sempai-, so she was capable of making decisions!  Perfect! 

With that, my pulse seemed to have curbed its race with time. 

Aimlessly, I wondered down the hallway, looking from one closed door to the next.  I see names like "equipment room", "office", "nurse's office" and "change room", yet none of the doors was open.  Up ahead, I did not hear the familiar sound of dribbilng balls or the screaming of fangirls.  


With a sigh, I turned around and leaned against the last closed door.  Looking down the left, I assessed the empty hallway and wondered if I should stick around and wait a little.  Maybe just five minutes and then I will return to the wardrobe room! 

The second that decision solidified itself in my brain, the door behind my body gave in and disrupted my entire support.  A screetch left my lips and I knew I was sinking backwards.  I hated this feeling, knowing that I was falling, but I couldn't do anything to prevent it! 

"Oh sorry, I didn't know you were leaning against the door." 

My ass did not hit the floor, I stumbled backwards a few steps before someone caught me.  I breathed a sigh of relief before wheeling around, an apology and words of gratitude already on my lips.  Then my eyes fed information to my occipital lobe and those words failed. 

Hair that barely reached shoulders, height that towered over me, that pair of lazy eyes and the half smile on her lips. 


 To be continued...

[End notes: Author's Notes: This would be the first time that I'm trying out such a fiction.   As I am still sharpening the tip of my writing utensil, I hope that you will give me much support and patience.  Thank you.]

Chapter 2

Title: Chapter Two

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a complete work of fiction, should any events mirror real life, it is of pure coincidence.  The characters and plot belong to me, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Two


"Yes, that would be me."  She answered smoothly, that grin was sinful on her lips.  "How can I help you?" 

And you wanted her to fuck you senseless? 

Fujimaru-sempai's words repeated themselves inside my head once again and my already reddened face only served to grow redder.  Control.  It was all about control right now.  That was not a good thought to have at the moment!  Control! 

"I'm sorry!"  I declared and bowed from the waist, a formal bow that I haven't done in the longest time.  This day was the worst!  "And, I mean, thank you!" 

I'm sorry for backing into you, and thank you for catching me. 

That's what I envisioned myself saying in my head, but somehow, when the words actually came out, there were so many syllables that were omitted.  I wanted to kick myself for this display of utmost awkwardness.  Chikaru was right, I was just clumpsy without another excuse. 

Hoshimaru-sempai laughed, I heard it and didn't know whether I should rise from my bowing position or stare at the ground hard enough to melt a hole for myself to sink right into. 

"It's okay and you're welcome, now you can relax already."  I saw her hand move and then felt it pat the top of my head.  The pathetic thought of I could die happy now passed through my head, and I slowly straightened myself up.  Thankfully, I realized that my natural eye level was at her shoulders.  Upon reflection, it just meant that she was that much taller than me. 

"Was there something you came here for, or...?" 

Oh right! 

Snapping my head up, I quickly nodded and shoved the papers in my hands forward.  My gaping eyes could only stare at her, telepathetically telling her all about the project and the meaning of these papers.  

Hoshimura-sempai looked at me and then at the papers in my hands before reaching for them.  I couldn't help but notice how long her fingers were, how her nails were clipped short, to not interfere with playing basketball, no doubt.   

"Ah!  These are designs for the team's jersey."  She spoke with a tone of realization, and I nodded my head immediately and utterly. 

She took her time looking through every single piece of paper, examining them up close and far away.  I took the time to soothe out my own breathing, focusing on the phenomenological moment and experiencing being in her presence.  I've never been this close to her, so close that I could smell whatever product that she was using for her hair.  It was a clean smell, like the spring air; the summer breeze. 

It felt warm, just being in her presence. 

"So you can breathe again."  She commented after the last piece of paper, I blushed underneath her gaze and offered her a sheepish smile with a nod.  She returned the smile and reshuffled the papers before handing them back to me.  "I like all the designs, but I think this one is the best."  Her index finger tapped the design at the top of the pile, and I took them back to look at the one she mentioned.  "Did you make them?" 

"Oh no, no."  I shook my head.  "The team leader did them.  She's so talented, isn't she?" 

Hoshimura-sempai's smile widened and she gave me a playful wink.  "She is.  However, let me sound arrogant and say that I've seen better." 

My eyes rounded and I looked at her with defiance in my eyes.  "Forgive me Hoshimura-sempai, but I cannot imagine anyone better than the team leader at this!"  When I think back on this, I wanted to bash my head against the nearest wall.  Whose gut did I borrow to speak back and negate Hoshimura-sempai's statement like that?! 

A little taken back, somewhat surprised, Hoshimura-sempai blinked at me for a moment before nodding and then shrugged.  "There is nothing to forgive.  Perhaps I'll show you my number one's designs some day, how about that?" 

"Yes.  I'd like that." 

She nodded and paused slightly.  "You... are from the drama club?" 

I nodded. 

"Ah, is the club's first play finished already?" 

"Ah no, no, it's still in the preparation stages.  We're working towards an early December production, right before the exams." 

She whistled lightly and shook her head.  "You're going to be very busy then." 

Slowly, I had to nod.  Perhaps I've never thought about it, but she was right, we were going to be very busy starting from here on.  Between preparing for the play and preparing for my own exams, I wasn't sure if I'll even have time for work.  With a mental sigh, I could only pray that Fujimaru-sempai would be lenient during this period. 

On the way back, my heart did backflips in its cage, and just down right danced when the entire team celebrated the success of having been approved.  Though it was the work of the leader alone, but somehow, it seemed like an accomplishment for the entire group.  Though the production team seemed to have been skeptical and somewhat cynical regarding this achievement.  Perhaps they were just afraid that their wardrobe wouldn't be completed on time. 

The next couple of weeks were hectic, to say the least.  Between the wrapping up of the play and the upcoming exams, I barely had time to go to Fujimaru-sempai's place for work.  Thankfully, though she may be a little fastidious at times, she seemed understanding of the predicament.  Of course, I took it a step further and even invited her to come and see the play. 

You think I have nothing better to do? 

I could only smile dumbly before exitting her place.  Indeed, she has better things to do than watch some senior high school's play. 

Every day after school, I can still hear the fangirls' squeals and screams over something Hoshimura-sempai did or another.  After that initial encounter with her, I've not been able to speak with her.  Perhaps it's for the better.  Every time I pass by the court on my way to the drama club, my feet would unconsciously slow down for me to linger just a moment and see if I could catch a glimpse of her. 

She was magnetic. 

It seemed like everything she did had such a lure to it that bait cannot help but grab onto it themself.  Of course, in this context, bait would be girls like those who are crowding the court door and someone like me.  Too afarid to approach closer, but still want to be part of the excitement and the glory. 

The magic was in her every move and look.  The way she would toss her hair aside after gaining a basket, the way she would jog backwards while pinning her gaze on her opponent.  And finally, the somewhat lazy, half smirk that would grace her lips if she made a slip up. 

Anything and everything drove them insane. 

She just drove me more insane than I already am.  It's unhealthy, I've told myself that numerous times.  The play was nearing its end, the hours after school preparing for it just grows longer and longer.  Not to mention right after the play, I'll be entering into mid-term exam sessions.  All eight courses at once, and sometimes, late at night, I just want to throw those books outside the window and pretend like everything is alright. 

And then, I'd get a message from Erika.

The content would be similar to what she's been sending me ever since the first day, but even the simplest line of "good night" had such a calming effect over me that I couldn't even describe.It was in these moments that I looked forward to her message, like my cocaine fix, trusting that it would calm me down. 

One day, I promised myself, one day, I will thank Erika properly for this! 

Early December, two days before the opening of the play, everyone was that much more irritable.  Anything could have unraveled the most calm and send them snapping.  The sky outside was turning dark when I finally began walking out of the school building.  Dark enough that during the summer, you'd think it was ten o'clock at night.  I paused on the doorsteps of the school building and looked on almost numbly. 

The walk to my house wasn't particularly long, but at this time, the busses would be so crowded that even getting on would be a wonder.  Though, I sighed and hung my head slightly, I wasn't looking forward to the idea of walking home by myself.  I lived in an area that had just been erected, to say it looked empty was a compliment.  Other than a few houses that have residents, the rest were either empty or still in construction. 

And of course, there were no street lights. 

Let me tell you, my mind can work miles per second when it comes to imagining the worst scenario possible.  Thus, when I finally began to move, the voice next to me nearly gave me a heart attack. 

Until I whirled to see Erika next to me. 

"You scared the shit out of me!" 

For a second, she looked stunned, perhaps she had not expected such a vocal reaction out of me.  After all, I was known to be the one who would blush first as a response before anything else.  Then she laughed and stepped closer.   

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you." 

"What are you doing here still?  I thought you guys were given the night off to rest before the final take tomorrow." 

She shrugged and nodded for us to walk and talk.  My body certainly took a liking to that idea, and suddenly, the dark didn't seem so forboding.   

"It's not safe for a young girl to walk home by herself." 

Now, here, I did blush.  I know my cheeks reddened and I could feel the heat emanating from my skin.  I wasn't particularly good at dealing with people, especially not when they're explicitly expressing concern or care towards my well-being.  Not even if they're my friend. 

"Ah, how is your preparation coming along for the play?" 

So, in an awkward attempt, I changed the topic to something that we could both speak about freely.  Cause, when I really think about it, there isn't really much we have in common.  Just a couple of things, the play, the school, and of course, our group of friends.  However, the last one could hardly count as something to talk about if we didn't gossip. 

And truthfully, Erika didn't seem like the gossping type. 

"It's coming along."  She offered a shrug, we had already turned out of the school gates and are heading towards the direction of my house.  "Just have to memorize those lines and get into character." 

"Oh I can never memorize those lines!"  I waved a hand in an embarrassed fashion, knowing my own failing memory very well.  "It must be tough!" 

"Mmm, I think getting into character is the most important bit."  She replied, glancing over at me thoughtfully once in a while.  "Once you get into character, you sorta have a feel for what she is going to say next.  So the lines flow a lot more and won't be like memorizing equations." 

I made a noise of realization, nodding my head along with her words.  Inwardly, I gaped at Erika's strength.  She seemed so ready for this and so much more! 

"You said you want to be an actress?" 

"I will be an actress." 

Momentarily, I was stunned.  The confidence that she exuted and the determination in that tone overwhelmed me.  In that moment, she was magnetic and radiant.  For a split second, I placed and equal sign between her and Hoshimura-sempai in my head; they were people who belonged in the same group. 

"But, that sounded arrogant."  She then offered a laugh and a wink.  "It's my goal, that's for sure.  I figured I might as well sound confident just so I don't go back on it." 

Her laugh was contagious, I had to laugh along with her as well.  It seemed to have brightened up the atmosphere exponentially, I no longer experienced the initial tension when we first started talking and walking.  I suppose, even with the people I am most familiar with, there is always some sense of inhibition.  Even with my parents, I feel that I could not truly be one hundred percent me. 

"What about you?"  She turned her head to look at me.  "You're in the wardrobe department for a reason, no?" 

I nodded in agreement, and I know my eyes must have sparkled with hope. 

"One day, I hope to be a successful fashion designer."  Unlike Erika, I didn't even have the guts to sound arrogant, not even in a joking manner.  "Someone like Fujimaru-sempai, but... obviously without being a model as well." 

Hey, what can I say.  I'm barely 160cm and am not exactly the thin ideal that plaster covers of magazines.  So I'll be happy with contributing to this glamarous industry, behind the scenes! 

"I hear she is tough." 

"Oh she is!"  My eyes widened in utter agreement.  "Her mouth is the worst!  I swear she can kill someone with her words alone!"  Then I coughed, furrowed my eyebrows and gave Erika the best impersonation I could master.  "What?  You think I've got nothing better to do?!" 

Then the two of us dissolved into laughter. 

I prayed that Fujimaru-sempai wasn't right behind us, for then, I would certainly be dead on the street the next second. 

The trip home was shorter than I remembered it to be.  Slowly, I saw the Erika who could send me messages every night before she went to bed.  Although she always appeared serious and proper, it was refreshing to see that she could have a light-hearted and almost clumpsy side to her as well. 

I wish I could keep her around for my entire life. 

I remember thinking that way somewhere during our walk, but it had appeared just as quickly as it disappeared.  Even 'till I die, I think I'll never truly remember one thing.  That night, I didn't even offer for her to come inside with me. 

It's dangerous for a girl to walk home by herself. 

She had said that and walked me to my front steps, and then, she turned and disappeared into the night, no doubt, walking home to her front steps by herself. 

Two days later, it was show time.  The sooner it grew to show time, the more headless we became.  There was shouting, yelling, and just down right screaming at the very end.  Last minute wardrobe arrangements, hair touch-ups and too many girls fixing their make-up.  There was also the occasional wheeling in of flower baskets and cards for the various actresses who will be taking on the stage tonight. 

I answered to anyone and everyone's orders.  One minute, I was holding up the train of someone's dress, the next, I'll be running to get water for someone else.  It was hectic, but everyone wore a smile on their face.  This was cinema, fashion, and entertainment.  At the smallest scale, but it was a taste of what we all wanted to accomplish in the long run. 

"Ne, ne, did you hear?  Some girls said they saw Hoshimura-semapi and Ito-sempai in the audience!" 

My feet slowed when those words floated past me in the hallway, I unconsciously glanced back at the gossiping and giggling girls as if to make sure that I heard them correctly.  I still remember how I had ran into Hoshimura-sempai not long ago, but there was also the nerve wrecking factor of possibly seeing her again. 

Seven pm, the curtains peeled back and voices were hushed.  From behind the scene, we all watched as the girls dazzled with their talent.  Although many were still young, there were a couple who were ready to graduate this coming year.  They had the leading roles, but for the entire evening, my eyes were glued to Erika.  I just knew that in the future, she will be the pillar of this drama club. 

"Erika, you were great!"  The praises just could not stop coming the moment Erika stepped off the stage, fanning herself and receiving the compliments with a smile.  She deserved every word of it, having completely stolen the show with a character who wasn't even given too much time on the stage. 

So when the audience was filing out, we felt the strings loosen and the excitement and knowledge of a job well done settled in.  Cleaning up was slow and unmotivated, we huddled in circles upon circles, talking animatedly about every little detail, recalling the happenings over the past couple of months. 

"Congratulations on a great performance tonight!" 

The new voice at the door had all of us turning around, unhidden gasps rang out in the room as our eyes focused on Hoshimura-sempai and Ito-sempai at the door.  Ito-sempai dressed casually but with an air of indifference where Hoshimura-sempai wrapped herself in the latest fashionables.  Her clothes weren't feminie, and I swear I recognized a couple of items that were similar to the latest men's apparel.  From the tie to the wrist band, she was like a model who walked right out of a magazine. 

"Hoshimura-sempai, what are you doing here?" 

"Well, to thank you for designing that lovely team logo, I figured we might as well show up here to express our appreciation."  And cue in that smile, affecting just about everyone in the room.  When her eyes landed on me, I swear my face could have melted with the heat emanating from my cheeks. 

Thankfully, there were those who were more suitable for speaking with her. 

They had brought along drinks and food for us, a lovely distraction for me to venture towards when everyone else seemed to be attached to the star of the basketball team.  Turning around, I leaned against the table and lifted the cup of pop to my lips.  Cool and soothing, my heart rate was finally beginning to return to normal. 

I watched the proceedings without really taking in anything, but the unanimous exclaimation of disappointment brought me back to reality. 

"So soon?  But you just got here!" 

Apparently, the star was ready to make her exit. 

"Sorry girls, Hoshimura-sempai has to get ready for a practice match tomorrow."  Ito Shina, manager of the national basketball team, announced to silence the girls' protests.  Hoshimura-sempai just looked all too smug at the attention that she was receiving. 

Then her eyes rolled over the crowd and landed on me, immediately, my gaze widened and my heart felt like it was going to stop.  Every cell in my body froze as she made her way towards me.  "We met the other day, do you remember?" 

I nodded mutely, keenly aware of all the eyes on me.  How can I forget?! 

"Well, I realized after you left that I never got your name." 

"Ah.. it's Ookina.  Ookina Megumi."  I chipped out immediately, stuttering over my own name. 

"Ah, Megumi-chan is it." 

Megumi-chan?!  My face flushed immediately. 

"It was nice to meet you, I'll see you around sometime, yeah?" 

"Yeah."  I nodded meekly, agreeing to everything Hoshimura-sempai said without a conscious mind of my own.  If she had asked me to jump off the roof at that moment, I might have even followed.  

"Great."  She gave me a smile before turning back to the group.  "Have a good night my girls, and good luck with your exams."  Then, she made her exit, with the continuous bidding of good night from everyone in the room.  Ito-sempai followed after her, but not without a nod in my direction to acknowledge me. 

This, is going to be a long night. 

Turns out, that was the shortest night I would experience for a long while.  A day after the wrapping up of the play, we were all immersed in our books.  Not that I've neglected my studies, but after the high I experienced, it left me addicted and craving for more.  The textbooks held no sway over me and I found myself daydreaming most of the time. 

I still remembered the way Hoshimura-sempai approached me and her voice when she uttered my name. 


My face never failed to flush at the memory of those few seconds, I didn't think anyone could put such a ring to my name. 

And then, all my daydreaming came to an end after I walked out of my first exam.  It was hellish and I swear I didn't even know my body was moving.  You know you do that thing where you flip through the exam question booklet and find the one question that you know you can answer to get yourself started?  Yeah.  Except, I flipped through the entire booklet from the beginning to the end and didn't find one such question. 

I was screwed. 

That night, I wanted to cry and murder someone at the same time.  There were seven more courses and I began to fear that every single one of those courses would be like this!  What if I fail all of them?  And then what do I do? 

Near midnight, and I still couldn't sleep.  I've read through my notes again and again, but each time, it feels like I'm learning something new and never truly grasped anything.  First year of senior high and I'm already feeling this?  Can I even survive the rest of senior high?  And what about university? 

Then, the soft chime of my cell phone broke my thoughts and I glanced over at it.  Upon flipping it open, I realized that it was Erika, bidding me a good night.  She was going to sleep.  For a long moment, I sat holding the cell phone, reading and re-reading the text message.  Then, my fingers moved and instead of reply I pressed call back.  My heart beated in my throat as I waited for the line to connect. 

I knew that she was going to sleep, but... 


At the sound of her voice, I cracked, and my own voice wavered and edged on tears.   


"... Megumi?  What is it?  What's wrong?" 

"I don't know."  And then, I sat there, clutching to the phone and had a verbal diarrhea of all the things that I was worried about.  From the exams to what I'm going to be wearing tomorrow in my hair to the weather to the busses that will be running and finally back to the exams.  She listened without saying a single word and I ranted as the most selfish person in the world. 

"Can you get out of your house?" 


"Will your parents get mad at you if you left your house in the middle of the night?" 

"It depends..." 

"I'll meet you outside your house at five thirty.  Don't do anything else tonight, just go to sleep and wake up on time, alright?" 

"Okay."  But I was still unsure. 

"Good.  I'll see you later then." 

And just like that, the line was cut.  I lowered my phone and looked at the mess on my desk.  Erika was right, there was nothing else I could do tonight, so I dragged a half numb body and fell into bed.  Five twenty, my cell phone went off.  It doubled as a communication device and my alarm clock.  Still groggy and confused, I almost forgot what Erika had told me hours ago and nearly turned it off. 

Thankfully, my brain was able to retain something at least. 

Exactly five thirty, I closed the front door softly behind me and locked it.  Then, I stood and waited for a brief moment just to make sure that my parents are not charging down the stairs and ready to murder me.  Turning, I saw Erika at the bottom of the stairs and she offered a smile, to which, I returned with one of my own. 

"Where are we going?" 

"You'll see." 

The day was slowly breaking, the faintest slither of light peeked through the clouds, but the streetlights still guided our way.  We were mostly silent on our trip, I trusted that she knew where she was going and she trusted that I would follow.  Contrary to me, Erika looked refreshed and collected as usual.  Not a single strand of hair was out of place, and she walked with certainty.  Part of her reminded me of Fujimaru-sempai, always presenting the perfect side of herself to the public. 

It makes me wonder, just who are the people lucky enough to witness a side that's not so perfect? 

"Come on, we're going up." 

Looking up, we're standing in front of a deserted building.  My mind went through all the horror movies that I've watched and my feet remained still on the ground.  Even though day light was coming in a matter of moments, they say the night is the darkest before dawn for a reason!  


From meters up ahead, she stopped and looked back at me.  First there was question in her eyes, then confusion and then finally realization and understanding.  "Come, I promise nothing is going to happen."  She held out a hand for me and I looked at her, then at her hand, then back at her and finally decided to take those steps and take her hand.  Her fingers were cool, but so were mine. 

One step at a time, she led me up the stairs and onto the rooftop, she never let go of my hand.  And with each ascending step, more light broke through and spilt across the pavement in front of us.  

Then, I understood. 

Because the moment that first blinding ray of light broke through, my breath hitched in my throat and I could only watch in amazement.  Beside me, Erika shifted closer and squeezed my hand.  At that moment, I was filled with gratitude, so much gratitude that I didn't even know how to say thank you.  However, I had a feeling that she understood either way. 

You can cry today, tomorrow, the day after; but one day, you will smile and face the world again.  Tomorrow, is always a new day. 

I remembered those words from somewhere, and at this moment, they could not be any more true.

To be continued...

[End notes:

Author's Notes:

Thank you to all who have read and reviewed thus far, I would appreciate any and all feedback to make this fiction (and my writing) better along the way.  I actually have this written 'till the end of the next chapter, as for beyond, that will certainly require inspiration among many other things.


Chapter 3

Title: Chapter Three

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a complete work of fiction, should any events mirror real life, it is of pure coincidence.  The characters and plot belong to me, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Three



"And time."  

In a flurry of actions, all the students put down their pens and sat back with a collective heave of sigh.  The class room remained silent 'till the teacher had collected all the test papers and announced the start of our winter break.  Between the cheering of the students and the teacher frantically trying to contain our excitement, I shared my own smiles and thumb-ups with my friends, even Erika looked more excited than usual.  

For good or for worse, the exams are finished.  Regardless of how we did, we can't do anything about it now!  

"Ne, Megumi-chan, you are coming to the party tonight, right?"  

I paused at the front gate of our school and my brain took a couple of extra seconds to remember.  That's right!  Hoshimura-sempai had announced that she'd prepare a party for the entire drama club after exams were done to thank us for the wonderful logos and to celebrate the good job that we did with the winter play.  I'm not sure how many noticed, but Ito-sempai's face was darker than usual on that particular day.  


"Mm, I will be!"  I nodded my head in the affirmative before separating from the group.  For a short while anyways.  I figured that Fujimaru-sempai had been more than lenient with granting me so many days of leave without a word of complaint during this exam season, I should at least repay her with something!  

Even if what I could get her is limited.  

[5:27PM, Work]  

"Oh, you're in today."  

This was Fujimaru-sempai greeting me after about half an hour since my arrival.  I have my own set of keys to her place, so when I had arrived, the first floor was empty but the T.V. was on, an indication that she was home.  And now, the model strolled down the stairs with ease, still in her silk bathrobe, her long strands of hair clinging to her back.  

Indicative of a shower.  

"How did your exams go?"  

"As good as they can go, I suppose."  I answered with a nervous grin, when on the inside I had already put those horrible things completely out of my mind.  "I had wanted to give this to you since I won't be seeing you during Christmas."  From my bag, I retrieved a carefully wrapped box and extended it towards her.  

Fujimaru-sempai looked at me before looking at the box and then stepped forward to take it from my fingers.  I watched as she weighed it in her hands with a mildly curious glaze in her eyes, but in the end, she did not unwrap the gift.  

"So you used the money I paid you with to get me something.  If I knew this was going to happen, I would have just deducted the pay from your cheque as I saw fit."  And yet, she was still impossible regardless of time and space.  If she deducted my pay as she saw fit, I would not have a cheque to speak with!  What doesn't cost at least a few hundreds of thousands yen in her eyes?  "But, thank you."  She said at last.  

Well, no matter what, she can at least utter the correct words.  

I left work earlier than usual, half because of the party, half because Fujimaru-sempai said that she needed to get ready because she had an appointment to keep tonight as well.  The mid-December weather was a bit chilly to take a stroll in; my footsteps were hastened when I headed home.  During this silent interlude, I suddenly realized that Fujimaru-sempai had not uttered a single word about anything for me!  

All of a sudden, I felt dejected.  

Not even a greeting of "merry Christmas"!  

With a heavy sigh, I wondered if she even liked me as an assistant.  Scratch that, I wonder if she even recognized me as an assistant!  

Rounding the corner, my house was already within sight.  Yet, there seemed to be extra activity at the house next to ours.  Unconsciously, my feet picked up pace and I hurried over to see if I could be of any help.  Nagataka-san saw me first and gave me a large grin, waving me over.  To me, Nagataka-san was like an uncle, he's known me ever since I was in diapers and saw me grow up.   

When I was still young, we used to live near city center.  It was a great spot for shopping and commuting with all the busses in the city passing through.  I never had to wait for a bus.  However, in my second year of junior high, we suffered a break-in.  The worst was that I was home when the thief came in.  Of course, he didn’t see me as I hid well, but after that, my parents had not another ounce of desire to live there any more.  

The neighbours were shaken up as well.  

So when we decided to move, Nagataka’s family followed suit.  The two families actively looked for houses together and in the end we bought the houses that we live in now.  It’s further away from school, but it was a quiet neighbourhood.  The people were all family orientated here and my parents felt safe.  I felt safer as well.  

"Evening, Nagataka-san."  

"Ah, Megumi-chan, look who's back."  

It was then that I noticed the car parked on the driveway, from it emerged someone whom I haven't thought of in a while.  My face flushed and I quickly bowed.  "Jun-kun, welcome back."  

"So formal, Megumi-chan."  He spoke and I recognized his voice as ever the same.  Slowly, I lifted my head and gave him a smile.  "How have you been?"  

"I've been good!"  Quickly, I confirmed for the affirmative.  "And you?"  

"Not bad either.  University is a great thing!"  

"Yeah, you get to be away from our watchful eyes.  Now spill, what unspeakable things have you done in university?!"  Nagataka-san grabbed his son by the neck and feigned a tone of utmost anger.  Both Jun and I had to laugh at it, knowing that Nagataka-san was merely playing around.  After a few more moments of casual conversation, we entered our own respective houses.  At the door, I paused to glance over at the other's door close.  

It's been a few months, and although at the beginning of his time away, I've always thought about him, slowly those thoughts died away a little.  However, I was still keenly aware that somewhere deep in my heart, I probably still have a little crush on him.  If anything, it's the remaining regret of not having said anything to him. 

At this moment, my cell phone chimed and I quickly flipped it open.  

I fell asleep when I should have been thinking about what to wear for the party.  This sucks.  Are you ready?  Let's head over together.  


I giggled at her tone before replying with a brief message.  Jun-kun can wait for now, I will have to think about what to wear for the party as well!  

[7:00PM; School]  

"And so, to the success of the drama club.  Cheers!"  Ito-san took the role of giving a short little speech tonight with Hoshimura-sempai next to her.  We all echoed the celebratory remark and lifted our glasses to clink with one another.  Although the two of them were old enough to drink, for the sake of conforming to us, we've decided to replace alcohol with healthy juices.  Even though it's no where as exciting, but the ambience did not let that influence our mood.  

We stood in a circle chatting casually about this and that, the entire time, my head was filled with the image of Nagataka, wondering about what I should do or should not do.  Knowing me, thoughts could not be concealed in my head only.  

"Megumi-chan, what's wrong?"  Erika's voice brought me back to reality and I blinked at the circle of concerned looks.  From one to another, I looked over and wanted to say that it was nothing, but decided against it.    

"Today... Nagataka Jun-kun came back for the holidays..."  My voice was soft and my sentence was hesitant, the ending trailed off into silence.  

"Ah!  The guy you said you had a crush on?"  Fuuyu exclaimed first, the drink in her hand nearly spilt in her excitement.  I flushed heavily and sent her an accusing look; she returned a sheepish smile and backed down.  

"Whom?"  Erika questioned without reserve, looking at me with unwavering gaze.  I was the one who wanted to dig a hole and bury myself.  

"Nagataka Jun-kun."  Chiharu was faster than me, quickly divulging the story to Erika.  Chiharu, Hitomi and Fuuyu and I have known each other longer, so I have already confessed my feelings to them.  Erika and I have only begun interacting this school year, so there hasn't been the time to speak of such things with her.  "He's her neighbour, also someone whom she grew up with.  She's always had a crush on him."  

"Ah, I see."  Erika then returned her attention to me.  "And?"  

And?  I looked at her, somewhat taken back by the blunt way she had asked.  "And... and... I don't know... what I should do... I mean..."  

Should I confess?  Though I still feel my heart beat faster when around him, still blush; still look at him shyly, but...  

"How is my favourite little messenger doing?"  At this moment, Hoshimura-sempai's voice interjected and her arm swung down to land around my shoulders.  

... But in front of Hoshimura-sempai, my heart also beats faster, I also blush and I also look at her shyly.  So how can these reactions be conclusive of anything?  

"Hoshimura-sempai!"  It was the unanimous exclamation throughout the circle, except for Erika.  In reality, as I looked closer at Erika, she appeared to be deep in thought, holding that glass of whatever juice that she had poured herself.  It was a pretty orange.  

"I just came by to greet you guys before I head out for the night."  

"So soon?"  Hitomi looked at her with those typical puppy eyes, not even bothering to conceal her disappointment.  I looked at her and wondered if I'll ever be as frank as she.  

"Yeah, sorry.  I have to meet someone.  She'd skin me alive if I didn't show up."  

I looked over at Hoshimura-sempai's feigned distressed face and laughed lightly causing her to glance down at me with a smile of her own.  See, there goes the heart beating and face blushing and shy avoiding gaze.  "Anyways, you girls have lots of fun.  I'll see you all around in school.  Have a great holiday."  She ruffled my hair lightly before saluting to the rest of the group and headed off.  

Near the door, she and Ito-sempai exchanged a few words and then, she was gone.  

I wondered, between Hoshimura-sempai and Jun-kun, who do I react stronger to?  

At the end of the night, we all bid each other goodbye's and happy holiday's, like any other year.  However, it was the first time that I've been surrounded by this many people, laughing, talking and truly enjoying my life.  It seemed that senior high truly was a time for a change of life.  As opposed to previously, my parents have taken the time to drive out and pick me up.  Since Erika had always taken her time to walk me home, it was only natural for us to invite her over for the night.  Especially after my parents found out that her father was not home often.  

It wouldn’t be right for a girl to spend Christmas alone.  

In the end, Erika only bowed and followed us home.  My sister was still up watching T.V. and couldn’t even give us the time of her life for a single greeting.  Erika only laughed but didn’t make any further remarks.  That night, we slept in silence.  She took the futon while I was in my bed.  Although we talked lightly, there wasn’t too much conversation exchanged.  Part of me felt weird, after all, Erika and I have always been able to find something to talk about.  She seemed to have been deep in her own thoughts and I didn’t want to disturb her either.  

The darkness of the room gave me time to roam my eyes over familiar shapes, and then as if out of habit, they ticked up to look at the windows.  Just barely, I could see the faint indication of a light.  I laid there and wondered, then it came to me, that light was coming from Jun-kun’s room.  It’s been months since I last saw a light in that room.  

All of a sudden, it was as if time rewound itself and I was back in elementary school again.  That night, I wasted my dreams on imaginations and fantasies.  

The first rays of the sun woke me up and my instinctual movement was to curl underneath the blanket.  It’s the holiday season; the sun should be resting as well!  I looked down on the floor and the futon was already made, Erika must have been up already.  That thought cleared my head faster than anything else and I practically jumped out of bed in search for her.  Turns out, she was downstairs making breakfast.  

“Ah, morning, how did you sleep?”  

“Good.”  I answered with a hazy grin, somehow I felt shy around her.  

“Your parents left a note saying that they went out with your sister.”  She explained while pointing to the note left on the kitchen table, which I glanced over.  Not that I didn’t trust what she was saying.  “I hope you don’t mind that I took over the kitchen.”  

“No, no, not at all.”  I quickly waved my hands to signal that I was fine with that.  Erika only offered a smile before turning back to the task at hand.  I watched her from my place besides the table and wondered just how she’s always managed to look so fresh.  I didn’t know when she got up, but from her progress with the food, it shouldn’t have been too long ago.  Yet, watching her like this made me feel comfortable and calm.  As if it was normal to be by ourselves and enjoying a quiet morning together.  

It was a strange feeling yet it put me at ease.   

After breakfast, we decided to take a walk over at a nearby park before she has to go home.  I tried persistently for her to stay, but she would only give me no as an answer.  She said  

“I need to think about something.”  

“What is it?  What’s wrong?”  I looked to her with concern as she put on her gloves at the doorway.   

“It’s nothing, just something someone said last night.”  

“Oh?  At the party?”  And my mind suddenly flashed to the part when Hoshimura-sempai dropped her arm around me so casually.  

“Yeah.  It’s nothing, don’t worry about it.  I’ll sort through these things in no time.”  Her hand met the door knob and pulled it open, holding it for me.  “Come on, let’s go!  The air is the most fresh at this time!”  

“Oh you health freak.”  I couldn’t help but mutter as she gasped in feigned shock.  Both of us giggled our way out of the house, only to be stopped by another’s voice.  

“Morning, Megumi-chan.”  


To our left, Jun had just gotten out of the car and was ready to go inside.  Immediately, I felt my face flush and my entire body seemed not to know how to present itself.  This is ridiculous!  

“Merry Christmas Megumi-chan, and…”  He looked towards my side and I quickly realized that Erika was still there.  


“And Maki-san.”  

I looked carefully from Jun-kun to Erika, not so much as from Jun-kun, but Erika’s mood seemed to have dropped detrimentally.  Does she know him?  I didn’t understand why she would react in this manner to a simple greeting.  For the entire day, I didn’t dare bring it up.  Perhaps I was more worried that Erika had noticed my embarrassing reaction to Jun-kun this morning.  Yet as I treaded on careful grounds, I couldn’t help but notice her frown throughout most of the day.



To be continued...

[End notes: Author's Notes: Slowly, the more in-depth relationships between the characters in the story will be revealed.  I was so good these two days and wrote on and on -not good for my studies, but...-.  Eventually, after some editting, they will come up.  Thank you!]

Chapter 4

Title: Chapter Four

[Author's notes: Dislcaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The characters and plot are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Four


When school started again, I dutifully noticed that even on a short walk I could see my breath.  Momentarily, I wanted to cry and wonder when this winter season will finally be over.  In the middle of January, the school ambience didn’t change from a month ago.  It was still bustling with activity when I stepped past the gates.  There ranged students in their school uniform, teachers and those in their sports wear.  I almost wanted to pause and just admire the view.  This school will be my home for three years and from afar, I could already see my friends entering the building. 

Over Christmas, I received the best present I’ve gotten in a long while. 

Bright and early on Christmas morning, the entire house was still slumbering when the door bell rang.  No one moved for a long while before my sister finally got fed up and charged down the stairs, while muttering words that had me cringing.  So she wasn’t a morning person.  I figured that I might as well get out of bed since I didn’t think I could go back to sleep either way. 

Minutes later, I was still lounging around my room in my pajamas, the door swung open without warning. 

“Manami!  Knock before you come in!” 

She gave me the longest blank stare before holding out a large gift bag for me to see.  “For you.”  And she opened her hand to let it drop on the floor. 

“Eh?  Really?” 

Moving forward, I pulled the bag open and pulled out a large gift box that was wrapped in typical Christmas wrapping paper.  There was no indication of whom the sender was, so I could only find one end and rip the wrapping away.  Under both of our eyes, the words Vivienne Westwood stood in glaring light.  Manami and I looked at each other before I opened the box.  Underneath the tissue paper there lay a jacket that could cause bankruptcy with even a glance.  I gasped and recognized it as the jacket that I was looking at secretly a few weeks ago. 

There was a small card attached and I quickly flipped it open. 

Merry Christmas.  I expect you back at work as soon as possible. 


She loves me.
She loves me.
She loves me. 

That sentence flashed through my head again and again as I starred at the card.  That morning, my entire family was forced out of bed by her present and my persistent screams of joy while clutching onto the jacket. 

I have the best boss! 

It’s been a couple of weeks since that time but I still could not conceal the grin as I walked into the school building.  Along the way, it attracted more than a few glances and I knew that some of the girls recognized it immediately.  Inside the classroom, my friends starred at me with slack jaws. 

“That is not.” 

“Oh yes it is.” 

“Did I just die and go to heaven?” 

“I think that’s my line, since I’m the one wearing it.” 

“I could kill you for it.” 

“Even if I’m a ghost, I will not let it go!” 

Erika looked more than amused at the exchanges of words; she sat beside me and appraised my wear.  Still giddy, I even twirled a little for her to see, she clapped before offering a mock salute.  

“You lucky little bitch, where did you get that?!”  Chikaru hit me in the arm before running her hand over the sleeve of the jacket. 

“Fujimaru-sempai.  It’s my Christmas present.” 

And the jaws dropped even further, that was within my expectations.  They’ve all heard many of my horror stories involving that top model, but something like this was unprecedented and even Erika looked mildly surprised. 

“I guess she isn’t as bad as you say, huh?”  Erika commented idly. 

“No, she is not.”  I turned to her; I swear my eyes have been sparkling.  “She is the best thing in this world!” 

She loves me! 

That was my affirmative. 


[Afternoon – Work] 


I wanted to skip into her house with happiness but thought that I should at least contain myself a little bit.  When I took off my shoes, she was just coming down the stairs, her gaze ran over the jacket and I didn’t even bother hiding the smile. 

“Fujimaru-sempai, thank you so much!” 

“I regret it.” 


“I regret sending it to you.  It’s wasted.” 

That bucket of cold water hit me but I didn’t feel it, I was still on my own cloud nine.  “I don’t care what you say!  This is mine!  That’s all that matters.” 

But Fujimaru-sempai wore a smile and she even came round to pat me on the shoulder lightly.  Fujimaru-sempai has always been aware of fashion, both because of her designs and her own modelling career.  She’s always appeared flawless and her clothes coordinated with her accessories, nothing was ever out of place.  Today, when she was close enough to me, I noticed one little glitch that was so unlike her to over look. 

“Fujimaru-sempai, what is…” 

It was hard to see, but I saw it.  There was a see-through necklace chain –old, worn and definitely no where near expensive enough for her taste- that was around her neck.  I could not see the pendent for it was deep within her clothes, but just that alone was enough to shock me.  That thing didn’t fit with any of her clothes! 

“What are you doing?”  She slapped my hand away before I even reached it.  “Just because I gave you a jacket does not mean that you are now allowed to molest me.  If you crave for fornication so much, I can always tell you where the brothels and host clubs are.” 

My lips twitched and I pouted at her retreating back. 
I had only wanted to see what that was! 


[Wednesday – School] 


The drama club –including the stage setting, wardrobe and make-up groups- sat around the auditorium and debated for the summer play.  Many suggestions were thrown out but more were rejected than accepted.  I sat quietly; these things have never been my strong point.  Some of the upperclassmen readily gave out names of what seemed like influential plays, but I’ve only heard a few. 

Ah, this was certainly not my domain. 

Half way through the discussion, the back door opened and everyone turned to look on cue.  Suddenly, it was as if half of the students here gained energy that was previously nonexistent. 


The star of the basketball team lifted a hand as a wave and walked down those steps closer to us.  The girls closest to her all but stopped breathing as she drew closer, I saw that famous grin she carried.  Hoshimura-sempai was not in her team uniform; it appeared that she had just gotten here.  Her hair was still styled perfectly, and I picked out the different brands of clothes that she wore. 

Yep, this was more of my forte. 

“Afternoon, ladies.  I hope I’m not interrupting.” 

She was never interrupting. 

“Did you need something, Hoshimura-sempai?” 

“I actually have a favour to ask.” 

Before she even told us of the offer, affirmative answers were already given.  Beside me, Erika looked aloof as if this entire ordeal did not involve her.  On my other side, Chikaru seemed a little too enthusiastic. 

“It’s Shina’s birthday on the weekend, so I was wondering if you could possibly help me throw her a party.  Of course, the entire drama club is invited and there will be friends from outside of the school as well.” 

So that was the start of our mini project, the choice of a play was put off in favour of planning for Ito-sempai’s birthday.  I swear there was the illusion that we must work harder at this than at our own plays, but it was only an illusion.  When Ito-sempai’s birthday came around, January only had one week left in it.  Although school hasn’t picked up its pace, I could already see it rear its ugly head. 

That weekend, the school’s auditorium was more alive than normal.  True to Hoshimura-sempai’s words, there was the entire drama club and then there were people from outside of the school as well.  The basketball team was there as well, these girls were all so tall! 

“Happy birthday, Ito-sempai!”  We wished her together, and clicked our glasses together for a toast.  The older girls all had their glasses of alcohol while we stuck to our non-alcoholic beverages. 

“Thank you, everyone.” 

Besides Ito-sempai Hoshimura-sempai smiled at her kindly, maybe her hair was just a touch shorter now.  I couldn’t help but notice how they seemed to fit together suitably.  Ito-sempai’s usual neutral and sometimes blank expression was softened tonight. 

“You girls did a great job.”  Hoshimura-sempai stepped closer and clicked each of our glasses in turn; I thought if we really did have alcohol, Chikaru might just have thrown herself at Hoshimura-sempai. 

“Sempai, when will we get to see a game?”  I asked boldly, perhaps the atmosphere has infiltrated my senses. 

“Ah, that is…”  She started and then paused, slowly she glanced towards Ito-sempai, it was clear that she needed help.  And Ito-sempai’s smiling face dropped, her gaze narrowed.  On cue, Hoshimura-sempai stepped closer to me and I smelt her perfume before I felt her warmth.  My face heated up immediately at the contact, I wanted to hide behind my glass of drink. 

“It’s in May.”  Wow, Ito-sempai’s eyes looked like they could kill. 

Hoshimura-sempai laughed and waved off that silent threat before turning to me, perhaps she was eager to get away from a possible lecture.  “It’s a long time, huh?  But that means we get all the time in the world to prepare.  Megumi-chan,” I shivered when she put her arm around my shoulder and leaned down to peer at my face “you will come and cheer for me, right?” 


I glanced up at her timidly, my heart was beating faster and it choked me of air and words alike.  She took my silence as hesitation and widened her eyes as if heartbroken at my reaction.  “Is that a no?” 

My eyes darted around for help; my friends looked like they were enjoying this too much.  Erika was the only one who looked concerned enough to have taken a step forward.  Oh Erika, I knew she would come through! 

“Still playing with girls’ hearts, your majesty?” 

But Erika didn’t get her heroic chance, for another voice had cut in and the auditorium went silent for a second before excited murmurs rose.  To me, that voice just sounded more familiar than I had remembered last.  Both Hoshimura-sempai and I turned our heads. 


There she stood, near the entrance. 

“That’s really Fujimaru-sempai?”  Chikaru whispered to me and I could only nod, still in shock at her appearance.  I tried to recall my last conversation with her; she didn’t mention anything about attending this party. 

“Is that Fujimaru?”
The Fujimaru?”
“The model Asura?”
“Tomorrow’s Fragrance?” 

Amidst all the murmurs and speculations, she offered them a nod and a smile before heading towards us.  It was January weather, but she was in a dress –Gucci, I identified it- and underneath the lighting, she was captivating.  Witness, the radiance of the number one model in the nation right now. 

“Getting a little sloppy with your choices, no, your majesty?”  Then I realized that she was addressing Hoshimura-sempai.  It seemed like they knew each other. 

“Oh come now, princess.”  Hoshimura-sempai was unfazed and she even squeezed my shoulders just a little bit more.  Besides me, I felt someone’s fingers around my hand and I looked to see Erika standing beside me.  I was thankful for her support as I was trapped, unable to move.  Maybe I didn’t want to move either.  “How can you say that?  Megumi-chan is adorable!  Here, let me introduce you two, this is…” 

“I know who she is.”  Fujimaru interrupted with a small smile, although they talked about other people but their gazes never moved from one another’s.  “She works for me.” 

“Oh.”  Hoshimura-sempai was mildly surprised before she let go of me and glanced over.  I took a step back and felt Erika’s hand still around mine.  “You are the Ookina who works for her.” 

“Yes.”  I nodded and quickly bowed to Fujimaru-sempai. 

“Wow, this is a small world.” 

From that little piece of information, it was logical to deduce that Fujimaru-sempai and Hoshimura-sempai certainly know each other outside of school.  It seemed that I was once a topic of conversation as well. 

Now, I was just dreadfully curious about their relationship. 

Fujimaru-sempai took the moment and stepped forward to hand over a gift bag to Ito-sempai, whom took it with a small bow. 

“Happy birthday, Shina.” 

“Thank you, sempai.” 

“If you don’t know how to wear it, let me know.” 

Ito-sempai paused and looked up at Fujimaru-sempai before looking down at the present, this time with some apprehension.  “What… is it?” 


Just like that, Ito-sempai’s face flushed a deep red, and Hoshimura-sempai didn’t bother concealing her laughter.  Fujimaru-sempai looked a little too smug standing there as if nothing had just passed over here.  We looked at each other and wondered what sort of expression we should be having. 

“Sempai…”  That sounded forced and through gritted teeth as well. 

Fujimaru-sempai lifted a hand to dismiss her words; it was a sight to see that Ito-sempai could be reduced to a statue with a few words from Fujimaru-sempai alone.  “Alright, now that the present is here and I’ve shown up, it’s time for me to leave.” 

“So soon?”  I looked over at her in surprise, she glanced over and nodded. 

“I have a photo shoot, I’m leaving right now.  You don’t have to come in for work tomorrow, come at the end of the week instead, I’ll be back then.” 

“Yes, I will.” 

Her eyes surveyed the rest of the group and they all quickly bowed to acknowledge her gesture, even Erika bowed lightly, she seemed to be in light awe.  “See you around, have fun.” 

“I’ll escort you out, princess.” 

Fujimaru-sempai looked over at Hoshimura-sempai before resuming her departure.  Hoshimura-sempai handed me her drink before following after Fujimaru-sempai.  It was obvious that they were exchanging words, and from glance to glance, I saw their smiles for one another. 

“Ito-sempai, you know Fujimaru-sempai?”  Erika was asking Ito-sempai. 

“Ah, yes.”  Ito-sempai has already shoved the present aside and was looking more composed than previously.  “When I was in first year, Fujimaru-sempai and Hoshimaru-sempai were both in their last years.  I’m sure you’ve heard, at that time, the two of them were the school’s stars.  Everyone looked up to them, and their popularity can still be remembered.”  Yes, in the form of gigantic pictures in the school’s main hallway.  “I worked as the basketball team’s manager and that’s where I met Hoshimura-sempai.  I was also in the student council; Fujimaru-sempai was the president for all three years there.  At first, I thought they didn’t know each other, but it turned out that was wrong.” 

Yes, that indeed made more sense.  It would be unlikely that these two popular stars never even knew each other.  And tonight, it was evident that both of them seemed quite comfortable with one another. 

“How long has it been?”  Ito-sempai sounded nostalgic in her question as she tapped her chin in thought.  “I hear that they started communicating with each other in the second year, so it’s been about ten years now.” 





Erika and I strolled home aimlessly; perhaps both of us were still digesting the news that was handed down in one night.  It seemed almost impossible, but at the same time, it made absolute logical sense.  I wonder why I never thought of that before. 

“Ten years.”  She started, and I looked over at her.  She was looking up at the half hidden moon.  “I wonder where we’ll be in ten years.” 

“Yeah.”  I couldn’t help but echo with her. 

“Megumi.”  I turned to look at her.  “In ten years’ time, will you still be with me?” 

My feet unconsciously slowed and she matched my pace.  I processed the question and wondered why it left such a pang in my heart.  My face slowly reddened and I couldn’t move my eyes from her face. 

“I don’t know.”  At length, I finally answered.  “I hope I will.” 

I really did.  There was something about Erika that was captivating in her own right.  She wasn’t dazzling like Fujimaru-sempai and Hoshimura-sempai, but she was beautiful in her own way.  I could see that she will be successful in her life.  But, what about me? 

“Megumi, I…”  She started but stopped.  It was unlike her to be so hesitant. 

“What is it?”

 For a long moment, she merely stood and looked at me.  Part of me thought something was going to happen, my heart thrashed in anticipation, but in the end, she just shook her head and smiled.  “It’s nothing, let’s go.”  I pouted at the sudden conclusion but followed her nonetheless.  “Fujimaru-sempai is beautiful.”   

I looked over and nodded my head.  “She really is.” 

“I wish I could be like her in the future.” 

“You are a different type of pretty from her though.” 

“No, not like that.”  Erika shook her head and her long hair spilt over her shoulders.  “I wish to be as popular and influential as her.  So I can use my powers to do something that will be beneficial as well.” 

Like any other night, Erika walked me to my door and left.  The house beside mine was quiet and I glanced over out of habit.  During the break, our families sat down and had dinner together.  Jun-kun talked like an adult, acted like an adult and I couldn’t help but glance at him.  At the beginning of January, he packed up his stuff and left for university once again.  Now, at night, the light in his room would no longer turn on. 

I knew that it will be another few months before I see light again. 

After that interlude, it seemed to have brought us closer with the national basketball team.  The members were introduced to us and they were great people who acted more childish than us at times.  Ito-sempai no longer glared at us when we would crowd the doors, instead she would look over to acknowledge our presence before turning back to the practice at hand. 

Hoshimura-sempai was as how I’ve always known her.  She ran and jogged, paused and started, half of her time was spent flirting with random girls.  Now as I look at her, I wondered if she and Fujimaru-sempai keep in touch regularly or was it just an once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon that happened the other night. 

Sometimes, I would use the time to glance at Erika carefully.  She wasn’t particularly into the Hoshimura-sempai fan club, but since we wanted to come, she would tag along with us.  Once in a while, she would catch my gaze and share a smile with me.  I didn’t know why she would make me feel this way.  It was uncomfortable, it was pleasurable, and it was almost like a secret guilty habit. 

Inside me, my heart kept on telling me that something was about to change. 

Just like that, January came and went; we were already a good distance into February.  Days before Valentine’s Day, I had stopped before a chocolate shop and looked at the gorgeously wrapped gifts.  I’ve changed so much since my junior high days thanks to the people I’ve interacted with in senior high.  I wondered if I could possibly push myself a little harder.  So I went in and bought a box of chocolate. 

“You bought what?”  Fuuyu questioned for my friends at lunch, when I picked at my food listlessly.  “But why?” 

“I don’t know, I just… I wondered… I mean…” 

“But how is that possible?  He’s all the way in university!” 

I knew that argument as well, but I still couldn’t help it.  There really wasn’t a strong urge to be with him, but it was like a need to fulfill a wish so even if there was a rejectiont, I could at least say that I tried. 

“Give it up, it won’t work.”  Erika got straight to the point and it startled me, along with her almost harsh tone.  “He doesn’t think of you that way.” 

“Erika…”  Chikaru tugged at her sleeve quickly. 

I looked at her, somewhat stunned, but at the same time, I knew that she was probably right. 

That day, I walked home alone.  Changed and went to work alone.  Unlike me, Fujimaru-sempai’s place was filled with chocolates.  As her assistant, I was instructed to bring in all the chocolate lying outside her door and squished into her mailbox.  She took the time to look over each chocolate and its sender, but she ate none of them.  In the end, a pink and lovely Valentine’s Day ended when I threw out all the chocolate that she received. 

Ah, how our lives differ. 

The chocolate I bought was still in my bag and even on my way home, I wondered if I should knock on Nagataka-san’s house to inquire about Jun-kun’s address. 


At my door, Erika was leaning against the low wall.  I paused underneath the steps and looked up at her in complete surprise.  After her blunt answers at lunch time, we haven’t really spoken with one another.   

“Hello.”  I offered her a meek smile and watched as she stepped down to be on the same level as me.  Her face was half hidden by the darkness and half illuminated by the street lamp on the road side. 

“How was work?” 

“It was okay.  Fujimaru-sempai made me take in all her chocolate only to throw them away later.”  I didn’t know why I had to say that, or why it was even needed to be brought up. 

She smiled and shuffled her feet slowly, and there it was again, my heart started thrashing in anticipation.  “Megumi, I’m sorry.” 

“What for?”  Part of me already knew the answer. 

“At lunch time, I was rude; I shouldn’t have said those things.”  She started and I was already forming a smile, the words of it’s okay travelled to the back of my throat, but she carried on.  “I was just jealous.” 

That little bit was unexpected and I made a noise of confusion. 

Erika took a moment and lifted her head to look at me directly; I was almost scared by the naked truth in her eyes.  How her gaze didn’t even blink when she continued.  “I like you, Megumi.  Would you consider going out with me?” 

To be continued...

[End notes: A.N.: It took a while for this story to reach this stage, where it can now finally match with what I've placed for its summary.  I had anticipated that this stage would come sooner, but reality is different from my imagination after all.  From here on, I'd like to say that the true growth and maturing of this story will continue on.  Thank you to all who have read and reviewed, I much appreciate it!]

Chapter 5

Title: Chapter Five

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The characters and plot are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Five


“Sorry.”  Both of us uttered as our fingers touched when we bent over to pick up Hitomi’s dropped eraser at the same time.  I withdrew my fingers immediately and Erika went on to pick it up and placed it on Hitomi’s desk.  My eyes were forced to glue onto my books and I didn’t allow myself to look sideways.   

This was the second week since Erika confessed to me, and needless to say, we were still adjusting.  No, it’s more like, I was still adjusting.  That night, in front of my door, I gave her no answer.  In fact, I was too shocked to even say anything.  Although I questioned whether I had a crush on Hoshimura-sempai due to my responses, I had never thought of pursuing anything with her.  To openly state that one likes girls takes a lot of courage –to face the rumours, to face the discrimination and the ridicule-, and I didn’t have that courage. 

I was scared when Erika had asked me so directly.  She seemed to have no problems with saying it aloud to me.  But I… really didn’t know what to do.  She was a great girl, a great friend, but I wasn’t sure if I ever would want to carry our friendship further.  Heck, I wasn’t even sure if I liked girls! 

Hoshimura-sempai was different.  She was an idol, someone who everyone looked towards.  So that was more acceptable, and I knew that no one really would go out with Hoshimura-sempai anyways.  It was just a fun game to play.  However, Erika was different.  She was my friend, she was attainable and she would go out with me if I had agreed to her. 

This had been stewing in my head for the past two weeks, and shamefully, I’ve tried to avoid Erika as much as I possibly could to not sir up anything.  I felt bad, and she had stopped texting me at night as well.  I knew that I placed her at a hard spot, and I knew she was hurt as well. 

I snuck a glance towards her and wondered just what she liked about me.  Part of me wanted to cry, I was scared.  I was scared that we would lose everything if we behaved in such a manner, and I was scared that I would lose her as a friend forever because of this. 

After school, I had found some excuse to leave late.  Chikaru, Fuuyu and Hitomi looked at us with concern.  They weren’t used to this silence between Erika and me.  Erika didn’t say anything and just packed up her bag silently before leaving.  When the school was empty, I ventured to the back of the school and dropped down before a picnic table.  I sat there and enjoyed the cool breeze brush me by.  The silence allowed me to think and I starred off at nothing, I attempted to sort through everything in my head. 

“What are you doing here?” 

Startled out of my own trance, I turned to find Hoshimura-sempai at the door that led back into the school.  She was dressed in casual clothing with a duffle bag in hand; it looked like practice was over.  For once, my heart did not immediately start its beating and I didn’t know what sort of face I should put on for her. 

Hoshimura-sempai looked at me from afar before coming over to sit next to me at the picnic table.  Her bag was hoisted up onto the wooden surface and left there. 

“What’s wrong?” 

“I don’t know.” 

“Then why are you sitting out here alone?” 

I was silent, and Hoshimura-sempai didn’t press on either.  At length, my mouth opened and I figured maybe she could have better advice than my fried brain right now.  “Hoshimura-sempai, what would you do if your friend asked you out.” 

“It would depend on the friend.” 

“What about if it was a girl?” 

“Well then, it would have to depend on if she’s pretty or not.” 

“Sempai, I’m serious.” 

“What’s wrong with that?  No matter whether if it’s a girl or a guy, their feelings are what you should be responding to, and not the gender, right?” 

I looked over at her and saw her serious face, her lips weren’t curled up into that usual smile, and I knew that she was going to have a serious conversation with me. 

“But… I don’t know whether I like her.  I mean, I like her, but I don’t know whether I like girls.”  If Erika had been a guy, I probably would have said yes without a second thought.  But, Hoshimura-sempai was right, it was the feelings that I was responding to.  However, before that, the barrier of being the same sex just stood thicker than anything else. 

“I can’t tell you whether you like girls or not.  However, if she is a friend, then you should at least be kind to her.  Even if you reject her, you should still treat her with kindness.  It’s hard enough to come out and say it; it would be tougher if she would be shunned afterwards.  Am I right, princess?” 


The ending did not fit with the beginning and I looked up at Hoshimura-sempai before following her line of gaze to see Fujimaru-sempai standing not far from us.  When did she arrive?  I did not know. 

“Fujimaru-sempai, what are you doing here?” 

“Do you know what time it is?  You were supposed to be at work an hour ago.” 

And then I realized that I had work today, and I have a test tomorrow, and my life came crashing back onto my head, now I really wanted to cry. 

“Also, don’t listen to this one here.”  Fujimaru-sempai carried on and I saw her indicate towards Hoshimura-sempai, who tried to look offended.  Carefully, Fujimaru-sempai sat down as well, her clothes were out of sync with the surrounding, but she was still herself.  “This is why she’s always had people chasing after her left and right.” 

“Oi now, let’s not talk about me.” 

Fujimaru-sempai rolled her eyes and turned back to me.  “If you don’t like her, then tell her so clearly.  Don’t drag it on, don’t give her hope, but don’t be rude when telling her the truth.  The worst thing you can do is to give someone kindness at a stage like this.  Kindness gives them hope, it makes it seem like they would have a chance when in reality you just pity them.  That’s the cruellest.” 

“But princess, they were friends to begin with.  Can you just turn your back on a friend?” 

“Your majesty, not everyone is good at playing different roles in front of different people.  It’s the easiest to just cut it short and get to the point.  That way, the short term pain will give away quicker and both parties can move on to find someone better.  Long term pain will just drag on and on until the point when one cannot even differentiate between pain and life anymore.” 

“Even so, there is nothing wrong with offering a little kindness.  To show that even though they could not be lovers, they could still be friends.” 

“Do you really think so?” 

“Think what?” 

“That they can still be friends?  Don’t be ridiculous.  No matter how nicely she says no, their friendship is still going to be ruined.  Mark my words.” 

I looked from one to the other, wondering if I should interfere even though they were both talking about my situation.  They were scary!  In all seriousness, both of their arguments were sound, and I wondered how much pain I was causing Erika unintentionally. 

“Thank you, sempai.”  I stood up and bowed to them deeply.  Although my head was still a mess, I knew that both of them were trying to help me.  If anything, they at least offered me different perspectives of looking at this issue.   

That afternoon, Fujimaru-sempai excused me from work and by the time I was heading inside, I was already feeling better.  From inside the door, I couldn’t help but turn around and look out at them again.  They were still sitting in the same spots, talking with one another.  There was no way I could hear their topics of conversation, but part of me wondered if they were still debating about my problem. 

If Hoshimura-sempai and Ito-sempai looked suitable for each other, then Fujimaru-sempai and Hoshimura-sempai were made in heaven.  Both were radiant people and it would seem that they were only fitful with one another, no one else. 

Suddenly, I wondered what their relationship was.
Neither was surprised when they heard that Erika had confessed to me.  In fact, they both spoke as if they’ve had much experience in this field.
Could they possibly… is that even possible?  Given both of their popularity, if they indeed were, surely it would be all over the news right now. 

With both of their advices in mind, I made up my decision slowly.  It was confusing and a little scary, but I reminded myself of Erika and what she must be going through right now.  Perhaps it was taking my own experiences with Jun-kun and superimposing them onto Erika, I understand that unrequited love was a bitter pill to swallow. 

So it was appropriate that on March 14th I approached Erika with my resolve.  It’s been a month since the last time we spoke with each other.  This morning, I left home earlier than usual as I’ve become familiar with Erika’s morning schedule.  It was in the auditorium that I found her.  Erika once told me that she liked to come to school early to practice her lines in the auditorium so she could adjust to the size and magnitude to give the performance the best she could possibly give. 

I pushed open the door and saw her sitting on the edge of the stage.  The creaking shut of the door behind me seemed to echo throughout the entire space and Erika looked up at me from her script.  From this far, I couldn’t read her expression, and on cue, my heart started pounding.  Each beat grew in force as I stepped down the stairs to draw closer to her.  The closer I moved, the more I realized that she looked at me with an expression mixed of guilt and longing. 

Why haven’t I ever noticed this before? 

As I stopped in front of the stage, she put aside her script and jumped down to greet me.  The two of us looked at each other from across a modest distance for a long while. 

“Megumi, I’m sorry about the other day.” 

I shook my head and looked down at my clasped hands; the fingers squeezed one another to give me the kick start that I needed.  “No, I’m the one who should apologize, Erika.”  Taking in a deep breath, I lifted my head and looked at her.  I tried my best to be like her and starred at her eyes, much like how she had done a month ago.  “I should not have brushed you aside like that without a proper response, because no matter what, I am grateful for your feelings.” 

This speech has been prepared many times in my head and in the showers for the past two weeks, although my voice still came out small and shaky. 

“I cannot say that I return your feelings, but I can say for certain that I really love spending time with you.”  She looked at me and waited for me to continue, she was considerate enough to give me this time to regroup my thoughts.  “If you would… if you would like, I’d very much like for us to return to how we were.  At the same time, I promise that I will consider your proposal continuously.” 

From the moment we met each other ‘till she confessed, I’ve always looked at her as a friend and didn’t think of her actions and words as anything more than a gesture of friendship.  For the past month, I’ve reviewed all that I could remember, slowly I could piece out the differences she had treated me with. 

It was my turn to wait for her again. 

“Megumi, it’s okay.”  She spoke quietly, and for the first time, I saw a helpless expression on her face.  “You don’t have to force yourself; I can understand that you feel disgusted with me.” 

“No, no.”  I quickly shook my head and took a hasty step forward, as if wanting to convey my sincerity.  “I don’t think that you’re disgusting, I just wasn’t prepared and didn’t really think towards another direction.  I… “  This was not part of my planned speech, so on the spot, I had to improvise.  “Do you remember when you asked me if I’d be with you in ten years’ time?” 

She nodded. 

“In ten years, in twenty years, in thirty years, for the rest of our lives, whether as friends or…”  I blushed and glanced down “… anything else, I want to be by your side.” 

Do you understand me? 

Erika studied me for a moment longer before she moved and caught me in her arms.  My eyes widened and I could only stare at the curtain behind her in shock.  When my breathing returned to normal, I found myself moving to return the hug.  Like I had wondered before, but never thought it to be possible, I was the one to witness Erika’s weakness.  

“Thank you, Megumi.”  She murmured against my neck.  “Thank you.” 

Against me, I felt her body tremble.  Then I realized that she was scared as well, her pulse was a mirror image of mine.  Erika was just another young girl who’s just confessed to her love after all. 

Much to Chikaru’s, Fuuyu’s and Hitomi’s relief, everything seemed to be back to normal.  They didn’t want to give us a reason, but we already knew, for their joyous outlooks.  That night, the five of us spent hours in a karaoke room and shed all our worries and concerns.  It was White Day, and although the confession I wanted to give to Jun-kun received no reply –since I never gave it-, but at least Erika’s confession had been settled.  Now, I truly opened my eyes and looked. 

I noticed the little things that I’ve always taken for granted before.  Erika’s always offered me her food when I mentioned how much I’ve salivated over a certain dish, and she’s always silently eaten what I hated.  In class, she would make sure to have perfect notes just because she knew that I would zone out once in a while. 

After school, it’s always been her notes that I’ve borrowed. 

Beneath her somewhat aloof exterior, her every movement carried such warmth that I didn’t think existed previously.  Sometimes, I would wonder if this was how a relationship was supposed to feel.  Even though I knew that I was being selfish, basking in her kindness without having promised anything in return, I couldn’t help myself.  In the end, I leaned towards Hoshimura-sempai’s advice and even took it to a further level. 

Once in a while, Hoshimura-sempai would catch the two of us together, but she wouldn’t say anything about that afternoon.  I couldn’t read Hoshimura-sempai’s eyes, partly because I was still having trouble looking at her in the eyes.  Fujimaru-sempai never mentioned another word about what was discussed that day.  Sometimes, I would think back on what they’ve said and wonder whether they were reflective of their own lives. 

Fujimaru-sempai had alluded to Hoshimura-sempai’s popularity and the popular conception that she was the type who liked to leave girls hanging.  Then, what about Fujimaru-sempai?  It was hard for me to imagine her ever having been rejected or hurt bad enough to have answered that way. 

I wanted to know both of them better. 

For now though, I enjoyed the feeling of being spoiled.  Although Erika could not offer any material goods, I sometimes find myself thinking that, perhaps, just her presence would be enough. 

To be continued...

[End notes: Author's Notes: Thank you to everyone who have been following and leaving comments for this story, I much appreciate the support.  From here on, it may seem the events are trivial, but it's always the little things that define a successful relationship.]

Chapter 6

Title: Chapter Six

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life is of pure coincidence.  The characters and plot are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Six

Since White Day, I found myself smiling more despite whatever obstacles presented themselves.  My sister teased that I was in love, which I refuted whole-heartedly.  I wasn’t in love, I knew that.  Although I may bask myself in this bubble that Erika had built for me, I could not lie to myself and fool myself into thinking that it was love. 

Near the end of April, Fujimaru-sempai handed me five envelopes before I left for the day. 

“Eh?  These are?” 

Pay cheques? 

Fujimaru-sempai leaned against the wall next to her front door and watched me get ready to leave.  Ever since that time long ago, I’ve always tried to ascertain whether that mysterious necklace-like object was around her neck.  Today was one of those days when she decided to wear a turtle neck and ruin my sight of her neck. 

“It’s my birthday next week, feel free to come if you’d like.” 


I walked home while looking at the invitations that she had given me.  Apparently, it will be held at a certain hotel, but the number of guests is limited so to keep out unwanted people.  The envelopes and invitations were done in an elegant fashion that resembled her.  Each one was sprayed with the fragrance that she endorsed – Tomorrow’s Fragrance, courtesy of her name Asura. 

When I presented these invitations to my friends, they snatched them up like greedy money hoarders and flipped it back and forth as if to make sure of the authenticity.  I rolled my eyes at them and turned to look at Erika who had just finished reading it. 

“Will you be going?”  She asked with a smile and I nodded. 

“It’s only polite to do so, especially since I work for her and she was nice enough to have offered for my friends to come as well.” 

“Then I’ll go too.” 

To keep me company, I knew that well.  See, this is what I mean!  How could I not be grateful towards someone like this?  How could my heart not flutter against my chest?  I smiled at her and between the two of us there were secrets that I knew the other three would not be able to penetrate.  Perhaps they’ve already noticed that as well. 

I helped Fujimaru-sempai prepare for the party and looked through the guest list; and on it, I recognized the names of many influential people in the entertainment circle of today.  Inwardly, I gasped at the names one after another and wondered just how much this is going to cost for Fujimaru-sempai.  There were two names I recognized especially, Hoshimura Natsuki and Ito Shina.  It was the first time I was exposed to Hoshimura-sempai’s given name and silently uttered it in my head.  Natsuki, it fitted her. The day of the actual party, the girls got ready at my house, much to the annoyance of my sister.  Each one was more excited than the next, especially when I told them of the many celebrities who will be attending.  At exactly seven pm, a knock came at my door to signal that the driver had arrived.  Fujimaru-sempai had told me that it was proper to arrive in a limousine like everyone else would, so to accommodate my short-comings –as she had called it-, she will provide the limousine as well. 

We squealed and bounced down the stairs with stars in our eyes, it was like a dream!  The driver held open the door for us and this night we could pretend that we were of social elites as well.  Of course, the true social elites arrived in their own limousine that pulled up one after another in front of the hotel’s door. 

“This cannot be real!  Someone, pinch me.” 

And there was loud wince and complaint when Fuuyu did indeed pinch Chikaru on her cheek.  We couldn’t help but laugh at the scene as we waited in this line of limousines.  One after another, we filed out of the car and up the stairs.  There was excitement, but there was also apprehension amongst the group as well.  In the end, all of them hid behind me and nudged me forward.  I may work for Fujimaru-sempai, but this was certainly the first time that I’ve been in such a setting as well. 

Besides me, Erika stepped forward to be on the same level as me. 

“Hello girls, we were looking for you.” 

A familiar voice and two familiar faces!  We were all too glad for the distraction and flocked around Hoshimura-sempai and Ito-sempai.  The two of them seemed right at home with such an event, I would imagine that they’ve attended this more than once.  Ito-sempai was in a deep purple dress that showed off modest amount of skin.  Hoshimura-sempai chose to come in formal dress shirt and pants combination. 

“There are so many people here!”  Fuuyu couldn’t help but comment. 

“There used to be more.”  Hoshimura-sempai explained.  “It used to be open invitation and anybody could show up.  Then it was just crazy, and eventually she had to cut the list down to personal invites only.”  Even so, the hotel lobby was filled with people.  Waiters and waitresses already have a hard enough time squeezing past people.  

“Oh my God, is that…?!”  Hitomi’s exclamation drew our gazes towards the young man who had just stepped through the door.  I recognized him from some drama on T.V., apparently he was a new idol rising.  From Hitomi’s expression, it was obvious that she was a fan. 

“Do you want an autograph?”  Hoshimura-sempai asked with a grin.  Hitomi immediately turned to her with wide eyes, as if her entire life depended upon it.  “Tell the princess later and I’m sure she’ll get you one with no problem.” 

Not only him, the more I looked around the more celebrities I saw.  In a corner, an elderly man caught my attention and I turned to look at Erika immediately.  I tugged at her hand and drew her attention away from the crowd and pointed him out to her.  Then I felt her body tense and she averted her gaze quickly, I was even amused to see that she was capable of embarrassment as well. 

The crowd hushed slowly and we looked towards the grand staircase.  Hoshimura-sempai set down her glass of champagne and muttered an excuse me before heading towards her.  Fujimaru-sempai stepped down those stairs in a red evening gown, the dress was one of her own designs and there was no one else more suitable to wear it than she.  Her long hair was pulled up in a messy fashion that gave her an allure not many could resist.  She was a star, no; a princess like Hoshimura-sempai had called her all along.  At the bottom of the staircase, they caught up with each other and she accepted the hand Hoshimura-sempai held out for her. 

“Everyone, I thank you sincerely for attending my birthday party tonight.”  Fujimaru-sempai started.  Her gaze swept the entire crowd but stopped for no one, her expression was one of absolute control.  “I do hope that you will all enjoy yourselves tonight and please feel free to indulge in all that we have prepared for you.”  Then she turned to look at Hoshimura-sempai and the two shared a smile.  “May I introduce to you Hoshimura Natsuki, captain of the national basketball team.”  She paused to let the title sink in.  “I hope we will all support our country in their quest for championship within the country and the world alike.” 

The crowd clapped and Hoshimura-sempai bowed deeply before rising, chatter broke out once again and those two disappeared amongst people. 

“It’s great that Fujimaru-sempai is so supportive of her schoolmates’ career.”  Chikaru commented after witnessing such a scene. 

“Despite appearances, Fujimaru-sempai is actually a good person.”  Ito-sempai explained, drawing her gaze back and gave us a smile.  “Even when we were in senior high, Fujimaru-sempai had always been the one to rally for school support and attended our games regularly.” 

“That’s because there was nothing else to do in school anyways.” 

“Fujimaru-sempai, happy birthday!” 

The star of tonight’s program had appeared before us; and up close, she looked just as radiant as far away.  It was a natural beauty that needed no make-up to cover up any flaws.  Hoshimaru-sempai stood beside her like a prince, and I couldn’t help but think of how they address each other. 

Your majesty.

“Hitomi, right?”  She had directed her attention to Hitomi while Hitomi could only nod mutely.  Fujimaru-sempai offered her a smile before extended her hand for Hitomi to take, the younger could only follow.  “We’ll be back.” 

Then under our watchful gazes, Fujimaru-sempai led her away into the crowd. 

“Where is she taking her?”  Erika asked after a few seconds. 

“I hope Hitomi-chan is not prone to fainting.” 

We all looked towards Hoshimura-sempai who only smiled mischievously but gave no answer.  “How about you, Megumi-chan?  Got anyone whom you’d like to speak with here?” 


“Well…”  I spoke up slowly and glanced at Erika, wondering if I even have the right to do this.  “… no, it’s nothing…” 

“What is it?” 

I gave her a nervous smile and quickly glanced at the elderly man once again, Erika immediately tugged on my hand and I withdrew my gaze.  Our strange behaviour did not escape Hoshimura-sempai’s eyes and she followed my gaze before smiling.  When she didn’t say anything else, I sighed in relief along with Erika. 

“Give me a second.” 

Again, Hoshimura-sempai excused herself and this time approached Fujimaru-sempai as she was leading Hitomi back to us.  Oh my dear friend really did look like she could need another heart. 

“Hitomi, what happened?!” 

“I… could… die… happy…” 

In her hands, there clutched a handkerchief signed with someone’s signature.  Then I understood, and everyone else did as well.  Chikaru and Fuuyu surrounded her immediately, almost pulling on the handkerchief to take a look. 


Fujimaru-sempai held out a hand for her this time and Erika looked more than a bit taken back.  I don’t know whether Fujimaru-sempai knew that I had been referring to Erika when I spoke of my problems a while back. 

Erika looked at me and I gave her an encouraging smile, I didn’t know what Fujimaru-sempai wanted, but she wouldn’t kill her for sure.  Erika looked at me for a moment longer before stepping forward and taking Fujimaru-sempai’s hand.  The two of them stepped away and I was just about to follow when Hoshimura-sempai touched my shoulder and held me back. 


“Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.” 

And in a moment, I understood what she meant.  Immediately, I snapped my head up to look at Hoshimura-sempai in astonishment, this sempai only chuckled but didn’t say anything.  Both of us looked on as Erika bowed to that elderly man before carrying on a conversation.  Forgive me, for I am not a good friend –or girlfriend?-.  Erika had mentioned to me many times that he was a director whom she looked up to all her life.  One day, her dream was to work with him and star as a lead actress in his films. 

The bad part?  Even ‘till this day, I could not recall his name. 

“I presume everything is fine now?”  Hoshimura-sempai spoke softly besides me, it was nearly drowned out by the noise around us, but I still heard her.  Slowly, I nodded but did not take my eyes off of Erika.  She looked astonished and so happy at the same time.  Fujimaru-sempai had stepped back to give her room.  “I can see that she’s a good girl.” 

“She really is.”  I agreed with Hoshimura-sempai and looked up at her.  “Although I am still uncertain and unsure, but I feel that we’re at a good place.  She is considerate and kind; there’s never been a word of question or an inclination to move faster than I am prepared to.” 

“Then it’s all good.”  She reached out and patted the top of my head. 

I knew that a part of me will always look for Hoshimura-sempai; she was just someone who needed and demanded constant attention. 

That night, after the other three had gone to sleep, Erika and I stood on the small balcony next to the family room upstairs. 

“He was so kind!  When he heard that I’m aspiring to be an actress, he even offered for me to send him some of my tapes so he could give me some pointers.”  Erika spoke on and from looking at her profile; I knew that she was excited.  “It’s a dream come true, really.” 

“Erika has always been a great actress, I’m sure he will be impressed!” 

She turned to look at me and leaned over to gently rest her head against my shoulder, although she was a bit taller than me, it didn’t seem uncomfortable.  “Thank you, Megumi.  I’m glad you gave Hoshimura-sempai that hint.”  I laughed nervously and patted her back.  “Fujimaru-sempai told me that Hoshimura-sempai had told her about the situation and asked her to introduce me to him.” 

In the end, it was still because of those two that I could put such a smile on her face.  But I was glad, because it meant that I was able to do something for her as well.  Despite how little it was compared to all that she’s done for me, I felt that we were slowly beginning to approach the same line. 

Mid-May, it was the first game for the national team this year.  We regarded this game as the last chance for us to let loose before we’ll have to plunge right back into exams.  It was a warm May afternoon when almost the entire school turned out to watch the game.  It was supposed to be an exhibition match but from the players’ faces, it was evident that they will not be treating this as such.  The national team agreed to play a friendly game with the school team since they’ve been training together for so long now, and the captain of the national team was once a student of this school as well.  The idea caught everyone’s attention and the principal was more than happy to enlist this date for us.  

So happy that he even cancelled all afternoon classes for the day. 

The court was filled with people, most were here for the school’s team, but even more people were here solely for Hoshimura-sempai.  Thanks to the fact that we helped design the national team’s logo, we were given front row seats right behind the players’ bench.  It was half an hour before the start of the game and the place was buzzing with excitement. 

“Wow, it’s like we’re attending an MBA game.”  Fuuyu whispered and Chikaru smacked her on the arm. 

“NBA, you idiot!” 

But the turn out was surprising, I couldn’t believe how many people were here!  I didn’t even know that there were this many people in our school!  “This is receiving better acceptance than our play.”  I leaned over to Erika and whispered.   

She laughed and pinched my cheek with affection.  “Silly, how can our plays compare to this?”  I rubbed the spot where she pinched me and gave her a playful pout.  I didn’t know whether I was getting used to the idea that perhaps we could be dating, or because I had just forgotten about it, I was slowly beginning to act more and more like myself with her.  Things that I’ve not even shared with my family could be spoken with her. 

It was scary.  Sometimes I wonder if this was even healthy. 

In front of us, Ito-sempai was giving the team a last minute run-down of the game plan.  Hoshimura-sempai stood with her head bowed and listening, for once, I saw that face of determination.  Was this the same drive that had her achieve her place on the national team?  Ito-sempai clapped her hands and the team cheered before separating.  The starting players spread out and warmed up their own way, Hoshimura-sempai instead reached for her water bottle and sat down with it. 

Was she nervous?  I could not tell from her back. 

Then slowly, the court hushed one person to the next.  At first, we did not feel it sitting so up front, but by the time it reached us, the place was almost silent.  We looked around in confusion before following the mass’s gaze and turned around in our seats to look up.  Way up. 

At the top entrance, Fujimaru-sempai had just entered the court and her presence was enough to slowly silence the crowd.  She let the door shut behind her and took her time stepping down the steps as if nothing was wrong.  At the top of the staircase, she looked around before moving a couple of stairs down to stop by the edge of a bench. 

“Excuse me, is anyone sitting here?” 

The two girls at the end looked at her with wide eyes and could only shake their heads before scooting over almost mechanically. 

What is she doing here? 

I shared a surprised look with Erika, whom looked just as confused as me.  Ever since Fujimaru-sempai’s birthday, I was able to share more stories with Erika about her.  And to me, I think Erika may have admired Fujimaru-sempai a little bit more.  In front of us, Hoshimura-sempai moved and rounded the bench.  As if in sync, the entire student body’s eyes ticked to her. 

She had located the set of stairs that would lead her right up to Fujimaru-sempai.  She took her time climbing those stairs and Fujimaru-sempai stood at the top waiting for her with a calm gaze.  Two steps separated them and Hoshimura-sempai stopped, I think our breathing must have stopped at that moment as well.  We waited for some sort of activation. 

Hoshimura-sempai turned on the spot and surveyed the packed gymnasium before speaking loudly.  “I want to thank everyone for coming out to the game this afternoon, especially when you all could be skipping legitimately.”  The crowd laughed and Hoshimura-sempai smiled as well.  “I also would like to thank you all for the patience and kindness we have received during our usage of your school ground these months.” 

Oh no one minded, not even a bit. 

“This is the first game for us, and after all these months of hard work, it would be the first time that we’ll be able to put our game plans and hard work to a real game.”  Her smile was present, but her voice carried confidence and pride as she spoke.  “Every game is a special game, but being the first, there is something about it that no other game could compete against.  Moreover, adding to that, this is the school I graduated from, so did the team’s manager and so did this model behind me.” 

Fujimaru-sempai bowed when she was addressed. 

“So if I may!”  She stopped and surveyed the crowd once again before turning around to face Fujimaru-sempai.  “If I may.”  Hoshimura-sempai repeated and held out a hand towards her.  “Would I have the honour of playing this game for your sake, princess?” 

Yep, just like that, the crowd reached a white fire high.  Oh and I think Chikaru’s scream might have killed my hearing just there. 

“God, she’s such a drama queen.”  From below me, Ito-sempai uttered with a certain degree of annoyance. 

Fujimaru-sempai looked at Hoshimura-sempai for a moment before she smiled and reached for her hair band.  “You may.”  That was her consent before she pulled the white strand of silk hair band free and tied it around Hoshimura-sempai’s wrist.  Her long hair spilt over her shoulders but she just brushed it back with a casual flip of her wrist.  “Since you are playing for my sake, then you cannot lose.” 

“Roger that, princess.”  Hoshimura-sempai saluted her with the hand that had Fujimaru-sempai’s hair band around it.  Then she turned and jogged down the steps just as the referee signalled for the start of the game.  I had hoped to catch Fujimaru-sempai’s gaze but the crowd was too dense for that.  She did, however, sit down at the edge of the bench and watched the game like the rest of us did. 

When the whistle blew, my head snapped back to the court and both centres jumped for the ball.  Throughout the entire game, I watched Hoshimura-sempai’s wrist that was adorned with Fujimaru-sempai’s hair band.  It lifted and lowered, it spread and withdrew.  On the court, Hoshimura-sempai was a true leader.  As a small point guard, she controlled her own court and then made the passes that were unseen. 

Needless to say, the national team won the game convincingly and no one seemed to have expected otherwise.  At the dying seconds of the game, people began rising to their feet and clapping for the victors.  Looking all around us, we could only put down our bags and conform to the majority.  Then as a sudden startle, I remembered Fujimaru-sempai.  Quickly, I turned my head to look for her.  She was no longer sitting at the bench; instead, she had already retrieved to the door that she came through.  

In my eyes, I swear I saw a smile on her lips as she watched this scene.


To be continued...

[End notes:

Author's Notes:

Slowly, the more complicated relationships should be revealed.  This chapter was dedicated to the two older sempai and their respective careers as of the moment.  Soon, Megumi should be able to come up with a concrete answer to Erika's proposal.  I would presume.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading and leaving me messages.  I much appreciate them!


Chapter 7

Title: Chapter Seven

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, all events that mirror real life are of pure coincidences.  The characters and plot belong to me, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Seven

Summer holidays started at the end of June after a couple of weeks filled with mind numbing exams.  I knew I didn’t do as well as I would have liked, but my results wouldn’t make it a problem for me to move onto second year.  It’s unbelievable to think that I’m already done a year of senior high.  If this pace continues, the next time I blink, perhaps I’ll already be an old woman.  And then, who will be by my side?  I remember Erika asking me that question long ago, and now, when I do picture the future, I have this selfish desire to be close to everyone who I have contact with right now. 

It was unrealistic, but it’s my little dream. 

Now that I don’t have school every day I had more time to fully commit myself as Fujimaru-sempai’s assistant.  Instead of the school, I would show up at her place every day.  Her house was like any other, it was the technique of hiding a leaf in a forest that Fujimaru-sempai told me she had utilized.  Still, there were many who knew where she resided.  Judging by the amount of fan mail she gets regularly I was surprised that no crazed fan has shown up yet. 

It wasn’t a stressful job and at the same time, I got to see how Fujimaru-sempai completes her most recent designs, her most recent accomplishments and of course, her most recent temper tantrums as well. 

“What are you doing for your birthday?”  One day, she suddenly asked, catching me off guard. 


“What eh?  Isn’t your birthday next month?” 

“Ah… yes, that’s right!  How did you know?” 

Fujimaru-sempai looked up from her drawing and looked at me as if I was the biggest moron in the world.  “I hired you; don’t you think I would have at least looked over the application you filled out?”  Oh that’s right!  A nervous grin broke out on my face and I looked at her with embarrassment, no wonder she gave me such a look. 

Ah, but wait a minute! 

“Fujimaru-sempai, does that you mean you actually remembered it in your heart?”  It would certainly mean that she’s taken notice of me more than I thought possible. 

“Of course.”  I started beaming.  “I needed to commit that date to memory so I’ll know when to run away and hide in another country if you open your lion’s mouth and ask me for a present.”  And my smile dropped off immediately, her words were always filled with such venom! 

There was a moment of silence before Fujimaru-sempai tapped the desk with her pencil impatiently.  “So the answer to my question is?” 

What question?  I looked at her blankly for another moment and thankfully my brain cells fired enough action potentials for me to remember what the hell she was asking.  And even more fortunate was that I remembered before she would throw another temper tantrum. 

“Ah, nothing special.  Probably just go out to a restaurant with my family.” 

“I see.” 

Then silence.  Did she really ask just because she wanted to hide in another country?!  I was about to give up when she spoke again. 

“Hoshimura’s birthday is on the eighteenth of next month, if you don’t mind, do you want to have a joint birthday party with her?” 

I didn’t know that Hoshimura-sempai’s birthday was in August as well!  It seemed like we have more in common than I thought.  Although on second thought, having the same birth month would hardly seem important enough for anything. 

“Sure, that would be great!  I know Hoshimura-sempai is probably quite busy with her schedule right now.”  After the opening game with our school, the national team thus went on their road trip and played games with any and all teams that have accepted the offer.

“Okay, I’ll let you know when we decide on a date.” 

All of my past birthdays were spent with my family as a family outing.  I’ve never had a party before and have always wondered what it felt like to be surrounded by friends and partied the night away.  Although my family wasn’t too conservative, they were still traditional with their view point.  Having convinced them to let me go into fashion design took me the entire junior high school experience. 

“Next week, we’re going away to do a few photo shoots, have you told your family yet?”  Fujimaru-sempai returned the topic to work once again.  It was hard to keep a conversation with her; my mind has to work all the time just to figure out which new topic she was talking about. 

“I have!  Although it took a while, they finally agreed to it!”  Her parents were dubious of the nature of my work and were suspicious of Fujimaru-sempai selling me off for money.  I had wanted to tell them that compared to what Fujimaru-sempai already owns, I would probably be worth a penny in her eyes. 

Fujimaru-sempai seemed pleased with the outcome. 

“Sempai… what should I get Hoshimura-sempai for her birthday?  I don’t know what she likes.” 

Fujimaru-sempai took her time thinking of a reply.  “Something that comes from your heart.” 

“… what?  Like blood?” 

“No.”  Again, she looked at me as if I were the biggest moron in the world.  Okay, so perhaps that joke was a little lame.  “She would be happy to accept anything and everything that would show that you put in the effort and the thought; even if it’s something lame and cliché.  She’s not too picky.” 

That… was more like an answerless answer.  I sighed mentally and looked down at my work with a disappointed expression.  I was still at square one. 

For a few nights, I sat at home and thought long and hard about what she would like.  Of course, my first thoughts were all about basketball, but when I came to my senses I realized that Hoshimura-sempai probably has everything she could possibly have when it comes to basketball.  However, when I ventured away from the obvious I realized that I knew nothing about her at all.  She seems to be a fashionista, but I can’t possibly afford any of the lines that she adorns herself with regularly. 

“Megumi!  That sempai from your school is on T.V.!”  My dad hollered from downstairs and I dragged my sorry self to the living room to see Hoshimura-sempai in the middle of a game.  The score was already 38 to 20 in favour of the national team.  Usually, I would be captivated by the way she would handle herself and the opponents, but tonight, I could only sigh at her face.  How I wish she could just pop out of the T.V. and give me a concrete answer of what would be more suitable for her. 

When the camera swept through the crowd, I looked at all the signs and banners that fans were holding up for the players.  A particular one caught my eyes and finally that light bulb went off in my head. 

The next day, early in the morning, Erika stood outside my door with a sleep deprived look on her face.  Contrary to what she usually looks like.  Instead, I was the one practically bouncing on my feet and tugging at her every other second. 

“Why are you so tired?”  I demanded with almost a whining tone. 

“My princess, you called me at midnight to tell me that I needed to get to your house by six in the morning.  How many hours of sleep do you think I got?”  Erika spoke with a sarcastic tone but she’s never complained one bit. 

I flushed lightly at how she addressed me.  It was a sarcastic title but there seemed to have held such endearment that my heart was erratically thrashing around in my chest. 

“Sorry, you can sleep on the train.”  I replied meekly and tried to tone down my excitement. 

“That’s fine.”  Erika smile and looked over at me.  “Why are we going to a shrine all of a sudden?” 

“I think Hoshimura-sempai and I are going to have a joint birthday party, so I need to get Hoshimura-sempai something for her birthday.”  I dutifully relayed to her what Fujimaru-sempai had suggested. 

“… are you going to get her a Buddha from the shrine?” 

“No!”  I swatted her arm lightly and both of us shared a laugh at that.  I’ve come to notice that even Erika was capable of making lame jokes.  Slowly, she was lowered from the pedestal that I had placed her upon, now she was human like me. 

We sat in a corner of the train, tucked behind the control room and enjoyed our own very little privacy.  Our relationship was still not breaking that veil of vague feelings.  I was still unsure about how I felt about her, and she’s made not further pushes.  It was a comfortable stage and at the same time, it was a confusing stage.  Like how we would hold hands but neither would say that we were girlfriends.  Like how she would pamper and spoil me, but I would not say that we belonged to one another. 

I wondered how long this relationship could stay vague like this for. 

By the time we got to the shrine, it was already noon.  We have filled our stomachs with food before we climbed up the stairs to the shrine at top.  There, beneath the threshold, I prayed earnestly for Hoshimura-semapi and received my charm afterwards. 

It wasn’t my blood, but it was from heart. 

[Next Week] 

At three in the morning my alarm clock went off and I all but slammed it shut.  This is inhumane!  With barely opened eyes I climbed out of bed and dressed myself.  Fujimaru-sempai and I departed Tokyo for more coastal areas at the beginning of this week.  This time, the theme for her photo shoots was nature.  So, the photographers thought, what better than to actually be one with nature?  I had been so excited for this trip, but right now, I was mentally cursing whoever thought of this stupid theme. 

I brushed my teeth and washed my face, in the mirror, I saw a girl who would rather be in bed at this moment.  I quickly tied back my hair and exited the room.  It was still dark outside and the hallway was silent with sleep.  By the time I got to the lobby, everyone has already been assembled.  Fujimaru-sempai hid her eyes behind large sunglasses, and I wondered how she looked as of this moment. 

There was a mutual complaint, but no one moved any slower than they usually did. 

I got into the van with Fujimaru-sempai and nodded off on the trip to the ocean side. 

This day was supposed to be our last day here and they wanted to capture the colors of a sun rise.  So we slept at ten and woke up at three just so we could capture nature. 

“Megumi.”  I felt someone shaking me.  “Megumi.”  I slowly opened my eyes and saw Fujimaru-sempai leaning over me.  “Come on, we’re here already.”  From her tone, I could not decipher any emotion.  I nodded and followed her out of the van to the ocean side.  The first breath of salty ocean air woke me up and I was captivated by the sight.  With the moon still in the sky I could not tell where the ocean ended and where the sky began. 

I helped with whatever I could as Fujimaru-sempai changed into her attire for the shoot and sat down for her make-up.  She was dressed in a Vera Wang wedding gown that could be every girl’s dream.  I remember looking at it with sparkles in my eyes and my fingers itched to touch it and feel it and perhaps even wear it myself.  There was limited time for me to admire the dress as we were short on staff and I was hauled around doing whatever I could help with.  In total, there was the photographer, make-up artist, a lighting staff, myself and Fujimaru-sempai. 

We worked quickly to make sure that everything was set up before sun rise, and then we’ll just cue in Fujimaru-sempai for those quick few moments of nature.  Hours of preparation work and torture only just for a few minutes of beauty that needed to be captured. 

Fujimaru-sempai stood up after she was done with the make-up and walked back to the wardrobe tent bare feet.  With the darkness of the night, I could not see her expression clearly.  I would not be surprised if she was just as reluctant as me to have gotten up so early for this. 

However, she is a professional.  She was the first to arrive in the lobby and has never uttered a word of negativity. 

“Megumi.”  She called to me and I rushed towards her immediately.  “You know how important this shoot is, right?”  I nodded immediately.  One little mistake and the entire thing is ruined.  We’ll then either have to cancel this shoot or do it again tomorrow.  “Good, then work well under that pressure.  As you can see, I did not ask for a wardrobe manager to come with us today.”  That’s right!  I looked at her with a somewhat panicked expression.  “I leave myself in your hands; make sure to accentuate both myself and Vera Wang’s dress.” 

If it was a somewhat panicked expression at first, it is now a fully anxious expression. 

“Fujimaru-sempai, I can’t possibly…” 

“Don’t be ridiculous, of course you can.” 

Starring at her with tormented eyes, I wanted to cry, I wanted to laugh, and I wanted to throw a temper tantrum.  “This is too sudden!  I’ve not had any preparations for it!  And…”  My lips moved as I looked for the right words to express my feelings.  “… sometimes I really hate you!” 

But I love her much more than my nonexistent hatred. 

“Then why haven’t you killed me yet?” 

“What do you mean?” 

“You said you really hate me, no?” 

“Well, no… that’s just a figure of speech.” 

“Then don’t use that figure of speech.”  Fujimaru-sempai spoke with such a serious tone that I wasn’t sure if I’ve ever heard before.  “Hate is a strong word to use, Megumi.  Hate was what fuelled many heinous crimes that took place in the human race’s history; it’s a deadly word that’s triggered so much deaths and pain.  Unless you can truly dislike someone or something to that extent, hate is too strong of a word to use.” 

For a moment I could not speak, her words settled into my very being and I nodded my head slowly.  It was true, now that I think about it; Fujimaru-sempai’s never used the word “hate” before.  Not even when she was so angry at someone.  It was always I really dislike so-and-so.  I used to think that it was a strange thing to say. 

She lifted a hand and patted my head lightly.  “Do your best, I have faith in you.” 

I wanted to protest some more for the anxiety within me was so great that I didn’t know if I could continue to breathe.  At the same time, I was overwhelmed with the trust that she has placed in me and I nodded with determination and watched her turn away to enter the tent with me following after her. 

Now, I was in my zone.  Inside this tent, there were all sorts of accessories for me to pick and choose from.  With Fujimaru-sempai in front of me, I had my very own living Barbie doll to dress up.  Vera Wang’s dress itself was already dazzling; I knew that we needed the right combinations of accessories to represent the theme. 

Today, with Vera Wang’s gown, we wanted to turn Fujimaru-sempai into a cast away bride.  A bride who’s never even reached the altar. 

Fujimaru-sempai did not utter a single word to me as I made my selections.  I knew that she wanted this entire thing to be my own success and my own thought, an artwork that was completely mine. 

Minutes before the anticipated sun rise the two of us exited the tent and I helped her towards the site.  She was already taller than me, and with the crazy heels she has on, she seemed like an earth away.  In front of the camera with the ocean and sky behind her, we waited for the opportune moment. 

When it came, she lifted her head and opened her eyes to create the exact image we had been looking for.  Standing behind the photographer, I felt my breath catch in my throat.  This was an artwork I had helped accomplish!  So another stroke can be added to my resume.  Virgin work, Vera Wang’s Abandoned Bride. 

[August 11th] 

On a rare day off for the national team, we’ve all gathered at a hot spring resort that Fujimaru-sempai had booked for our party.  We arrived one after another with our bags in hand.  My parents have drove Erika and I over, they seem to enjoy Erika’s presence as well.  It was something that I was thankful for.  After we thanked my parents, the two of us quickly made our way into the wooden resort. 

“You two are early.”  Fujimaru-sempai greeted us at the door with a floral print summer dress.  Although it looked very much ordinary, I knew that it was a foreign brand name.  After the opportunity Fujimaru-sempai gave me at her photo shoot, I’ve also stepped up my game and immersed myself in all sorts of international fashion.  “You guys can go in and claim a room, since you’re so early, you get first dibs.  Come to the living room afterwards, we’ll have tea.”  It was very much like giving out orders, but her quiet voice made it seem much nicer than how otherwise it would have sounded. 

We chose our rooms next to one another.  They weren’t outrageously big but it was more than enough for one person.  The futon was rolled up over at one corner of the room, I settled my bag down next to it and exited my room to see Erika right there as well.  By the time we found our way to the living room again, tea was already done with small plates of snacks for us to indulge in as well. 

“Ah, the birthday girl!”  Behind us, Hoshimura-sempai entered and patted me on the back.  Despite how focused and determined she looked during a game, when there was no game, she looked as casual as one could ever be. 

“Don’t crowd the door, there are seats around here.” 

Fujimaru-sempai and Ito-sempai were already sitting with their own cups of tea.  The two women were in their own conversation before we entered.  Their personalities were so different, but the calm and quiet that they both carry seemed more than compatible.  When Hoshimura-sempai joined them, everything was so much livelier.  She was a mood maker for certain. 

“Megumi, have you seen this yet?”  When Erika and I sat down, Fujimaru-sempai had picked up a magazine from her bag to show me.  I looked over and shook my head, wondering what it could possibly be.  Fujimaru-sempai smiled and thumbed her way through the magazine and opened it up to the page that she had in mind. 

I gasped loudly the moment I saw it and nearly pounced on Fujimaru-sempai to grab at it.  The photo shoot that took place at three A.M. was finally out!  There is no need to discuss how gorgeous Fujimaru-sempai looked, I was touched by the fact she had allowed an amateur like me to make decisions about her wardrobe when the photos were going to be printed for such a magazine. 

“Abandoned Bride?”  Hoshimura-sempai attempted to read the label upside down and then gave Fujimaru-sempai an amused look.  “What part of you looks like an abandoned bride?  The other party must be insane.”  Fujimaru-sempai chuckled but said nothing in response to that.  “Let me see that.”  Before Hoshimura-sempai could even touch the edge of the magazine, Fujimaru-sempai had slapped her hand away without remorse.   

“You’ll ruin the pages, wash your hands first.” 

Under our shocked eyes, Hoshimura-sempai pouted and turned to pretend she was weeping upon Ito-sempai’s shoulder.  Fujimaru-sempai looked at her but said nothing of it; instead, Ito-sempai was the one who looked slightly uncomfortable. 

“Here Megumi, you should have this.”  Fujimaru-sempai handed it over to me and I received it with large eyes.  My eyes roamed the pages that Fujimaru-sempai was on, I could not help but pick out the imperfections that those accessories seem to have when presented with the wedding gown.  I was still an amateur after all.  At the bottom of the last page, the name of the model, photographer and designer were all printed in fine print.  Upon closer inspection, I found my name next to wardrobe arrangement. 

My name.  It really was my name. 

Perhaps the world went on around me, but I took no notice.  For the first time in my life, my name was printed on such a prestigious magazine.  I knew that I would be forever indebted to Fujimaru-sempai. 

What luck must have befallen me for this job to be mine. 

Besides me, Erika’s hand touched my knee and her fingers squeeze tightly to show me her support.  She was beaming besides me and I almost had an embarrassing moment of shedding tears.  Thankfully, the door bell rang and I took that as an excuse to close up the magazine and set it aside carefully.  This was like a bible to me now. 

Hoshimura-sempai had gotten up to get the door, and before we saw anyone, we heard my friends’ wishing Hoshimura-sempai a happy birthday.  The three of them all but ran in and tackled Erika and I into the sofa.  Suddenly, with the addition of those three, the previously serene ambience was broken. 

“Asura, what is this?”  Hoshimura-sempai appeared at the door way and looked at Fujimaru-sempai with question.  I’ve never heard anyone use Fujimaru-sempai’s first name in this circle.  Behind Hoshimura-sempai, a large box was wheeled in and the movers carefully set it down before bowing and leaving.  The box was almost a meter high and I had a feeling whatever inside is no smaller than the box. 

Fujimaru-sempai set down her tea cup and leaned back; she looked at Hoshimura-sempai with a smile but said nothing further.  “Open it up; it’s your birthday present.” 

“Open it, open it!”  Hitomi cheered immediately, she was as excited as if the present was for her. 

Hoshimura-sempai laughed at her enthusiasm before circling the box to find a place to start.  Layer by layer, the cover was peeled away and the head of a Japanese doll appeared.  The room was silent until it was presented in its whole to the entire room. 

Simply put, it was a life-sized Japanese doll.  Personally, I saw nothing unique about it other than its size.  However, Hoshimura-sempai reacted differently, for a long moment, she could only stare it before she turned –almost mechanically- towards Fujimaru-sempai with disbelief in her eyes. 

“How did you…” 

“You owe me one for Christmas.  It took me almost three months to track her down.” 

Hoshimura-sempai’s lips moved but no sound came out, she was speechless. 

“Sempai, what is…”  I questioned mildly, looking from one sempai to the next.  Ito-sempai was sitting with an air of disbelief as well, therefore, only Fujimaru-sempai was capable of answering the question. 

“This is the last remaining doll of a 12th century doll maker.  This doll was rumoured to have been modelled after an empress in the 12th century.  It was held at a museum long ago until a private collector bought it for his own pleasure.  A couple of years ago, I heard that the private collector had gone bankrupt and I tried to get in touch with him ever since then to see if he was willing to let go of this doll.” 

Gasps collectively rang out and we turned our eyes back onto the innocently smiling doll once again.  Now, we were able to view it through filtered lenses, guessing at just what an astronomical price must have been placed on it.

“Believe it or not,” Fujimaru-sempai carried on “she collects antiques.  From katana to dolls, her place is filled with them.  Let me tell you, if you go to her place at night, it’s like you’ve wandered into a haunted mansion.  I have no idea how her mother and sister deal with them.” 

Believe it or not indeed.  I wasn’t sure that piece of information has officially settled in or not. 

“That’s because my mom loves them more than I do sometimes.”  Hoshimura-sempai retorted with a wide grin on her lips.  “Thank you, really.”  And I could hear the sincerity in her voice as she looked directly at Fujimaru-sempai. 

“Like I said, you owe me one for Christmas.” 

“Wow, Fujimaru-sempai is so kind.”  Chiharu exclaimed, still in a dazed state. 

“Of course, have you heard otherwise?”  The question was directed at Chiharu, but Fujimaru-sempai’s gaze was on my face. 


I could only reply with a toothy grin of my own. 

To be continued...

[End notes: Author's Notes: Thank you to all those who have been reading and leaving reviews.  It's been brought to my attention that some things are rather confusing about the story and the characters, so please feel free to ask me anything and everything you're confused about.  I will answer to the best of my abilities without giving away the rest of the story.  Thanks again!]

Chapter 8

Title: Chapter Eight

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The characters and plot are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Eight

“Ne, ne, Megumi, did you hear!?”  Chiharu bounced over to me when I just stepped into the classroom for the first day of class in September.  The summer vacation ended with one last photo shoot on Fujimaru-sempai’s part.  Although I was never given the chance to manage her wardrobe again, I knew that one time was more than enough to ask for.  Not only was it for a world famous designer, it was in a world renowned magazine as well.  I couldn’t ask for more from Fujimaru-sempai. 

“Hear what?” 

“Hoshimura-sempai’s younger sister is in our school!  She’s a first year!” 

I put down my bag and looked at her with wide eyes.  “Seriously?” 

“Yeah, yeah.  Apparently, she resembles her sister in that out-going nature they all seem to have!  And I’ve also heard that she is going to be joining the drama club as well!  Isn’t it exciting?  To think that we’ll get to know Hoshimura-sempai’s younger sibling as well!” 

Yeah, exciting was one way to put it.  I didn’t even know that Hoshimura-sempai had a younger sister.  Now I was curious as to what this younger sister is like. 

“Do you know what her name is?”  I asked as I took my seat, the classroom was beginning to fill.  I recognized some familiar faces, but other faces were new. 

“No, not yet.  It’s actually just a rumour as of right now, but once it’s been confirmed, you bet I’ll be the first one to get some details!”  Chiharu pumped her fist in mid-air to end that sentence with determination.  I wondered why she didn’t choose to join the journalism club instead; she seemed fit for that rather than the drama club. 

Just as I was about to inquire more, the first bell of the day rang and Erika had walked in briskly just in the nick of time, with our homeroom teacher following close behind.  The two of us shared a look and she sat down next to me over the aisle.  While the teacher took attendance, I quickly torn off a slither of paper from my notebook and scribbled down what Chiharu told me just moments ago. 

Chiharu said that there is a rumour going around about Hoshimura-sempai’s younger sister attending this school. 

Erika’s eyes were casted downwards as she read the note, when she lifted her head towards me again, I could see the question in her eyes. 


I quickly nodded to confirm the answer and returned my attention back to the teacher.  I needed to pay extra attention to classes this year; I can’t keep on troubling Erika for her notes all the time! 

[Afternoon – Work] 

There was, of course, more talk about this rumoured sister after school had finished.  While no one seemed to know more than just a passing rumour, I could only pray that my inside source was feeling kind enough to talk with me.  Since Hoshimura-sempai was still away on her road trip games, I could only turn to Fujimaru-sempai instead. 

“Does Hoshimura-sempai have a younger sister?”  I asked as I held a stack of cards for Fujimaru-sempai to sign.  They were for those zealous fans who would be purchasing the first edition of her new line of purses. 


“’What’s her name?” 

“Are you planning on stalking her?” 

“No!”  I discredited that claim immediately.  “There has been this rumour going around school that Hoshimura-sempai’s younger sister is going to attend our school, so I was just curious.  Do you know anything about it, sempai?” 

Fujimaru-sempai was quiet for a moment before she picked up another card and signed her name on it.  “Her name is Hoshimura Reika, and yes, she will be attending your school.” 

“Do you know what class she is in?” 

“Do you think I have no life like you?” 

For the sake of information, I was willing to stand this degradation; maybe I should be the one to join the journalism club instead! 

“Wow, I never knew Hoshimura-sempai had siblings!” 

“She has an older sister as well.” 

“Seriously?”  I almost forgot about the pile of cards in my hands if it weren’t for Fujimaru-sempai’s glance towards them.  “What does she do?” 

“She’s a professor at the National Institute of Art.” 

Yet another accomplished sister, I selfishly formed the thought that all of the Hoshimura sisters were great people!  This younger sister must not be anything less than them. 

“Does sempai have any siblings?” 

“I’m the only child.” 

Figured.  Of course, I wouldn’t say that to her face though.  Her personality resembled that of the stereotypical only child.  Though, I would imagine that she should be rather close to her parents since she is the only child.  However, throughout all of my time working with her and out of all the interviews that I’ve seen her give, she’s never mentioned her parents.  Not even once.  So another bubble of curiosity rose within me.  However, before I had my chance to ask the questions that I had wanted to, Fujimaru-sempai had finished the last card and was reaching for a large envelope of what looked like letters. 

“Here, these are for you.” 

“What are they?”  I flipped through a couple but not really taking notice of the words that were written. 

“They are critiques of the wardrobe arrangement you did for that photo shoot.”  Just like that, my heart skipped a beat and I was suddenly too afraid to look at any of them.  “For a first time, the reviews were about normal.  There were some who liked your work; there were some who wanted to kill you for what you’ve done.  Throw those extremes away and focus on the comments that are actually of constructive criticism rather than verbal vomit.” 

A part of me was disappointed, I knew that.  Perhaps I had envisioned a perfect scenario where all critics would be positive and they would all absolutely love me.  Of course, that is unrealistic and I knew it too.  This was a good wake-up call and another step for me to be closer to where I want to be.  

For the entirety of my life, what I owe Fujimaru-sempai cannot be expressed in words alone. 

The next day, of course I confirmed the rumour to be true with my friends.  Yes, my inside source was much faster than anyone digging around and doing stalking work.  However, even after the first month of school has passed, I still haven’t seen hide or hair of this younger sister.  Given what Hoshimura-sempai’s personality is like, I would have expected Hoshimura Reika to have seized the limelight and have shown her face around school at least a few hundred times. 

Or maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough. 

At the beginning of October, club activities resumed from where they left off the previous year.  For the entirety of October, it was about promoting different clubs and sorting through applicants.  Although we want to take in as many members as possible, there were just some who needed to be weeded out by their application forms alone. 

I heard the drama club is the fastest way of becoming popular. 

Some first year wrote.   

Without remorse that application was tossed away.  I was not part of the deciding bunch as I was only second year.  However, if I think about it a little bit, next year, I will be part of the committee who will have power over such things.  It was exciting and dreadful at the same time.  As a silent agreement, the club all leaned towards Erika for being the leading actress for the upcoming years.  Her performances at the winter and summer plays impressed the crowd and the club.  

Then, it was an afternoon in mid-October as I was getting ready to head for club activities, I finally saw this elusive younger sister of Hoshimura-sempai’s.  The large windows in the hallway were open and I could hear ardent cheering coming from the outside.  Out of curiosity, I stopped and leaned my torso outside of the window to see what was going on.  Apparently, the tennis club was having their first try-outs for their applicants.  On the court, there was a sempai I recognized as being the student council vice president and another whom I presumed to be a new comer. 

Now, I have to admit, I don’t know much about tennis if anything at all, but the speed at which the two players exchanged blows at astounded me.  From the side lines, there scattered tennis club members and others who were just watching for fun. 

“Reika-chan!  Come on!  Do your best!” 


I wanted to take a closer look but realized that if I leaned any further, I would probably drop five stories onto the ground and be flattened on the court in between them.  Yet, the name resonated within my head.  Reika.  Could this be the infamous sister? 

Unfortunately, the match did not last for long, and before I could be certain of anything, she was already walking off the court and greeting her friends.  I suppose I’ll just have to wait for another time seeing as I was late for club activities. 

A week later, the recruited members were all invited to an open house and a casual meet-and-greet before real activities began. 

Then, we all saw her. 

She stood in front of the club with her head up high and face proud as she surveyed our faces before she spoke.  “Good afternoon!  My name is Hoshimura Reika, before you ask, yes, Hoshimura Natsuki is my older sister.  However, that does not mean I will accept letters or presents on her behalf.  If you want to suck up to her, please do so to her and not through me.”  I noted that several members’ eyes were already enlarged and couldn’t help but return my gaze back onto Hoshimura Reika with some incredibility in my stare.  “I am currently a first year student and am enrolled in the tennis club.  I am very glad that I was accepted into the drama club because I’ve been looking forward to working with Maki Erika-sempai.”  Here, I couldn’t help but look towards Erika, whom seemed more than a little surprised.  “Please trust in my abilities and give me lots of roles for the upcoming plays!  Thank you!”  She bowed and I noted that perhaps the claps were a little shocked.  Everyone seemed to be still digesting all the information that she just gave out and most of all, her personality.  Although she and Hoshimura-sempai both carried that air of confidence, hers was crossing onto cockiness for sure. 

In the future, when I look back on her appearance in my life, I probably will have an easier time pinpointing whether she was a friend or a foe. 

After that outrageous declaration during her introduction, I couldn’t help but take more notice of her.  She’s never approached me for a long duration of talk, but she had to know who I was considering Erika and I could be seen together most of the time.  Yet, she didn’t really make the extra effort to allow us conversation time. 

“I’m looking for Maki-sempai!” 

It was lunch time and the voice at the door had all of us looking over, even if we didn’t look, we’d have known that it was Hoshimura Reika. 

“Here comes your stalker again, Erika.”  Fuuyu muttered underneath her breath.  “It’s like she’s in love with you or something.” 

That careless comment was like an earthquake in my own mind.  Sure I’ve noticed that Reika seems rather clingy of Erika, but the idea of her developing any other feelings never crossed my mind.  Until now, that is.  

“Don’t be ridiculous.”  Erika negated Fuuyu almost immediately and glanced at me.  Embarrassed because of my own turbulent feelings and having been caught starring, I quickly averted my eyes and pretended that I had been poking at my food aimlessly. 

“Maki-sempai!”  She was already by our table. 

“Hoshimura-kun, how can I help you?” 

“I was wondering if you would like to practice lines with me after you’ve finished your lunch.” 

Erika looked hesitant and she glanced towards me another time, I knew that I should have done something, but instead, I just smiled and went back to eating as if the conversation did not concern me at all.  When in reality, every cell in my body was devoted to listening in on this conversation. 

“Sure, let’s meet in the auditorium in fifteen minutes?” 

“Great!  Thank you, sempai!” 

There, done.  Throughout the entire thing, there was no mention of the rest of us what-so-ever.  I didn’t know whether the other three minded it, but I seemed to have taken it very personally.  For even when Erika touched my leg underneath the table discreetly, I pretended to have not noticed anything.  She must have been frustrated with the situation as well, for she packed up and left earlier than the arranged time to meet. 

Truthfully, this was more awkward than when she first confessed to me. 

That afternoon, for the first time in a long while, I walked home alone.  The roads looked unfamiliar, my legs felt unfamiliar and the music I was listening to all became a bland pool of music notes that had no connection with one another. 

Could it be that I was jealous? My own realization startled me and the reasonable follow-up to that thought was does that mean I like Erika as well? 

It was a realization that I wasn’t sure if I could quite receive just yet.  Perhaps there was still that bit of internalized homophobia that I was still clinging onto.  If I agree with that realization, then that would mean making some sort of a move for the affirmative towards the road of a relationship.  It would mean that I would have to sincerely answer Erika’s proposal from earlier this year and be ready to deal with all the consequences of being in a homosexual relationship. 

I knew I wasn’t ready. 

Each day was like a renewal of my own struggles.  Every time I see Erika and Reika together practicing lines, I would have this sharp pinch of pain that reminded me I wasn’t part of their world.  And that if this continued, I will never be part of their world again.  Actually, I don’t care if I were in Reika’s world or not, but Erika’s world was one that I belonged in. 

Or so I thought I did. 

The days without Erika’s presence around me taught me many things.  One, I was a weakling who couldn’t do anything for herself.  Two, I really sucked at taking notes!  Three, I needed the company of someone around me most of the time to not feel lonely.  Four, I’ve been so spoiled by her that I wonder if could live without her support for too long. 

Yet the demons within me whispered to me all the troubles and hardships that we will have to endure if anything further was to happen. 

Meanwhile, it seemed Reika always could find some excuse to keep Erika all to herself.  It was mostly related to the plays, and because Erika was so devoted to perfecting herself as an actress she would never decline the opportunity to improve herself.  It was a drive that I didn’t have.  Even ‘till this day, that bag of reviews Fujimaru-sempai gave me was still sitting in one of my drawers.  I had used the excuse that I was too busy with school to really sit down and look at them, but even when I was dazing off in the middle of the night, I would not have the courage to look at them. 

I was already feeling depressed about this gap that’s widened in between Erika and I, those reviews won’t do my self-esteem any better. 

These weeks continued throughout October and the first half of November.  It was the day of Erika’s birthday, yet after school, we still had to attend a run-down for the play.  We watched as the key actresses took their roles and did a simple sample of what we should be expecting for the play.  This way, those who are in charge of recruitment could decide whether the current actresses were fitful for their roles or not. 

I hadn’t read the script, but from what I could gather, half of the girls will have to portray men on stage.  Erika was going to play the male lead while Reika was going to be playing the major supporting female role in the play.  There was one particular spicy scene in the play that involved the passionate entanglement between the male lead and the supporting female role.  I had not expected to see the two of them pour their hearts out for a run-down like this one.  In front of me, it was as if I saw Erika and Reika in their struggles of loving each other rather than their characters. 

They left me breathless. 

At the very end of the scene, as part of the script, Reika had grabbed Erika’s collar and pulled her down into a deep kiss.  Finally, I had to tear my eyes away and look out the window.  Dutifully, I noted that my vision was blurring and I wondered just why I was crying over a stupid play! 

I really could be jealous, couldn’t I?
Scratch that.
I really was jealous. 

Something within me must have snapped at that instant, for after I sniffed back my tears, I was determined. 

From that moment on, I was the one who avoided all communication with Erika.  I needed my moments alone to rehearse what I wanted to say to her later.  On my way home, I practiced my own lines in my head.  And hours later, when I headed back out for Erika’s birthday party, I once again reviewed my lines. 

I will not be the coward who will sit in the future and cry about her own indecision when she was younger! 

When I entered the party, even before I entered the party, I knew I was on a mission.  People greeted me as I walked around looking for Erika; I didn’t know what sort of reply I gave to them.  In the corner, I saw my friends and Reika as well.  For a second, my feet stopped but I took in a deep breath and charged onwards. 

“Ah, Megumi, there you are!”  Hitomi was the first one to notice me, she waved at me immediately.  “We’ve been looking everywhere for you!” 

“Erika.”  I stopped in front of the group and interrupted whatever conversation they were having with smiles on their faces.  The tone of my voice silenced them all and Erika turned to me with a concerned gaze.  “Can I talk to you for a moment?” 

“Of course.” 

I turned and walked towards the bright red exit sign that I saw above people’s heads.  Without having to look back, I knew that she was following me.  Outside, the cool autumn air bit into my skin and I shivered. 

“Megumi, are you alright?” 

“No.”  I started softly, and then I cleared my throat and tried again.  “No.”  Better.  This time, I turned around to face her directly.  “No, I am not alright.”  Erika looked alarmed and opened her mouth to say something but I held up a hand to stop her immediately.  I couldn’t have her interrupt my speech; I was riding on whatever adrenaline I had.  Inside my head, I pictured Erika and Reika kissing once again and it braced me against the chilly wind and my own shaking nerves. 

“No, I am not alright.  Ever since Hoshimura Reika joined the drama club, I have not been alright.  I realized that she’s taken you away from me, and I don’t even get to talk to you anymore.  I realized that it’s lonely walking home alone and it’s agonizing waiting for your text at night just to remind myself that you have not forgotten about me.”  Once I got started, it seemed like there was no stop.  That was true of my words and true of my tears as well.  “I realized how stupid I am that I can’t even take my own notes properly.  I realized that I really hate carrots and you’re not even around to eat them for me.  I realized that I need you around me to know who I am and what I’m doing.  I realized that aside from being a complete coward, I’m also incredibly jealous that I can’t even function properly.” 

Here, I had to take a break, as my breaths were not keeping up with the rate at which I wanted to verbally vomit at.  It gave a chance for me to look at Erika’s expression and reaction.  Her face showed a mixture of confusion, guilt, pain and perhaps some hope as well. 

“So I guess what I’m trying to say is…”  I choked on my own words and I couldn’t help but feel pathetic.  “What I’m trying to say is… I think… I think I like you, Erika.  Would you… still consider having me as your girlfriend?” 

Erika’s confession had been to the point and determined, she looked at me with clear eyes and asked with such dignity that I couldn’t even find words to speak.  My confession, on the other hand, was filled with sobs and tears as I tried to look at Erika in the eyes but failed when I could only repeatedly wipe at my eyes and brush away the tears that have blinded me. 

In the end though, at least I got to wipe some of my mucus off on her shoulder when she embraced me in that chilly November evening. 

She had said that it was the best birthday present ever.
I promised her that it will only get better with time.

To be continued...

Chapter 9

Title: Chapter Nine

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Nine

What’s the difference between waking up before Erika’s birthday and after Erika’s birthday?  It was the knowledge that I was someone’s girlfriend.  My original goal was to have a lovely, romantic relationship with a nice sempai in senior high school.  Now, I am in a lovely and romantic relationship, but she was neither a sempai nor a male.  However, that fact seems to be bothering me less and less with each passing day.  I faced the mirror with a smile on my face, it was already tinged pink.  Within days, I realized that even I had begun to take more care of my appearance.  In front of Erika, I would be conscience of how I presented myself.  However, the fundamentals of our relationship have not changed. 

Then again, it’s only been a week, so perhaps it’s a bit too early to say anything definitively. 

“I couldn’t help but think that Hoshimura-kun was the one who had induced this relationship.”  After school, when we were walking home, our pinkies were linked with one another’s.  We were still a little hesitant with holding hands, just in case anyone saw. 

I huffed at that remark and sighed heavily.  “I don’t know whether I should thank her or not.  When I saw you two kiss…” 

“It’s just for the play.”  Erika had promptly offered that explanation. 

I couldn’t help but laugh and nodded my head at it.  “I understand.”  But back then, it was so triggering that I couldn’t even stand it.  “You know what, since it looks like you and Hoshimura Erika will be spending a lot of time together because of this play, I should at least get to know her as well.” 

“How so?” 

“As a sempai, I should introduce myself first and at least be on friendly terms with her.  Then…”  I paused and gnawed at my lips lightly.  “… I should probably apologize to her for the resentment that I have been holding towards her for so long.” 

Besides me, Erika laughed and pinched my cheek lightly with affection.  “Then go for it.  You seem to have everything worked out already.” 

I rubbed the spot where she pinched me and nodded my head with determination.  “I will!  I just hope that Hoshimura Reika will not take this the wrong way.”  

“You know…”  Erika started thoughtfully, looking ahead of us.  “You’re so different when it comes to the sisters.  You say Hoshimura Reika with such… enunciation as if there is some intrinsic barrier that cannot be crossed.  And yet, you say Hoshimura-sempai with such affection that I sometimes have to wonder.” 

I blushed immediately and gasped loudly, my free hand lifted and touched my flushed cheek.  “Erika!  It’s not like that!  I didn’t mean anything when I say Hoshimura Reika, I’m just uncomfortable with calling her anything else at this moment, so…” 

“Relax.”  She interrupted me with a smile on her face and amusement in her eyes.  “I was only joking.” 

I puffed out my cheeks as if I were angry, but she knew better than that.  Inside, I questioned what she had said and wondered if there really was such a distinction.  I had not noticed if there were any differences in my speaking their names.  However, I could not lie that I prefer Hoshimura-sempai over her younger sister, that’s for sure. 

So one day after school, I finally gathered up the courage and approached Hoshimura Reika.  It was after general club activity, but I know that some were staying behind to do some extra work for the future.  When everyone was filing out of the room, I noticed that Hoshimura Reika had packed up and was ready to leave as well.  Silently I followed her out ‘till she separated from her friends and finally took in a deep breath and called out to her. 

“Anou… Hoshimura Reika-kun…” 

Up ahead, she paused and turned around to look at me.  With a few steps of distance between us, I gave her a smile and continued on.  “Do you mind if we speak for a bit?” 

“Come with me.” 


I watched as she turned and headed for the back of the school instead of the front gates.  How did the situation turn out like this?  I had wanted to take the initiative, but in the end, it seemed like she had taken hold of the reins.  However, I still followed dutifully ‘till we were at an empty storage room. 

There, we stood for a silent moment and looked at each other.   

“I know what you want to talk to me about.”  She started once again, and my eyes widened.  Were Erika and I so obvious that even someone like her had already picked up?  Then I watched as she broke out into a cheeky grin.  “So I’m guessing that you and Maki-sempai have progressed along quite nicely?  Have you two kissed yet?  Or… have you two already gone above and beyond?” 

Her questions left me speechless and I could only stare at her with wide eyes and open mouth.  I didn’t even know if my brain could function properly for a coherent response. 

“What… what are you…? I mean...” 

She waved a casual hand and leaned onto the wall beside her with a somewhat bored look.  “Look, the truth is, I knew about you already before I came to this school.” 

“Ah, I remember what you said about wanting to work with Erika!” 

“Well… there’s that…”  She started slowly, but I felt as if she was looking at me like I was an idiot.  “Don’t you think there’s some suspicious about that?” 

“What do you mean?” 

“I mean, she isn’t exactly a popular actress or well-known.  How do you think I even heard of her name previously?” 

That’s right!  I started in realization and I guess my look of surprise triggered her impatient rolling of eyes.  This time, I knew that she was looking at me as if I were an idiot.  I couldn’t help but smile nervously and wait for her to go on. 

“In actuality, I was here last year when you guys had those two plays.  It’s true that I think she is a great actress and do want to work with her.  However, there is something else.”  She paused and waited a second as if giving me time to digest the information.  “Simply put, before I came to this school this year, my older sister told me that I should help you and Maki-sempai with your journey.  That I was to help you two if there are falling-outs.” 

Her older sister? 

“You mean… Hoshimura-sempai?” 

“Yeah, yeah, her.” 

I was truly surprised then.  One, I didn’t know that Hoshimura-sempai was so concerned for the two of us.  Second, I didn’t even think that Hoshimura-sempai would talk about us when she was with her family.  A part of me was touched, yet another part of me felt dazed at the information. 

“I didn’t think… that Hoshimura-sempai would speak about me at home…” 

“Of course she would!”  There it was again, her look that reminded me I was an idiot.  “You work for Asura-oneechan, of course that sister of mine would take notice of you.” 

That’s right.  Hoshimura-sempai and Fujimaru-sempai have known each other for a long time now, so I supposed it was normal.  In my momentary slow processing of the mind, I didn’t pick out the familiarity with which Reika had called Fujimaru-sempai.  Asura-oneechan, it indicated clearly that they were long familiar with one another. 

“Anyways,” she had continued on once again, “I hope you know that other than working with Maki-sempai professionally, I am not your rival.  Yeah, I acted a little overboard at the beginning because I noticed that you two weren’t going anywhere.  Sorry I made you cry after I kissed her, that’s only for the play, you know.”  Here, she paused and made a face, as if suddenly remembering something.  “Mmm, Natsuki said to help you two, she didn’t say make you jealous.  Maybe I carried that a little too far.” 

“… you think?!”  I couldn’t help but retort back after she had confessed all those things.  Now I knew I was an idiot, having fallen for all those traps!  Then again, it just meant that Hoshimura Reika was that great of an actress.  And I was that blinded by jealousy. 

She grinned and then stepped forward and clasped my hands with hers.  “Sorry, Ookina-sempai!”  Ah, she even knew my name too!  I felt like weeping tears of joy.  “Let us get to be friends now that everything has cleared up.  I’ve wanted to get to know you better, but I suppose I was too immersed in my role!  You know what, come over to my house for a sleep-over this weekend!” 

“Eh?  Ah, I’m not sure…” 

“Oh come on!  I know all your assignments are due before the weekend is over!  Maki-sempai told me!  So you don’t have any reason to reject!” 

Come to think of it, that’s true!  I didn’t even process that information fast enough.  Perhaps Hoshimura Reika had been waiting for such a chance?  In the end, I could only smile and nod at the request.  “Thank you, Hoshimura Reika-kun.” 

She scrunched up her nose and shook her head.  “Reika-chan!  Don’t call me by my full name with such formality!”

 “Then… Reika-chan, thank you.” 

“Much better!” 

We both laughed and it was as if a great load had been lifted from my chest.  She waved goodbye after a couple more minutes of talk, mostly to solidify where we’ll meet over the weekend since I didn’t know where her house was.  I watched her departing figure with a smile and couldn’t even believe my own luck. 

I was too immersed in my own happiness that I didn’t bother digging deeper into all the things that she’s said.  In between the lines of text, there were many things implied.  Later, as I sat down at home and thought back on the conversation, I realized that everything had gone so smoothly, it was as if something was wrong.  And then, there was Hoshimura-sempai. 

For now, I shook my head and made my way back into the school.  In the auditorium, I saw Erika.  She was dressed in the preliminary costumes that were made and was practicing her lines.  I approached carefully with a smile on my face.  It was great to see her perform with such fervour.  I realized that I enjoyed looking at Erika the most when she was so serious.  It was like a different person, but so attractive that I couldn’t take my eyes away. 

At the end of her performance, I clapped and the sound resonated within the auditorium.  She turned and saw me, and then she gave me a deep bow as mock salute.  I craned my neck to look up as she drew near to me and sat down on the steps leading up to the stage.  “You’re done talking with Hoshimura-kun?” 

“Mm!”  I nodded my head.  “You would not believe what Reika-chan told me!” 

She lifted an eyebrow at that.  “It seems like everything had gone well.” 

“It did!”  I couldn’t help but lift a wide grin.  “I’ll tell you all about it later, I’ll call you!  For now, I have to run for work, Fujimaru-sempai would skin me alive if I were late!” 

She laughed but didn’t ask anything either.  She nodded and pushed herself up from the sitting position.  “Then, if I may.”  Still immersed in her role, she bowed and picked up my hand.  “Allow me to say farewell and safe trip to my fair maiden who will be leaving me.”  Then, she kissed the back of my hand softly, and I couldn’t help but turn red at the gesture. 

I didn’t remember what I replied with and how I got out of there and on my way to Fujimaru-sempai’s place.  The kiss and her face were engrained into my head and I couldn’t help but have flashbacks of it every other minute.  At that moment, she had made me feel a shyness that I’ve only felt around Hoshimura-sempai previously.  Even now, as I think back on it, my heart was still beating furiously in its cage. 

Slowly, I knew that I was helplessly falling for Erika more and more. 

That night, I dutifully retold everything of my conversation with Reika to Erika.  Afterwards, she was silent for a long while; perhaps she didn’t quite understand the proceedings either.  In the end, she was just glad that I was now relieved of my burdens and worries. 

Tentatively, I couldn’t help but feel that Erika didn’t look up to Hoshimura-sempai as I did.  When I think about it, even when we were first introduced to Hoshimura-sempai, she had been calm and collected; even reserved and distant.  I couldn’t quite say that Erika disliked Hoshimura-sempai, but I have some confidence in saying she certainly didn’t like Hoshimura-sempai either. 

At the end of the week, I packed my bags and looked forward to this sleep-over. 

On Saturday, I met with Reika at the designated place in the afternoon.  The trip to her house was filled with chatter; we certainly got to know each other better.  Rather than staying at her place, I dropped off my baggage and we immediately set out to look around the area.  It was a quiet neighbourhood, but not too far away, there were enough shops for us to entertain ourselves with.  It was night time when we returned to her house.  Her mother greeted us and after some short conversation, she led me back to her room.  It was a spacious room with her bed, desk, closet and a floor table in the room.  It was bigger than mine surely.  Then again, the general size of her house was bigger than mine as well, it was to be expected. 

“I’m going to take a shower first, make yourself comfortable!” 

Reika left the room and the door open.  I felt comfortable even though this was the first time for me in her room.  Her mannerism and her mother’s welcoming notion had set me at ease.  After she left the room, I stood up from my place on the floor and circled the room slowly.  I looked at the certificates and medals that she’s won, the championships that she’s attended, and the family pictures that were on display. 

“You two are back.” 

I jumped lightly at the voice and turned around to see Hoshimura-sempai at the doorway.  As if a reflex, I couldn’t help but flush lightly at her presence.  “Good evening, sempai.  You don’t have a game tonight?” 

“Nah, we get the weekend off and then we’re on the road again.”  She said with a sigh and entered the room.  At home, she was dressed casually in sweats, but it still did not hinder the attractiveness that she innately possessed.  I sat down on the edge of Reika’s bed, feeling somewhat timid as she drew nearer. 

“Ah, I see.  Good luck on your games, sempai!” 

“Thank you!”  She smiled and gave me a little wink. 

There was a moment of silence before she spoke up again.  “I hear that your relationship problems are all over now.” 

Her comment reminded me and I whipped my head around to face her with accusation in my eyes.  “Sempai!  I cannot believe that you would tell your sister such things!  She made me cry!”  I really couldn’t help but complain to the older girl, even though I knew that she meant well. 

Of course, she laughed lightly in response and ruffled my hair.  “Sorry, kiddo.  I told that girl to give you a hand if you needed help, I never told her to go to such extremes.” 

I pouted and turned my head away, not sure if I was willing to let this go easily.  From the corner of my eyes, I noticed that she had bent her back and leaned closer to place her face close to mine.  Her close-up face had my heart beating irregularly and I didn’t know where I should place my eyes.  “Sorry, are you really angry at me?”

For once, her face was void of that usual care-free expression and showed sincerity.  I couldn’t help but shake my head as a response.  Truthfully, I was never mad at her to begin with, but it only seemed appropriate to show some sorts of displeasure at what she had told Reika. 

My answer brought a smile on her face.  “Good girl.” 

When I lowered my gaze shyly, I caught the necklace that had slipped free from beneath her T-shirt as she was leaning over me.  Boldly, I reached out and grasped the swinging pendant.  The simple metal chain was old and it felt old, but the pendant looked even older.  It was in the shape of half a heart, but the red coloring had already faded somewhat.  “What is this, sempai?”  I looked up at her, and for once, I didn’t seem to be affected by the distance between us. 

“This?”  She looked down at it and her trademark smile was back on her face.  “It’s my heart, of course!” 


“No, I’m serious.”  She looked back at me in all seriousness.  “I cannot very well wear my heart on a chain, so this is going to have to represent my heart.” 

“Then, where is the other half?” 

“Isn’t it obvious?” 

“Is it?” 

“It’s with the one who holds my heart.” 

That confession took me a few seconds to grasp; I then understood that she meant it was with a significant other.  Therefore, I could safely conclude that this necklace –and its twin- was used as some sort of a couple-item to signify the relationship and emotional attachment between Hoshimura-sempai and her partner. 

Before I could open my mouth to ask whom that was; Reika woke both of us up. 

“You!  What are you doing in my room?!”  Both Hoshimura-sempai and I were startled by that voice and I quickly let go of her necklace so she could straighten up and turn around to look at Reika at the door.  “Why are you so close to her?!  Stop trying to molest younger girls, you old pervert!” 

Old pervert? 

I looked at Hoshimura-sempai with a face caught between amusement and incredibility.  She sighed heavily and ran a hand through her hair, but was already walking towards the door.  “I’m not that old!  Sachiko is older than me!” 

But she didn’t deny the pervert part!  I realized with a somewhat awkward expression on my face, adding to the fact that I was caught between two sisters’ bickering. 

“Yeah, but she’s not going around molesting under aged girls!” 

“I wasn’t molesting her!” 

“It looked like it!”  The two sisters went at it as if I weren’t even in the room.  “Why were you in my room in the first place?!” 

“I heard that you two were back so I came to at least greet Megumi-chan!” 

“And now that you’ve done that, get out!”  I watched as Reika grabbed Hoshimura-sempai’s arm and shoved her out of the door before closing it shut with a bang.  For a second, the entire world was silent and I looked at the door with concern.  “Oh relax.”  Reika waved a dismissive hand.  “She’s used to that.”  Reika threw the towel around her shoulders onto the floor table.  “You can go take a shower.  Everything has been prepared already.” 

Again, I couldn’t help but notice the manner with which this family treated their guest.  Everything was thought out beforehand, and I didn’t have to do anything.  Yet, there was not the sense of them disliking me touching any of their things, but it was more of a considerate gesture.  While in the shower, I thought back to Hoshimura-sempai.  Her necklace was almost pitiful to be still around her neck.  It was old and quite cheap looking.  I supposed that if it didn’t have such importance to her, she wouldn’t have kept it. 

It made me wonder if Erika and I needed such an item between the two of us to confirm or consolidate our relationship.  However, even I knew that materialistic goods cannot represent the true definition of what a relationship is supposed to be like. 

Outside of the bathroom, I dried my hair once again just so I wouldn’t leave a trail of water going back to Reika’s room.  In the other direction, it was Hoshimura-sempai’s room.  Although I’ve been given a general tour, I’ve never truly been invited into her room.  I was tentative with my decisions, but in the end, I turned and headed down that way. 

Hoshimura-sempai’s room door was left ajar; I could hear the light sound of music.  That’s right; she was no longer a student and could listen to music, watch T.V. or read leisurely as she wished.  For us, home meant homework and nothing fun.  Cautiously, I knocked on the door and took a step back.  Almost immediately, I heard footsteps approaching and my heart was racing once again. 


“Sempai.”  I looked up at her when she pulled the door open, and wondered if it was rude of me to appear in my sleep wear in front of her door.  “Anou… I just wanted to say good night… I think Reika and I are going to turn in for the night.” 

Hoshimura-sempai smiled and leaned against the door casually.  “I hope you two get some sleep.  Do you want me to walk you back to her room?” 

I shook my head quickly and took another step back.  “No, that’s alright.  I can find it just fine.  Thank you, sempai.”  Somehow, she’s always made me feel so giddy and nervous. 

“Alright then.  Good night, Megumi-chan.” 

I bowed quickly and turned to leave.  My face was flushed the entire way back to Reika’s room and I wondered if Hoshimura-sempai had watched me depart down the hallway at all.  In front Of Reika’s door, I knocked and entered slowly.  Inside, Reika had already pushed the floor table to a corner of the room and had spread out a futon.  What did I say?  This family and their considerate gestures. 

“That took long enough.  What’s wrong?  Why are you all flushed?” 

“Eh?”  My hand quickly flew to my cheek and I realized that it was still warm in the after effect of speaking with Hoshimura-sempai.  “Ah, it was the shower.”  I gave her a lame excuse and draped my towel around the back of her chair. 

“You know, I heard it’s not so good to take showers that are too hot.”  Reika seemed to have bought my excuse and even offered her own two cents on it.  Although I wanted to object, I knew that I couldn’t well tell her that it was her older sister who had elevated my facial temperature quite so.   

Then, for the next few minutes, we grappled over where to sleep.  Of course, my first instinct was to crawl towards the futon on the floor, but Reika had all but grabbed my leg and dragged me back.  I witnessed first hand how strong she was.

“I play tennis, duh!”  That was the answer she gave me. 

She argued that I was the guest, so I should take the bed.  I argued that I was already imposing upon her family, so it’s only right that I take the futon.  Besides, she was younger than me as well; I couldn’t very well let her sleep on the floor. 

“That’s it exactly!  You’re older, so you’re weak and frail; the floor is bad for you.” 

Weak and frail?!  I was only a year older than her and she was already calling me weak and frail? We’ve reached a stalemate and starred at one another from across the futon.  In the end, we both took a step back and gave in.  Since the bed wasn’t big enough to fit the both of us, we improvised and took the beddings down onto the floor to form a make-shift futon.  Thus, she turned off the lights and both of us slept on the floor.  It felt silly, and we giggled about it, but both of us were content. 

In the darkness, I closed my eyes and wondered what kind of a dream I would have.  Then, my cell phone rang and I quickly reached for it.  Of course, it was a text message from Erika. 

I hope you’re having fun at the sleep-over with Hoshimura-kun.  Try to get some sleep at least! 


Her text message brought a smile to my face –as always- and I closed my phone slowly and quietly, foregoing a reply as Reika may be asleep already.  However, as soon as I put down my phone, she disproved my thought. 

“Who was that?” 

“It was Erika.”  I spoke quietly.  “You’re not asleep?” 

“No where close, I thought you were asleep!”  It seemed neither of us was able to fall asleep.  “How is dating Maki-sempai?” 

“Eh?  Is that an appropriate question to be asking a sempai?”  I tried to divert the topic onto something else, for even in the darkness, I could feel myself growing shy at the topic. 

“Oh stop it.  I helped you two get together; at least I have the right to know.” 

“You shouldn’t talk about that!  You made me cry!” 

“That’s because you’re a cry-baby by nature.  So tell me, how is it?!” 

I didn’t know whether I should be offended or horrified at how easily my true nature had been seen through.  Besides me, Reika shifted closer and I just knew that this was only the beginning.  “It’s not that different from when we weren’t dating.” 

“When did Maki-sempai confess to you?” 

“Valentine’s Day.” 

“Ehhhhhhh?  How romantic!  What did you say?” 

“… Nothing…” 


“Nothing, seriously.  I didn’t know what to respond with, so I just kinda… avoided her for a while.” “… That’s kinda…” “I know, it was horrible!”  I tugged up my duvet and covered half of my face as if she could see the embarrassment.  “Thankfully, Hoshimura-sempai and Fujimaru-sempai were able to talk some sense into me!  Although it seemed more like they were arguing with each other.” 

“Ah, how nice.”  She said with a sigh.  “I want to have a lovely relationship as well.” 

I turned my head towards her direction and smiled, even if I knew that she couldn’t see it.  As I got to know Reika more and more, I realized that she was just another regular girl.  Sure, on the front, she seemed to be over-confident, but the little wishes that she holds were the same as anyone else.  I wanted to tell her that I’m sure she will have her own lovely relationship, but her breathing had already evened out and I judged that she was asleep. 

That night, we did manage to get some sleep.  Perhaps the afternoon out had tired both of us, or perhaps there were more things that we could learn about each other before it would warrant a night without sleep devoted to talking. 

Subconsciously, I wondered what Hoshimura-sempai was doing…


To be continued...

Chapter 10

Title: Chapter Ten

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters and properties of my own, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Ten

Even though it was only after a weekend, when we went back to school again, it seemed like we had enjoyed a month-long vacation.  Perhaps it took everyone by surprise how friendly Reika and I have become with one another.  Previously, we spoke no word to one another; now, we spoke as if we were the best of friends.  Sometimes, I would catch Erika looking over with a sort of mild confusion at the situation.  She had expressed that she found it rather peculiar that Reika and I could become friends so fast when just a couple of weeks ago, I had regarded Reika as the worst human being in this world. 

“Are you jealous?”  I couldn’t help but tease her playfully. 

“Jealous?  Who was the one who confessed to me with tears in her eyes and snot running out of her nose?” 

The first time she rebutted my question with that, I had gasped and pouted.  I vowed to never speak to her again, but of course, that vow only lasted five minutes.  I knew that I was more embarrassed than angry.  Looking back, I really wish I could have better composed myself in front of Erika.  I had wanted to appear cool, or maybe cute, or maybe strong, or maybe… well, maybe many other things, but not a disgrace. 

“I think you were cute.  I’ll always remember that moment.” 

Well, at least one of us saw the positive light in that situation. 

Before I knew it, December was already upon us, and another year threatened to give away with a few more weeks of sleep.  It also meant that the craziest time of the year was upon us once again.  Much like last year, we managed to survive through the last stages of the play and finally were able to present it to the rest of the school population.  Then, immediately we plunged ourselves into studying for the exams that were coming up.  Every day was filled, although I felt tired, it was a good kind of tired.  I felt content and happy that I was able to utilize all the time I had to put my efforts into things that I really like. 

The night before our math exam, Erika and I agreed to meet up and review one last time, 

Instead of meeting at my place, this time, we decided to use her place.  Now that I think about it, I’ve never been to Erika’s place before.  Of course, it wasn’t like she’s objected to us going over, but… there just never seemed to be an opportunity where we could go over and visit.  That day after school, we walked to her place.  I found out that her place was a good distance away from my house, and I couldn’t help but feel guilty for all those times when she’s walked me home first. 

“Sorry to intrude!”  I spoke up at the foyer, seeing as this was the first time that I’d be meeting her family. 

“Ah, sorry, it’s my fault.  You don’t have to do that, no one is home.” 


Erika had gone around and turned on all the lights before coming back to me.  “I live with my dad, and he’s usually always away on business, so you can say I pretty much live here alone.”  She explained and took over my bag as I was fighting with my shoes. 

“Oh.”  I looked around the empty house and almost wanted to cry. 

“I’ve bought food for us; we can eat upstairs while we review, what do you think?”  Erika carried on as usual, I can tell that she was used to this… this empty house and the echoing of her voice as she spoke to me.  If she’s always stayed by herself, was there any opportunity for her to even have a conversation with anyone? 

“Erika…”  At the kitchen door way, I watched as she prepared the items to take up with her.  I remembered how she had cooked for me last Christmas, now I know why she was such a good cook. 

“Yeah?”  She turned around and paused when she saw my expression.  Then she smiled and walked over to me.  “What’s with that face?  I’m fine.”  She patted my head gently when I still looked unconvinced.  “Besides, you’re here now, aren’t you?” 

I nodded slowly, but this feeling still did not lift away.  “Erika… in the future, will it be okay if I come over often?  When your dad is away?” 

“Silly.  You’re welcome over any time.  Regardless of whether my dad is here or not.” 

The family that I have, I think I’ve always taken it for granted.  Ninety percent of the time, there was always someone home with it.  I would always have warm food when I want it, and I could always find someone to have a conversation with.  Sometimes, I used to complain that my household was too loud and the house was too small because everything could be heard.  However, now as I climb up the stairs behind Erika, I realized that such an empty house scared me.  This hollow feeling and the silent furniture overwhelmed me.  If I were to live like this, I fear I may have gone insane long ago. 

We had a quick dinner in her room on her floor table; I think I may have talked a little too much just because I was uncomfortable with the quietness of her house.  It was almost natural to eat with her, and like usual, she ate all the carrots and mushrooms that I put aside.  It was as if we’ve been at this for the entirety of our lives. 

At eight o’clock we sat around that same floor table with our math textbooks spread open in front of us.  Erika was better at most subjects than I, so even though we said it was review, she helped me with many problems and helped me grasp my foundations better for tomorrow.  We’ve already put in the efforts of studying by ourselves, but somehow it seemed faster now that I have someone else to do these problems with. 

“I can’t wait ‘till we get this over with, then we can finally be on break!”  I said wistfully while writing out the calculations for the question that I was doing. 

“We’ll have to get past this first, so let’s concentrate.” 

That concentration lasted for a few more minutes before I broke it again. 

“Erika, what do you want for Christmas?” 

She paused for a couple of seconds and looked at me before resuming her own task.  “And you?  What do you want for Christmas?” 

“I don’t know, surprise me.” 

“Then, you surprise me too.” 

I looked up at her and saw the slight curve of the corner of her lips; I pouted but couldn’t help my own smile either.   

“Let’s spend Christmas together.” 

“About that…”  She seemed hesitant, and I stopped my writing to look at her.  “I had been meaning to tell you… my dad is going to be back this Christmas and he wants to take a trip, so I won’t be here for a few days around Christmas.  Sorry, Megumi.”   

I couldn’t deny the fact that I was disappointed; it would have been the first Christmas we would spend together as a couple.  It seemed like we were always doing things way behind schedule.  But, I realized how selfish that thought was.  Erika probably doesn’t get to see her dad often, so what’s wrong with spending Christmas with her dad?  Besides, it’s not like there is an obligation to spend it together. 

“Sorry, Megumi…”  My silence had made Erika’s guilty expression deepen and I quickly shook my head. 

“No, no, it’s nothing you should be sorry about, silly!  He’s your dad, and you don’t get to see him often, so it’s only right that you spend it with him!” 

Erika looked at me silently, and I could practically see the wheels turning in her head.  She was trying to rationalize whether I was truly alright or whether I was just saying that.  Giving her a displeased look, I turned and grabbed a pillow from her bed and tossed it at her face. 

Gently, of course. 

“Erika, snap out of it!  I’ve already said that it’s alright, I mean it!”  And I realized that I did mean it.  “In fact, if you ditched your dad to stay with me, I will be really mad!”  Not to mention I’d feel really guilty as well. 

The pillow slid down from her face and she caught it before it fell further, her face showed me a grateful smile and I sighed in relief knowing that she’s finally understood.  “Thank you, Megumi.”  I shook my head at that.  “But,” then she narrowed her eyes and her smile wasn’t out of kindness anymore, “did you just toss this at me?!” 

I knew it was coming, but I still couldn’t move fast enough. 

At the end of her sentence, Erika had thrown the pillow back at me.  I squeaked and fell backwards trying to catch it.  In the background, I heard Erika laugh and with a wild swing I threw the pillow back at her.  Then quickly, I jumped up and reached for the other pillows on her bed as both projectiles and shields.  Before I knew it, we were engaged in a serious war of pillows!  In her room, pillows were tossed left and right, we moved all over the small space avoiding, dodging and aiming.  That evening, her usually silent house exploded with our screams and squeals.   

Our textbooks and work books remained silent on the floor table even after we’ve managed to calm down from our high.  Both of us were sprawled out on the floor with pillows surrounding us left and right.  We starred up at the ceiling and breathed with chests heaving.  As if on cue, we glanced at each other and burst out laughing immediately afterwards.  That night, we slept a little after midnight, squished on the same bed, with those pillows surrounding us.   

In the darkness, we lay side by side and looked at each other.  I wondered if anything was going to happen, but for the remaining minutes before we fell asleep, all we heard was each other’s breathing.  She had smiled and placed her hand over my eyes, a sign that she meant for me to close my eyes and sleep.  I reached up and pulled down her hand but I did not let go. 

That night, we slept holding hands underneath the same duvet. 

I must say, I think I aced that math exam the next day.  From the beginning to the end, there wasn’t a question that I did not know how to do.  Of course, there were those that I wasn’t quite sure, but… for me, such an achievement was great enough! 

The three weeks allotted for our exams flew past without regret; soon, we were left with nothing but the thin layer of snow on the ground and the freezing weather to remind us that it is indeed the Christmas season.  Erika and I saw each other again the day before she would leave, I sat on the floor of her room and watched as she packed for the trip. 

“Where are you going?” 

“Down south, I think.  My dad mentioned something about hot springs and tropical flowers.  Apparently, they were the themes of his photographs this time around.” 

“Wah, I’m so jealous!”  I puffed my cheeks and she laughed at my expression.  “I’m going to be here freezing my butt off while you get to be in a hot spring!” 

She walked over to me and pinched my cheek with affection.  I’ve noticed that she liked to do that quite a lot.  Every time she did that, I felt younger and younger; it was truly as if she had been spoiling me all along.  “I’ll think of you when I’m in a hot spring.  Of course, I’ll bring back lots of pictures so you can imagine that you were there too.” 

“You’re making fun of me, aren’t you?!” 

“I am not!” 

For a moment, I looked at her, as if gauging her seriousness in that objection.  In the end, we both wore a strained face from forcing ourselves to appear serious. 

“When are you coming back?” 

“On the thirtieth.” 

“Do you know the exact time?” 

Erika sighed and looked over at me; she had resumed her packing again.  I gave her an innocent look, hoping to pass off as being a sweetheart rather than being overly intrusive.  I was only curious! 

“Why?  Are you going to wait up for me?” 

“Pfft, what are you talking about?!” 

Lightly, we bickered with one another while I reminded her of the things that she should bring.  We made a check list and at the end of the day, we managed to fit everything into her bag.  It didn’t seem like she was going away for ten days, the bag could have been someone’s entire life, ready to immigrate to another country. 

Early next morning, I groggily awoke up to the chime of my cell phone.  Patting around for the device, I finally found it and flipped it open. 

I’m leaving now, have a great Christmas! 


Six o’clock, my digital clock blinked back at me and I groaned into my pillow.  And thus, began my first Christmas with a girlfriend, but away from said girlfriend.  Of course, I told my family that Erika was going away, but I couldn’t even find the guts to think about telling them about our relationship.  I wondered if Erika could be open with her father, or would he react the same as my parents? 

Yes, once in a while, I would realize these little problems and wonder just what the future would look like.  Ten years from now, Erika had asked if we’d still be together.  Right now, I just want to know whether we’ll still be together after ten months. 

On Christmas day, we all snuggled in bed ‘till noon before my family rose and started walking about the hallways.  The radio softly played Christmas carols and we opened our presents one after one, excitement laughed with our voices when we received something that we were particularly fond of. 

“Oh Santa, it seems that I haven’t been good enough for you this year.”  I spoke wistfully while we sat around the tree, enjoying a morning cup of tea and coffee.  “What do I need to do for you to grant me a puppy?” 

My dad sounded as if he was choking on the coffee he was drinking, my mom merely rolled her eyes and lightly swatted the back of my head.  “Don’t ask for too much!  You know we can’t have a dog running around here.”  I pouted and rubbed where she hit me with great sadness.  “But you can start with making yourself useful and go grab the morning paper.  Maybe you’ll accumulate enough grace points that before you die, you’ll at least get to pet a puppy.” 

See how vicious my mom’s tongue is! 

“Yes, yes, I’m going.”  Putting down my cup of tea, I struggled to get to my feet and shuffled to the front door.  Unlike us, the newspaper delivery team was ever punctual and energized.  Even on Christmas morn, they would still throw that rolled up stack of newspaper by seven o’clock sharp. 

Taking in a deep breath, I readied myself and pulled open the door swiftly.  I intended for the next string of action to be quick and painless so I wouldn’t have to suffer the cold of the winter air.  So I would throw the door open, look down, bend down, grab that roll and… 

My eyes wandered 

… saw something colder than this winter air.  In the driveway next to ours, Nagataka Jun and a girl were wrapped in each other’s arms, engaged in a passionate kiss.  Usually, I would quickly turn away from such a provocative scene, but today, I couldn’t find the mechanical energy to move.  It wasn’t until they had pulled away and Nagataka had noticed me did I realize that I had been starring for the past minute. 

“Merry Christmas, Megumi-chan.”  Nagataka greeted me with a little flush of embarrassment.  “This is Aiko, my girlfriend.” 

“Merry Christmas, Megumi-chan.”  The girlfriend greeted with a bright smile on her face. 

I’m sure I made some sort of a polite reply before I finally retreated back inside and closed the door behind me.  Suddenly, it was as if my world felt bleak and bland, my limbs lost all its energy, that scene replayed in my head again and again.  It accompanied me back to the living room where I dropped off the newspaper before numbly turning to go back to my room.  I could hear my parents’ conversation, but it seemed so far away. 

“What’s wrong with her?  Do you think not getting a puppy has really traumatized her?” 

“Oh please, she’s probably just cold.” 

My mom was right, I was cold.  Freezing, to be exact.  When I returned to my room, I sat down on the edge of my bed and just starred in front of me at nothing in particular.  I should be feeling a tumult of emotions, but instead, I felt nothing.  However, I knew that it was the calm before the storm. 

All of a sudden, this Christmas seemed to have been ruined. 

On the twenty-ninth of December, I dragged myself to work after having moped around at home for the past four days.  My parents were beginning to worry and even my sister was growing suspicious.  I figured that I needed a reality check so I could go back and face my family as my old self.  It was near noon when I stepped inside Fujimaru-sempai’s house, she was sitting in front of her table, apparently looking through a pile of photos. 

“You didn’t have to come in today.”  She looked surprised to see me. 

“I know.” 

“What’s wrong with you?” 

I offered her no answer just yet.  Instead, I took a seat across the table from her; my upper body was all but sprawled upon the table.  The stack of photos I recognized, they were from the latest fashion show that she had attended.  However, I made no effort to speak, and she didn’t pressure me into saying anything either. 

“Sempai, I’m confused.”  At length, I finally decided that I could start.  It’s partly because I could finally place my feelings into words instead of them being a jumbled ball of chaos inside myself. 

“About what?” 

“A few days ago, I saw Nagataka-kun kissing his girlfriend.”  To me, I still didn’t know which part I was more disturbed by.  The fact that he had a girlfriend or the fact that he was intimate with his girlfriend?  Perhaps it was a reflection on my part, since Erika and I have not done anything that would be deemed inappropriate… or appropriate? 

“So what?  You want to kiss his girlfriend too?” 

I looked up at Fujimaru-sempai hopelessly and sighed before burying my head beneath an arm.  “Why am I feeling this way?  I’m dating Erika right now; I shouldn’t feel hurt even if Nagataka-kun was to get married tomorrow!  This isn’t right!  I feel like I’m cheating on Erika when I’m not even doing anything.” 

“Cheating doesn’t just mean a physical betrayal.” 

“No, cheating isn’t the right word to use!  I just… I don’t know… she’s coming back tomorrow and I don’t want to face her like this!” 

That was my biggest fear.  I didn’t know how I could face Erika with the me right now.  I waited for Fujimaru-sempai to retort in a sarcastic manner, but it never came.  In fact, we were bathed in silence for a long duration before Fujimaru-sempai sighed and put down her pen to sit back.  She looked at me calmly and spoke with a matching tone. 

“Maybe you should feel guilty and shameful that you are behaving this way.  Right now, the most important thing to work out is whom you are more inclined towards.  It is unfair to Erika if you’re going to lead her on while you’re so unsure.  Decide.  Do you want to continue on with Erika or do you want to abandon her and chase after some next door neighbour like some pitiful little girl in a shoujo manga even though he was making out with his girlfriend?” 

I don’t know what it is, maybe it was the way that she said it, but within those words, I saw a Nagataka-kun that I’ve never seen before.  He’s always been some sort of a generic being to me, a person whom I’ve imposed my own ideals upon.  I think it must have been all those shoujo manga that I’ve read, so I imagined myself as some sort of a female lead and fantasized for such a relationship.  In reality, perhaps I’ve never truly known him.   

“You have to understand that a relationship is not all flowers, stars, sweets, and everything nice.  It’s ugly and it’s horrific and it’s life threatening.  You can’t only look at the side of a relationship that you want to look at.”  This was a Fujimaru-sempai whom I seldom saw, but I knew that she existed somewhere inside the fastidious model whom everyone knew.  “Also, put more energy, effort and heart into your own relationship.  It’s good to keep up-to-date with everything and everyone around you, but you need to concentrate to make it work as well.  A relationship is a pact between two people, whether it works or falls apart depend on both people, not just on one.  Of course, the bottom line in any relationship is respect and trust.  You must be able to do that for one another.” 

She made the relationship sound like a life or death situation, a contract that cannot be broken, a marriage that was holy, a vow that was binding.  I was scared of the possibility that my relationship with Erika could be as serious as aforementioned metaphors or perhaps even more so.  However, at the same time, I was inspired by this candid attitude that Fujimaru-sempai talked about a relationship.  From her tone, I extracted the calm and clarity that I needed.  Slowly, I lifted up my head and looked at Fujimaru-sempai evenly.  I watched her and she watched me watch her. 

“Sempai, you know what I’m confused about?  How come I’ve never even heard a gossip about you being involved in a relationship with someone?” 

“Because I don’t do ambiguous actions that would make anyone misunderstand.” 

“Is sempai seeing anyone?” 

“Yes, I am.” 

I didn’t expect her to answer so frankly.  A part of me was surprised, but another part of me sort of expected this answer to come.  In fact, that part of me also foresaw and worked out the plot line of her love life.  Carefully, I extended my hand out towards her.  Today, she was wearing a shirt with plunging neckline, perhaps because she wasn’t expecting anyone today, so she could dress freely.  My fingers touched the see-through chain around her neck and I paused.  I almost expected Fujimaru-sempai to harshly slap my hand away, but she never did. 

I wanted to confirm my suspicions. 

So I tugged at the chain and pulled the pendant out from underneath her shirt.  She kept her gaze on me while I looked at the pendant.  “I’ve seen the other half.” 



“I see.” 

Later, I walked out of Fujimaru-sempai’s house with a renewed look on life and understanding of myself.  On my way back, I couldn’t help but recall what Fujimaru-sempai had confessed to me while I fingered her pendant carefully.   

She said she and Hoshimura-sempai have been dating for almost ten years now.  It was a given that Hoshimura-sempai’s family have already accepted her.  Which, I really should have already guessed when Reika called her Asura-oneechan.  She said that they started dating in senior high and have been ever since then.  She said that they didn’t need to see each other every single day to reassure each other of their feelings.  She said that the biggest part of their relationship is the trust between the two of them.  She said that she knew Hoshimura-sempai better than anyone else and vice versa.  She said that it was a fight to keep this relationship, and it was an honour to be dating Hoshimura-sempai.  She said… 

She said many things. 

But she didn’t say anything about her family.  She didn’t say anything about the reactions of those who know.  She didn’t say anything about the happy times they’ve spent together, nor did she say anything about the hardships the two of them went through. 

But despite all that she’s said and all that she’s omitted, I heard the most important message.  Every word she said meant love and the connection that the two of them shared, they held them together.  

“Loving someone doesn’t mean that you need to be with them at all time.  It means giving them support when they need it, and giving them space when they want it.  It means possessing and to be possessed, it means having and to be had, it means giving and taking.  And most importantly, it means giving them up if you know you cannot give them the happiness they want.” 

She had said that with calculated precision, not one blink was out of place.  Somehow, I think I was jealous; of this trust and connection between two people. 

That night, I finally took out the envelope with the reviews that I’ve received for the first time.  I had wanted to keep myself busy so time will pass by faster.  I had wanted to clear my head, so the first thought that would enter afterwards would be the most desired one.  I dumped pieces of papers onto my desk and looked through every single one of them.  I was afraid that by the end of it, I would become bipolar.  I experienced the highest of highs when I read reviews that absolutely worshipped what I had done.  And on the flip side, I thought I was going to slash my wrist when I read the nastiest comments. 

Such was the fashion world, or so I’ve been told. 

When I looked up next, it was already near midnight.  It also meant that I was in the first hour of the day that Erika will be back on.  Every couple of hours, I woke up slowly.  The sky outside would be dark and I would remind myself that it’s an unholy hour to wake up to do anything.  My family would think that I’ve officially lost it.  I was in a constant state of delirium, I wasn’t sure whether I was dreaming or whether I was awake and imagining things.  Finally, just a bit after six in the morning, I couldn’t do this any further. 

Erika said that she’d call the moment her dad dropped her off, so I didn’t even know the return time. 

However, I still dressed myself and crept out of the house.  Late December weather was bone chilling as I huddled closer to myself and walked on, facing the cruel wind.  I was the first at the bus stop and even the bus was empty when I got on.  On the way, I saw scenes of typical family life.  And I wondered if in the future, I’ll be part of this general scene as well.  Whom would I be with at that time?  What sort of life will I be living at that time? 

I pressed the door bell of Erika’s place and no one answered.  I wasn’t surprised; I knew that Erika kept to her words.  Stepping back, I sat down on the stone steps and leaned back against the brick wall.  Fortunately, her front door was tucked back into the structure of the house and I was able to stay out of the freezing wind. 

So I waited. 

Every time a car would approach, my head would snap up and ears perk up in hopes that it would be Erika.  After an hour, I’ve lost the energy for that.  I would look at my cell phone from time to time just to make sure that she hasn’t called me, and slowly I stopped that as well.  In the end, I leaned my head against my knees and stayed still.  I didn’t want to exert any more energy than necessary. 

It was the first time I’ve ever experienced such excruciating pain while waiting. 


And I stirred to look up.  Erika was standing in front of me with wide eyes and mouth; she had a backpack on her back and another bag in her hand.  Her free hand was holding her keys and she looked ready to unlock the door if she hadn’t seen my pitiful form on the floor. 

“You’re back!” 

Her expression grew ever more confounded with each passing second, and I knew that she was truly shocked for she hasn’t even pulled me up yet.  I moved my frozen facial muscles and gave her what I thought was a smile. 

“I wanted to see you.” 

Later, she scolded me harshly while I sat with a blanket around me and a cup of hot tea in my hands.  I could only offer her an embarrassed smile as she talked on and on.  She kept on repeating that she could not believe I would sit there and wait for her.  Truthfully, I couldn’t believe it either.  She asked me what I was thinking, and I could only repeat the fact that I wanted to see her. 

I think that broke through her defence finally. 

Throughout that day, I watched her unpack, followed her around like a puppy ‘till she ordered me to sit down.  Over dinner, I confessed to her everything that I’ve told Fujimaru-sempai.  She sat and listened to me patiently.  She said that she was happy that I decided to tell her about my worries.  She said that she was happy that I could be truthful with her.  She said that I didn’t need to feel bad about such feelings and that we could just talk it out rather than do anything dramatic. 

I think, somewhere in the conversation, I forgot to tell her that ten years in the future, I want to be with her when we’re going to be a part of that generic scene for the every day life that I saw. 

To be continued...

[End notes:

Author's Notes: I think it's not that big of a surprise to find that Hoshimura and Fujimaru are dating, a few people have already guessed at that.  Slowly, I'm sure Megumi will understand the importance of being serious in a relationship.  To know what to do and what not to do.  Of course, they will be accompanied with ups and down, mistakes and right moves; if not, there wouldn't be this story now, would there?  XD  Thanks for reading!


Chapter 11

Title: Chapter Eleven

[Author's notes: Dislcaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters and properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Eleven 

I like to think that after Christmas break, Erika and I grew closer emotionally.  Perhaps it’s the fact that we have spoken so much in so little amount of time so that we could now understand each other even better.  The things that Erika likes, dislikes, fears, admires… I’d like to think that I’ve gotten a better grasp on them.  I think I saw Nagataka-kun again during this Christmas break, and I am proud to say that I reacted no differently to him.  It was as if I finally could shed the coloured lenses through which I had been looking at him.  With this renewed knowledge, I’ve gotten to know Nagataka-kun as a person rather than a character in my own little made-up shoujo manga. 

This year, it was as a given that we would help celebrate Ito-sempai’s birthday again.  Of course, Hoshimura-sempai called the club’s president and asked her since they were so far away on a road trip.  The president agreed with a wide grin on her lips, but Reika was the only one who couldn’t help but roll her eyes.  I nudged her and she made a face but said nothing further.  I wondered, next year, when one of us may become the president, will she react the same way to Hoshimura-sempai as all the predecessors have been? 

Well, I knew that if Erika was nominated the president, she certainly would react with a calm attitude. 

“Seriously, what is wrong with our club’s president?”  As we were packing up to leave, Reika finally couldn’t contain herself anymore and asked quite boldly.  I gasped loudly and quickly looked up to see that everyone else had gone home.  Even Erika looked at Reika with some surprise in her eyes.  “Can’t she see that my sister is only using her?” 

I think both Erika and I were a little taken back by what Reika said, and I wanted to refute that Hoshimura-sempai wasn’t like that.  However, before the argument could reach my throat, I realized that I didn’t even have any ground to say that.  Reika was Hoshimura-sempai’s younger sister; of course she would know Hoshimura-sempai better than I. 

“And Shina-oneechan as well, what is wrong with her?” 

“Hoshimura-kun, perhaps you’re reacting a bit too…”  Erika started, wanting to interject before this gets any further. 

“No, Maki-sempai and Megumi-san, you don’t understand.  My sister looks all nice and considerate, but really, she is the most selfish person.  Other than the people she cares about, everyone else is just a stepping stone for her.  Do you honestly think she cares about the club president or Shina-oneechan?”  The younger sister seemed unstoppable; it appeared that she truly was annoyed.  “Everyone goes along with whatever she wants, that’s why she’s so spoiled like this!” 

Those words shook me more than I should have let them.  A part of me did not want to believe in Reika’s words at all, but another part of me thought back to my interactions with Hoshimura-sempai and found that other than superficial information, I didn’t know anything about her.  Heck, I didn’t even know that she’s been dating Fujimaru-sempai until a few days ago. 

Reika left first, still in some sort of an annoyed mood.  Erika and I walked home in a somewhat mild version of silence; I didn’t quite know what to say in regards to all that Reika had ranted about not long ago.   

“Do you think it’s true?” 

“What Hoshimura-kun said?” 


“Who knows.”  Erika sighed lightly and squeezed my hand.  “Perhaps it is, perhaps it’s not.  Truthfully, I think I’m more selfish because I don’t really care too much about it.  Right now, I’m surprised by what she’s said, but I know that when I wake up tomorrow, I probably won’t even remember what Hoshimura-kun had said.” 

Maybe it was just me who liked sentimentalities more than others?  I’d like to think that with those whom I’ve treated with all my heart, they would treat me the same as well.  Maybe it hurt my ego a little, broke my confidence a little, shattered my heart a little to know that Hoshimura-sempai may not even regard us as friends. 

But then, why would Hoshimura-sempai go to the trouble of asking Reika to look out for Erika and me? 


“Fujimaru-sempai, what is Hoshimura-sempai like to you?” 

“Just because I’m dating her doesn’t mean you can bombard me with questions about her.  If you’re so curious, go ask her yourself.” 

“No, it’s just that… Reika said some things… that were a bit disturbing…” 

Fujimaru-sempai paused and glanced over at me slowly, I wondered if she was gauging at whether I was serious or not.  Or maybe she was wondering if she should be wasting the time to speak with me about such unimportant things. 

“What did that girl tell you?” 

“She said that Hoshimura-sempai is a selfish person who doesn’t care about anyone at all.  She said that other than the people who Hoshimura-sempai cares about, everyone else is just a stepping stone for her.”  It was a cathartic release, as if I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to repeat what Reika had said.  It felt like a great, big release of energy for me. 

Fujimaru-sempai was silent for a while, she continued on with her work as if she’s never even heard me. 

“… Did the two of them have a fight?”  Finally, I couldn’t stand the silence anymore and offered my own explanation. 

“You know, Megumi,” it was rare to hear her call my name “you seem a little too interested in other people’s business and relationships.  Don’t you have a relationship of your own that you should be more concerned about?” 

I flushed immediately and looked away.  “It’s not like that, I was just curious about the validity behind what Reika had said.  I mean, I don’t have to know everything, I was just curious.”  I kept on mumbling my own excuses and tried to calm down my thrashing heart.  

“Will you be coming to Shina’s party tonight?” 

“Ah yes.  Will sempai be there?” 

“I will be.  At that party, why don’t you assess what sort of a person she is for yourself?” 


We decided to hold the party in the auditorium like last year; it was slowly becoming a habit now.  Whenever there was a reason for celebration, the auditorium would be rented out.  Unlike last year, Reika was here, and Fujimaru-sempai was here early as well.  It looked like she didn’t have an emergency work schedule like last year.  I noticed the four of them talking amongst themselves and felt as if there was an invisible barrier that prevented everyone else from intruding. 

I looked around the place for someone I knew, my friends could be seen laughing away and I headed towards them immediately.  “Where is Erika?” 

“Ah, she was sent on an errand since she was a bit early.  They said she’ll be back later.”  Chiharu replied quickly before prodding Hitomi to continue her story from moments ago.  Of course, we all stood around and listened, but I found my eyes ticking back to Hoshimura-sempai as she spoke with a smile, looked at Fujimaru-sempai with a smile, draped an arm around Ito-sempai casually and patted Reika’s cheek with a smile. 

How could someone like that be what Reika had just described? 

Then Ito-sempai pushed her arm away, and Reika slapped her hand away.  Hoshimura-sempai looked at them with such a pitiful face that I couldn’t help but smile.  Eventually, that group dissolved as Fujimaru-sempai was surrounded by her own fans.  Reika had her own friends to hang around with.  The birthday girl had her own gifts to receive. 

So she was alone. 

And suddenly, she looked up and our eyes connected with that single glance.  I gasped and wanted to avert my eyes immediately, but Hoshimura-sempai had already lifted a hand and waved me over.  I blinked and looked around as if waiting for someone to give me an answer, but everyone around me was engaged in their own conversation; even my friends didn’t notice my lack of attention.  When I looked back to Hoshimura-sempai again, she was jabbing her thumb in the direction of behind the stage, without a choice I followed her. 

Behind the many folds of the large stage curtain, she was sitting on the stage and smiled at me as I grew closer.  In this dim lighting and secluded area that was just the two of us, I was apprehensive when approaching.  She was intimidating, attractive and charismatic, I always feel as if my heart would give out on me. 

“Ah, it’s always so loud out there; this place is good for a conversation that I don’t have to yell over three hundred other people.” 

I laughed at that and stopped a few feet away from her, very careful of the distance between us.  I wasn’t brave enough to move in any closer. 

“How are your games coming along, sempai?  I don’t even get to see any of them!” 

“They’re fine.”  She shrugged and lifted a foot to rest against the ledge of the stage.  “We lose some, we win some.  Of course, we hope to win more than we lose.  If you ever want to come out and see us play, just let Reika know and I’ll get you tickets.” 

“Thank you, sempai!” 

“Nothing for it.”  She waved a dismissive hand and looked at me thoughtfully.  “I heard from Asura that you’ve received reviews on what you did in that magazine.” 

“Ah yes.” 

“How are they?” 

I sniffed and scrunched up my nose lightly with a slight pout.  “It was okay.  I’ve received some really nice compliments and some really mean words too.  Sempai said that it’s pretty normal for a first timer and that I should focus on those with constructive criticism.  It’s so much harder than I thought to please everyone!” 

Hoshimura-sempai smiled and shook her head.  “It’s unrealistic to please everyone, Megumi-chan.  You have to do what you feel is right, and hopefully there will be others in this world who agree with you.  There will always be those who don’t like what you do.” 

I nodded slowly in understanding, but it was still a bitter pill to swallow.  Hoshimura-sempai crooked her finger and beckoned me closer, my mind registered it and waved warning flags, but my feet had already begun moving.  Just a few steps closer, I told myself. 

“Don’t give me that face.”  Hoshimura-sempai said gently and patted my head.  “You’ll do just fine.  I’m sure one day everyone will be dying to grab the latest release from your mind.  Hang in there; it’s always the toughest at the beginning.” 

How Reika could call this person selfish, I would never understand.  To me, Hoshimura-sempai was perhaps the kindest person I’ve met in my life.  No matter the situation, she’s always taken notice of me and took care of me.  She’s always cared and encouraged me.  Everything just gives a justification to my rushing heart beats every time I see her. 

“Natsuki, Shina is going to open your present now, do you want to be there?” 

Behind us, Fujimaru-sempai had stepped into this little territory that we have fenced out for ourselves and she had just stepped in easily. 

“Ah, is that so?”  Hoshimura-sempai jumped down from the stage at that notification, and I quickly stepped back so we wouldn’t be too crowded. 

“I think I’m going to go find my friends now!”  I bowed to Hoshimura-sempai before I made my exit.  At the threshold of the curtains, I paused and glanced behind me at the two of them.  Hoshimura-sempai had stepped closer to Fujimaru-sempai and wiped something off of her cheek.  Then she leaned down and kissed her lightly.  From my angle, I could see the soft gaze that Fujimaru-sempai looked at Hoshimura-sempai with. 

I wondered if I have the same expression when I look at Erika. 

Speaking of the devil!  After a few seconds of looking around the auditorium, I spotted her up in one of the balcony seats and smiled immediately.  I knew this auditorium like the back of my hand, thus getting up to where Erika was posed no problem.  I opened the door quietly and slipped inside. 


She jumped and turned around to face me, I gave her a cheeky grin for startling her before I stepped closer.  “Where did you go?” 

“I was sent on an errand to buy more drinks.  It seemed that we were running out.  I didn’t think so many people would show up.” 

“I think more people are here to get a glimpse of Fujimaru-sempai than anything else.” 

“You’re probably right.”  Erika leaned against the balcony railing and looked back at me.  “Where have you been?” 

“I was speaking with Hoshimura-sempai and…”  I blushed lightly and cleared my throat; my eyes couldn’t help but tick towards where I just was.  Of course, no one was there now, since both Hoshimura-sempai and Fujimaru-sempai were next to Ito-sempai. 


“It’s embarrassing!”  I exclaimed and touched my cheek, it was practically burning up.  “As I was leaving, I saw the two of them kiss.” 

Though I knew it was natural for a couple to do, but when I glanced back and saw that scene, it was as if I saw something I shouldn’t have seen.  Apparently, Erika didn’t see it the same way that I did. 

“Why is that embarrassing?” 

“I don’t know!” 

For a long moment, she looked at me; I almost wanted to fidget underneath her bold gaze.  Then she smiled and held out a hand towards me.  I lifted an eyebrow but put my hand in hers anyways.  Her fingers closed around my hand and she tugged me closer to her.  I followed as she led, until we were both tucked behind the curtains of the balcony seat, wrapped in deep red velvet.   

In that tiny little space, she leaned down and kissed me. 

Even hours later, I still flush at that memory.  Erika had certainly locked lips with others for her plays, but for her, to have kissed a significant other, that was the first time also.  Needless to say, that was my first kiss.  I remembered how fast my heart was beating; I thought I was going to die of suffocation.  There was no skill in what happened, both of us acted according to sensations and feelings rather than knowledge of what should be done. 

It was our precious first step forward. 

That did not change the basic foundations of our relationship.  We carried on as if it never happened, but both of us knew intrinsically that another level had just been breached.  The two of us still went to school together, went to club activities together and would return home together sometimes.  Reika was the only one who knew about our relationship, but despite appearances, she was rather efficient at keeping a secret. 

Just like this, each day moved forward, every day was yet another ordinary day.  However, it was filled with warmth with the knowledge that there was someone waiting for me. 

On Valentine’s Day, I could finally shed the negative light that had shrouded last Valentine’s Day.  This year, I was determined to make it up to Erika for how I behaved last year.  Besides, this year, I knew where my feelings stood and Nagataka-kun was no where near the equation. 

“Megumi, are you going to give anyone chocolate this year?”  Fuuyu arrived earlier today and sat down on my desk with a plop.  Erika was already at morning practice, thus, I was sitting in the classroom alone, reading 

“No, what about you?”  Of course, that was a lie.  There was already a pack of chocolate inside my school bag, but I couldn’t possibly let my friends know.  I felt uncomfortable lying to them, but at the same time, a part of me knew that it was necessary. 

“Me either.”  She sighed and her shoulders fell.  “You know, I had envisioned a senior high life where I’d have a boyfriend to hang out with!  So on Valentine’s Day, I could give him home-made chocolate.” 

I listened to her vision with a smile, for it was the same as my vision as well.  Although the details weren’t the same as how I had wanted it to be, but I’m not complaining one bit. 

“Aren’t you going to give Hoshimura-sempai chocolate?  You two seem quite close, and you’re friends with Hoshimura Reika as well.” 

“Eh?!”  I exclaimed loudly in shock.  “Why would you think that I’d give Hoshimura-sempai any chocolate?” 

“I don’t know; it seemed like you had a crush on her.”  Fuuyu gave me a look as if I were an idiot for making her state the obvious. 

“That’s not true!”  I shook my head furiously and just wanted to get that absurd idea out of her head.  It would be bad if she went and talked to Erika about this.  Even though I knew that Erika wouldn’t behave unreasonably, but I didn’t want to give her any reason to feel miserable on Valentine’s Day.  “But…”  Another part of me was working already.  “If I were to date a girl, how would you react?” 

“If you date Hoshimura-sempai, I’m going to rip out your intestines and burn you alive.”  That was definitely not a good sign!  “I mean, come on!  Hoshimura-sempai is practically an idol, whom wouldn’t want to date her?” 

“No, no, I meant… what if I was to date a regular girl.  You know, to actually settle and have a relationship versus just chasing after idols.” 

Fuuyu was silent and she gazed at me with question in her eyes.  I wondered if I had gone too far with my questions and have made her suspicious of me.  Just when I was about to laugh it off, Fuuyu answered with a shrug.  “Truthfully, I don’t think I’d take it well.”  The smile that I was just about to lift died away and I looked at her.  “I mean… joking about Hoshimura-sempai is one thing, but actually dating a girl is something else.  I can’t say that I’ll encourage it, but… if it’s a close friend of mine, I may try to talk her out of it.” 

It was the answer that I expected, but still, it hurt.  Class started shortly after and I offered Erika the best smile I could manage.  Fuuyu was honest and did not apologize for her biases; it would be safe for me to extrapolate her reaction to the rest of my friends as well.  Heck, not just my friends, my family would freak out for sure. 

This road that I had chosen, I knew that it was just going to get tougher as times goes on. 

After school, Erika and I met at the back entrance of school and left separately from the rest of the group.  We made up some excuse and made our get away.  When far away enough from the places that people from our school usually hang out, we were finally able to step a bit closer to one another and join our hands. 

It gave me comfort to know that she wasn’t going to disappear. 

“What movie do you want to see?” 

“The new 3D release!” 

“Let’s hope there are still seats, it’s way too popular.” 

We walked and talked casually, two people enjoying a nice conversation with one another without worrying about external issues.  It was our first real date and I was determined to not let anything interfere with the atmosphere.  I felt that even with the smallest things, there was happiness knowing that there was someone else with me.  Be it buying the tickets or buying the drinks, we were together, we decided together.  I was probably going a bit too crazy, but then there she was, keeping me in check.  The movie was amazing!  And watching it in 3D just made it all the more amazing.  Erika mentioned that perhaps the future will mean that everyone will enjoy all the T.V. programs in 3D, right in our living rooms.  I couldn’t even imagine what that would be like; would anyone be able to get up from their couch then? 

Later at night, we walked back to my house with swinging hands.  Usually, we’d be just a little bit more cautious, but tonight, we wanted to let go of all inhibition.  At my door, I fumbled around in my bag and handed Erika a gift wrapped box of chocolate. 

“I made it myself.”  I admitted with a sheepish laugh.  “Try it carefully, if it tastes funny, just throw it away.”  I wasn’t confident in my culinary abilities at all, and I had no wish to poison Erika.  She accepted it with a smile and handed a gift wrapped box to me as well. 

“I’m sure this is not poisonous, but same rules apply.  If you don’t like it, just throw it away.” 

So the both of us held our own box of chocolate and I don’t know about her, but I felt giddy inside.  It was my first time receiving chocolate from someone, and it was definitely the first time I made chocolates by myself as well.  Even for Nagataka last year, I had gone out and bought a box. 

“Good night, Megumi-chan, I’ll see you at school tomorrow.” 

Then she leaned in and I gathered a breath of strength to meet her half way.  The kiss was chaste like the first one we shared, but it was laced sweet with the drinks that we had earlier the night.  I watched her departing view until she was out of sight before I entered my house.  My parents were already asleep and my sister didn’t even pay me attention.  So I slipped back into my room and put a chocolate into my mouth immediately.  There were thirty of them, I counted carefully and tucked them away in a drawer.  Each day, I will limit myself to one, so I can sustain this taste of happiness for longer. 

Just when the box of chocolate was going to be finished, I met my other half.  Of course, it will never replace Erika’s position in my heart, but it held a position just as dear.  It was after school, Erika stayed behind to practice for the summer play and I went off to work.  Exiting Fujimaru-sempai’s place, I was charged with the duty of personally delivering something for Fujimaru-sempai.  In this foreign neighbourhood, just as I was returning home, it caught my attention with a small whimper.  I turned to look and saw a tiny puppy against a wall.  It looked pitiful in its weak and skinny state and I couldn’t help but return to it and pet it gently.  It licked at my hand and I remembered I still had some water in my bag.  Quickly I found it and poured some out into my cupped hand for it to drink from. 

Needless to say, it extended far beyond just giving it water.  The puppy followed me with every step I took.  Oh I was tempted and I was heart broken.  I knew that I could not bring it home, because my mom will just throw it out again and I would hate to see it linger around my house to remind me of my pain every single day.  In fact, I was so determined that I had even gotten onto the bus without a glance back.  Yet just one stop and I couldn’t help it. 

So I got off at the next station and traced my footsteps back.  The puppy was where I found it, licking at the ground where a couple droplets of water might have fallen. 

I knew I was caught. 

I wrapped the puppy in my scarf and held it close to my body.  Without a choice, I could only head to the only other place I know.  A few seconds after I had pressed the door bell, the door opened and Erika looked at me with a couple of blinks.  She was still in her school uniform, not having had the chance to change yet. 


“What’s wrong?” 

“What am I going to do?” 

And then she followed my gaze and saw the puppy in my arms.  In a flash, she understood. 

To be continued...

[End notes: Author's Notes: I think this chapter speaks more of my life than I would like.  I want a puppy as well!  But alas, like Megumi, I fear my family may just throw out any puppy I pick up as well.  Now I wish I had a girlfriend to bring it to. ]

Chapter 12

Title: Chapter Twelve

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Twelve


“What’s wrong?” 

“What am I going to do?” 

And then she followed my gaze and saw the puppy in my arms.  In a flash, she understood.  With a sigh, she stepped back and held the door open for me.  It was disbelief and helplessness at the same time, but I knew that Erika wouldn’t refuse me.  Perhaps I knew that a little too well and may be taking advantage of that right now.  Just this once, I promised myself.  Just this once and I’ll let her take advantage of me as well.  Because when it comes to her, I can’t refuse either. 

“Where did you find it?” 

“Some district.  I was delivering something for Fujimaru-sempai.”  I answered and slowly unwrapped my scarf from around the puppy.  It shook itself out and started sniffing the space between our feet.  Even that looked like the cutest thing in the world.  “Erika, please tell me you can take care of it.” 

Erika was looking down at it with a passive face and for a second I thought she was going to refuse me.  Then she straightened up and went into the kitchen.  Upon returning, she had gathered a bowl of water for it and had set it down.  I immediately smiled. 

“Don’t look at me like that.” 

“Like what?” 

“Like that!” 


“Like you’re going to break out into glitters and song!” 

I giggled at her warning glance before lowering myself to pet the puppy.  “I wonder if it’s a girl or boy.” 

“Easy.”  Erika bent over and reached to pick it up.  One glance between its legs, she set it back down again.  “Girl.” 

“… Erika…” 


“The romanticism of finding out slowly was just killed.” 

“There was no romance to begin with!” 

I pouted and resumed petting the puppy, now that we know it’s a she, I could at least narrow the range of names.  “Can we call her Caramel?”  It was the color of her fur that gave me such inspiration.  And even Erika seemed impressed by it.  So Caramel came into our lives, and I even wanted to joke that she was like our baby.  Except, Erika looked less than impressed and I thought I should let her get used to the puppy first before saying that. 

That evening, I stayed over at Erika’s place after having called my parents.  Together, we played with the puppy, bathed and fed the puppy.  She was weak and tired, but still wagged her tail with energy.  The next morning, once she’s had enough sleep, we both realized just how hyperactive a puppy could be.  She was our alarm clock and the hindrance to getting dressed.  We were almost late for school, but both of us wore a smile as we walked to class together. 

“I suppose if anything, she will teach me more about responsibility.”  Erika concluded thoughtfully.  “Now I know I’m returning home to her and will have more care in my bloodstream, I suppose.” 

“Sorry, Erika.  I didn’t mean to force her upon you like that, but it’s just that… you know… my parents would probably throw her right out.  And she’s already been through so much, and…” 

“It’s okay.”  She cut me off with a smile and patted my cheek with affection.  “You can come over whenever you want to see her.  And I promise I will not kill her or starve her either.  She might just be a bit lonely at home by herself all the time.” 

But this was the best that we could do for her.  In the future, when we are more able, we’ll make sure to build a happy and lively home for Caramel.  It was somewhat sad that we would want to do so much for a puppy when sometimes I could care less about how I appeared or how messy my room was.   

March was the month I had put hearts all around on my calendar.  No one would understand that except for me.  It seemed like I was good enough for Santa, for he did send me such a great gift.  Between school, club activities and work, there was now Caramel to take care of as well.  With the weeks that passed by, she grew in size as well.  No longer was she small, weak and sickly looking, she was now a ball of energy. 

It was tiring, but whenever I see her face, all of my worries just fade away.  

One weekend in early April, we were finally able to show her to our friends.  We had agreed to have a picnic in a nearby park since it was Hanami season.  So Erika held our share of food while I made sure to keep Caramel on her leash, before we even approached our friends, they were already squealing at how cute Caramel was.  She was not just loved by the two of us, but by everyone around us as well. 

The pictures that we took were proof of that.  Caramel appeared in more pictures than anyone else. 

“You alright?”  Erika asked me after I sneezed for the nth time, and I nodded at her with a pitiful smile.  “Careful, don’t catch a cold.”  Although April was already here, the weather was still a little too chilly for us to be wearing a thin kimono and out viewing sakura.  However, the occasion and Caramel’s body heat gave me the false illusion that summer was just around the corner. 

“Oh, whose puppy is this?” 

From afar, the two Hoshimura sisters were walking up the hill towards us.  I didn’t know why I felt a sudden pang in my heart when I saw Hoshimura-sempai’s face.  I haven’t seen her ever since I’ve had that sleep over with Reika, and she looked as lively as ever.  I watched as Caramel greeted the two of them with eager eyes and incessant tail wagging.   

“Megumi here picked her up, and she’s named her Caramel.”  Hitomi held nothing back and I almost wanted to smack her for having such a big mouth.  On second thought, I didn’t know why that urge even came into my head.  After all, I would have told Hoshimura-sempai sooner or later.  

“Natsuki, why can’t we have a dog?”  Reika looked at the puppy before addressing her sister.  I noticed the seemingly lack of familial love between the two of them. 

“Because, even if we get one, you would not take care of it.  I’m away most of the time and mom has work as well, it will die of loneliness.”   

Reika made a face and promptly took a seat next to Erika and me.  She rolled her eyes heavily and reached for the food that had already been spread out.  I couldn’t help but laugh at her expression before patting her on the back lightly.  “I need to get myself a girlfriend and pick up a stray dog as well.”  Reika commented to herself and my eyes widened immediately.  My gaze ticked to my friends and I found that they were fussing over the puppy, Hoshimura-sempai, and the two of them together.  “What?  You haven’t told anyone yet?” 

“No, we’re going to keep it between the two of us for a while longer.”  Erika explained as I was watching my friends. 

“Hoshimura-sempai, why didn’t you wear a kimono?”  Fuuyu was currently pouting at Hoshimura-sempai with eyes that could rival the puppy’s. 

“Are you serious?  If I wore a kimono, no one would be able to go home alive today.” 

That’s right; out of everyone here Hoshimura-sempai was the only one who showed up in pants, shirt and a blazer jacket.  It almost seemed like she didn’t belong.  Hoshimura-sempai looked over at me and offered a smile, before she could even open her mouth to say anything, my nose tickled and I quickly covered my nose and mouth as a sneeze ripped through me.  For a second, it seemed to have stopped everyone’s movements and they all turned to look at me. 

“You alright?  I told you to wear a jacket.”  Erika handed me a Kleenex but did not forget to scold me lightly. 

“It’s a bit chilly out today.”  Hoshimura-sempai started with a smile and I watched as she shrugged off her blazer before wrapping it around me.  I felt the lingering body heat that transferred from her jacket to me.  Immediately, my cheeks flushed and I could only mutter a thank you with embarrassment.  “Careful, it’s best not to catch a cold.”  She didn’t need to tell me the logic behind that.  Besides, I felt Erika shuffle, but by the time I glanced over, she did not look anything but normal. 

My fingers touched Hoshimura-sempai’s blazer shyly, it was as if it was a private situation where only I was able to experience Hoshimura-sempai’s kindness.  This stirring within was unsettling, so I quickly dropped my hand and shifted closer to Erika. 

I reminded myself that I was dating Erika now.  Besides, Hoshimura-sempai has Fujimaru-sempai.  Even if I were stupid, I would know that I cannot compare with Fujimaru-sempai. 

We ate the food that we prepared and drank the drinks that we brought along.  In the end, we cleared out all of the boxes and gathered to part with much satisfaction.  Hoshimura-sempai had offered us a ride home since we had the puppy to look out for as well.  In the car, we waved goodbye to Hitomi and the others before Hoshimura-sempai pulled out of the parking lot. 

“Isn’t there a rule that national athletes can’t drive?”  Erika spoke up after a while.  Perhaps the silence in the car was a little too suffocating.  Yet to me, I couldn’t help but feel that Erika was trying and going out of her way to come up with such a question. 

“Eh?  Why?”  But I asked out of pure curiosity. 

“Because they’re afraid that we’ll get into an accident and kill ourselves or something.”  Hoshimura-sempai glanced at us from the rear view mirror and offered us a nonchalant shrug.  “Yeah, there is supposed to be such a rule, but no one’s really enforced it, so we’re taking advantage of that.” 

“It just means that Natsuki is bad at following rules.”  Reika commented lightly, not hesitating one moment to divulge information about her sister at all. 

And it was back to silence again.  I couldn’t help but wonder if there was underlying tension I wasn’t aware of.  Reika was just starring out the window and Erika was stroking Caramel’s fur casually.  Hoshimura-sempai focused on the road and I glanced from one person to the other.  The only one who was unaware of the situation was Caramel.  Finally, as we grew closer to my house, I hugged Caramel again and again, unwilling to let her go.  It was hard to see her often and heaven knows how much I miss her constantly!  It was like a drug.  Its addictive properties were so great that I’m scared of myself. 

“Thank you for the ride back, Hoshimura-sempai.”  I bowed and pushed the door open.  I exchanged a smile with Erika before exiting.  Behind me, I heard Hoshimura-sempai unbuckle her seat belt as well.   

“I’ll walk you.” 

There was no chance for me to refuse as she had already exited the car.  Carefully, I shut the door behind me and followed Hoshimura-sempai up the front steps and onto the porch.  There, I turned and bowed to her once again.  “Thank you very much, sempai.” 

“It’s nothing.  Go on in, I’ll leave after you’ve entered safely.” 

Under her eyes, everything was that much more excruciating.  So I unlocked my door and let myself in.  No one was home; my family probably went out to enjoy Hanami on their own accord as well.  When I entered my room, in the mirror, I saw my flushed face and could not undermine this tumult of emotions.  Upon closer examination, I also noticed how I still had Hoshimura-sempai’s blazer around me. 

By the time I rushed to my window, the car was already gone.
Maybe I’ll just give it to Fujimaru-sempai instead, surely she sees Hoshimura-sempai more often than I. 

Despite the hot drink and the hot water bath that I immersed myself in, a couple of days later, I began noticing the change of my voice and the stuffiness of my nose.  It was coming, I could see it coming.  The onset of a cold.  My parents took no sympathy on me; my mother even scolded me for my own stupidity for wearing such a thin kimono out for Hanami when the weather was still rather chilly.  I wondered if she didn’t understand my want of looking pretty for the occasion.  She must have been young once in her life as well! 

In school, all of my friends noticed my lethargic reaction to everything that went on around me.  Once in a while, Erika would feel my forehead just to ascertain that I wasn’t under the influence of a fever.  Everything was inclusive and I trudged on. 

On the fourth day, I finally gave up and didn’t bother getting out of my bed.  Even with three layers of duvet, I still felt like I was situated in Antarctica.  The medicine wasn’t helping as much as they should have been and I just wanted to cry.  This was such a crappy feeling.  Next year, I’ll make sure to wear winter jackets to Hanami instead! 

You weren’t in school today, did the cold get worse? 


I replied to her while sniffing and was half influenced by my fever, in my mind; I replied coherently, I just hoped that reality didn’t prove me to be completely wrong. 

Fever.  Cough.  Headache.  Everything hurts.  I just want to die! 


Do you want me to go over? 


That’s alright; I think my sister should be back soon. 


Were you home alone for the entire day? 


Yeah, my parents have work and my sister has school. 


I see.  Well, rest well.  Get better soon. 


I smiled at her response and returned to the land of the dead afterwards.  I was vaguely aware of my sister coming back and bringing up a glass of water for me.  Even though she could be a pest most of the time, when in need, she was still of my blood relative.  Beneath the covers, I smiled and peeked at her cuteness while worrying over me.  Does that make me a bad sister? 

At dinner, I was half crouched over and still shivering, other than a few mouthfuls of porridge, I excused myself from the table and went back to dying.  This is ridiculous!  I couldn’t even remember the last time I was this sick!  And at such an important time as well.  Exams were coming up and the school play was near its end as well.  Even Fujimaru-sempai was lenient enough to let me off work after having heard my voice. 

“Stop.  I have no interest in talking or looking at an ugly corpse.  Stay home until you are alive again.” 

That was what Fujimaru-sempai said before she hung up.  I knew that she meant well, but that tongue of hers.  Gosh! 

Next morning, mother woke me up for my morning pills before she went off to work.  She looked worried and even offered to stay with me, which, I of course rejected.  I’m a big girl; I can take care of myself!  Not long after, my cell phone vibrated and I looked at the message before almost bolting out of bed. 

I’m at your door. 


I thought I was hallucinating when I saw that, but when I opened the door, Erika really was standing out there with a grocery bag in hand.  She was not dressed in her uniform.  Quickly she ushered me back into bed with a worried face. 

“Are you feeling better?” 

“What are you doing here?” 

“Is the fever still really bad?” 

“Is there no school today?” 

“Is the medicine not helping?” 

“What about the play?” 

For a minute or so, we answered each other with irrelevant questions of our own.  In the end, she gave in and sighed heavily.  “I’m here to take care of you, obviously.  There is school, but I’m skipping.  I called Chiharu and told her to take notes for us.  The play is still on-going, but I can memorize my lines here, so it’s fine.  Your turn.” 

I wanted to laugh but a series of coughs prevented me from doing so.  “I think I’m a little better, but I’m still no where near healthy.  I feel like nothing is helping.” 

She leaned over and felt my forehead with the same light frown over her eyebrows.  “Go back to sleep, I’ll be around here today.  Give me a call if you need anything.”  And she tucked the duvets around me closer before exiting the room.  Her presence seemed to have brought about warmth with it.  For a deceiving moment, I thought my body had warmed up.  Then I fell into a dreamless slumber without a single break until I heard voices downstairs and figured out that my parents were back. Besides me on the night stand stood Erika’s cell phone, it gave

me the reassurance of knowing that she was still here.  In that moment of weakness, I could only think about how grateful I was for her.  In the future, I promised myself, I will be just as good as her and be even better to her! 

To be continued...

[End notes: Author's Notes: I've always wanted a pomeranian and name her Caramel.  *laughs*  Since I cannot have that in real life right now, I figured I should at least let it come true in story format.  What are some real good pet names you've heard before?  I've had a friend who named her dog "rabbit" before.  So whenever she would introduce her dog, it was like "hello, meet my little Rabbit."  XD ]

Chapter 13

Title: Chapter Thirteen

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not produce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Thirteen

Fujimaru-sempai’s birthday is always an event that I looked forward to, but after its completion, I would be reminded yet again that it was near exam season.  Thus, it seemed to be a bitter sweet occasion if nothing else.  Although it was a year older for Fujimaru-sempai, it seemed that even age was in awe of her beauty.  Each time I look at her, I’m reminded that this world is indeed unfair.  In my mind, she was perfect, from head to toe.  She had the perfect life that anyone would wish for. 

Little did I know, in a span of this remaining year, the slippery staircase seemed to have disappeared beneath our feet.  

For now though, it was still blissful summer; and we were still trudging onwards with our exams.   

Slowly, I wondered if my life will be a routine like this forever.  Studies, work, exams, vacation.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  It was mundane and it almost seemed a little boring.  I wanted to have an exciting occupation like Hoshimura-sempai or Fujimaru-sempai.  However, heaven knows that I do not have the abilities to play sports.  Nor do I have the ability to be a model either.  And it was already hard enough to convince my parents to let me go to an art school instead of a proper university. 

I felt bad for my sister.  For she knows she will have to choose an occupation that was closer to the range that my parents have scouted out for the both of us. 

The most memorable hours of my second senior high summer was the joint birthday party that took place by the beach side.  It was the last summer that I could play without a care in the world.  Following those days, I didn’t even know how or when things fell apart. 

In mid-August, my parents drove my friends and me down to the beach that we had agreed to meet up at.  Of course, Caramel was brought along.  Although my parents loved the dog, I knew they would throw me out if I even so much as bring up wanting to keep a puppy of my own as well.  So I could only look at the puppy with pitiful eyes and hug her tightly to me.  My friends were more ecstatic with the trip than I was and it was my birthday party to begin with! 

Well, mine and Hoshimura-sempai’s as well. 

The beach was surprisingly empty when we arrived.  I had anticipated it would be filled with people and we might even have to squeeze past groups in order to get to the cabin that had been rented out.  By the time we arrived, the other group was already inside.  Reika jumped up first and ran towards Caramel.  “You people are late!  Don’t you know how long I’ve been waiting?!”  Note that she said “I” instead of “we”, and I had the suspicion that she only was waiting for the dog and none of us. 

“Come on in girls.”  Hoshimura-sempai greeted us at the foyer and we all diligently bowed to her. 

“There aren’t a lot of people here today, why is that?”  I couldn’t contain my curiosity and took my shoes off the fastest. 

“Shina said that there is supposed to be a storm that’s going to come later today, so people are hiding out, I suspect.” 

Ah.  I was sure that my face fell because Hoshimura-sempai smiled and leaned forward to pat my face gently.  “Don’t look so down, we still have right now and tomorrow to go into the water as well.”  Each tap burned up my face with an infinite degree of power.  I could not believe that she was doing this in front of so many people.  What would Fujimaru-sempai say?  Which reminds me! 

“Where is Fujimaru-sempai?” 

“Asura is upstairs taking a phone call, it seems like work is following her around.”  Hoshimura-sempai spoke with a lift of her eyebrow before offering us a smile and took over our bags to bring them further into the cabin.  The entire cabin is made of wood, even without looking, the fragrance would speak for itself.  “You girls can go upstairs and get your own rooms.  We don’t have enough for everyone to have their own, so you’ll have to share.” 



There was a moment of silence when we all looked at each other before Fuuyu jolted forward and grabbed her bag from Hoshimura-sempai’s hand and charged up the stairs.  “I get first dibs!”  Her voice was slowly disappearing around the corner.  Then, one by one, all of us whipped by Hoshimura-sempai and rushed upstairs to claim the best room.  Well, the best room remaining, at least.  At the door of a somewhat larger room, Fuuyu and I tried to drag each other out while screaming all sorts of claims on the world. 

Reika had followed us up and was looking at the scene with an unimpressed face. 

“How old are you girls?” 

“It’s not about how old we are!”
“I got this room first!”
“No, I did!”
“I did!” 

Add in the excited barks from Caramel, we successfully turned a serene get-away to a cacophony of uninhibited noises. 

“Will you girls die if you don’t scream at the top of your lungs?” 


Fuuyu and I stopped immediately, both of us turned around to look at Fujimaru-sempai mechanically.  There she stood, in a floral print summer dress with her cell phone in hand; of course, needless to say, the look was anything but pleasant.  Ah, a beautiful person is beautiful no matter when.  Even when she’s frowning and glaring daggers at us, she is still beautiful. 

“Fujimaru-sempai.”  We replied meekly and disentangled ourselves. 

In our little heated argument, we had forgotten that she was up here taking a phone call. 

“Asura-oneechan!”  Reika nearly skipped past us and gave the model a hug, which Fujimaru-sempai returned with her one free arm and patted Reika on her back.  The rest of us received no such welcome.

“You girls.”  Ito-sempai voice reached us from the bottom of the staircase.  “Please ready yourselves soon, we will be heading out to the beach!” 

In the end, Fuuyu was quicker than me and shoved me out of the door.  Erika and I took the smaller room while the three of them shared the bigger room.  I suppose it all worked out in the end when Erika and I grinned at each other and stole a quick kiss before we all bounced down the stairs to join the group. 

Because there was practically no one else on the beach, we even left Caramel running by herself.  Out of everyone here, she must have been the most excited to be out in the open and spoiled by so many loving hands.  Hoshimura-sempai was already setting up the extra large sun umbrella while Ito-sempai was spreading out beach towels all around it. 

Even now, I could still remember how clear the water was that day.  Although the clouds above came and passed, with each blockage of the sun’s light, we worried that it was going to rain on us.  But no one could stop our insatiable need to be running, laughing, screaming, yelling, and behaving as if we were ten year-olds.  Even Erika was more talkative than usual.  I didn’t remember when Fujimaru-sempai and Reika joined us, but Reika made her entrance known when she snuck behind all of us and splashed everyone with her arms hitting the water surface. 

And even now, I can still remember how Fujimaru-sempai and Ito-sempai sat back underneath the umbrella and spoke quietly amongst themselves.  I did not know what they spoke about, but I knew that Fujimaru-sempai could not risk getting tanned for her photo shoots that were coming up.  

Yet, when I see the glances between her and Hoshimura-sempai, I knew that just her presence alone was enough. 

Most of all, even now, I can still remember that fateful night. 

That was when the rain did decide to hit us.  One second, it was sunny, the next second, thunder and lightning were ripping through the sky and threatened to shake this earth.  Quickly, we grabbed our things and ran for the cabin.  We were a breathless bunch inside, half drenched, and even Fujimaru-sempai’s hair was plastered onto her face and back without the usual appeal. 

Ah, so she was human after all! 

“This is abnormal, how can it just rain like that?!” 

I shook my head, pulling off my hair band before squeezing water out of my hair.  “Caramel, don’t you dare…”  touch that water! 

… wait. 

Then it hit me.  Caramel was not inside! 

Immediately, I bolted right off the wall and startled everyone in the process. 

“What’s wrong?”  Erika asked me, she was already half way up the stairs, probably going for a change of clothes at least. 


Perhaps it had been my frantic voice that was near tears or Caramel as a topic herself, practically everyone paused and looked over.  We all realized at once that she wasn’t in the room with us.  “I need to go find her!”  It was stupid of me, for without anything else on me but my soaked clothes, I was already charging out of the door.  Behind me, I think there was a collective shouting of voices.  The thunder drowned them out, my pounding heart drowned them out, and the howling wind drowned them out. 

In the darkness and with the pelting room, I called out Caramel’s name again and again in hopes that she could hear me.  I never knew that I could be this impulsive; and never thought I’d see this scene –only witnessed in cliché movies- in my own life.  Of course, within only a few short moments, I had no idea where I was.  I think somewhere in the back of my head, I registered panic, but the majority of my brain was still dedicated to the idea that Caramel was no where to be found. 

When my legs ached and lungs screamed, my body was shivering and I stopped only because I needed to catch my breath.  All around me, I felt the villainous weather and my feet seemed to have taken me away from the sandy beach to pebbles and rocks.


I shrieked and whirled around.  The beam of a flashlight met me and I let my eyes travel up to see Hoshimura-sempai’s face.  I was stunned and shocked; I didn’t even know what to say. 

“Here, put this on.”  She had a jacket in her hands and quickly wrapped it around me.  Although it was also soaked, the extra layer seemed to have warmed me up instantaneously.  “Come, let’s keep on walking.”  She reached for my hand and her calloused fingers closed around my own, I was tugged along with her.  I was lost in this darkness, but she seemed to have been a glowing lantern in my life.   

Or maybe it’s just the flashlight that she was holding. 

Time escaped me, who knows how long it was when I heard a muffled bark.  My ears perked right up and in a second I over took Hoshimura-sempai while screaming for Caramel’s name.  We found the puppy in a small cave; the dog had been smart enough to hide away from the storm.  Both of us were shaking when reunion came and Hoshimura-sempai could only shake her head in disbelief while brushing droplets of water from her attire. 

“Thank you, Hoshimura-sempai.”  I bowed to her with Caramel in my arms.  “I’m sorry.” 

She sighed and patted my head good naturedly.  “It’s okay, I’m just glad that you’re alright.”  She put the flashlight down by us and sat down against the rocky interior of the cave.  “We’re not going anywhere tonight.  I told the others to look for us in the morning.”  

I sat down next to her as well, hoping to feed off the warmth from her.  And perhaps offer a little bit of mine in return as well. 

She must have sensed my intention as she placed an arm around my shoulders and pulled me closer.  “Sorry, we’re both soaked, but it’s better than freezing to death.”  Immediately, my face flushed, my ears flushed, my entire body might as well have flushed.  So I was no longer cold for that moment. 

The evening was spent in relative silence, Caramel fell asleep in my arms shortly after and I think sometime in the middle of the night, I dozed off as well.  In and out of sleep, I saw Hoshimura-sempai’s profile while I used her shoulder as a pillow.  That evening, I wondered whether I dreamt up most of the sights I saw, or whether they truly were of reality. 

After a rain cloud, it is only natural that the sun would be exposed. 

In the morning, I was awakened when someone shook me with urgency.  Cracking open my eyes, I realized that I was no longer learning against Hoshimura-sempai.  It was Erika’s face that I saw, and I could only offer her a smile before she hugged me tightly.  Under the circumstances, no one said anything.  My friends rushed forward to crowd around me as well.  Erika wrapped a large blanket around me that covered me from head to toe.   

Caramel was taken away already.   

Yet, my gaze chased after Hoshimura-sempai.  I watched as Fujimaru-sempai handed her a blanket before arranging her attire for her.  Ito-sempai stood between our groups and I thought I saw the same thing in her eyes that was growing in me as well. 

To be continued...

[End notes: Author's Notes: Wow, I apologize that not only did this take so long but the chapter was short as well.  Looking for a job was hellish, and now landing a job and getting trained for it is even worse.  -_-;  Let me win the lottery!]

Chapter 14

Title: Chapter Fourteen

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Fourteen

In reality, I don’t want to disclose much of my life from this point on.  If the world had ended with me in that cave on that stormy night, I would have died as the happiest person on earth.  All along, I realized that I had been living in a bubble fantasy.  Slowly, that bubble was losing its strength and the fantasy blurred with the reality outside.  I realized that no one could live forever in a world of happiness.  Even if it’s just mundane happiness.  When I look back on the last few months of this year, there weren’t many things that stood out.  Then again, compared to what Christmas brought along, not many things could seem very important. 

One, I finally had the chance to meet Erika’s mother.  Although I’ve yet to be formally introduced to her father because he is always away on work related trips, at least we’ve said our greetings.  It’s always felt strange that I’ve never seen her mother around, but no inquiries were made in case it was too impolite to ask.  Perhaps a part of me had always been reserved no matter how long we’ve been dating.  Maybe there was always a part of me holding back. 

The first weekend of our last school year together, Erika invited me out and underneath the bright sun, she took me to meet her mother.  On the bus, sitting right beneath the open window, we watched how the strands of our hair were flying and mixing.  Her hair was long to her waist; mine was just past my shoulders.  Between us, beneath the folds of our skirts, our hands were joined together.   

Always though, it will be away from public’s eyes. 

When the bus stopped, we were left standing on the outskirts of town.  Although it was not deserted, it certainly was not populated like the city center that I was used to.  The road stretched out in front of us and Erika tugged on my hand to indicate that we should begin walking.  At least this empty road extending ahead provided us with the solitude that was required in order to hold hands. 

Underneath the blazing sun, we walked on. 

“Why is your mother all the way out here?” 

“Because she has no where to be.” 

“Was it… I mean… between you parents… was it….?” 

“No.”  She shook her head and offered me a small smile.  “They loved each other very much.” 

“Then why?” 

“Some things in life are just not meant to be.” 

Erika said it so calmly and with such acceptance that I was taken back.  In the future, I wonder if I will be able to utter that same phrase with the same unwavering voice and tone.  It silenced me and we walked on slowly.  In front of us, at the end of the road –ironically- the field opened up and I saw small stone plates one after another erected on the ground.  For a moment, it seemed like I had swallowed a stone, my stomach dropped and my feet slowed to a stop.  Besides me, Erika came to a stop as well and the two of us stood in front of the gate and just looked on. 

“… Erika…” 

She heard my murmur and turned to look at me.  On her face, I saw a smile.  On my face, I wonder what she saw.  Clearly, I was not ready.  I was taken back; I was not prepared to be exposed to such a truth.  Maybe the possibility’s always ran through my head, but I never thought it would be possible. 


“Would you like to go back?” 

I looked at her for a moment before shaking my head.  At first, it was more of a reflex of the body, but after a second, I realized that I meant it as well.  No.  Erika was brave enough to bring me here; so then, I will also be brave and respectful to her respect for me.  So I offered her a smile and squeezed her hand.  “No, please; let’s continue on.  I want to meet you mother as well.” 

Like always, she looked at me carefully for a moment to assess my sincerity, and then she nodded and led me onwards.  In front of each slab of stone, I saw flowers and offerings.  It made me smile, to think that there are still those who care.  Yet, it made me nervous.  I wondered what Erika’s mother’s grave is going to look like.  If it’s bare, I don’t think I can deal with the implications.  But thankfully, when we stood in front of it, there were small flowers planted to frame around the stone monument. 

“Mom, when I visited the last time, I said I’d bring Megumi to meet you.”  Erika started quietly, her voice reached my ears and scattered with the wind.  “Please watch over her kindly.” 

There was no denying the fact that it was awkward to speak to a stone.  However, I was too respectful of the situation to stop and think of how strange it might look.  So I took a step forward and bowed deeply.  “It’s nice to meet you.  My name is Ookina Megumi.  I hope you will approve of me.” 

On the stone, it recorded her age as being forty-one, but the picture embedded showed a woman of eternal beauty.  She smiled at us with the corners of her lips upturned and her eyes kind.  I couldn’t help but think that if she were still alive, she would be a gentle woman who could treat me with kindness as well.  Maybe I’ll even look at her as a second mother and complain to her of my worries too. 

“How did it happen?”  I asked quietly. 

“She died a year after I was born.”  Erika began slowly; her gaze did not waver from her mother’s photo.  “My dad told me that it was some sort of a disease, but I am not stupid, I know that it must have been some complication suffered while giving birth to me.”  From the photo, I could discern the similarities between Erika and her mother.  They both have long, straight hair and the beautiful eyes that looked at you with such sincerity.  “You don’t have to feel sorry for me, and I don’t have some hidden guilt that eats me inside out.  I love my mom, but I know that she would rather I continue on living instead of wasting my life away.  If she worked so hard to bring me into this world, then I will not let her down.” 

Each one of her words was spoken with strength and determination.  It was a different side of Erika that I’ve never seen before.  It was a side that I admired.  Looking at her, I felt breathless and so small.  Thinking back, I wondered how she felt each time she saw my mom.  Did she feel sad or perhaps envious?  From what I’ve gathered, ever since Erika’s small, her father’s taken her with him everywhere for his work.  So Erika moved from one school to another, never having really settled down long enough to establish friendships or relationships.  When senior high rolled around, she finally convinced her father that she was adequate at taking care of herself and living on her own. 

I wanted to thank her for her independence.  If not, I don’t think we’d ever have the chance or courage to stand at this point in time right now. 

“Mom,” Erika started, speaking softly to her mom “maybe you’ll laugh at me for such words when I am still so young.  However, I feel that I know this is exactly what I want and am willing to work hard towards it.”  I looked at her profile and wondered where this was leading.  “In front of you, I vow that I will never betray Megumi.  I will always treat her with kindness, be understanding and respectful.  I vow to never hide anything from her and always discuss with her anything that I am uncomfortable about.”  Turning to me, she gave me a half sheepish smile and glanced down at our joint hands.  “It’s not a proposal or anything, so don’t freak out.  I just wanted to let you know that I am serious about our relationship and did not just ask you out on the spur of the moment.”  

She was right; I wasn’t quite sure if I was comfortable with the implications behind her words.  But I guess she knew me well.  In the end, I could only smile back at her and nod.  I don’t know why I didn’t vow anything that day or at least repeat her words.  Erika did not push for one either.  She seemed content that she was able to get what she wanted to say out there. 

Maybe she has matured too early and I was just slowly catching up.
Physically, we were both seventeen.
Mentally, perhaps she’s always been ten years older than me. 

We took the same route on our way out.  Even though it was only a short while, I felt as if we’ve connected on many more layers with just that brief stay.  The smooth sailing course that this relationship is enjoying right now seemed almost too perfect, too surreal. 

To me at least. 

But to everyone else, almost too perfect and too surreal meant the one hundredth year celebration of our school.  For this unique date, the principal even convinced both Fujimaru-semapi and Hoshimura-sempai to return for a photo shoot to help promote our school.  The October sun seemed to have burnt that much brighter for these two super stars of our school.  Hoshimura-sempai changed out of her usual practice wear and was being dressed in the latest fashion apparel.  Underneath the gawking gaze of the majority of the student body, she was asked to pose in our gym.  It was only appropriate since she’s probably spent most of her time in there.  

I never knew our school had so many students ‘till this photo shoot.  It was impossible to even find breathing room.  In a moment like this, I was ever more grateful for my job. 

When Fujimaru-sempai arrived in her car –presumably after another photo shoot-, she immediately waved me out of the student body.  My friends were clawing at my arms to get them out as well, but for once I could give them a cheeky grin before almost skipping forward to greet Fujimaru-sempai. 

“What’s wrong with you?  High?” 

“No!”  I objected immediately, having forgotten how sharp her tongue was.  “You’re in front of school students, please remember not to show your true personality, Fujimaru-sempai.”  Her eyes widened and she gave me an incredulous look.  I returned her a cheeky grin, but when her eyes narrowed, I wondered if I did the right thing.  After all, I still have to work with her.  Ooops, maybe I shouldn’t have been that out of line. 

I could feel the hundreds of heated stares from all around me.  I knew they were jealous and envious of my position, but hey, I worked hard!  Not everyone can stand someone like Fujimaru-sempai.  She was asked to change into a long summer dress that fluttered elegantly with the wind.  We relocated to the auditorium where drama productions usually took place. 

If Hoshimura-sempai was comfortable with the attention and camera, then Fujimaru-sempai was doing nothing but breathe for the crowd.  

“She’s a natural, huh?”  Beside me, Hoshimura-sempai stepped up and commented lightly.  Her voice jolted me and I peeked up at her carefully.  After that incident on the beach over summer I’ve not spoken with her.  That morning after, for that brief moment, I was scared of what popped up in my own head.  Due to the needs of the photo shoot, she was in a button down shirt with a pair of ripped jeans.  A loose tie dangled around her neck and the three piercings on her right ear were more obvious with the way her hair was pulled up. 

“Well, I suppose it is only appropriate, since this is her job after all.” 

Hoshimura-sempai smiled and nodded.  “Very true.  I’ve always felt that Asura was born to be underneath the spot lights.”  She spoke with me, but her eyes never once left Fujimaru-sempai’s figure.  “So much so that she would do anything to get her stage.”  Was that a wistful tone that I heard in Hoshimura-sempai’s voice?  “Asura’s always been determined, once her decision has been made, no one in this world can change it.” 

Not even you? 

I wanted to ask but held my tongue.  It seemed too intimate of a question to be asking. 

In front of us, Fujimaru-sempai was already bowing and saying words of gratitude.  It was an indication that the photo shoot has come to an end, and I quickly moved forward to help Fujimaru-sempai like any good assistant would.  Around us rose all sorts of protest, it was obvious that the student body was not satisfied just yet.  Even the principal has noticed this and was awkward in shaking Fujimaru-sempai’s and Hoshimura-sempai’s hands.  No matter how final the principal may make this look, the out cry of the crowd drowned out even their conversation. 

And finally, Hoshimura-sempai hopped onto the stage of the auditorium and headed for the microphone.  “Alright, what is it?  What do you girls want?” 

Then there seemed to have been an instantaneous and continuous out cry of requests that almost imploded within this room.  Fujimaru-sempai looked around before turning to glance up at Hoshimura-sempai, who looked half amused and half surprised at the result.  ‘Alright, alright, let’s calm ourselves first.”  She lifted a hand to signal that the crowd should quiet themselves as it was obvious that she wasn’t going to raise her voice. 

I looked at Hoshimura-sempai and could not help but admire the natural grace that she handled this situation with.  It was her out going attitude, that confidence and friendly smile that made her a crowd favourite.  If there had to be a vote between her and Fujimaru-sempai, even I am inclined to vote for her.  Fujimaru-sempai was someone to be respected and revered from afar; someone whose accomplishments cannot be over looked, yet someone who was unapproachable even if she was smiling. 

“Looks like these girls won’t let us go if we don’t appease them.”  Hoshimura-sempai directed that statement over at Fujimaru-sempai, who offered a small shrug and smiled at the other.  “How about this then; since we’ve both been made to change into these clothes, why not utilize them a little bit further?  Let’s do a photo set together, and the prints of this set are only available for the students of this school.  How does that sound to you, princess?” 

Before Fujimaru-sempai could even reply, the students have already made their decisions with the incessant screams.  One glance around and Fujimaru-sempai needn’t give her answer.  The principal was hesitant but could not fight the ardent insistence of the crowd. 

So in the garden of the school, Fujimaru-sempai sat on a boulder with her back against a tree trunk.  Hoshimura-sempai situated herself on the lowest branch, both of them looked towards opposite directions but just the scene alone was enough.  It was truly a piece of art work for the students.  I could not help but over hear the excited words exchanged all around me. 

“Oh my God, they look so amazing!”
“Do you think they’d sign something for us?”
“Do you know if Hoshimura-sempai is seeing anyone?”
“Do you think they’re dating?” 

Oh they would never know how valid those questions were. 

As the last pose, Fujimaru-semapi sat down on the grass with an arm extended behind her to support herself.  Hoshimura-sempai lay on the same patch of grass with her head resting on Fujimaru-sempai’s legs.  When Fujimaru-sempai lifted her hand to brush back a strand of loose hair, the photographer caught that moment precisely. 

To them, it might have been a minute when their eyes were connected and they saw nothing but each other. 

To me, it seemed like an eternity.  I wondered if they’ve ever saw anyone else other than each other.  In the not so far distance, they appeared to be in a world of their own.  I wondered what made their relationship work for the past ten years.  And what will make their relationship work for the next ten years? 

Yet, I could not place this mild throb of pain that pulsated through my heart. 

In the early evening, the photo shoots were finally finished and the crowds slowly dissolved themselves.  As soon as there was a little room to breathe, my friends joined me quickly and gushed over Hoshimura-sempai accordingly.  Fujimaru-sempai was already folding up the summer dress and handing it back to the wardrobe staff.  Even in her own dress, she was still gorgeous like she was moments ago. 

“You girls are free in the evening, right?  Let’s go out for dinner to celebrate.  It’s rare to have such a chance these days.”  Hoshimura-sempai suggested to everyone, when in reality, she knew that everyone was going to accept.   

Everyone except for Erika that is. 

“Sorry Hoshimura-sempai, I have to go back home.” 

“Eh?  Why?”  I was the one who asked instead of Hoshimura-sempai. 

“I have to go back to feed and walk Caramel, she’s been left by herself longer than usual today.”  Erika looked at her watch and frowned.  “It’s past the time I usually walk her, she might be trying to hold in too much.” 

At the mention of Caramel, any previous excitement over the dinner was wiped away.  Immediately, I felt a stab of guilt and quickly stepped towards Erika as well.  “I’ll go with you then.”  Caramel was the burden that I picked up, and yet, it is now Erika who had to take care of the puppy all by herself.  I really am selfish like that. 

“No, that’s alright, I can go back by myself.  You go out and have fun.” 

“But I…” 

“It’s fine, Megumi-san.”  Reika interrupted and stepped towards us and patted my arm.  “I’ll accompany Mika-sempai home.  Unlike you girls, I see Natsuki’s face every single day.  You go and have fun.” 

What is this?  Why do I feel so unwanted in their presence? 

“In that case,” Fujimaru-sempai spoke up “Reika-chan and Erika can take my car; my driver will send them home safely.  We can take a taxi.”  

So in the end, that was how I ended up in a full restaurant with my friends and three elders.  My friends obviously did not notice my discomfort throughout the evening.  If Hoshimura-sempai and Fujimaru-sempai noticed, they didn’t voice anything either.  Ito-sempai was the only one who was as quiet as I.  Because no one made the notion to leave, we were eventually separated to explore different parts of the restaurant by ourselves.  It was on the back porch that I found Ito-sempai with a glass of drink by herself.  From the looks of it, that was no fruit juice. 

“Ah, Megumi, it’s you.” 

I smiled and stepped up besides her and leaned my arms against the wooden railing, copying her position.  The two of us remained silent for a moment before she spoke up again.  “Don’t you find it strange that both of them have time for dinner tonight?” 

Both of them?  Both of whom?
That would be a stupid question to ask, because I knew whom she was referring to after all. 

“It’s their anniversary.” 

“Eh?!”  This time, I could not contain my surprise. 

Ito-sempai glanced over and gave me a crooked smile before she took a sip of whatever drink she was holding in her hand.  “It’s their tenth anniversary together.  It’s the ninth year that I’ve known them.”  She spoke coherently, but to me, she sounded more and more discouraged by the second.  “Nine years…” 


“You must wonder what I’m doing with them for nine years, right?” 

“Ito-sempai is the national team’s manager, no?” 

She gave me that same crooked smile again and tilted her head.  “Did you know that I’ve always wanted to become a doctor?  In my last year of senior high, I applied for both pre-med and management for university.  I was accepted into both, but I chose to give up my childhood dream when it was just a signature away.  Why?"

I remained silent; I knew it was a rhetorical question. 

“All because I thought if I stayed around her long enough, she would at least look at me a little.”  I heard the heart break in her voice and my heart shook with hers.  “All because I thought that she will eventually notice how much I want to be with her.”  She shrugged and took another sip.  I wondered if she was swallowing her tears along with her alcohol.  “When she loves you, whatever you think, you are.  When she doesn’t love you, what do you think you are?” 


I realized at that moment. 


It has nothing to do with the beloved one.  From the beginning to the end, it’s always been the business of the one loving.


To be continued...

Chapter 15

Title: Chapter Fifteen

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Fifteen


Sometimes I wonder if there was a fatigue period in a relationship.  This was not to say that Erika and I no longer enjoyed each other’s company, but even I could feel that the need to see each other was no longer as intense as it used to be.  I counted silently the other day and realized that our anniversary and her birthday would be coming up soon.  It’s already been a year!  I must have drawn in a breath of pure shock in the middle of silent study at that realization.  What should we do for our one year anniversary?  As pathetic as it might sound, I had no idea!  I’ve never had experience in dating, so how would I know what would be considered appropriate activities for a one year anniversary? 

“What did you and Hoshimura-senpai do for your first anniversary?” 

I asked Fujimaru-senpai at work a few days later.  We were both sitting at her breakfast table, sorting through a bin of mail.  No, I was not joking; it was literally a bin of mail.  The latest edition of Fujimaru-senpai’s monthly letter for her fan club was posted a week ago; this was just the usual amount of reply. 


“Because, mine and Erika’s anniversary is coming up, and I have no idea what to do!  It’s her birthday as well!”  Now that I think about it, why the heck did I ever choose to confess to her on her birthday?!  I should have thought ahead! 

Think before you speak.
And think before you do.
Those shall be my mottos in life! 

“Rather than giving her anything grand, it would better if it came from your heart.  Even if it’s something small, if you put your heart and thought into it, I’m sure she will appreciate it.” 

“Mmmm.”  I nodded and glanced over a fan letter written to Fujimaru-senpai.  It was without a doubt that she would not be able to finish reading all of these in a day, so the most we could do was to take out all the letters and put them in a folder for her to read when she was travelling from one place to another.  It was a make shift book.  “I see.  So what did you and Hoshimura-senpai do?”  I realized that she never did answer my question. 

There was a moment of silence, and I thought about asking whether Fujimaru-senpai had forgotten all about her one year anniversary. 

“We went to see a game, then went to see a movie and went back to her place to cook and eat dinner.” 

“A game?” 

“One of Natsuki’s basketball games at school.” 

“How was that?” 

“… she invited me to watch a losing game.” 

Eh?  My eyes lifted sharply to see if Fujimaru-senpai was joking, but I found no traces of jest on her face.  Well then… even I knew that a losing game was no fun to watch, especially if your significant other was on the losing side.  “How interesting.”  I commented meekly, not knowing what else to say. 


Another motto: silence is worth more than gold! 

I was sure that Erika was preparing a present for me in her own way, I had no doubt.  So in the days remaining before November twenty-first, I secured us seats at an inter-high basketball game.  As we sat on the bleachers and watched the game with wide eyes and wide mouths, we forgot all about cheering.  Then again, we weren’t fans of either team, so it was a winning game for us no matter who won.  Amidst the sea of fans around us, we looked at each other and shared an amused smile.  Her fingers brushed against mine, hidden from view between our legs and covered by our jackets. 

Looking at the running legs from east to west, I wondered how Fujimaru-senpai felt when she sat watching Hoshimura-senpai play.  It must have been a much more engaging game than the one we are watching right now.  Truthfully, I had almost wanted to get a pair of tickets to one of Hoshimura-senpai’s games.  However, she turned out to be all the way up north and even I could feel the rift between her and Hoshimura-senpai. 

“I wonder if Hoshimura-senpai can dunk like that!” 

We walked to the cinema with a casual pace and chatted idly about the game we just saw.  The skills we saw awed me, so I immediately drew the only link I knew to basketball. 

“You should ask her to show you some time.” 

“That’s right!”  I clapped my hands together in realization and happiness but missed how Erika had averted her gaze away from me. 

Thirty minutes later, we sat down in front of a horror film that had both of us curled up against one another.  It was the first time that I realized Erika could show such an expression as well.  I wanted to smile, but unfortunately I was too preoccupied with hiding behind her whenever an unpleasant scene would pop up onto the screen. 

“I never knew you’d be scared of something too!” 

Charged by the adrenaline that flowed after the horror film our joint hands swung up and down between us as we walked back to her place.  She carried a plastic bag of ingredients that we had gotten at the nearest grocery store.  I told her not to ask, so she didn’t and followed after me carefully as I selected everything in the bag.  From Fujimaru-senpai, a home made meal sounded warm and wonderful, so I was determined to recreate such a feeling. 

“What did you think I was?  Of course I get scared too!  I’m human after all!” 

“Your expression in the theatre was hilarious!” 

“Speak for yourself, missy.  Who had her head buried against my shoulder the entire movie?” 

“I have no idea what you are talking about, hmph!”   

“Ah, I don’t know why you chose a horror film.  Didn’t you say that you hate those movies?” 

“I do!  But…”  I paused and glanced up at her carefully, a little sheepish at my admission.  “… they say that after a horror film, you would find your date more attractive.”  My voice started barely above a whisper and trailed off to no more than what a mosquito could make.  Ahhhh!  This was so embarrassing! 

“What, you don’t find me attractive?” 

“I never said that!” 

“So you do find me attractive.” 

“…….. you are not allowed to speak to me ‘till we get to your house.”  The pout on my lips was large enough to serve as a hook. 

Erika chuckled besides me but did not continue on.  Attractive?  Truthfully, I had not thought of that term before.  It was comfortable to be with Erika; she was my friend, my school mate, my girlfriend and my family all rolled into one.  Perhaps I never tried to differentiate between them.  

“Where did you hear that from?” 


“The horror film and attraction thing.” 

“Oh, Fujimaru-senpai said it.” 

“Is that so.” 

She said nothing else for the rest of the journey, and I was too embarrassed still to notice the difference.  Besides, she’d always been a quiet individual to begin with.  I took no notice. 

At her foyer, Caramel greeted us with a wagging tail and a hyperactive amount of jumping.  I knelt down immediately, forgetting even my shoes and clothes, to hug her to me.  How I’ve missed her.  Since the last time I saw her, she had grown again.  It was now the season for her coat to grow longer and thicker, making her appear fluffier than I last saw her. 

My last little task was to cook pasta for the both of us.  I rolled up my sleeves and tied back my hair before looking at the ingredients with a determined face.  Truthfully, I was not a cook, at all.  Never in my life have I attempted something like this.  Usually, I would just boil water, cook the rice in the rice maker, and make instant noodles.  Erika sat at the small dinner table and looked over at me with worry in her eyes. 

How the food turned out? 

Let’s just say, after a couple of bandages on my fingers later, Erika quickly stepped in and relieved my poor fingers from any more abuse.  I sat, twirling the long strand of pasta around my fork, a permanent pout on my lips. 


“You okay?” 


“Eat while it’s hot, it won’t taste good when cold.” 

“I know.” 

Erika looked at me for a moment before offering a small laugh.  “Why did you want to cook in the first place?  If I had known that your life would be on the line, I never would have let you touch the knife.” 

“Fujimaru-senpai said that a home made dinner would be warm and intimate!  So I had wanted to try it out myself!” 

Erika paused and peered at me quietly.  After a long moment, she dropped her gaze to her plate but did not continue eating.  “Megumi, don’t you think you should pay more attention to our relationship instead of other people?” 

“What do you mean?” 

“I mean…”  She stopped and I stopped as well.  For the first time, I sensed hesitation in her tone and that alarmed me.  “… I appreciate tonight, I really do.  I had lots of fun, but… it’s our anniversary, I wanted to celebrate it in our own way.” 

“.... but we are celebrating it our way…” 

“The basketball game, you said it’s because Fujimaru-senpai said it’s entertaining.  The movie was because of Fujimaru-senpai as well and now this…”  She nodded her chin towards our plates of food. 

“What are you saying?”  My cheeks flushed and I knew I was growing defensive. 

“I’m just saying… maybe we don’t have to do everything that they’ve done before, I mean, it’s not like everything they do should and have to be done.  It might have suited them, but it might not suit us.” 

Although I did not wish to, the utensils in my hand dropped on the table with a clang and I swallowed the lump in my throat.  Even though Erika had spoken truthfully, I had a feeling that she was not quite done.  “What is it?”  Finally, I spoke; surprising myself with how controlled my voice sounded.  “I know that’s not the only thing that’s bothering you, so what are you not saying?” 

I thought Erika would deny having held back anything, but when she lifted her eyes to look at me, I knew I blindly hit the spot. 

“What do you really think about me?” 

“What do you mean?” 

“To you, am I just a really close friend or your girlfriend?” 

Even ‘till this day, when she spoke of being a girlfriend, I would still flush.  Somehow, that one word seemed so intimate.  Today was no different, but there was also perhaps the heat of frustration.  “What do you think?”  For me to say ‘girlfriend’ out loud seemed so embarrassing and I couldn’t even bring my lips to form that word. 

“I don’t know.”  Erika did not sound sarcastic; it was a genuine lack of knowledge on her end.  “I tell myself that you are just new at being in a relationship and that slowly you will begin to understand the difference between a female friend and a girlfriend.”  She spoke candidly, extinguishing my anger spark by spark.  “To me, it seems like you are always interested in other people’s relationship and doings more than you are of your own relationship and me.”  As if someone had exposed a secret, my heart jumped and my face flushed some more.  “I appreciate you asking Fujimaru-senpai for help and following her advice, but… it was supposed to be a day for the two of us.  Even if we stayed at home and did nothing, I would still have been happy.  But…” 

She didn’t need to continue, I was beginning to understand. 

But I had chosen to follow someone else’s recipe, thinking that their happiness would translate into our happiness as well. 

Reduced to silence, I could only look at my plate with no words to offer.  Erika did not push either.  Dinner was cold when we finished it.  For our anniversary, she had gotten us a pair of couple rings.  They were not glamorous; they were just simple bands that fitted around our fingers snugly.  Even so, even when we both tried to smile and wave away the previous conversation, we both knew something had been torn open.  And until we could mend it, the gap was just going to widen and swallow us both. 

For a long time, I thought to myself.  I re-evaluated from the beginning to the end and even wrote notes.  Then I realized that feelings just cannot be accurately put down as words.  There was no adjective for the anger or the love I felt.  Thankfully, the exam period distracted us both sufficiently from this topic that no one noticed the difference.   

Except for the two of us, that is. 

For a long time, I thought I’d never be able to come up with the answer; then, that letter came and I watched as Fujimaru-senpai’s face contorted into shock and pain in a mask.  It was unadulterated and raw; I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  Five minutes passed and Fujimaru-senpai folded the letter before addressing me. 

“Megumi, book me the earliest flight to Canada.” 

Numbly, I followed her orders and picked up the land line.  Fujimaru-senpai had already risen from her seat and was heading up the stairs.  The automated voice from the other end of the phone attracted my attention and my mind was finally able to focus.  She was booked for the next flight out, tomorrow morning at five.  

It wasn’t until later did I find out that her father had been hospitalized. 

Maybe it was the sudden realization that a person’s life was long and short at the same time, or maybe it was the shock that cleared my head enough to have me realize what was truly important, my fingers hovered over my cell phone’s keyboard for a brief second and sent an invitation to meet. 

I chose the half way point between our houses, underneath a bridge that allowed privacy but also provided us a steadily running stream that could be distraction if necessary.  It was five days before Christmas and I was there first.  Facing the stream, I collected my thoughts while waiting for her. 

“Did you have to wait for long?” 

She stood next to me, looking at the stream as well.  I glanced over at her profile and noted that nothing has changed about her. 

“I’m sorry."

“What for?” 

“I cannot say clearly that I completely understand what it means to be in a relationship; what sort of commitments one has to put into a relationship; and what are the do’s and don’ts of a relationship.  I realized that for our anniversary, I did not consider your point of view and blindly believed in what I thought was happiness.” 

When Fujimaru-senpai left for Vancouver six days ago, I had the opportunity to sit in her empty house and looked at the depictions of her life around me.  I knew that I admired the relationship between Fujimaru-senpai and Hoshimaru-senpai; so much so that I had wanted to recreate what they had between Erika and me. 

“Then I realized that happiness is relative and personal.  One person’s happiness may be considered another person’s nightmare.  For them,” I knew I did not need to specify just whom I was referring to “it was happiness; for us, it was a burden.  I am sorry that I could not realize it sooner.”   

See, this was why I chose a scenic setting.  After the somewhat embarrassing speech, I could just let my eyes rest on the flowing water, focus intently and pretend as if I had said nothing. 

“I am sorry as well.”  A length, Erika spoke as well.  “I know you tried your best and that you were trying to prepare an anniversary that would be memorable.  I did not mean to degrade your efforts, I hope you know that.  So I guess I am quite inadequate when it comes to being in a relationship as well.” 

Finally, I couldn’t help but let a small chuckle escape my lips and gathered the courage to turn and look at her. 

“Then we will work together?” 

“You bet.” 

It started as a smile on both of our faces and escalated into laughter, full of relief and belated happiness.  Erika held out her hand for me and I took it; our fingers interlocked and we both knew that was one chapter behind us.  The words and feelings exchanged would be the building blocks for our relationship as we walk another mile or two ahead. 

“I think every relationship needs a turning point.”  Erika started again, this time, standing with me shoulder against shoulder, looking at the stream still.  “Although in the future I’m sure we will just look at this as another petty argument, for now, I somehow feel that it was some sort of an important turning point.”  I liked the way she said “in the future” with such certainty; a smile could not be tempted from my face.  “From here on, whatever that needs to be changed, we can do it together.  We’ll change together so we can grow together as well.” 

Really, if I had her eloquence, perhaps our relationship would never need bickering or arguments. 

True to Erika’s hypothesis, that Christmas season indeed was a turning point.  Although at first, it did not seem like it was a turning point for us, the reverberations it maintained changed everyone a little. 

Four days later, we boarded a plane.
Destination: Canada.

To be continued...


[End notes:

Oh goodness, this took me more than long enough, it's been eight months and I've finally gotten the inspiration to continue with this story.  Somewhere along the line, I had lost inspiration and then writer's block kicked in, and then We Got Married happened.  Again.  That show is truly the worst temptation in the entire world, and I let myself be pulled back in.  Again.

I am in no position to make any promises, but I do hope that I will be able to carry on this story with a steady pace that does not mean eight months per update.

Sorry and thank you!


Chapter 16

Title: Chapter Sixteen

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidences.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter 16

It was on Christmas day that we arrived at snowy Canada.  A limo awaited us at the airport and we were ushered inside, where there were leather seats and warm air.  Hoshimura-senpai sat closest to the driver, conversing in English quietly.  The rest of us were awed by the sights we saw outside.  Hoshimura-senpai had taken time off from her national games to join Fujimaru-senpai, and she had invited all of us to come with her.  It was hard to resist her invitation on my end; so naturally, I extended the invitation to Erika as well.  Chiharu, Fuyu and Hitomi were confused as to the reason but only saw this as an opportunity to get away on vacation.  Ito-senpai stayed behind as the national team was still every little bit immersed in their winter schedule. 


The entire time, I could not help but direct my gaze at Hoshimura-senpai with worry.  She still talked and smiled as usual, but in those long moments of silence on the plane when everyone was asleep, I saw her opened eyes starring out of the window at nothingness.


Like right now, she was chatting with the driver with a smile on her face, but I wondered just how much worry was going through her head right now.


Fujimaru-senpai’s house was like a mansion.  There was a front gate that opened for us and a centre piece that we circled around before stopping in front of the steps that reached the enormous double doors. 


“Oh my God, there are four garages!”  Chiharu could not help but gasp when we stepped out of the car.  A middle aged man was already pulling our luggage out of the trunk of the car.  Inside the mansion, we were greeted by Fujimaru-senpai as she made her way down the stairs.


“Oto-san will show you to your rooms.”  Fujimaru-senpai told us as she put on the last of her earrings and gestured to the middle aged man who was carrying our bags.  “He is Japanese.”  Ah, so language would not be a problem; we all bowed towards him.  “I’m going to the hospital, make yourselves at home, and don’t wait for me.”


Fujimaru-senpai and Hoshimura-senpai left together.

I wondered what they would talk about on the way to the hospital.


A high pitched squeal from upstairs startled me out of my reverie and I looked up just in time to see Hitomi running back to the stairs with a strange glow about her face.  Before I could ask, she had clasped her hands together and was looking at me as if love sick.  “The rooms are absolutely gorgeous, you have to come up and see!”  Just like that, she disappeared once again behind a wall, leaving only Erika and I confused and somewhat bewildered.


Was it the correct decision, taking them with us?

Their elated spirits and bright smiles seemed inappropriate for a house that was grieving.


It was already dinner time when we finished unpacking.  After recovering from my initial surprise, I must say I could understand why Hitomi was so excited.  The rooms were spacious and each decorated with a different theme.  There were three stories to this mansion, and all the guest rooms were located on the second floor.  I could not help but wonder what Fujimaru-senpai’s room looked like, but it hardly seemed proper to ask for a visit.


We ate little of dinner, still congested from airplane food.  The rest of the evening we spent by walking around the neighbourhood.  It was Christmas day; all the driveways were filled with cars and rainbow coloured lights were reflected on a thick layer of white snow.


The silence emphasized the mood of a holiday and how out of our comfort zones we were.


It was almost midnight, and I was still tossing and turning, unable to grasp sleep when my body was still under the impression that it was still around early afternoon.  Finally, I huffed and threw aside the cover to slip out of bed.  My feet curled when they landed on the hard wood floor, cold to the touch, and I quickly slipped them inside indoor slippers.  I pulled on a cardigan and opened my door to look left and right.  Erika’s room was to the right of mine, and the door was tightly closed.  Maybe everyone else was having better luck sleeping than I.


Just as I was pondering whether I should go back into my room and read, a light click from downstairs caught my attention and I turned to it quickly.  Someone was still up?  Maybe it was one of my friends!


With that thought in mind, my feet gained new confidence and I strolled quickly –but still quietly- to descend the stairs.  It wasn’t Hitomi, or Fuyu, or Chiharu, or even Erika.  Under the dim lights of the bar, Hoshimura-senpai sat on a stool with a glass of golden liquid in her hands.  I stopped at the threshold of the living room, watching her from the distance of said living room.


It was the first time that I’ve seen her unsuspecting of others; the first time that I’ve seen her with a frown on her face; the first time that I’ve seen her slouched over.  It was like I was a voyeur, there was something unsanctified about looking at her right now.  My legs moved, unknowing of direction, and Hoshimura-senpai turned her head towards me.  Caught, I didn’t quite know what to do.


“You are still awake?”  It was her who broke the silence first; with a smile on her face and a wave of her hand for me to approach.


I offered a smile and walked towards her when beckoned.  It was ridiculous how my heart was pounding in my chest.  “I didn’t know you were back.”


“I just got back.”


“How about Fujimaru-senpai?”


“She’s still at the hospital.”  Instinctually, I heard the difference in her tone; but I could not quite place it.


“How is her father?”


“Stable, but still weak.”


“I see.”


Hoshimura-senpai tilted her head and looked at me for a moment before she smiled and patted my head.  “Don’t worry; Asura is stronger than you think.”


I nodded, not knowing what else to say.  Hoshimura-senpai didn’t say anything either.  It was this silence that told me something was indeed amiss, but I couldn’t even find the words to start.  Besides me, Hoshimura-senpai sat with her glass in hands, her eyes looking at everything yet nothing at the same time.


“… are you alright?”  Finally, I couldn’t help but ask.  There was this pull, inexplicable, that existed between her and me; a pull that I could not resist.


“Yeah.”  She said shortly with a smile; rather than affirmative, it was somewhat helpless.  “Yeah.”  She said again, quietly; not knowing whether she was trying to assure me or assure herself.


“Hoshimura-senpai,” it was on a whim that I turned to her with haste “I know I am so much younger than you, and I know that in your eyes I am just a child, but… I can at least lend an ear to you when you need to talk.  So…”  My words grew slower when she turned to look at me, and my voice grew softer.  “… so if you… ever need to talk…”  I’m always available, I wanted to say.


She searched my face and I could feel her eyes looking at me.  Actually looking at me.  “Megumi-chan, do you like me?”


My breath was caught in my throat and I looked at her with wide eyes.  I heard nothing except for the pounding of my heart, resonating in my ears, along with her question.  My lips parted but nothing came out, I did not know what to say.  Slowly, she leaned closer, and I could see every little patch of skin and each eyelash.  Unconsciously, I swallowed and that one movement alone was enough to stop Hoshimura-senpai.


“What am I saying?”  She laughed and shook her head before backing off to her previous position.  “Don’t mind me; I have a horrible habit that you nearly saw.”




“You should try and get some sleep.  I’ll take you girls out tomorrow for some sight seeing and Boxing Day shopping.  You’ll need your energy for that one, trust me.”  She kicked back her head and emptied the glass of drink down her throat before she rose.  “Good night, Megumi-chan.”  I expected her to pat me on the shoulder as she walked by, but not even her shirt touched me.


For a long time, I sat on the stool and looked at the empty space where she was.  Why did it feel as if I had just been caught cheating?


My heart could not calm, my mind could not stop racing and I could not grasp one single coherent thought.  Back up in my room, I paced the floor and took in deep breaths to still myself.  Then I realized that beneath all the excitement, there was vivid guilt and sadness.  My feet stopped and I looked at the wall that was between Erika and me.  What was she doing now?


Without thinking, I exited my room and knocked on her door with haste.  It was the silence that hung after knocking that chilled me.  What was I doing?  If she opened the door, what the heck was I supposed to say?  If anything at all!  I was about to turn around and leave when the handle turned and she stepped out.


“Megumi, what’s wrong?”


For the second time that evening, I found the words stuck in my throat, not knowing what to say.


“I couldn’t sleep.”


She chuckled lightly and stepped closer to me, our bodies almost touching in this darkened hallway that was only illuminated by the light from my room and the light from her room.  Momentarily, we were thrown into the confines of shadows that danced on the walls around us.


“I know.  I heard you.”




“You pacing.”


I flushed lightly and cleared my throat; I thought I was quiet.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”


“Not at all, I couldn’t sleep either.”


I wondered if it were the truth, but at this point in time, I found that I didn’t really want to exert the extra energy to think about that.  So I took her words at face value and offered her a small smile.  “Erika…”  I started, not knowing what I wanted to say or how to continue; in the hesitation, I took a step closer to her in a physical need of contact and comfort.  What transpired downstairs startled me and I needed to know that Erika was here to curb my thoughts.  “Do you think it’s possible for someone to like two people at once?”


In the dim lighting, I thought I saw Erika frown before her words cut out, meant to be on a joking manner, so I thought.  “Why?  Are you cheating on me?”



Did what happen minutes ago count as cheating?

No, definitely not!


“No, I’m not talking about myself!”  Quickly, I shook my hands in hopes to chase away that thought altogether.  “I’m talking about… Hoshimura-senpai… I feel as if she might… like someone else… other than Fujimaru-senpai and…”  I was stuttering because these words were blurred between lies and wishful thinking.  Hoshimura-senpai’s words and actions from moments ago confused me and I was at a loss for what to do.


“Truthfully, I don’t really care.”  It was the first time that I had heard Erika voice her nonchalance towards the two seniors who have captured so many people’s attention.  She must have mistaken my stuttering as a sign of embarrassment or hesitation, for she moved forward and closed the gap between us.  “I’m more interested in knowing that my girlfriend is not cheating on me.”


Her words reminded me of what she told me on our anniversary, and sheepishly I pushed all thoughts of Hoshimura-senpai to the back of my head.  On a whim, and maybe I was still feeling a little guilty, I rose on my tiptoes and daringly placed a kiss on Erika’s lips.  It was one of the first times that I was the one who initiated the physical contact and felt her stiffen at first in surprise before responding.  I was not good at saying sorry verbally, maybe physically would be a lot easier.


I felt her arm wrap around my waist when I thought I heard a door open somewhere across from us.  I paid it no thought until words reached my ears that then died with a gasp.


“What are you guys still doing…” 


That was what Hitomi had started to say when she poked her head out of her bedroom door; as I found out later on.


It was almost instinctual when Erika and I parted and turned our heads to see Hitomi’s bewildered face.  The three of us looked at each other; no one knew what to say.  Then Hitomi quickly shook her head and offered a hasty smile with parting words that were mumbled before the door was shut firmly.  That little click resonated in my ears and I glanced over at Erika.  She wore a frown on her eyebrows but offered a smile when she saw me looking at her.


“It’s okay, everything will be okay.”  She patted my cheek with affection before taking a modest step back.  “Go in and try to get some sleep.”


Sleep?  That was the last thing on my mind right now.


We never deliberately tried to hide our relationship from our friends, but on an unconscious level, we figured that they wouldn’t understand and might distance themselves from us if they found out.  Now that Hitomi knew, I had no doubt that by tomorrow morning, Fuyu and Chiharu would know as well.  Since it was out there, we might as well behave overtly, right?  It’s not like we were doing anything illegal!


So then, why did it feel so painful to breathe?

And why did my heart still beat when I recalled Hoshimura-senpai’s expression?


Just when I thought I would have to deal with my friends’ confrontation the next day, this over seas visit produced more surprises than one.  A little before noon, a handsome young gentleman came to call.  Oh don’t you dare look down on me because of my adjectives, they could not be more accurate.


Matsumoto Anthony was his name, if we were to say it the Japanese way.  He was young, well… around Hoshimura-senpai’s age.  He was definitely handsome.  And he behaved every bit a gentleman.  So how else did you expect me to describe him?  Anyways, he was looking for Fujimaru-senpai and was promptly sent to the hospital with an address and a room number.  I thought Hoshimura-senpai would have accompanied him, but she only smiled and closed the front door before turning to us.


“You girls should dress for the weather; I’ll take you out for some sight seeing.”


Amidst the clapping and cheers of happiness, I looked at Hoshimura-senpai quietly.  It was the usual trade mark smile on her face as she talked to Fuyu about the tourist spots, but maybe… maybe I was still a little sensitive from last night, I thought I saw a taste of bitterness on the corner of her lips.  She and a family driver of Fujimaru-senpai’s took us to the local hot spots to enrich us in the local culture.  The excitement had diluted the shock that my friends must have felt after discovering about the relationship between Erika and me.


If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that they didn’t mind at all.


Yet, it was those subtle glances towards us; the careful words chosen and the way they distanced themselves from us that made me realize what was on the surface truly could not reach skin deep.


There were so many things that we were not prepared for.


We stayed in Canada for a total of six days before we were preparing to fly back to Japan.  It was the beginning of a new year and there were many changes coming.  One, Fujimaru-senpai did not even see us off at the airport; she had been spending every waking moment at the hospital and in her family company’s conference rooms.  Two, my friends sat behind Erika and me, talking in hushed whispers and did not once ask for our opinions.  I gripped the divider harshly before Erika rescued my fingers and the arm; instead, she squeezed our laced fingers and offered me a smile.  Third, Hoshimura-senpai did not stay with Fujimaru-senpai; instead, she was on the same flight back to Japan with us.


Of course, that was not the final word in that chapter.

The actual news reached us a little later, with its full force still in bearing.

To be continued...

Chapter 17

Title: Chapter Seventeen

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Seventeen

January air was chilling to the bone when we returned and human relations were more chilling than nature’s tempers.  When we parted at the airport, my friends chose to go in one taxi, Hoshimura-senpai in another, leaving Erika and I with our own.  I stood on the side walk and watched them depart with a heavy heart, as if something in my stomach was attempting to pull down my heart.


“It will be okay.”  Erika said next to me, her fingers were just as cold as mine when they closed around my digits.


She said that, but I wasn’t sure if I believed her.  I wasn’t sure if I believed myself.  My friends and I have been through so many years, it seemed rather harsh of them to distance themselves just because of whom I chose to date.  I was angry and sad at the same time; angry that they were so shallow, and sad at the idea that I might never be able to go back to how things were with them.


Was it worth it?

Between the dreams of the evening, I had the desperate thought that to stay with Erika might mean denouncing the entire world.  Or, the flip side of the coin stabbed at me, I choose the entire world and forsake Erika. 


One week later and we were sitting in the same classrooms with the same surrounding and similar lessons.  We greeted each other normally, but I could see the discomfort in their subtle expressions. 


“Before school work picks up, do you want to hang out?”  I gathered up my courage and summoned a smile to face my friends; asking them as if nothing has changed.  Fuyu stopped packing and looked at me with wide eyes before glancing over to the other two.  No one knew quite what to say.  “Come on, we’ll go to the café shop that we all like!”  My cheeks felt painful and my smile felt numb, it was like a face off before war.  Why was it like that?


“Well…”  Hitomi spoke up finally; uncertainty laced her voice.  “… I don’t know, I guess…”


“Megumi, are you still here?”


Behind me, Erika’s greeting was natural and casual.  However, my eyes that were looking at the three others in front of me saw the exact opposite of that.


“I was just asking them to hang out after school.”


“Oh?”  Erika lifted an eyebrow and looked towards them.  “Are we going?”


“Actually, you know, it’s really quite cold today and I don’t feel like walking in the cold for too long.”  Chiharu finally said with a quick smile.  “Perhaps another time, yeah?”  Grabbing her bag from her seat, she brushed past us with a smile and a nod; Fuyu and Hitomi followed suit.  It was only when I had to exhale did I realize that I was holding a gulp of breath all along.  Before I asked, I was prepared for a rejection, and thought that I had talked myself into accepting it with a smile on my face.  However, reality and imagination obviously differed and I was left starring at the empty desks.


“Give them some time.”  Erika placed a hand on my shoulder and massaged the immediate area gently.  “They are just in shock, I’m sure they will come around.”


If the time came for it, will I be able to abandon the entire world for Erika alone?  At this moment, I find that I really wanted Fujimaru-senpai’s sarcastically reassuring words, but she was no where to be found.


For now.


It became shooting three separate movies all at once, in my opinion.  In front of my family, I tried my best to act as if nothing was wrong.  When they brought up my friends, I would make up some sort of an excuse as to why they haven’t been around recently.  In front of my friends, I have to smile readily, act as if nothing was wrong and that the relationship between Erika and I are extremely normal.  In front of Erika, unconsciously, I wanted to show her confidence in the situation right now.  So much so that I couldn’t even tell which one was the real me and which one was just a mask.


Fujimaru-senpai called in the middle of January and told me that she will be back before the month was up.  Of course, it was a business phone call that stated many assignments that I was to finish before she landed.  Fujimaru-senpai sounded tired and surprisingly cold.  Then again, her father was still hospitalized and she has to shoulder the entire business by herself.


So I excused her behaviour as expected without another thought.


It wasn’t until one evening when I was watching T.V. with my family that I realized everything had been ticking for so long without my knowledge.  The news report talked about how even though it was high season for basketball teams, Hoshimura-senpai still found the time between games to escort this lovely lady to and fro many different avenues.  The news report spun it in such a way that placed Hoshimura-senpai in an irresponsible light.


To me, it was a completely different tale that I saw.


When the night was deep and everyone was quiet asleep, I couldn’t help but call Erika regarding what I saw.


“Do you think Hoshimura-senpai is cheating on Fujimaru-senpai?”


“I don’t know.”


“Erika!  At least sound a little interested!”


“I’m sorry, Megumi, but I really am not even a little bit interested.”  I pouted at her calm tone and tossed that thought aside.  “If you are so curious, why not just call her yourself?”


As always, Erika’s words struck a nerve without reserve.  So I looked at my cell phone and flipped through the contact information of both Fujimaru-senpai and Hoshimura-senpai.  Like that, ten minutes passed before I finally pressed connect.


“Ito-senpai, this is Megumi…”  What?  Were you truly expecting me to have called either of the two involved?!  I wasn’t that brave!


“Megumi, is something wrong?”


“Well… I’m not sure if you’ve seen it, but… tonight, there was a news report on the national team and…”


“And Hoshimura-senpai, right?”




“Just ignore it.  Hoshimura-senpai is not slacking off and has been doing her duties.  These people seriously have nothing else to do.  It’s so frustrating at times.”


“I… actually… was curious about something else.”




“Between Fujimaru-senpai and Hoshimura-senpai… did something happen?”  There, I asked!  The second of silence that followed after seemed to have stretched out for an eternity and I could only hear the blood rushing in my ears.  I grasped onto my phone with both of my hands and wondered if I had crossed a line.


“They…”  Ito-senpai started quietly, hesitation could be heard in her voice.  “They broke up over the holidays.”




It was a cry that was loud enough to wake up the entire house but I could care less.  My posture dropped and my heart raced for an entirely different reason than being nervous.  Ito-senpai carried on and said that Fujimaru-senpai called the stop on their relationship when we were in Canada.  It was why Hoshimura-senpai had come back with us when in reality she had already asked for a month off just in case.  Apparently there was a reason, but Hoshimura-senpai did not elaborate.  Even ‘till the very end, Hoshimura-senpai had smiled and said that Fujimaru-senpai had her own hardships; so she could understand why Fujimaru-senpai wanted to stop.


She understood, but I could not understand at all.


That evening, I hung up the phone numbly and closed my eyes numbly.  I think I was angry and disappointed and most definitely sad.  I was sad for Hoshimura-senpai to have just accepted the break up without another word.  I was disappointed to see such a fitting couple dissolve their relationship.  And I was definitely angry at Fujimaru-senpai for doing something like this.


Eight days before her return, I was already thinking about how I should act to her.


On January twenty-sixth, Fujimaru-senpai returned.  She had not even had a change of clothes from her flight and was already on the phone with many of her associates here in Japan.  It would appear that the situation in Canada had been stabilized enough for her to come back and deal with the unfinished business of her own career.  I walked in when she was nearing the end of a phone conversation.  I glanced at her and noted the rushed appearance of a pair of jeans, a simple shirt and her long hair pulled back into a loose bun.  I’ve never seen her dressed like this before.


Yet when I remembered Hoshimura-senpai, a frown could not help but appear on my face.


“Megumi, go get me another cup of tea.”  She waved her tea cup in my direction without even looking up from the papers that she was reading.


“I thought I was here to assist you with your work and not to be your servant.”  The words left my mouth in a frenzy before I could even think about what they sounded like.  It was probably the boldest I have ever been in my entire life, and to someone whom I respect… respected?  I wasn’t quite sure whether that should be a present or past tense there. 


Fujimaru-senpai paused visibly and looked up at me slowly.


“It’s not like you haven’t done it before.”


“That doesn’t matter!  You shouldn’t be using people around you!”


“What are you talking about?”


Truly, what was I talking about?  It wasn’t like I’ve never gotten her tea –amongst other things- before; and it wasn’t like I ever complained.  For some reason, today, nothing seemed right to me.  So my lips moved but nothing came out, I didn’t even know what to say.  Fujimaru-senpai looked at me calmly, and I knew she was trying to contain her impatience and her temper as well.


“You know exactly what I’m talking about!”  Without thinking, I circled the desk and moved to her side.  Reaching out, I pushed at her collar and saw a bare neck.  At that moment, I knew Ito-senpai was indeed telling the truth.  After I knew about the meaning behind that necklace, my habit was to look for the necklace first and then look at the person.  Somehow, that necklace had been equated to the love that they shared.  The reality of finally seeing one of the two people involved without it stunned me and my hand was frozen.


Until my hand was slapped away.


“I’m not in the mood to deal with your harassment, move aside.”


Have you ever had that feeling before?  More than your own relationship, someone else’s break-up hurts you more?  It was like watching a drama and your favourite couple had just been separated.  You know it wasn’t real, yet you could not help but ache and lose sleep over it.




“Why what?”


“Why did you break up with Hoshimura-senpai?”


This time, the silence was longer than previous and Fujimaru-senpai did not meet my eyes until a good two minutes later.  When she did, her face was expressionless and she spoke softly.  “There are some things in this world that, Megumi, no matter how much you want to keep, they just cannot be kept.”  Even when my mind was clouded by disbelief and grief, I could hear the defeat in her voice as well.  “Why I broke up with her really… is none of your business though.”


“But why, Fujimaru-senpai?!  You’ve been together for ten years!  There are no good reasons in this world that can break you two apart after ten years!”


“Time is not a measure of love, Megumi; time is only a witness to many things.  Time was witness to us having dated and it was witness to us having to separate as well.  You cannot burden time with any of the decisions that have been made.  Like the saying goes, time can heal but time can also take away.”


“And time can also be used as a convenient excuse.”


I would never know whether Fujimaru-senpai had indeed used time as an excuse or not, but the temporary stun showed on her face and I was torn between feeling triumphant and frightened.  The most inner part of me ached for Hoshimura-senpai even more when I saw Fujimaru-senpai’s nonchalant face.


“When you get to my age, you will understand that there are more important things in the world than love or a relationship.”


An ice cold wind seemed to have seeped through my very being.  Fujimaru-senpai sounded as if she was speaking about someone else’s relationship; it sounded as if she didn’t even care about her relationship.


“How could you do this, senpai?”  My voice croaked and I’ve forgotten everything but wanting to express grief.  “Even though I’ve not known Hoshimura-senpai for as long as you, but it is evident to me that she loves you very much.  How could you just dump her like that?!  Are you really lacking a heart?!”


Fujimaru-senpai’s hand slapped down on the table with her pencil still between her fingers; the wooden writing material slammed against the glass table and the sound reverberated throughout the entire first floor.  The sound jolted me out of my trance and it seemed like my mind cleared immediately.


“Who are you to be questioning me like this?  Natsuki didn’t even ask these many questions.”  Her voice was restrained and I realized she was holding back her temper.  “Don’t you think you should be focusing on your own relationship instead of mine?  Weren’t you asking for advice a month ago about your own relationship?  What?  Did it suddenly become obsolete?  Just because you think two people should be together doesn’t mean they have to be together for your sake.  They have their own lives and their own thoughts; they are not your puppets!”


It was the first time that I’ve witnessed Fujimaru-senpai’s temper.  I’ve been used to her sarcastic remarks, but to see her stare at me with such intense eyes was unsettling.  So much so that I unconsciously took a step back and darted my eyes away.  The two of us remained in silence for a long moment, starring; then she dropped her gaze and returned to her work.


You know how you experience that ah-ha moment in life?

I just had one.


“I’ll get you tea.”


The sentence left my lips as a quiet mumble and I picked up the cup she had set down on the table earlier.


She was right; it was none of my business. 

But it was just so…


… it was like a fairytale had just come to an end. 

To be continued...

[End notes:

Author's Notes:

Just as I was about to edit this chapter earlier today, I saw some distasteful news that left me feeling quite betrayed.  The mood still lingers no matter how ridiculous I feel.  Love is such a shapeless thing that cannot be touched or seen; the only way is to feel it and yet it is precisely our feelings that need to be protected the most.

I hope this won't affect my writing.

And thank you to everyone for your support and reviews.


Chapter 18

Title: Chapter Eighteen

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Eighteen

After the conversation with Fujimaru-senpai, the topic of relationships was not touched upon again.  I knew that I touched a sore spot and she retaliated with an equal strength blow on my wound as well.  Of course, this did not mean anything for our working relationship as I continued to assist her almost every day after school.  Truthfully, I was thankful for the busy schedule to keep me busy as well.  I wasn’t quite sure how many times I could continue on asking my friends to hang out only to receive a rejection in reply.  Their excuses would always be courteous but so obviously fake that I didn’t know who was more embarrassed.  With the end of January, February meant colder weathers and Valentine’s Day.


It was just that much more sensitive this year. 


This year, Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday and Erika had extra drama rehearsal.  Before she left, I entered her house and took her key from her.  First, I rolled up my sleeves and soaked a cloth to clean up her place.  Caramel followed me on my heels; between playing with her and cleaning from top floor to ground floor, hours slipped by unnoticed.  In the early afternoon, I wiped my forehead and looked around me with my hands on my hips.  Yep, this was more like it!  I couldn’t say that it was sparkling clean, but at least every surface was void of dust.


Grabbing Caramel’s leash and locking the door behind me, we strolled down Erika’s neighbourhood at a leisurely pace towards the super market.  The neighbours have gotten used to my presence here over the years and could readily greet me on a first name basis.  When I wasn’t paying attention, it was not hard for me to pretend that I indeed lived here with Erika; and that our relationship had been accepted and congratulated by everyone.


In the super market, I pulled out a list of ingredients that were needed and went from aisle to aisle looking for each one.  Even though our first anniversary did not turn out to be a great memory, I did take the effort to improve my cooking skills at least a little.  When I asked my mother for help, she had looked at me as if I’d grown another head.  So today, I was confident that at least the food will be edible.


Maybe, deep down, I wanted to apologize for our butchered anniversary as well.


At the same time, I wanted to take this day –at least- to get away from everyone else.  This act of changing faces for everyone was tiring me out and Erika was tired watching me be everyone else but myself.  Sometimes, even when we sat together, there would be no words exchanged.  Maybe she was tired too.


Just a little after six, the door bell rang and Caramel was at the door after the first ring, wagging her tail and barking at the pane of metal.  I wiped my hands on my apron while I half jogged to the door to open it up.


“Welcome home!”


“I’m home!”


We said at the same time and both of us had to laugh at this exchange.  I stepped back to let her in and she bent down to greet Caramel before removing her jacket and shoes.  “For a second, I really thought I was married.”  She said lightly with a smile and held out a wrapped gift for me.  “Happy Valentine’s Day!  I smell my present!  And I must say I’m already salivating.”  Her smile was as warm as it could be, but I noticed keenly the fatigue in her eyes.  I wondered if she saw the same fatigue in my eyes as well.


“Thank you!”


For the present and for the subtle compliment.


She took off her jacket and both of us entered the kitchen to the small dining table.  Erika surveyed the food quickly before going to wash her hands.  I took the time and shook the present, wanting to guess at what it was.  It was light and it only rustled when I shook it; needless to say, my interest was piqued.


“You can open it.”  Upon returning, Erika laughed at my curious gaze and sat down to help herself to the food.




So we sat next to each other and sampled the food.  Both of us agreed that it was clearly much better than the other time that I attempted cooking.  And thankfully, none of my fingers were bruised either!


“How are you doing?”


“Mmm?”  I tilted my head at the question.


“I know it has been hard on you, with Chiharu and the others.”


“Ah.”  I offered her a small smile and poked at the food still on my plate.  “I… guess it will just have to be left to time.”  I said that, but I wasn’t quite sure if I believed that myself.  “I just never thought that I would have to pretend in front of them; I thought we could talk about anything in this world.  It’s a little tiring and a little disappointing as well.  Sometimes, it makes me wonder…”  I started off on a tangent and was almost about to continue before I caught myself.


Unconsciously, I realized that what I had been mulling over had become my biggest fear.  With the recent break up of Hoshimura-senpai and Fujimaru-senpai, I wasn’t sure whether I had the courage to approach love bravely.




I turned and looked at Erika directly.  Since the last time, we had decided to be completely honest with each other.  At this segment, I wavered and wondered if I should indeed speak the truth.  “I wonder… if… for us to be together… will we have to denounce the entire world?”  When I thought about this question, naturally, I turned towards the relationship that Hoshimura-senpai and Fujimaru-senpai shared, wanting to draw strength from them.  However, I realized that for ten years, other than their close friends, no one else knew of their relationship.


So what was that situation?

Were they also afraid of denouncing the entire world?

Therefore, they kept their relationship as quiet as possible?


Erika’s gaze wavered for a moment and wandered around the kitchen before she leaned back into her chair and starred straight ahead of her.  I looked at her profile and wondered if both of us needed each other’s reassurance more or whether we needed the outside world’s acceptance more.


“If we had to denounce the world, will you be able to do it?”


Finally, she turned to me and asked.

She asked the question that I had been asking myself over and over.


“I don’t know.”


“I don’t know either.”


Love songs always have wonderful lyrics that made one want to swoon and sigh.  One said if, I can forfeit the entire world, at least there is still you whom I can treasure; but another said even without you, I can still smile, I will be okay.  Could both situations exist simultaneously or will one over write the other?  Or were they both beautiful and convenient excuses for people to cite at particular periods to justify their behaviours?


At the end of dinner, Erika and I focused our attentions on the wrapped present that she brought for me.  It took me three guesses to completely still have no idea what was in the box.  Finally, I unravelled the present piece by piece; leaving me wide eyed was a simple summer dress that nearly had me in tears.


“I hope it’s to your liking.”


She said quietly and sat with me quietly.


I lifted the dress out of the box and looked at it slowly.  What was the big deal about a summer dress?  This wasn’t just any summer dress!  If you would flip through my work book, on the first page stood the blue print for this summer dress.  It was the first piece of design that I had sketched down myself and to see it, touch it, feel it, wear it, and live it was a dream that I thought could only come true many, many more years down the road.


In reality, it was one year and three months before it finally materialized.


We slept that evening, warm and content with the memories that were created.  I had the crazy thought of hugging the dress to sleep, but Erika had threatened tor rip it to pieces.  At night, I lay next to her and looked at the darkness that veiled over the room.  My eyes instinctually drew towards where I knew the dress to be.  Of course, thoughts of how beautiful it looked circled my brain, but behind each one of them was a deeper thought of our words.

 I don’t know either. 

Erika told me in a quiet voice but with honest eyes.  It was then that I realized I wasn’t the only one who struggled with this new situation.  Chiharu, Fuyu, and Hitomi were my friends, but they were also Erika’s friends; and for her… perhaps there was also some guilt in knowing that she was the other half of the cause.


The battle of idealists and realists rested on who could endure just that much longer.


We went to school together; hand in hand until we were near the school.  At the school gate, we came face to face with the others.  There was a startled moment of almost panic for both parties before Erika smiled and lifted a hand in a wave.  “Morning, how are you guys doing?”


“Not too bad.”  Fuyu answered with a smile of her own.  “Did you come to school together?”


“Yeah.”  Perhaps the good mood from yesterday extended over and my elated feelings took first place over rational thought.  “I slept over at Erika’s house yesterday.”  Previously, there wouldn’t have been a heart beat skipped over that sentence; but now, they looked from me to her and I could literally feel the discomfort settle over us.


“I see.”  Hitomi gave us that smile; the kind of smile that was meant to be polite but it spoke of tremendous awkwardness.  “Well, we should get going now… we’ll… see you in class then, Megumi…?”


“I need to talk to Reika about something, so you girls go on ahead.”


Erika patted my shoulder and nodded to the others before heading off.  It was that moment when all four of us stood but none of us knew what to say.  I looked at them and my lips moved; nothing came out at first, but then… but then… I didn’t even know what came over me at that moment.


“Is it that hard?”




“Is it that hard to accept the fact that Erika and I are dating?”


This was the first time that I had spoken so openly to them about our relationship.  Even though it was an open secret between us, no one had ever mentioned anything about that night in Canada.  I faced their silence with a growing cold mass in my stomach.  “Just because we are going out with each other doesn’t mean that we can’t still be friends.  I don’t know what you are so concerned about!  Please don’t think that just because we’ve come to the realization that we like girls, we are going to jump you without a reason.  We have standards as well.  Just like how you are not going to jump every guy you see, we are not going to jump every girl we see either.”


I didn’t consider whether that speech would have made things worse or offended them, but every word was spoken with feeling and I knew I truly believed in those words.  Then again, I never gave them the chance to reply and headed for the school building immediately afterwards.  Each step brought about an easier breath and I wondered if this meant I was ready to denounce the world for this relationship.


Yet, when I thought I could finally look at the situation with clarity, life liked to throw curve balls at us with haste.


At the end of March, Fujimaru-senpai announced her engagement with the current CEO of the Matsumoto Cooperation.  It was news that shocked the entertainment world and also quaked my life.  At that moment, it was like my life had been turned upside down and I starred at the words in disarray.  Out of a sheer need to understand, I searched the net for some information on this CEO and I clicked open an image that had me confused for a few seconds.


I’ve seen this man before, where did I…

 Is Miss Fujimaru home? 

… in Canada!  I gasped out loud and starred at the man who starred back at me calmly.  Matsumoto Anthony, the one who had come to look for Fujimaru-senpai when we were in Canada.  Suddenly, I realized that nothing was ever as simple as I thought it to be.


I walked to school at a pace slower than a snail’s as I mulled over the news.  Every corner I turned, it seemed like the news was ready to greet me.  It was half way to school and I stopped; completely stopped and looked towards the direction of my school before gritting my teeth and turned around instead.  With determined steps, I carried myself to the nearest bus station and waited.


Logically, I figured I should call Fujimaru-senpai and demand an explanation from her.  However, after the last run in with her, I realized that Fujimaru-senpai had changed.  She had turned into someone whom I could no longer relate to.  It was like some part of her had died and was left behind in Canada.  Like an ice sculpture, she was beautiful but cold to touch, and unable to be approached.


Right now, only one person entered my thought and my body seemed to have echoed my mind.


It was almost half an hour later when I stood outside of Hoshimura-senpai’s home and looked up at the house.  Now that I was standing in front of her house, my confidence slipped away from me bit by bit, leaving me cold and frigid.  Should I just turn around and go back to school?  I could at least still make it for the second period.  Did I come all the way here just to give up?


“Megumi-chan.”  Hoshimura-senpai was clearly taken back when she opened the door and saw me standing on her porch.  “What are you doing here?  Don’t you have school today?”


“Can I talk to you?”


“… yeah, sure…”  As if finally having shaken loose from her dreams, Hoshimura-senpai held the door open and stepped back to let me in.  I bowed to her my thanks before stepping in.  The house was quiet, and after a quick survey around, I wondered if anyone else was home.  “Reika went to school and my mom went to work, it’s just you and me.”  As if she could read my thoughts, Hoshimura-senpai answered with a smile; the usual smile that spoke of a quiet contentment just like before.  “Let me get you something to drink.”




“Yes?”  Three steps out and Hoshimura-senpai stopped to turn back quickly, as if something in my voice had shocked her.


“The news… I saw the news this morning…”


She looked at me and the smile faded.  She did not need to play the fool, for she knew exactly why I was here.  “Asura and I broke up over the holidays.”


“I know.  I heard…”  I had wanted to say that I heard from Ito-senpai, but I did not want to get someone else involved in this.  “… from Fujimaru-senpai.”


“Is that so.”  She smiled but it held no sway.  Casually, she sat down on the wooden staircase behind her.  “Asura’s fiancé, Anthony, is a good person.”  I watched her speak of this man.  Her forearms rested on her legs and her laced fingers moved against each other slowly.  “I met him when we were in Canada, and even I was impressed.”  So then, why do you sound so bitter?  “I’m sure he will treat Asura kindly.”


“And you?”  She glanced up at me through her fringes.  “And you?  Who will treat you kindly?”


Hoshimura-senpai looked at me for a long moment shook her head.  “No, Megumi-chan, don’t do this.”


“Do what?”


“Don’t hate Asura because of me.”


Hate Fujimaru-senpai?  My eyebrows furrowed and I wanted to refute immediately, but then… then I realized that perhaps Hoshimura-senpai was approaching my inner heart with accuracy.  Due to my own bias, perhaps I had indeed come to dislike Fujimaru-senpai.


“You have to understand that whatever choices that Asura made and makes in the future, she has her reasons; and they are legitimate reasons.  Don’t think that Asura ever makes any decisions because she felt like it at that moment.”


“What are her reasons then?  Tell me, senpai; what are her legitimate reasons to end a ten years relationship and get engaged three months afterwards?”


“Those are her private matters.  If she does not want to reveal them, then we must respect her privacy.”


Maybe my tears had started as early as when I stepped through the door, I would never know.  It was only when I tasted salt on my tongue did I realize that I had been crying.  And because of my blurred vision, I could not see Hoshimura-senpai’s expressions clearly either.  Was she smiling?  Or was she also crying?



I wanted to ask.

Even ‘till the end, why must you protect her?

In your world, in your heart, is there no one else whom you could love?


To be continued...

[End notes:

Is it just me or has this week gone by rather slowly?  Maybe it's because there has been a lack of news on my current addiction; and when there is no news, I get anxious and nervous and worried and all sorts of other things.  (laugh)  Thank you for reading and reviewing!


Chapter 19

Title: Chapter Nineteen

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Nineteen

I didn’t know what role I played when I was surrounded with arrangements for a wedding.  Not just any wedding, but Fujimaru-senpai’s wedding.  She sometimes would sit opposite me and carry on with her own work.  I sometimes wondered if she will not even take a look at the wedding arrangements.  In the end, it was like I was planning for a dream wedding; except, in my vision, I saw Fujimaru-senpai and Hoshimura-senpai together.  Her sparkling engagement ring pained my eyes every time I would catch sight of it.  Unlike the silences of many months past, these moments of silence spoke of a true divide.  I felt it and I was sure that Fujimaru-senpai could not have missed it either.  It was like we were now finally, truly of different worlds.


After that impulsive move in March to run to Hoshimura-senpai, I never saw her again.  She focused on her games and I tried to focus on school.  It was early May and the exams were right around the corners.  There ceased to be any reason other than exams more vital in life.


However, between one dream and another, I couldn’t help but still wonder whether love was just this.


My friends did not turn to me after that confrontation, but I think I could understand a little of their ground as well.  Even though there were no longer pretensions between us, there lay a more tentative approach for a renewal of friendship.  This one would be based on all the secrets that have been exposed and will no longer pose as threats.  It felt much better, to spread out all of my cards and know that I did all that I could do.


Fujimaru-senpai wedded on an early May afternoon.  The wedding took place at a lake side park beneath bowing willow trees.  It was an archway naturally made for the two of them.  Since the engagement ‘till this moment of vows, I’ve never seen the groom even once.  The one time when I chanced his presence in Canada was all but forgotten, and the details could not be called forth to my mind no matter how hard I tried.


“You know they say a girl is the most beautiful when in a wedding dress.”  Erika commented quietly next to me as we stood at the entrance of the archway and greeted those who stepped past us to take their seats.


“That is only true when the girl is marrying for love.”


“Are you saying that Fujimaru-senpai is going to look hideous?”


I gave her a look that had her smiling just a little.  Who could possibly find Fujimaru-senpai hideous?  However… maybe there was merit in saying that perhaps Fujimaru-senpai will always look the most beautiful next to Hoshimura-senpai.  Speaking of whom, Ito-senpai had already seated herself, but Hoshimura-senpai was no where to be seen.  Ito-senpai had told us that Hoshimura-senpai would be here and wouldn’t dream of missing this for anything else.


How would it feel?  To see your former girlfriend parted only five months ago marry someone else?


“Do you think Hoshimura-senpai will show up?”  I voiced my concern quietly; finally.


“I don’t know.”


“Will you attend my wedding if I were to marry someone else?”


Erika turned and looked at me carefully for a long moment before returning her gaze to the stream of people still arriving.


“Why?  Are you planning on marrying someone else?”




Caught in between a “yes” and “no”, I opted for something more non-descript in the end.


From afar walked towards us a familiar figure and my heart could not help but race as Hoshimura-senpai grew closer.  She had a smile for us and paused to chat only briefly.  “I hear Megumi-chan was the master mind behind this wedding?  Good job, it looks marvellous.”


My lips moved and tears threatened to well up once again.  Her smiling face twisted my heart even more, and I wondered if Hoshimura-senpai could indeed let go of her love so easily.


“Thank you.”  In the end, I offered a feeble smile and a nod.


“Where have you been?  Ito-senpai was looking for you.”  Erika relieved me of my discomfort and spoke instead.  I was thankful, knowing how much Erika disliked the senpai.


“Ah, no where in particular, I’ll see to Shina now.”


So like that, she brushed past us and towards her seat.  Her arm brushed against mine and I shivered involuntarily.  The urge to turn around and call out for her was great, but thankfully, my restraint was greater.


Matsumoto Anthony’s entire family was present, but only Fujimaru-senpai’s mother was in attendance.  Apparently, her father’s health still kept him from making any sort of attempt to get out of bed.  The groom looked dashing standing aside the priest in his attire of white suit, hands clasped in front of his body.  When the harp played out that familiar song, one by one, the guests rose and turned towards the entrance of the archway.


Fujimaru-senpai stood in a gorgeous wedding gown that was a present from Vera Wang.  She held a bouquet of white lily in her hands and surveyed the crowd before taking her steps down the aisle.  She had no one to hold her hand and offer her away.  All eyes were on her as she strolled down the aisle with seeming indifference.  It was only when she drew close to me did I notice the one peculiarity in her attire.  Sharply contrasting the million dollar gown and accessories was the old and worn necklace that she had around her neck.  After a moment of reflection, I realized that it was the necklace that was once two.  Fujimaru-senpai had half of the heart and Hoshimura-senpai had the other half; now, the heart was whole, resting on Fujimaru-senpai’s chest alone.


I couldn’t help the glance that I sent towards Hoshimura-senpai’s direction.  She watched with as much indifference as the bride.


The day after her wedding, Fujimaru-senpai and her husband returned to Canada.


May and June flew by with school bearing its full force down upon us and having to take care of Fujimaru-senpai’s work here in Japan.  Although she had not left me anything that required executive decisions, the miscellaneous tasks were enough to fill up my hours.  We conversed on a regular basis via telephone.  Sometimes, I could hear noises from her end, a male’s voice that she usually ignored.


Erika and I were apart more often than together.  I felt the conviction of knowing that we are no longer at the beginning stages of our relationship where we would need constant attention and reassurance.   At the same time, when I would be stuck in a meaningless conversation –that was awkward and trying- with my friends, I so needed her assurance that everything will be alright.


At the end of June, we tossed up our hats and graduated from our alma mater.


The two months of summer were supposed to be relaxing, but with the uncertainty of university acceptances, it became a summer of anxiety. 


“If I don’t get into an university, can I work for you full time?”  One day, that question slipped off my tongue in the middle of my conversation with Fujimaru-senpai.


She paused for a brief second.  “I don’t want some failure working for me.”  Marriage or not, Fujimaru-senpai still had her tongue.  “However, I trust my eyes; someone whom I brought under my wings cannot possibly be barred entrance.”


It gave me a confidence boost and I could finally approach the days without jumping at every little thing.  It was in the third week of July when I received word of my acceptance.  Sadly, it was not from my top university, but it was still second on my list.  I was ecstatic; but to say there was not even a shred of regret would be lying.  Erika received her invitation a week after mine from the National Institute of Art.  It was my first choice and to see her with its acceptance letter stirred my jealousy, but I was truly happy for her.  That evening, we pulled an all-nighter talking about things that did not matter.


Oh well, I thought as I finally fell asleep some time early in the morning, if I do well enough after my first year, I will see if I can transfer over.  That thought accompanied me to sleep.


“Here, part one of your present.”


On my birthday, early in the morning, Erika handed me a wrapped box.  As always, I shook it first and guessed at its content.  And as always, I would max out my three tries and open it with a pout.  Turning the box over, I lifted my eyebrows and looked over at Erika.




“I cannot understand how you still do not have a webcam in this day and age.”


Paired with a snort, I offered her a cheeky grin.


“What can I use it towards?  I see you every day!”


She pinched my cheek with affection, a gesture that I had gotten used to, but her smile dimmed slowly.  “Yeah… we used to be able to see each other every day.”


Now that we were to separate for university, the reality sounded like a dream.  The National Institute of Art was in the neighbouring city and my university was thankfully situated in my city.  Even though the trip wasn’t horrendous, but it would still take up a good portion of one’s day.  Needless to say, we won’t be seeing each other every day.  Perhaps Erika had come to terms with reality faster than I, and thus, she prepared such a present.


“Wait, you said part one, does that mean there are other parts?”


My eyes surely must have sparkled when I questioned her, for she feigned annoyance and turned her head away.  I laughed, knowing that I was right and declared that I was looking forward to the rest of the day.


In the end, part two was the latest computer software every fashion designer would dream of.  By then, I was blindly wishing that part three would be a new laptop!  Part three was a scrapbook with the first page already filled for me, decorated with photos of us.


Moments after Erika closed the door to shower, I was just about to flip open the scrapbook and add something of my own weight when the door bell rang.  Caramel was the first one at the door and she did not forget to throw looks over her shoulder at me as I scrambled up and towards the door.




“Hey, sorry, I hope this is not a bad time.”  She said with a smile, so how could I not smile back and shake my head?


“Not at all.  Erika just went in to shower, did you want me to…”


“There is no need.”  Hoshimura-senpai did not wait for me to finish my sentence before speaking on.  “Do you know long it took me to remember this address?”  She feigned extreme sadness but then smiled at me again.  “No matter, for today is a joyous occasion.  Here.”  She pulled something out from behind her back and handed it to me.  “Your birthday present.  Happy birthday, Megumi-chan.”


To say that I was not touched would be a complete lie.  My shock must have been evident on my face for Hoshimura-senpai laughed and patted my cheek lightly.  It was a brief moment of contact and I keenly felt the callous on her fingers; along with the mild jolt of electricity that surged through my body.


It felt sinful.


Hoshimura-senpai did not stay, and by the time Erika exited the bathroom, all traces of any visitor had been erased.  For some reason, I did not tell Erika of Hoshimura-senpai’s visit and the present stayed hidden in my bag for the entire time.


Why didn’t I say anything?

I did not know the answer either.


In the middle of August, Erika hopped onto a bus and headed for her university.  I was with her ‘till the very last second and watched the bus depart ‘till I could no longer see it.  My trip home was the same length as my trip there in the morning, but never had I felt so cold in August.  Erika promised me that she would text me as soon as she was settled and got Internet connection.




When I saw her name flash on my cell phone screen, I was so surprised that I could not help but gasp into the receiver.


“Ookina-kun, I hope I am not interrupting anything.”


“Not at all!  Is there anything I can do for you?”  As much as I wanted to think this to be a social call, I knew it was unlikely.  Ito-senpai and I were not close and we barely speak unless occasion called for it.


“It’s not like that, I just…”  Here, she hesitated before I heard a sigh on her end.  “Has Hoshimura-senpai gone to see you recently?”



My eyebrow shot up and I blinked at my wall for a second.  “The last time I saw her was on my birthday…”  The word tasted bitter, and I could not help but remember how Erika still had no idea of Hoshimura-senpai’s visit.


“I see.”


There was a moment of silence on both ends and I could feel the tension building.  I hated awkward moments; that silence could drive me insane.


“… is something wrong, Ito-senpai?”  Finally, I broke the silence and asked.


“Ookina-kun, I hope you do not take this personally.”  That was never a good start to any conversation.  “I hope you will put some distance between yourself and Hoshimura-senpai.”




That really was the first and only word that I could think of in this situation.


“I’m saying this for your own good as well.”


“Ito-senpai, I’m not understanding what you’re trying to say.  I barely see Hoshimura-senpai… I think the distance between us is great enough already.  Any greater and I won’t even be able to see her at all.”  The last sentence was a jest but my laugh was weak.  Truthfully, my mind was already disturbed by Ito-senpai’s words that I could not think of a more witty reply.


“Is that so.”  I heard another sigh before she spoke again.  “In that case, I am sorry that I troubled you; please disregard this conversation then.”


Just like that, a phone call that lasted five minutes was able to turn my life inside out.  I sat on my bed and starred at the opposite wall, mulling over every word that Ito-senpai spoke, and heck, even the words that she did not speak.  I wanted to call her right back and ask what that was all about.  Then, I wanted to call Hoshimura-senpai and demand an explanation.


Strangely, the thought of calling Hoshimura-senpai had my heart racing and guilt returned to my head.  No, I definitely could not call her!


A string of notes brought me from my trance and I looked down to see an incoming text message.  Erika?

 Megumi-chan, what are you doing this weekend? Hoshimura 

Now, I’m just confused.

To be continued...

[End notes:

Sorry this chapter took a while, I had a busy couple of weeks.  Starting tomorrow, I will be away on vacation, so I will try to get the next chapter up as soon as I return.  I ask for your patience and understanding. 


Chapter 20

Title: Chapter Twenty

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that may mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Twenty

In September, I started university promptly.


After three years of seeing the same faces every single day, this big campus had my heart thudding.  I did not know anyone here; at least, no one I could recognize anyways.  It felt lonely to be standing in this school yard alone and watching all sorts of people pass me by.  The variety –and ethnicity- of people I saw was astonishing; and I began to wonder if these people would be more accepting than my friends.


Thoughts of them still dimmed my spirits; but thankfully, not as much as previously.  Some things were just not meant to be.


How is your first day of school?  Will you be living at home?  My class started today.  Truthfully, I’m a little intimidated.  There are so many talented actors here. 


It was four in the afternoon and I had just gotten home from my first day of classes.  It was from eight to two; this abundant amount of free time confused me.



I had, what, six hours of class today!  How about you?  This university schedule thing is a little too new for me, and I wonder if I will have the motivation to do work when I’m barely in class.  Have you gotten homework yet?  Apparently, I have to start reading my textbooks right away! 

Don’t worry about those people in your class!  Perhaps you may feel that you are not as good as them right now, but I know you will work hard to stand at the top of the ladder! 


Aside from the change in schedule of school, now that I am an university student, even my parents are giving me more freedom than I anticipated.  My sister would look at me with envy, and I would smile at her with triumph.  Enjoy your childhood, I wanted to tell her, you will miss it.  As I miss mine every time I looked at the list of readings and work I have to do for each class.

Class about to start, txt me later.  – Erika

So I shut my cell phone and looked out of the library window at the sunny afternoon scenery.  Even though technology had cut down the distance between us, there was no hiding the fact that messages just simply could not compare with face-to-face interaction.  For the first time in my life, I understood what it meant to miss a significant other.


How was your first week of class?  I thought I’d never survive all the lectures and the introductions.  I have a test in two weeks and we’ve barely started!  I’m beginning to miss senior high, how about you? 

But I suppose we all have to move forward. 

On a side note, I’m not sure if you knew of this, but Hoshimura-senpai apparently has an older sister.  Interestingly, she is actually one of my professors for this semester.  The physical resemblance is little, for she is quite a bit older.  However, something about her just seemed to ring a familiar bell for me.  Actually, she was the one who approached me after class ended.  She said that Reika-kun mentioned us to her, and she was looking forward to interacting with me. 

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this.  It’s like added pressure on my shoulders.  Now I have to do well in her class. 


The world was big, but it was a little too small at the same time.  To think that out of all the universities, all semesters, all courses and every teacher, Erika could fall into the presence of yet another Hoshimura.  My fingers paused at the thought of Hoshimura-senpai.  We had met up only once before university started, and Ito-senpai was in presence.  It was always comfortable to be in Hoshimura-senpai’s company, but something about Ito-senpai’s reluctant manner told me of disparity.


Sometimes, I still think about the phone call all those weeks ago; wondering just what Ito-senpai was trying to tell me.


My communication with Erika started at about once per hour, then once per day, then once per a couple of days, and finally to only a few times in a week.  This decrease of contact was hardly noticed with both of our schedules and it was only when we began to speak of matters that the other party did not know did we realize how much of our lives were moving away from each other.


They say that distance made everything beautiful, but has anyone ever noted that distance could also take away one’s love?


Our e-mails were getting longer when we barely communicated through the week of mid-terms.  Neither of us wanted to burden the other with our stresses and pressures, so the content was usually filled with unimportant gossip and polite chit-chat.  She would never know how many copies of my sketches were turned down; how many all-nighters I had to pull to finish projects on time; and how much I struggled with the mathematics that were required.  Similarly, I would never know of her harsh discipline when it came to the performing arts; how every breathing second meant memorizing a new script; and no matter when or where she was expected to be perfect in her performances. 


They say that a melt down was never the product of a single breaking point, but of a crack that had been gaping ever since a beginning that no one could quite pin point.


I hope all of your mid-terms are now finished!  I just finished my last one about ten minutes ago and now I feel as if I can finally breathe again. 

We have a break for three days and I wanted to go back.  Will you be available? 



Yes, they are finally finished!  I can’t even bring myself to care about how I did on them right now, I’m just glad they are all done!  To think that we have four years of this!  Ugh. 

Which days are you planning on coming back? 



One step at a time and keep on breathing; that’s how we’re going to get through this! 

Tuesday and Wednesday.  I have to go back on Wednesday, so Tuesday is probably going to be the full day. 



Easier said than done at this point! 

Those days sound good, shall I pick you up at the bus station?  Where do you want to go? 



We can meet at wherever we choose to go?  I haven’t been gone that long to not know my way around!  Maybe we can go to the zoo and go catch a movie afterwards?  I realized that we’ve never been to the zoo together.  How does noon sound for you? 



Sounds good!  Text me when you get here.  I will prepare to meet you for noon! 


Except that text message never came because I forgot my cell phone at home.  It was when I was at the front gate of the zoo that I realized I did not have it on me.  There was a moment of pure panic when I looked all over me and around me.  Logic told me that I must have left it home or lost it on my way here; the cause wasn’t going to be of much help now that it was already gone.


I could go home and get it, but what if it wasn’t at home.  And at this time of the day, my parents would be at work already and my sister at school; calling home was not an option.  My next thought was to call Erika, and what do you know, she wasn’t picking up.  I glared at the pay phone and huffed heavily.


Her and her stupid habit of not answering unknown numbers!


So I sat on a bench outside of the zoo and waited.  I sat, I slouched, I lounged, I all about fell asleep on the bench, but I still could not see Erika.  I glanced down at my watch and it was almost two o’clock.


Perhaps I never should have left the zoo to look for Erika, but instead of blaming it on myself or on Erika or on the string of events, I would just conclude it as fate.


After two hours of waiting, I thought that perhaps Erika did not want to move from the bus station since she obviously would not be receiving my text.  Jogging along the bus terminal next to the zoo, I hopped onto the first bus that took me to the intercity bus terminal.  It was forty-three minuets later when I arrived. 


The platform was crowded with people arriving and going, but I did not see Erika.  Of course, I would never know that Erika was now heading towards the zoo.  On her way over, there was an accident on the high way and all traffic was shut down for over an hour.


So I sat on yet another bench and waited.


When you had a goal to wait for, time did not seem to be so endless.  However, when you were waiting for uncertainty, time was your worst enemy.  At exactly five to five, I hopped onto the bus that would take me back to the zoo and prayed that Erika would be there.


Of course, she was not.


Now, I was ready to cry.


No!  I told myself.  I am a grown up, I cannot cry!  Think!  After twenty minutes of deliberation, I decided to go to the one place I was certain of.  It took me one hour and twenty-seven minutes before I was walking down the familiar little road towards Erika’s house.  It was already dark when I saw another figure walking towards her house.


There were about ten paces between us when we both stopped and looked at each other.  I couldn’t remember who moved first, but we met each other half way with an amused grin; tired and worried sick, seeing each other at this moment was the best ending to all of our struggles.


“And while I was stuck on the bus, I tried to call you, but you didn’t pick up.”


“That’s because I forgot my cell phone.  I don’t even know if I left it home or I lost it!”


We recollected our adventure of the day while walking towards our senior high.  In the end, when all plans were ruined, we could only think of one place that we both wanted to visit.


“Ah, so you were the unknown number?!”


“… yes.  You have got to start picking up unknown numbers!”


“I dislike having to deal with telemarketing!”  I threw her a sour look and she chuckled lightly.  “Sorry.  I will make sure to pick up from now on.”


Then we smiled at each other and walked on in silence.  It was sort of awkward, not having seen each other in a while, not knowing what to talk about, and both a little tired but unwilling to show it to the other.


“Have you been back to school?”


“No.  I’ve thought about coming back, especially since Reika-kun is still around and all, but…”  I trailed off and offered a shrug.


“Yeah, I know what you mean.”  She sighed and looked up at the sky.  “University is ridiculously busy and there seems to be a plethora of things that I always want to do.”


Those would be things that I would not be able to partake in; at the same time, there were things that I wanted to do that she wouldn’t be able to partake in.  Walking with her reminded me of our distance and I wondered why I’ve never felt the unease that was so often associated with long distance relationships.  To put it nicely, it was because we were certain of each other and our relationship was one built on trust.  However, to put it pessimistically…


… I didn’t even want to think about it.


When one no longer cared for another, there needn’t excuses for one’s lack of emotions.


There was a silent agreement on my end as I looked down the dark road that led to our senior high.  Every passing building looked ever the same and ever so different at once.  We’ve had times when we had to walk to and fro school at ungodly hours, but to know that we were no longer students… that was new.


“How is Hoshimura-senpai’s sister?”


“Strict.  She is quite different from Hoshimura-senpai.”  Perhaps in Erika’s mind, she would always see the negative aspects of Hoshimura-senpai that I failed to see.  “However, she is a kind person and intelligent.  She said that she’s been in my university ever since her school years.”


“Must be nice, to have someone you know.”


“She’s my professor; I can’t really treat her as a friend.  University is big, and those in one of my classes, I don’t even see in other classes.  It’s really not like how senior high is so close knit.”


It was a struggle on both ends.  I didn’t tell her about my own difficulties with school work and designs.  I realized how true it was that passion did not equal to career.  Even though I’ve had so much exposure to the world that I wanted to be in over the last few years, my grades were still just satisfactory.


“Next semester, we will have to put on a play.”  Erika said.  “Would you like to come and see us?”


“Not really.”


She looked over at me in surprise, thinking that it was only cursory to ask but I would go anyways.  I looked back at her and offered her a cheeky grin.  “I would like to go see you, but not really the other people.”




And I laughed at her mildly amused expression, thinking that this was what it was like.  Except back then, it was Erika who would be in my shoes and me with a slightly embarrassed expression.  It’s been two years, and so many things have changed; but, I wanted to think that there will always be things that remain true.


“It doesn’t look any different, does it?”


We stood in front of the school gates and looked up at the building.  No light was turned on inside, so we were left starring at a silhouette illuminated by street lamps and the moon.


“It’s only been a few months; it can’t have changed that quickly.”




In the future, I wondered if we will have the same desire to visit our senior high and relive the memories of those times.  Or will the passing of time wash away our previous memories so to make way for new ones; forever burying what used to touch us, what used to move us, what used to be important to us.


We returned to Erika’s house later that evening.  The next afternoon, she boarded a bus and drove away once again.

To be continued...

Chapter 21

Title: Chapter Twenty One

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that may mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Twenty One

The lack of a coinciding schedule even prevented us from celebrating Erika’s birthday.  We agreed that rather than taking time away from both of our studies, we would wait ‘till she returned for Christmas and celebrate it then.  It would be three occasions in one: her birthday, our anniversary, and Christmas.  I looked at the calendar and realized that we’ve been together for so long now that I couldn’t even remember the first time when I confessed to her.  I wondered how I felt at that precise moment; and if time rewound, would I be able to do the same?


In university, everyone had aspirations to become someone great, and my working status for Fujimaru-senpai was no longer an occupation looked upon with envy.  I found out that some students were promised internships with foreign designers over the summer break and realized that there truly will always be someone greater out there.


Fujimaru-senpai did not return to Japan even once after her wedding and we’ve only been able to communicate through telephone.  I dutifully took down notes of what she would like for me to do, and tried to ignore the noises on her end.


“Did you want that sealed?”


“Don’t bother, it’s not like anyone else is going to look at it.”


No seal; I scribbled next to my fifth note.


“Okay, got it.”


“Make sure to check the sample package before more is made.  Just because I’m not in Japan does not mean they can use my name and send out shitty products.”


Fujimaru-senpai’s language had been getting progressively… graphic as time went on.  I made no comment outwardly but jotted it down in my heart.  Sometimes, I would hear the strain in her voice and I wondered if she regretted marrying her husband.  Even now, did she still have feelings for Hoshimura-senpai?


“Fashion season is right around the corner, decline all invitations for me.”






When she first got married, she said she was looking forward to the next fashion season, but now…


“Regarding the magazine, I will have the articles prepared by the end of this week.  You are to send them to my usual editor and”


There was a noise on the other end that I heard; it was indistinguishable, but it was loud enough to be transmitted to me and Fujimaru-senpai was clearly distracted.  From Japanese, she switched to English easily and conversed with whoever else was on the other end.  Even though it was a horrible act, but I still strained to listen; as if I could decipher her fast paced English.


“Give me a moment.”


Finally, she put down the phone and I was left with muffled sounds.  I heard the rising and falling of voices and the unmistakable sounds of something crashing against a wall.  I shrunk back into my seat and clutched onto the receiver tightly.  What kind of a life was Fujimaru-senpai leading in Canada?


She returned to the phone a few moments later and picked up where she left off.  It was as if the interruption never occurred, but I heard the restrained emotions in her voice.  Like she was subtly trying to tell me something about her current state of affairs; but the message was lost in translation and phone line.


I plunged into finals season by the first week of December and could not look up from my books even for food.  I was struggling in a couple of my courses and I needed terrific finals to pull up my marks.  It was my goal and I was willing to work for it.  Ten days later, I could finally sit down in the living room and breathe.  I was officially on Christmas break!


Erika still had a few more exams to go, as hers were all pushed ‘till the end of the exam schedule.  She sounded patient, but I knew she was just as anxious as me to get those things over with.

Fujimaru Asura, previously crowned as the most beautiful woman in Japan, was spotted with a round belly and flat boots yesterday.  It would appear that the model turned wife and business woman is about five months pregnant.

Shocked, I could only stay in my seat and watch the entertainment news with my mouth hanging open.  Fujimaru-senpai had never mentioned anything about pregnancy, but then again, she never mentioned anything about her married life either.  I wanted to say that she got fat, but truly, it was clearly a baby bump that even I could not deny.  Unknown to me, it appeared to be the story brewing for the past couple of days.  So much so that every channel I flipped to, if there was entertainment news, there was some mention of it.  In Japan, she was still regarded as the most beautiful woman regardless of her martial status.  To everyone else, they thought that her husband was her first love and all congratulated her on such a beautiful marriage.  However, to me, I knew that she’s always had a truly beautiful love story long before Matsumoto Anthony showed up.


That afternoon, I sat in the living room and watched the same news over and over again on one channel and the next.  Food or water were no longer important and if it weren’t for my sister returning home from school, I would not have noticed the passing of time either.


In those hours, I thought about many things.


As if finally a conclusion reached me, I stood from the sofa and ran upstairs to grab a purse and shoved in a few of things I deemed essential.  For example: my wallet, my music player, my keys and my cell phone.


“Where are you going?  Mom and dad are going to be back soon.”


“I’m going to stop by a friend’s house.”  I was stopped in front of my sister’s room; she was just tossing her uniform into the laundry basket in her room.  “It’s an emergency.  Go ahead and eat without me and don’t wait up for me either.”  It was the first time that I’ve exercised the freedom that my parents have given me with such force that my sister could only stare at me with bewilderment.


Looking back on it, I didn’t know why I lied and said it was an emergency.  Perhaps in my mind, I did think of it as the world ending for Hoshimura-senpai, and somehow, it translated into an emergency for me.


The bus ride took me to a neighbourhood that I could recognize with some familiarity, but certainly not one that I was comfortable with.  Looking left and then right, I stood at a crossroad and wondered which way I should head.  After a moment of sorting out my memories, I turned to the left decidedly and strolled down the dimly lit road towards Hoshimura-senpai’s home.


It was Reika who greeted me at the door.


“Senpai.”  She was taken back by my presence and even forgot to invite me for the first few seconds.  “Ah, sorry.  Please come in!”


“That’s alright.”  My smile was tight on my lips and I glanced past her for a second.  “Is Hoshimura-senpai home?”


“Natsuki?”  Having recovered from her shock, Reika looked conspicuously curious before shaking her head.  “No, she’s not.  Don’t you know that she has an apartment in the city?  She’s probably there.”




No, I never did hear of it.  Then again, it wasn’t as if I was extremely close to Hoshimura-senpai to know of such details.  I’d like to think that I was closer to Fujimaru-senpai, but that was only because work necessitated it.


I didn’t know how I appeared to Reika at that moment, but neither of us knew quite what to say.  Finally, she cleared her throat and stepped out of her house and tugged the door close behind her.  “Are you still going out with Maki-senpai?”


“Eh?”  I flinched back in surprise before nodding.  “Yes.”


“Is that so.”


She was unreadable and I was about to ask why but she sighed and looked away.  “Her address, remember it.”


Five minutes later, I was standing at a bus stop once again.  There was no written direction, but my brain had memorized the verbal landmarks more than enough.  Besides, I’ve lived in this city practically my entire life; I wasn’t that big of an idiot not to know the major intersections at least.


It was when I stood in the foyer of Hoshimura-senpai’s apartment building did I feel the doubt creeping about me.  It started at the tip of my fingers when I was faced with the panel of the in-building directory, wondering if I should place the call.  From what perspective did I have the right to offer her any words?  I wondered.


The security guard was now sending me strange glances and without a choice I punched in Hoshimura-senpai’s number and waited for the line to connect.  It took three rings for Hoshimura-senpai to pick up.  During those three seconds, so many thoughts raced through my head that it should have been impossible.  They were conflicting thoughts of not wanting her to pick up, and then wanting her to pick up, even scenarios of what I should do should either of them happen.




Her voice came out crisp and clear over the receiver and my body tensed immediately.


“Ah, hello, Hoshimura-senpai.”  I almost wanted to bow, but remembered that she couldn’t see me.  “This is Megumi… I… I’m sorry for intruding, but I was wondering if I could talk to you…”


There was a moment of brief silence; I thought she was going to turn me down and was about to breathe a sigh of relief and regret at the same time.


“Sure, come on up.”


And the butterflies started again.


Hoshimura-senpai’s apartment was situated on the seventh floor and I watched the red number change from floor to floor.  Even when I was already inside and sliding off my shoes in her foyer, I still did not quite know how to carry myself.  Perhaps I was a little too rash when I decided to see her tonight.  And yet, the urge was so irresistible at that moment I thought my life depended on it. 


“Would you like anything to drink?”


“No, that’s alright, thank you.”


She sat on the back of her sofa and looked at me with a smile, waiting for me to start patiently.  Her place reminded me of her; clean and simple.  I did not know that she had her own place, but when I thought about it, I realized that I must have been stupid to think that she would still live with her mother at such an age; especially when she was already established and has…


had a girlfriend of her own.


The past tense on that word reminded me why I was here and I swallowed before picking up my head.  There was a scatter of dim lights all around us; there was that floor light and those wall lights.  Shadows danced atop her furniture and even on her.  For a second, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to start; wondering if I was stepping over any lines that I shouldn’t be crossing.


“News…”  I started and my voice croaked.  “The news said that…”


Her expression was unwavering, looking without commenting, waiting for me to go on.


“The news said that Fujimaru-senpai is pregnant.”


I think I expected tears and curse words to fly about.  However, when I saw the smile grow lop sided a little bit more, I realized that I wasn’t surprised either.  At length, she sighed and let her head drop, hiding her face from me.  If she cried, I wondered to myself, would I be able to comfort her?


“So I’ve heard as well.”  She offered a shrug before looking up at me again.  “Good for her.  I’m sure her child will be beautiful just like her.”


Those words were like what I heard the last time.  They were words of a congratulatory nature and words of a silent consent.  It made me frown, made me angry, made me sad and made me cold at the same time.  “Don’t you feel anything?”  So my tone could not be controlled and accused her of betrayal.  I remembered the noises I heard when I last spoke on the phone with Fujimaru-senpai and wondered if Hoshimura-senpai had just let her go so easily to a marriage that was without smiles.  “Don’t you feel at least a little bit sad?!”  I was agitated when I didn’t even know whom I should point fingers at or whom I should feel sorry for.  “Can you just smile so easily when your girlfriend of the past ten years just moved on without a second word?  Was your love…”

a complete lie? 

I chocked on my thoughts and licked my lips; it was then that I noticed my tears have begun once again.  It never ceased to amaze me how quickly my tears could come when it came to the two of them.  Perhaps I was mourning my shredded fantasies, or maybe I was mourning for something more tangible.


Hoshimura-senpai rose from her perch slowly and approached me at equal pace.  She had on a pair of sweat pants and large, white T-shirt.  It appeared that she was about to turn in when I showed up at her door.  “Megumi-chan,” her voice was low and her position close to mine “if I screamed, if I yelled, if I whined, if I cried, do you think it will bring Asura back to me?”  The quiet lull of her voice calmed me cell by cell, and I lifted my eyes to look up at her.  “If I stayed at home and moped all day long, do you think that will bring Asura back?”  She chuckled, and I heard the bitterness in her voice.  “Nothing I do now will bring Asura back, we both know that.  When she made that decision last year, I knew it was final.  So since she’s already moving on, can’t you grant me the same privilege and let me move on as well?” 


They say to let love go and see if it comes back to you.  They say your first love will always be the hardest to forget.


What do they say about your first kiss?  And your first intimate evening with another? 


Perhaps it’d always been hidden so deep inside of me that I never really gave it a second thought.  To me, Hoshimura-senpai was unattainable and untouchable because… well, let’s face it, who could compete with Fujimaru-senpai?  From the first second of that knowledge, some things were then forfeited.  On a night like this, when I stepped in to hug her for the pure sake of wanting to comfort and wanting comfort in return, maybe a little bit of that cage had been chipped away.


She, like always, was patient and gentle.


In the morning, I woke between silk sheets and looked up at the ceiling with a disorientated head.  Pushing myself up, I clutched the sheet to my naked body and looked around the room.  It was empty, and it gave me the time and space to dress.  The reality did not hit until I exited the room and saw her in the dining room, sipping on her cup of coffee.


“Morning.”  She greeted casually.


“Morning.”  I answered quietly.


Then I remembered –not that I once forgot- what happened last night and the implications truly settled in.  My stomach turned and even the aroma of coffee made me want to vomit.  Did I regret what happened?  Probably a little; but at the same time, most of my guilt came from the knowledge that I might treasure this for the rest of my life.  It was such a disgusting thought that I had to put a hand over my mouth as if bile was threatening to spill out.


“What’s wrong?”


I looked at her alarmed face and took in a couple of deep breaths in an attempt to calm myself.


“What…”  I started on a stutter before finally lowering the hand that I had placed over my mouth.  “What are we going to tell the others?”  I asked, in what I hoped was a calm and adult like tone in regards to this situation.  My mind was already whirling, many thoughts raced together at once trying to gain favour.  Of course, I thought to myself, we will need to explain to everyone we know.  Then we will need to face each other and discuss the implications of last night as well.  Then we will need to think about where we stand in relation to one another.  Then we will need to…


“What do you mean?”


Her question jolted me out of my own essay of responses and I looked at her for a moment before frowning slowly.  “I mean… what happened last night… what are we going to tell everyone else?”


“Why is there a need to tell anyone about what happened?”


I flinched back; unexpectedly, the question whipped harder than I imagined possible.  “I… I’m dating Erika, and she deserves a proper explanation regarding what happened.  Don’t you have...”


“She doesn’t have to know.”  Hoshimura-senpai cut in with an amused little grin, as if I were telling a joke.  Rising from the table, she walked towards me casually.



Everything about her was so casual that it was like I just stayed over for an evening and we fell asleep watching movies or something.


“Megumi-chan, we’re both adults; the decisions we made last night were done by ourselves, no one else could be blamed or be held responsible for it.  Such a thing is common in this day and age.  I can promise you that I won’t even breathe a word of this to anyone else.  So you can tell Erika if you want to, or not if you don’t want to.”


I think for the first time in many years, I’ve finally, actually, truly saw Hoshimura-senpai.  Around her, there was no longer that halo of gold.  The smile that used to quicken my heart no longer held any sway; in fact, it looked fake and almost disgusting.  This entire situation was disgusting.


I am disgusting.


Without another word, I turned and grabbed my purse, which was left on her sofa last evening, to leave.  Ignoring her calls after me, I all but ran out of the door and down the hall towards the elevator.

I am disgusting.

I looked at the mirrored walls of the elevator as it descended slowly.  Then I understood, there was no such thing as fairy tales in this world. 

To be continued...

Chapter 22

Title: Chapter Twenty Two

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Twenty Two

They say the end of one thing usually meant the beginning of something else; I wasn’t quite sure whether I believed in that saying or understood its meaning either.  I couldn’t remember much of the day after I left Hoshimura-senpai’s place… well, no; that was a lie; I don’t want to remember anything of that day.  Even now, I still feel the vomit at the back of my throat every time I try to recall.  There was an abundance amount of self condemnation on my part, chiding myself for being so stupid.  And then there was an endless amount of guilt.  I could not fathom how I would even begin to try and explain this situation to Erika.


So I didn’t.



I think we should take a break for a little while.  Sorry.  I will give you a proper explanation as soon as I am able, I swear. 


I was being selfish again.


It was no surprise that she would call, then text, then e-mail and finally cease after a couple of weeks when it was obvious that I was not going to be replying to any of her attempts at communication.  I didn’t know what to say to her or how to say it.  I could already see the disappointment and hurt in her eyes; especially when I knew that she’s never liked Hoshimura-senpai to begin with.


Sometimes, when I would sit in my room, in utter silence, I would wonder just what went wrong.  I desperately missed those days when Hoshimura-senpai and Fujimaru-senpai was the ideal couple that I looked up to; when I could giggle and laugh with my friends; when I could still blush and smile with Erika.  Now, Fujimaru-senpai was married and pregnant.  Hoshimura-senpai was turning out to be someone different than I thought.  My friends were nonexistent and Erika was no longer with me either.


For the first time in a few years, I spent Christmas with my family.


Erika did not attempt to seek me out during Christmas.  I didn’t know whether she came back or whether she stayed at her university instead.


I didn’t want to see anyone.


January, the second semester started and I wanted to put everything that happened in the last year behind me.  Let them stay in the year that’s passed.  So I decided to focus on school and take my mind off of all these complicated relationships around me.  Erika did not attempt to contact me.  Hoshimura-senpai did not attempt to contact me either.  I was thankful.  I didn’t think I was ready to face either of them quite yet.


It was when I saw the roses that floated around campus did I realize that it was once again Valentine’s Day.  This year, there was no one to celebrate it with and I couldn’t help but wonder what Erika was doing.  Were there suitors on her end?  Did other men and women notice her change in status and invited her to spend Valentine’s Day with them? 


At this point, I think I was more scared than confused.  I was scared to contact her, to explain to her what happened.  I think I was more scared to know that she was doing just fine, even without me in her life.


The last week of February, I received a surprise guest at home.


My mom had shouted for me to come and greet my friend when I was in the middle of a sketch.  A little frustrated, I huffed and threw down my pencil to jog downstairs.  I had no idea whom it might be, and part of me feared that it might be Erika.




I paused at the bottom step and looked at her in surprise.  She bowed at me when I could only stare.


“Homework?”  She asked me when I took her back to my room and closed the door behind us.  “Seems like you have a whole pile still left to go.”  She pointed at the pile that was next to the one I was currently doing.


I offered her a forced smile and sat down on my bed carefully.  This was my room, yet I felt so uncomfortable with her.  Even though there was barely any resemblance between her and Hoshimura-senpai, looking at her could not help but remind me of her sister.  The disgust was no longer as strong as it used to be, but it still lingered.  “What are you doing here?”  Finally I asked.


Reika put down my sketch pad and then turned to look at me.  Without invitation, she sat down on my chair and faced me directly.


Even though she was younger than me, but I’ve always found her presence to be intimidating.


“I heard about what happened.”


My heart skipped a beat and I looked up at her sharply.  “What are you talking about?”


“You and Maki-senpai.”


My throat tightened.


“Well, truthfully, I don’t know for sure.  My sister came back over the weekend and mentioned to me about how Maki-senpai seemed to be having a hard time in her class.  Apparently, Maki-senpai’s marks have dropped steadily since the Christmas break and her performances have been filled with mistakes as well.  She asked me whether I knew anything about it.”


Should I feel relieved to know that Erika was not doing well without me?  It was such a selfish thought, but knowing that she was having a hard time threatened tears to my eyes.  Ah, I thought, so I still mean something to her.


“What happened?”


I looked at Reika and wet my lips, but found nothing to say.  This time, she did not rush into words of her own either.  Instead, she sat and waited for me patiently; as if she was determined to hear it from my own mouth.


“We… I asked Erika to take a break…”




“Because.”  It was a reflexive and defensive word that told the other party that indeed something had happened.  My heart started racing once again and I wondered if Reika heard the undertone in that one word alone.


“Something happened between you and Natsuki, didn’t it?”  Again, I was shocked speechless by her perception.  “What happened?”  Her eyes narrowed for a second then she chuckled –it was ugly and bitter- and glanced away.  “Never mind, why did I even bother to ask?  What could possibly have happened but that?”


I wasn’t sure how I should feel.  I was a little angry that Reika would assume that she knew everything when I’ve barely spoken to her.  Just because I went to her asking about Hoshimura-senpai didn’t necessarily mean that something happened.  Even if in this case… something did happen.


“What would you know?  You’re just a child.”


Yet, I forgot that she was only a year younger than me.


“I may be a child, but I am Natsuki’s younger sister.  I know much more than you could ever imagine.”


“Then what do you think happened?”


“You two had sex.”


My mouth dropped open and I gaped at her in silence.  Part of me was glad that I didn’t have to be the one to say it out loud; but to know that she knew was so humiliating that I had to bite my lip to prevent myself from crying.




“Because I am Natsuki’s sister.”  She said softly; and I thought I saw sympathy in her eyes.  With a sigh, Reika turned her gaze away and looked out of my window.  An hour later, after she left, I sat at the same place and starred out of the window to see her disappear down the road.  Her words seemed to be stored in the walls of my room, always on repeat mode.

You don’t need to think that you are a horrible person just because you’ve slept with my sister.

She started, sounding older than her age.

My sister is just like that.  She is a promiscuous person, and because she’s always gotten her way and been spoiled, she does not understand that other people have things and people precious to them as well.  When she started dating Asura-oneechan, it was the first time in her life that I’ve ever seen her so serious about someone.  For ten years, I thought she could at least change a little, but when Asura-oneechan left, it was like Natsuki needed to do even more than before to cover up that wound.

If she, or anyone else, had told me that before it happened, I would never have believed them.  Now, I could listen with a calm heart and digest the information given.  Reika said it was Hoshimura-senpai’s way to deal with things.  And I couldn’t help but wonder if it was healthy to be dealing with things in this particular manner.  Hoshimura-senpai aside, there were bound to be other people hurt as well.

Now that Asura-oneechan is no longer here, you need to stop spoiling Natsuki.  I keep on telling Shina-oneechan to stop spoiling her, but she never listens to me.

Ito-senpai perhaps thought that she might have finally reached the end of her long years of waiting, but maybe she also finally understood that if it isn’t Fujimaru Asura, then Hoshimura-senpai won’t take anyone seriously.

Don’t think too poorly of yourself.  If it weren’t you that evening, it would have been someone else.  But, at the same time, I’m not laying all the blame on Natsuki.  Obviously something is wrong with you as well.  Anyways, that’s not in my place to say, but I hope you will at least talk to Maki-senpai.  She deserves the truth, if nothing else.

Truthfully, it felt degrading to be chided by someone younger than me.  I understood her words and I have told myself those same words as well.  However, the fear inside was keeping me back from everything that I knew I should be doing.  For many hours, I sat and starred out of my window.  Perhaps I was thinking, perhaps I wasn’t.  I felt that I needed those hours to sort out my head, to figure out myself and to figure out the situation that I was currently in.


Next morning, I packed a backpack of clothes and necessities before leaving.


It took me an hour and twenty-seven minutes to get to the intercity bus terminal.  I sat on a bench and waited for the familiar bus to pass by.  I did not tell anyone where I was going; I didn’t want anyone to know where I was going either.  To my parents, I told them I will be staying at a friend’s place for a few days to work on a project and they left it at that.  Maybe they thought that their daughter would never lie to them.


Would they be disappointed?  If they were to find out what I have done?


The bus ride was close to three hours and I was finally in the same city as Erika.  It was my first time here, and I could only rely on the map that I had gotten at the bus terminal.  With it spread it open in my hands; I walked and located Erika’s university campus first before going away.




I did not want to see her just yet.


For three days, I stayed in a cheap motel room and wandered the city.  I looked at all the unfamiliar sights and people around me, but nothing was out of the ordinary.  I walked from one place to another and took note of every little description I could.  I think I was saying goodbye to some things and welcoming other things at the same time.  It was the first time that I’ve wanted to know what Erika would see on a daily basis.  I wanted to share the same views as her.


On the fourth evening, I finally sat down on my bed after a shower and picked up my phone.

It’s me.  Would you be able to meet me tomorrow?

And I watched as the cell phone screen told me it was sent.  I sighed and closed my eyes, clutching the phone to my chest.  Every second felt like an eternity and I sat on the edge of the motel bed, waiting; almost praying.

Tomorrow would be a little rushed.  How about this weekend?  I’ll go back to town.  Where do you want to meet?

My heart skipped a beat and I quickly replied.

I’m actually here… in your city.

I imagined that Erika would have a startle once she sees these words.

Where and when do you want to meet?

I imagine my choice of location would give her more of a scare than me randomly showing up.  Still, she agreed and I did not elaborate any further either.  That evening, I sat in my motel room and did everything I could to take my mind off the impending meeting.  I read and I watched T.V.; I took a long bath and even drank a cup of tea with a slice of cake on the veranda of the motel.  Don’t think that it over looked anything extraordinary, I just wanted the change in scenery.


The next day, I stood outside of the cemetery and waited for Erika.


Cars and busses passed me by, but no one stopped to offer me a glance.  In such a busy city, everyone had something they needed to be doing; no one had the time to worry about another person.  From across the street, I saw Erika approaching.  Pushing away from the wall, I straightened my back and waited for her.  I didn’t know whether I could smile, so I just left my lips the way they were.


She approached one step at a time, her gaze locked on me, and mine on her.


“Long time no see.”


My lips twitched and I nodded.


We looked at each other for a long time, neither knowing what to say.  I did not rehearse anything for today because I told myself that words were the most real when I could just speak without hindrance or a pre-constructed outline.


“Why did you want to meet here?”


I glanced behind me at the cemetery and then offered her a small smile.  “Do you mind walking with me?”


She lifted an eyebrow, looked at the cemetery and then back at me before nodding.  Like always, Erika had always followed along with my words.  Whatever I wanted to do, she would consent without a fuss.  In the last few days, I had enough time and space to look through our relationship from the beginning to the end; and I realized that I might never be able to find someone who treated me so well.


“Today, I really hope we can talk candidly.”  I started when we entered the cemetery.  It was empty and I could not see any visitors.  “I will say everything I need to say without holding back, and I hope you will do the same as well.”


She nodded.


“I’m sorry for not contacting you for so long.”


“I want to say it’s okay, but…”  She trailed off and shrugged; her expression told me that she was not quite okay with it.  I smiled and she smiled back.  Hers was one of mild embarrassment while mine was one of guilt.  However, I did say that I wanted this talk to be sincere, so I was glad she was consenting.


Yet again.


“The reason I didn’t contact you is because I did something wrong.”  I started, keeping my eyes on the ground in front of me and the tombstones all around us.  “In December, I slept with Hoshimura-senpai.”


She visibly paled and I turned to face her as she starred at me in pure shock.  Perhaps she thought about many things, but obviously this wasn’t one of them.  I waited for her to digest the news and wondered if I’d see her temper for the first time.  The shock slipped away from her face and her eyes were unreadable for a long time.




“I can’t answer that because I don’t even know the answer myself.”  It was the most truthful answer that I could give.  “I think a part of me had always liked Hoshimura-senpai, but because she was dating Fujimaru-senpai, I never paid that part of me any thought.”  Have you ever had to dissect yourself without bias?  I tried and it was unsuccessful.  This was the closest that I’ve come to a conclusion.  “Fujimaru-senpai was reported to be pregnant, and I just…”


Didn’t know what happened.


“Do you still like her?”


“I do.”  It was a quiet admission, but I forced myself to look into Erika’s eyes no matter what.  I forced myself not to cry.  “I think somewhere in my heart, I will always like her; she was my first crush and… that first is hard to erase.”  Always in my heart, no matter how much I might despise Hoshimura-senpai, I will still remember her as my first crush.  Except, it was a first crush with many tainted spots.


She said nothing and kept on walking.


“I am shocked that you would sleep with her, but I can’t say that it’s a surprise to hear of your crush on her.  I think I’ve always known, but never really tried to acknowledge it.”


Thinking back on it, perhaps everyone knew and I was the only one who was blind.


“Can you forgive me?”  She turned her head and looked at me, perhaps a little agitated and a little in disbelief.  “I’m not asking you to forgive me right now.  I meant, do you think you can forgive me in time?”


“I don’t know.”


“I’m sorry, Erika.  I really am.”


She walked on ahead of me, two paces in front me, and I dutifully kept our distance.  Around us, engravings on tombstones read loving phrases of a gentle soul who had passed on.  I wondered what mine would say when the time came.  I did not know for how long we walked until she finally stopped and turned around.


“What now?”


“If I cried and begged on my knees, can we start anew?”


“If I cried and begged on my knees to the gods, can I erase the past?”  I was speechless at her candour and that almost mocking tone, but I didn’t have anyone to blame except for myself.  She sighed and turned her face away.  “Because Hoshimura-senpai might have been your first crush, but you are my first love.”  The sun shone in my eyes and I could not see the expression on Erika’s face very well.  “I want to take you back and say that I can forgive you, but truthfully, I can’t.  At least right now, I can’t.” 


Such was the response that I’ve prepared myself for, but when I’ve actually heard it with my own ears, the pain still throbbed and my eyes stung with tears.  Erika bowed her head and turned it away, I wondered if she was crying as well.


“Let’s start from the beginning.”  At length, she finally said.  “Let’s start from the very beginning; start from when we first saw each other, start from when we did not even develop feelings for one another.”


When everything was still simple.


“Hello, it’s nice to meet you.  My name is Maki Erika.  I am eighteen years old and am studying performance arts currently.”


She took a step forward and held out a hand towards me.  I looked at the hand and then up at her.


“Hello, it’s nice to meet you too.  My name is Ookina Megumi.  I am eighteen years old and am studying fashion design.”


“In three weeks, I have a break and will be back in my home town.  Let us meet again then.  For now…”


For now, we will part as a pair of strangers who have met for the first time.


If we rewound the tape to when we first met, could we hope that our feelings will be turned to that time as well?

To be continued...

[End notes:

Somehow, I think this entire story is dedicated to that first crush, that first love, the first relationship most have had.  When you think back, can you still remember that person?  Those feelings?  For me, each person whom I've liked have always been a part of me and hard to break.  Even though I do not have contact with them anymore, the feelings and times that we've shared together cannot be erased.

Recently, I watched this couple go from frustratingly awkward to unconditionally loving with each other and I couldn't help but recall this story.  Perhaps I want to dedicate this story to them, but I fear this does them no justice.

Truly, treasure those who are in your life right now.  Don't hurt the ones you hate, because they are people too.  And definitely don't hurt the ones you love, because you will feel their pain multi-folds later.  If you love someone, go out with all your courage and heart to love that person.  For there is only that one chance, if they become yours, then they are yours; if they do not become yours, then you will never have them again.

Lastly, sorry this chapter took a little long, I had been busy with work and other applications the past couple of weeks.


Chapter 23

Title: Chapter Twenty Three

[Author's notes:

Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.


Estrogen - Chapter Twenty Three

Erika and I did not contact each other for a month.


I returned from her city after we parted at the cemetery.  There was nothing there for me to stay for.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about her idea of going back to the beginning, but I was certainly thankful.  I had anticipated much worse, and of course, I secretly hoped for much better.  So when reality chose the middle ground, I could not help but feel that life was indeed fair after all.


This time around, I was determined that I would be the one who treated Erika as well as she had treated me.  This time around, I was determined to understand myself first before attempting to understand Erika or expect her to understand me.


So this one month allowed me to put my focus back on school and return my heart to normal.  I wanted to do well so that I would not be an embarrassment to Erika in the future.  I wanted to be able to stand at the same level as she and achieve the same goals together.  No longer did I want to be a little girl being protected underneath Erika’s arms.  This time, we will protect each other.


In a relationship, it was about two people coming together and adjusting to one another.  So in the future, if there is any changing, any adjusting, any growing, we will do them together so we can fit together better.  Only in such a way can it truly be called a relationship.


Of course, I have not had any contact with Hoshimura-senpai ever since that December.


In the middle of March, Erika returned.  I did not pick her up, for she did not tell me of her return date.  Just like two strangers, we greeted each other on the phone politely.


“I hope for you to understand me a little better as well, Maki-san.”


“You mentioned that you were working for Fujimaru Asura-san; would it be too much to ask you to show me your work place, Ookina-san?”


Thinking back on it, I didn’t think I ever showed Erika where I worked.  In a startled realization, I couldn’t believe how many little things we never took note of.  We started off as friends, so there were so many things that we took for granted.  This time, all will be different.  It will start from the basics like favourite colors, favourite food, favourite movies; and then to the places that were of importance.


We agreed to meet on Wednesday.


On Tuesday evening, I stood in front of my closet and flipped through the hangers looking for a suitable outfit to wear.  Previously, I never even cared about how I looked in front of Erika; thinking that she’s already seen me in my worst and best as a friend, there was no need for dressing up.  This time, I wanted to experience what it was like to dress for a date.


After a few rounds of selection, I finally chose to wear a spring dress with a jacket over it.  It was the first time that I coordinated my wardrobe all the way to what hair clip I should wear.  All the while, I wasn’t even sure if I was truly concerned about Erika’s opinion or I was just nervous.


I went to bed early that evening.


We met in the early afternoon at a major intersection near Fujimaru-senpai’s work place.  She approached me from across the street once again and we both bowed when close enough.


“It’s nice to meet you again, Maki-san.”


“You too, Ookina-san.”


We smiled at each other and I gestured for her to follow me.  Together, we turned off the main streets towards the suburban roads that eventually branched into rows and rows of single houses.  It was a week day afternoon, so we were greeted with empty roads with regenerating plants that greeted spring readily.


“Your employer works from home?”


“It’s not really her home.  She actually has an apartment elsewhere; this is just where she works.  Because she usually has a very hectic schedule, so it’s more convenient for her to have a house where she can work and take a nap whenever time would allow her.”  I explained to her in detail, realizing once again that I’ve never told Erika this before either.


“Ah, I see.”


How many more things were there that we did not know of each other?


“Is she still working now?”


“She is.  Except, she is located in Canada right now.  So unless it’s something major, she would just call back and let me take care of them for her.”  I wanted to brag and say that I was like the manager here in Japan, but I held my tongue and chose to remain silent instead.


I unlocked the front door and let us in.


The curtains were parted and the sun fell through the windows and onto the hard wood floor, illuminating every corner of the room.  There were framed photos of Fujimaru-senpai surrounding both levels of the house and Erika looked from one to the other.


“Would you like anything to drink?”


“No, that’s alright.  Thank you.”


There was that pile of work I was working on last week.  And there was that bin of fan letters that I needed to forward to Fujimaru-senpai.  There was the familiar scent of Fujimaru-senpai’s perfume that was everywhere in the house.  The samples of her new scent were being packaged –by me, personally-, so they were scattered all over the desk.


“It seems you are quite busy.”  Erika smiled and pointed to the desk.


“Sometimes, it can be.  Thankfully, not many things are rush work, so I can take my time.”


“Is your boss a strict person?”


“She is; but her work ethic is the thing that I admire the most about her.”


Even now, there was not a thing she would miss.  I did not know how she dealt with her family business in Canada, but she’s never missed a beat when it came to her career here in Japan.  I couldn’t help but wonder whether she would be able to continue after the birth of her child.


There was still undigested shock at her becoming a mother.


Sounds of the telephone reverberated throughout the house and I looked at the nearest one, half startled.


“Go ahead.”  Erika gestured for me to answer the phone.


“Megumi, I need you to do this right now.”




My eyebrows burrowed together into a frown and I looked at Erika with an apologetic expression.


“Yes, now.”  However, there was no room to argue.  “Go to my apartment, there is a box of previous articles that I’ve written.  I need all of them sent to me immediately.  Hurry up with it.”


Just when I was telling Erika that there were no rush jobs.


“But, I don’t have the keys to your apartment.”


“Go ask Natsuki, she has a copy.”


Just like that, Fujimaru-senpai hung up before I could even get a word in.  As much as I told myself that I should be used to her attitude by now, I still could not help but cringe.  Hoshimura-senpai was such a sore spot that I wanted to wince visibly.  Especially now that Erika was with me, I just wanted to bang my head against the wall a few times.  My hesitation did not go unnoticed.


“Is something wrong?”


“… Fujimaru-senpai just called and told me to pick something up for her right now…”


“I’ll go with you.”


“I… need to ask a senpai for the keys…”


Her expression changed and I knew this was such a bad time.  Almost, I just wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits one way or another; except, Erika straightened her posture and nodded.  “Okay, so let’s go find this senpai.”


“I’ll call her.”


So under her gaze I pulled out my phone and dialled Hoshimura-senpai’s number.  Even though it was probably nothing, I had wanted this to be a difference in our relationship this time.  Any communication with Hoshimura-senpai, or anyone else for that matter, will be documented and told to Erika.  Part of me had hoped that she would turn me down and tell me she did not have time today.  Except, she was very free.


We arranged to meet up at Fujimaru-senpai’s apartment.


Erika and I arrived early and stood on the steps of Fujimaru-senpai’s apartment building.  The trip over had been filled with more silence than previously, and I didn’t know quite what to say either.  I just wanted to get this done and over with so I can at least talk to Erika about something else.


Hoshimura-senpai’s car pulled up just as it was getting almost stifling.


“Megumi-chan, Maki-kun.”  She greeted us with a smile and I had to stifle my own bitterness and frown.  She appeared the same as always; there was not a single trace of anything that might have happened between the two of us.  I understood then that Hoshimura-senpai really meant what she said about keeping quiet.  At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder how many times she’s done this to be so casual and indifferent.  To know that I was just a fleeting body that she’s touched was a harsh truth to swallow.


“Sorry to make you come all the way out here today.”  So I picked up my head and smiled back at her; as if declaring to the rest of the world that I was fine.  However, I did not dare to look in Erika’s direction.


“Not a problem; come.”


She gestured for us to follow and we did.  If Erika was unhappy, her expression did not show her feelings.  Then again, her expression did not show much at all.  Instead of the elevators in the lobby, Hoshimura-senpai headed for a small corridor beside the elevators and took out a card.


“This is what you would call her front door.”  She explained as she stood in front of a pair of elevator doors and slid the card down a slot before punching a series of numbers.  The machine took three seconds before beeping in recognition and the elevator doors slowly opened.  For that moment, Erika and I exchanged dumbfounded expressions before stepping into the elevator.


What kind of place…


Hoshimura-senpai led us into an interior that was empty and cold.  Each surface reflected the afternoon sun but no warmth was absorbed.  I looked from one wall to another, trying to take in everything that I was looking at.


“What are you looking for?”


“Ah.”  I was brought back to reality and told Hoshimura-senpai what Fujimaru-senpai wanted.


“It’s probably in her office.”


Erika and I followed without a word.  Now that the initial awe had worn off, we were back to awkward step number one.  At this moment, we just wanted to find that box and get out as quickly as possible.


Fujimaru-senpai’s office was piled with cardboard boxes that we all had to drop our bags and start digging through one by one.  It was ridiculous how many things there were in here, but at least each one was labelled with a word or two of semi-useful descriptions.  I pulled open one box after another that seemed hopeful only to be disappointed.  And then I came across an unlabelled box and opened it up.  Inside seemed to be a sea of confusion, leaving me equally as puzzled.  There were books, but there were also random receipts and other assorted strangeness.


“What is this?”


Erika turned from her box to look over, and Hoshimura-senpai took a couple of steps closer as well.


“Ah, I should probably take that.”


Just like that, Hoshimura-senpai smiled and closed up the box before picking it up from its resting place and placed it outside of the office.


“What was it?”


“Nothing important.”  She glazed over with a smile.  “Let’s keep on looking.”


Of course, we managed to find the box in question after a while.  Erika and I took that box and Hoshimura-senpai took the one with the mysterious contents.  My eyes could not be pulled away from the cardboard box, but Hoshimura-senpai did not look like she wanted to say anything more about it either.  At the door, we parted ways with a bow and a polite smile.  Erika and I then took the bus to the nearest postal office and mailed it off.


“So much for a day together.”  I huffed and sighed as we walked back to the bus stop.  “I’m sorry, Erika.”  Then, remembering our current predicament, quickly corrected myself.  “I meant, Maki-san.”


“It’s okay.”


Then there was a slight pause again.


“Do you want to know what was in that box?”


“Eh?  You know?”  My eyes widened immediately and I turned to look at her quickly.


She looked over and smiled.  “Come with me then.”


What was with people and not telling me anything?  I pouted out of habit but followed her anyways.  We hopped onto familiar bus routes and forty something minutes later got off at an equally familiar, if not more, neighbourhood.  I looked at the road and looked at Erika.  She returned me a smile before walking on.  Step by step, we approached her house and each step was filled with so many memories that I had the strongest urge to weep when we opened the door.  Caramel no longer greeted us at the door.  It was a mutual decision to give her to Erika’s neighbour, an elderly couple, at the beginning of the school year.  We both knew that there wouldn’t be any time to look after Caramel and rather than let her be lonesome, we decided to give her to a warm household.


One evening and everything had been changed.  I sometimes wondered where we’d be today if I had not been so… I couldn’t find the correct adjective to describe myself.


She took me upstairs and into her bedroom, another familiar territory.  She opened her closet and pulled out a box.  “Take a look.”


I gave her a look before moving over to open up the lid.  Inside, I found a scene that was almost the same as the one I saw in Fujimaru-senpai’s office.  I reached inside when she gave me an encouraging nod.  The first thing I picked up was a receipt for what looked like dinner, dated… a year and several months ago.  There was an array of tickets, receipts, photos, even a stick.


“Do you know what they are?”  Erika started quietly.  “They are tangible pieces of memory.”  I had already understood what they were.  Ever since our first date, Erika had dutifully kept something from each one of our dates and meetings.  After three years, what remained were the saved versions of those happenings in our mind and these reminders.  “Perhaps it’s a little childish, but each one holds a special meaning for me.”


Each one documented our growing relationship, and at the same time, our now misplaced distance.


I fingered each one of them carefully, recalling the dates one by one, recollecting every word and glance that we had shared on those outings.  Three years and Erika already had a sizable collection; then… what about ten years?  I only saw the surface of Fujimaru-senpai’s collection and wondered what the building blocks were.


So then, where were those memories now?


We sat until the sun disappeared and the room darkened, each enjoying our own version of each receipt and each ticket.


“Next month,” Erika started “is the last month of school.  For one of my courses, we are required to do a play.  Would you like to come and watch?”

To be continued...

Chapter 24

Title: Chapter Twenty Four

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The characters and plot are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Chapter Twenty Four

Towards the end of April, after my exams were finished, Erika sent me an e-mail containing all the information regarding her performance.  Apparently, for this particular course, their final exam was this final performance.  To think, an entire year’s worth of study and practices all came down to this one performance alone.  Of course my answer was the affirmative and two days before the designated date, I was already looking through my wardrobe for what I could possibly wear to the event.  I did not want to embarrass Erika in front of the people she will be with for next three years.  Thankfully, after my years of working with Fujimaru-senpai, I not only at least picked up some sense of fashion, but my closet had a small section dedicated to designer wear as well.  For them, I only had Fujimaru-senpai to thank.


Even these days, when she called, she would not speak one word about her pregnancy.  It was as if she didn’t remember that there was another life beating inside of her.  She carried on her work as usual, spoke as usual, conversed with me as usual, and of course, was just as unreasonable as usual.  I sometimes wondered if the media were all just blind and mistook someone else as her.


So then, what did that make of me?


I shook my head and cleared my thoughts.  I did not want to dwell on the past, certainly not on Fujimaru-senpai and Hoshimura-senpai either.


My itinerary was almost memorized by heart as I got onto the inter-city bus and sat with a thumping heart.  It’s been so long since I last saw a play with Erika in it!  I recalled the plays that we did in high school and wondered how much Erika had improved.  For in my mind, there was no way that she did not improve.


The play was set to start at seven; I was already on campus by six.  I thought about letting Erika know that I was here, but thought better of it.  The moments before the opening of curtains must be a most stressful time for her, I shouldn’t disturb her concentration.  So I wandered around her campus at a leisure pace, enjoying the sights and sounds that I knew were what Erika was used to.  I thought that if we both enjoyed the same sensory inputs, then maybe we’ll have more in common.


In this new relationship, I wanted to learn everything about Erika like she had learnt about me in our old one.


At six-fourty, I took my seat in the fourth row in front of the stage and looked at the fluttering red curtain.  From previous experience I knew that such was the time when all staff members were running around back stage like headless chickens trying to put together the final details.  For in twenty more minutes, everything would be over and they’ve just got to go out however they were able.


The auditorium around me filled slowly.  There were families and couples, talking about the program animatedly.  I looked towards them with a small smile but turned my head back to the curtains.  It was then that I realized Erika’s father was not in the audience.  Apparently, work was keeping him busy elsewhere.  Looking around once more, I could not help but feel a tinge of sadness for Erika.  In this city, in this country, she was by herself.  Such an important moment in life and the only one in the audience for her was me; someone whose status was a little sketchy and with a history even more sketchy. 


Exactly at seven, the curtains parted and lights dimmed.  We clapped as a prelude to the show.


With the number of people in Erika’s class, each was only allowed a certain quota of time to impress their professor.  Needless to say, Erika’s role was nothing compared to the roles that she was used to playing in senior high.  However, I saw the determination and felt the hard work that she had placed into every word and every gesture.  I knew she could not see me from her vantage point, but I still smiled widely every time she would glance towards the audience.


So what if her father was not here?  I will give her a family.


The play lasted for a little over two hours; Erika’s part was a little over ten minutes; but I still diligently watched every little bit of it.  I did not want to be the type of person who only supported her role specifically.  I will learn to support the entirety of her projects.  When the curtains rose again, Erika and her classmates lined the stage and bowed three times to the applauding audience before taking their leave.  All around me, people were chattering and moving in a hurry to –no doubt- greet their own daughter or son.  I sat and watched as the auditorium emptied row by row and still I sat looking at the stage. 




Finally, Erika sat down besides me and I shifted in my seat to face her.  She was dressed in a casual outfit, but her stage make-up was still caked on her face.  I wanted to reach out and touch but reminded myself that technically, we’ve only known each other for a couple of months.  So I smiled and clapped my hands instead.  “It was great!  I loved it!  You did a terrific job!”


She smiled and nodded, accepting my praise.


“It’s only unfortunate that I couldn’t see more of you.”


“Everyone had to get their stage time after all and it is a medium sized class.”  She explained and looked around the auditorium.  “Next year, I will perform here again; and the year after that, and the year after that.  Maybe in the third year, my stage time will be more than just ten minutes long.”  She spoke quietly, but I could see the determination in her eyes.  One’s dream cannot be obtained within the span of a day.  Erika was walking towards her dream slowly but steadily on step at a time.


For me, I will certainly have to do the same.


“Maybe then, I can also sit here again and watch you.”


She returned her gaze to me and offered me a smile.  “Of course, I would love that!”  We both shared a smile and a quiet moment.  Both of us knew that even though we were attempting to restart with blank slates, the feelings and care that we have built for each other over the past few years were hard to erase.  On this blank piece of paper, you will always see shadows of countless words that were previously written.  Waiting to be recollected and remembered.  “Maybe then, I can wear a costume that’s been designed and made by you?”


“It would be my pleasure!”


Erika and I went out to eat that evening, I returned to my city afterwards on the inter-city bus again.  I realized that it was becoming quite a habit now.  Erika told me that she would be staying in her university for the summer as she got an apprenticeship with her professor; indeed, Hoshimura-senpai’s older sister.  We did not meet again for almost a month, and when we did, I wished that it could have been under much better circumstances.


After university ended, I of course went back to doing full time service for Fujimaru-senpai.  I realized that it was towards the end of her pregnancy, yet she sounded as she’s always been.  If no one’s told me of her state, I never would have guessed that she was pregnant.  Always, I questioned myself on the validity of those reports.  I suppose I would never believe it until I saw it myself.  However, with the way things have been going recently, I feared that seeing any evidence might just be next to impossible.


Of course, Erika and I kept in touch via all sorts of communication devices.  There were mundane topics and fascinating headlines, but most importantly, we were trying to get to know one another again.  This time, I was determined not to commit the same mistakes.  Now that I knew what it was like to be in a relationship, I also knew what to do and what not to do.  However, everything was a constant stage of learning.  Even this time around, there were still things that I did not know about.


Then one afternoon in mid-May, my cell phone vibrated on the desk I was working on and I glanced at it casually to see that Ito-senpai was on the other end of the line.  After that conversation with Ito-senpai all those months ago, I had not spoken with her.  Truthfully, after the last meeting with Hoshimura-senpai, I had tried to put that entire group of people out of my head.  I purposely stayed away from all news of them so I would not be drawn back to them again.


“Good afternoon, Ito-senpai.”


I picked up the phone with a small smile, preparing myself for a moment of polite chit-chat, but Ito-senpai did not allow it.


“Hoshimura-senpai is in the hospital.”


I could have sworn that my heart felt like it was going to leap out of my throat and I quickly placed a hand on my chest; as if that could contain the organ.  My eyes were wide as I listened to her explanation.  Apparently, Ito-senpai was unable to get in touch with Fujimaru-senpai and asked me to.  Of course I said yes.


The last time I spoke to Fujimaru-senpai was about four days ago, ever since then, I’ve not had any contact with her.  When I picked up the phone to dial her cell phone number, no one picked up.  I dialled her office number and no one picked up either.  I pondered and dialled her home phone number, but no one was picking up either.  My heart rate accelerated exponentially and I prayed that Fujimaru-senpai was not involved in an accident and was in the hospital as well!


However, my senses came to me briefly and I counted the days.  If there were no problems, Fujimaru-senpai’s baby should be due around this time as well.  Perhaps she was in labour?


Putting that thought on hold, I quickly called the local train station and booked a seat to the city Hoshimura-senpai was receiving treatment in.  Unfortunately, the first available time slot was tomorrow evening, I would arrive the day after, before noon.  I quickly wrapped up the work I was doing and went home to pack for the trip.  I did not know how long I’d be there, so I packed light but made sure that I’ve at least packed all the necessities with me.


It was true that I wanted to distance myself from Hoshimura-senpai, but at the same time, I could not just let her be when she was in the hospital.  Ito-senpai said that during their last game, as Hoshimura-senpai was jumping for a rebound, so was a player from the other team.  The two of them somehow got tangled with each other in the air and when they came down, it was in an awkward position.  Hoshimura-senpai fell against the post of the basketball net and then onto the floor in a sprawl.  She was apparently unconscious for a moment or two before she was taken out by a stretcher.  They think it had something to do with her back and they were currently running more tests to be sure.


Quickly, I left Erika an e-mail explaining what had happened and where I was headed.  I worried that it might make me a hypocrite, but even as a friend, I at least had to visit her.


I boarded the train before midnight and found my seat easily.  Despite the hour, the train was still filled.  I looked all those people around me and wondered where they were going and what for.  Were any of them going to visit someone in the hospital as well?  I did not quite sleep properly, but I did drift into sporadic moments of sleep here and there.  I was vaguely aware of all the stops that were announced.


As I got out of the taxi the following day just a little after noon, I looked about me with apprehension.  The hospital looked huge and I had no idea where Hoshimura-senpai’s room was located.  Even though it was a week day, the hospital lobby traffic was still unbelievable.  I over heard conversations about how someone travelled for a day to get to here just so they could have a certain specialist take a look at their problem.  Needless to say, the lobby was filled with people.


On a wall, I saw a map of the hospital and quickly shuffled over to familiarize myself with the surroundings.  First thing’s first, I need to take an elevator up to the fifth floor and then I’ll proceed from there.


Just as I was half jogging towards the elevators, out of the corner of my eyes, I swore I saw someone that had me turning hot and cold in seconds.  Amidst all the people and crowds in the lobby, I thought I saw Fujimaru-senpai.  In actuality, it was someone’s profile.  The person’s hair was pulled back and was wearing sunglasses.  I did not and could not get a closer look before said person disappeared into the sea of people.  For the life of me, I could not locate them again.


Could it be possible?


I asked myself as the elevator ascended but made a stop at each floor to let out and let in people.


However, Fujimaru-senpai’s due date should be around these couple of weeks, could she possibly risk going into labour if she were on an airplane?  Besides, who was to say that she wasn’t already in labour somewhere in Canada?  And also, if she did return, wouldn’t there have been sightings of her?  At least at the airport!


Disconnected thoughts ran through my head as I looked for Hoshimura-senpai’s room.  Part of me wanted to go and find out for sure, but part of me dreaded all the possibilities.  If it wasn’t her, then why would I get my hopes up?  If it was her, then what did that say about her life now?


Neither option gave me satisfactory answers, so I decided to push those thoughts out of my head altogether.  Especially as I was nearing Hoshimura-senpai’s hospital room already.  A few paces away and I stopped.  I didn’t know what was holding me back, but my entire body felt heavy and I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to proceed forward.  What if she had already passed away?


No!  I shook my head firmly.  It was just a small injury on the basketball court; she will recover in no time!




I turned when I heard my name and saw Erika walking towards me with a couple of plastic bags in her hands.  I was so stunned to see her here that I did not even realize that she had called me by my first name.


“I sent you an e-mail!”  Instead, that was the first sentence out of my mouth.  Perhaps I was a little frantic in wanting her to understand that it wasn’t like I snuck off to see Hoshimura-senpai again.  I understood very well that when trust was broken once, even the tiniest thing could seem like a betrayal.  We had tried so hard, both of us; I did not want this misunderstanding to end everything.


She looked at me for a moment before she smiled and nodded.  “I know; I got your e-mail.”


“What are you doing here?”


“Hoshimura-sensei.”  She nodded her chin towards the closed hospital door.  “I was with her when we received word of Hoshimura-senpai’s injury, so I came with her.”  Ah, that’s right; Hoshimura-senpai’s sister was Erika’s professor after all.  “I just went out to grab some things for Hoshimura-sensei and Ito-senpai.”  She indicated towards the bags in her hands.  “Come on, let’s go in.”


Erika led the way and instead of looking at the door, I looked at her back.  I was scared and I thought that perhaps if I kept on looking at her back, maybe I wouldn’t have to be greeted with any bad news.  The door opened and I saw whom I presumed to be Hoshimura-senpai’s older sister first.  She was leaning against the windows and talking on the phone.


“Maki-kun, Ookina-kun.”  Ito-senpai then greeted us with low whispers.  It was obvious that she had been crying and was lacking rest.  I offered her a feeble movement of my lips that was supposed to resemble a smile.  I bowed towards Hoshimura-senpai’s sister and received a nod in response.  Needless to say, the atmosphere in the hospital room was tense and almost suffocating.


Finally, I looked towards the bed and saw Hoshimura-senpai.  Her eyes were closed and she lay motionless.  It was only through the heart monitor besides her that I gathered she was still breathing.


Still alive.


For a long moment, I just looked at her, not really knowing what to say.  My eyes stung and tears circled the rims of my eyes.  Quickly, I sniffed and looked away to hold them back. 


“What…?”  I didn’t know how to ask, but it seemed I did not need to complete my sentence for them to understand me.  For the first time, Erika avoided my gaze by turning her head away and busied herself with emptying the contents of her grocery bags.  A cold chill washed over me and I quickly turned to face Ito-senpai.




Again, I stood in the hallway outside of Hoshimura-senpai’s room.  Across from me, Ito-senpai was frowning and starring at the floor.  For those minutes, neither of us spoke and finally, I could stand it no longer.  “Ito-senpai?”


“The doctor said” she said, barely above a whisper “the impact was stronger than previously thought and a section of her spinal cord had been damaged.  More specifically, vertebrae Th11 to L2 were damaged.”  She looked at me and I knew she hoped that I could understand.  Instead, I drew a blank and looked at her just as blankly.  Those words meant nothing to me!  She might as well have never opened her mouth in the first place!


“What… what does that mean…?”


“It means she is suffering from lower body paralysis.”


Sometimes, when I would think back on that afternoon, I wondered if it had happened any other way, would things have been different.  Ito-senpai’s words shocked me and I never thought I’d recover from such a shock.  Inside the room, Hoshimura-senpai lay as if she were just sleeping.  However, beneath the white hospital sheet, those legs would never move again.


They spoke about rehabilitation and the numbers of probability.  They said that there was a sixty to seventy percent chance for a complete recovery.  However, I only heard the other side of the coin: it meant that there was a thirty to forty percent chance for failure.  What would happen then?


Days that followed passed in a blur; I could not recall any details.  I spoke with Hoshimura-senpai when she was awake and tried to smile.  I didn’t know whether she knew about her condition, but she smiled like always and joked like before.  I did not have the heart to tell or confirm anything with her, so I smiled when she did and laughed when she did, hoping that it’d ease some of her pain.


I returned home after a week and cried myself to sleep that very evening.


A few days after, it was confirmed that Fujimaru-senpai had given birth to a baby girl and that both mother and daughter were safe.  I smiled at the news without any real joy and looked at the shots of the hospital that Fujimaru-senpai was apparently staying in.  It looked similar to the one that Hoshimura-senpai was staying in, but both gave me shivers.


Hoshimura-senpai returned home after two months and three weeks.


So then, I thought, let this summer pass quickly.  I thought that if the summer passed quickly, then there wouldn’t be any more terrible news.


That was until one July morning, when I woke up to the incessant ringing of my cell phone.  It was an unfamiliar number so I pressed ignore until it stopped.  To my shock, I realized that I had missed seven calls by this caller in the past twenty minutes.  My goodness, how deep was I asleep?!


In my hand, my phone vibrated once again and began ringing.  It was the same number, and this time, I did not hesitate to pick it up.




There were frantic words from the other end of the line, but the one sentence that froze me could never be forgotten.


Fujimaru-san was found dead in her room; it looks like she committed suicide.

To be continued...

Chapter 25

Title: Lost Pieces of Memory One

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Lost Pieces of Memory One

She was the only thing that shone in the room.

Natsuki’s always known this; ever since senior high and today was no different.  Just that she seemed to shine even more.  Then again, she was practically covered in diamonds, which could play a part in this image of a glowing bride.

Asura turned her head and saw Natsuki; the latter returned a smile to which Asura could only offer a twitch of her own lips.  How unlady like, Natsuki wanted to tease.  The princess in front of her had always presented her best side in front of people.  Only she has had the pleasure of seeing the most unpresentable Asura.

She could count herself lucky, no?

“You’re in a dress.”

Natsuki followed Asura’s gaze and looked down at herself.  Yes, she indeed was in a dress; deep purple in color and right down to the floor in length.  Purple; it was the color of royalty, as Asura said.

Your majesty.

Asura liked to call her that.

“I figured it would be a nice touch.”  So your mother wouldn’t want to strangle me more than she already did; though these heels are killing me.

Asura made a move to turn her entire body around, the train of her gown shifted with minimum movement in much resistance.  In the end, Natsuki understood the signal and moved forward.  Asura failed to say anything for a long moment.

She didn’t even know where to begin, and Natsuki understood.

“I didn’t know what to get you.”  Natsuki started, the box in her hand was weighed before extended over to Asura.  The bride’s white gloved fingers hesitated before grasping it.  “I mean, between the two of you, there really isn’t much lacking.”

Asura looked at her a moment longer before dropping her gaze to the velvet box.  Black against her white gloves, she snapped the lid backwards and didn’t bother to hide the widened eyes.

“You…”  She lifted her head and looked at Natsuki, a mixture of confusion, bewilderment, disbelief and most of all, regret in her eyes.  I thought you said you needed half of your heart to live.

Lying in the velvet box, the joined heart was old and faded.  Yet, it was this tiny little necklace that cost a pinch that meant the world to her.

“Yes, I know.  It’s rather cheap.”

Withou you, I might as well be dead.  The entire thing was yours from the beginning to the end anyways.

“It’s not… that’s not… I didn’t…”  Asura was tongue-tied.  Natsuki heard the tears in her voice and saw the faint reddening of her eye rims.

“Come now, you are not supposed to cry on your wedding day.”  Not because of me, I promised you that.

Asura closed her eyes tightly, eyelashes pushed against one another.

“They say a woman is always the most beautiful in her wedding gown.”  But you are the most beautiful when you are angry; in those rare moments when I’d see a different you.

“They only say that if the woman is marrying for love.”

To be continued...

[End notes:

Due to the fact that there is only one chapter remaining in the actual story, I thought it was a good time to go back and revisit some scenes.  I plan to post a short chapter each day (hopefully) for the next week or so with scenes from the past.  They will centre around Hoshimura and Fujimaru to offer a sense of what their relationship was like.  Hopefully, they will also clear up some confusions and questions as well.


Chapter 26

Title: Lost Pieces of Memory Two

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Lost Pieces of Memory Two

It was the first match she watched as the captain’s girlfriend.  And just her luck that her school would lose so much after the boasting Natsuki did yesterday.  Even though Asura would never admit it, Natsuki was a trillion levels above her team mates.  However, alas, basketball was a team sport.

She nodded and smiled back at those who bowed to her in passing.  It was going to be the talk of school for this coming week.  She sat, a queen waiting for the procession of people to diminish, no one dared to question her presence.

And when the court was empty and lonely, she would finally rise.  Her school uniform was brushed down; skin color stocking gently tugged at and her heels clicked on her way down.  Was her attire appropriate?  Of course not; but no one said anything either!

Moving opposite to those who were exiting, the opportunity for small talk prolonged her trip.  She’s heard their names from Natsuki, yet she knew that nothing else would register.

The door to the change room was pushed open; a rush of moist and warm air greeted her, causing a light narrowing of her eyes.  Blinking away the initial change, she proceeded further.  From the most left to the right, from the front to the very end, she mapped the entire emptiness of this change room.

Past the rows of lockers and benches to tiled floor and the shower stalls, Natsuki was on the floor, sprawled out on her back.  She was soaked with her uniform still on her body.  Asura stopped a few feet away; Natsuki turned her head to look over at her.

From a few feet away, the two merely looked at each other.

Silence with the warm, moist air clinging around them.

Natsuki lifted a hand and crooked a finger at Asura; the latter merely raised an eyebrow before answering the beckon.  Her legs carried her closer; close enough for her to lift a foot and place it gently atop Natsuki’s stomach.

Spoiled as she may be, Asura knew limits as well.

“You lost.”  You said you’d win.


“I know.”

“What happened to your boasting yesterday?”  You were the best player on the court; this team is holding you back.


“Oh, my ego is completely wounded.”  Natsuki spoke with a sigh.  “Won’t you comfort me?”


“Yes, comfort.”  Natsuki pushed herself up from the tiled floor, forcing Asura’s leg to bend further in order to accommodate.  The taller reached out with a hand and felt the stocking covered leg, her hand slid from the back of Asura’s knee to the swell of her shin.  Turning her fingernails to the same path, Natsuki tore the dainty threads making up the stocking.  Each slide of her hand exposed more flesh in favour of the stocking that sought to mimic skin.

Learning forwards, she pressed her lips to the newly exposed skin.  She tasted the expensive body wash Asura liked to use and felt the smooth skin of an aspiring model.

“You tore my stocking.”

“So I did.”  Natsuki lifted her head and resumed her hand to the half torn stocking.  From behind Asura’s knee, her hand slid upwards, pushing the stocking away, bunching at the end of Asura’s thigh.

“And you aren’t afraid that I’ll be mad?”

“I know you have more.”

Besides, she could always tear away the rest of it so that her legs would match one another.

To be continued...

[End notes: I will be away for a few days, so the next one should take a little longer than usual.]

Chapter 27

Title: Lost Pieces of Memory Three

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Lost Pieces of Memory Three

I think both of us have always known that sooner or later, we’d have to meet.


When I entered senior high, there was no doubt that I’d be joining the basketball club.  How my fame rose was unknown to me though.  Some time in the middle of the first year, there were girls standing at the open doors of the basketball court, always cheering and giggling about one thing or another.  It was only much later did someone tell me that I was the topic of their conversation.


Slowly, I became a face of the school.  Everywhere I went, there were groups of fans following.  So I learnt to smile and speak with them as if we were friends.  I was friends with everyone in the school.  I supposed only I knew how their faces all blurred into one and whenever I spoke, I spoke to a silhouette with no face.


For a long time, I thought senior high would just pass like so.


Until I caught wind of the other face of the school.  To be fair, she had a much better looking face than mine.  Between the two of us, there were always new gossips or some sort of spazz worthy material.


Truthfully, I’ve never met her properly.


However, from the words that were passed around school and those around me talking about her, it was like I’ve known her my entire life.  Before even speaking with her, I could tell you her favourite color, her favourite food, her favourite vacation spot, her favourite saying, her favourite…


Almost everything.


There were times when I’d caught sight of her back or her profile, even when I finally caught glimpses of her completely, they were never solid views.


First year flew by without us even passing a greeting.  It wasn’t like I was tormented over this in my months off, but it was somewhat baffling and I was left intrigued.  When I thought our popularity would pass in the second year, it only renewed with intensified energy.  I’ve heard the rumours that our senior high suffered a higher application rate due to the two of us.


Two months into our second year, we finally met for the first time.


It was before all the leaves were blown off the trees; she was sitting on a bench underneath a tree with a book in her hand.  I was passing by on a short cut to the basketball court and I couldn’t help but slow down when I approached her.  She must have heard me coming, for she lowered her book and glanced up at me.  At that moment, it was truly just the two of us in this world… or at least, in that part of the school.


Such a moment was rare; for there was always someone around one of us.


“Hello.”  I said with a smile and walked closer.


“Good afternoon.”


“It’s nice to meet you.  Finally.”




We both fell silent and just looked at each other.  I didn’t know what compelled me to do so, but the intense intrigue and that feeling of having known her for my entire life mixed into one simple phrase that shaped our lives from then on.


“Let’s go out.”  I said as if it were the most natural thing in the world.  “I want you to be my girlfriend.”


There was no I like you or I’ve always been taking notice of you, but it seemed there needn’t such things between us.  She looked at me calmly and then smiled, her expression softening with that one gesture.


“Sunday afternoon then?”


“Sunday afternoon it is.”


Maybe because we both have been in the spot light for so long, we’ve long been drawn towards each other.  Or maybe, the more romantic thing to say would be we fell in love at first sight.

To be continued...

Chapter 28

Title: Lost Pieces of Memory Four

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The characters and plot are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Lost Pieces of Memory Four

On Monday, she thought she felt a chill pass through her when she leaned forward and brushed a stray strand of hair out of Shina’s face.  It wasn’t a shiver worth chill, but it was more like the air around her suddenly froze but she was the only one who felt it.  Natsuki did pause and glance around quickly, but she saw no one suspicious in the immediate vicinity.


That afternoon, Asura left early and did not wait for her to finish practice.


On Tuesday, instead of the air around her freezing over, she thought her entire body was burning up.  Natsuki was half leaning against an open door and speaking to a freshman.  The girl had been telling her about a couple-accessory that she saw someone else wear.  It sounded interesting and Natsuki had been inquiring more about it.


That afternoon, Natsuki could not find Asura anywhere on school grounds.


On Wednesday, she did not feel anything when she leaned forward and hugged the girl who gave her such valuable information.  Natsuki should have been glad that she was no longer experiencing extreme changes in condition, but something did not feel right.


That afternoon, Asura’s phone was turned off.


On Thursday, Natsuki left early.


On Friday, it was at the beginning of her spare did she finally see Asura.  It’s been a week!


“There you are.”  Natsuki approached the shorter with a smile.  “Where have you been lately?”


Asura zipped up her bag and stood up from the picnic table with an unreadable expression, every little bit distant towards the other.  “I could ask you the same thing.”  Except, her voice was not filled with smile.  “Where and whom have you been with lately?”


“What are you talking about?”


“Oh don’t give me that.”  Asura snapped and tossed the other an annoyed glance before turning her head away.  Just looking at the other hindered her ability to breathe; it was like something was permanently stuck in the middle of her chest.  In fact, it’s been there for the past week.  “You know very well what I’m talking about.”  She picked up her bag and walked on briskly.  “It must be nice for you to enjoy getting close with just about the entire school’s population.”  Even though her displeasure was deep, Asura still managed to keep her voice to a quiet tone, not wanting to draw attention as Natsuki followed her across the back of the school.


“That is absurd!”  Natsuki objected immediately, a frown on her face.  “What is the matter with you?”  She reached out and took a hold of Asura’s arm to stop her from going any further.


“Absurd?!”  Needing not much encouragement, Asura whirled around and glared up at the other.  “Is it absurd of me to be angry when you are off flirting with anyone who’d offer you a glance?!”


“What flirting?!”


“Then what were you doing with those girls this week, huh?”


“I was merely trying to find out where I could get this!”  From her pocket, Natsuki pulled out two necklaces in haste and thrust them towards Asura with an exaggerated huff.  “What were you looking at?”


However, Asura’s attention was on the necklaces instead.


“What is this?”


“It’s a couple necklace.”  Natsuki explained with pursed lips, not sure how to feel about this situation.  Part of her was amused that Asura would think that she’d even offer those girls a second glance if it weren’t for something to do with her.  “See, it’s a heart in two pieces.”  She pulled the heart apart, left and right, and showed it to Asura.  “I thought it was interesting when I heard it from those girls; that’s why I was talking to them.”


For a moment, Asura merely looked at the necklaces before she lifted her eyes and looked at Natsuki.  “Are they for me?”


“One of them is.”


“What do you mean one of them?!”


“Hey, I need at least half of my heart to live as well!”


It was said in a joking manner, but maybe both heard the undertones in Natsuki’s words.  It wasn’t that she needed half of her heart to live, but more like she still could not give her entire heart.  If they understood, neither of them touched upon the subject and Asura took a half heart from Natsuki’s hand.  She fingered the necklace before stepping closer and wrapped her arms around Natsuki’s shoulders.


“Thank you.”  At length, Asura murmured.


“It’s nothing.”


“And I’m sorry.”  Natsuki remained silent, waiting for the second part of that thought.  “I was just jealous.”  It was admitted in a voice that was muffled and barely audible.  However, Natsuki still caught every single word of it and could not help the smile the lifted on her lips.


“It’s nothing.”


At that time, Natsuki did not think about future consequences.  She liked Asura and found her attractive.  She enjoyed being around Asura and being in this relationship.  To her, at seventeen, that was all that mattered.  However, perhaps the moment she decided to split her heart into two, she should have foreseen that there was no such thing as half a heart.  Once given, the entire organ was beating for the purpose of someone else.

To be continued...

Chapter 29

Title: Rewind - Decennium (Fujimaru Asura)

[Author's notes:

Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.


Rewind - Decennium (Fujimaru Asura)

I think… I’ve always been this way; perhaps even when I was in my mother’s womb or earlier.  Certainly I was like this after I’ve popped out of the womb.


At four years old, I wanted a dog to keep with me.  A dog, not a puppy.  After some screaming and crying on my part, my parents complied.  Like they’ve always done.  Two months later, because the dog wouldn’t let me ride it as a horse, it bit me.  It wasn’t serious, but let’s just not talk about what happened to the dog.  Thankfully, it didn’t leave a scar.


At five years old, I wanted a bigger bedroom because I saw a glorious room in a movie.  Thus, to please me, we moved to a new house.  To my dismay, the master bedroom was larger than the room I was to get!  Of course, upon the presentation of my displeasure, the master bedroom was in my possession.


At six years old, it was leaving my parents’ wings and going to school.  Now that just opened up even more potential.  I had to have the best of everything; from clothes to writing utensils, everything must be foreign brand names.


At seven years old, there was a girl in one of my classes who was talented with the piano already.  This did nothing for my fingers; two days later, a grand piano was in the family room and a piano teacher came at regular intervals.  I could not possibly allow for that girl to over take my shine!


At eight years old, there were those who spoke of their family travels.  They ranged from cities to rural sites.  Yet one up-held belief was that Disney World equalled to heaven.  That winter, when Canada was buried underneath snow, I was in Florida, celebrating Christmas the green way.


At nine years old, it was all about having the latest thing.  Whatever this thing may be.  Even ‘till today, my family home in Canada was still stocked with boxes of things that I didn’t remember ever having.


At ten years old, I had an epiphany!  I realized that as a person of Japanese heritage, I didn’t even know my home country!  After months of negotiations, warnings, threats, I separated my parents.  Mother went with me to Japan, father stayed behind for work.


Japan was everything new, and my lack of Japanese skills saw the many tantrums I would unleash onto my mother.  I blamed her for taking me here, but at the same time, I wouldn’t go back to Canada either.


There wasn’t anything in the world that could hold me down!

And we all know how my Japanese is now.


It was not hard to imagine that my parents loved me very much, and as surprising as it sounds, I love them very much just as well, perhaps even more.  Yet, I was always aware of the fact that I was the only child, so they will have to bow to me in the end.  I believed that I’ll always had the final say.


In senior high, I was already recruited often for modelling sessions.  In school, I knew that there was a faithful group following after me.  Yet, they seemed all so inferior to me!  Until I happened to have glanced at her.  As cheesy at this sounds, I felt myself blush and look away.  She was just as famous as I was in school; it was difficult not to notice her.


I wanted to know her.  I wanted to be close to her.


First year passed in my agony, second year came.  It was early winter when she asked, and I thought my heart was going to burst.  There seemed an understanding because our lives have been talked about so much, everything seemed so transparent.


So we started.  And my life finally began.


Near the end of the last year, everyone was filling out applications for university.  The moment I passed my birthday, I asked Natsuki to come along and face my parents.  Of course, my father flew over because I asked him to. 


“I’m applying to an Arts university.”  The conversation began like this.


“But honey, something more scientific is probably better.”


“I am in love with Naa-chan, and we have been dating ever since second year.  I want to marry her in Canada.”


That was the bomb to everyone in the room.  Natsuki took it well, my parents did not.  There were rising of voices and insults directed at Natsuki without inhibition.  I’ve never seen my parents so furious; they chased Natsuki away faster than my hand could grab her back.


“Asura, we’ve never asked anything of you in your life.”  Which, I must admit, was very true.  “We don’t want you to go to an Arts university nor do we want you to date that devil!”  I half wanted to tell them that Natsuki was everything but the devil.  “So, for just this once, if you stop communicating with her, you can go to whatever university you wish.”


That was their last plead.


“I can’t.  I want both.”


“Then you can move out and live on your own, by yourself.”




That night, ma did not kiss me good night and I slept with a grudge.  My parents have revealed to me how they wanted me in medicine and with a lovely family in the future.  They’ve even put aside items and money for my wedding.  To me, none of that mattered.


When I woke up the next morning, the house was empty.  They had left.  I waited for a week and heard nothing from them.  The longest we’ve not talked to each other.  After a week, I caved and made a few calls to locate them.  The first thing my father asked was: “Are you still seeing that wench?”


I threw down the phone and trashed the entire apparatus.  Fine, they could behave this way and content themselves with losing their daughter!  I then sold everything in the house and got myself settled for the first year of university.  The ball rolled on, and I handled university along with modelling.


It’s been about ten years now since we last spoke.  The moment I received that letter from Canada, the address imprinted on the envelope had my heart skip a beat.  So many scenarios ran through my head.  I knew that if this was a letter for reconciliation, I will fly to Canada the next second and take it up.


So long as they accepted Natsuki, because I wasn’t going to budge on that one.


Of course, if it was filled with renewed hatred, I could reply with a page or two of my own dislikes.


With the two extremes flowing in my head, I opened the envelope and let my eyes roam the page.  It was short, but emotion-filled.  The letter was read a couple of times before I folded it up and tucked it back into the envelope.


It was none of the above.


I still got onto a plane headed for Canada, but not with the expected emotions in my head.


When I saw my parents again in ten years, I realized with a startle that they’ve aged so much since what my memories have stored for me.  My eyes stung and I quickly blinked to hold back my tears.  I hugged my mom and held my dad’s hand.  The first couple of days passed peacefully; we talked about my life and their life.  My life had been publicized enough for them to monitor me, but their lives have been more sheltered.


“Are you still single?”  My mom asked.


I looked at her and heard the silent words that she did not speak.  It was then I felt that what separated us all those years ago was still very much present.  “No, mom; I am still with Natsuki.”


Both of them visibly flinched and I gritted my teeth to hold back a frustrated sigh.


“Asura, in your entire life, we have never asked you for anything.”  Again, the same words; but as much as I hated to admit it, my mom still spoke the truth.  “Your father’s hospitalization made us realize that life is short and we could take our last breath any day.  The only wish that we share is to be able to see a grandchild.”


“I’ll adopt a child.”


“No.”  My mother rejected that option with a firm shake of her head.  “No.  We want to see you happily married and have your own children.”


“Unfortunately, Natsuki and I will not be able to have children even if we get married.”


“Asura.”  My father spoke, his voice weak and croaked.  “I’m already like this; can’t you just grant me this one wish?  This is the only thing that we wish for.”


I looked at him and felt my eyes sting; my chest felt stuffy and each breath felt heavy.  We looked at each other for a long time before I pursed my lips and pleaded with my eyes only.  “Don’t make me hate you.”


“Even if you hate us for the rest of your life, we will not regret this.”


“Don’t make me hate myself.”


It was the worst threat that I could think of, and the only valid one as well.  I didn’t understand why my parents looked more upset than I was feeling at this moment.  Through the entire thing, I bit my lip and held back my tears.  When Natsuki came, my mom’s first response was to throw the nearest thing at her, showing Natsuki her eternal displeasure.  I was caught between the two parties and didn’t know how to react.  Thankfully, Natsuki only smiled, put down the things she bought and left. 


In my life, I think I will never be able to repay her for what she’s done for me.


Yet it was two days later when I’d meet with her outside of my father’s hospital room and we approached each other slowly with a lazy smile.


“I’m sorry about my parents.”


“It’s nothing.”  She smiled at me and shrugged.


The metal chain of the necklace that she wore peeked out of her collar and I reached forward to brush my fingers over it.  Neither of us spoke, but maybe both of us knew what this was going to be about already.  She had always been the one who understood me the most.  With a sigh, I withdrew my hand and reached around my neck to undo the necklace.  Her smile dimmed, but she did not speak.


I weighed the necklace in my hand before handing it to her.




“It’s okay.”


“Is it?”


“No; but… what else can I say?”


What else could we say indeed?  I hugged her tightly and could not hold back the tears that rolled down my cheeks and fell against her neck.  It tasted salty against my lips and I wondered if this will be the taste of my life.


I don’t think I ever forgave my parents for my marriage.

At the same time, I don’t think I ever hated myself so much either.


Anthony, in all fairness, was a wonderful man and husband.  Sometimes, I would look at him silently and think that if he had married a woman who loved him and vice versa, they would be the happiest couple on earth.  Unfortunately, he married me and I was lady vengeance.


“I am your husband.”


“That means nothing to me.”


“Won’t you even give me a chance?”


“The only reason why I married you is so I can give birth to a child who won’t be a bastard.  Just come with me to the hospital, give me your sperm and we’ll do this in vitro.”


Usually, the night of the wedding meant intimate and romantic love making.  Except, our wedding night saw us sitting in the living room and discussing how we are going to have a child as soon as possible.  I was determined to do everything that would humiliate him and my family, embarrass them, and make them regret this entire situation.


“And if I disagree?”


“Then you will just have to rape me.”


That evening he sighed heavily and went upstairs to sleep.  He slept in the guest room and left me the master bedroom.  A month later, he agreed and I was pregnant shortly after.


If I had married for love, I had confidence that I would be a great mother.  I would love my baby and cherish them and protect them and so many things.  However, I could only remember that this was the sole reason why my parents wanted me to marry so badly.  For nine months, I carried this baby but did not give it much attention.  Instead, it was Anthony who remembered all those appointments, do’s and don’ts of pregnancy.  Perhaps I was at least thankful to know that this child will have a loving father.


Natsuki’s accident was not unnoticed by me.  Even against the strong advice of my doctor, I flew back to Japan wanting to see her.  However, before I could even see her, I chickened out.  I wasn’t sure how I could even have any face to see Natsuki at such a low point for her.  That evening, I returned back to Canada.


Three days later, I gave birth to my baby girl.


I remembered holding her to me and apologizing to her in my head countless number of times.  I will not be a good mother; I will not be a mother at all.  In the future, I will probably become a skeleton in the closet that no one would want to uncover.


When you were determined, you could do just about everything you wanted.


After a little more than a month of recovery and preparation, I lay on the bed with the gun in my mouth.  I heard this was the sure way to go, no second chances.


Don’t make me hate myself.


I wondered if my parents will feel as heart broken as I did when I returned the necklace to Natsuki that evening.

To be continued...

[End notes:

Author's Notes:

Next chapter will be the last one.  Thank you for sticking through with me!


Chapter 30

Title: Finale

[Author's notes: Disclaimer: The following is a work of fiction, any events that mirror real life are of pure coincidence.  The plot and characters are properties of mine, please do not reproduce unless permission has been given.]

Estrogen - Finale

I couldn’t remember how long I sat there stunned and silent, but the line had long been cut and I was starring at nothing in particular.  It was like my brain was taking extra long to understand those words and trying to translate them to me.  I moved as if I were in a dream and went into the bathroom to look at my reflection in the mirror.  Perhaps I thought that if I saw my reflection, then I’d know whether the news was real or not.  Maybe I was dreaming!


I must be dreaming still!


So I went back to bed and crawled underneath my cover.  I closed my eyes and told myself that the next time I opened them I would realize that everything that had just happened would all just be a dream.  So I did.  I didn’t know whether I fell asleep or not, there was nothingness.


When I opened my eyes again, it was thanks to my vibrating phone.  Hesitantly, I reached out and picked up the phone, half expecting it to be that strange number.  Instead, I saw Ito-senpai’s name flashing.  Oh, she must have wanted to update me on Hoshimura-senpai’s health!


She must have!


“Ookina-kun,” except she did not mention anything about Hoshimura-senpai at all “did you hear the news about Fujimaru-senpai?”


Therefore, it was real after all?


I threw my cover aside after Ito-senpai hung up and turned on my laptop.  The usual one minute it needed to boot up seemed like an eternity this morning and I tapped my fingers against keyboard impatiently.  When I opened my browser and typed in Fujimaru-senpai’s name, news headlines of “death”, “suicide”, “shocking” entered my eyes and I clicked a random link with shaking fingers.


In the middle of the article they used one of Fujimaru-senpai’s recent works.  It was taken last year, just a bit after her wedding.  In the picture, she was smiling brightly with her gaze to the camera.  She was still the same Goddess as so many saw her.


“Erika.”  My voice croaked over the phone as soon as she picked up.  For this moment, I did not care whether we were starting anew.  I wanted to rewind the tape and go back to the days when Erika was my strongest pillar.  Thankfully, she had no objections either.  The two of us sat, in neighbouring cities, connected by the phone, and I did not attempt to stop the tears that rolled down my face.


It was many years later that Erika told me she was crying as well.


Through my tear-filled eyes, the picture of Fujimaru-senpai grew blurry until I could see it no longer.  From the beginning to the end, I never understood Fujimaru-senpai’s reasons for committing suicide.  It wasn’t until many years later did I find out some of Fujimaru-senpai’s thoughts.  By then, I already had different outlooks on life and I wasn’t quite sure what I thought of Fujimaru-senpai’s ideals.


For now, it was the shock of my life and even my parents were stunned at the news.


I was scared to go to work, because I just knew that the phone would be ringing nonstop and I didn’t know how to properly answer any of the questions that would be directed at me.  Before, Fujimaru-senpai was always readily available whenever I needed advice.  Now, I was going to talk about her death, reminding me again and again that she was no longer a phone call away.


Her family in Canada wanted a burial as fast as possible.  So within a week, we boarded a plane to Canada again.  Hoshimura-senpai sat in front of everyone, and I was careful not to look at her.  I wasn’t sure what I’d find in her eyes and I didn’t want to know either.  Ito-senpai sat with her and I sat with Erika a couple of rows behind them.  She gave me the window seat and I starred out at the endless clouds as the plane took us closer to the final destination.


I must have started crying once again because I felt Erika’s hand around mine and she gripped my fingers tightly.  She didn’t say anything because she didn’t know what to say, and I knew that too.


The trip took us about twelve hours and we finally landed in Vancouver.


Outside of baggage claim –which we barely had any- Matsumoto Anthony stood waiting for us.  In my memory, he must have been a handsome man; tall with deeply lined features.  Except when we walked towards him, he looked gaunt and tired; someone who was suffering much more than his age should allow.  He bent down and shook Hoshimura-senpai’s hand and then Ito-senpai’s.  To us, he bowed and we returned the gesture.  If he was surprised to see Hoshimura-senpai in a wheel chair, he certainly did not show it.  Then again, perhaps he had already found out from Fujimaru-senpai?


Again, I could not help but wonder just what their marriage was like.


We moved silently through the doors of the airport and into the limo that Matsumoto Anthony had prepared for us.  In the car, I took occasional glances at Fujimaru-senpai’s husband and noted that he was still wearing his wedding ring. 


“Is it…” Matsumoto started and cleared his throat before continuing “do you want to see her before the cremation?”


Shivers ran through me and Erika’s hand squeezed my arm tightly.  She was close to me and must have felt me shiver, but even her presence could not comfort me.  I had numbed myself for the past few days, but now we were here and discussing in detail about this cremation that was inevitable… I felt sick to my stomach.  My teeth closed around the flesh of my lip tightly to prevent more tears from rolling down.


“How did she pass away?”  Ito-senpai asked quietly; she was facing Matsumoto and I could see nothing from her profile.  “I know in the news reports it was just stated as a sui…”  She couldn’t finish the sentence, but we’ve understood already.


Matsumoto looked visibly troubled and torn.  After a moment of him glancing around the interior of the limo, he finally sighed and looked towards us as a whole.


“It was with a gun.”  He said, and I heard the trembling of his voice.  “She, she…” he paused and looked down at his hands “she put the nostril of the gun in her mouth and…”


I knew I visibly shrunk back and my mouth dropped open in pure horror.  I did not even have the energy or the thought to cover my mouth or look away.  I starred at him as if I could get him to change his answer.  It was unthinkable.  For Fujimaru-senpai, the one who had put such efforts into her appearance, the most beautiful woman in Japan, and the one who wouldn’t even leave her house unless she looked absolutely flawless… for that Fujimaru-senpai to choose such a way…


What happened?


I wanted to scream and ask, but I could not find my voice.


For a long while, no one spoke in the car.  I snuck a glance at Hoshimura-senpai; she was looking out of the window silently.  I could not see the expression on her face.  And for the first time in my life, I dreaded the possibility of seeing her pained expressions or her tears.  This was a senpai who smiled through everything no matter how horrible they were; would she drop that mask for her love?


“I don’t want to see her.”  Finally, Hoshimura-senpai spoke.  “And I hope no one else will go see her either.”


No one argued with her, because I knew none of us could stomach the thought of seeing Fujimaru-senpai’s…  It was years later when I thought back on it that I realized perhaps Hoshimura-senpai was trying to protect Fujimaru-senpai’s last piece of dignity.  She knew how much Fujimaru-senpai valued her appearance, and even in death, she wouldn’t have wanted everyone to witness her in that state.


The limo stopped in front of a mansion and we stepped out one by one.  Matsumoto’s butler showed us to our rooms and I fell asleep on the bed without a second thought.  Maybe I just didn’t want to think of anything else.  I didn’t remember whether I dreamt of anything, and part of me was scared to see Fujimaru-senpai even in my dreams.  I even had the silly thought of never opening my eyes again; then all this would just stop.  If we could live in dreams forever, what would that world be like?


A little before nine, I woke to silence, and no matter how much I tried, there was no chance for me to return to sleep.  I starred up at the ceiling and wondered what kind of face I will have to put on.  I wondered what kind of face Hoshimura-senpai will have.  With a sigh, I rolled out of bed and made myself presentable.  I felt as if I was preparing myself for war, covering my body with protective layers of armour.  Will they be enough to shield against wounds of the inside?


Everyone was already downstairs in the living room when I walked down the stairs.  In any other situation, I would have been embarrassed about perhaps being late for a meeting that was never scheduled.  This morning, I thought I saw Ito-senpai’s eyes wishing for me to go back up.  If I never came down, maybe today’s events would never have to take place?


It was a nice little trick we all played to delay the grief for a second longer.


“Good morning.”  Matsumoto Anthony greeted me by rising from the sofa first.  “What would you like for breakfast?”


I offered him a timid smile before shaking my head.  “I’m not hungry.”  I wasn’t sure whether I could stomach anything.


He looked at me for a moment before nodding and turned to the rest of the group.  “Then, shall we get going?”  So they were indeed waiting for me?  Maybe I never should have come down after all.


Ito-senpai stood and pushed Hoshimura-senpai towards the front door first in line.  The butler had both doors open and assisted them on the way out.  Erika stepped up next to me and touched my hand lightly.  In her eyes, I saw concern and compassion; so much that I wanted to weep again.  Instead I offered her a smile and squeezed her fingers lightly before letting go.


Needless to say, the trip to the morgue was silent.


Fujimaru-senpai’s body was to be cremated before taken to the cemetery to be buried.  This would be the last time we would see her in the flesh.  Details of her suicide flashed again in my head and I wondered if they will bare her to us.  I glanced at Hoshimura-senpai, who was looking out of the window, and wondered if her decision of not wanting to see Fujimaru-senpai for one last time still stood. 


We arrived at the morgue in a little more than half an hour and no one wanted to approach the gate.  Matsumoto Anthony was the first one to make a move forward and we followed with heavy legs.  I realized at the back of my head that ever since we’ve arrived, we’ve not seen Fujimaru-senpai’s daughter.  How strange.  Then again, this was hardly a place for a baby to be.


The inside of the morgue was brightly lit and sparkling clean, contradicting my ideas of what a morgue should look and feel like.  I wasn’t sure if I was more interested in looking around or following the main group, but my decision was taken away from me.  The sound of our footsteps echoed in the long corridor that led us to a private room.  It was of medium size and we all stood, waiting.  My fingers were growing cold and Erika’s hand closed around mine for support.  In that moment, it was as if we were the only ones alive and desperately clung onto each other for support and life.


After what felt like an eternity, the door opened again and two staff members wheeled in Fujimaru-senpai’s body.  I was closest to the door and could not help but move backwards to avoid being next to the body.  Every wishful thinking was shattered at that moment.  This was too real, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this.  Erika’s arm wrapped around my waist and I leaned against her for support.


Fujimaru-senpai’s body was covered by a sheet of white from head to toe.  I saw nothing but the little tag that was hanging off her right toe.  From this angle, she looked like she was sleeping, but I could not forget the condition under which she left this world.


“We’ll give you a moment.”  One of the staff members said in a quiet voice.  “Just knock on the door when you are ready.”  They left the body in the middle of the room and we were all silent.


“Would you like to see her for a last time?”  Matsumoto Anthony suggested.


Our eyes ticked towards Hoshimura-senpai, whom was silent in her wheel chair.  The metal table reached her chin and she looked at the immobile body silently.  I looked at her and wondered what she must be going through right now.


“No.”  Finally, she said with a twitch of her lips.  “No, that’s alright.”


I think part of me breathed a sigh of relief, but another part of me was saddened by the knowledge that now I could only see her in issues of magazines of the past.  Never again will I be able to hear her speak to me or smell her perfume as she stands by me or feel her hand on my shoulder when comforting me.  Never again will I be in the presence of Fujimaru-senpai again.  I felt my eyes sting and tears circled my eyes.


“Asura left something for you.”  Matsumoto Anthony was speaking again.  “I thought it was only appropriate to give it to you in her presence.”  From the breast pocket of his suit jacket he produced a white envelope and handed it to Hoshimura-senpai.


I stood as tall as I could and tried to catch a glimpse of the content, but saw nothing.  As curious as I was, I did not have the heart to take those steps forward and read over Hoshimura-senpai’s head.  She pulled out a folded piece of paper and the heart necklace fell onto Hoshimura-senpai’s lap.  Our eyes all followed it and perhaps everyone except for Matsumoto Anthony had an idea of what the necklace meant.


Hoshimura-senpai read the letter in silence and by herself without a word.


Then she took one last look at the letter and folded up the piece of paper.  It was the cue.  Matsumoto Anthony walked to the door and knocked twice to let the staff members in.  When they were close enough to Fujimaru-senpai, Hoshimura-senpai wheeled closer and placed the necklace on top of Fujimaru-senpai’s body.  The two staff members looked at her and she offered them a smile but said nothing else.


We were then escorted to another private chamber that showed us what will be melting Fujimaru-senpai away.


“I thought she left the necklace for you.”  Matsumoto Anthony spoke to Hoshimura-senpai as we stood in a line and watched –across a large pane of window- Fujimaru-senpai slowly dissolving.  We could only imagine what it was like inside; but we’d rather not.


“She did.”  Hoshimura-senpai answered.  “But she was mistaken.  From the beginning to the end, it’s always belonged to her.”


And here, I wondered whether Hoshimura-senpai was speaking of the necklace or of her own heart.


Later, when the other three went to retrieve Fujimaru-senpai’s ashes, I touched Erika’s arm and the two of us stayed behind.  The two of us returned to the lobby of the morgue and sat on a bench off in the corner.


“You okay?”


“Yeah.”  My voice was small and I felt small.  My tears have dried and there was only a sense of urgency being replaced by dread and repeating again and again.  The pool of emotions only urged me towards something greater; moving forward.


“Erika.”  My mind was set and for the first time in my life, I was ready and determined to fight for something I believed in.  I turned to her and even though the words and consequences were of a whole new level, I was not nervous, I was sure.  “I know we are starting over, and I respect that.  However, if you would let me, when we return to Japan, I want to introduce you to my family.”  They were the two most important aspects of my life, and I wanted them to meet in the middle.  “As my girlfriend, not just a friend.”


She searched my face and I wondered what she was thinking about.  Maybe she will reject me, but that was fine.  Even though I was serious about what I said, even if it did not come true in the near future, I hoped that it at least showed Erika of my commitment.  And this time, there will be no stupid screw-ups in the middle.


It was a long while, but when I saw the other three approaching us from that long corridor, I also saw Erika’s smile and her nod.


That summer, I was 18 turning 19.


No episode in life is isolated and even though that was a grey day I still thought back on it.  Often.  With each year that passed by, those years took on a whole new meaning.  They morphed from one color to another but in the end I realized that to keep it monotonous was a mistake.  It was not just a break-up of two people I looked up to; it wasn’t just a death of my mentor; it wasn’t just heartbreak because there were things too far changed; it was my youth and part of me.


I thought her death changed me but I realized that every single day was changing me.  Sometimes small, sometimes big; that day was gigantic.


Erika said that I was a dreamer; an optimist.  Even when Fujimaru-senpai was married, the tiniest part of me still thought that love will win and they would be back together many years later.  When I heard of Fujimaru-senpai’s death, I wept for my loss and I mourned my innocent beliefs.


Their story was my real life fairytale and until then it was a nice dream for me to ensconce myself in.  Now, I realized that fairytales in life weren’t the perfectly matched couple who were glamorous and beautiful to see.  They weren’t the life changing, earth shattering, and world turning declarations of love.  They weren’t the magnificent gifts or romantic events that were planned.  They weren’t anything that was truly tangible.  They were the comfortable silences; the wordless looks that could communicate pages; and most importantly, the irreversible changes that you have left on me.


Fairytales existed, not in the glamour that was sensationalized.  Fairytales were the stories of your grandparents, of your parents, and of the one you tried your best in.  In my life, I no longer needed to look for fairytales for me to believe in love.  Each breath taken will remind me of love, loving and being loved.


And now, close your eyes and close this chapter; but fear not, because tomorrow will be a new day.


[End notes:

Author's Notes:

I can't even remember when or where this idea came to my head, but I certainly do remember the tantalizing effort of actually writing this story.  There were many small pauses and even a long hiatus, but in the end, I still pushed through and finished it.  This is the first story of this genre that I have completed and I cannot deny that there is a sense of accomplishment.  Or at least happiness.  Yes, there is also a tinge of sadness to know that I will close the book on these characters and their lives from here on.

I want to thank you for reading, reviewing, and clicking.  Even if you did not like it, I still want to thank you for the time you took to at least skim through this story.  Writing is a boring activity to watch, but the joys can only be shared once the work is out there.  I am thankful that many of you chose to leave me great comments and advices regarding the plot and my writing, I have learnt much.

Thank you!


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