Petal 05 - The Twilight Breeze
Kazuko never quite questioned or pried into why Rei stopped coming to school or why Ichiko had suddenly become very distant from her own biological mother. Yet she was happy, because Ichiko had gone to every late practice and game, and she even volunteered to be her own personal manager. Whether or not Ichiko was the cause, the Sunflower Academy's girls' basketball team was now at the top four in the semifinals.
Strangely, Ichiko became more social and made friends with the rest of the team and the cheerleaders. Even to Sumiko she was coldly cordial, and thus Ichiko treated her as if she was just a friendly stranger.
"I can see why you're happy," huffed Sumiko. "You're essentially dating our star player."
Ichiko merely smiled at the accusation, and it was frightening. "Yes I am," she had said.
They weren't really dating, per se, but Ichiko and Kazuko had been hanging out exclusively with each other, but considering exam schedules and tournaments, they could only make their best time at school and at Kazuko's house.
She loved the motherly company of Kazuki Sakamoto, Kazuko's beautifully handsome father who was so prone to effeminacy that he was accused of being gay, but he was also mistaken as a woman due to his long flowing brown hair. He did not mind, as he giggled in his vain flattery. He lived in a small house with his only daughter, the offspring of a wife who had succumbed to cancer when Kazuko was young. Though a single father, he carried the weight of the household by being a department store salesman and a homemaker. He would not allow his daughter to perform straining housework, and insisted on cooking, which to everyone who sampled his wares tasted very good. Numerous women had confessed their love to him, but he rejected them all because his late wife would be the only perfect woman for him for all eternity.
Ichiko never stepped into Rei's apartment since the incident. She had been going home right after school to eat with her grandparents and little brother, and spent more time with her father and stepmother, the latter of whom was well relieved that her legal daughter would not be hanging out in a dump of an apartment.
When asked about Rei after family dinner Friday night--when Kenji was sent off to bed--Ichiko put up a smile and replied:
"I just found out first hand that she was an unsavory whore."
"Language please Ichiko," said Michi, her grandmother.
"Certainly something had happen between you two," said Ken'ichi, her father.
"I say it was better late than never," exclaimed Rin, her stepmother. "Ichiko, we are your family right now, and it is our duty to nurture you against the nature Rei had left within you."
"Are you sure that is what you want?" asked Yoshiro, the grandfather.
"It is exactly what I want," said Ichiko, calmly. "Mother will have to live without relying on me."
Unfortunately, everyone realized that Ichiko could not hide the strain she was feeling in her heart. She would not let it out for everyone to see, and that was done quietly in the darkness of her own room as she slept. Or rather, she could not sleep.
Since that incident, Ichiko wept bitterly every night, and cursed her own mother for breaking her heart. She wanted to forget her. She needed to forget her. So on that Friday night, she reached for her cell phone to send a text message to the one and only best friend she could trust.
Ichiko felt nervous wearing makeup her stepmother happily helped apply, and since she wanted to dress nicely, Rin took her stepdaughter for a quick shop at the department store to buy expensive name-brand clothes of the latest label.
She didn't tell Rin that it was a date, but that what it was exactly. Ichiko waited alone at the bus stop in her best look, and soon enough Kazuko gallantly arrived in her tight blue jeans, a denim black jacket, and a t-shirt that accentuated her breasts. Her glazed hair was combed neatly to the left side, and her lips were coated with luscious read.
"Oh wow," said Ichiko. "You're wearing makeup."
"Well, I am still a girl," smiled Kazuko. "And you look pretty cute yourself."
Ichiko was more feminine, for she wore a long skirt and had pink lipstick.
On their general itinerary, they first went off to see a movie, but found out that the latest romance one was sold out. There happened to be many seats for a horror one, and not wanting to waste their moment they went and saw that.
Not realizing it, Ichiko still hated horror movies, and as she shrieked, she grabbed Kazuko's arms. She didn't even like the out-of-place nudity and sex. She was still clinging onto Kazuko's arm when they walked out.
"It wasn't even that scary," said Kazuko. "Ichiko, you said that you got over it."
"Don't apologize. You should have told me so and we could have walked out before the end."
"I don't like leaving the plot in my mind unresolved."
Second on their itinerary was lunch at a popular fast food restaurant, and though they sat at a far corner away from the rest of the customers they did not escape a trio of boys interested in them. Kazuko was flattered by their comments about her, but in her mind at least two of them weren't so flattering to Ichiko. They would not leave when told off, and so Kazuko took Ichiko's hand and went outside to finish their meal.
"Kazuko, that was really rude of you," said Ichiko.
"I just don't like the likes of those two looking at you like that," said Kazuko.
"They seemed pretty nice though."
"You know those types. And I have a feeling that they were over twenty."
"But you didn't have to go so far just to leave the restaurant. If Rei was here..."
And then Ichiko went silent.
"Maybe," said Ichiko, "we could have eaten at a classier restaurant."
"I don't know."
"Then let's do it at sundown before we go home. We must not waste every moment of our lives together!"
"You seem happy."
"I am because you're with me."
Ichiko suddenly shivered.
"Did I say something wrong?" asked Kazuko.
"No, you didn't," said Ichiko. "It just felt like someone was following us."
They looked and saw someone shorter than them ducking into an alleyway.
"Sumiko," winced Kazuko. "I should have known."
"You know something?"
"She did call me up yesterday for a date like this, but I declined as usual."
"Maybe we should invite her..."
Then Ichiko remembered sharply her transgression with Rei.
"You shouldn't," said Kazuko. "We need her to learn the extent of her punishment for treating you so badly."
"You're right," said Ichiko.
"But that should not let our date be dampened by things like that. Come Ichiko!"
Into the department stores they went with smiles and did their window-shopping. Originally they were going to buy some clothes they would pick out for each other, but their money was saved for the candlelit dinner at an expensive restaurant. They spent frugally as much as possible, and that involved spending little time at the arcades, watching street performers, and doing more window-shopping.
It became apparent that it was Sumiko following them, and she was not doing a too good job hiding her existence despite her effort in her disguise. Her hair was tied up underneath a baseball cap, and she wore large-rimmed glasses. Turns out that the glasses were prescription, and although Sumiko never wore them recently, she had since the end of middle school wore contacts and dyed her hair blond.
"She's definitely not like the rest of her family," said Kazuko as she and Ichiko were standing in the middle of the overpass walkway.
"It is a bother that she's around," said Ichiko.
"You are right though. It seems that we have no choice but to ditch her."
"Where do you suggest?"
"Although I thought of forgoing it, but I say we sing ourselves a beat by going to a karaoke booth."
"We may not have enough money for dinner."
"I know, but I think we can squeeze in by ordering one big dish the two of us can share."
"I suppose you're right."
Their smiles were put on once again, and with linked arms they marched into the karaoke booth rentals, which then shut Sumiko out right at the front entrance.
In their own personal booth for just the two of them, Ichiko and Kazuko sang all of the songs they knew well and some of the songs they did know together with laughter. Sometimes they went solo, but mostly they sang in duets. They ordered one round of snacks towards the end of their allotted time they purchased.
"It's really nice that we are able to do this," said Kazuko.
"Ichiko, you still won't consider joining the team? You know, that's fine. You can tag along as my personal manager or a helper for the team."
Ichiko looked away and sighed.
"Something must have happened between you and Rei."
"What are you talking about?" asked Ichiko.
"I can see it in your face. You've finally had it up with your mother."
"It was too good to be true."
"Considering her reputation of course. She will surely be missed."
"I hope so."
"At least you finally got to find out about her."
"I wish I hadn't."
"But I think you still not over her."
"I am over her! Will you drop it?"
Ichiko took a breath and calmed down.
"Sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to yell at you."
"I love you," said Kazuko.
"I said I love you."
"Oh. I love you too Kazuko."
"I don't mean it that way."
"I see. I am flattered though."
Ichiko felt her head pulled for a long kiss from Kazuko, and eventually she was laying on her back with her best friend on top of her.
"Kazuko, let's not do this."
"I know you still like girls Ichiko. I'm a girl too. How am I any different?"
"I just can't respond the same way towards you. You're my best friend."
"I don't want to be your best friend! I want to be your lover, and I want you to share your body with mine! I have loved you ever since we were children!"
"Kazuko stop. You're hurting me."
The booth door was kicked open, and to the girls' surprise Rei was standing breathing furiously with a bandage over her nose.
"Rei?" Kazuko said.
"Date's over," said Rei. She pulled Kazuko off her daughter and punched her hard in the stomach.
With a tight grip on her daughter's hand, Rei pulled Ichiko out of the building and was hurrying through the streets in a blurred pace. Ichiko wrestled to break free but the grip on her only got tighter.
Then she realized she was on the street where Rei's apartment was located. In no time they were back in the second home, which had now been riddled with a mess due to the lack of Ichiko being around. Rei locked the front door, and then shoved Ichiko down to the floor.
"I knew some shit like this would happen," said Rei as she moved towards the kitchen counter for the phone. "I'm calling your father, and then I'm calling that girl's father on what she had done."
That feeling of being followed, Ichiko realized, didn't come from the apparently jealous Sumiko. Rather, it was from Rei who skillfully evaded their senses.
But she didn't want to lay blame on anyone's personal desires, nor did she want to face the embarrassment coming down from her father and stepmother. Ichiko sprang up to her feet, jumped across the mess on the floor, and grabbed hold of the telephone receiver.
"Please don't call him!" Ichiko cried.
"I have to! It's his right to know!"
"I can handle this!"
"She's not the right friend for you!"
"That's our problem! Will you stop protecting me?"
"I'm not letting you get sullied by the likes of her!"
The two wrestled with the phone until the two slammed into the wall. Ichiko mustered all her strength to hold back her mother, and struck her hands to prevent her from snatching her cell phone from her pockets.
And then, Ichiko furiously thrusts her lips onto her own Rei's, and continued to do so which each kiss nearly suffocated each other. Ichiko held her weight against the woman on the wall, with her knee going up her crotch, her right hand on Rei's left shoulder, and her left hand furiously groping her right breast. She wanted to continue kissing as long as she wanted, which was forever. But she eventually realized that the person she was kissing was her own mother.
So she pushed herself away, shocked and utterly disgusted by her own sudden actions that Ichiko was crying.
"Mother," she wept. "I'm sorry!"
Ichiko grabbed her purse and ran as fast she could back to her house. She ignored her grandparents, parents, and her little brother so she could lock herself in her room. Discarding her purse, she threw herself on her bed and pulled her pillow to her face so it could absorb the profuse tears falling out of her eyes and the sound of her wails.
The sunflower in the girl has less than quarter of its petals left, and it was starting to whither...
Back at the apartment, a blushing Rei had eventually slid from standing down to the floor in a heavy state of shock. She brushed the tips of her fingers on her lips, and could feel the pink lipstick of her daughter's still lingering on her.