[Fanfic] [Karekano] [Yuri-lime] From the Diary of Amy Bellette
- To the Yuricon list:
I am a fanfic author currently working mostly on Kareshi Kanojo no Jijo (His
and Her Circumstances/"Karekano") fanfiction. Included in this e-mail is what I
have of my latest project.
This isn't quite my first shojo-ai fic (I wrote an Utena/Anthy fic titled
"Letter to my Prince" some years ago), and there's more to the fic than the
yuri, but this is the first I've tried to do realistically (and certainly as
graphically). As such, I'm painfully aware of its shortcomings. My protagonist,
Aya Sawada, sounds in my own ears more like an Irish Catholic boy (viz. me)
rather than the Japanese Catholic (and so heavily closeted) lesbian I wanted
her to be.
Perhaps the readers on this list more knowledgeable on such things will be
more forgiving of my efforts than I am (I don't know), but the point is I
desperately need input on how well or (more likely) badly I've described female
(esp. homosexual) thought patterns, and how I can improve on what I have in
that department (if the whole project isn't already beyond human aid).
Aid from list members who have a working knowledge of the Karekano series
would be particularly appreciated, but comments from anyone with a working
knowledge of Aya's situation (is that word too harsh?--excuse me) are welcome,
because it's that sort of knowledge I need. If a commentator needs detailed
background info. on a character, situation, or something else, I'll cheerfully
oblige. For now, a very brief dramatis personae of the Karekano characters
with speaking parts, in no particular order:
Aya Sawada: Senior at Hokuei High School. Budding author, with at least one
book in print.
Rika Sena: Aya's classmate and friend from childhood. Extremely feminine.
Tsubaki Sakura: Another classmate. Volleyball whiz. Extremely butch. However,
this is at least partly a pose (she's dating a boy, and has no real female love
Tsubasa Shibahime: Yet another. Extremely childish.
Yukino Miyazawa: A girl from another senior homeroom. Queen of campus. A
recovering poser, dedicated with her boyfriend Soichiro Arima to "living as her
true self." Protagonist of Karekano.
Kano Miyazawa: Yukino's sister. Freshman at Hokuei. Aya's protege.
Maho Isawa: Yukino's classmate, sometime rival and now best friend. She and
Yukino have shojo-ai possibilities, too, but those I'll leave for another day.
Kyo Sawada: Aya's brother. The only serious (male) contender for Rika's
Thank you for your time and help.
On Being Asked for a War Poem
I think it better that in times like these
A poet keep his mouth shut, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter's night.
W. B. Yeats
(Beloved of all good Irishmen, as well as Hotaru Tomoe, aka Sailor Saturn.
But that is another story, and shall be told another day.)
In the year 2003 AD the Babylonian Empire lay in ruins, mourned by none
but scoundrels and knaves. Anarchy ruled the land, with armed men pillaging
and ravaging, ravaging and pillaging, and basically trashing everything in
sight. Ancient centers of learning were ransacked of ancient artifacts, with
or without magical powers. Foreigners roamed the streets, many from Crawford,
Okay, I'm stopping that right there. It's silly. Even if it weren't, I'm
not qualified to write a story like that anyway. What do I know about war?
From the Diary of Amy Bellette
A _Kareshi Kanojo no Jijo_ ("Karekano") fanfic by Paul Corrigan
_Karekano_ concept devised by Masami Tsuda
Mom and Dad were a match made in hell, in retrospect. I'd have been glad
of anything that kept them from drifting apart any more than they already
have. But did it have to be this they had in common?
He, the Communist who didn't think Kim Jong Il could be that bad a guy,
opposed the war because America was for it. Mom was against it because she
was a good Catholic and the pope was against it, and she wasn't about to
second-guess the pope. So of course on February 14, they both agreed they
wanted to go to an antiwar rally, out in Shibuya of all places. Kyo, being
older and wiser, had found an excuse to be elsewhere that evening, so Mom and
Dad insisted I go too.
"How can you be so self-centered at a time like this? The world's at the
mercy of a maniac and we have to stop..."
"I know, Dad. You've only told me the president of America's a religious
maniac a hundred times already. I don't know how standing in the cold in
Shibuya's gonna make him sane all of a sudden. I still have college exams to
take, and an article to write, and homework. I reckon if Dubya's determined
to blow us all to kingdom come, I don't want to die without getting into
college, so I think I'll stay home and get some real work done, okay?"
"Aya, I actually don't mind if you take a break for something like
"Mom, I'll just be in the way. Nobody cares what schoolgirls think anyway.
Look, you two go and make yourselves heard, and I'll let you know if you get
on TV, okay? Heck, it's Valentine's. Don't you want some time to yourselves?"
"Suit yourself," said Mom. She actually seemed all right about it, but Dad
just gave me a look like he'd hold me personally responsible if Tokyo was
bombed that very night. I hate having a socially aware father.
So off they went, and as they went out the door I said, "Bye kids! Don't
you get yourselves arrested now!" Just to piss off Dad. Dad boasts about how
he got arrested at rallies back in the day, whenever anyone gives him an
excuse, or even when they don't. You ask him what he did at work, or about me
going to college, or something else that actually matters in real life now,
and he doesn't want to discuss it.
The rally did get on TV when I checked. About 6,000. They sang "Imagine"
and "Give Peace a Chance." Sounded like a John Lennon tribute out there. I
didn't see Mom and Dad on the TV; I didn't see a lot of people my age either,
and the report said it was mostly middle-aged folks. I'd bet anything a lot
of them just wanted an excuse to feel young again. "You say you want a
They didn't come home that night; Dad called at an ungodly hour to say
they'd be getting a hotel in Shibuya. Sounded drunk to me. Figures. It was
Valentine's after all.
Tell you this, he didn't sound like someone who was terribly concerned
about this war he'd been ranting on about now for months. Nice to know I'm
not the only self-centered one out there.
Actually, it's not very nice, but at least I'm not the only one.
Still and all...(As Grandmother would say, may she rest in peace.)
(Hold that thought.)
So while Mom and Dad were off trying to save the world and what remained
of their relationship (not necessarily in that order) I was trying to write
my "article." Speech, rather.
Okay, I can see why George W. Bush, President of the USA, needs a
speechwriter. He's got other stuff going on. Why Yukino Miyazawa, president
of the student body of Hokuei High School, Kawasaki, Kanagawa, needs a
speechwriter is a mystery to me.
(Oh, that's right--she's aiming for Tokyo University, along with her
honey, so she has more studying to do than me. Yukinon's got to be deluding
herself if she think's she's going to marry that guy. There's got to be
plenty of other guys at Todai or Waseda or Meiji or wherever the heck she
goes that are just as smart, well connected and handsome as Soichiro Arima.
And saner to boot. The more I hear about the guy from Yukino, the more he
scares me, no matter how nice she spins it. A freaking obsessive. I actually
think she's tired of him too, not enough to dump him right now, maybe, but
she'll try to shake him off as soon as something of comparable quality comes
along. I'll bet anything forty years from now she'll be Prime Minister,
elected just in time to lead Japan's human beings in their civil war against
their robot servants I shouldn't wonder, and he'll still be stalking her and
making her security guards earn their paychecks.)
How our peerless leader suckered me into writing her commencement speech
for her is an even greater mystery.
Oh, that's right. All her New Year's money _and_ copies of her anally-
retentive notes, previously seen only by Arima (so she says). Not to mention
I do owe her a couple of favors. And it would be unprofessional to turn down
work, I guess.
I did ask, "Why don't you sweet-talk your husband into doing it, if you
really can't be bothered?" (Meaning Arima. They're not actually married, of
course, though I wouldn't be surprised if he'd proposed already.)
"He's in the same boat as me. Too much hard-core studying and his own
speech to write, which he's too proud to ask for help..." (Him being student
body vice president and all.)
"Refuse to have sex with him until he agrees to your demands. That ought
to work, right?"
"I'm not sure I could hold out. I'm up for it more than he is..."
"Okay, Yukino, that was way more information than I needed. Um. What about
Kano? I've taught her everything I know about writing."
And Yukino just smirked and said, "But you know it better, right, Aya?"
There was clearly no way out of this one alive.
Kano Miyazawa's a good kid. Yukino talks a good game about living as her
true self, but I think Kano actually manages it much better than Yukino ever
did. That was the topic I managed to hammer out with our peerless leader.
"Living as our true selves." That's her and Arima's mantra. Though Arima
hasn't changed all that much from when I knew him at junior high, from what I
can tell. I didn't know him all that well. I only know Yukino because she
started dating Arima, and Maho Isawa turned her own class against her because
they were jealous, and Tsubaki took pity on her. So we had a brainiac to help
us on tests. A marriage of convenience, not a love match.
Kano--first time I met _her_ was when she showed up on my doorstep, all
but offering to sell her soul so I could write a love poem to Hideaki Asaba,
of all people, because she didn't have a clue. For Valentine's, of course. I
wrote a book, you see. SF, pretty crappy SF at that. But she was absolutely
over the moon that "Ayaki Sawai" was a friend of her sister's. She really
thought I was God. I could tell by her face. You couldn't put on a pose like
that. It was frightening. Yukino--I dunno. I think she thinks acting real is
acting weird, or saying stuff nobody wanted to know, like how often your
boyfriend wants it. Seems like she's forcing it, like it's just another pose.
Maybe Arima knows Yukino's true self. Maybe.
How do you write SF? Or anything at all? Two ways. You can read a bunch of
SF books until you think you can fake it. That's the easy way, and reading
back my own book, it shows. First off you've got to make darn sure they're
good books you're faking. So, for instance, if you want to write SF that
doesn't suck, you don't read crappy books by Ayaki Sawai that she wrote so
she could buy a laptop with the advance, with which she'd write the Great
Japanese Novel, or so her mother was convinced.
Then there's the hard way--write about something you actually know
something about. I don't know anything about living as my true self. I know a
bit about what I can _do_: I can write, sorta. I don't know what I _am_. What
am I, a philosopher? Forget Prime Minister. Maybe Yukinon should be a cult
leader, with me ghostwriting all her self-help books with New Age covers.
I should have turned Yukino down. Same way I turned Kano down. I basically
told her to forget about Asaba, which she eventually did, because even the
best love poem wasn't going to make him like her back. What I didn't tell her
was I didn't know how to write about love.
Okay. I can do this.
One angle. Living in truth. Vaclav Havel. Make it sound a lot more
interesting than it is.
"Vaclav Havel, the former President of the Czech Republic, during his long
years of dissent in communist Czechoslovakia, wrote most of his political
works while in jail for offenses against the state. He used to joke, when he
showed up somewhere unprepared to make a speech, that he'd had no time to
prepare remarks because he hadn't spent the previous night in prison. Anybody
who's spent the last three years studying for college entrance exams will
know what he means."
Crap. Even Dad wouldn't find that funny. Erase, start again.
Another angle. More personal.
"When I first enrolled at Hokuei High three years ago, I was far more
perfect than I had ever been or ever would be again..."
Crap. Why rehash how she met Arima? Folks don't care to know about her
love affairs. No more than they already know, anyway. Erase.
I don't know about living as my true self. I don't know about love,
either. Or about war.
I haven't lived through a war. Or fought in one. I've only seen pictures
on TV, like they were pics from the latest action movie. How the hell would I
_know_ that it was hell? How would Dad? When he said he was going to the
rally he seemed all cheerful, like he was going to a party. Reliving his
youth, when the revolution was at hand and he could feel he was living
through a great adventure.
Of course in school they told us about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and fed us
the "no more Hiroshimas" mantra. I've got nothing against that line, but it
meant nothing to me when I was little. Actually, when I'd ask Grandma Hirano
--my Mom's mother--about when she was a little girl, she made the Pacific War
sound like a bit of a lark. Me and Kyo used to spend summers at her place in
Nagasaki, in the Urakami district near the Cathedral. We're pretty close to
her side of the family, not so much to Dad's. I'd ask her about when she was
a little girl, and she'd tell me about her seventh birthday party and her
pretty red dress, and about her father who was a colonel in the army, and
wore a grand uniform and looked very fine, and about her mother, who was
young then, and wore beautiful kimono. You know, the usual sort of stuff
people'll tell you about the old days, when the men were good-looking and the
women were strong (or was it the other way around?) and the kids were all
I remember though that we'd go down there and she'd never have the TV on
at her place. She'd have prefered I go out and play, like Kyo, but I wasn't a
very go-y out-y sort of kid even then. I'd go, "I wanna watch Sailor Canuck,"
but she'd be like, "Good little children shouldn't watch too much TV. It's
bad for their eyes."
"Don't you watch TV, Grandma?" I asked her once.
"I don't watch TV in August," she said.
Then I tried to ask her why, but she wouldn't answer, and asked me instead
if I'd like a snack, and I liked snacks, so I said yes and she gave me a
snack and then she asked if I wouldn't like to read a storybook, and I liked
stories, so she gave me a book to read, and it was really cool and I forgot
all about TV. I devoured any book I could get my hands on even then. I can't
remember a time when I couldn't read.
When me and Kyo got older and Mom didn't need us to be babysat as much
(not to mention Grandma wasn't as strong as she'd been), she'd come up to
Kawasaki to see us instead, in August. Partly to spend Obon with us. We'd go
to the festival in Kawasaki. She liked to party. On August 15th, she and Mom
would go to Mass, for the feast of the Assumption of Mary. The rest of the
month they spent window-shopping, mostly. Now I like to shop, don't get me
wrong, but I used to wonder, do you have to go into Tokyo to window-shop
every single solitary day?
Of course, on August 9 I suspect Grandma'd have rather been anywhere but
In August, of course, we're on summer vacation. One year, late in the
school year--in my last year of junior high--we had a project on the Pacific
War. We were assigned topics, and by pure coincidence, I got the Nagasaki
bombing. It never really occurred to me until I thought about it that Grandma
Hirano would have been a bomb survivor. You saw bomb survivors on TV, going
on and on about how there should be no more Hiroshimas. Well, duh. They
didn't seem to have any trouble talking about it, so I asked Mom if I could
call Grandma and ask her about the A-bombing.
"No. Absolutely not."
"No! She won't be able to help you."
"Why not? She was there, right?"
"Yes, she was there."
"So--didn't you ever ask her?"
"When I was small I had a friend whose grandmother lived with them. I
asked Mammy if I had a grandmother, and she said no, and I asked her why not,
and she told me, your grandmother died during the war, Fumiko. She died? I
said. I was small. I didn't know what dying really meant. She said, yes, God
took her to heaven. And she told me that her mother was sick, and went to
morning Mass every day to pray to God, so she'd get better. And one day,
while your grandmother was at work in a factory--her mother couldn't work,
and her father was off fighting in the war--the Americans dropped a big bomb
on the city. One bang and the city was destroyed. And the big cathedral where
her mother was praying to God was destroyed, and her mother who was praying
to God went right to heaven, and she who was working in the factory, where
they made bullets to shoot people with, she was the one God decided had to
stay on earth. And then she began to cry, and then I cried too, because Mammy
was crying and...oh, it was awful, Aya.
"Don't, honey, okay? It might be too much for her. She's not what she was
after her heart attack. I don't want anything to happen..."
"What about her dad? Your granddad? She showed me a photo of him once. She
said he was dead, of course, but..."
"I never met him. Killed in the war, I suppose. She mightn't know the
details herself. You probably know as much as I do about your great-
grandfather. Lookit," Mom said, suddenly angry, "will you leave me and your
poor grandmother be about the bomb, Aya? Go research it at the library like
everyone else does! You practically live there anyway!" She stormed out of my
room, slamming the door behind her. Mom's dialect tends to come back when
she's pissed off, so when she stops talking like a Tokyo gal, you know she
(Come to think of it, she sounds pretty dumb when she talks like a Tokyo
gal. Fifty going on fifteen. Who's she trying to kid?)
Of course, the budding journalist within me (goaded by the self-centered
bitch) wasn't going to let herself be so intimidated. She knew a cover up
when she saw it. Anyway, I wasn't going to be content with looking up the
same books as everybody else! I wanted a scoop! And all I had to do was call
Grandma when Mom was out! Probably be thrilled her favorite granddaughter
called out of the blue!
Of course, I called using a calling card, so it wouldn't show up on the
"Grandma? This is Aya."
"Oh hello, Aya!" She seemed pleased to hear from me. A bit surprised,
though. "How are you doing, pet?"
"I'm okay. Got an article printed."
"Oh, very good. Is your book finished yet?"
I hadn't talked to her in a while. "Long ago. Got accepted. Coming out
next month, I think. They're supposed to send me a few copies, so I'll get
you one, okay?"
"Oh, that's lovely! Your mum must be proud..."
"Yeah. She won't talk to the neighbors about much of anything else. So
how're you doing, Grandma?"
"Oh, I'm grand, pet. How's your mum?"
"She's no worse, I guess."
She chuckled. "Worse than what, Aya?"
She laughed a bit louder. I'd figured out long ago she never liked Dad
either. "Is your mum there, Aya?"
"Actually, no. She's out."
"Oh. All right."
"Yeah. Um. She actually didn't want me calling you, so..."
"And why not? What's so important that you can't call your grandmother to
"Well--I had a project for school, and--"
"You want help with your homework?" She laughed. "And you ten times
smarter than me? That's marvelous!"
"Well, it was kind of a project about the Pacific War, and I wondered
"You could ask me about it?" On her guard. "What about the war?"
"Well...Mom said that you said her grandmother was killed when Nagasaki
was bombed, and I wanted to ask you..."
"If it was true, Aya? Who in God's name would make something like that
"I didn't think you were lying, Grandma! I just..."
"Aya. Is that really the only reason you called me up? To ask me about how
my mother was killed by the bomb? So you could dig up your great-
grandmother's bones and show them off to your teacher?"
"No, Grandma! I wanted to know..."
"You weren't there. How could you know? I pray to God you never do know."
"That's why I'm asking you..."
"What? I was there, so you want me to tell you about how horrible it was?
Well, I don't want to talk about how horrible it was. If you want somebody to
talk about that, why don't you ask all those people on the television who
were there and never want to talk about anything else but how horrible it
was? You should be ashamed of yourself. Goodbye."
Nobody said anything about it afterwards. I was afraid for a while Grandma
would tell Mom about it. Mom would have killed me. But the whole point was to
keep that can of worms firmly canned, I guess, so I suspect she didn't. I
never dared ask Grandma about the bomb again.
In the end I went to the library, like everybody else, and read the same
books as everybody else. I learned the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
was only a few hundred meters from the hypocenter. Turned out they actually
didn't plan to drop the bomb there. The Cathedral's in the Urakami
neighborhood, and they meant to drop it downtown. The biggest Shinto shrine
in town, the Suwajinja, is downtown. It wasn't even scratched. They didn't
rebuild the cathedral until 1959.
Grandma used to take me and Kyo to Mass to the new cathedral on Sundays,
during the summers we stayed with her. Even then I found Mass rather boring,
but I loved the church. It was the biggest one I'd ever seen, much nicer than
the one Mom took us to in Tokyo, and with a huge organ. I told Grandma once,
before Mass--I couldn't have been more than seven--that "her" church was
"It was prettier before the war," she said, a bit sadly.
I couldn't imagine that was even possible, and I said at the top of my
"Shush," said Grandma. "Don't talk so loud in the church. People are
trying to pray." So I tried to pray the few prayers I knew without squirming
too much, and she, I imagine, said a prayer for the soul of my great-
I don't know how I'm able to write anything at all. I lead a very boring
existence. I go to school, study, read good books and articles, write crappy
books and articles. Nothing ever happens to me.
Then again, I'm not sure I could write anything at all if anything ever
had happened to me.
On my desk for the longest time there's been a picture of Anne Frank. Mom
gave me her diary when I was in fourth grade. A perfect patron saint for
someone aspiring to be a journalist, and then a famous writer. It passed
muster with Dad because it was about the Second World War, and about how
horrible the Nazis were. And they were, but she doesn't talk about that much.
When she tries, she sounds pretty dumb. You can tell she's just parroting
what her own dad says. She thought the world of him.
Mr. Frank got the diary published after the war, I guess. Used the money
to start a foundation to promote peace and good will toward men. In memory of
his sainted daughter. Of course, she'd always be fifteen to him, too. And she
wasn't around to object. You have to wonder if she'd have wanted it printed
at all. Even in the book she goes back and reads stuff she wrote, and she's
like "I can't believe I wrote this!"
Anne's a lot more fun when she's writing about life in the Secret Annex,
which she actually knows something about. There's an entry when she says
she's going to talk about politics, and then she doesn't. She actually writes
about her family, and the family her family's holed up with in Amsterdam,
listening to the radio news, and how they react to it. One night they're
listening to the news and a Dutch government-in-exile guy wants people to
keep records of the war for posterity, and they all dive on the diary. So she
went ahead and started editing the diary for publication.
_Het Achterhuis_. "The Secret Annex." Anne said it sounded like the title
of a detective story. Now I know what the diary's like. It's a bit like those
girl's comics where the parents of this boy and girl move in together, swap
spouses or some darn thing, and boy and girl are thrown together. Like Anne
and Peter, a shy boy who won't amount to much. You know they're meant for
each other from page one. Maybe that's why I liked it so much, even when I
was in fourth grade. I was still reading stuff like _Mustard Girl_ then. I
was on quite an Anne kick for a while. I took the picture out of the book of
her smiling for the camera at her desk, dressed all in white, and I framed it
and put it on the desk. Bite me, I'm a recovering fangirl.
I read books about Anne, when I got older. Heard about a novel about her,
so I picked it up. _The Ghost Writer_, by Philip Roth. I couldn't find it in
Japanese, so I figured I'd improve my English in the bargain. Anne survives
the war and goes to America as a refugee, calling herself Amy Bellette,
taking a new identity so she can forget her life. She goes to college in
America, and meets this Jewish writer guy, E. I. Lonoff. She writes stuff for
his class, and she's good, but not good enough to impress him as much as
she'd like. She starts to ask herself whether she's cut out for this, whether
when she talked about being a writer she wasn't just "a young girl dreaming a
young girl's dreams."
She's at the point where she almost wishes she was back in the Annex, so
she could write something decent, not at an American college being the queen
of campus, when the diary comes out. Thing is though she doesn't bother
trying to contact her father. She's living this big adventure, and she's
already dead and gone to him, so waiting just a bit longer won't make matters
too much worse--but then the play comes out, and it's too late. She'd become
a saint. Who'd believe any real girl was Anne Frank now...?
Or that's what Amy tells Mr. Lonoff anyway. Actually, it's pretty obvious
even to him that either this Amy Bellette chick's a complete nutbar or she's
making up this elaborate con to get in the pants of the Great American Author
and move in with him under the nose of his long-suffering wife. Or both.
He swallows it hook, line and sinker. It's his greatest fantasy. Hell
yeah, he wants someone who'll be a fifteen-year-old virgin forever and ever.
Lolita, call your office.
At the end Lonoff's wife flips out and threatens to leave, saying Amy's
welcome to him, which of course means, "Get out of my house, you tramp." Amy
hightails it out of there. Why wouldn't she? She knows she couldn't keep up
the holy virgin racket forever.
I left the picture where it was. By the time I read _The Ghost Writer_ I
hardly noticed it was there half the time.
Good at heart. Pure. Childlike. They will never enter the kingdom of
heaven who do not approach it like a child.
Like Rika. I knew her in kindergarten. She still lives just a few doors
down from me. She decided when we were in kindergarten that I was cool for
some reason, so she stuck to me like glue, and insisted I share her lunch,
and she always had nicer lunches than me, so I shared. She's been stuck to me
ever since. I was already writing cute little stories when I was in third
grade. Fairy stories. This was before I read Anne. She wrote fairy stories,
too. Some of them pretty strange stuff. Like "Eva's Dream." Really trippy.
She says herself she didn't know where it came from.
I wrote one about a baby unicorn, which was good enough that my teacher
had me read it to our class, and a couple of others. I don't remember the
details. Rika demanded I give her the story, my only copy. The first present
I ever gave her. There haven't been that many of them, so I'm pretty sure
that was it.
Knowing her she still has it somewhere. She still believes in unicorns.
Crazy about the things. Up in her room, she has bunches of pictures of the
things. I'm not sure I want to know if my story was the reason. We met
outside Cinecitta once, not long ago--before Christmas, Yinyang hadn't
gotten their big break yet--before a movie, and she was reading some
fantasy book that she was begging me to read. Some post-apocalyptic world
where this unicorn is the hero's companion--until the end when he gets the
girl. Then the unicorn runs off.
Or so Rika told me. I didn't look at it all that carefully myself. She
made me read a couple of pages, so I did, but it wasn't my thing. It was
rubbish really, but I knew better than to say so. I mean, my stuff's probably
worse. But it wasn't my thing. I prefer Harlan Ellison. Him and Kurt Vonnegut.
"It's all right," I lied, handing it back.
Suddenly she looked very intense and said, "I don't believe it."
"I believe...that to be able to see a unicorn, one need only be pure of
"As opposed to actually being a virgin? Never having slept with a guy and
"Yes! I mean...I don't believe it! Why can't you see a unicorn any more,
just because you fall in love? That's so sad..."
I couldn't help thinking, what if you hadn't fallen in love, and you still
couldn't see one? I'd read about them in storybooks, sure--I couldn't have
made my literary debut in third grade if I hadn't--but I'd never actually
believed in unicorns or fairies or anything like that. Living with a
Marxist'll do that to you.
"I guess..." Like a fool, trying to explain it rationally. "I guess it's
like...believing in fairies or Santa Claus or something. Unicorns are animals
from fairy tales, you know? So you believe in fairies and unicorns and stuff
when you're a kid, but when you grow up, you get married and have kids, you
don't believe in them any more..."
"I believe in them!" Rika said firmly.
And I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and I said, "Really?" But not
too loud. Not like I was trying to tell her off or anything.
"Yes, really, Aya," she said, suddenly smiling. There's these times when
she smiles and I think I'm looking at an angel.
I must have been looking at her a bit too long, because she suddenly
said, "All right, let's go or we'll miss the movie."
Couldn't argue with that. I'd dragged her out there after all. I had to
review it for the magazine I sometimes write for. It was okay. Rika fell
asleep. She doesn't like my kind of entertainment either, so I suppose that
makes us even. I take terrible advantage of her, you know. She'll want to go
to a movie, and I'll be like, "Sorry, got stuff to do," when the fact is I
could tell just from the reviews it was a piece of crap, never mind that for
reasons known but to God and Rika she wanted to spend time with me. When we
were little, she'd come over to play, and I'd wind up making her arrange my
books on my shelf and then tell her off for not putting them in alphabetical
order. Later on, I'd be at home writing stuff, and she'd come over with food
and insist that I eat it, and she'd watch me eat it like I was the cutest
thing in the world. She's a great cook. I never cooked her a darn thing. Then
again, it's all I can do to throw something in the microwave, but that's not
It was worse when I used to let her read my drafts. At least Kano gives me
real comments nowadays. Rika's idea of critiquing my stuff was to tell me
what I'd written was a work of genius, no matter what it was, so I've made a
point of telling her to wait 'til it comes out. When it does, she's like a
kid at Christmas. Never fails. Even if it's a short review saying something
like "the director of this movie must die," she thinks it's great. When I got
my book accepted she almost wet her pants, she was so happy. Me, I was like,
"Guess the editor knows less about writing than I do," because it was no
great effort to dish it out. Of course, I got off on getting all these awards
for writing, but I used to think it was a great joke when anybody could have
written what I wrote. "What is written without effort is read without
pleasure," says Dr. Johnson. You can tell he'd never met Rika Sena.
Kind of sweet. Kind of strange. Rika as well as me. Call me a masochist.
When we first met Yukino said some weird stuff about really getting off on
unqualified praise. To me it's more like torture. From the likes of Kano, I
wouldn't take this sort of crap for a second, and Kano knows it. From
Rika...from Rika it's all I can do to sit there and feel daggers shooting
through my heart.
We'd agreed to meet the others--Tsubaki and those--at a Tsubasa Shibahime-
friendly cafe later. We're having a snack there and when Rika got up and went
to powder her nose I asked Tsubasa, when Rika was out of earshot, if she
still believed in unicorns.
And she looked at me like I was out of my mind and said, "Uh. No. This
some kind of joke?"
"Why wouldn't you? You remember the Santa incident?" put in Tsubaki, who
didn't know what I meant either but did think it was a great joke. More
evidence for the prosecution. Me and Tsubaki told Tsubasa there wasn't a
Santa, and she bawled, so we bought her all the sweet stuff she could eat and
then realized we couldn't pay the bill, so we ran off and left Rika to pay
"That was different. Santa brought me toys. No unicorn ever brought me a
goddamn thing," said Tsubasa, and she went back to demolishing her
cheesecake. "This cake needs sugar."
"Aya," Yukino asked me, "why'd you ask Tsubasa that just now?"
"Forget it," I said. I should have known it was a waste of time asking
Tsubasa. Tsubasa's never been a child.
I looked up. It was Kano Miyazawa, with a bag full of shopping and a
notebook. She carries it everywhere these days, just in case she gets an idea
for a story. Lucky her. She always has ideas for stories. Like drinking from
a fire hose. Just then she was working on a book based on French Canadian
folk tales. _La sorciere du nord._ "The Witch of the North." Kano's into the
"Oh, hi, grasshopper. What's up? You get a chance to look at that draft?"
She looked a bit nervous when I said that. "I'm getting to it..."
"In between shopping trips?"
"I'm getting to it! I'll e-mail you something tomorrow night, okay?"
"Okay. Don't make me sic Yukino on you."
"Like you have to?"
"You know you love it, sister dearest," said Yukino, grinning like a mad
"Say," said Tsubaki all of a sudden, "how come you call Kano 'grasshopper'
"She demanded I be her sensei. Why?"
"It's like...how come _I_ never got a cute nickname?"
"You," said Maho drily, "are not in the least bit cute." She sipped her
tea. "Am I right, Sawada?"
"Well, then...how come Rika doesn't get a cute nickname?" Tsubaki asked
me. "Isn't she cute enough for you?"
"Who's not cute enough?" Rika had just returned from the ladies' without
"You," said Tsubaki. "Aya was just telling us all she doesn't love you any
more. She's all about Kano now."
Whenever Tsubaki says something off the wall, it's usually Maho who almost
spits out her drink. It was almost refreshing to see Yukino do it this time.
I used to wonder, does Tsubaki think before she speaks? Saying stuff like
that like it was nothing. Dad'd probably put her on a pedestal, call her the
liberated woman or something like that. Of course, instead of the liberated
woman he married Mom, and just uses our computer to download chicks getting
it on. I've seen his Internet Explorer history.
One time when she was pissed at Dad she started in about one of his
sisters. Hiromi Sawada. I used to see her now and again when I was little,
when we visited Dad's family. Hiromi lives in Tokyo somewhere now, I don't
know where. Pity I don't know her better, because I used to think she was
kind of cool. Think Tsubaki with twenty-five years on her, bleached-blonde
boy's haircut and not nearly as much of a bitch. Dad's family are from
Nagasaki too. I don't know the details, but I guess Hiromi was expelled from
Catholic school or something. For "'conduct unbecoming a young lady,' as the
nuns put it," Mom said.
Rika went really red and was like, "I beg your pardon?"
Then Dad got pissed and said the nuns could go to hell for all he cared,
and demanded to know what the hell that had to do with anything, and she went
on about how he'd run away from his own Confirmation. I knew he hated the
nuns at the Catholic school. Used to whoop him something awful, just to take
out their frustrations as far as he knew. Put anyone off religion. The way
Mom told it, Dad went up to the bishop, and just as the bishop was about to
"seal him with the gift of the Holy Spirit," I guess he shouted, "Religion is
the opium of the people! Long live the revolution! Long live Man!" and ran
out of the cathedral. He wouldn't let me be confirmed at all, which was okay
by me, but Mom thought it was a disgrace. That's it! She was upset because he
didn't want me confirmed. Mind you, I think she wanted to please Grandma more
than anything. She doesn't believe everything the church says either, and it
was a bit hypocritical, seeing as I'd long ago stopped going to Mass.
"Tsubaki's talking crap again, Rika," I said. "Sit down."
"Yeah," said Tsubaki. "Aya was telling us all about Kano's pillow book."
Mom wouldn't have let me read Anne either, if she'd read it the whole way
through. Even at ten, there were bits that made me go, "Whoa," and I'd read
them over and over, making sure nobody was with me, like it was porn or
something. Probably by then it really was the raciest stuff I'd read before.
When I'd read it my head'd go into overdrive. Anne talking about how at night
she'd feel her chest and listen to the beating of her heart.
Now Kano went red and was like, "Uh...no, she wasn't..."
So Rika sat down, and she was like, "Why are you so mean to me, Tsubaki?"
Mom said, "Marrying the son of the village atheists, I was a fool. I
should have listened to my mother. Why do I stay around you at all?"
"Because I love you," Tsubaki said, smirking.
"Hmph." Rika went back to her tea. I kept my mouth shut.
"Why do you think I keep you around, Rika?" Tsubaki went on. "I only allow
the most beautiful women to hang around me..."
Or how she was sleeping over with a classmate and she felt like she wanted
to kiss her. I used to sleep over with Rika all the time. She'd be lying
beside me in her futon, without her barrettes in, and I'd think she looked so
beautiful. And this was in third grade still.
"Tsubaki, cut it out," I said. "You're not funny."
"Uh...don't you have a boyfriend, Tsubaki?" Kano asked, looking like a
deer in headlights.
"Yeah. He's very understanding. So if you wanted to go out sometime..."
"Uh...I'll pass, thanks..."
"She's messing with your mind, Kano," Yukino said. "Ignore her."
Tsubaki didn't even miss a beat. "Just as well," she said, getting up out
of her seat and draping her arms around Kano like it was nothing, and
whispering in her ear. "It wouldn't work out. I'm on the rebound from
As we got a bit older we'd talk all night about boys, boys, boys, which we
knew very little about of course, except that we thought they were cute. And
one night our first year of junior high we'd gotten all worked up, and Rika
was whining because she thought she'd never get a boyfriend, least of all
What's-His-Name. Because he'd a pack of girlfriends older than us. And I told
her, "Don't be silly, you're really pretty. You'll get a boyfriend, you'll
see." Like I could talk. And she didn't believe me, because compared to them
she had no figure at all. And I said, "I bet half of them use tissue paper."
Point being she had nothing to compare to, and for that matter neither did I,
and I dared her to put the light on and take her pajama top off. She wouldn't,
unless I went first, and I was embarrassed too, but I'd started it, so I went
Turned out she was more womanly than I was at that point. And I told her
she was beautiful, and asked her was it okay if I touched them. To prove we
were friends. Anne did that. I don't know why I did. Anne's classmate
wouldn't dare, so I didn't think Rika would dare. Rika said okay.
So I did, and after a while she told me it felt good, and asked me to hold
her close. "Like you were a boy. Pretend that you're a boy."
Whenever she'd stay over, after that, or I'd stay over, without fail she'd
whisper, after we'd put the lights out, "What do you think of So-and-So? So-
and-So's so cute, isn't he?" I never said no, and we'd usually wind up with
our pyjamas off, under the covers, and I'd touch her chest, or between her
legs, or wherever she asked me to, pretending I was So-and-So, or sometimes
not pretending at all, until well into the early hours of the morning. It's a
miracle our moms never caught us.
What was odd was she never did anything to me, unless I really begged her
to. Even then, it didn't feel all that great. Maybe she just wasn't trying
hard enough. This was the only time she was ever that selfish.
I never kissed her, either, like a boy. On the mouth, or between her legs.
I did give her kisses. Dozens. On her neck, her chest, everywhere else I could
think of. I'd have been happy doing nothing else but that, and half the time
so was she. But never the mouth. We were just pretending. I wasn't really a
"It could happen, I thought," said Tsubaki. "You'd make a cute couple, you
Kano froze in place, and looked at Yukino for some backup.
"Tsubaki, that's enough, okay?" said Yukino. "Leave Kano alone."
In the hotel when we were in Kyoto before Christmas our freshman year, we
were rooming with Yukino and Tsubasa. Tsubasa decided to sleep in the closet,
God knows why, so beside us in the bed was just Yukino. Our first night there
I waited until Yukino started breathing like she was asleep, and I whispered
to Rika to see if she was still awake.
"Did you get a look at the receptionist? Was he hot as hell, or is it just
"It's just you. Aya, I'm tired, okay?"
"Oh come on. He was gorgeous! Wouldn't you like to..."
"Aya! We'll wake up the others!"
"No we won't. It'll help you sleep. Please?"
Because I knew I wouldn't sleep until we did. She didn't really try to
stop me, but I was too chicken to take anything off with Yukino in the futon,
so I had to slip my hands inside her pyjamas, and Rika bit her lip to keep
from making noise. And she breathed heavy and she squirmed and then suddenly
stopped, like she did, so I knew she was done and I whispered to her "How was
it?" like I did, thinking she'd say "It was nice," like she did.
"Horrible. It was horrible." She sounded like she was about to cry.
"Rika? What's wrong?"
"Aya, we've got to stop doing this."
"Someone as sweet and scrumptious as Rika is wasted on Aya," said Tsubaki.
"I figured, Kano and Aya could write beautiful romances together, and I could
feast upon Rika's homebaked pie..."
I stood up and smacked Tsubaki in the mouth, as hard as I could.
Then I slammed some bills on the table to pay my and Rika's share of the
tab, grabbed Rika's hand and left the cafe with Rika in tow, without saying
another word to Tsubaki or anyone else.
That was on a Saturday. Kano sent me her notes on Sunday night, as she'd
promised. The e-mail read:
ive attached my comments on the latest draft. sorry this took so long.
ps sis kicked tsubakis butt after u left, so u dont have 2. u freaked
me out. r u ok?
Rika'd yelled at me after we left the cafe. "Aya, did you have to act like
that in front of everyone? That was so uncalled for..."
"No it wasn't. Tsubaki makes me sick."
"Tsubaki was being Tsubaki. You know that. She didn't mean Kano any harm."
All I said in response was, "I don't give a shit about Kano."
I e-mailed Kano back saying:
Yeah, I'm okay. Just get pissed off at Tsubaki sometimes. Don't worry about
any more. See you at school.
It was Kyo who used to get most of Rika's Valentine candy, even though he
didn't like chocolate much, so I'd wind up eating it half the time. Of all the
boys she thought was cute, she never mentioned him once. Not that she had to,
really. All the boys she said were cute were the ones we hardly knew.
Our freshman year of high school, when she'd come over and he was there I'd
see them exchanging furtive glances. When we got back from Kyoto, he couldn't
go out Christmas Eve, because we had to go to Midnight Mass, but he asked her
to go with him to ring in the new year. Of course, she was absolutely thrilled.
"You don't mind me borrowing Rika for the evening, do you?" he asked me.
"Please be sure to return Miss Sena in the condition in which she was
recieved." I felt like playing along. "Failure to do so will result in
forfeiture of your 5000 yen deposit and an ass-whooping within an inch of your
miserable life courtesy of Mr. Sena."
"Dang, that's no fun. Forget I asked." Then he laughed and told me he was
tagging along with her family really.
I don't stay over at Rika's any more.
At school on Monday I got to school really early. That was fine. Last
thing I needed was Tsubaki hassling me about the other day before school. So,
of course, I forgot that was the day Tsubaki showed up early for volleyball
practice before school.
So I'm at my locker putting my shoes in there when over my shoulder I
hear, "Aya, about the other day..."
I didn't even look at her. "I've got nothing to say to you. Don't you have
freshman volleyball players to deflower or something?" I shut the locker to
declare discussion over.
As if Tsubaki ever took a hint in her life. "Aya, come on. You know me
than that. How long have I been dating Tonami now? Soon as we graduate I'm
going to be taking a year out of my life to go with him to South America. Do
you really think I'd do something like that with the likes of Tonami if I
"Do _you_ really think the dyke act is still funny?"
"Aya, I'm trying to say I'm sorry here..."
"If you're so sorry, do you want to stop talking about having sex with
Rika in front of the whole neighborhood? Why the hell do you do that anyway?"
"To get a rise out of you and Rika. What do you think? Rika knows where
babies come from, right? Shit, Rika's more mature about it than you. If I'd
known you were going to flip out like that I'd..."
"Did Yukino say something about Kyoto?"
Tsubaki was looking at me, blankly. I suddenly realized what I'd said.
"Nothing. Forget it."
"What am I supposed to forget? What about Kyoto?"
"I said forget it."
Tsubaki shook her head. "And I thought Tsubasa was nuts." She honestly
didn't know what I was talking about. Thank God for small mercies.
"While we're on the subject," Tsubaki added before she walked off, "maybe
you should treat Rika nicer yourself. Stop acting like you own her or
something. Freaking possessive. You're as bad as Tsubasa, you know that?"
Damn. I haven't written a thing yet, and my mind's in overdrive. I need a
Ah. To my smoking position. Tobacco. Chilly evening to be smoking outside.
I can hear Yukino already. "Tobacco's bad news, tobacco's bad news,
tobacco's bad news!" Tell it to your husband, Yukinon. Ah, but he doesn't
smoke, right? Good little rich boy.
I looked to my right.
"Are you smoking again?"
Rika was in the electric lamplight, standing ramrod straight in her
sweater and cords, empty-handed, her hands clasped together. She'd spoken
a bit nervously, and she was smiling at me, not beaming madly like she
usually did. Wanly. Blushing just a bit.
She hadn't her barrettes in.
Was she trembling?
I put the cigarette out.
"No food? I'm hurt."
She giggled. "Sorry."
"Why didn't you say you were coming over? We could have gone to a movie.
Didn't feel like hanging around here anyway. Told my folks I had work to do
so I wouldn't have to go with them."
"May I come in?"
She came in, and she sat on the couch, and I made some tea for Rika and
put it front of her. We sat on the couch together, and she seemed to settle
down a bit, not fidgeting with her hands as much. She didn't touch the tea,
I'd forgotten about the cigarette completely.
"Is everything all right?"
"Where is everybody else?"
"They all went out. Mom and Dad to Shibuya. Kyo to...wherever Kyo goes. I
"So, yeah, there's just boring old me here. Is something wrong?"
She smiled more broadly. "No."
Then she leaned into me, and shut her eyes.
"No, nothing's wrong. There was just something I wanted to do tonight, but
it's okay if I don't. I don't think I really had the courage anyway..."
"To do what?"
"It's a secret."
"Okay." I whispered that, whispering because she was whispering. I hadn't
felt this peaceful in ages.
Since before Kyoto.
"I like this," I said.
Rika suddenly shot up straight. Her smile was gone, replaced with fear.
"I have to go."
"What? Did I say something wrong?"
"No. Nothing. You didn't say anything. Thanks for the tea. I'll see you at
And she grabbed her shoes and went back out the door.
Within a few minutes my brain was back in overdrive.
It was then I put the TV on and saw the report. There were a couple of
bomb survivors there, as expected. Grandma hadn't been well lately. Had gone
into the hospital for colitis. Common enough in people her age. I hoped she
wasn't watching the news.
In entertainment news, Sana Kurata was dating another himbo.
I put the TV off after a few minutes. I still had nothing written. I
decided to go with the personal opening to Yukino's speech and see how far I
So, of course, I sat at the laptop and did nothing but stare at the
All fangirls must die