Read Or Die Fan Fiction ❯ Stretch Right Up and Touch the Sky ❯ Chapter 1 ( Chapter 1 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Dear Sensei,
How are you? Nancy and I just arrived at our hotel in Moscow, it was a very nice plane ride over. Not much has happened yet, but the weather is very nice. The city is very old, and very beautiful, I'll be sure to send pictures. I hope I can find some good bookstores, it's like a dream being in such a place, and Nancy is very excited too. I hope this letter finds you well, will write more later,
Yomiko Readman
The low thrumming whir of a small electric fan swallowed the faint noise of folding paper as Nenene set the letter down on the floor. Nice to see she wasn't the only one feeling a little discomfited by her decision to not accompany Yomiko and Nancy on their annual trips around the world. Yomiko was writing to her already, before they'd even been there for a day. Nothing more to say than, “the weather is nice.” Which, actually, might have been one of the last things Nenene wanted to hear right now. Her glasses dangled from a loosely held hand which dangled from a loosely held arm, the only thing now framing her eyes damp curls of dark, sandy hair. “Nice weather,” alone would have been an excellent reason for Nenene to have changed her mind and gone, with temperatures here reaching near-record levels, and the humidity just as high and oppressive as always for a Japanese summer. Nenene was perceptive enough, however, to see that she was becoming something of a fifth wheel for those two, and had finally decided to bow out gracefully and let them be alone for a while. Even it being her decision, however, didn't make Nenene feel any better about seeing Yomiko leave again. What made it even more frustrating was that Nenene didn't have any good target to be frustrated at. She couldn't say she was jealous, at least not in the usual sense, because she didn't envy Nancy the relationship that she shared with Yomiko. To Nenene, Yomiko was closer than a friend, close in a way that had nothing to do with the kind of love she and Nancy shared; Yomiko was a mentor, an inspiration, a muse and a motivation. Her biggest fan, her first kiss, her savior, the list went on and on. But somehow, as close as they were, there was a distance there, a realization that they were too close to be just friends, but did not feel as lovers do, and that put them into a sort of ambiguous, undefinable relationship that was the source of a good deal of introspection on Nenene's part. So no, she wasn't jealous of Nancy for any closeness with Yomiko, she just wanted her... friend, for lack of a better word, around more, there didn't seem to be enough time in the world to make up for when Yomiko had been gone. She couldn't be irritated with Nancy, however, she couldn't feel negatively towards anybody who made Yomiko as happy as Nancy obviously did. So all she could feel was annoyed in general, but without a satisfying target at which to aim a good swift kick, or even imagine aiming a good swift kick at.
Not that either were particularly pleasant prospects at the moment. It was far too hot. If there was any one thing she thought she could muster up the motivation to kick at, it would be the people who ran this apartment complex. Her air conditioner breaks down in the middle of the hottest period in recent memory, and they tell her that somebody will be by tomorrow to fix it? She tried to frown, but she barely had enough gumption to smile right now, much less anything that took up significantly more muscle movement, a fact she was so readily reminded of by Michelle.
She laboriously turned her eyes to the terribly inadequate little electric fan she had pointed right at her, but the air was so warm and moist already that even blowing into her eyes it could scarcely induce her to blink, much less provide any cooling for the rest of her. Suddenly growing tired of sweltering and brooding in the dark, she stubbornly gathered herself and sat up, the thin undershirt she wore clinging to her sweaty skin. The rough material of the couch scraped uncomfortably over the damp, exposed skin of her legs, most of which was uncovered thanks to her digging out the smallest pair of shorts she could find—and which hadn't helped keep her cool at all, she thought grumpily. She made her way to the stairs, passing the wide-open door to the room of the oldest and youngest of the paper sisters. Michelle lay splayed out on the fully-made bed, forsaking any covering but the flimsy nightgown that clung somewhat indecently to her abundant figure. She was, however, asleep, and Nenene wished she knew how the blonde had managed that. Anita wasn't in there, however. By mysterious coincidence, she had gotten a sudden invitation to sleep over at Hisa's house at about the same time that the air conditioner had broken down.
Nenene moved on, creeping tentatively down the stairs. She wasn't generally the type to do anything tentatively, not even creep, but experience told her to expect precariously stacked piles of books anywhere, especially in places where one would be likely to run into them in the dark. The two older paper sisters didn't seem like the kind of people that would do that on purpose, but sometimes Nenene wondered. Today, thankfully, she made it to the kitchen without mishap and poured herself a glass of ice water. She took a first sip, or rather, a first few thirsty gulps and immediately felt better, though it began to fade soon after she'd finished drinking, as these things did. Tired eyes fell upon a slash of pale, somber light cutting through the center of the sitting room, let in from the outside by a gap in the curtains of her sliding glass door. She opened the door and walked outside quietly, with the desire for silence that you tended to feel late in the night, even if there was nobody around to disturb. There was a wonderful quarter-moon out tonight, sitting surprisingly full and bright above the blocky, lit-up horizon of the city. Nenene could hardly comprehend the rest of the people going about their usual bustle and hum today, but the sights and sounds she experienced confirmed it. Lights winked in and out of existence, the sound of traffic floated through the air, and the muffled sound of music beat from an apartment a few floors up. She sighed, taking in a deep portion of the nighttime air, which wasn't any more pleasant outside than it had been inside, but at least felt more open, and drained the last of her water enjoyably. Turning to put the glass on her balcony table, she heard an odd noise as she focused her attention in that direction. An odd gasping, almost choking sound. Perhaps like a hiccup? She raised an eyebrow at the table, which she now also noticed sported a long tablecloth where there hadn't been any earlier in the day. Nenene knew that noise, and knew that apparently she wasn't the only one feeling a little depressed tonight.
She lowered herself quietly onto one knee, and picked up the edge of the tablecloth. Underneath, she found just what she had expected, a long, gangly form folded up neatly in the confined space beneath the table, book held open with one hand, flashlight held in another. There were glints of moisture at the corners of her deep carmine eyes, and her shoulders were shaking sporadically with her irregular breaths. For just a few moments, between when Nenene had looked under and Maggie realized the intrusion, Nenene also caught sight of a pair of tiny, pale figures standing on the top edge of the hardbound book, looking as though they were.... dancing? Then surprised eyes turned up to her and a shock of untidy, dark hair was flattened as Maggie bumped her head on the top of the table. The two figures snapped into note-cards and slid between the pages of the book.
“S-sensei,” she stammered out in her low, almost husky voice.
“What's with you?” Nenene asked bluntly.
“This book. It's very touching.”
Nenene stared at her for a moment, then crossed her legs in a sitting position, hoisting one side of the tablecloth onto the top of the table so she wouldn't have to hold it there. She closed her eyes; it had probably been silly of her to assume that Maggie had any serious worries on her mind right now. Everything was going fine for the paper sisters. Idly, she turned her eyes, squinting in the inadequate light, to try and make out more features of the volume, but the cover was plain and unadorned. Nenene rested her back against a table leg and stared up at the sky while Maggie watched her.
“It's a little hot out to be reading romance, isn't it, Maggie-chan?” Nenene decided to take a stab in the dark, quite literally, and noticed when Maggie's cheeks suddenly stood out a little less pale in the meager moonlight.
“Ah... maybe it is,” Maggie said softly, ducking her eyes. Nenene bit the inside of her cheek in combined guilt and frustration. Sometimes she forgot that the middle sister wasn't quite the same to tease as the little one, or even Michelle; Maggie always took things very seriously, when Nenene was just being ornery for no real reason.
“S'not like it matters, you can read whatever you want,” Nenene rescinded, rolling her eyes, “I guess it could be nice to read about a time when it's cool enough to go dancing. I don't suppose you'll bring out your play-actors or whatever again, will you?” Nenene thought she'd like a better look at those things.
“They're not very good...” Maggie muttered.
“They're a lot better than the living paper puppets I can make,” Nenene shot back sarcastically.
“Well, if you want to,” Maggie flushed, but flicked the fingers holding her spot on the page, and the two cards slid upwards through the pages and twirled into little paper figures. They bowed to one another, and started to waltz, balancing on the cover of the book. Nenene looked on at them, assuming that Maggie had sunk back into her book with the ease all the paper users she knew could, unaware that Maggie was still staring right at her instead.
“They're pretty, Maggie-chan,” Nenene remarked, and her words at a disparity to the brusque tone she used, but Nenene didn't lie. Maggie, as always, continued to intrigue her. Really, for all the people she could have found out on the balcony tonight, she was happy to have found the middle sister.
“Thank you.”
Nenene's eyes lingered for a few seconds longer on the graceful figures, then moved down to Maggie's hand holding the book, with it's long fingers and plain-cut nails. They might have been one of the more feminine things about this tall, silent woman. While in the right clothes, she could—and had, when necessary—pass off as a boy, but as Nenene looked at her hand, she realized how gracefully they were constructed, and how soft they looked, knowing best the gentle touch of paper.
“They dance well,” Nenene continued, “Does this mean shy Maggie-chan is actually a good dancer? Will wonders never cease?” Maggie's eyes widened at the suggestion.
“No, not really, Sensei. I... don't know how to dance at all. I dont' think I'd be very good at it, I'm kind of clumsy,” as she spoke, Maggie seemed to draw in on herself slightly, averting her eyes.
“Nonsense, even Yomiko can dance, and you've seen how klutzy she is. I'll bet you can. In fact, I think I want to dance,” Nenene asserted at the last, folding her arms over her chest.
“W-what?” Maggie stammered, looking if anything more shocked than the moment before.
“I said, I want to dance. Now. Dance with me,” Nenene imperiously stuck her hand out to the crouching figure, who drew away like a wild animal.
“I... I don't think that would be a good idea. You even said it was too hot to be doing much--”
“I feel better now. Sensei wants to dance. Don't make me argue with you,” Nenene raised her eyebrow challengingly and puckered her lips in an unspoken threat.
“Ah, yes! Yes ma'am, let's, um, dance.”
Nenene drew back and stood, allowing the other to unfold from her hiding place. Green eyes followed her wild head of hair up... and up... and up. The imposing Sumigerawa Nenene craned her head back as she stood right next to Maggie, she sometimes forgot just how tall the unobtrusive and hunched paper sister was, when you were right next to her. Maggie stretched her limbs out and looked up at the sky, already looking even more uncomfortable than she had in her nest. Maggie was clad in her own beat-the-heat clothing, a simple gray tank top and pair of knee-length jean cutoffs. When she hunched just a bit into her usual posture and turned about, Nenene's eyes widened slightly at the smooth, lean muscle that rippled around her shoulders and belly. It was one thing to know that Maggie was strong. It was another, different thing altogether to see the reason for it, absent the long button-downs and sweatshirts the middle sister preferred wearing. Nenene idly wondered if that was another way of making herself unobtrusive, hiding that impressive, slender physique. The thought just served to remind her again of how shy Maggie could be, so Nenene reached out to take her hand before the other could have too many doubts.
“Now either you've read a book about how to waltz before, or I'll eat Michelle's cooking for breakfast tomorrow.”
“Y-yes, I have.”
“Good, I feel like continuing living. You remember what you read?”
Nenene placed Maggies right hand on her shoulder, held her left, and put her own left to the bare skin of Maggie's waist, to the other's brief distress
“Just follow my lead.”
Nenene launched straight into a simple slow waltz with no more preamble than that. Only a few hesitant minutes later, and a few occasions of Maggie stepping on her feet—which, with Maggie being surprisingly light on her feet and their both being barefoot was more amusing than painful—they were gliding gracefully across the balcony in the moonlight. Nenene looked up to her partner with a half-mocking, “I told you so” kind of grin, and Maggie smiled tentatively back. Nenene was soon glad they kept it slow, too, as even this gentle activity was somewhat difficult in the weather. Their palms and fingers grew slick against one another, and Nenene's hand kept slipping around on Maggie's waist if she wasn't careful.
“Sensei, it's hot,” Maggie remarked unnecessarily. Nenene frowned, unseen to Maggie. She wasn't sure why she'd started this impromptu dancing session, but she felt annoyed that something as trivial as the weather was going to try and make her stop. She didn't like to be made to do anything.
“Slower dance, then,” Nenene commanded, moving closer to Maggie until she was pressed against her.
“B-but Sensei—”
“If we move slower we won't get so hot,” Nenene barked in a tone that brooked no argument. Maggie had argument to offer, too, the heat of their bodies mingling, but she obeyed the unexpressed warning. Nenene breathed deeply as she led them in a slow, lazy circle that wasn't so much a dance any longer, as moving about closely together. Her cheek was pressed against Maggie's chest. She could feel the warmth too, but it somehow didn't matter as much as it had earlier. A thought struck her, suddenly; wasn't this the part where she was supposed to smell pine needles or cinnamon or mint or some other such unlikely thing around Maggie? She didn't. The only scent she could detect on Maggie was, unsurprisingly, the woody, even slightly dusty, smell of books. Still, that was fine too, she reasoned, books were nice. Books were what she did, and what had brought so many of the people she loved into her life. Lost in thought, Nenene didn't even notice where she was leading them any longer.
“Um, Sensei...” Maggie tried to warn her, too late, as Nenene backed Maggie into the little table and they both went sprawling, Maggie back onto the table and Nenene onto Maggie. She slid up across Maggie's fallen form until they lay nose-to-nose. Nenene didn't move for a moment, looking squarely into Maggie's surprised eyes. Then her glasses slid down her nose and ears, slick with sweat, and hit Maggie squarely between the eyes. Maggie blinked, and Nenene, though she tried to contain it, burst out with laughter, rolling off of her dance partner and sitting on the table. Their thighs were still touching. Maggie chuckled embarrassedly, and picked up the thick-framed glasses from where they lay on the table, proffering them to Nenene as she arose from the table.
“Thanks,” Nenene said, “Sorry about your head.”
“I'm fine.”
Maggie stood there, and after a moment so did Nenene, getting off her her table.. So much for dancing, Nenene though, but at least she was the one who messed that up. Just like that, Nenene found herself growing more dissatisfied with the world, and with a little startle realized that, while they were dancing together, she hadn't had a single thought of that variety. Dancing with Maggie had been, well... pleasant. There weren't a good many things in the world that Nenene was prepared to call “pleasant.” There were things that she could say she enjoyed, or things that made her feel good, or things that made her happy, but “pleasant”, to her, had always held another meaning more attached to being at peace with herself and the rest of the world. To be pleased had always sounded to her that it must mean something is going right. Not distracting her from the world, but a part of the world that she enjoyed. Nenene loved the other two sisters in a way, enjoyed seeing how little Anita mirrored her in some respects and blasted off light a little firecracker all her own in others, and whimsical, romantic Michelle was always good for seeing the bright side of life, even if Nenene felt it part of her worldly duties to install low-wattage bulbs in the blonde's skull. Maggie, though, was something else. The kind, caring, shy middle sister who just managed to be around, and be herself, and Nenene loved her just for that. Nenene crossed her arms uncomfortably at thinking such things with the object of her thoughts standing close—and being rather still and quiet, not necessarily unusual for Maggie, but still slightly unnerving, would she ever move if Nenene didn't?
As she tapped one hand's fingers on her arm, Nenene rolled her eyes at herself, and grinned. It was good being her, sometimes, and it was good that Maggie was Maggie, because whenever she wanted anything from Maggie, it wasn't hard to convince her. Nenene rubbed her arms together, letting out a long, exaggerated,
“Brrrrr! It's cold here at night on the balcony. Maggie-chan, hold me,” she demanded acquiescence to her absurdity.
“But Sensei, what are you talking--”
“Hug, now! Hold me or I'll...” Puckered lips again. She sighed in resignation and walked up to Nenene, but the older woman promptly turned around and fell against a startled Maggie.
“Well? Get with the hugging.”
Maggie awkwardly wrapped her arms around the front of Nenene and held her lightly. Nenene could just imagine her terrified, flushed expression.
“You can do better than that,” she growled, pulling Maggie's arms tighter around her and pressing herself farther back into the tall woman. To her pleasant surprise, Maggie gave her a little squeeze, saying simply,
Nenene craned her head back and to the side in an attempt to look Maggie in the face, which failed.
“Great, I'm warm now, but my feet are getting tired. Let's sit down. By the door. Carry me,” this time, Maggie didn't object. Nenene wondered if she were learning that resistance was futile, or if she just didn't want to stand there for a long time either. Whatever the reason, she lifted up her arms and Maggie wrapped her under them, carrying her like a small child over to the glass door and sitting down. Maggie leaned back against the glass, and Nenene leaned against her, making sure that Maggie hugged her again. Somewhere in her mind, Nenene acknowledged that it was really quite hot out here like this. But hell, she told herself, it wasn't much worse than being alone, and being together like this was in a way... kind of sensual. Nenene was not an expert on sensual. She'd written about it, she'd read about it. She was a grown woman, so she'd thought about it, though not in conjunction with all that many people she actually knew. Yomiko was really the only one she'd tried to think of in a sexual manner, but it just hadn't felt right to her then. They weren't lovers. Here in Maggie's arms, though, with her warm body against her back, and breath barely grazing her head, and the slick, muscled stomach she could feel if she “accidentally” let her arm slip back just a little bit, or the way their legs touched as they sprawled out in front; it all stroked a part inside of her that nobody else had ever really touched that way. A feeling that was more than the pleasantness she felt with Maggie all of the time. Sensual. Who would have thought that a little teasing on a hot summer night would have taught her a lesson in writing, but now she believed she understood the meaning of that word better than she had before.
“So, Maggie-chan, is that some favorite, special book for long, hot nights you were reading there?”
“Um, no. It's just one that Michelle brought home this afternoon,” seeing that she wasn't going to volunteer any more conversation than that, not actually all that surprising, Nenene continued asking questions, not caring so much about the answers as just making the other say anything.
“Michelle-chan, huh? Come to think of it, why don't you ever go do more book shopping? She doesn't seem like the type that would think about what kind of books her sisters would like.”
“Me and Michelle like a lot of the same books. It would be hard for her to shop for things she thinks I would like. You don't know a book until you open it, anyway.”
“Well, sure, but don't you have some favorite authors that you don't have books from, or something?”
“Not really.”
“Not a single one? Who is your favorite author again, anyway? I forget.”
“Hemingway. I like your books a lot too, though.”
“I didn't forget that part,” Nenene commented wryly, “But Hemingway, I should have known. Stoic, brooding, depressed, dysfunctional characters. I really should have guessed.”
“I... suppose,” Maggie replied slowly.
“So, my only competition is a fifty-years dead fellow named Ernest...” Nenene muttered.
“Competition, Sensei?”
“Never you mind. But, out of curiosity, how many qualities do you share with Hemingway's characters? I mean, most were socially dysfunctional, and then a lot of them were dysfunctional in an entirely different sort of way—”
“Well? Either you are, or you aren't. It's not a difficult question, we're both grown women.”
Maggie gulped, Nenene feeling the motion all the way down her body, “I... think everything works fine.”
Was it just her, Nenene thought, or was the body behind her suddenly a little bit warmer?
“Oh? Have you tested it?” Nenene asked teasingly, trying her hardest not to laugh. For added fun, she lightly stroked one finger from Maggie's knee to the hem of her cutoffs.
“S-Sensei!” Maggie yelped, leg twitching and arms coming loose.
“Cold!” Nenene shouted ridiculously, and Maggie's arms were instantly wrapped around her before the flustered woman could think better of it. Nenene didn't bring up the subject again, though that was less out of sympathy and more because she thought the sudden drop of the subject would be much more disconcerting for Maggie. Nenene let her stew over that for a good, long time. She couldn't say how long without a clock, but it must have been a good half-hour. This was no trial for Nenene, as she'd gotten pretty comfortable where she was. At that point however, she decided to continue on again. Nenene was nothing if not bold.
“Maggie-chan. You gave me a dance, and you've kept me warm, and now I'm too tired and comfortable to think up any more excuses for what I ask you to do, even nonsensical ones.”
“Wait, what's tha--”
“So I'm just going to go right along to this one,” Nenene barreled through he interruption. She took a deep breath,
“Kiss me.”
“Kiss me. Or I'll be forced to kiss you.”
She felt Maggie stiffen behind her, “But Sensei, that's not fair...”
Nenene leaned over and looked up and behind to Maggie, her lips in exaggerated pucker and one eyebrow raised questioningly. Maggie looked absolutely terrified. Nenene hummed in a clear expression of, “Come on, hurry it up.”
Maggie gulped, then closed her eyes and puckered her lips. She leaned over slowly, jerkily. As she got closer, Nenene could see that she was trembling. Honestly, for all she forgot about Maggie's presence of being and strength, it was equally easy to look past her extreme shyness too. The woman was a walking contradiction. As the unwilling kisser approached, Nenene felt her will and desire fading. All of a sudden, this wasn't really all that “sensual” any longer. She sighed, eyes softening in sympathy for the other woman, and when Maggie was just about to contact their lips, Nenene moved to the side and pecked her on the cheek. Maggie's eyes fluttered open in surprise, and she blushed, loosing her hold on Nenene with one arm to hold a hand to her cheek.
“Not exactly your cup of tea, eh, Maggie-chan? That's fine. I won't force you to do anything you really don't want to do,” Nenene slumped her head back against Maggie's breast, hiding her disappointment from the other woman. She'd let herself get caught up in a romance of her imagination's creation, so Nenene reasoned she had only herself to blame right now. Still, if Maggie hadn't moved, she wasn't going to tell her too. Nenene could stay here for a while.
“You shouldn't take somebody's first kiss.”
“First? What about what Michelle-chan said that one time--”
“That didn't count!” Maggie interrupted with a surprising volume for her, “Anita and I were both asleep, Michelle can count those as her first kisses, but it doesn't count for us!”
“Fine, fine. But yeah, I know, shouldn't steal a first kiss. I'm sorry, Maggie-chan.”
“It's okay, Sensei. Thanks for not going through with it.”
“I'm not a completely heartless old witch.”
“Mmm,” Maggie noted, and Nenene got the feeling that she wanted to say something else. Knowing Maggie, Michelle would have woken up and been whining about somebody making breakfast before she got around to it—or worse, decided to make something herself—so Nenene didn't give her the luxury of time.
“You got something else to say?”
“Well, Sensei,” Maggie drew a deep breath, “I don't want you to steal my kiss, but if you want one... I would like to give it to you.”
Nenene looked back up to Maggie, to find the other womans face near hers. As their eyes met Maggie's ducked down, and she flushed,
“Would it be okay?”
Nenene, her turn to be frozen in surprise tonight, could only nod. Damp locks of Maggie's hair dangled down and tickled her cheeks before their lips met in a tender, lingering meeting. It was warm, slippery, and moist. She tasted salt around Maggie's firm lips. Sensual... the word danced through her thoughts again. After they parted, Nenene smiled sweetly and snuggled back into place, head resting back against Maggie's breast.
“That was surprisingly forward of you.”
“I'm sorry.”
“I liked it. Don't apologize.”
“I'm sor--” Nenene reached behind her and pinched Maggie's lips closed between her fingers. A moment later, she felt them tighten into a smile in her hand. Maggie muttered something incomprehensible. Nenene relinquished her hold.
“Sensei, look, the sunrise.”
“Huh?” Nenene looked out across the city, and sure enough the horizon was a pale gray melting into the rapidly lightening blue of the night sky, “Damn. There goes my plan to lure you to my bed for the rest of the night. Ah well, it was too hot anyway.”
“Sensei, you don't have a bed.”
“Also true, and neither do you. I might have to do some rearranging of the furniture. Maggie-chan?”
“Call me Nenene.”
“Either you're being slow, or you're trying to irritate me. Either way, you're irritating me.”
“Sorry, Nenene,” Maggie replied, leaving no hint as to which possibility was true. They fell silent for a while, watching the morning sun's rays break through the horizon and shine up into a broad orange fire.
“That was a pretty good first kiss,” Nenene remarked.
“Then again, it was only my second. For all I know it was terrible.”
“I liked it.”
“Me too. Hey, did you happen to get any sleep?” Nenene asked.
“No. Did you?”
“Not a wink.”
“Should I go make some coffee?” Maggie asked.
“You stay right where you are,” Nenene answered, drawing Maggie's arms tighter around her like a blanket.
Nenene wasn't sure when she might have made the decision to go elsewhere, but today, the decision was made for her. Nenene heard the glass door open and looked to see a bleary-eyed, blonde-headed face pop out and squint in the sunlight.
“Maggie-chan, why are you out here? Aren't you going to cook...” Michelle's eyes tracked to the other person outside, and she gasped theatrically, “Hugs!? No fair, Maggie, hogging her all to yourself! I want in on the hugging! Sensei sandwich!” The woman launched herself, armed with a highly dangerous vacant grin, at Nenene.
“Get off me, woman!” The irate author yelled after a moment's stricken surprise, one single moment that put her at the disadvantage with Michelle sprawled across her lap. She felt her serene, perfect little morning crumbling. She struggled to get her feet under her to launch Michelle away—preferably off the edge of the balcony—and eventually succeeded in rolling her into the potted bushes.
“Sensei, that's mean!” Michelle whined. Nenene stood and leaned over her, contemplating terrible violence, and wondering how good the air conditioning was in prison.
“I'm going to go make breakfast,” Maggie said quietly, sidling back through the door and leaving her sister to her fate. Nenene watched her go.
“You! In! Now!” Nenene barked at Michelle, pointing inside.
“Y-yes ma'am!” Michelle hurriedly acquiesced. Nenene stood on the balcony in what was now the full-blown risen sun of a new day. Her chest heaved, partly from exertion, partly from exasperation. She felt sweat breaking across her brow renewed. It was too hot for this. The repairmen better get here soon, or else. Although, she considered thoughtfully, maybe she could find a way to make a long, hot day just as fun as her long, hot night. She walked back inside, and didn't see Michelle in the main room. Nenene assumed she was upstairs, and called up,
“Hey, Michelle-chan. I want you to pick me up a book. A... book on the cuisine of... Zimbabwe. I'll give you the money after breakfast,” Nenene waited for the enthusiastic reply to float back down.
“That'll get her out of the house for a while,” Nenene remarked to the busily working woman. She sauntered into the kitchen and leaned back on the counter.
“Nenene...” Maggie murmered, blushing.
“Oh, yes. Before I forget, I suppose I should try and say this a bit better than I did most of the night. I love you, Maggie-chan.”
“I love you too, Nenene.”
“We both already knew that, didn't we?”
“It's still nice to say it, though, isn't it?”
Nenene thought happily as she watched Maggie that now, Yomiko's absence was—after this one thought, at any rate—far, far out of her mind. This was going to be a good summer.