Disclaimers: The characters in this story are the property of Konno Oyuki , Geneon Entertainment and Cobalt Shueisha.
Just as a reminder – I did not attend a Catholic school, nor was I ever in chorus. Just in case you wonder.
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In my heart, I called her “onee-sama.”
In my heart only.
In public, should I ever have a chance to address her at all, I called her Maiura-sama, as did everyone else in the first year of Lillian Girls’ High School.
I had met Maiura-sama in middle school, when I had joined chorus as my mandatory club activity. Maiura-sama, being a second-year student, had been put in charge of the first-year mezzo-sopranos, of which I had been one. Maiura-sama had been delightful, keeping us all in line with a mixture of firm command and quirky humor. That first day I had been the one at Maiura-sama’s side when she had joked that the first-years might not be hopeless after all, and had smiled down at me with that evil grin, a grin that promised nothing but trouble. I was enchanted.
The next two years I spent much of my time assiduously practicing my singing, so that I would rise to the rank of first mezzo. The music teachers loved me, the club president praised my dedication, but the only reward I desired was a kind word from Maiura-sama. When she smiled at me, I would fly for days. My first two years of middle school passed in a haze filled with grayness and fog, except for those brightly lit, shining, glorious moments in her company. Even now they stand out in my mind: when we sat in the chorus room eating lunch, Maiura-sama mimicking the teachers with brutal accuracy; Maiura-sama singing in the wrong key, just quietly enough to throw us off but unable to be heard by the president. Maiura-sama, who would stay behind and practice on her own after club practice was over, so that our cleaning duty always, in my memory, had background music.
I stayed in chorus even in my third year of middle school, when Maiura-sama was gone off to high school. My one thought was to once again be by her side. Not that she noticed me, particularly. I was just another younger student, one of many for whom she had been responsible. But I had delighted in her company. I was a friend, I knew. Not her best friend, not her only friend, but a friend. And truly, that was enough.
It wasn’t long before I found myself attending chorus club in high school. Maiura-sama greeted me warmly, but with no particular favoritism. I was glad to be back in school. I was thrilled to be in High School at last, and above all, I was happy to be singing with Maiura-sama. Once again she was in charge of the first-year mezzos. She would be a sister to us, she said, and patted me and Aiko-san on the head, smiling that smile. Then she lowered her voice and whispered loudly so that we could all hear, “An evil *step* sister.” We all laughed.
It was the second week when I first saw them. Aiko-san, and Maiura-sama. They were laughing, walking along to the chorus room. My mouth filled with dust as I heard Aiko call her “onee-sama.”
The next morning in homeroom I waited until I could approach her while she remained seated. And although I feared to look, I was obsessed – I had to know, I needed know. With some plausible pretext I asked Aiko-san something and she answered and I returned to my seat.
The rest of the day passed in a fog of misery. I had seen the glint of the rosary around her neck.
I knew of the soeur system. We all knew of it. I had not thought I desired to become her soeur, nor that I was particularly desirable for the position…but oh, how it hurt me to know that she had chosen someone so soon. Someone close to me, someone I knew well – and did not like. So…I laid on my bed, not crying, but unable to feel happy for Aiko-san. Something like hate filled me, and jealousy. Couldn’t she see how superficial Aiko-san was? I didn’t want to be her soeur, but oh, why had she chosen so poorly?
Aiko-san and Maiura-sama and I spent many hours together, eating lunch, in club activities, even studying, and always, there was something in Aiko-san’s eyes that spoke of resentment. Maiura-sama was too happy, too much fun, too generous. It ate at Aiko-san. I could see the looks she gave Maiura-sama when she thought no one was looking. Looks filled with petty conniving. It was painful to watch. I could do nothing but smile and be fun to be around. I encouraged confidences from both Maiura-sama and Aiko-san, until we three knew everything about each other.
I knew, by the end of my first year, that Aiko-san had twice stolen a boy that Maiura-sama had shown an interest in. I knew that Aiko-san had no actual interest in either boy – her tastes tended to run to the exotic, the bad and the showy – but if Maiura-sama had mentioned that she liked him, within two weeks Aiko-san would be spotted with him, usually by someone who was more than happy to report back.
I knew that Maiura-sama put a brave face on it, but it hurt her. She wasn’t dense. She could see that there was something not particularly pretty going on. But she was a good person and not inclined to take offense until things became intolerable.
In late autumn things became intolerable.
I do not, to this day, know what was said between them, but when I arrived at the chorus room that day, I found Maiura-sama alone. Her eyes were red and puffy. She greeted me shortly, excused herself and headed off in the direction of the bathroom. Before she slid the door closed, I saw her slip her rosary back into her pocket.
It was Aiko-san who let it slip. In homeroom the next morning, the class surrounded her, as she told a story full of calumny and spite. I knew enough of the both of them to separate chaff from wheat. Aiko-san had, she said, split with Maiura-sama. But what I could hear underneath the petty complaints was the surprising truth – Maiura-sama had demanded her rosary back. I spent the day happier than I had been in months.
Aiko-san did not disappear from chorus. She had long ago taken over the position of first. I had somehow lost the desire to excel and retired to a less stressful position, from which I could enjoy my participation as one of a group. I was further from Maiura-sama in the chorus stall, but closer as a friend than ever before.
Time passed quickly, winter came, and spring again, and once again I found myself facing a year without Maiura-sama. It held no fear for me. When I left the gates of Lillian, she would sometimes be waiting for me when she was free to do so. My time in Lillian passed without further complication and I left it without much nostalgia.
The university I chose was close by – not Lillian U. I wanted a broader experience of the world than Lillian could offer me. At the end of my first year, I moved in with Maiura.
That was years ago now. As I look across the table, from where I type this, Maiura sits reading, grinning that quirky grin that promises nothing but trouble.
In my heart, I once called her onee-sama. But in public now, should I have the chance to address her at all, I call her my delight, my lover, and my Maiura.