Notes: For the fifth wave of the MTO challenge. veleda_k requested Kozue/Anthy-- "There hovers forever around you delight: a beauty desired." A what-if story about what might have happened if Miki had won his first duel with Utena, and an exercise in obsessive behavior.
Miki has been acting peculiarly for weeks: disappearing in the night without a word, scribbling on sheet music constantly, drumming out rhythms under his fingertips on tabletops. Kozue watches the stains of sleeplessness darken under his eyes, follows the movement of his pencil-smudged hands etching out unfamiliar melodies. Miki's curling treble clefs become chaotic swirls; his square, precise notations nothing but erasure blurs.
Kozue finally begins to understand when Miki comes home with his épée clutched tightly in his fist. There's a girl following him, five polite steps behind. The girl carries a blue rose and a suitcase. Miki mumbles an introduction and an impenitent excuse, his face flushed, his story vague and undisputable. Something hard is in his voice. His eyes glitter.
He does not specify how long Himemiya Anthy will be staying.
Kozue goes early to bed that night. Alone in the room she has always shared with Miki, Kozue tosses and turns. The air seems repressively warm, and smells like flowers. She can hear insects singing their scratchy songs. She thinks it is the sound of voices, soft and sweet and malevolent. When she dreams, it is of the color red, staining Himemiya's skin. Rust and rouge, decay and artifice, and Miki trapped by reds.
When she wakes up, Kozue powders her cheeks with a faint hint of blush and slicks her mouth into a carmine heart. In her head, she calls it war paint. At breakfast, Miki does not mention it. Himemiya says, softly, how pretty Kozue looks.
In the morning light, shining through the stained glass windows, Himemiya looks beatific and cleanly elegant. Kozue thinks of Madonnas with pursed lips and downcast eyes, their blue robes like the shade of the morning sky. She remembers art lessons about the changing implications of crimson, and the repainting of scarlet-headed medieval Madonnas. The Queen of the Heavens hides her wickedness under a layer of paint.
That unusual smell, rosewater and strong milky black tea with cardamom, lingers in the air more keenly than ever. Kozue changes her mind about wanting breakfast.
The three settle into a strange, disjointed rhythm over the next week. The shadows under Miki's eyes fade. That unnatural gleam in his eyes does not.
Kozue brings a bouquet of blue delphiniums home, but they wither in their vase almost immediately. Kozue starts to find reasons to stay out even later. Nothing satisfies.
If Himemiya senses her presence is a disturbance, she doesn't let on; simply pursing her prim lips in that vague, irritating way and waiting for Miki to speak.
One evening Kozue comes home and Himemiya is alone in the dining room, her face cinnabar in the yellow glow of a tiny television screen. The girl's pet sleeps in her lap like a perverse baby. A steaming teapot and a single cup are on the table.
Miki, apparently, is at a student council meeting.
The idea of making subtle small talk seems painful and clumsy. Kozue decides against making excuses to linger. She turns to slip back into the twilight, where things are darker and safer.
The girl lifts her face from the television and says Kozue's name. The sound of her gentle voice sounds unsettlingly commanding.
Kozue hesitates, against her better judgment, and takes a cup from the cabinet, and sits down. Himemiya tilts her television slightly toward Kozue, and fills Kozue's cup, saying, "Is it good?" before Kozue even has taken a sip. Kozue says nothing.
Himemiya's only movements are to refill Kozue's cup and stroke her bizarre pet. Her idea of small talk consists of polite non sequiturs and silences. Kozue feels brusque and out of place, like a visitor in her own house. She wonders if Himemiya is laughing at her. Kozue's face feels hot, but if she's blushing, Himemiya does not seem to notice.
Kozue clenches her fist under the table, digging her nails into her fleshy palm hard enough to leave marks. The tea is some unfamiliar blend, licorice-tangy and sweet. The buzz of the game show on television fills the air like a swarm of locusts, singing as they carelessly obliterate.
Kozue sips the senna, and listens to the mindless drone. A sensation of vacant, stupid tranquility washes over her slowly. In the back of her head she feels her animal instinct howling, in panic or pleasure; she can't decide. Her fist never quite slackens, fingers curling inward, burrowing into her own skin. Kozue considers this feeling of simultaneous ease and fearful craving. She wonders if this is why her brother finds this girl attractive. The thought does not bother her as much as it should.
They sit like a pair of dolls for what seems like hours, speaking rarely. When Miki comes home, a crushed paper in his ironed pants-pocket and an uncharacteristic frown creasing his forehead, Kozue excuses herself, and leaves.
She meets up with a boyfriend, and leaves spiteful scratch-marks down his back, despite his complaints about having swimming class in the morning. She wonders if this is how Miki treats Himemiya, in the corners of his mind he tries to ignore. She knows those dark corners well; she lives in them.
The next evening, Himemiya leaves in the same way she arrived: unexpectedly, courteously. Later that week, Kozue sees the girl around campus in the company of a transfer student. Kozue does not know whether to feel relieved or not. Miki throws his manuscript pages of sheet music in the trash.
Kozue retrieves the papers. She ties them together with red ribbon, and hides the roll of smudged songs in the bottom of her bedside table.
These broken melodies are the song of Kozue's deceitful heart, waiting for the day when she can take Himemiya for herself.