Notes and Disclaimers: Maria-sama ga Miteru, the characters of Satou Sei, Mizuno Youko and the Former Rosa Gigantea are the creation of Konno Oyuki, and the property of Konno Oyuki, Shueisha and Geneon Entertainment. No copyright infringement is intended. Indeed, we are sure that, as fan enthusiasm and love for these characters has ensured the longevity of this series, no offense will be taken.
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Words to Remember (Forest of Thorns - I)
by E. Subranamian and E. Friedman
"Just follow a path that you won't regret."
Oh, she was regretting it now, I was sure of it. The pain was still too fresh, the memories too close. Only two weeks had passed since Christmas Eve, since her heart had been broken.
I'd already seen her new haircut (in fact, I'd dragged her to the hairdresser's after she had showed up looking like she'd taken a pair of dull scissors to her head) but most of the other students hadn't, as today was the first day back to school after the winter holidays. Those who noticed it complimented her, most not looking closely enough beyond the superficial change to glimpse the real change that had come over her, the depression that she had fallen into.
It wasn't their fault, really. After all, she had always been rather introspective and withdrawn, and her behavior had been especially odd and unpredictable the past few months because of her relationship with Shiori, with all its ups and downs. And she had always been high-handed when pushed so, for most of the students, as far as they interacted with her, there wasn't really any change at all.
Within a day or two the whole school knew that Shiori had left, although they were given some official, reasonable-sounding explanation for it. Most people believed it, but of course the rumors were inevitable. Some people were quick enough to put two and two together and concoct explanations for Shiori's departure that were uncomfortably close to the truth. Of course, the details varied; some claimed that Sei had dumped Shiori and Shiori, heartbroken, had left because she couldn't bear to be at the same school. Others, that they had tried to commit double suicide together, but Sei had chickened out at the last minute and Shiori was still recovering from her injuries in a hospital somewhere. It wasn't long before everyone recognized that Sei's haircut was connected with Shiori's departure; everyone was more surprised that Sei had followed the tradition of cutting one's hair after a breakup than anything else.
Each rumor was more lurid and juicy than the last, and all of them contained enough grains of truth to make me uncomfortable - even if Sei herself didn't appear to notice. I really don't know if Sei was aware of the pointing and whispers. If she was, she affected not to be, or maybe she was, and just didn't care. She didn't seem to care about much of anything anymore.
She made an effort to go along with my and Youko's attempts to cheer her up, but I hadn't seen her really smile or really laugh since Shiori had left. It was getting hard to keep smiling at her, when her serious face was breaking my heart. Thank heavens for Youko - she seemed perfectly willing to be Sei's punching bag, and kept smiling no matter what Sei threw at her. Thank Maria-sama for Youko.
"Shiori-san said she came to this station once. She looked at you standing on the platform from afar, and decided that she couldn't go."
"If she was here, then why didn't she tell me directly?"
"Seeing you would have weakened her determination".
"She may look mature, but she's just a first-year high school student. Of course she was wavering."
Of course she was wavering, Sei. God loved her unconditionally, but you, my dear soeur, you loved her *now* and *here*. That is something that is very hard to fight, no matter how much resolve a person has.
I guess I'm getting old. I look at Sei and see myself a year ago and it already seems impossibly far away, like I am looking at myself from a great distance. I watched as she fell in love, and I tried to let her know I was here and I cared, but I wasn't even sure my words were reaching her.
Watching her, I could remember clearly how mature I felt when I was sixteen. The world seemed so...explicable, and people's mistakes seemed so obvious. She was so young, Sei - and Shiori - too young to understand themselves, or anyone else.
After Shiori left, we spent Christmas Eve together, the three of us. Our own quiet party for Sei's birthday. Snow had been forecast for Christmas morning, but just then it had looked plain and gloomy. Sei had been asleep, her head in my lap; Youko had been staring out the window, her eyes far away. I had laid my hand on Sei's head and stroked her hair, wondering if I would see the day when she would smile from her heart again.
"It's good that you met each other.
Someday in the future, you'll be glad you met her."
"All wounds heal eventually. And you have me, don't you?"
"You don't really think that I only love your face, do you?"
When I walked away from her, when I forced myself to smile one more time, and to gently remind her that she had to move on, it was my graduation day. My last image of her was her pleading tear-stained face; the sound of sobbing filling the background as soeur parted from soeur all over the school. A joyous day, filled with the noise of lamentation. I went home and cried. But to her face, I smiled. I smiled gently and patiently so that every day she thought of me, she would remember me with a smile on my face.
I didn't see her for months. Of course this wasn't surprising. I was a college freshman, with all that that entails. She was Rosa Gigantea, with all that *that* entailed. I imagined her all the time though, sometimes as a morose, withdrawn Rosa, Youko's firm hand dragging her reluctantly through her duties; sometimes I would think of her happy, more mature, more open, having fun with friends.
Both of my images were wrong, it turned out. Youko came to visit me one day just to tell me that Sei had - almost predictably - done the unexpected and was, in many ways, the most gregarious of the three Rosas.
"She sexually harasses cute girls," Youko told me, laughing behind a fist.
"Oh?" I asked.
"Yes. I asked her about it once, and she looked at me strangely and said 'I'm following a path I won't regret.' I thought it was so like her to say that."
I smiled at Youko. "Yes, exactly like her," I agreed.
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