A follow up of sorts to Transitions. Reading that first isn't absolutely necessary, but it will help explain at least one bit of what's going on.
Thanks to Olna Jenn for cheerleading.
Sakura had never realized how often other people lied. Or how many shades there are to the truth. Seeing truth didn't tell her why people lied or what they wanted. Fear looked like desire, comfort like deceit. "Momoe doesn't want to hurt you," she told Aya-chan. "She thinks you need to forget." She knows he's alive. Kritiker knows. Kritiker doesn't want us to know. And I can't tell you or explain it. You have to figure it out yourself.
Aya-chan snipped the end off a flower's stem with more force than strictly necessary. "I've lost too much to forget." Her lips pressed together, losing color. She met Sakura's eyes and force a pale shadow of a smile.
Sakura shrugged. That's true enough. I think it's true because of what you value rather than objectively. I think. She caught her finger on a thorn as she gently removed it. She stuck the finger into her mouth.
The two young women worked in silence for a few minutes. Finally Sakura said, "You should get out and meet people." People who aren't connected to Kritiker. "You like your classes, right?"
"I wish I could go back to high school."
No you don't. Sakura didn't look up. You hated the reminders when you tried that. "It's hard to earn a living while in school." Sakura had seriously considered not attempting school. She knew Tsukiyono-san had managed it, but she didn't consider herself in his league. I couldn't send Aya-chan in alone. It was a relief when she gave up. I gave up before- before the tower fell.
Taking Sakura's lack of response to mean something, Aya-chan went on, "I had plans. Once."
"Make new ones." Sakura shifted a lily to one side. "Forward and all that." Flirt a little. Read a little. Go dancing. Paint a picture. Climb Mt. Fuji. "What did you want?" I don't remember what I wanted. I expect it was foolish. She stepped back to examine the arrangement from another angle.
Aya-chan laughed. The hollowness was almost absent. "A handsome boyfriend, I suppose. Mama wanted me to spend a year abroad after high school. I think she wanted to travel herself." Her eyes asked Sakura a question.
Sakura nodded once, sharply. She did. Does it help to know that? She noted the question on her running list. Later, when she ran and no one else could hear, she'd rephrase it and a dozen others as statements so that she could weigh their portions of truth. I have no better way to practice. "Did you want to go to college?"
"I thought about it. I wasn't sure I could pass the entrance exams." Aya-chan wasn't quite telling the truth, but Sakura wasn't going to demand more. "I didn't want to work in an office." She fell silent for a while. "I thought about working with animals. They're so interesting." The words sounded flat enough that Sakura read pain, deep pain, into them.
"A zookeeper or a naturalist or a veterinarian?" Sakura tried to think of jobs involving animals. "A pet groomer?"
"Something like that. Herpetology sounded interesting."
Sakura's lips twitched. I have no idea what that word means. That's what you really wanted, isn't it? I'll have to find some books for you. I bet we can't find any cheap classes on whatever 'herpetology' is. "Should we get a pet then?" She said it as lightly as she could.
Their eyes met. They both knew that Momoe tried to keep them happy. "Would you mind...dreadfully?" Aya-chan's smile grew.
"Um..." Sakura looked down. "We're not talking centipedes, are we?"
"As food maybe." The smile became a grin. Aya-chan tapped one finger against Sakura's cheek. "Reptiles."
"So- Snakes and lizards?"
"Those have some apartment friendly options." Aya-chan's eyes were wide. "Could we? Really?"
Sakura closed her eyes for a second. That's what he remembered. I'm sure. She acts like I'm older than she is. This is the sister wheedling something she oughtn't get out of the person who'll take the blame. She pasted a smile over her pain, knowing Aya-chan wouldn't try to see through it just now. "if the bank account can handle it and the landlady doesn't mind." Who'd have thought she'd like snakes? Maybe that's why she liked them. No, she didn't see their...bad sides. "What kind would you want? Would it be poisonous?"
Aya-chan laughed. She studied Sakura's expression and then laughed harder. "The bank account won't stretch to that. And we need to make sure we avoid anything that might eat the cat."
"That would upset the landlady."
"Plus, we like the cat."
Don't speak for me. I think the cat's bugged. That or it can talk to Momoe-san. It takes our privacy, and I can't tell when it's near. I can't tell if it's lying. Sakura nodded and smiled. "We have six more arrangements for the Takeda wedding. We should focus on those. Tomorrow, we go to a pet shop. That's soon enough."