A/N: Sorry again for the delay, but this project kinda fell through, much like my other projects. It went through about five or six restarts. I couldn't really find a voice for Yomi. I thought writing for Osaka was a challenge...

Let me reassure you all that I am not an angsty teenage girl. This is intended to be a composite of women that I've known and their points of view. Real women are more than welcome to contact me for any technical or content-based inconsistencies. Hopefully this does something good and doesn't sound like babble. Maybe it actually works.

On with the show!

4: Brown Stockings

School starts at 8:20 AM every morning. Monday through Saturday, with a half-day on Saturday.

Homeroom. Updates on the school. Miss Yukari's normal whining.

Sakaki-SAN is always on time, in her desk, waiting for the bell and the teacher.

First period. English. More Miss Yukari. I find it hard to believe that she can teach anything. I just tune her out. Hers is the only class where keeps telling us to ask questions. I hate asking questions. I hate not knowing something.

Chiyo-chan needs to work on her pronunciation. She barely even has to try. She never has to make an effort to learn. She only has to make an effort to simply exist. She doesn't seem to suffer. She doesn't seem to do anything. She just does it.

Second period. Classical Japanese. Mr. Kimura. He creeps me out. We know – no, we HOPE that he's harmless. But just the fact that he's looking at me, considering my body on whatever sick standard he has... that's just horrible. Those eyes looking me up and down... considering every single excess bit of fat, every size over what I should be, every single imperfection... I don't want to think about it. I don't want to be considered on his standards. Don't look at me. Don't anyone look at me. This isn't how I want to be.

It's like this every day.

Third period. Math. The numbers don't lie. They never lie. I keep studying and studying them, and somehow I manage to do well. It doesn't matter how poorly I'm doing in English. I could even get as low as an 85 in English and the numbers still look the same. Ichi, ni, san, yon; one, two, three, four... all the same. Formulas. Adding. Subtracting. One melon bread plus one red bean taiyaki equals four hundred and seventy calories, eight grams of fat, two and a half grams of saturated fat. That minus 100 milligrams of fiber supplements, eight glasses of water, and a shot of ginseng supplement equals next to zero calories over. Divide that by thirty days in the month and I'm not too far over budget. That plus a salad for breakfast, small yakisoba bread for lunch, small bowl of rice, piece of salmon, and miso soup for dinner and there's so much when I multiply it, still. So many numbers.

Tomo-chan just yelled something about dividing the desk into two. A second later, I heard a thunk and a whine of pain. That's how it is with her. Thunk. Pain. Thunk. Pain. Execution and result. Operation and summation. Nothing about absorbing. No regard to what happens. Subtraction, subtraction, subtraction.

Fourth period. P.E. Miss Kurosawa seems to give half a damn about how well we do. She just has us all give it our best shot. This is the second time I exercise in the usual weekday; I usually run from six to seven AM before I shower and then probably skip breakfast.

Kagura-san doesn't care about anything but doing well at what she wants. She'll run lap after lap just to get better at swimming. She doesn't deserve to look like that. Everyone tells me our bodies are exactly the same, that I'm really cute, or something else. Like I can compare. Like I don't know they're lying. I look like a cow in this swimsuit.

I hate the mornings. After I change out of those PE clothes, my legs looking like huge chunks of flesh, I get dressed again. "Control top" my ass. I need to cram my exposed skin into something that just doesn't make me look so chunky. I don't care if I'm at the "right weight for my height;" I still can't measure up. Tomo-chan looks boyish. Sakaki-san is perfect. Even Osaka can look good once she wears one of those damn dresses of hers. Chiyo-chan barely counts. I can't measure up to Kagura-san; the time she spends practicing, I spend studying.

Fifth period. Lunch. I just don't want to talk about it, okay?

Osaka... just doesn't seem to worry. She's as flat as a board, but everything she does seems to just accentuate some weird... something about her. Off in a daze, that weird look in her eyes, she just seems to be wondering about nothing in particular. Dreamy, off in the middle of nowhere, she just burns off calories somehow. She probably spills so much food that it doesn't go to her boobs. Or her thighs. Or her hips. Dammit, she can wear anything she wants and look good.

Sixth period. History. I don't struggle too much for history. I just get interested in it. All the women who actually had some real power in this world just keep me going. Cleopatra. Queen Esther. Empress Josephine. Golda Meier. Nobody asked them for their measurements. They didn't have to sigh and wonder why they can't look like Amuro Namie, Ayumi Hamasaki, even the Suppin Girls.

Then here I am.

Seventh period. Science. Last one of the day. We're studying chemistry this year. The first thing we covered was the Law of Conservation: matter cannot be created or destroyed; it can be changed or moved. I want to move several kilos of fatty matter from my thighs and into the garbage. My stockings only cover so much, so wide. I hate being a size eight.

Why does our school forbid girls to wear stockings? I'd wear them every day if they were allowed. Something about lasciviousness and upkeep of morals. Somewhere, somehow, the Ministry of Education set out some directive and the local school board handed down a rule. The Student Council even enforces this stupid ban.

Of course, there's not a thing wrong with thigh-highs. So I just wear those. I allow the one bit of flesh that shows on my legs to be compressed, forced upwards, but as long as I adjust my skirt well enough (Why does it have to be so short?) I at least have a shot.

Every bit has to be concealed. I have to keep on exercising, keep on studying.

I can do this. I can lose ten kilos. I can have Kagura-san's body, Sakaki-san's body. I can have Chiyo-chan's brains. I can have it all. I can do it. Me, myself, and I. Kagura can't work off my flab. Chiyo-chan can't make me go up in class rank.

Osaka can't make me look better in a dress.

Tomo-chan can't make me happier.

I can only take control of that.

I can only pour myself into stockings after I shower off the sweat from running for an hour.

I can only study my brains out while I'm doing stomach crunches at night. I can only make things better for myself.

Every day, seven periods, with a half day on Saturdays and freedom on Sundays, has me trying as best I can to show who I am.

Beneath this uniform. Beneath these stockings.

Somehow, I want them to see who I really am...