Title: Things Left Behind

Author: Girl Who Writes

Genre: Angst, Drama

sm_monthly Theme: Prompt 20 – Estrangement

Characters: periphiral Haruka

Words: 1 718

Spoilers: Up to the S series.

Notes: First of all, an apology - my absence of the last months was due to illness that I've only just gotten over. I'm only now able to get back into things, and that includes responding to messages.

Anyway, this was written back in August 2007 (yikes) and I never posted it. I originally disliked it, but now I really love it - enough that it was the starting point for a longer series of fics that follows Haruka through childhood until she meets Michiru and, for anyone who has read my WIP AU Elephant, will seem familiar.

Summary: She couldn't decide which scenario hurt her more – that Haruka had friends that she didn't know about, or that Haruka had fled to the arms of a woman.

Disclaimer: Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi. I'm just a humble fan and make no profit from this fan based venture.

The door has stayed shut for a long time. Occasionally, someone else would store something in there – a suitcase of old clothes, a stack of used textbooks, old and broken toys. But the original contents of the room hadn't been touched in almost five years.

Noriko stood in front of the door for a moment. She hadn't set foot in the room in so long it seemed almost invasive to do so now.

The air was stale as she stepped inside, leaning the cardboard boxes against the wall, ready to be assembled. And she stared. It felt, for a moment, that she'd gone back five years and, any moment now, her daughter would come tearing up the stairs, scowling at Noriko for invading her privacy and – as soon as Noriko left – slam the door shut.

Noriko lent over to pick up a stuffed rabbit that had fallen from the top of the bookshelf – where a new-looking doll and several other stuffed animals collected dust. She wasn't entirely blameless, either. Her daughter may have had a filthy temper and been even more stubborn that Noriko herself, but maybe if she had given her a break, the girl wouldn't have just walked away.

She held the rabbit to her chest, looking around the small room – the bed still unmade, sheets and blankets crumbled at the end. The desk covered in haphazard piles of glossy car magazines, school papers and pens. The wardrobe doors flung open, some of the coat hangers bare, a skirt and dress balled up on the floor.

A grass stained jersey was balled up on the bed, too, she noticed. Blue and white, with dark lettering, the hem torn and frayed with wear. Tenoh. She ran her fingers over the lettering.

That last night had been horrible. She had heard things about Haruka from other women with children at the school, and she had been horrified. She had been angry that those women had been talking about her family, her daughter, behind her back, sniggering behind their hands and being oh-so-glad that they weren't in her shoes.

Juri had shaken his head when she had told him, but he hadn't really cared.

"Haruka is a good girl, Nori. Just ignore those ridiculous women."

She hadn't ignored them – she couldn't, not with their sly smiles and insincere sympathy, and Haruka's cold, sullen silence. They hadn't been on good terms then, either – Noriko just wanted Haruka to be a little more feminine, to grow her hair a little longer and to stop wearing such shapeless clothes, and Haruka made it quite clear that she wasn't interested in her mother's views on how she should look and behave. There was yelling, screaming, threats, bribes and, finally, long stony silences. Haruka had an unnatural affinity with unhappy silences.

That last night, after trying to get Juri to understand what Haruka was doing, what people were saying their beautiful eldest daughter was like, Noriko had confronted Haruka's older brothers; if nothing else, the boys would put a stop to all the horrible things people were whispering about their sister, she was sure.

Dai and Rafu had exchanged unreadable looks when she had demanded they talk to her about it. They had known; and it had been the duty of her beloved sons to tell their furious, hurt mother that, as far as they could tell, the whispers were true. Haruka preferred the company of women to men, and many of the students at school apparently knew this.

What the hell had her daughter been doing that such ugly knowledge was commonly known? Noriko had sat at the counter, a crumpled dishtowel loosely in her hands. Haruka never brought home any friends, never spoke of her classmates. There had been no first dates, no experimenting with make up – just a constant stream of sporting events, and the occasional fist fight. It had felt like a slap in the face, after all their arguments and bickering, like Haruka was paying her mother back for her unhappiness.

"I won't have a daughter of mine living under this roof, behaving like this." Her angry shrieks had sent her two youngest daughters running to their bedroom.

"Calm down, Noriko. You need to be rational about this," Juri had said, holding up his hand. "She's a teenager, she's probably confused."

"It's sick and perverse and she will not bring that filth into this house, not with her sisters!" Noriko had hissed back, slamming a glass onto the counter, cracking it.

The front door slammed shut, and they heard Haruka's foot steps on the parquet, her face wary as she heard the yelling, and slowly entered the kitchen, dropping her books and bag on the floor.

Juri had tried to defend his eldest daughter – he had always had a soft spot for Haruka; the little girl who had been so excited when she was taken to play baseball with her father on weekends, her blonde hair in pigtails, and her jeans covered in mud.

But Noriko had days of humiliation, hurt and surprise bottled up, and it came to head that night in the kitchen. The screaming had gone on for hours, Noriko's words cutting and insulting.

"You've humiliated us," Noriko spat. "You couldn't just like every other girl, could you Haruka? You always have to be difficult, ruining everything around you, spoiling everything for us."

Haruka's eyes had been wary and lit with anger, but she looked up at her brothers and father. Her father looked at her with sad eyes but said nothing.

"People talk, Haruka." Dai had said, his voice low. "You think listening to people say things like that about your own sister is easy? When they're true? When every single thing said makes us look fucked up, all because of you."

She had left. She had backed out of the room and gone upstairs. And Noriko had been hot on her heels, standing at the bottom of the stairs, screaming at her wayward child ultimatums; change or get the hell out of the house, leave the family.

Things said in anger are usually regretted. When Haruka reappeared later, the rest of them sitting down to dinner, pushing the food around their plates rather than eating anything, she had carried two bags with her, her eyes unreadable. The keys to her motorcycle – the damnable machine she had painstakingly restored - were in one hand.

Tani and Akina had started asking where she was going, clamoring for Haruka's attention. They were too young to really grasp what the fight had been about, and no one really knew what to say to the girls.

Haruka had said nothing, just placed her house key on the table next to her mother and turned to leave. Noriko had been on her feet, slapping her daughter hard across the face.

Akina had started crying, and Tani pulled her knees to her chest, her eyes wide.

"Go," Noriko had taken her seat again.

And Haruka had left. Rafu had followed his sister out, looking concerned. When he returned, they were all silent, listening for Haruka's motorcycle.

"She's gone to stay with a friend," Rafu had broken the silence.

A friend. Haruka didn't have friends like other people had friends. She had boys who helped her race her motorcycle, girls she ran track against, but not normal friends. That had made it worse; she couldn't decide which scenario hurt her more – that Haruka had friends that she didn't know about, or that Haruka had fled to the arms of a woman.

Juri had gone searching for Haruka several weeks later – he somehow thought that she was calm enough to have Haruka back in the house, under the threat of people gossiping about Haruka being thrown out of the house. The boys had gotten the name and address of Haruka's 'friend' from classmates, and Juri had gone to make peace.

The apartment had been empty. It was as simple as that. No one that Juri or Rafu went to speak to knew anything about Haruka or her so-called friend.

Noriko bit her lip and sat down on the bed, the jersey crushed in her hands. She didn't know what was worse – that it was her fault her eldest daughter had left them, or that Haruka had found it so very easy to create a new life without them – that she could turn her back on them without a second thought.

That stung.

It was time to move on – both figuratively and literally; they had to get out of this old house, and there were better schools and jobs in Tokyo. It was just… as long as they stayed in this house, where her children grew up, Haruka would always know where to find them - if she wanted to. Now that they were leaving, it felt like Nori was giving up on seeing her again.

Nori wanted to be able to tell herself that, yes, if Haruka walked in the door tomorrow, she could forgive her, accept her however she was. But sitting in a bedroom that was stuck in the past, with all the resentment and frustrations, Nori couldn't say that. She wanted her daughter back – a daughter who recognized that her mother had been right, who was sorry and a little more obliging to her parents' hopes for her.

And that was why they had to leave. Because she could turn Haruka away once and regret it, but she knew she couldn't turn her away again, without feelings of hate and guilt festering.

"Nori?" Juri appeared in the doorway, his eyes lit with understanding as he took in old room. "Do you want the girls to pack up this room?"

Nori shook her head. "No, I can do it. But if the girls want any of Haruka's clothes…"

When the room was finally emptied, packed into cardboard boxes – some to come with them to Tokyo, others to be given away – Noriko looked at the smudged yellow walls. It had felt very similar to when her mother had died, and they had cleared the stale, old apartment of all her mother's belongs. Only this time, there was no closure – no last words, just an endless string of 'what-ifs'.

Nori bowed her head and then pulled the door closed.