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Always Think of Her

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Always Think of Her

Pi pi pi. Pi pi pi. Pi pi pi. 

Morning already.

Another night spent awake. Another night spent staring at the popcorn ceiling. Another night watching her face form in and out of the tiny stalactites that littered the ceiling of the apartment. They were like the stars. Millions and millions of shining little dots in the vastness. There was nothing that could make you feel more insignificant than the night sky—Haruka had taught her that. Maybe that’s why she could see her face in the specks on the ceiling and in the spilled sugar on the kitchen counter and the gravel beneath the train tracks.

In the summers Haruka would take her to lay in the green fields of the countryside where the soft, sweet scent of grass and wildflowers tingled their noses, the quiet whispers of the bubbling stream nearby nearly lulled them to sleep, and the melodies sang by the crickets and bullfrogs in unison caused the galaxy to make itself whole in those moments—yes, when all of those things were happening at once and Haruka held Michiru’s cooled skin next to hers, this is how she had learned that they were insignificant.

Haruka would motion to the unending expanse before them and whisper, How can anyone see us when there are so many others? And Michiru would agree, a long hum of wonder and thought followed by silence…just the crickets and the bullfrogs continued to keep the earth rotating with their song. Nothing is for certain , was what she always said. But in those moments between Michiru’s hums and the songs the world played for her and Haruka’s response, sometimes the silence was too much. Sometimes Haruka’s silence was deafening. It was the uncertainty that, like Eurydice and Orphesus, if she looked to Haruka, she might disappear. So when the silence lasted too long, Michiru would roll her head toward her, never looking, and whisper her name. Haruka. And no matter what—Haruka would always whisper back, Michiru .

Michiru closed her eyes for a moment, imagining the world in that field coming back to her. She could see the fireflies, smell the rich earth beneath her, hear the whisper of the grass as it slid against itself all around them. A warm touch on her forearm sent a delicious chill down her spine—and the touch glided gently up her arm, across her shoulder, and up her neck before finally retreating down the side of her breast and the soft, sensitive skin of her ribs. She shivered, feeling the warmth against her skin again, and she knew whose strong, but gentle fingers were caressing her there in the field. She could see her amber eyes soften as they looked over her. You are the most beautiful being I’ve ever seen. That was all she needed—that tenor voice that sent every molecule in her body into a frenzy—that was all she needed to know that she was loved.

The buzz began to start up again; first, the crickets, quietly, infrequently. Then came the bullfrogs. They built up a chorus until Michiru could hear her own heartbeat in her ears. She knew what was coming. It was the quiet. The silence amongst the noise. She waited for Haruka’s voice. All the music the world could create—that beautiful cacophony of tension—couldn’t be brought to resolution without her voice. Yet, Michiru wouldn’t look. She couldn’t. She had to have faith that Haruka was there, always. Her fingers moved slowly, leading her arm as they danced to touch the figure beside her until finally it was too much. She rolled her head to the side, slowly, breathing to the rhythm of her beating heart in her ears. 

 

“Haruka.”

 

The sound reverberated against the walls, echoing back and forth between her ears. With each syllable that tickled her ear, the silence that followed burned slowly until it built to a searing pain. And for the first time, Michiru opened her eyes. The haze of the memories faded as her vision returned. It wasn’t Haruka’s golden hair or arrogant smirk that greeted her tired eyes. Before her laid the empty imprint of a person who had once been. A pillow with an indent and satin sheets in waves that had once caressed Haruka’s body like she had held Michiru’s. There was nothing anymore. Haruka was right about one thing, nothing is for certain .

The sadness had come in waves all night and finally peaked in this moment. It overwhelmed, like a rogue wave swallowing her in memories and thoughts. If only she could stop. If only every single thing wouldn’t remind her. Everyday was the same mantra: don’t think of her, don’t think of her, don’t think of her. But the irony was that the mantra did exactly the opposite. She couldn’t escape the currents that had pulled her under and tumbled her mind beneath the waves.

Michiru sighed. It was long, drawn out, full of the fatigue that filled her, but devoid of sound. There was no one here but her. Everything was empty except for her mind, which overflowed with memories and spilled out over the rest of her world like ink. It stained every bit of her body, the room, everything she touched; nothing would be forgotten. There would always be reminders as long as Michiru lived and breathed the remnants of her life into the world.

From between the grey curtains, Michiru could see the brilliance of the sun peaking over the pacific. It slipped into the room and painted the ceiling like a treasure—golden and crimson against the darkness. It took everything in her just to sit up. Open the curtains. Breathe. The alarm clock burned red, reminding her it was time to go. To keep on schedule. To live.

She moved on command of the time. It was by habit, not a choice. Her feet walked her body while her mind trudged aimlessly in the fog. She stripped her body of the night, her bed clothes—Haruka’s button down shirt—falling to the floor, lying there, as lifeless as the last moment she had seen her. It’s okay, my sweet. I’ll see you again. It’s our mission. As her crimson red, blood-stained lips mouthed their last I love you , her sailor fuku disappeared from her body, taking the last shred of dignity she had left. Her day clothes—perfectly pressed khakis and a blouse beneath her favorite sport coat—laid there on top of her body, unfitting for the cruel punishment she had suffered in the name of their divine mission. She had given her life for it, and yet the gods couldn’t even muster up the compassion to leave her in her battle-torn armor that showed just how fiercely she had fought for this unforgiving world. And now Michiru would always see that navy jacket in their photos and remember her sallow complexion, adorned with deep cuts and purple bruises on her peaceful face, rolled to the side as it had so many times to whisper to her in the night. Haruka had deserved better.

Before she even realized, Michiru had dressed in a seafoam bathing suit and was opening the door to the pool. The pungent smell of chlorine and a wall of warm, damp air permeated every fiber of her being, shocking her back into the present and reminding her to forget for just a moment. Don’t think of her. The rising sun reflected brilliantly off the small peaks of water in the empty pool—it was too early for another soul to be awake. The calm of the water, lapping ever so slightly against the walls of the pool, brought some peace from the thoughts that overwhelmed her every day. From the large glass windows, Michiru could see the shore. The beach was empty aside from the crabs, who sidled across the sand and rocks, looking for small creatures to eat. She opened the sliding glass door to the poolside veranda and the ocean waves whispered quietly to her from the beach. The sea was calm today, and it had been uncharacteristically so since Haruka’s passing.

Michiru turned away, stepping down into the warm water. It neither cooled nor warmed her; it left her neutral, left her to become one with the water. In a swift movement, she submerged herself beneath the water, letting her body linger, weightless. She came back up to the air slowly and floated on her back, eyes closed, trusting the water to hold her. Behind her closed lids she could feel the energy of the sea radiating through her body, her heart beat matching with the currents. The waves crashed, the tides ebbed and flowed, a plethora of songs and calls from the creatures beneath the water. Her mind melded quickly with the sea, the calm blanketing her for just a moment. But the sea relies on the wind, and as it always did, the wind blew harder, filling the ocean with beautifully, foam-topped waves. The smell of the ocean air filled her lungs through a breeze that seemed to find its way to her through the trees and apartments and noise and straight to her nose.

In the wind, Michiru could see her—Haruka’s tall, slender frame as it raced around the track the first time she had seen her. Haruka was as fast as the wind—no one could ever catch her. She was always running, her sandy hair damp against her temples as the wind grabbed at her clothes trying to hold her back. She used to say that she was running from her destiny, but she could never out run it. Even then, Michiru could see it; the never-ending battle she was fighting. It was always chasing after her. It was always chasing Michiru too. The wind and the sea always went hand-in-hand, always fighting nature’s pull to destroy them. Haruka never slowed down, but Michiru had. She had become complacent, happy to let the wind rock her body through the storms. Had she been the reason destiny finally caught her? Was it her fatigue, her lack of drive, her constant slowing of Haruka’s pace that caused destiny to finally reach her?

Surely it was.

Her eyes opened. Outside it was dark. Grey storm clouds had rolled in over the once sparkling, morning sky. The sea was rough and ragged. The weight of the atmosphere pushed down on her chest, threatening to submerge her under the water. Michiru left the pool quickly, scurrying back into the darkness of her room with a fear she had never felt before. Even in all the battles, against the strongest enemies, she had never quite felt this kind of fear. It was the feeling of impending doom, but not for herself, but everything else—the world, her friends, their mission to protect the universe and their princess….

There was a rising urgency in her chest. She had to find it—her transformation wand. Her wet hands frantically pulled open the drawers in her bedroom, her fingers slipping as they pulled at the knobs. She yanked a drawer open, and it fell to the ground off its tracks, papers and photographs falling to the floor. Her throat tightened. She could feel the threat of sobs in her body, but she had to push, she had to search. From her dresser she flung her clothes to the ground, pushing aside her socks and sweaters. She rummaged through the dresser, throwing things haphazardly, until she came across Haruka’s drawers. She paused a moment, knowing whatever she found in there would destroy her even further. Water dripped from her hair, sending a trickle of cold down her skin, her hands shaking as they opened the drawer. Lying neatly on top of a folded handkerchief was Michiru’s wand. It had been placed there to fill the absence of where Haruka’s had been.

Michiru gingerly picked up the wand with both hands, staring at it. The longer she held it, the longer she thought about the power that had shown itself to her, so unabashedly, the more she could feel the fear and sadness and rage welling up inside of her. Had it not been for this wand, this destiny, their mission, Haruka would still be here. Her smiling face would still be beside her, holding her in her arms. Her strong fingers brushing her hair behind her ear as she watched her sleep and her whispers of I love you, I love you a thousand times over.

Michiru’s legs trembled beneath her, threatening to collapse just like her resolve. She had grown weak. The mission she had so fervently pursued before now seemed foolish without Haruka by her side. They had agreed that no matter what, they would fulfil their duties, but she had never imagined she would do it alone. Haruka had always been there. Even before she had awakened. In her premonitions, she was always there, shining like a brilliant star as the destruction came for them. Amongst the rubble, the impending end, she would look to her side and there she would be—strong, proud, determined. And when Haruka had finally awakened it was as if the stars had aligned. It was as if she could finally see Neptune from her world, as if she could see Michiru…. Whatever it takes. She had whispered it to her, as she stared from their balcony into the sea and the wind. Don’t let me run.

A sob wracked her body, opening herself up to what she had been holding back for so long. Her knees finally buckled, sending her to the ground, the wand still clutched in her fingers. The memories came like a tidal wave as hot tears streamed down her face, leaving cold reminders as they fell from her chin. She crawled on her hands and knees toward the balcony door. There was Haruka driving them in her red sports car, speeding them away from everything. Their hair blew in the breeze as they raced down the coastal roads. Haruka’s warm hand reached out to hold hers, and she sneaked a quick glance to her. Let’s be the wind. No one will see us. Haruka revved the engine, and the car sped faster across the hot pavement as they became the wind. They became invisible to everything, just the sound of the wind as a reminder that they were there. Alongside her in that car, for the first time, she knew what it was to run from their destiny.

Michiru pulled open the door to the balcony from the ground, her legs too weak to stand. Haruka was still there in her memories, dressed in a suit. She held her around the waist, bringing Michiru close as they wandered through a crowd of musicians and artists. I’d do anything to be alone with you right now. She grinned, her hand moving ever so slightly to cup her hip a little lower. Michiru looked into her eyes, grinning back as Haruka led her to a dark corner under the stairwell. Kiss me . She closed her eyes and leaned in close.

Don’t think of her.

“Haruka.” Michiru breathed her name again and when she opened her eyes, she was gone. It was just the balcony and the pain of her raw knees that had been rubbed pink against the carpet and concrete. They stung in the wind of the storm. Michiru pulled herself up the balcony wall, slowly, and gazed over the side, the height suddenly dizzying. She gripped the wand in her hand tighter. It had to go. It couldn’t control her anymore—she wouldn’t survive. She raised the wand, screaming into the winds of the storm. Haruka was there again: flirting with her, pitching baseballs to the boys at school, reading her books at the poolside while Michiru swam, playing piano while Michiru practiced violin. She was everywhere and nowhere all at once.

Don’t think of her.

A bolt of lightning lit up the sky and thunder rolled in the distance as if it was fighting Michiru. “I don’t want it!” Michiru yelled back, through her tears. She pulled her arm back, preparing to toss the wand, to remove it from existing in the world just as it had removed Haruka from hers. Her cries were drowned in the sound of the waves at the shore. No one would hear if she let it all go. She could run. No one would even care—she was insignificant now. She had always been nothing, but was even less now without her.

There was another roll of thunder followed by quiet. The weight of the air was heavy from the storm. It pressed down against her arm until it fell against her side weakly. Her fingers couldn’t seem to hold on and the wand fell to her feet with a clatter. She stared out into the ocean, watching the waves crash into white foam against the sand. Then there was the sound—the hazy whisper of rain. She could hear the individual drops as they fell against the roof, the ocean, the trees. Then came the gulls singing quietly in the distance. And before she knew it, her heart was beating in her ears ever so softly. It was the quiet. The sound of the universe coming together again. She paused, closing her eyes for a moment, just to reminisce. She took in the sounds, the smell of the sea and the rain, the feeling of the cool breeze against her skin….

“Haruka.” She whispered the name into the song of the world around her. It felt silly now—all the times she had whispered her name into the darkness, knowing she was there. But now it was different. Now the whispering of her name was a quiet prayer to the heavens, to the memories of her that wouldn’t stop playing over and over—a prayer that she would not cease to exist in this world. She held her breath for a moment, listening intently to the chorus of the life around her. 

“Michiru….”

Michiru gasped, her eyes fluttering open as she turned back to the bedroom behind her. There she stood—Haruka—every single ounce of her. From her sandy hair, perfectly in place, to her slender legs and bare feet. She stood in typical Haruka fashion, her legs wide, one hand against her hip, her body leaning back a little to balance. Her masculine stance contrasted with the sheer, lace negligee she wore that revealed everything that she often tried to hide from the world—her curves, round breasts, the delicate shape of her body beneath all of her boyish charm. It was her. It was Haruka.

Haruka laughed, fully, her head falling back as it did when she was teasing someone. “Well, here I am!” Her arms opened wide, beckoning Michiru. “Or will you just strip me down with your eyes all day?”

It took only a second for Michiru to run to the body before her. Haruka’s warm arms embraced her tight against her body, holding her close against her. She was too shocked to cry; couldn't feel the fear and the sadness from before. It was as if the world had turned backwards like a vinyl record running counter clockwise. Nothing made sense, but it was there, the sound, the feeling, the universe.

Haruka leaned back, her long fingers lifting Michiru’s chin. Her amber eyes looked over her face for a long while. “I’m so glad I found you,” she whispered, a fleeting look of sadness sparking across her eyes. They were sad only for a moment before glancing to Michiru's shaking hands which rested against her chest. She placed one hand over Michiru’s heart. “You’re trembling….”

Michiru watched Haruka’s face, afraid that if she looked away she would disappear. Her bottom lip quivered slightly as she pushed away the overwhelming feelings that were bubbling up inside her. “I need you is all.” She nuzzled her face into Haruka’s chest, pulling herself closer against her body, into her scent.

Haruka smirked, dropping her head and placing her lips against Michiru’s temple. “I think I can arrange for that,” she whispered, her hot breath sending shivers down Michiru’s spine. She leaned down and scooped Michiru up into her arms. A surprised gasp escaped Michiru’s lips as her arms clasped around Haruka’s neck. Haruka smiled down to Michiru, her head dropping to touch their foreheads together. “I’ll take my beautiful bride to bed.”

The whisper was low and sensual, and before Michiru could say anything, Haruka’s familiar lips were against hers. The kiss was everything Michiru knew: a soft, yet firm press against her lips that moved slowly at first, like the light at dawn, and gradually built up to a fire that consumed her; sweet like a soft candy, that melted and tickled her tongue; and filled with a passion that she knew has been reserved for only her.

You’re my first , she had said one night, as they sat beneath the moon in those country fields. Their heads were close as they held each other beneath the sky. How will I know if it’s right? Haruka was always thinking, always questioning. Her hand had held Michiru’s face tenderly, a bit wary—surely for the first time in her life Michiru had thought.

Just kiss me. Michiru had placed her hand behind Haruka’s ashy blonde hair and pulled her toward her, letting their lips and bodies truly find each other for the first time that night. Their nervous limbs became confident as their clothes came off and were strewn against the side of a nearby tree. Haruka’s strong arms lifted Michiru’s hips up and toward her. She looked into Michiru’s eyes and any apprehension that Haruka had was suddenly gone. 

“Tell me again,” Haruka moaned.

Michiru looked back into Haruka’s eyes, no longer young and experienced as they had been then, but the words were still the same. “Just kiss me.” It was another one of the lines of their secret language; it was the permission to go ahead, to take everything Michiru was and make it hers.

Haruka’s lips and tongue found their way across Michiru’s breasts and stomach before they landed upon her essence, where they lingered to explore. The pleasure built up, Michiru’s fingers intertwining with Haruka’s golden locks, her own moans covering the hot pants coming from between her legs. She could feel the jolt of heat and electricity as she came hard against Haruka’s mouth, leaving a pleasant stream of tingles in their wake. Her eyes still closed, she sighed contentedly. A cool sheen of sweat separated her back, pressed hard against the bed, from the sheets that had crumpled up in a mound around her.

How did I do? She has asked it in such a cocky manner Michiru had laughed in her face. What?! She had said, bewildered, their bodies still naked in the dark, the moon leaving shadows of their curves against their porcelain skin. There was a sudden glimmer of uncertainty in her face, the kind that only appeared when it came to Michiru.

It’s nothing , Michiru had said with a chuckle, but I think you know how you did with a tone like that!

Haruka’s smirk answered her own question, and she leaned back against the tree behind them, her perfect breasts and skin glistening in the moonlight. She was quiet for a moment before looking down to Michiru’s bare body. Michiru?

Michiru looked up to the woman above her, Haruka’s face suddenly serious in contemplation. She reached up to caress her inner thigh gently. Yes, love?

Haruka looked down to her, a soft, forlorn smile had formed across her lips. Her fingers brushed the damp locks of Michiru’s hair from her forehead. If something were ever to happen, you know I will always be here. Haruka’s fingertips brushed against Michiru’s bare chest. And as sailor soldiers, I’ll never be far, but my love for you will always be stronger than the power that brought us together. 

Michiru hadn’t understood then, but surely she did now as her I love you echoed in the emptiness of her mind. The memory had been clear. She could see, hear, and feel everything, but it began to get a little hazy, like fog on a mirror; the soft patter of rain drowned out the sound of Haruka’s voice; and as her eyes opened, the dim light of the sun behind the storm clouds bounced off the ceiling, casting long shadows across the floor. There was no one. There were no sounds of the universe coming together or the touch of soft lips against her thigh—just the wind and the rain and the sea beyond the balcony.

Michiru sat up in her bed, looking over her room. The clock on her bed stand read 11:00 AM in bright red letters. A drawer of pictures and notes and tchotchkes was open, it’s contents strewn across the floor; and lastly, beyond the open balcony door laid Michiru’s wand on the wet concrete. She stood slowly. Her feet walked gingerly toward the open door. The rain fell on her face, cooling her hot cheeks as she stared into the sky.

 

Haruka was gone from this world.

 

Michiru had known that. She knew that her smooth tenor voice would never welcome her home again, or that her strong arms would never embrace her before they fell asleep. She had known that Haruka wouldn’t come back to this material world—not in this time. Perhaps Haruka’s body was far from her now, but her spirit still thrived in the wind and the sky and the universe. Every memory was a reminder that she had existed, that she had loved Michiru beyond the constructs of time and space.

A breeze blew Michiru’s hair from her face—a silent touch from Haruka surely. A golden light glowed from the wand at her feet, catching her eye. She leaned down to pick up her wand, holding it with both hands as she stared at the object that had altered her and Haruka’s life so completely. And suddenly she remembered. That starry night in the field came back one more time. Haruka was there motioning to the sky, in awe of their insignificance. Michiru was calling her name in the dark, envisioning her from the backside of her closed eyelids. And then, from the darkness she could hear herself ask so quietly it was nearly drowned by the sounds around them, And what about us?

There was a pause, but Haruka’s voice broke through the night’s song. Nothing is for certain. Another pause filled the air, Michiru’s stomach feeling empty as it rolled with fear. But I am certain that I love you. And that love is enough for me to never feel alone in this universe again.

That was all she needed. The memory of things she had tried so hard to forget. The reminder that Haruka needed her just as much as she needed Haruka. She gripped the wand in her hand. She would never forget Haruka; she would always remember the sweet sound of her voice, the taste of her lips, the feeling of her naked body against hers. She would always think of her—her carefree runs, her mischievous spirit, the way she would curse in Tokyo traffic, the smell of her skin after she had just woken up. It was with these memories that Michiru became significant; that she could continue to carry the memory of Haruka with her to the people she knew—to live the life she strove to follow. She was a sailor senshi with a mission. To give up that life would be letting Haruka down. Just as she had promised to never let Haruka run away, now she had to promise to herself that she would not do the same. Even though it hurt, even though Haruka was gone, she was never far. Michiru could feel her heartbeat double in her ears.

Yes, she was there.

She was always there.