Sunday brunch in the Kaiou household was always an elegant affair. It would be held at nice venues that overlooked the sea, connected to little parlors and gardens for their viewing pleasure. The tables would always be covered in a spotless white silk tablecloth, and on top of that would be shiny silverware that looked brand new. (It probably was.) Food would only be prepared by the top chefs in the nation - or in certain cases, the best chefs in the world. Brunches were never a just a familiar affair (unless it was close to the holidays and the Kaiou family wanted to get some publicity shots of how perfect their family was). No, brunches would be spent with business friends and their families or distant relatives, all of whom were oh-so-happy to spend their Sunday morning with the Kaiou family.
Michiru always hated Sunday brunch.
Trapped at the table, Michiru would never be allowed to wander the impressive gardens or stare out into the sea. She’d be stuck at the table with the adults, forcing a polite smile. She was always supposed to smile. Frowning at one of these brunches was the equivalent of committing a federal crime, Michiru had learned that lesson young. Their guests did not want to see Michiru look bored or watch her act like a child, they wanted to see the famous Michiru Kaiou: the prodigious violinist and master painter. They wanted to see a perfect little girl, so that’s what they would see.
Michiru would sit there for hours and hours, listening to her mother drone on and on about things that didn’t matter while her father lost himself in business talk and cigars. She’d sit there, back perfectly straight in the uncomfortable dress she’d been forced into that morning, not moving a muscle or saying a word - except when someone directly asked her about her work. In that case, she was supposed to simply nod and say something they’d like to hear, then all the adults would turn away from her and go back into their own little world.
Things got worse when there was a child her own age at these brunches, especially if they were a boy. Michiru was expected to listen attentively to all they had to say, despite it being boring or of no interest to her. She was expected to laugh elegantly if they made a joke and act impressed if they told her about any achievement. If they wanted to go for a walk around the garden or whatever pavilion was in the venue, Michiru was expected to go with them - it was the only time she was ever allowed to leave the table at these brunches. Her mother had given her very specific instructions for times like these: don’t be too friendly but don’t be too cold either. What counted as “too friendly” and “too cold” depended on how much money the boy’s father had. Still, Michiru was expected to adjust, shifting to fit the mold her mother wanted her to fit. They would walk around the beautiful landscape, Michiru acting amazed or awe-struck at every little thing they pointed out. Acting as though she were having a good time. When she would return with the boy, all the adults would make sly remarks and ask how their walk went. The kind of teasing, unwelcome comments one would expect from parents. The boys would usually blush and say it went well, while Michiru made her polite smile even tighter as she nodded in agreement.
Michiru hated Sunday brunch.
At least, she used to.
It was around ten in the morning, a little early for what was usually considered a bunch, but no one seemed to be commenting on that fact. Michiru sat at the simple wooden table in their dining room, and across from her was little Hotaru with her nose buried in some book. In between them was ceramic plates and simple silverware, all from a set Haruka had bought at a grocery store when they first moved to the house. Michiru was dressed in a simple pair of leggings and a paint stained shirt, not an uncomfortable dress made to show her off. Meanwhile, Hotaru was still in her pajamas, a cute long pants and t-shirt combo that was decorated with pictures of the planets and stars. All the adults in the house had a good laugh when Hotaru had announced it was her favorite pair of pajamas.
In the kitchen, only a few meters away, Michiru could hear the chefs of the house fiddling with their brunch. Although, Michiru smiled to herself, calling them “chefs'' was a bit of an overstatement - but they did try hard with every meal they made, and that was the important part. The sound of sizzling bacon and pancakes being flipped couldn’t mask the small hisses of pain Haruka made as bacon grease splattered on her arm or of Setsuna’s gasps as a pancake became a little lopsided.
It seems like brunch was still a long ways away, so Michiru turned her attention to the precious little girl sitting across from her. Hotaru turned the page, completely engrossed in the thick book she was holding.
“Hotaru,” Michiru said, making the girl snap her head up.
“Yeah, Michiru-mama?” If Hotaru had any qualms about being distracted from her book, she didn’t show it. She was all bright eyes and wide smiles, looking at Michiru expectantly.
“What are you reading about? I want to know all about it.” Truly, Michiru did want to know. Even though sometimes she had no clue what Hotaru would be talking about. The books Hotaru read were just way out of Michiru’s league. Sometimes it would be old European plays or traditional Japanese poetry. Other days it would be about theoretical physics or calculus. And on rare days, it would be about a bunny named Usagi (“Just like our princess, Michiru-mama!”) who was nervous about her first day of school.
Today though, Michiru was not going to get a quick summary of a children’s book. “I’m reading about chemistry today, Michiru-mama!” Quickly, the little girl hopped out of her chair, rushing around the table to crawl into Michiru’s lap. After helping Hotaru get settled, Michiru wrapped her arms around Hotaru, who had opened her book to point and gesture to various pictures and diagrams. “See! This is what an atom looks like and-” Hotaru explained enthusiastically to Michiru, who was looking over the little girl’s shoulder and down at the book. Michiru didn’t have to fake amusement or amazement when Hotaru spoke to her on Sunday brunches. No, those feelings came naturally, along with a strong sense of pride and love.
When Michiru’s brain felt like it was finally going to explode with information, the chef’s left the kitchen, holding plates full of pancakes and bacon. Hearing them come in, Hotaru snapped her book shut and hopped off Michiru’s lap, rushing back over to her seat. Looking up, Michiru was greeted to the wonderful sight of Haruka.
Her hair was still a little wet after her post-run shower this morning. Damp strains stuck to the back of her neck and to the front of her forehead. Unlucky for Michiru, Haruka had decided to wear a shirt this morning after her shower, instead of her usual sports bra and spandex combo. The blonde noticed Michiru’s gaze and flashed her a smile.
“I hope you two weren’t waiting too long.” She commented.
“Not at all,” Michiru shook her head. “Hotaru was telling me all about chemistry. It was quite informative.”
Haruka huffed out a small laugh. “Was she now?” Setting down the bacon, which was clearly a little burnt, Haruka reached over to ruffle Hotaru’s hair. “Our little princess is such a brainiac.”
Hotaru let out a whine, batting Haruka’s hand away and patting her hair down. “Papa! Don’t mess up my hair.”
“Please don’t.” Setsuna agreed, having walked around Michiru to the other side of the table. “Since you’re not the one who has to brush it after this.” She set down a plate of pancakes. The oblong pancakes forming a nice lumpy pile instead of a high-stack tower.
“Sorry, sorry.” Haruka half-heartedly apologized before sliding into the chair at the end of the table. Mirroring Haruka, Setsuna sat at the other end. With Haruka to her right, Setsuna to her left, and Hotaru right in front of her, Michiru couldn’t help but feel completed.. “Well, it’s time to eat!” Haruka announced with a big grin, reaching out and helping herself to food. The table deformed into a cluster of plate passing, eating, and conversation.
“Setsuna, you can’t give Hotaru so many pancakes! My little princess needs to eat a lot of bacon if she wants to grow up big and strong like her papa!”
“Wow, Haruka-papa sure puts a lot of syrup on her pancakes! You’re gonna get a cavity! I know a lot about cavities, since I read about them. Haruka-papa, did you know that-?"
“This pancake reminds me of a Salvador Dalí painting, Setsuna! Is that what you were going for?”
“No it wasn’t, but if my pancakes bother you so much, Michiru, why don’t you go make some yourself?”
“- so that's why we have to get our wisdom teeth removed! Isn't that co-ah! Haruka-papa! Your syrup is spilling on the table!”
“No cursing at the table, dear.”
Sunday brunches in the Outer Guardian’s household was a messy, informal, and boisterous affair.
Just the way Michiru liked them.