Shoujo Kakumei Utena : Sonata for Piano Duo - by Alan Harnum Shoujo Kakumei Utena

SONATA FOR PIANO DUO

by

Alan Harnum

Utena and its characters belongs to Be-PaPas, Chiho Saito,
Shogakukan, Shokaku Iinkai and TV Tokyo.

E-mail : harnums@thekeep.org

Transpacific Fanfiction: http://www.thekeep.org/~mike/transp.html

The Utena Fanfiction Repository: http://www.thekeep.org/~harnums/UFR

Spoilers up until the end of Episode 26.

* * *

After perhaps an hour, I changed my mind, but it was already too
late, so all I could do was sit on the back steps and hold the
box steady on my knees and wait for you to come home.

"Where are they?"

That was the first thing you said to me; sharp and cold. I
got used to it a long time ago, though; all your little
vengeances. No, Kozue, I don't care that you won't play any
more; no, Kozue, I don't care who you go out with. But every
little glance and word will have your gentle barb in it: you
disappoint me, Kozue.

Where are they? Right here. And I handed you the box. I
watched your face pass through its phases the waxing and waning
of the moon: confusion, shock, horror, understanding, rage.
Those little bodies, down covering their scrawny nudity, kissed
by frost, twisted.

They looked as though it hurt them, the dying. I didn't
think it would. I remember finding a chick fallen from its
nest, injured but still pitifully alive, when I was very young.
I picked it up in my hands (thinking back, my hands in my memory
seem little smaller than they are today) and it made a nearly
inaudible chirp of pain. I remember that I cried, for it seemed
so small and so pitiful and so lost. I carried it inside the
house, being gentle as I could, and showed it to mother.

This, I should note, was shortly after I gave up even the
pretense of playing. The disappointment and disdain hadn't yet
come into you; you were still holding out the childish hope that
I would one day start to play again. You were kind to me then.
I wish that you had been there that day, but you weren't. I
don't remember why; Father had taken you somewhere, I think.

They put it into you, dripped it down like venom. I
wouldn't play again; do you remember how they'd sit us side-by-
side on the bench, and say, Play, Kozue?

But I wouldn't. Then they'd say, Miki-chan, make your
little sister play. And you would ask me so sweetly that I
wanted to give in and put my awkward fingers on the keys and
start the lie all over again. But I wouldn't. Not even for you.
So we'd all just stay like that: you and me on the bench, Father
standing behind us, Mother in a wicker chair nearby.

They tried everything. There was, This is just a phase
she's going through, and, Kozue-chan, don't you want to make
Mama/Papa/Your Big Brother happy? and I don't want to see you get
off that bench until I hear you play, young lady, and (once, only
once, but _I_ remember it, I always will), there was WHY WON'T
YOU PLAY THE DAMN PIANO ANY MORE, YOU WORTHLESS GIRL!

(and after that there was, Honey, don't _speak_ to her like
that, and the first really bad fight we ever saw, and they sent
us upstairs; we cried together and held each other in our
bedroom, with the lights out and the curtains drawn and the angry
voices rising through the house)

And finally, there wasn't anything at all any more. I wore
them down, in the end, and I was neither happy nor sad at that,
but it was what I wanted.

You blame me, don't you? You're probably right to do so.
After all (and don't think I haven't traced this path of logic
before, don't think I don't know that you undoubtedly have as
well), they never started to fight regularly until after I
stopped playing.

But, brother, what kind of marriage is held together solely
by trying to make money off your twin prodigies? Do you know how
much they charged for tickets to that concert we never gave? I
do; I found out. I _look into things_ Miki; I don't just go with
the flow and think that everything will work out for me if I'm
_nice_ to everyone.

That kind of thing just doesn't work in the real world, my
sweet. You need to understand that. Worse than I will take
advantage of your innocence--far worse than I.

It hurt when you slapped me. You cradled the box against
your body with your left arm, and didn't even wait for me to
finish rising. But I didn't make a sound; I didn't cry.

You were the one crying. "Why?" you asked. You couldn't
understand. You hated me, then, for what I did; I could see it
in your eyes. I think that made me glad; hate is a strong
feeling, strong as love. Anything you love, you must also hate a
little as well, for making you needy, for carving out a hollow
place in you that only it can fill.

I wish you'd been there that day, to hear what Mother said.
You could understand, then. Cliched though it might be, that was
my first intimation of mortality: watching Mother put that
wounded baby bird in a discarded box (it was green, with red
lettering, and had formerly held tea-bags) and put it into the
freezer.

And I said, Mama, aren't you going to make it better? And
Mother looked at me quite gently, and said, I'm sorry, Kozue-
chan, but I can't. When a baby bird falls out of the nest like
this, the parents won't take it back. So it won't learn how to
fly. And you saw how hurt it was; so this is the best thing,
honey. It's just like going to sleep.

I was still crying, and Mother hugged me, and I said, But
don't they love it? It's their baby. Why won't they come back
for it?

And Mother said, Birds aren't like people, honey. Then she
said, You know what I bet would make you feel better? Playing
the piano. You could play a pretty song and make your tears
go away.

Bitch.

"The parents aren't going to come back for them. So they'll
never learn how to fly. What good are birds, if they can't fly?
It's better this way."

You looked at me as though I were from another world,
another universe.

Then you said, so soft it cut, "I hate you."

And I said, "Fine", and I went inside and went up to the
bedroom that Mother and Father used to share, and I locked the
door and threw myself down on the bed without pillows or
sheets, and I started crying for those poor, stupid, pathetic,
twisted little baby birds.

When I really cry, I do it very quietly.

You can't ever let anyone see your true heart, love, or
they'll eat you alive.

* * *

Later, you knocked on the door. "Kozue? Are you in there?" You
tried to make your voice gentle, but I could hear the raw,
inflamed note in it. You'd been crying, and you were still so
very angry about the chicks.

You rattled the knob. "Kozue?" Then you began to sound a
little panicked. Did you imagine me lying there, on the empty
bed that was our parents', red at my throat, red at my wrists? I
think you probably did.

"Kozue, unlock the door! Kozue!"

I unlocked the door and stepped past you into the hall. Did
you know that I'd been crying? I do not think so. When I cry
for real, I do it very quietly, and my eyes don't become at all
red. It's only when you force the tears that they show.

You followed me down the hallway and grabbed my shoulder.
You never touch me unless you absolutely have to.

"Wait." So forceful, so commanding; there is steel in you,
brother, at the core of your weakness.

I turned, forcing you to take your hand away, and leaned
casually against the wall. "Yes?"

"I buried them. Under the big oak in the corner of the
garden."

"That's a good place for them."

"I thought about what you said."

"Oh?"

"I know you weren't just talking about the chicks."

"You're reading too much into this."

"No. I'm not. But you're wrong. People aren't like
birds." You looked away from me, then, when before your gaze had
been so strong; oh, Miki, Miki my sweet, when will you stop lying
to yourself? "Just because they're not around right now doesn't
mean they don't care for us."

"Then," I said, and I surprised even myself with my
causticity, "just what does it mean, that they're not around
right now?"

You had no answer at first. Then, you could only repeat,
"People aren't like birds."

"It's okay," I said, and I reached out to touch you: your
shoulder, and the smooth column of your neck. "We don't need
them. We've got each other."

You didn't pull away; I think in that moment you were
incapable of movement. I was the snake, and you the mouse. I
saw the longing in your eyes, behind those layers of disgust and
revulsion that you've had pushed upon you but that you don't
really believe. You want this as much as I do.

"Why?" you whispered, as I moved to stroke your cheek.
Your skin felt just like mine; it was like touching myself.
Being with you would be like being with myself; for once, I would
feel whole. For once, there would be no chasm, gape, abyss, in
me.

"No one would ever have to know," I said. "We could keep it
a secret from everyone. You'd like it, Miki; it would feel good,
believe me."

If you let me, I would cover you with kisses from head to
toe. Taboos are meaningless, for such as us, flesh of my flesh,
blood of my blood, mirror to my mirror; if we could be together,
it would be so beautiful.

"Stop," you whispered. Your breath, so very warm against my
hand as I touched your lips.

"Stop me," I whispered back. "Move away. Push me away. Go
on."

Your teeth, Miki, your little white teeth; I touched them
through the sheath of your lips, and I felt your voice burst
against my fingertips like a firecracker.

"No!"

You seized my wrist (too hard; it hurt, love, it hurt) and
forced it down, away from your face. Such a strong grip you
have, from all that fencing you do.

"I don't want this. Not like you do." But I heard the
catch in your voice as you swallowed, a near-stutter that
betrayed you as surely as your innocence did when you fought in
the sky. "Kozue, you're my _sister_." So pale you were; I'll
always remember three distinct drops of sweat upon your brow,
the points of a triangle. "You're my sister."

"So?"

"It's not right."

And next would have come Why?, but you knew that, so you
turned away from me.

"I'm going to make dinner. Vegetable stir fry. Is that all
right?"

"I probably won't be eating."

You started down the stairs, then paused. "Kozue?"

"What?"

"I'm sorry I hit you. I shouldn't have done that."

"It's all right. I deserved it."

How you winced at that, as though I'd just returned the blow
in kind. Perhaps you expected me to apologize for what I did.
But I won't, Miki; because it was the right thing, the strong
thing, to do. One of us has to be strong, or they'll bind us so
tight that we'll never fly free.

If you let me, I think I might hate you even more, because
then you would have become me. And I couldn't bear that.

* * *

Later still. After dinner. We both pecked at our food, and most
of it ended up going into the trash. I couldn't stop thinking of
those poor little stupid birds buried under the oak. I waited
until you went upstairs, and then I quietly went out into the
back garden. I stood before the oak in the moonlight and I
prodded the freshly-turned patch of earth amidst the roots with
my foot as though it might make those stupid little birds rise up
like a whole fucking flock of phoenixes.

I changed my mind. After an hour. But it was too late.
Such little things. So pathetic and naked and helpless. Where
were the parents? Why did they have to build their nest in
_that_ tree, of all trees?

I should have just stayed out of it, like I stay out of
everything else. It would have been better that way.

Stupid little birds. Poor little birds.

When I came back inside, there you were, watching me.

"Kozue..."

"What?"

"Why'd you do it?"

"I told you why."

You raised your hand to me, then let it fall. No, Miki, you
mustn't touch your sister, she's _dirty_, she'll do _dirty_
things to you if you let her...

"And if you're expecting me to say I'm sorry, I won't. I
never regret anything I do."

"Fine," you said.

I noticed then that you held your satchel, and I looked at
it questioningly.

"I'm going up the hill to Ohtori," you explained. "To the
music room."

"We have a piano in this house, you know."

"It hasn't been tuned in some time. And I don't like
playing in this house anyway."

"When will you be back?"

"I won't be long. I'll be home before you go to bed."

"All right."

I was going to wait fifteen minutes like I always do, and
then follow you. Like I always do, I'd stand outside the music
room, beneath one of those big sealed windows, and listen to your
music through the glass. Such lovely music, the music I could
never make; such pure tones!

I wonder sometimes if you would have been happier if I'd
never been born alongside of you, or if I'd been born dead.
Probably happiest if I'd died right after I stopped playing. A
tragic accident. Leukemia (and she was so very young, too...).
Kidnapped and raped and strangled and tossed naked in a ditch.
Then you could have your virgin martyr; then you wouldn't have me
around, the inconvenient sister, the unpleasant reminder that
your idyllic childhood wasn't so idyllic after all.

Do you remember how they used to make us practice until our
fingers curled like the fingers of ancient decrepit women?

I do, love, I do, and I always will.

I planned to follow, but shortly after you left, I heard a
knocking at the front door. When I opened it, there he stood
like a tall, strong god, and the moonlight turned his pale hair
silver.

"Good evening," he said. His voice, as always, was like a
caress. I meant it when I said he was a remarkable man, if man
he actually is. I could use other adjectives: terrific, for he
is terrifying; awesome, for he is awful.

"Good evening, Akio-san."

He stood there on the doorstep with his hands in his
pockets, casual, his radiance coiled tight like a spring.
Sometimes, he gives me the impression of being smaller than he
is, almost childlike, but that night he towered over me.

"I came to see how you and your brother are getting along."

"How considerate of you."

"The welfare of all of Ohtori's students is a constant
concern of mine. Particularly students living on their own,
without the eyes of parents or a dorm supervisor."

"Do you want to come in?"

"Is that an invitation?"

"No. A question."

His dark gaze roved over my shoulder. "Where is your
charming twin? Studying, no doubt; he's a very dedicated
student."

"Miki's not home."

"Oh? I expect he's at the music room, then."

I didn't say anything.

"I hope he isn't too disappointed over his loss."

Again, I said nothing.

"But you aren't, are you?"

"What do you want, Akio-san?"

"Merely to offer what comfort I can to you and your
brother." He shrugged. "But since he's not here, I suppose I'll
have to go and see him in the music room."

"He's busy practising."

"Well... that room isn't just for piano playing, you know."
He smiled, and there were a lot of teeth in it. "Would you like
to come along?"

I nodded. "Just let me get my jacket."

"It's a warm night."

"I get chilled easily."

I went up to the bedroom and got a long-sleeved light jacket
to wear over my uniform blouse, and then I came back down, making
sure to go through the kitchen. He was still standing on the
threshold of the front door, outside the house.

I can't precisely recollect what happened next: I thrust the
long serrated blade of the boning knife at his heart, and he
didn't seem to move at all, and suddenly the knife was on the
floor with my blood on it, and my palm had been laid open by a
dry line of stinging fire.

"Vicious little minx, aren't you?" he said. He sounded
bored and utterly unsurprised. "But I'm not some effeminate
little pederast of a teacher, and we're not on a staircase."

I raised my bloody palm to my mouth. The cut wasn't deep,
but it was very painful; my blood was salty, and a little sweet.

"Want me to take care of that for you?" he asked. His eyes
gleamed, the green so dark it was nearly a black.

I lowered my hand. "You stay away from my brother. You and
your sister both. If you touch him, or if that bitch touches
him, I'll find out, and the only thing that will stop me killing
you is if you kill me."

"How selfish the devotion of a little sister," he murmured,
less to me than to himself. "Has our relationship come to an
end, then?"

"Yes it has."

I was unsurprised when he did not threaten or bluster, but
said simply, "So be it", and walked away into the night.

I cleaned and bandaged my hand, and carefully washed my
blood from the knife. Then I sat down in the front hall to wait
for you to come home, and I was so full of hate and fear that I
thought I might choke on it.

I _would_ kill them for you, you know. Both of them. With
my bare hands, if I had no other way. I wouldn't hesitate at
all, love. I'd know if he touched you. He didn't, and neither
did she, and now neither of them ever will.

* * *

I woke up in your arms, being carried up the stairs. You had one
arm under my knees and the other around my waist, and had draped
my arms over your shoulders while you cradled me to your chest.

I'm a very heavy sleeper, usually, and I suppose you were
counting on that. You wouldn't have ever done it if you thought
I might wake. But I'd meant to stay up until you came home; I
guess I must have been more tired than I knew, and fallen asleep
in the high-backed chair near the hall table while I waited for
you.

I closed my eyes again and pretended to be asleep as you
nudged the bedroom door open with your hip. You're not much
bigger than me, really, but it seemed for the brief time you
carried me that you were gigantic. As big as Akio-san or Touga-
san, able to pick me up and carry me like a little child. I
adored the movement of your body, the hard little muscles of your
arms and chest and shoulders. I loved you so much in that
moment that I could have contentedly died of it. You must have
believed I was sound asleep.

How gently you laid me down on the bed; how even more gently
you shook me awake. "Kozue? It's bedtime."

I murmured something unintelligible in order to sound as
though I were still mostly asleep. Perhaps if I seemed deeply
asleep enough, you would loosen my clothing (how vividly I can
imagine the workings of your long quick fingers, trying and
failing not to touch my body at all) and draw the covers over me
with your own two hands.

But you left me lying on the bed fully clothed. I heard
familiar sounds: your footsteps, the opening of a drawer, a
rustling of cloth, the opening and closing of the door. That was
you retrieving your pyjamas and leaving the room to change into
them. I remember when we used to change before each other
without shame or inhibition, noting with innocent childish wonder
the difference between your body and mine once the clothes were
off. I know those days cannot return, but I wish for something
like them: for there to be no world beyond the two of us.

While you were gone, I changed into my night-gown and
crawled under the covers. You came in and put your hand on the
light switch to darken the room, then paused. "Kozue?"

"What?"

"What happened to your hand?"

"I cut myself by accident."

"Not deep?"

"No. Not deep. How was your practice?"

I never ask you about your practice, so I'm not surprised it
took you a while to answer.

"Fine."

You turned off the light, and I watched your dim shape cross
the floor and pull back the covers and slide into your little
bed, right next to mine.

"Kozue... do you ever think about playing the piano again?"

And I really don't know why I said it.

"Miki... I was always terrible at playing. I could hardly
ever make my fingers move fast enough. I was always getting the
notes wrong. You were the one who made everything beautiful; by
myself, I couldn't be anything except ugly."

Then there was silence, briefly.

"That's not true. Your playing was beautiful, Kozue."

"Think that if you want."

I knew you would, too.

"We need to send that telegram tomorrow."

"You send it. Put whatever you want in it. Put my name on
it. I don't care."

"Do you not want Father remarrying?"

"He can do whatever he wants. I just don't care."

"They'll come home soon. But I suppose you don't care about
that, either."

So soft your barb, my sweet. I wonder what would happen if
I, in my thin little night-gown, were to rise up and cross the
floor and pull back the covers of your bed and cover your body
with my body. How well we would fit together, like two jigsaw
pieces; here is a piece of blue sky, and here is another piece of
blue sky...

I would cover your body, your lips, with my body, my lips.
And you would not, could not resist, no more than the Bride of
the Rose could.

Did you understand that, Miki? Do you know that it wasn't
my hand that released the catch on the seat, so that it fell back
and let me bring my body down atop hers? She was the one at the
wheel, love; I, even garbed as she, had no power to stop her
resisting me. Have you learned the lesson now, sweet brother, or
must it go on, she your virgin and I your whore?

You wouldn't resist. I called you a coward, and you are; my
sweet, beautiful coward, because you could not turn your head
away and ignore the sight. Were I in your place, I could have,
easily, if winning had truly been what I wanted.

They haven't made you dirty yet. They haven't dragged you
down. And I won't let them. I'll die first. I'll kill them
first. I would probably kill you first, even, but I wouldn't be
able to live without you.

You'll come to me, Miki, in time. There's nothing in reason
against our being together, only useless taboo and pointless
prohibition. But I won't force you; not like they would. If I
wasn't here to protect you, they would drag you down and twist
you up and make you ugly.

You'll come to me in time, and I will cover you with kisses,
I will give you every pleasure I know how to give a man. I will
love you so much that it shall be like hate, like fire to consume
you; I will bite your lip to draw blood and swallow your screams
down into my throat. It will be so very beautiful, my sweet, and
I will show you your true heart and you will show me mine.

"Goodnight, Kozue."

"Goodnight, Miki."

All my dreams were full of those poor stupid helpless little
birds. But I'm not sorry, love; I'm never, ever sorry for any
thing I do.

END

Notes:

I've often felt I don't understand Kozue at all. I tried in this
story to develop such an understanding. To write in such a way
that I could see her as she might see herself; this, I think, is
one of the keys to good characterization.

I'm not sure if I understand her any better after writing this.
I can say that it was absorbing to the point where I occasionally
found myself aware of the feeling of being lost in the character;
it was not always entirely pleasant.

This is also the first story that I have ever written entirely by
hand before transcribing it onto the computer, and that
undoubtedly influenced the rather bare style; the far greater
speed (for me, at least) of composing at a keyboard encourages a
certain floridity of description that I think is lacking here.

This was written on the front steps of Sidney Smith Hall, in the
lobby of Victoria College, in the basement of Northrop Frye Hall,
in the second floor reading room of Robarts Library, and in the
dead times of various classes. God bless the University of
Toronto and their scheduling, which leaves me with far too much
time to kill before and between classes; at this rate (one story
in one week), it may do wonders for my production.

Ciao,
-Alan Harnum, October 5th, 2000