Does she think I don't know?
I see the pain in her eyes. I see the weariness in her step. I hear her climb the stairs well after she should be in bed. I hear the whispered conversations taking place behind her door.
I may not understand her entirely, but I understand enough.
She is still a child but she no longer belongs solely to me. She belongs to the world now and I would never deny the universe her shining light.
I knew something was different early on. She became slightly more solemn. Most people would never notice such a minute change, but she is my daughter. I know every freckle, every hair, every mood.
She seemed so lonely at first, until suddenly she had four new friends. The girls were together at all times. I was especially happy about her friend, Ami. Perhaps this girl could influence my daughter to take her studies more seriously.
My darling child remained the joyful, exuberant young woman she had always been. However, when she thought nobody was looking, she would become pensive and quiet. Teenagers brood, but my instincts told me this was different. She wasn't pining away over an upper classman. This was serious.
I was hard on her at first. I knew she was keeping a secret from me and I resented it. We had always been so close when she was younger. I didn't understand why she had shut herself away from me when she obviously needed support.
We fought about her grades mostly. She was always a good kid. She never gave me much ammunition to use against her, but her grades always needed improvement. I could use her performance in school to vent my frustrations about her behavior.
I'm sure she assumes I simply gave up on her. I still chide her about her school work occasionally but only to keep up appearances. No matter what, I know we have to appear like a normal family.
She came home one winter day with a 42 on her exam. "Try better next time," I sighed.
She eyed me carefully, waiting for a sign of my impending wrath. After a few moments, she was smart enough not to question me and left the room with her crumpled test. She never asked why I hadn't screamed at her or at least grounded her.
Two nights before she brought home her test, I had overhead a conversation not meant for my ears.
She was talking to her cat. I stifled a chuckle as I heard her address the feline. I still thought of my daughter as a child but she was too old to be playing make believe with her pet.
I was about to continue past her door when I heard someone reply to her question. It was a voice I didn't recognize. I didn't want to spy on her, but I was curious. I had met all of my daughters friends and I was hurt that she had not introduced me to this one. I reached for the door knob and slowly turned it. I soundlessly cracked open the door and peered inside.
Peaking inside, I could see her back to me. At least she wouldn't catch me spying on her. I strained my eyes to see through the crack of the door. I saw nobody else in the room. Perhaps my daughter had been answering herself. Perhaps a mental illness was to blame for her recent behavior. I felt dizzy at the thought of my precious child being sedated and strapped to her bed.
As I was pondering how she had changed the timber of her voice so much, I heard the voice again.
"Don't forget our training session tonight," the voice demanded.
My daughter turned so that I could see her profile and actually rolled her eyes at her cat. "Of course I won't forget," she replied with a huff.
My eyes widened as they traveled from my daughter down to the cat sitting on her bed. "I'm sure you won't forget as long as you stay away from the arcade," the cat said with a smirk. Yes. A smirk.
The cat had spoken. The voice had matched the movement of its mouth perfectly. My daughter was not speaking to herself. She was not insane. I was elated that she only had a talking cat instead of a mental disorder. The fact that a talking cat was hardly normal had only begun to sink in.
"Quiet, you furball," she seethed as she pointed a finger in the cat's face, "Anyway, why can't I have a little fun?"
The cat stared at her as it simply stated, "Because saving the world is a full time job. Nobody ever told you that being a sailor senshi would be easy."
I held my arms in front of me as I backed slowly away from the door. So that was it. This was the secret my daughter had been keeping from me. Her late night entrances made sense now. She overslept every morning because she had been awake fighting monsters most of the night. Her four new friends were the other senshi. They had bonded quickly just as soldiers bond during a war.
I wrapped my arms around myself as these thoughts flooded my mind. I could not reconcile my gentle daughter with a warrior. I still can not. There is still much that I do not understand about her.
After I discovered her secret, I distanced myself. It was the most painful thing I have ever done, but it was necessary. She needed to be able to sneak out of the house at a moment's notice. She needed to be able to catch up on her sleep instead of studying. She needed to think she had kept her secret safe.
I try to avoid her in order to keep myself from grabbing onto her and confessing what I know. There must be a reason she never told me. I won't interfere. I will keep her secret. I will stay out of her way.
I know she thinks I don't care. Nothing could be further from the truth. I care so much that I can barely stand to be near her. The pain is too much for me. I am not as strong as she is. I can not look at her without realizing every time that it may be the last time I see her.
Never once have I thought of keeping her from fighting. I know what these brave girls do. I would never keep my daughter from her destiny. I do not have a normal daughter as other mothers do. My daughter exists to ensure that the normal daughters of normal mothers get the chance to fulfill their own destinies. My daughter keeps these normal girls alive.
Again, I see the pain in her eyes and the weariness in her step as she walks in the front door. I watch her as she begins walking up the stairs to her bedroom and avert my eyes when she looks my way. I know she has just fought and I can't look her in the eyes without crying. "Good night, Mom," she whispers because she doesn't think I'm listening.
"Good night, Minako," I whisper in return.