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This story is based on the epilogue that was added on after the credits at the end of the last episode of Kannazuki no Miko. I suspect that someone didn't like the ending as it was and so had this epilogue made. To set the scene, time has been rewound and the Chikane of the story has been erased from reality and from everyone's memories, almost. Himeko retains just a hint of a memory of someone special. Enough memory so that she turns down Souma's offer to date to wait for her special person. And it seems that Chikane did manage to get reborn, though under a different name and going to a different school. And she also retains just a hint of a memory of the last cycle. This story opens with the last scene of the epilogue...

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The disclaimer:

The characters of Himeko and Chikane don't belong to me, but since I'm not making any money off this please don't sue me.

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A Better World

I was just about in the center of the intersection when I looked up and saw a small scallop shell hanging from a gold chain. The shell looked exactly like the one I always wear. This reminded me of something I had once heard, but before I could recall just what it was, I looked up at the girl who was wearing the shell necklace. She was tall, strikingly beautiful, and very familiar. I was SO glad to see her! I lunged forward, filled with joy and threw my arms around her. After a timeless moment of pure pleasure, a thought crept into my head. Who is this girl? After several seconds of struggling, I realized I had no idea; then I felt a touch of panic. I've just done something stupid... again, I thought to myself as I jerked my head up off her chest and let go of her. I tried to pull back but couldn't. When I looked down I realized that the girl was holding me in a firm embrace.

"I'm sorry but I don't remember your name. Could you enlighten me?" The tall girl's speech was very clear and precise.

"I'm Kurusugawa Himeko, and I don't remember you either, and I'm very very sorry for bothering you," spilled out of my mouth. As we looked at each other, I felt awed by her beauty. Then I realized that she had released me already. So I backed up a respectful distance, bowed and apologized some more for my mistake.

"May I speak now?" The tall girl broke in when I paused to take a breath.

"Yes, of course." I replied feeling even more embarrassed.

"I'm Matsushita Sachiko, and I feel quite sure that I knew you at one time." She hesitated for a moment before continuing, "Perhaps when we were small children?"

"I don't think so; I only had one close friend when I was small. And he was a boy," I blurted out.

"Indeed. You will have to tell me just why that was. But first I think we should move out of this intersection before the lights change. I would very much like to speak to you further, if it wouldn't be too much trouble? Perhaps I could buy you a cup of tea?" I opened my mouth to politely decline and claim to be in a hurry so I could make my escape without any further embarrassment, but no words came out. "I see a place we can sit and talk right over there." As I saw her walking away from me I felt a stab of fear. I must not lose her! ran through my brain. So I hurried to catch up with her as she turned to see if I was following. As I continued to follow her I kept trying to figure out why I had suddenly hugged a stranger.

"There, now we can talk properly." She said with a pleasant smile. I found myself staring at Matsushita Sachiko's face, trying to place her, but still coming up blank. "Perhaps you can tell me why you greeted me so warmly if you did not remember me?"

"Uh... I'm sorry! I don't really know why I did that, please forgive me."

"I forgive you completely. After all, I embraced you as well. It seemed very natural though; as if..." she hesitated a moment before continuing, "As if we had done the same thing many times before." She spoke with such a gentle voice, and smiled such a friendly smile at me, I felt the embarrassment drain right out of me.

We then reviewed where we had each grown up and where we had taken trips, and found nothing. "Perhaps in a previous life?" She suggested, and since I couldn't tell if she was joking or serious I just nodded without saying anything.

By now I was totally sure that we had never met. There was no way I could have forgotten someone like Sachiko. She seemed too poised and self confident to be a real sixteen year old girl. But at the same time she was warm and gentle and friendly and... Just nice to be with. Although it sounded like her family must have money for her to have traveled so much.

Suddenly she looked at her watch and frowned. "I would love to talk with you more but I have a club meeting I have to attend." As she pulled out her cell phone and called someone, I felt a sudden cold chill inside. She would now leave, and I would never see her again. And I didn't want that to happen! I tried to think of something to say to stop her from leaving, but nothing came to me. Then I realized she had started talking to me again and I had missed it.

"What?" I said stupidly.

"I asked if I could have your phone number. So perhaps we could get together again sometime and talk some more?" I felt a great sense of relief; as if I had just been saved from a terrible fate. I quickly found a bit of paper and a pen in my bag and wrote my name and number on it.

"Here. I would really like hearing from you!" I think I sounded too enthusiastic, but she just smiled at me, looked at my number, and put it in her bag.

"And now I really must go. I'll be late as it is. I'll call you when I have some free time and perhaps we can arrange something?"

"Sure!" I smiled at her and followed her outside where she got into the back of an expensive looking car which then drove away. I guessed it was her mother picking her up. Well, they certainly did have money to afford a car like that. Then I stood around for a while, till I remembered what I had come to this street for; some new clothes.

As I tried to shop, all I could think about was Sachiko. Maybe it was just the way she looked and talked, but she seemed to be more than just a normal person. Like she was magical or something. I smiled when I thought about all the dreams I had had about getting carried off by a magic knight on a winged white horse. Well, this hadn't been that, but it certainly wasn't normal either.

Finally I had found a pair of shorts and a tee, like I wanted, and I was on the bus headed back to the school dorm, still thinking about Sachiko. I had not only grabbed her and hugged her, she had hugged me back! And was sure we had known each other. So it wasn't just all in my own head. Finally, something really Special had happened to me.

Well, perhaps it wasn't the first special thing that had happened to me, there was Oogami Souma. My room mate Mako-chan thought it was really something that the most popular boy in our school asked me to date him. But it didn't seem all that special to me. After all I had known Souma since we were children. He was was handsome and athletic and all that, but I was sure he wasn't the one I was waiting for. And I had to stay free for my prince.

---

"Who did you say you ran up to and hugged?" Mako-chan seemed really excited for some reason.

"I'm sure she said her name was Matsushita Sachiko."

"What did she look like? Did she have very long dark hair and blue eyes?"

"Yes, exactly. I didn't recognize her school uniform, but she is sixteen years old. Why are you asking like this? Do you know her?"

"Know her! Of course I don't know her! But I know of her! She is the celebrated princess of an old, prestigious, and very rich family. A woman of unrivaled beauty and intelligence, accomplished in both academics and athletics. Excelling in talent and leadership. Shita-sama is a beacon of excellence that is known everywhere. I've even heard that she gets love letters and proposals from both boys and girls every day!"

At first I was thrilled. She was indeed special, and I thought with a smile, somewhat magical if half the things Mako-chan had said were true. But then, if they were true, what was the chance of her calling a nobody like me and asking to get together? Very small, I realized. And it was a painful thought. I began to hope that she wasn't the same famous person that Mako-chan knew of, but just another high school girl that I could actually be friends with.
That night, I was still thinking a lot about Sachiko. I kept going over what had happened in the middle of that intersection and kept coming up blank. Her shell necklace had been the first thing I noticed. The thing it reminded me of was something my father had told me when I was very little. I had just found a pretty little shell that I really liked, and he said that somewhere in the world there is one and only one other shell just like the one I held in my hand. He later made me a necklace with that shell, which I still wore. But why when I saw Sachiko for the first time it felt like I had found a long lost sister or something, I didn't know. As far as I knew, I had been the only child of a middle class family. So we couldn't be sisters. What Sachiko had said about a previous life seemed like the only possibility. We were probably sisters a long time ago. Once I had settled this I kept worrying that I would never hear from her. I wished I had thought to ask her for her phone number. But once I had heard what Mako-chan had said, I would never have had the nerve to call her anyway. So it really didn't make any difference. Sometime after two in the morning, I finally dozed off. Only to be wakened by Mako-chan yelling at me. "HI-ME-KO!"

"What?" I mumbled. "Is it time to get up already?"

"I was going to let you sleep a bit longer but you have a phone call." I opened my eyes and saw that she had the room phone, and had her hand clamped over it. Suddenly it dawned on me who it might be.

No, I thought to myself, probably not... "Who-" I started.

"It's Shita-sama!" she said in a rather loud whisper. I tried to jump out of bed quickly but got my legs tangled in the blanket and fell face first on the floor. Without letting me even get up Mako-chan crammed the phone into my hand.

"Hello?" I asked as I tried to untangle from the blanket.

"This is Sachiko. We met yesterday? I'm very sorry to wake you, should I call back another time?"

"NO!" I yelped. "Uh... What can I do for you?"

"Remember I wanted to get together again?"

"Yes. Sure. Anytime," I babbled.

"I'm free today, so could I pick you up, perhaps?"

"Sure... Uh..." I had just remembered what day it was. Sunday. "Uh... I promised to go to the amusement park with my room mate and her friends today... uh. Would you like to join us?"

"Yes please, I would."

"Would it be okay if Sachiko-chan joined us?" Mako-chan looked startled for a moment then answered.

"Of course! We would be honored if Shita-sama would like to join us." Oops, I thought to myself. I guess I shouldn't have called her Sachiko-chan.

In a moment it was arranged. We would meet her at the park entrance at 10 am. After I hung up a warm glow seemed to spread through me. I was going to see her again.

I was ready to go by eight-thirty. To get to the park by ten we had to catch the nine o'clock bus. And Mako-chan's friends were famous for being late. But to my surprise, everything went smoothly and we arrived at the park at nine-forty. Ten minutes later Sachiko pulled up in her fancy car. The same lady was driving. And if Sachiko was the rich and famous one, then I expected the lady driving was a chauffeur and not her mother.

As she was getting out I felt excitement welling up inside me. As we got close, I had the urge to throw myself into her arms again, but this time I managed to hold myself back. "It's good to see you again," she started.

"It's good to see you too," I responded quietly. Then I just stood there and looked at her. She really was very beautiful...

"Won't you introduce me to your friends?" Oh, right. My friends. I had forgotten about them. But at least I did remember to say Matsushita-sama when I did the introductions.

"Are you the- Uh... I mean do you go to Sumisora high school?" Uzuki stammered.

"Yes I do," Sachiko answered with a smile and it dawned on me that this meant that she was indeed the famous Shita-sama. "And now that we all know each other, shall we go into the park?"

"Right," Yue called out, "I want to ride on the new roller coaster they have. You know, the one that has just seats with no car around you, and it goes upside down and everything. There it is over there!" And with that she headed for the ride. Everyone followed, with me last in line. Once I saw the thing, there was no way they were going to get me on it. I can just barely handle a regular roller coaster. It seemed Sachiko agreed with me as she followed me over to the benches.

As we waited for the others, Sachiko asked me about myself, and soon had me telling her funny stories that happened in my classes. She seemed to enjoy listening to me and I felt completely comfortable talking to her. We laughed together like old friends. I didn't realize until later just how unusual this was, as I am really an introvert.

Then, in what seemed like just a couple of minutes, the others were back and we went on to the old roller coaster. This time I gave in and Sachiko decided to go as well. The line seemed to go really fast. I guess it was because I was in no hurry to ride the thing. I thought about telling them I'd changed my mind, but I didn't want all the harassing I would get. And besides I didn't want to leave Sachiko.

We let her get on first. As soon as she was in, she looked at me and I quickly got in next to her. In just a moment I was listening to the clack clack clack as we started up. Then she leaned over and spoke into my ear. "Are you frightened?" I answered into her ear, trying to keep the others from hearing me.

"Yes! Very much! I wish I had stayed on the ground. I wish-" I was going to say that I wished that I had never come to the amusement park, but that would have been a lie. I was really glad I came, but only because Sachiko was there. As we got to the top my stomach was in my throat. That's when I felt her hand on mine. With her touch we locked hands with our fingers entwined. The movement seemed automatic and as soon as I had done it, I felt a warm glow spreading from where our hands were joined. My fear went away as the glow spread all through me. When I glanced her way, she was looking at me with a little smile. I smiled back as we headed straight down. All through the ride I felt excitement, but no fear at all. It seemed like nothing could bother me as long as I held Sachiko's hand.

The rest of the day I seemed to be smiling and laughing a lot more than I usually do. We went on a lot more rides, and ate lots of junk food and I finally remembered my camera. I love taking pictures and never go anywhere without it; and I really wanted some pictures of Sachiko. And it seemed like every time I looked at her she was smiling her beautiful smile at me. Which made me feel really warm and good inside.

Then all too soon it was time to go. To go back to the real world. I wondered if I would get to see Sachiko again. I hoped so. I wanted to ask her if we could get together again, but with everyone right there I felt embarrassed to. Sachiko was very quiet and seemed lost in thought as we walked back to the entrance. Her car was waiting there and I was so afraid she would just get in and disappear out of my life forever. I had to say something! "Sachiko-chan?" I called out and she stopped and turned towards me.

"Yes?" Then my mind went blank. I just looked at her with my mouth open for a second. But she saved me by continuing. "Could I give you all a ride to your residences? There should be plenty of room for the four of us in this car."

"Sure!" Mako-chan replied happily. "That would be a lot better than riding the bus." So Sachiko got in the front and we three slipped into the back.

After dropping Yue and Uzuki off at their respective homes, we headed over to the school dorm. As the car stopped and she turned around, I tried again, "Sachiko-chan?"

"Just a moment, please." She then smiled at Mako-chan and spoke. "I want to thank you for inviting me to join your little group today. I had a wonderful time. Now I would like to speak to Himeko for a moment?"

"Sure." Mako-chan said to Sachiko, then turned to me. "I'll see you inside." And then she was gone and Sachiko was looking at me with a thoughtful expression.

"Would it be possible for us to get together again?" she said hesitantly, and I felt like a heavy weight had just been lifted off me.

"Sure! I'd like that." I answered back happily. "Anytime you like."

"Thank you. How about Thursday after school? I'd like for you to come over to my house for dinner, if that would be acceptable?"

"Okay! I mean, I would be honored," I corrected myself.

"Good. What time would you be ready to go?" Let's see, I thought to myself, I had to finish any cleanup duties I might have, and then wash and change.

"I should be ready by five-thirty," I finally decided.

"Then I will pick you up, right here, at five-thirty, Thursday evening. Goodbye for now," she finished with her beautiful smile.

-
As I walked in from the street to the dorm, I felt excited and happy. I was going to see her again! It seemed like she really did want to be friends with me. Although why someone like her would want to be friends with ME I couldn't imagine. I walked back to my room in a daze and found Mako-chan waiting for me. "So, did she ask you for a date? Just the two of you, alone and romantic?" "No, stupid! We are both girls, if you noticed! She just invited me over to her house for dinner. I'll meet her parents and do some homework with her."

"Are you sure that is all she has in mind? After all, she couldn't keep her eyes off you all day. And you never got more than a meter from her and you were constantly taking pictures of her. You two were acting more like newlyweds than two girls who hardly know each other. I'm surprised that you weren't holding hands." I held back my angry response and thought about what Sachiko and I looked like to Mako-chan and the other girls. We were acting rather strange for girlfriends. Even stranger than Mako-chan knew.

"We were sisters in a previous life. That's all." I finally said.

"Listen Himeko, seriously now. It isn't really any of my business but if you do have a crush on her, that's okay. Lots of girls get crushes on other girls. It doesn't mean that they are perverts or anything. And, from what I hear, Shita-sama has a lot of girls sending her love letters. Maybe because she is so tall and strong and rides horses and things like that. Anyway; A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, had a really bad crush on another girl for months. But eventually she discovered boys and now she chases them quite normally. So it's nothing to be worried about. It doesn't mean you are strange. Just watch out for Shita-sama. She may in fact like girls more than boys. Don't let her take advantage of you. You'll regret it a lot later."

I was angry with Mako-chan for implying bad things about Sachiko, but she was a really good friend and I told myself that she was just worried about me. "Okay. I'll be careful. But you don't know her. She really is a wonderful person."

"Oh? Didn't you tell me yesterday that you had just met her? How could you know what kind of person she is? So she is polite. That doesn't mean anything. Some of the worse people I know are very polite."

"Are you saying she is a bad person?" I snapped at her.

"No! I'm not. I'm just reminding you that you don't know her as well as you may think you do. So, just use your head and think about what you are doing. That's all." I did think about Mako-chan's words, but deep inside I was sure that Sachiko would never do anything to hurt me.

It seemed extra hard, Monday at school. I kept thinking about Sachiko instead of paying attention, which was embarrassing when I got called on. And then at lunch Uzuki started in on me. "You seem to be really good friends with Shita-sama. How long have you known her?"

"I just met her Saturday. I hardly know her at all." I replied truthfully.

"That's not what it looked like." She said accusingly.

"I can't help what it looked like, I just met her on the street and we got to talking... And I invited her to go to the amusement park with us." I was beginning to feel uncomfortable with Uzuki's questions.

"So what is she like?"

"She is really kind... and polite... and fun." I said hesitantly.

"Well, you sure seemed to be enjoying her company. And she seemed to like you a lot too. And I had heard she has no friends and is impossible to get close to. So how do you explain that?"

"I don't know..." I was getting really uncomfortable now.

"That's enough!" Mako-chan cut in. "If you want to know why Shita-sama likes Himeko you will have to ask her yourself."

---

Tuesday morning before class started I heard someone exclaim, "Himeko-chan and Shita-sama!" from behind me. It was someone in one of the regular groups of girls that hung out and traded gossip. They must had heard about my friendship with Sachiko. And someone sounded surprised. Well, it WAS surprising. Particularly to me.

Then finally it was Thursday. But the school day just dragged on and on. And as I expected, I had clean up duty. I was glad I had allowed time for this.

But once I got back to the dorm it was still hurry hurry hurry. I really didn't want to be late getting ready. And I couldn't decide what to wear. After I had tried on the third outfit and put it back, Mako-chan just had to say, "Are you sure this isn't a date?"

"I just want to make a good impression on Sachiko's parents, that's all," I said firmly. Then I pulled out the first dress I had tried on and put it back on. This should do, thought to myself.

I made it out by the street at ten after five. I felt really excited. Then after a few minutes I realized I wasn't carrying anything. I practically ran back to our room and got my bag with my books in it. Mako-chan didn't say a word, she just gave me a little smile and shook her head.

At twenty after five, I was delighted to see Sachiko's car pull up. She immediately got out and held the door. It was embarrassing for someone of her status to hold a door for me! But I couldn't say anything, so I just got in and slid all the way over. And she was in jeans, which made me feel overdressed. "How are you doing? Did you have a good week?" she politely asked.

"Yes. It was fine..."

"So tell me all about it," she asked like she really wanted to know. And she looked interested too. So I went over my school assignments and complained about how hard math was. And that was about it. Other than homework, video games and watching TV, that was my life. "I must be boring you stiff," I finished.

"Not at all. I really am interested. I still feel like I know you from somewhere. Like we were close once. So you interest me. But here we are. This is my father's old home. He doesn't live here anymore but he doesn't want to get rid of it. It is terribly large for one person, but I'm used to it." The place was an estate, with an electric gate and everything. The house was really big. All white with a round turret-like thing on the left, balconies on all three floors on the right and a grand staircase leading up to an entrance that looked like a small Greek temple. And then it dawned on me that she said she lived alone here.

"Isn't it a lot to keep clean?" I mumbled stupidly.

"The house has a large staff, and they keep everything spotless." I had never known anyone with money like this. In fact I had never known anyone who knew anyone with money like this. "Dinner is ready now if you are hungry?" I was, and it turned out to be some kind of Italian pasta stuff that I couldn't remember the name of. But it was in a white sauce instead of the usual tomato sauce. I really liked it!

Over dinner I learned that she was the president of the archery club, and the music club, and she belonged to the tennis club besides. She must be magical to do all that, I thought to myself with a smile. And all those activities must leave her very little free time. And still she wants to spend time with me! That made me feel really special. But it got even better right after dinner.

"I don't know how you survived without a cell phone this long," she smiled, "but you don't need to suffer anymore. I have an extra one that you can have."

"That's very generous of you, but I really can't afford the monthly payments."

"No payments. The service I'm using right now covers two phones. So in effect the service on this one is free. So you may as well use it. That way I can call you anytime I want to talk. So you would be doing me a service by carrying it. Okay?"

"So what you are saying is that I can use this phone and it won't cost ANYTHING?" This didn't seem right to me.

"That is correct. Do you know how to use one of these?"

"I've used other people's but I don't really know what all the buttons are for." So, in a few minutes I had a crash course on cell phone use, including sending email. She even loaded her own cell phone number in the memory to show me how it's done.

"So anytime you want to talk to me, just hit this button and then this one and it will ring me. Okay?" It was so neat to think I finally had a cell phone! I had been sure that I was the only girl in Japan without one.

After dinner we did do homework, and Sachiko helped me with my math, which I really needed. After we finished, we laid around on pillows and watched a tape for a little while before it was time for me to head back to the dorm. I told her she didn't have to ride with me, but she insisted that she wanted to. As we rode in the back of her car talking, she asked me if there was anything I dreamed of doing but never thought I would do. "Sail on a boat. A real sailboat! Out in the ocean!" This got a big smile out of her. "What?" I asked.

"So how would you like to go sailing next Sunday? I just happen to have a boat that I love to go sailing in." Her laugh had to be because of the expression on my face.

"A real sail boat? With sails and everything?" She laughed some more before answering.

"A real sail boat. With real sails. It has a motor too, but that's only for getting in and out of the marina where I keep it. And Yuka- san here, who is driving us at this moment, is also a expert sailor. Much better than I am. Of course this adventure is dependent on the weather. She won't let me go out in questionable weather." So it was set. She would pick me up Sunday morning, and weather permitting, we three would go sailing! But then I remembered Mako-chan.

"Would it be okay if I ask my room mate if she wants to go? She is my best friend. Uh, I mean..." I felt my face go hot. Was Sachiko my best friend now? I wondered...

"That's okay. And of course you can ask your room mate if she would would like to join us. There is plenty of room on the boat."

But as it turned out, Mako-chan hates the water. She gets seasick. Of course she had to know all about my evening with Sachiko. So I told her and she seemed relieved that I hadn't been molested or anything.

And then the forecast for Sunday was thundershowers. I was disappointed but it was still a good day, because I got to spent it with Sachiko anyway. We walked around her dad's estate, and she showed me the whole house. I lost count of the rooms. Then later she showed me her closet. It was bigger than the room Mako-chan and I shared. I was fascinated by all the elegant gowns on one side. They reminded me of my childhood dreams of being a princess. As I was just about to touch one of them to see what the shiny material felt like, Sachiko spoke. "Want to try on some things?" I jerked my hand back and then realized what she had just said. "Uh, I shouldn't-" I said hesitantly.

"It's okay." She smiled warmly. "I think it would be fun..." For a moment it looked like Sachiko-chan was blushing. no, that's impossible I thought to myself. I couldn't imagine her being embarrassed.

Since she thought it would be fun, I quickly agreed. But then I realized there was a problem. Sachiko is not only a lot taller than me, she also has a much better figure. I look like a ten year old next to her. "But your things aren't going to fit me..."

"Not my newer things, no. But I haven't cleaned out this closet in a couple of years. Let's look at the clothes towards the back." I hesitantly pulled out a long gown in a light green print. It felt like chiffon over silk and looked really elegant. "That one should be about your size. I wore it at my party on my fourteenth birthday... That was the last time I played the piano for both my parents," she continued softly.

"I didn't know you played the piano! Can you play me something?"

"I would love to play for you. But we must be properly dressed for a concert. You put this on, and I'll pick out something for myself. The green gown felt like magic in my hands. I had never touched anything like it. "Hold still a moment and I'll unzip you." As I took my dress off I felt shy. I don't know why. I don't mind undressing in front of Mako-chan. Then Sachiko took the green gown and helped me into it. It poured down my body like it was liquid. Now this is what it feels like to be a princess, I thought to myself.

Once Sachiko had zipped me up I looked at myself in the huge mirror at the back of the closet. I hardly recognized the girl in the beautiful gown. I had never worn anything like it. Then I saw Sachiko undressing behind me. Her movements were so fluid and graceful, and her body was so perfect. As I watched her I felt a funny flutter inside, which made me look away from her and back at myself. Now if only my hair was properly fixed up and I was wearing some glittery jewelry I would really look like a princess, I told myself.

A moment later I realized I should be helping Sachiko into her dress like she did for me. But when I turned around she was already in long red gown with a full skirt. When I came over to her, she turned and held her hair out of the way as I tried to zip her up, but the zipper kept hanging up in the material. "I'm sorry..." I apologized as I tried see what was keeping the slide from moving.

"That's all right. Don't be in a hurry. Just relax and take your time." Her voice calmed me down, and in a moment I had the zipper up. As we looked at ourselves in the mirror I realized that she was the one who looked like a princess, not me. After we found some suitable shoes we went down to the music room where there was a magnificent grand piano.

I sat in a beautiful but not very comfortable chair as she sat down and began to play. It sounded heavenly to me. Even though I had never felt any interest in classical music before, I felt spellbound by the beauty of her playing.

Sachiko insisted we stay in our gowns for dinner, even though I told her how clumsy I was. So all through dinner I was so scared I would spill something I hardly tasted the food.

When I got back to my room that night, I felt like Cinderella after the ball. I fell asleep humming melodies I had heard that day for the first time.

The following Thursday, I again had dinner with Sachiko and did homework, and watched a movie. And had a wonderful time. Everything just seemed more fun when I was with Sachiko. Except math. That still wasn't fun, but it was less painful with the way she explained things. I thought she would make a much better math teacher than the one I had at school.

Then it was Sunday morning, and the weather was sunny with moderate winds. Perfect sailing weather! It seemed to take forever to get to the marina, even though Sachiko assured me that it was only an hour away.

---

Sachiko's boat was called The Tradewind and was smaller than the boats I had seen racing on television, but otherwise looked very much like them. I had been fascinated with the boats and how they leaned in the wind and cut through the water. It had looked to me like it would be really exciting as well as fun to ride on one of them. And now I was going to get my chance! I started taking pictures as soon as we were close enough.

---

As we motored out of the small boat harbor I just could NOT sit still. I went all around the boat and took pictures of everything. And, of course, more pictures of Sachiko. But then we passed the breakwater and the water wasn't flat anymore. The waves weren't very big, but it was like the sea was rolling. We started going uphill and downhill, and I got a little scared and sat down close to Sachiko. This wasn't anything like riding on a ferry boat.

When we were far enough out to raise the sails, I was feeling more confident, so I let Sachiko talk me into helping. It was neat! Then when Sachiko shut the motor off it got so quiet, all you could hear was the water hitting the sides of the boat.

Once the sails were adjusted, Sachiko let me steer and I sailed the Tradewind most of the time myself. Of course I just followed Sachiko's orders and she and Yuka adjusted the sails. But it was lots of fun! We sailed with the wind, across the wind and tacking into the wind. I only let her have the wheel back when we were going back into the harbor. I loved every minute of that day, and was really sorry when it was time to go back.

That night in my bed, I went over my memories of the day and marveled at what I had done. Something I never thought I would ever be able to do. Actually sail a real sailboat.

Then it was back to the real world of school. But I still couldn't resist smiling and laughing a lot, thinking about going sailing again. Even the whispers I kept hearing behind my back didn't bother me. Sachiko said we could go sailing any Sunday the weather was good. It was just so wonderful!

Tuesday at lunch I found out that I had been seen being picked up by Sachiko. Uzuki mentioned it. "What have you two been doing?" She asked with a funny smile.

"I went over to her house so she could help me with my homework."

"Oh really? And is that all you did?"

"We did watch some TV." I replied, feeling uncomfortable.

"Uzuki?" Mako-chan cut in sharply

"Yes?"

"Shut up about Shita-sama!" And to my relief Uzuki did.

---

Wednesday night, Sachiko called. "I have a suggestion. Instead of sending you out into the cold and getting you home late, why don't you just bring a bag and your school uniform and spend the night tomorrow? After homework we could lay in bed and watch TV and talk until we were ready to go to sleep. Then, Friday morning, I'll take you to school."

"That sounds wonderful to me!"

"If you want, I could pick you up right after school and you could use my bath. My father likes his bath, and had a really good one built."

"Sure! I'd like that! I'll call you tomorrow before school starts and let you know what time to pick me up."

But when I told Mako-chan about my plans for a sleepover, she wasn't pleased. And I didn't even say anything about Sachiko and I sharing a bath and a bed. "Just be careful. Don't let her take advantage of you. You are so innocent and trusting, you wouldn't realize she was seducing you until she had her hand inside your underpants."

"Mako-chan! That's nasty! I won't listen to you say bad things about Sachiko!"

"I'm just warning you to be careful. Being a little suspicious is a good idea. I'm just worried that she wants you for more than a friend, that's all." So I again agreed to be careful, when what I really wanted to tell Mako-chan was to mind her own business.

---

As it turned out I didn't have any cleanup duties Thursday, so Sachiko was able to pick me up early. At her house a uniformed maid served us tea and a big platter of all sorts of cookies and little frosted cakes. After we had our tea and talked a bit she showed me to her bath.

It looked very much like a public bath, with a room for hanging up clothes, a washing area and a huge hot pool to soak in. After we took off our clothes and hung them up, we put up each others hair. Sachiko's hair felt silky in my hands as I struggled to get it wound up neatly on top of her head. It took a while, but I managed. Then she put mine up in what seemed like just a few seconds.

I faced away from Sachiko as I washed. I felt foolish for making a point of not looking at her naked body. I told myself it shouldn't matter as we were both girls, but I still kept looking away.

She was just behind me as I walked to the hot pool, but when I looked up after sitting down, I found her sitting on the edge fastening up her hair where it had come loose. That's when I gave up and just stared at her. I was sure she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. As I watched her I felt my heart beating faster. She is so beautiful, I thought to myself, she even excites other girls. Or maybe I'm just weird.

---

Dinner was about 8 kinds of Chinese dishes. I liked all but one. Over dinner she asked me about something I said when we had first met.

"Why was it that you only had one friend as a child?"

"After I lost my parents I lost my friends too. All except Souma. I'm not sure just why. Maybe it was because my foster parents didn't give me much time for friends, and wouldn't let anyone come over for a visit. But Souma stayed my friend anyway."

"I didn't really have any friends either. Everyone was always very polite but they called me Shita-sama and were never really friendly. The closest thing I had to a friend was one of the maids. But enough sad talk, let's cheer ourselves up by doing our homework!" That did manage to get a laugh out of me.

Later on after all the homework was done, we got into Sachiko's huge bed, propped ourselves up on piles of pillows and started watching a movie on the big screen TV. When a scene came on where two sisters were hitting each other with pillows, Sachiko commented that she had never had a pillow fight.

"I've never had a pillow fight either," I admitted.

"So let's do it! We have plenty of pillows," Sachiko said with a grin. And when I said "okay," she hit me with one. In a few seconds pillows were flying and we were both laughing wildly.

Then there was just one left, and I had it. I just swung it without letting go and got in a couple of good hits before she jumped on top of me and grabbed my arms. She was heavier than she looked but I didn't mind her weight on me. In fact one of her thighs was laying between my legs and causing some strange but nice feelings down there. I was going to make a comment about about dirty fighting as she forced my arms back on the bed, but when I looked at her face I forgot to.

She had this wild look and it struck me again how beautiful she was. With her creamy skin, black hair, and deep blue eyes that seemed to sparkle, she took my breath away. My attention was drawn to her mouth. It was flawless like the rest of her. I continued to stare at her mouth as her face came closer. When she cocked her head slightly, I realized that her lips were headed straight for mine and I froze, unable to move at all. Then she was kissing me. And I didn't struggle a bit. I just closed my eyes and let the feelings wash though me. Then in what must have been just a couple of seconds, she jerked her head back and quickly rolled off me. As I laid there breathing hard, looking at the place where her face had been, it dawned on me what had just happened.

And I had LIKED it. That was the scary part. I rolled over then, away from the direction she had gone and curled up in a ball. I was trying not to think, but it wasn't working.

Mako-chan had warned me that something like this might happen. But she hadn't warned me that I might LIKE it. It wasn't like Sachiko had forced me. I could have just turned my head. But I didn't. I was just as guilty as she was. I was a pervert.

I didn't know what to say. What could I say? I didn't even want to look at her. I was afraid of what I might feel. She was quiet too. The only sound was the movie on the TV. I tried to figure out what was happening without looking. Anything to not think about what had just happened to me.

After another minute, I relaxed, and straightened out. Then I got out of bed, retrieved all the pillows I could find and went back to sitting up watching the movie. A minute later, Sachiko did the same. Neither of us said a word until the movie was over. Sachiko then picked up the remote and shut the TV off.

"It's eleven o'clock and we have school tomorrow. Do you want to go back to your dorm now?" Sachiko's voice was flat, revealing no emotion.

"Yes, please." I squeaked. My voice wasn't working right. "No! Wait!" I had just remembered this was suppose to be a sleepover, so she had given her chauffeur the evening off. "I'd rather stay, please"
"Are you sure? Yuka can be here in just a few minutes."

"I'm sure. I'll stay."

"Very well, then. Good night." She said in that same flat voice. Then she turned and left, closing the door behind her. A moment later I started crying. And I didn't know why! I just fell on the bed and kept crying for a long time. Finally it dawned on me that I was getting one of Sachiko's pillows all wet. So I got up, and went into the bathroom to get a towel. I put the towel over my pillow, turned the light on, on her side and turned my side off. Then got in bed and cried some more.

"Kurusugawa-sama! Breakfast is ready!" What! I thought to myself, No one had ever called me THAT before. Then I opened my eyes to see one of the maids. Oh yeah, I remember now. I had no idea what her name was so I just said okay and sat up. Sachiko's side of the bed looked untouched. Well, there were plenty of bedrooms in this huge house; she could have stayed in any of them. I wasn't sure if I was looking forward to seeing her at breakfast or not. I still didn't want to think about what had happened the night before.

She wasn't there. When I asked the maid who was serving, she said that Matsushita-sama had left early for school. Oh yeah. School. Think about school, I told myself. But I still felt sick inside and ate very little.

Yuka didn't say a word until we were almost there. "Would you like me to drop you off a little way away from your school?"

"Huh?"

"So you don't get asked a lot of questions about whose car this is?"

"Uh. Sure. Yeah, that's a good idea" They already knew that I was going over to Sachiko's house, but there was no reason to let them know I had slept there.

I concentrated on schoolwork and tried not to think about the evening before. This worked okay except for lunch time when I had to laugh and joke with Mako-chan and her friends. But I got through it, and then there was the evening. I started my homework as soon as I got back to our room. "Now I know something major is wrong!" Mako-chan started. "What is it? Have a fight with Sachiko?"

"I don't want to talk about it just now." I replied without looking up.

"That doesn't sound good. But I can wait a while. Still, sooner or later you need to talk to someone. And I'm here. AND I can keep a secret, right?" I just nodded and that seemed to satisfy her.

I took a long time to get to sleep. And I had nothing to do except think about what had happened. Has she done this before with other girls, I wondered. Was it a regular thing with her, looking for girls to play with. I knew guys who did that. Maybe she was like them. This started me crying again. I did it as quietly as I could so Mako-chan wouldn't hear. I tried to think about geometry. Trying to run through proofs in my head. It didn't work. Then I went back to some happy memories I had from my childhood. I remembered my real parents and how wonderful they had been...

---

Mako-chan didn't wake me in the morning so I slept late and then felt terrible the rest of the day. I was waiting for a call from Sachiko as usual, inviting me to do something with her. But I wasn't sure if I wanted it to come or not. Anyway, it didn't come. And I wasn't happy about it not coming. Again, I had trouble getting to sleep.

"HIMEKO! It's eight o'clock; is Shita-sama going to pick you up today?"

I looked at her sleepy eyed for a moment before I remembered. "No. I guess not." I got my robe on and headed for the bathroom and Mako-chan followed me.

"Have you two broken up?" She asked in the hallway. I thought about this for a while before saying anything.

"I don't know. Maybe. She didn't call me yesterday as usual." I told her as I went into a stall. I was glad Mako-chan didn't ask me anything else as a bunch of girls came in just then.

But when we got back to our room she wouldn't let up. "What happened between you two Thursday? Something really bad must have happened. What was it? Did she try to rape you? Is that it?"

This was getting close. And I did need to talk to someone. So finally I broke down. Okay, I will tell you, but you must swear that you will not tell ANYONE about this!"

"I swear. Remember, I haven't told anyone about Souma asking to date you, and you turning him down." This had to be true. If she had told either of her friends it would have been all over the school in a day. And I would have heard about it. So after taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly I began.

"We were pillow fighting, and she got on top of me, and then..."

"And then what?" She practically whispered.

"And then she kissed me."

"Oh, is that all? She was joking around. One of my friends did that to me once."

"No. It wasn't a joke. Or if it was suppose to be it didn't turn out that way."

"Why do you say that?" It was a while before I could speak and then it was just a whisper."

"I liked it. And I think she did too." I was looking at the floor, but I heard her desk chair squeak when she sat down.

"Oh... Are you sure?" This got a sad little laugh out of me.

"Yeah. I'm sure. I liked it a LOT." I heard Mako-chan take a deep breath before she spoke again.

"So how long did the kiss last? And then what did she do?"

"It only lasted a couple of seconds. And then she pulled back and rolled off me. And I rolled away from her."

"And then?"

"She left; no, she asked me if I wanted to come back here."

"And what did you say?"

"I started to say yes, but then I remembered that Yuka, her chauffeur had the evening off and I didn't want to have her called back in. So I stayed there in the bed room and Sachiko left. And I haven't seen her since."

"Not even Friday Morning?"

"No, she left before I got up."

"When she broke the kiss did she pull back gradually?"

"No. Very fast." Mako-chan smiled just a bit and nodded before continuing.

"Well, this is the way I see it. Either she was playing a joke and it backfired on her, or she found you so irresistible that she couldn't stop herself from kissing you. In either case she didn't mean to do it. And she was really embarrassed afterward. She was ashamed of what she had done and didn't want to face you."

"You really think it wasn't intentional?"

"Yeah, I'm sure. If she had meant to do it she would have kissed you a lot longer. And then she wouldn't have pulled back quickly; it would have been a slow pull back, and she would have probably tried to kiss you a second time. So I'm confident that what she did was almost as much of a shock to her as it was to you." I wanted to believe this. I really did. I didn't want to think of Sachiko as a scheming pervert. "Well, now do you feel any better?"

"Yes. Actually, I do. Thanks. Thanks a lot."

"You are very welcome! But now comes the question of what should you do now?" I nodded. That really was a good question. "And I have a suggestion. Tell Souma that you changed your mind and see if he still wants to date you." That was an interesting thought. "You don't want to make up your mind about just what you are until you have been properly kissed by a good looking guy. And he certainly fits this requirement!" I nodded with a little smile.

"True. And I think that's a good idea. But how am I suppose to tell him I've changed my mind? And what if he is serious about someone else by now? Maybe I should just leave a note in his locker?"

"No. Bad idea. LOTS of girls leave notes in his locker. And if some girl gets to his locker after you, your note is history. Girls do that sort of thing. Actually, I think guys do it too, but I don't have confirmation on that. So what you have to do is catch him alone, walk up to him and just tell him. And see what he says."

"But he is never alone! There are always people around him. He IS the most popular boy in the school after all."

"Well, I don't know why that should be a problem but you could just walk up to him and say you want to speak to him alone. He is an old friend of yours, and he wanted to date you, so he's sure to agree."

"But people will hear me!"

"Okay." Mako-chan sighed sounding rather exasperated. "What if I give your cell phone number to him and ask him to call you. That way you don't have to do anything but answer your own phone. Okay?"

"Don't let anyone know what you are doing. Okay?"

"I promise. I'll be really sneaky."

When my phone beeped at lunch time for a moment I thought it might be Sachiko. Then I remembered, and as I expected, it was Souma.

"Mako tells me that you changed your mind about dating me?"

"Yes. That's right." He sounded delighted. I guess he really did want to go out with me. So at five-thirty I was waiting out in front of my dorm. He showed up on his motor cycle five minutes later. "Feel like Chinese tonight?" This reminded me of the last time I ate over at Sachiko's and my eyes began to burn. A couple of tears seeped out but I ignored them.

"Sure, Chinese is fine." I tried to sound happy so he wouldn't think there was something wrong with me. We had plenty to talk about since we hadn't been together since grade school. It was nice, and for a while I didn't think about Sachiko. He really is a nice guy, I thought to myself. After dinner, we went to a movie. It was a comedy, but I don't think I laughed once. Then it was almost nine o'clock and he wanted to go dancing. "No. It's too late. I've still got homework to do. And, I have to get up early for school tomorrow."

"Well, how about we go out again Friday night? And go dancing?" That sounded interesting to me. I liked to dance.

"Okay. Friday, at five-thirty?"

"It's a date." He replied with a smile as he put his arms around me. This was it, I thought. He's going to kiss me. But then I realized that we were in a really public place. There were kids waiting for the bus and coming and going from the dorms. So I turned my head away and he let me go without a word. Then he just looked at me until I spoke.

"Good night."

"How about if I meet you for lunch on the roof tomorrow?" he asked.

"Okay, that's fine." And with that, I made my exit. Of course as soon as I got back in our room Mako-chan wouldn't let me alone. She wanted to know everything that happened. So I told her. As I expected she was angry with me for not letting him kiss me. "But there were people all around," I explained, "I didn't want to do it right in front of everyone."

---

The next day at noon I was up on the roof eating. Lunch was half over before Souma showed up. "I'm really sorry I'm late, but people kept catching me with club business and things like that."

"That's okay. I like eating on the roof anyway." We ate and talked a little and then lunch was over. All afternoon I kept thinking about Sachiko. Would I ever see her again? No, I had to see her. I still had her cell phone. So I had an excuse to see her. This was comforting. Maybe she would call and invite me over Thursday. Then a thought came to me. If she really had been embarrassed about... I had trouble even thinking about it. Maybe she is afraid to call me. Maybe she thinks I hate her! That was a horrible thought! I should call her. I really should. And tell her what? I didn't know. Did I want to spend more time with her? Or just give her cell phone back? It was just hard to think about.

So I wound up doing nothing. I knew I really wanted to call her. But what if I see her again and she kisses me again? My heart pounded at the thought and I felt a twinge between my legs. It was SO scary!

I ate lunch with Souma again on Wednesday and wasn't surprised when the whispers behind my back that afternoon had changed from "Shita-sama" to "Oogami-san". Then I got a nasty note in my locker telling me to "leave him alone and quit bothering him." It was funny but a little scary too. I was afraid jealous girls would do something worse than just leave me notes. Still, most girls seemed to respect the fact that I was now Souma's girlfriend and they didn't cluster around him anymore. It was an honor, I guess. But I didn't feel honored. I felt uncomfortable.

Then it was Wednesday night and I was missing Sachiko so much I just couldn't stand it. So I hid in some bushes and called her.

"Hello?" Her voice seemed to make me hurt even more.

"Hi. This is Himeko." There was no answer. "Hi! Can you hear me?" I repeated louder.

"Yes. I can hear you." Her voice sounded strange, not smooth and clear and confident like she normally talked.

"If you aren't busy tomorrow night..." My voice seemed to stick in my throat for a couple of seconds. "Can I come over?"

"Yes of course... I'll pick you up at the same time and place?" Her voice still sounded strange, like she was having trouble speaking.

"Yes. Perfect. Are you sick?" Another pause.

"No. Why do you ask?"

"Your voice sounds different... Maybe it's just the phone line. So, I'll see you tomorrow night."

"Yes. Goodnight Himeko" She finished kind of softly.

I did it! I was going to see Sachiko again. I felt a great sense of relief. That night I slept just fine; although I got up before Mako-chan the next morning. "Himeko! What's the matter? Are you sick?"

I looked at her and laughed. "No, I'm not sick. I just got up by myself, that's all.

"That's not all. Something has happened. What? Did you get a call from Shita-sama?" She knew me too well.

"No. I called her. I just HAD to see her again. So she is going to pick me up tonight." Mako-chan just nodded, like she was expecting this answer.

"Don't do anything you will regret. Okay? Wait till you have been kissed by Souma before you decide anything."

"Don't worry. I won't do anything. I just want to see her and talk to her, that's all.

It was a very very long day. Even lunch with Souma seemed long.

Then finally school was out. I washed and changed and was outside at five o'clock. Five minutes later I saw Sachiko's car stop a little way down the street. When I got there Sachiko was standing next to the car and smiling at me. Again, I had the urge to throw myself into her arms; even stronger than last time. But fear stopped me. I didn't know what exactly what I was afraid of, but I was afraid.

Still, it felt good to be back together again. But as we talked about school, and her club activities, she seemed different. Not as warm and friendly as she had been.

I was telling her about all the little things that had happened since I had seen her last when I thought about Souma. "I'm dating a guy now" I started. After a moments hesitation she looked at me and smiled.

"Good! It's about time. You are in high school you know. Who is he?"

"He's my childhood friend, Oogami Souma, remember I told you about him."

"Yes, I remember. Is he nice to you?"

"Oh yes. Very nice. Though I've only been out with him once."

"Are you going out with him this weekend?"

"Yes, Tomorrow night." She seemed pleased with this news.

The conversation over dinner was light, but Sachiko never laughed. She used to laugh so easily at the funny things I said. Then after dinner I grabbed my school bag and had just started to follow Sachiko upstairs when she surprised me. "I'll get my homework and bring it right down." Now she didn't want me in her room. It was like she was pushing me away. And it hurt.

After we did our homework, we watched TV for a while in a big room downstairs. And again, she was very polite but seemed distant. I thought a lot about what had happened last week and what was happening now. I was sure they were related. I remembered what Mako-chan had said about Sachiko being embarrassed. But she didn't seem to be embarrassed now, just distant. Like she didn't want to be close to me anymore. But she had let me come over. She could have made up any number of reasons why I couldn't. It just didn't make any sense to me. Then a new thought came to me. What if she felt really attracted to me, and she is ashamed of it. Now she is afraid to get close to me. Afraid of what she might do. That was scary. Maybe I shouldn't try to get closer to her...

That night I was back to having trouble getting to sleep. I tossed and turned for a long time. I thought a lot more but didn't come up with any new answers.

When I met Souma the next day at lunch he was smiling a lot. Then after a bit he asked me to confirm that I would be ready at five-thirty. That's when I remembered that I had a date with him. I was REALLY glad he had said something. It would have been horribly embarrassing to just not show up at the meeting place.

In spite of my cleanup duty, I was ready in plenty of time. I wanted to talk to Mako-chan about what had happened the night before but I hadn't found the time in the morning and now she was off somewhere with her other friends. So, at five-twenty five I went out to the street. Souma was waiting for me on a bench at the bus stop. Then we were off on his motorcycle and going rather fast, I thought, but I didn't think I should complain.

The restaurant was really nice. The food was good, but not as good as what I had had at Sachiko's. After we finished eating, it was too early for a dance club so we rode down to the sea and went walking on the beach. We took our shoes off, ran along the water and tried to splash each other. It was fun! Later we went dancing, and that was fun too. Souma is a better dancer than me, so I had problems keeping up with him, but it was really fun anyway. When we were both worn out we went back to the beach and just walked and looked at the moon and stars. Then he took me in his arms and kissed me. He seemed to be enjoying himself, but I didn't feel anything. Nothing at all. It seemed that I was a pervert all right. I felt like a condemned criminal. When he released me I sank down to my knees and began to cry.

"Himeko! I'm sorry! I shouldn't have done that. I'm really sorry!" Now he was down next to me and I felt really embarrassed, but I couldn't stop crying so it took a while before I could speak.

"No. It's not anything you did. You're very nice. It's just..." I realized I couldn't tell him the truth. That I was a pervert who only liked girls. So I just cried some more as he apologized some more. When I could stand, he took me home.

"I really did enjoy tonight. Honest! You were really nice." I tried to reassure him.

"I made you cry. That's not very nice. Is there any chance I can see you again? I'll make it up to you. Maybe Sunday afternoon?" I thought about this for a moment. No. I wanted to spend Sunday with Sachiko. So I just shook my head and left him there by his motorcycle.

That night was bad. I thought about my foster parents finding out that their adopted daughter is a pervert. They would probably say that they expected as much. And I SO wanted to prove myself worthy to them. Now that was impossible. Unless I pretended to like guys. I could do that. And get married and have children. Having children sounded good. And I would have to get married for that. So I guessed that was how my life was going to be. A loveless marriage, pretending to enjoy my husbands touch. And yearning for what? A girlfriend? No. Sachiko. She is the girlfriend I wanted. I think she is my prince. The one I have been waiting for. It felt right. Even though I had always assumed that my prince would be a boy.

I wondered again, just what she felt when she kissed me. Did she enjoy it? I hoped she didn't, for her sake. But I also hoped she did, for my sake. Now I needed to know.

The next morning I slept late but Mako-chan was still there when I got up. And she wanted to know every detail of my date with Souma. So I told her. Everything. "So that's it. I don't like guys, I like girls."

"How about me? Do you feel attracted to me? She asked firmly.

"No. Not really." I was kind of relieved at that. I think she was too.

"Do you find any girl other than Sachiko attractive?" I started to say no, but then I remembered what had happened in a public bath the year before.

"Yeah. I think I did."

"But you aren't sure." I shrugged and shook my head.

"So all I'm saying is don't give up on guys after only one kiss! Go out with him again." That made sense. Perhaps I was jumping to conclusions.

That evening I got a call from Sachiko. "Would you like to come over tomorrow?"

"I sure would! Do you think we could go sailing again?"

"We can unless the weather forecast changes. So how was your date?" I told her everything except about the kiss. "Do you like him?"

"He's lots of fun to be with." I answered honestly. I thought about saying, but not as much fun as you are, but I didn't.

"Would it be okay with you if I invited him to go sailing with us, weather permitting?" I hesitated, thinking about it before answering.

"Okay. That might be fun. We can make him do all the heavy labor!" So I gave her his number and we hung up. She called back in just a few minutes to say that it was all arranged.

I had a lot of fun that Sunday. Particularly at first when Souma was making us laugh with his clowning around and almost falling overboard. But then he settled down and seemed to be trying to stay as close to me as he could. It was flattering really. I mean, here was Sachiko, who is really beautiful, right there and he never tried to get close to her once. But then, on the way back he seemed more serious, almost sad looking, and he stopped putting his arm around me. He seemed to be just watching. Both me and Sachiko. I wondered what he was thinking.

On the way back in the car neither Sachiko nor Souma seemed to want to talk with me. So I gave up and we rode in silence. They both seemed to be acting strange.

Back at my dorm, I was watching Sachiko's car disappear into traffic when Souma put his arms around me from behind. It felt kind of nice as I was very tired. So I just leaned on him a bit and we stood there quietly for a moment. Then he spoke softly into my ear. "Would you cry if I kissed you again?"

"No. I don't think I would." I answered thoughtfully. After a moment he turned me around in his arms, tilted my head back and kissed me. He seemed to be really trying hard, but as before I didn't feel a thing. It seemed kind of stupid to me, but I wasn't about to tell him that. I did like him as a friend after all.

"Now, truthfully, did you enjoy that at all? Even a little bit?" He spoke softly. I wanted to lie to him, but there was a look in his eyes that seemed to be pleading for the truth.

"No. I'm sorry. I like you but not that way."

"That's what I was afraid of. So the stories are true, aren't they." This got my attention.

"What stories?" I demanded.

"I've heard that you don't like guys. That Shita-sama and you are a couple." I was so shocked, I couldn't say anything. I just stared at him. "Never mind. You don't have to answer. I saw the way you two look at each other." He paused for a moment. "And it's okay. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I still like you. And I wouldn't mind going out with you and Shita-sama again. It was fun." He took a deep breath before continuing. "Good night now. See you tomorrow at school. Will you still have lunch with me?" It took me a while to digest all of this. He thought Sachiko and I were a couple. And he still likes me and wants to keep having lunch with me.

"Sure. I'll still have lunch with you if you want to. See you tomorrow."

The thoughts kept rattling around in my head as I walked up to my room. Souma thought Sachiko and I were a couple and he didn't hate me. He said it was all right. I think that was the moment I completely gave up trying to be a normal girl.

When Mako-chan came back to our room I pounced on her. "I just found out there is a rumor that Sachiko and I are a couple. And that I don't like guys. So if you are so good at keeping secrets, how do you suppose it got started?" She didn't look surprised.

"I expect it was Uzuki. She likes to gossip. And the way you two acted at the amusement park was something to gossip about." I sighed. I had forgotten about that. "But don't worry about it. It's an old rumor now. You having lunch with Souma every day has made that rumor real hard to believe. Now everyone thinks you and Souma are a couple. Which hasn't hurt your status a bit." After a pause she continued. "So how did the date go? Did he kiss you again?"

I thought about it for a bit then told Mako-chan everything. She seemed disappointed that I wasn't attracted to Souma but amazed at Souma's attitude. "He must really like you a lot!" I nodded sadly.

That Monday at lunch time I called Sachiko and asked if she would make Thursday a sleepover. She hesitated, but she said yes! So I made up my mind. Thursday, I would find out if Sachiko wanted me the way I wanted her.

The next three days I felt like I was going crazy. All I could think about was Sachiko. I flunked a test and messed up my homework. I was late to school, and I forgot to meet Souma on the roof one day. My life was falling apart. Actually, I was falling apart. I wanted Sachiko SO much, and I was SO afraid of losing her. I kept reminding myself that she had kissed me once, and she didn't act like it was just a joke. I tried to believe that she really wanted me. But it just seemed too good be true. And I didn't think I could stand it if I told her I wanted her and she turned away, and wouldn't see me anymore.

---

When she came to pick me up Thursday, after school, she got out of her car and stood by it, just like she always did. Again, I got the urge to throw my arms around her; and I almost gave it to it. But then I realized that I could be seen by any number of people in this public place. So I just smiled and greeted her and got in. It felt really good to be with her. Just like it was before she kissed me and I got messed up. I wasn't afraid any longer of what she might do, or how I might feel about it.
---

"You can take your bath first if you like." She offered politely. She is trying to keep her distance again, I thought to myself. I almost agreed automatically but I stopped myself in time and took a deep breath.

"Why don't we take our baths together like last time?", I asked. She hesitated a moment then smiled as she said that would be fine with her if it was all right with me. As we were taking our clothes off I had an idea and blurted it out before I could lose my nerve. "Would you like me to wash your back?" Again she hesitated before answering.

"Only if you let me wash yours."

"Okay." That sounded good to me. So I soaped her back and ran my hands all over it. Her skin was really soft and smooth and flawless. Touching her was SO exciting. Then, after she rinsed, she gently and slowly washed my back. It felt so wonderful, it made me quiver all over. Once I was rinsed, we got into the bath and soaked for a while. I never took my eyes off her. I wished I had the nerve to put my arms around her beautiful body and hold her close. But I didn't. And wishing didn't help. I didn't even have the nerve to talk to her about my feelings. Later, I thought. When we are in bed together.

This time when she went upstairs after dinner she didn't say anything about me staying downstairs so I followed her to her room. As we were doing our homework she laughed several times at my comments about my assignments and my teachers. Things seemed to be back to normal between us and this made me very happy.

Once we were done with school stuff we got into her big bed and watched a movie she had on DVD. I got as close as I dared to her, but it wasn't close enough to touch. Then I was stuck again. I couldn't just tell her to turn the TV off so we could talk. So I waited until the movie was over and then pretended to yawn. "I've had enough TV watching for tonight, how about you?", I asked.

"Yes. I could sleep now." So she turned the set off as well as the light. And we were finally laying there in bed together. It was the perfect time for a very personal discussion. And I STILL couldn't do it! We did talk for a little while, then said our good nights. And there was no way I could sleep. I was so close to her. And I wanted so much to touch her. But I was just too scared. What if she got angry and stormed out of the room. I would be devastated. I had to tell her, and I couldn't! It was pure torment.

When I woke up in the morning, Sachiko was already up and dressed. I dressed hurriedly but I was still a little late to breakfast. Then in what seemed like just a few minutes she was dropping me off a little way from my school, and we were saying goodbye and see you Sunday. I felt very ashamed of myself. I was such a coward. I didn't deserve to be with Sachiko. I wanted so much to talk to someone; but the only person that I could talk to was Mako-chan, and I wouldn't be alone with her until after school. So I just concentrated on my school work.

When I finally got back to our room after school, Mako-chan was already there, and just about the first thing she did was ask me about my evening with Sachiko. "It was just frustrating. I could not work up enough nerve to talk to her about my feelings!"

"Well, if you are sure of how you feel, then you need to tell her."

"I know! But I just can't! What if she doesn't feel the same? What if she thinks I'm disgusting and never wants to see me again?" It was too horrible to think about.

"If she doesn't feel about you the same as you feel about her, then you would be better off to break up. There would be no future in your relationship."

"That may be true, but it's a truth I can't accept right now. Maybe in time. If my frustration doesn't kill me!" I finished as I fell backwards on my bed.

Saturday, Mako-chan, Uzuki, Yue and I went shopping, and had a really nice time. I hardly thought about Sachiko all day. Then, when we got back, She called and I felt a thrill run though my body at the sound of her voice. The weather didn't look good for sailing, but she would still pick me up at nine in the morning. A perfect ending to a perfect day, I thought. I was still frustrated, but I decided I could live with it for a while longer. I had no trouble getting to sleep that night.

The next morning I went out at a quarter to nine and found her waiting for me. I took a quick look around, and when I didn't see anyone, I hugged her close. When I felt her arms close around me firmly it was like heaven. I realized I had been wanting to do this ever since I hugged her there in the middle of that street intersection. I didn't want to let go, but I also didn't want to risk getting seen. So after a few wonderful seconds I did let go and got into the car. I waited to see if Sachiko would comment on my grabbing her like that, but she didn't said a word about it.

After breakfast I asked her if I could try on some more of her clothes. She seemed happy at my idea so we went up to her room. There were so many and I had only tried on the one before. I had on a pretty green dress and was checking out different shoes with it when I lost my balance in the high heels and stumbled backwards against the arm of the big chair Sachiko was sitting in.

On a sudden impulse I pretended I couldn't stop myself and I wound up sitting cross ways in Sachiko's lap. It was suppose to be a joke but when Sachiko put her arms around me, I forgot about laughing. I turned and put my arms around her neck as her arms tightened around me and pulled me closer. Her face was getting very close to mine and I knew what I wanted. Then as I tilted my head slightly to line up my lips with hers, her arms suddenly went slack. But mine didn't. She shook her head slightly but didn't turn away. I didn't hesitate, I just kept tightening my hold on her until our lips met. I closed my eyes and lost myself in the wonder of the kiss. It was so sweet, and so thrilling, I could hardly stand it. The thought of Souma's kiss crossed my mind and was tossed aside. No comparison. Her arms were now holding me tightly again, and I heard or felt a faint moan coming from her. The sound seemed to increase my excitement until I felt a spasm shake my body. Then an odd thought wandered through my mind. I was kissing the great Shita-sama, beacon to the world, as Mako-chan had referred to her. And she was kissing me back.

We kept kissing until I felt a pain in my neck. I guess my head was at an odd angle and I was straining something. I slowly loosened my arms and I felt Sachiko do the same. I pulled back enough so I could roll my head around and try to loosen up my sore neck. Then I looked at Sachiko's face, and noticed something on her cheeks. She was crying.

"What's the matter?" I whispered to her. It was a moment before she answered in a choked voice.

"Nothing. Nothing at all." Then she pulled my head down and we kissed some more. When I felt my neck start hurting again, I slowly pulled back, twisted around and got up off her. I was stiff and breathing hard.

"Wow." I said quietly.

"Are you sure you know what you are doing? What about Souma?" She sounded worried.

"Yes. I'm quite sure. Souma kissed me twice. And he did his best. But I didn't feel a thing. I don't like guys that way; just girls." It was surprisingly easy to admit now. How about you?"

"I've known for some time that I liked girls, but I've always resisted it because I also like guys. So I thought when the right guy came along I would be satisfied with him. But now, all I want is you, Himeko."

"Good! Because all I want is... to be yours." Now I had tears on my cheeks too. "And if I am going to cry I had better get out of this expensive dress." She agreed and unzipped me. As she hung up the dress I walked over to her and when she turned she found me very close. And she didn't disappoint me, she took me in her arms and we just clung to each other for a minute or so. It just felt SO good and SO right to be in her arms.

"Let's take a bath." She said softly. I agreed and in a little while we were sitting in the bath, holding hands and gazing at one another. Just then a question came to me. "When we were pillow fighting and you kissed me was that suppose to be a joke?"

"Oh no." She shook her head. "I knew that I liked girls. I would never kiss a girl as a joke, I might like it. And she might realize that I liked it. No. I just lost control. Which is a real rare thing for me. I've always prided myself on my self control. But when I got on top of you, and looked down at your smiling face, the feelings inside broke loose and took over. I wanted you SO much."

"What really shocked me was that I enjoyed your kiss. I enjoyed it a lot. And that was something I just couldn't deal with," I explained.

"I was shocked too. By my own behavior. I was completely sure I had just made the worst mistake of my life. That I had lost my chance to be friends with the one person I really loved being with. So I locked away all my feelings. I told myself that it didn't matter. I would just go on with my life as if I had never met you. But I found I couldn't. I kept seeing your bright smile and hearing your sweet laughter in my head. It was making me crazy. When I got your call I just froze up. That's why I didn't answer you right away, I couldn't speak. Then when you asked if you could come over again I felt like I had just sat down in a hot bath and it melted all my stiffness. After I hung up I dropped to the floor right where I was and cried for a long time. I was SO relieved. But I was still worried that you might be a little afraid of me." Until last Wednesday when you called and asked for a sleepover; that sounded to me like you had completely forgiven me and wanted to start over. I felt really good. But then you seemed uncomfortable all that Thursday evening and I was again worried that you were still afraid of me." I chuckled and explained.

"Actually I wanted so very much to tell you how I felt but was afraid to. Afraid that you wouldn't want to see me again." After a couple of wonderful kisses, she continued speaking.

"Then today when you hugged me before getting into the car I nearly cried again. You seemed completely comfortable with your arms around me, and it felt so very good to hold you for that moment. When you fell into my lap, I lost control again and started pulling you toward me. But this time I caught myself in time and was just about to force a laugh when I realized that you were pulling me closer. It confused me for a moment, then I realized that YOU were going to kiss ME. I think my heart skipped a few beats. I know I stopped breathing for a while. My wildest dream had just come true." This was a good time for a kiss, I decided, so I kissed her.

"I couldn't tell you last Thursday but I can say it now. I love you, and I want you. I just want to be with you always."

"I love you too, Himeko. More than I thought I could possibly love anyone." I decided this called for more kisses. Sachiko seemed to agree. Then when we took a break from kissing she spoke. "Would you like to move in here and live with me?"

"Oh yes! That would be perfect!" I quickly answered.

"So when would you like to move?"

"Uh. Now?" I could hardly wait. To see Sachiko every day, and sleep with her every night. It was such a wonderful thought, I started crying. So I just clung to her, and dripped tears on her shoulder for a while. I never thought my life could possibly get so good.

I had to talk to Mako-chan before I moved out, so I went and got my cell and called the room. But she wasn't there so I called her cell and found out that she was on a date and wouldn't be back until late. "So what did you need?" She asked.

"I just wanted to talk to you, that's all."

"Not bad news, I hope."

"No. It's just that I'm going to move in with Sachiko."

"Oh! Okay. I kind of expected this would happen." We'll talk tomorrow, okay?" I agreed and we hung up.

"So I guess I won't be moving in today. Maybe tomorrow?" I asked Sachiko.

"Okay. I don't see any reason why we can't move you over here tomorrow. So what do you want to do now?" What came to mind made my face get hot as I looked down at the floor. "Well, then let's just dry off and see what we feel like..."

After a cold drink of juice we walked back to her room. All the way I clung to her hand and felt both excited and scared. What would she want to do, I wondered? All sorts of perverted thoughts ran through my head. But if it was Sachiko, I decided, they wouldn't seem perverted at all.

---

An hour later, after a shower, we were getting dressed and we started talking about what would happen when it got around school that I was living with her. We figured rumors about us would no doubt come back, and this time everyone would believe them. And Sachiko was worried I would get harassed and lose my friends.

"But the only real friend I have is Mako-chan. And I won't lose her. At least I don't think I will. I'm not sure about Yue and Uzuki, but I'm not close to them anyway."

"I still don't want you to be harassed. There are some people who get very nasty towards people like us. And not just students either. I think we should keep your living with me a secret."

"Okay. Whatever you say." Of course Mako-chan knows but she won't tell anyone. And I don't think Souma will say anything either. He seems very protective of me."

"Now we need to come up with a story to explain why you are moving out of the school dorm." I had barely started thinking about the problem when Sachiko continued speaking. "Have you talked to anyone about your relatives? Like aunts and uncles?"

My relatives, I thought to myself. "I've talked with Mako-chan about my family, or lack of family actually."

"Anyone else you can think of?"

"No... I really don't think so. I don't like talking about my family."

"Good. Then no one should think it odd that your Aunt has asked you to move in with her and her husband." It took a second for me to get it.

"Okay, but someone would have to come to my school and confirm who they were and where I would be living."

"I was thinking we could move in with Yuka and her husband and she could pretend to be a relative of yours."

"Do you think she would do that?"

"She may. She generally treats me more like her daughter than her employer. I suspect she would enjoy having me live at her house where she could make me do chores." she finished with a chuckle.

"Okay, but do you really think it's necessary?", I asked.

"Perhaps not. But I plan to do everything I can to protect you from those who would harm you."

---

Yuka met us in the dining room for lunch and after Sachiko explained what we needed Yuka didn't hesitate at all. "I would be honored to have Sachiko-sama and Himeko-san share my home with me and my husband. And also honored to pose as Himeko-san's aunt. We do have a spare room, but our house is very modest. You may not find it acceptable. So would you like to inspect it after lunch?" Sachiko agreed and soon we were on our way to Yuka's house.

---

The house didn't seem all that modest to me. It was as big as my foster parents house. So after some tea and conversation Yuka took us upstairs. I thought the room was beautiful. It had a lot of windows and even a small balcony. And it's own bathroom with a shower. It wasn't as big as Sachiko's room, but it was bigger than my dorm room. "This used to be our room until my husband's knees started bothering him. Now we spend nearly all our time on the first floor." Yuka informed us. We agreed that the room was perfect then Sachiko had an idea.

"Could you ask Souma if he would help you move? I don't want to use Yuka because she has already been seen driving me, and Yuka's husband doesn't get around very well. He does have a van he will drive, but we need someone to carry stuff up and down stairs."

"Okay, I'll ask him tomorrow."

"How about just calling him on your cell?" She suggested.

"Oh. Okay. I forget I have this thing." So I called and found that Souma would be happy to help me move. Once that was settled we headed back to the mansion.

---

Time seemed to go by so quickly when I was with Sachiko. It seemed like only a little while before I was back at the dorm. Mako-chan was already in bed but not sleeping yet. "So tell me all about it? Did you finally tell her?"

"Sort of. I didn't actually tell her, I kissed her. And she figured it out."

"You just went up to her and kissed her?" Mako-chan sounded astonished.

"Well, not exactly." So I told her how it happened.

"And then what?" But no, I thought to myself, I don't need to tell Mako-chan everything. I wasn't ashamed of what I did, but it was just too private.

"That's all I'm saying."

"You did it then! With her." I picked up a book and tried to ignore her. "How was it? Was it good?" I felt my face go hot but I continued to say nothing. "WELL?" She insisted as she pulled my book down.

"It was fantastic." I finally blurted out. She smiled and nodded.

"I've heard that lesbians have more fun. They know how to do it properly. You know, sometimes I wish I was one. Guys are generally such jerks. And Shita-sama is really beautiful." I just had to smile as I nodded. "But I guess I'm stuck with guys," she continued. "Say, how about letting me have Souma when you aren't using him?" We both laughed but I got to thinking. I decided I would ask Souma if Mako-chan could have lunch with us. He might even like to go out with her. I had a hunch she would like that a lot.
---

The next day at lunch I asked Souma if Mako-chan could join us. "I don't think that's a good idea.", he replied, "I've been through this before. As long as I have lunch with only one girl, I'm mostly left alone. But if I let another one join us, it isn't long before I have the whole fan club." I nodded and smiled but I was sad for Mako-chan.

---

The move went okay except for Souma dropping my little CD player. Leave it to guys to try to carry too many things at once. He was really sorry but I told him not to worry about it. I figured I wouldn't need it since I was sharing a room with Sachiko. And I was right. When we got there we found the room was nearly filled with boxes of new stuff including a home theater. And the bed was all set up and fixed with new linens I was happy to see. I was tired and was happy that we had a place to sleep anyway. There was just a shower upstairs but they did have a small hot tub downstairs that we could share. And it felt really good after the move. Sitting in the tub with Sachiko, it finally dawned on me. I would be living with her from then on. We would spend part of each day together, and sleep together each night. It was SO fantastic!

---

Now Yuka and her husband Unjio treated us like we are their own children and I loved it. Sachiko complains about helping around the house but she always smiles when she does. It's the closest she had ever come to being part of a normal family and I think she missed that growing up. And now she enjoys it even if she won't admit it.

Sachiko and I are careful to act like sisters when we are out and anyone is around. It's only when we are alone at home that we relax and openly display our affection for each other. I was uncomfortable with showing affection around Yuka and her husband at first, but relaxed after they assured me that just like they openly displayed their affection for each other in front of us; we should do the same in front of them.

Each school day I walk down to the main street and catch the bus to school, while Yuka drives Sachiko to her school. I miss being able to sleep in until the last minute and then just get dressed and run across the street to the school building, but it is well worth it to be living with my beautiful Sachiko. And besides on those days when I'm really running late Unjio-san drives me to school in his old van.

Sachiko takes me to expensive stores and buys me really nice clothes for when we go to fancy places. And I take her to my favorite stores on the bargain street with me and help her pick out some regular clothes for when we go to normal places like the amusement park or the arcade.

Sometimes, I invite Mako-chan and Souma to join us, hoping that they might get interested in each other; but it hasn't happened yet.

Sachiko has her future all planned out now. The next two years of high school she is going to drop two of her clubs so we can have more time together. Then after she graduates, she is going to go to Tokyo University to get a degree in business. Once she has that, her mother is going to bring her into the garment business she runs and in time she will no doubt end up taking over the business herself.

I'm not at all sure about my future. Except for the fact that I will be spending it with my beautiful Sachiko. And that is the only really important thing to me right now.