Hello again, readers! I know I have been lost for quite some time but finally I come back with the final chapter to this Sachiko/Yumi saga. This was really a long, long process, but better late than never, right? I have developed such a fondness for Marimite and it's characters that I would love to continue writing fiction from the series. So if you have any ideas for pairings, just let me know, or even if you have another anime that you would like me to explore, I would love any suggestions and feedback.

I leave the end of the chapter the way it is (and you will understand soon what I mean), because I'm going to delay ending this fic a little longer and add a long detailed epilogue to the story. So never fear, I'm not quite prepared to cut the umbilical yet. I'm really sad that this is drawing to a close, because I loved working on this project so much. I just wanted to thank everyone who reviewed and sent me their praise, I don't deserve it at all, but I'm so grateful that my story is appreciated by so many readers.

Once again, thank you everyone. And enjoy.

Disclaimer: Never have, never will.

With the Mind

Chapter 11

It's a cold, gray winter day, not too unlike the previous day, or the one before that. Wind whistled through the bare branches of dormant trees, made them sway ever so slightly. It was, seemingly, an ordinary day.

But it wasn't a normal day. Sachiko knew in her heart of hearts that it wasn't. It was the beginning of something new, something unknown, but hopefully, something wonderful.

She showers and dresses like it was any other day. Her conversation with Suguru flashes through her mind, replaying itself over and over again. Instead of going down to the kitchen, instead of starting work on her paper for her creating class, she puts on her coat, and goes outside. There are more important places to be than in the house today.

It's cold outside, but she doesn't really care. She wraps her coat around her tighter, then reaches out for the mail that is tucked in the small box by the front door. She flips through the letters quickly, mostly bills and advertisements. One is addressed to her, though, a handwritten envelope not all too unlike the one she received from Yumi all that time ago. The handwriting is not hers, though, and the address is one she has never seen.

She looks up as she hears the car tires screech to a halt in front of the steps, and the driver emerge and scramble around to the back door. As he opens the door for her, she can feel the man watching her face.

"Are you okay, madam?" he asks politely.

"Yes, I'm fine," she responds politely. "I just need to go for a drive. Clear my head."

The man nods, and she climbs into the waiting vehicle.

She spends over an hour driving around, thinking. Just thinking. Yumi is still in class, and Sachiko needs to clear her mind. The car winds through a few roads in the countryside, then back into the controlled chaos and concrete of the city. She wishes, momentarily, that she were back in her parent's summerhouse. In the evenings, when the house was quiet, and the insects buzzed in the twilight, all other things seemed to go away, even the family situations seemed far away. The quiet wasn't a lonely quiet, but rather a comforting one, and she couldn't explain it.

There was that summer, too, when Yumi came with her to the house. There was that. Sachiko smiles inwardly, recalling sitting on the porch, reading a book, the even breathing of her petite soeur just a few feet away, smooth cheeks flushed in the summer heat. Sachiko sighs.

Surprisingly enough, she is calm. She had imagined that a day like this would bring a pounding heart, rushed breathing, a lump in her throat. But her throat is clear; her breathing is slow and even, her mind is clear.

What were they going to do, she and Suguru?

Sachiko had an idea, just as she was sure that her husband had ideas as well. She had often swirled the thoughts in her head, especially on the nights she had to sleep without Yumi by her side.

She imagined this big family confrontation, where she and Suguru sat their parents down in the living room of their house and calmly told them the situation. That they were each in love with different people, and they were tired. Tired of lying, tired of pretending, tired of going through the motions of a normal marriage. Their marriage was far from normal, and Sachiko didn't care if the world saw that or not. The only thing that mattered was that she could be with Yumi, and he could be with Koichi.

Suguru's parents would more than likely react badly to the news, for mostly economic reasons: the marriage between their son and their niece had no doubt been extremely beneficial for their family. She wasn't really sure how her parents would react. She imagined blank, unbelieving stares from each of them. They had raised her with the best possible schooling. She was smart, obedient, and polite. Everyone would say that she was the perfect young lady.

What, then, would they do?

Divorce was almost impossible, and she knew that. But maybe, just maybe, she and Suguru could live their lives in the open, with the ones they loved, without having to worry about societal and family repercussions. She knew that it wouldn't end in a perfect fairy tale ending, but then again, she never really believed in fairy tales in the first place.

You make your own happiness.

She wants to see Yumi. She reaches into her pocket to help keep it warmer and her fingers brush the letter that had been delivered to the house that morning. She turns it over thoughtfully in her hands a few times. No name, just her address and a return address. Finally, she turns the envelope over, uses the fingernail on one hand to break the seal.

From the envelope she draws a small, thin piece of paper, with handwriting she hasn't seen in years.

Sachiko,

Was moving out of my apartment last week, found two copies of this photo, which means this one must be yours. Say hello to Yumi for me. This is my new address on the envelope, so write me back.

Youko

Sachiko smiles widely, and pulls out the photo from the envelope.

It's a picture of the entire Yamiyurikai, taken during her 2nd year at Lillian High School for Girls. At the table sits Torii Eriko, chin tilted to the side, eyes sparkling with warmth and mischief, and next to her, Sachiko's grande soeur, Mizuno Youko. Sachiko feels a wave of feeling rush through her at the sight of her beloved friend, her kind eyes and hands neatly folded in her lap. Standing directly behind them, Sato Sei, eyes twinkling, one arm raised in the victory hand sign, the other slung across her petite soeur's shoulders. Todo Shimako, smiling her gracious, shy smile, eyes slightly turned upward to look at her grande soeur. To their left, the smiling faces of the cousins Hasekura Rei and Shimazu Yoshino, Rei hugging the smaller girl to her side and Yoshino raising her hand in a slight wave. It had been so long since she had seen most of these girls, her classmates and true friends, all of them. She wasn't even sure where Eriko was, and she hadn't talked to her classmate Rei in too long.

And then there, at the very right of the picture, is Sachiko and Yumi, side by side. Yumi is smiling brightly, her wide expressive eyes full of the joy Sachiko had come to love so much. Their arms were just touching, pressing slightly against the other girl's. Yumi was leaning ever so slightly into her, and Sachiko remembered grappling with the idea of hugging her petite soeur to her, like Sei and Rei had done with their respective petite soeurs. It was relatively early into their soeur relationship, though, and in the end, she was still caught up in what was appropriate for a lady to do.

But no matter.

Sachiko brings one hand up to her face, not surprised to feel a tear trickling down her cheek, but she brushes it away. There will be no tears from her today.

She places the photo back in her jacket pocket. The driver clears his throat.

"Mrs. Kashiwagi? Is there anywhere specific you would like to go?"

Sachiko places her hand on the outside of her pocket, and after a moment or two, speaks softly.

"Yes. Take me to Lillian's."

It looks exactly the same as she remembers it; the long walkway lined with trees and shrubbery, browned by the winter drought. Cold air swirls around her, bringing goosebumps to her arms and legs. She walks slowly, trying to remember just how she felt those many days as a girl, making the same journey to classes. She really does feel that she has aged; a kind of world-weariness. She has aged in more ways than one, as well, and she feels more mature, more sure of herself as a person.

Most of that was because of Yumi.

Up ahead she can see a building, a glimpse of the Rose Mansion. There might be students there now, talking Yamiyurikai matters, a festival perhaps, or something else. She had often imagined her little cousin Touko there, ruling the other girls with an iron fist. At least, that's always how Sachiko had imagined it.

As much as Sachiko would enjoy walking the halls of the school once more, seeing the classrooms, the Rose Mansion, or the greenhouse, she wasn't going any further than this. She had no doubt in her mind that the current and future members of Lillian's High School for Girl's would take care of the buildings, the grounds, and the spirit that she loved so much about her former school. And besides, she was already at the place she wanted to see. Even in the dull winter weather, the statue appears graceful and beautiful.

Sachiko had spent much time in front of statue of Maria. It was, in fact, one of the few places that Sachiko could really pray and feel like someone was listening to her words, and not just waiting for their turn to speak. Even when the situation at home seemed unbearable, a pilgrimage to the statue always made her heart feel a little lighter. Sachiko faces the statue, places her palms together in the familiar salute, and lowers her head, eyes closed tightly. She prays. And prays. There is so much to pray for, and so much to be thankful for, too. The cold winds sigh around her.

Minutes later, she opens her eyes to look at the kind, unchanging face once more. It seems fitting that she is here. After all, this is where she first met Yumi, on that fateful morning. And this was the place that she had given her rosary to Yumi, formally beginning their soeur relationship.

Suddenly. Sachiko feels a little jolt in her chest, a flash of lightening burns in her veins. And then, a presence makes itself known in the back of her mind.

"Hello, Yumi," Sachiko murmurs, just loud enough for the younger woman to hear. She hears a small, short intake of breath and turns to face her lover.

She looks beautiful, cheeks red from the whipping wind, hair dancing around her face. She is smiling that big, undeniably Yumi smile, and Sachiko goes slightly weak at the knees.

"And here I thought I was being quiet. How did you know it was me?"

Sachiko returns Yumi's smile, but her voice remains low and serious. "I once told you that if I lived in a dark, soundless world, I would always be able to recognize you. Do you remember?"

Yumi blushes furiously, one that rivaled all her girlish blushes of the past. Of course she remembers. Those close moments, those precious few seconds that they were able to steal together, they weren't ever enough. She treasured them all.

"Of course," Yumi's voice lowers to match Sachiko's tone. In a rare display of public affection, Sachiko leans forward, places her forehead against Yumi's. Her fingers wrap themselves around Yumi's thin arms and pull the younger woman close to her body. This, right here, was where she wanted to be.

After a long hug, Yumi pulls away, cheeks flushed. "What a coincidence that you came here too! Giving prayers to Maria-sama?" Yumi smiles a cheeky smile.

"I don't believe its coincidence," Sachiko says, then smiles brightly. "Guess who I got a letter from today?"

"Who?"

"Youko." She draws the photograph from her pocket and hands it to Yumi. She watches Yumi's face as she scrutinizes the photo for a few seconds, and meets her eyes when she looks up.

"Wow," Yumi says, "that seems so long ago, doesn't it? I miss those days."

Sachiko nods.

"But I know," Yumi hands the picture back to her, eyes twinkling, "that good days are yet to come, right?"

Sachiko smiles. "Right."

Sachiko stares at Yumi for what seems like minutes, not sure how to say all the ways that gather at the back of her throat. There is so much to say.

"What is it, Sachiko?" Yumi asks, a hint of worry in her eye.

"Yumi," Sachiko begins, "I have some news. There are things we need to talk about."

Yumi's eyes immediately flash with worry. Then Sachiko reaches down, and grabs her lovers hand, intertwining their fingers. She can no longer hold back a huge grin.

"Come on," she urges, and hand in hand, they walk back down the pathway to the car. To the uncertainties, to all the unknowns and the many questions yet to come.

But all that matters is that they are together.

And deep inside, they know the world is going to change, and it can only be for the better.

Thanks for reading.