Warning: This contains a brief (noncon) sexual situation, a character death, and mentions of spouse abuse.
Disclaimer: I don't own Ouran.
When Mitarai Noriko marries for the first time, she is twenty-two years old. Her husband-to-be, Ohtori Yoshio, is twenty-five.
It is an arranged marriage between the two families, one that will unite their two companies to become one of the most prosperous and powerful conglomerates in the Japanese economy. Her being the only child and, therefore, the sole heiress and him being the oldest male assured the two of an affluent future.
As far as arranged marriages go, Noriko figures herself to be pretty lucky. Her husband-to-be is handsome, polite, and incredibly intelligent. In fact, the only thing that appeared off was that he seemed too perfect.
Everything about his persona screamed perfection and precision, like the world was a performance and he had to play his part right. Indeed, almost everything he did was well-timed and well-placed. From the little Noriko knows about him (they had met a total of six times before the wedding) he seems like he will become a successful businessman one day. But as a husband? She can't say.
Her thoughts are mostly hopeful, though, on the day of the wedding. She will not allow such negativity to ruin such an extraordinary day. After all, she is young, rich, and beautiful and is being married to someone who is young, rich, and beautiful and isn't that the dream of every little girl? To have a rich and handsome prince take the girl away and to have them both live a happily ever after?
When the ceremony begins, Noriko makes her descent down the aisle with an assistant helping her with the long end of her kimono. Her kimono, or shiro-maku, is pure white, her face is heavy with makeup, and her smile is partially forced. She ignored the stares of onlookers (such a large audience it was) and the obnoxious flashing of cameras as she steps in line with her fiancé.
He looks at her appreciatively, as he is supposed to, and leans over to whisper in her ear.
"You look beautiful."
She blushes, despite herself, underneath the paling foundation and artificial blush. Her dark blue, almost black, eyes are downcast and coy.
"Thank you," she replies.
Yoshio nods and—while smiling with his lips, not his eyes—he places his hand on the small of her back.
The ceremony continues.
The wedding ceremony went perfectly. It was as beautiful as any young bride could hope and even the wedding reception was going smoothly.
The food was elaborate and delicious and the cake was even more so. No one was (overly) abusing the sake that was being served, and those that did were discretely escorted out of the area.
Noriko looks positively radiant in her colorful, detailed kimono even more than she did in the shiro-maku reserved for the wedding ceremony.
When she dances with her new husband, she feels grand and lets herself be swept away in the music and Yoshio's tight hold. She is drunk on the prospect of a new life (and alcohol as well) and feels unusually safe in her new husband's arms. She even entertains herself with the idea of actually falling in love with him and the thought gives her hope. Maybe he can be her prince.
She looks up and is surprised to see him looking down at her, a slight smile tugging at his lips. His eyes, partially hidden by the glare of his glasses, dance with something dark. They are questioning, probably wondering if she is drunk or not, which she is, but she doesn't care.
Noriko ignores the look in favor of the good vibes that are coursing through her veins. She feels so splendid and happy, like she can spin around in circles, and everything will be fine. She leans into him, melting into his touch, and wishing that the perfect night won't end.
But the special night eventually fades into obscurity and the bride and groom leave to go to their honeymoon suit in a nearby five-star hotel. After they rest, the next day, the couple will be on their way to the actual honeymoon vacation in Italy.
The prospect of sharing a room with her new husband makes Noriko anxious and nervous. She has never slept in a room with another man before and honestly doesn't know what to think when his lips meet hers in the privacy of their bedroom.
The kiss is sloppy and tastes like sake.
It startles her (Yoshio had been drinking?), but she isn't angry at him for the taste of alcohol on his lips. Noriko herself had started drinking to numb the fact that she was going to spend the rest of her life with this man, this stranger, holding her because no matter how handsome or polite the man may be "'til death do you part" is a very long time.
However, she wasn't expecting any sort of intimacy between them, especially not on the first night, but Yoshio seems eager. His eyes are unusually bright and his fingers gripping at her hips are made clumsy by the alcohol.
She accepts it at first, despite it being new. She isn't used to having the hands on her sides, the lips on her neck, but she takes it in as a role of being a wife. She blames the newness of it for her nerves.
Her heartbeat thunders in her ears, her legs shake. She trembles (with fear or excitement?) as he begins to undo the ties on her kimono. He stares at her with more emotion than he ever has before, his grey eyes traveling over the curves of her body, clouded and glazed. Noriko feels awkward and uncertain underneath the lustful look.
Her mind buzzes as he kisses her again and she is shoved gently to the bed. She tells herself that it is just her husband taking what he wants and that she should be a faithful wife, even grateful that he is so eager, but even with the alcohol running through her system, it's hard to fool herself with the lie.
His hands are greedy and cold, but burn her skin with every touch. They are not graceful. They are not caring.
It feels wrong, like an itch of anxiety that she can't scratch.
He seems to not take notice of her discomfort and her body feels like a shell, her mind spectator. She can see everything, but feels frightened and confused when she feels it and she appears at a lost to stop it. Will he even listen?
Somewhere along the way, she noticed that he had been undressing himself as well and realizes that, no, he won't. She's not even sure if he is aware of her, other than her presence as a warm body. The fantastic imagine of him as her Prince Charming is as ruined and as broken as she feels. He won't rescue her. They won't live happily ever after.
His hands are so cold.
The image of Prince Charming lies in shards and cuts out every piece of her innocence. It dismembers her and she feels heavy and sick, like a child who realizes they made a grave mistake.
Yoshio presses his mouth to hers again and it becomes so clear to her that she doesn't want this. It's too new. She isn't ready for intimacy of any kind, but it didn't matter. Even if she wasn't experiencing what she was then, it would only come later when he wanted a child. So the shattering would only be prolonged and she certainly won't have any choice then, but to lie on her back and feel like she's being defiled in the worst way possible.
His hands are everywhere.
Tears leak out of her eyes and are smothered by the darkness of the room. They draw colorful lines down her face, melting her makeup. Her skin is crawling with every kiss and touch. She's desperate. She wants it to end.
"Stop," she sobs before it's too late.
His gaze flickers towards hers for an instant.
And to her absolute horror, he doesn't listen.
When Ohtori Noriko gives birth for the first time, she is twenty-three years old.
She knows that she won't fully get over the incident of their honeymoon (that's what she calls it, an "incident," because sugar-coating it makes her feel less like a victim), but she tries. Of course intercourse was difficult for them at first, because of the incident, but it gradually became easier. It was actually the gentlest Noriko had ever seen her husband.
Though still callous, he wouldn't touch her unless she said she was okay with what he was doing and he had apologized for his atrocious behavior on the night of their wedding. They didn't love each other, but it was something.
Eventually, Noriko became pregnant, adding to the already difficult time they were facing. Yoshio's father had fallen unexpectedly ill and he was forced to fill in his father's shoes a lot sooner than he had planned. While he was working on the transition of power between companies, Noriko was left alone through the majority of the nine months.
It always stung slightly when she was about to go through an ultrasound and she had to tell the technician that, no, her husband wouldn't be joining her and the sympathetic glance she was given always tore her in two.
What was even worse was that even when Yoshio was at home, he seemed coldly detached, like only business was on his mind. Noriko certainly couldn't blame him; he was having two companies thrust onto his shoulders while simultaneously dealing with a dying father, but that didn't make his bouts of coldness or misdirected rage any less painful. That didn't mean that she never longed for someone to hold her hair and stroke her back when she was vomiting in the toilet because of morning sickness. Or someone to tell her that she looked beautiful during the middle and later stages of her pregnancy when she felt positively fat.
But she hopes that after all of this, life will slow down for the two of them. She may have made it through a pregnancy alone, but she isn't sure if she can raise a child alone. She hopes that she won't have to. She hopes that, because Yoshio is standing beside her now, that he will be there later on.
She finally lays her head against her pillow, sweaty, aching, and exhausted. The nine months have been brutal to her physically and all she wants is a hot, relaxing bath and to lie asleep on her stomach again.
Noriko feels happy though, despite this exhaustion and can't help but to feel a spike of pride as one of the nurses hands over her new child and says, "Congratulations, you have a new baby boy."
She smiles and holds the tender thing closely to her. He looks typically like a newborn with wrinkled, pink skin and an oddly placed shock of black hair growing out of his slightly misshapen head. But Noriko thinks he couldn't be more beautiful. Even Yoshio is drawn towards the creature he helped to create.
"May I?" His arms are outstretched and she nods, gently handing him their son.
Their son. That was such an amazing concept.
He holds the child, cradling it in his arms and a small smile, the first true one Noriko has seen in a long time, forms on his lips. He is happy and so is she, and she can only hope that it lasts.
"Have you thought of a name?" The question takes her by surprise. She honestly hadn't because she was so busy and she just assumed that Yoshio would come up with one.
She shakes her head, "No."
An air of pride seems to sparkle in his eyes as he looks at the child. "Good, because I was thinking of the name Ichiro."
She gives him an exhausted, pleased smile. "I like it."
There is hope. She still has that.
The image of Prince Charming may have been long shattered, but perhaps it was still possible to have a happy ending. She hopes that their child can give them the relationship that she's always wanted. Above all, she hopes that Yoshio will start to listen. She hopes that he will start to care. The only thing missing in their seemingly perfect relationship was love and she believes that it's still possible. She hopes. Because she doesn't know what she's going to do if she's wrong.
When Ohtori Noriko becomes pregnant for the second time, she is twenty-six.
Learning about the baby makes her feel conflicted. While she is excited to be pregnant again (holding Ichiro for the first time was so miraculous), she can't help but to be worried about the future her children will hold with their father.
After she gave birth for the first time, she was so hopeful that Yoshio would change into the father that she wished him to be, but he didn't. After being officially named the CEO of Ohtori-Group, he stayed just as busy and remained just as cold. He became even harsher in his expectations of her and Noriko doesn't want that for her children.
She wants to give them the father she's never had because her father was also as cold and as distanced as Yoshio seems. He expected nothing but the best from his only little girl, a little girl who wanted nothing more than to live in a fairytale because the real world was far too cruel for her.
She almost wants to get rid of the child, she is so worried. She is already incredibly exhausted and weak from taking care of Ichiro and being the "perfect wife" to Yoshio, but she's isn't sure she's capable of taking care of him during a pregnancy. Plus, she doesn't want to hand her children off to an array of nannies like she had when she was younger. She tries to convey her concerns with her mother, but her mother seems only concentrated on the fact that she is pregnant again.
They sit in an expensive restaurant where they must talk in hushed voices and pretend that, because of their wealth, there is nothing wrong with the world and as Noriko looks her mother over, she realizes that her mother is not immune.
Her hair is graying at the roots, dyed on top and even her makeup can't conceal the lines of wrinkles beginning to form around her eyes and mouth. She was chasing after youthful beauty, pretending that the wheels of time didn't turn. She also seemed to think that Noriko having another child was the next best thing to her having her own.
"Mother," Noriko says, cutting off her mother's claim of how wonderful it would be to have another grandchild. "I'm thinking of getting rid of it."
Noriko's mother straightens up as the smile slowly disappears off of her face. Her dark, blue eyes narrow with disdain. They are judging; they treat her like a child and it makes Noriko furious.
"Now why would you do a silly thing like that?"
Anger coils underneath Noriko's skin. She wants to slam her fist on the table out of frustration and shout, "Have you even been listening to me!" But she doesn't.
She folds her napkin carefully on her lap and says, "Mother, I don't want another child because I don't want it to grow up in our household. One is enough."
The look returns. Her mother isn't taking her complaints seriously and it is frustrating, like talking to an adult as a five-year-old.
"What's so horrible about your household?" Her mother asks with a slight laugh. "You and your husband clearly have enough money to give both of your children whatever they want." Because that is all that matters to her mother, wealth and status.
"Mother, my husband is the problem. He's so cold sometimes, it's like I don't exist to him. I don't want my children to grow up fatherless."
"Is he still having sex with you?"
Noriko lowers her head with a blush, ashamed that despite how her husband treated her, she still hadn't given up carnal pleasure. "Yes."
Her mother takes a sip of her tea, unperturbed. "Then you still exist to him. Just give him time to open up, I'm sure."
Noriko takes a deep breath, partially because she is so frustrated and partially because it pains her so much to admit the rest.
"Mother," she says quietly, "he hits me."
She feels weak, like a damsel in distress with no hope of being rescued. She is drowning, gulping in water as her mother watches calmly from the sidelines.
"Then stop whatever it is you're doing wrong."
Noriko looks up, shocked. "What?"
Her mother takes another calm sip of her tea. "If he's hitting you, then you should stop whatever it is that is making him angry."
The sentence comes like a slap to the face, far harsher than anything her husband could produce. Her heart plummets (she thought her mother could help her) and she sinks below the waterline. She almost feels like crying (she won't be saved now) but she ignores the tightness of her throat to plead sense with her mother.
"Mother, please listen to me—" She's cut off by her mother's raised hand.
"Noriko, I know that marriage may be tough, but sometimes you just have to let your husband have what he wants. If that means staying out of his way and being compliant, then that's what you have to do..."
Hot tears of anger begin to stream down Noriko's face. She was so hopeful that if anyone could help her, it would be her mother, but she was wrong. She lowers her head to hide her tears and her firsts shake with rage.
She feels like she is viewing the world from a two-way mirror and she can see everyone, but no one can see her or her pain. She has no hope of being saved and she can forget the happy ending. If Yoshio felt that she was disobeying him or she wasn't doing her job properly, she would use concealer to cover up whatever mark he left. She would pretend that nothing was wrong (it worked so well for her mother) and would solve her problems by herself when the time came, because that is all she has to rely on.
"Stop crying dear, we're in public," her mother hands her a handkerchief, which Noriko takes numbly but doesn't use.
"Now enough of this depressing talk, let's order our food."
She flags down a waiter and orders for them both while Noriko is pretty much ignored. Her angry tears drip into her tea, making the cooling liquid bitter and her fist clenches tightly around the handkerchief.
She is furious. She is frustrated. She is frightened.
The rest of the conversation is mostly monopolized by her mother while Noriko keeps her head low and lets her tears dry.
She is bitterly reminded of the night of her wedding where she thought everything would be perfect and she received such a cruel awakening. And much like Yoshio that night, her mother did not listen.
When Ohtori Noriko gives birth for the third time, she is twenty-eight. This time, she gives birth to a girl.
Heavy with guilt, she ended up not getting an abortion and her second child was a healthy baby boy by the name of, "Akito."
Even after two previous pregnancies, the process was just as long, tiring, and painful and somehow, it was all slightly more frightening each time. She became increasingly aware of the complications she may face and of her crumbling relationship with her husband.
It was no secret that they barely saw each other. Him being the head of Ohtori-Group obviously left him very busy and her being his wife did the same. Her position forced her to hold events and small gatherings of equally rich families for her husband, whether she liked the people or not, and to take care of her children, which increasingly did not entail her.
Yoshio had decided that his children should be brought up by only academic excellence and had hired a series of tutors to begin teaching his children on what to know and how to behave. At the age of three, Ichiro had been subjected to his (and Akito is soon to be after), much to Noriko's dismay. She had argued and pleaded against this, but only received a slap to the face and Yoshio telling her that he would raise his children as he saw fit. She was slowly losing custody of her children in her own home.
And with her new child in her arms, fear of the happening only grows stronger. Yoshio isn't beside her, unlike the first two pregnancies and Noriko can't help to think that represents how far they have split apart. They weren't close to begin with, but at after Ichiro was born, she had at least hoped that they may love each other.
Now, that hope has given way to reality and she knows that in their relationship, she is subservient to him. Her role is to make sure that when he comes home in the evenings, everything that isn't related to business has been taken care of. The children were fed, Yoshio's choice of a meal and possibly alcohol was set, Ichiro had been with his tutors for the majority of the day, and, if Yoshio wanted to, she would be ready to have sex with him. But more often than not, he was too tired, too busy and overall too uninterested in his wife.
It was a lonely life.
Even with a pregnancy to occupy her thoughts and a two-year-old Akito to take care of, it was hard to block of the feeling of solitude and the questions that went with it. (Would her life be different if she had been born a boy?)
She even began playing the piano again, one of the few times she felt truly at peace. She learned how to play when she was a little girl and she once even had aspirations of being a concert pianist, but that was a long time ago and dreams such as those were brittle and forgotten. Still, playing the piano could only do so much to distract her.
And as she holds her new child closely to her, Noriko can only hope that the child won't have to live the same life that she does. She hopes that her daughter's existence in life isn't destined to be as her husband's shadow. Perhaps her daughter will get the fairytale ending.
She looks down at the child and wonders what her name will be. Outside, the weather is cold but not unforgiving. A blanket of snow lies peacefully on the ground, staring up at the clear blue sky. It is beautiful and so is her daughter and Noriko decides that her name should reflect that.
"How about Fuyumi? Do you like that?" She asks the child. The tender thing makes a face and stares up at her mother, curious.
Noriko smiles and thinks, yes, the name will do.
It's moments like these that make Noriko not regret having children. She loves all of them dearly and she wishes for them to stay in her arms as long as possible. They are precious and deserve to keep their innocence until they are no longer children and that is why Noriko is so upset about the tutoring and training that her husband is imposing on them. She doesn't want her children to be raised like their father, a man with the qualities of someone who grew up far too quickly. She could see in his eyes a veil of blank coldness that said he was unfazed by everything because he had seen and learned so much in his young life.
Ichiro was already starting to become distant to her and it was frightening.
There was one time when she was playing the piano, with Akito sitting on the bench beside her, clinging to her waist, and she noticed Ichiro hiding behind the doorway. He was sneaking to listen to her as though hearing it was wrong. After she finished playing, she noticed that he was still there, so she extended a hand.
He jumped at being caught and remained partially hidden by the door.
"Ichi-kun, would you like to sit with us?" She asked. He paused, a slight hesitation, and shook his head quickly.
"I'm sorry mother," the politeness in his voice startled her, "but I have work to do."
It practically broke her heart.
Ichiro quickly left the room, leaving Noriko and Akito alone and the distance between her and her oldest spreading further apart. And Noriko knows that it doesn't matter how much she pleads, because Akito will eventually end up this way. And, while she hopes otherwise, Fuyumi will probably end up the same.
That's why she treasures the moment she is experiencing now, with Fuyumi in her arms. She feels nothing can hurt or corrupt her children there. In her arms, they are free to still be children.
Through her children she is still living. She is at the top of the tower, her prince charming having abandoned her, but with her children, she finds peace. They are her hope. They are her life.
When Ohtori Noriko gives birth for the fourth time, she is thirty-five. The child was a mistake and she knows he will be treated as one.
Years have passed since she gave birth to Fuyumi, when she still thought that she could protect her children. Now, there is little left of that childish innocence that she hoped they could retain.
All three of them are waiting outside of her hospital room, prepared to see their new baby brother (who will be named, "Kyouya" as decided previously by Yoshio). They are probably sitting politely, quietly, unable to show how anticipated they may be. Noriko wonders how this new child will fair with his older siblings. There is a considerable age difference between them (with Ichiro age twelve, Akito age nine, and Fuyumi age seven) and she doesn't want the newest child to be pressured by his older siblings, if they even care.
Ichiro had grown so cold, she isn't sure if he cares about anything other than their family's company. He is often silent and calculating and he reminds Noriko so much of his father, it was often times scary.
Akito is quiet and calculating as well, but he has a subtle cruel streak that sets him apart easily from his calmer and more apathetic older brother. In a way, this makes him more of a real child and less like the miniature adults the Ohtori children sometimes seem to be. He would often push, trip, and play mean tricks on Fuyumi when they were younger (he was clever at it too; Noriko only caught him once) and he still retained some of that brashness that he possessed during that time.
Fuyumi is much more agreeable than either of her older brothers, not having the pressure of possibly owning Ohtori-Group one day (she is a girl after all). She can laugh a lot easier than her brothers can because isn't directly influenced by her father. She still receives the usual tutors, but her lessons are more geared toward being a perfect lady and in turn, she can spend more time with her mother. It is the closest relationship Noriko has with any of her children and yet, she still finds herself filling her empty time playing piano. She is lonely, that much is clear.
She could have never imagined that being lonely could be exhausting, but she finds herself tired, trying to pass the time and distract herself from her severed heart. Her children are gone from her, so there isn't much left, and she has a feeling that this new child might be as lonely as she is, because their household wasn't meant to care for and nurture a growing child. He won't have much guidance from his older siblings because of his age and Yoshio's gaze on him will be unyielding. He won't have the protection of someone else there to soften the blow.
She can only wish that he had been born sooner or in a different household to spare him the pain she knows will come. He will be segregated, like she is. His expectations will be high, just like hers, and he might even be trapped in his own tower, but perhaps, unlike her, someone will show him the way down. Perhaps he won't be abandoned by his metaphorical Prince Charming, like she was.
She wants to say that she hopes this will happen, but she no longer hopes. That left a long time ago. She no longer sees the point in hoping against the inevitable. She is damned in this lifestyle, trapped in her tower with no way down and with no one who cares. She no longer has her children to hold onto and she is decaying because of it. She will remain as Yoshio's shadow, insignificant, and invisible.
She has nothing left to hope for.
When Ohtori Noriko decides to commit suicide, she is forty-seven. She feels that she can't live inexistent any longer, nor can she bear to wake up another morning wishing that she didn't. And an overwhelming tiredness had manifested itself in her dreams, making her more worn out when she woke up than she ever went to sleep. Her daily life is a cycle, killing her with its monotony and she is enslaved in her desolate state.
The highlight of her day is when she is asleep, covered in blank warmness and surrounded by the darkness of nothing. During the day, she is exhausted, lonely (if it could even be called that anymore) and depressed. She was prescribed antidepressants a few years prior, but they only contributed to helping her get out of bed, never to putting a smile on her face.
She honestly can't remember the last time she was truly happy.
Noriko hates that she wasn't stronger, for her children's sake at least (who she hardly sees anymore with all of them, except Kyouya, having breached adulthood). She blames her life and she blames herself for not having the sense to try and escape the imprisonment she faced in her marriage.
She has nothing left; Yoshio has taken her innocence, her children, her happiness, and her freedom (She literally is not allowed to leave the mansion without someone with her because she once threatened to leave for good after he denied her of a divorce). The only thing he hadn't taken was her music, but it isn't enough to save her. The piano sits untouched in their parlor because she can't find it in her to enjoy even that anymore. There is nothing left of her; she has been dying slowly through all of these years, so she decides to end it.
When she wakes up on the day she designated for her suicide, her thoughts are unusually clear. She still doesn't feel like life is worth living, but she goes through most of her daily routine, marveled that it is the last time she is going to be performing it.
She even works up enough energy to play the piano again. She plays "Clair de Lune" by Debussy and even gathers up a small audience of her children, who happen to be home on a rare break. They seem slightly surprised to see her playing (it had been so long), but they are all content to watch their mother, a woman who was once beautiful in grace, who is now beautiful in sadness. The sight of them almost changes her mind, but her decision only wavers for a split second. Her children are no longer hers and, since she rarely sees them, it won't make much of an impact, she thinks.
They are resilient; they would move on.
After she's done playing, she kisses each of them on the cheek as a goodbye and she whispers into her daughter's ear, relaying her final wish. They are confused at their mother's strange behavior, but assume it has to do with a strange reaction in her antidepressants (they didn't see her often after all, so they could only guess) and go about their business when she's done.
After she finishes playing, Noriko eats lunch in solitude. She savors all of the food, even though it's typically the type of meal that she ate for lunch, for the simple reason that it is the last time she will be eating it. She wonders if a condemned man eating his last meal feels the same, will eat the same way, as she does. But she isn't condemned, not to death anyway, so she imagines that her meal is much more pleasant. It is her choice to die, after all. After she finishes, she decides that it's Time.
She doesn't lock the door to her bedroom once she enters it, because she doesn't have anything to hide, but she tells her servants not to bother her. She doesn't need anyone trying to interfere.
First, she puts on her wedding kimono, which takes a long time, but it still fits her after all of these years. She knows that when her body is found, the irony will not be lost on her husband.
Its fabric is looser on her, hanging from her slight frame because of her recent in-appetite and weight loss. She does her hair and makeup and takes a final look at her reflection.
She has physically changed a lot over the past twenty-six years. While she has aged gracefully, she still has wrinkles around her eyes and mouth and graying roots showing through her long, black hair. But even she can tell that her eyes have changed the most. They once held such innocence and mirth and now speak nothing but emptiness, a void that shouldn't be associated with the living. She looks away, not wanting to see how far she's fallen, what being trapped up so high for so long has done.
She crosses the room to an armoire and opens one of the locked compartments. She pulls out a gun, which she went through hell to get and is for once thankful for how powerful her family is. She puts in two bullets (just in case) and clicks off the safety. She pauses and reflects on her life leading up to this moment. She couldn't have imagined twenty-six years ago that her life would have led to this.
The gun feels heavy and harsh in her hand and she wasn't expecting the coldness of the barrel when she pushes it against her temple. Her finger hovers above the trigger.
She wonders how her life might have been different.
She has been hurt countless times, and she only wants the pain to go away. Every insult that was inflicted upon her, every time Yoshio put his hands on her with intention of harm rings clearly in her mind. She thinks of her children that were taken away and she thinks of the innocence they once held which was taken along with it. She thinks about the few happy times she held with her children, times that they laughed, times that they smiled, and she no longer cares what her husband has done to her. He deserved to go to hell for taking such beautiful creatures and turning them into robotic puppets.
She thinks of her mother's lack of support, her own foolishness for believing that anybody cared. She thinks about how she should have tried to escape after Ichiro was born and Yoshio hit her for the first time. She tells herself that she should have known long before she became pregnant that he wouldn't be the father she wished him to be.
She realizes that she never accepted that he raped her on the night of their wedding.
She takes a shaky breath; it's the first time she's ever used the word to describe what he did. But that's what it was and, even though she always tried to shove it in the back of her mind, it had an impact on her. She never realized it, but it always made her slightly afraid of him. The few times he raised his hand to her, there was always that fear in the back of her mind that he would do it again-only forcibly.
And she certainly won't have any choice then, but to lie on her back and feel like she's being defiled in the worst way possible.
She shuts her eyes, because those memories are too painful to even reminisce on. It was the first and most painful thing taken away from her. Even after all of these years, she can still feel her innocence being sliced away and it continued to break down her person until this very day.
She feels like she almost deserved it for being so naive. He didn't listen then, what made her think that he would have changed? He was never meant to be her Prince because she was obviously never meant to have one.
The fantastic image of him as her Prince Charming is as ruined and as broken as she feels. He won't rescue her. They won't live happily ever after.
Not only was Noriko never meant to have a Prince, but she was never meant to have a fairytale ending. She was destined to be in her castle, her tower, while she withered away until the end of time. But now, she is escaping. She is destroying her tower and herself with it, but she is finally going to be free.
The thought is liberating, and frightening at the same time. Tears start to creep down her face, but she smiles bravely through it.
She used to be drowning, gulping in water while everyone watched and while everyone ignored. They heard her, but chose not to answer, and she will be treated this way no longer. Noriko has been ignored for so long, but now she's going to force them to finally hear.
She takes a shaky breath and tries to ignore the sweatiness of her palms and the sudden palpitation of her heart. She looks up to the ceiling for a brief prayer before closing her eyes again.
No one listened.
When Ohtori Kyouya attends his own mother's funeral, he is twelve years old. He can still remember the shot ringing out from his mother committing suicide and the thought makes him feel slightly disturbed. He always knew it was only a matter of time before the depression set in too deeply and she attempted suicide, but that didn't prepare him for it. The sound of the shot made his blood run cold and the screams of maids shortly after did nothing to deter the feeling.
He had barely handled seeing her body. He doesn't even know why he went to see (too much damned human curiosity he supposes) and he ended up having to shoo away equally curious household members who were treating it more like a spectacle than the tragedy it was.
Then, he saw her. Her body was crumpled unnaturally on the floor and the blood caked on the side of her head almost masked the bullet hole. The gun in her hand told an obvious story and confirmed his suspicions. He suddenly felt sick with dread, overwhelmed by the smell of blood in the air and the horror that his mother really did kill herself.
Akito had arrived shortly after him and suffered a reaction similar to his, though he did a good job of masking it, and then Ichiro, who seemed strangely cold at the sight. Both of his brothers then proceeded to guard the door from curious eyes while a doctor and their father was alerted. They refused to allow Fuyumi to see the body, but they all knew that it was for her own good; she was already in hysterics without it. When the initial chaos settled down, perturbed, the Ohtori children began to realize that their mother's performance earlier that day was a goodbye to them.
(They didn't know it then, but years later when their mother's piano is played again, it would be played with such beauty and purity, they would all cry at the memories it evoked.)
At the funeral, Kyouya is still shocked by the events that have taken place. He isn't sure how he is supposed to take the loss. He honestly didn't know his mother very well, and he feels slightly disrespectful that he isn't able to cry, not after he realized she was dead and not during the funeral. He just sits there, numbly processing the situation around him, but at the same time feeling like he was punched in the chest.
Fuyumi takes it worse out of all of them. She was crying quietly, sporadically through the wake service, but when they all step out into the chilly December air, after it's over, she breaks into sobs at the top of the steps. The action is caught by the flashing cameras of news media, but is shortly ignored to follow the presence of their father, who is walking ahead of them.
Tears stream down her face and Akito wraps his arm around her waist in an attempt comfort her and to partially shield her from the cameras. She buries her face into the fabric of his suit jacket. The action puzzles Kyouya (he's never seen any of his brothers act in an affectionate way), but he supposes that the day has made them all softer, more like a family, which is incredibly ironic.
Fuyumi finally calms down enough to speak and she pulls herself slightly away from Akito's grasp.
"You know earlier when mother played piano for us all and then kissed us on the cheek...?" She looks at the ground. "She told me to take care of you all, especially Kyouya," tears begin to trickle through her lashes. "At the time, I thought that she meant for the day. I-I had no idea that she meant...that she meant-" She begins to crumble back into sobs, but they all know what she's trying to say.
That single thought had probably plagued her all day and Kyouya feels sympathy for his older sister. It was a great burden she carried on her shoulders and he knows that, out of all of them, Fuyumi was the closest to their mother. She had watched her mother's depressed state deteriorate for months and then it finally happened. Kyouya can't imagine the pain she must be suffering through.
Ichiro puts his arm around his sister's shoulders when she doesn't stop crying and Kyouya feels rightfully left out, with all three of his siblings in some embrace or another. But being left out is a common occurrence for him, so it doesn't bother him as much as it probably should.
His attention adverts elsewhere, down the steps, where there is still a swarm of cameras, microphones, and journalists practically barricading his father's path.
As one of the most powerful families in Japan, their lives were constantly being monitored by the public. So when something as scandalous as a possible suicide by the head of the family's wife happened, the press was all over it, looking for something to fabricate.
All of the questioning chaos is silenced when Kyouya's father raises his hand. Yoshio pauses and the reporters quickly make sure their cameras, notepads, or recorders are ready, because they all know he is about to make his official public statement on the matter.
"What happened to my wife is a tragedy."
His voice is heard clearly over the crowd through the frozen air. His posture speaks of authority and power, but his voice is dimmed slightly to give the illusion of mourning. Kyouya catches it immediately and his eyes narrow.
"We all loved her dearly and we were shocked to find that she committed suicide. We were even more heartbroken to realize that she had been unhappy all of this time and we can only hope that we were not to blame."
Something like acid fills Kyouya's veins and his jaw clenches at the spectacle. Lies! All of it! They all knew she was depressed and most of it was the direct cause of their father. He wasn't heartbroken; he disliked the inconvenience his wife's death imposed on him.
"Her memory will forever be in our hearts and we pray she is in a happier place now, but please keep in mind that we are still suffering," His gaze shifts directly to the reporters as a warning.
"Please give my family the time that they need to grieve accordingly. I will answer no questions until then. That is all."
And with that said, he continues walking and the reporters part out of his way, but continue to foolishly ask for answers to their questions.
Rage that Kyouya didn't know he possessed simmers below his skin. What makes him the angriest is that he knows he should have expected a reaction like that out of his father. An honest man his father is not, but it still feels so disrespectful to his mother. It is downright insulting to her very person and everything she suffered through.
On a brief impulse, Kyouya steps forward, but a firm hand on his shoulder stops him in his tracks. He looks up, and sees Ichiro looking down at him before looking straight ahead at their father. His expression is unreadable through the tint of his glasses.
"Don't," Ichiro says simply, not taking his eyes off Yoshio.
"It isn't worth it." His eyes grow dark, almost angry.
"He never is."
Kyouya is surprised to hear that much hate harbored into his brother's words. He was under the impression that Ichiro held nothing but utmost respect for their father, but that would be too perfect on his brother's part, wouldn't it? Perfection doesn't exist in their family, even though they all try to strive for it.
Kyouya hears a click from a camera shutter and he turns to see a photographer taking a snapshot of the Ohtori children standing at the top of the steps. He thinks he would like to see the picture, because it must be an unusual sight, all of them in physical contact with each other for the first time without being ordered to for a family photo.
Akito still has his arm around Fuyumi's waist, but she is now leaning onto the taller Ichiro, whose arm is around her shoulders. Finally, Ichiro's hand is resting on Kyouya's shoulder, stern but somehow paternal.
This, Kyouya muses, must be what a family looks like.
Of course, they eventually break apart and descend down the steps after their father, past the reporters who have all but given up on their quest for answers. They all separate into different limousines because the three oldest were only supposed to return home from university for the winter break, but now that it was over, their father still expected them to attend classes due to upcoming midterms. Grieving time doesn't exist to an Ohtori.
Therefore, Kyouya is left alone with his father for their ride home.
They both ride in a stiff silence because neither of them have anything to say to the other. Yoshio sits upright like a gentleman and stares straight ahead, but looks at nothing. Kyouya mimics his father's posture, but opts to look out the window, if anything, to distract him from the thick silence.
It's almost deafening in its magnitude and it wraps around his wrists, pinning him down to the seat. He almost wants to speak, the quiet is so awkward and swollen, but his father operates on a "don't speak unless spoken to" code and Kyouya fears he'll be reprimanded for breaking it.
He tries to ignore it and his thoughts drift to the speech his father gave earlier. Then, something like fiery molasses slinks beneath his veins and suddenly, Kyouya is angry again. He still feels the indecency done to his late mother and the thought broods over his mind the entire way home. Caught in his thoughts, he is almost startled when the driver opens his door to let him out.
The cold slices through him when his feet hit the ground and it only fuels the flame that had been brewing inside of him. He falls in step behind his father and blinks angrily at the snowflakes that fall on his lashes as they make the long descent down their driveway.
Their mansion looms into view, a cold, modern building that ended up becoming his mother's prison and grave and the heated words tumble out of his lips before he can stop them:
"It's your fault she died."
And Kyouya is horrified the moment the accusation is voiced. It's the most honest thing the preteen has ever said to his father and he's certain that he is about to be punished for it. They don't appreciate honesty in the Ohtori family.
Yoshio freezes and his shoulders tense visibly, but, to Kyouya's surprise, he doesn't yell or backhand him like Kyouya expects him to.
He simply stands there with his back to his son. The snowflakes continue to melt on his graying hair and, for the first time, Kyouya realizes how old his father must be. His presence is no longer as powerful as it was with the press earlier, but more tired, and reserved. Yoshio looks faded in the white-gray, snowy background and Kyouya can't help but to think that his mother's death affected his father a lot more than he let on. He couldn't help but think that perhaps, in his own way, Ohtori Yoshio is mourning.
"I know," he replies quietly before walking again.
And Kyouya knows he does.