disclaimer: strobe edge © sakisaka io.
note #1: i fucking love this manga. because it breaks and heals your heart with the same line.

by breakable bird

Mayuka is pretty and lovely and in love.

These are the things that matter: her mother, her father, Daiki – and Ren. And then – is she enough for Ren? Is he going to leave? Mayuka doesn't want to be lonely anymore (she only wants to be love – love – lovely). She wants to walk with him forever (feelings change, Mayuka, says mother, like that shifts her world – like that does something other than echo inside her head, make her feel heavy and hot, feelings change and people change and you move on.) It felt strangely impersonal to watch her mother sign those papers – yes, yes, I do not want you anymore.

But mum, she'd wanted to say, but dad, didn't you promise before God?

(And Daiki who these days doesn't say a word.)

He finds comfort in The Girl. Mayuka's a romantic – she can't help it. For her – even now that her parents are like this, that her family has broken and fallen and – it's tearing her apart, it's hurting her – true love exists, still. Mayuka is sure of that. Because everyone has a soulmate somewhere and when you fall in love it feels like that, right? (Mayuka wonders, and then not because Ren sits with her. Sort of at peace, she names the feeling, I love you because you make me feel sort of at peace.) Ren eases her wounds like cool water on a heated day. But – the wings? And the – the big, kind hands – the absurdly long eyelashes. Mayuka wants... not to cry, exactly. But some kind of balloon gets bigger and bigger, hidden in her heart, and it hurts.

It really, really hurts.

(Dear Daiki, she writes, I've fallen in love -)

Mayuka, nowadays, is beautiful.

I'm good now, right? she asks butdoesnot. I'm good, I'm better now, aren't I, Ren? She moves and smiles and winks and – Ren says "I wish you'd said something." Mayuka doesn't know what to say. She thinks about the beautiful planes of his face, all pale skin and long, elegant lines, and feels slightly breathless. There's this kind of longing, then – she wishes she could go back to In Between, when her parents still had hope and Daiki mumbled something in the phone and the hours were slow and soft, sitting on that swing with a boy who's just kind of cute. Mayuka's – well – she's never been one to be inscure, but she just wants to make sure he keeps loving her.

That's not a bad thing. (Dear Daiki, she writes, so how's it going with The Girl?)

I want him to think that he won't leave. She says the words without voice, looking at him – just looking in some cheap restaurant because Ren likes places like that, cozy and homey. With time, her reflection changes – a thinner, flashier girl, but the smile stays because Mayuka's aware - she's not that stupid. (There's no point if you're not happy.) Her eyes seem tired and when Mayuka catches him staring at her – those silly, melancholic eyes – Mayuka is beautiful and lovely and -

And what?

Of course not. (I've done all this for you, she says withoutsayinganything, I've done all this so you won't leave, don't leave, please don't leave.) Please don't break this, please stay always as you've been in my memories, the just-a-bit-taller than me boy in a dark uniform who noticed the shaking hands, the clumsiness of her smile. When she feels lonely (I'm lovely, she says to the girl in the mirror, who's thin and beautiful and graceful and smilingsmilingsmiling), she thinks about him, about them – because I'll be with you, he said. But father said that too and Mayuka – it's not like she doesn't believe him, honestly.

(I'm making sure.)

Mayuka is tired and sad and in love.

She's older. She knows that. Of course she knows that. Just because he's taller and so mature and calm and quiet it's not like she doesn't recognize the fact. Mayuka thinks – about her family, about Daiki and The Girl and Ren and the swings and the lost key that let her meet her wonderful Ren – and tries to breathe in sync with him, as if trying to get him inside her system. But he seems so tall – taller than God – and – Mayuka wants to keep up. Mayuka wants to make him turn around and be glad he's with such a problematic girl, one who drags her issues like flags and makes them pretty, hides them in sparkling dresses.

(Don't leave me behind, she says, don't grow up, she says, and he hears. Just now, he hears.)

"Sorry for being such a kid," he says. She's so scared she thinks she might die because – taller than God – and dear Daiki, did The Girl smile at you today? - letters she never sends - and Mayuka still loses her keys but lately she doesn't find anything and – please don't leave, please don't leave, please don't leave. His smile is somewhat relieved. Mayuka feels like breathing deeply since such a long time ago – suddenly stabbed by the knowledge that he's so very, very young -

There are no wings today. (Mayuka is cute and a child and in love.)