A/N: So now I’ve hit on BL, het, and yuri for Shiki. Who cares if the het was incest?
For timeline-type stuff… we never learn Ritsuko’s age in Shiki, but I’d ballpark it at twenty-four or so, based on the fact that she would’ve had to have completed school and there was nothing to indicate that she was new to working in the clinic. So that’d put this about nine years before Shiki happens.
All thanks for the plot bunny go to raphfail, a.k.a. my favorite Australian. Thanks for joining my harem.
Tea for Two
She had a crush.
She’d realized this one day as she sat in class, trying to pay attention despite the dullness of the lesson. But her mind had kept wandering away, to other things she’d rather think of. And it had all circled back to her, over and over again. When the thought struck her, she’d dropped her pencil in surprise, and had to scrape her chair back to dig under the desk for it. Sitting up again, though, she’d already adjusted to the notion, as unexpected as it was. But even with adjusting to it, her already scant focus on her teacher was gone.
A crush. On a woman.
It wasn’t within the range of her experiences. She doodled on her notebook paper, little swirls as she considered it. She’d only liked boys before. She even had a boyfriend, although if she was honest she would have to admit she found him to be pretty boring. Could she have been just going along thinking she liked guys when she really didn’t? Could someone just one day get a crush on someone of the same sex? Did it happen that way? Maybe she was just mistaking how she was feeling for something else…
So she thought about kissing her crush, and felt an instant heat in her ears. She glanced around at her classmates, then surreptitiously snuck a hand up to pull at her earlobe. It was warmer to the touch than it should’ve been, and she began to feel her face color as well, embarrassed to have had such a reaction at all. But it didn’t look like anyone else had noticed.
After school, though, it turned out someone had, and her friend Ayumi bugged her about it, needling away. She pretended not to know what she was talking about, not that Ayumi believed her. But there was only so long that she could harass her about it while walking home, as their paths diverged and she waved before walking away.
Not that she was going home. No, not quite yet. She gripped the handle of her schoolbag tightly, making her way up the increasing angle of the slope. She wanted to stop by somewhere else first.
She… admired her. That was the starting point. She was such an elegant woman. And she was kind, too. But Ritsuko wasn’t sure one could be elegant and unkind, honestly. Meanness was inelegant; she could never find such a person to be anything but. Elegant and kind.
And pretty, too, but in that elegant way. Dignified! That was the word for it. She was dignified.
She laughed a little, thinking of her own mother, someone she would not describe as such. She loved her mother, but the poor woman seemed perpetually frazzled, giving she and her sister half-burnt bentos as she brushed her own hair, shoving her feet into her shoes. She worked hard to support her daughters, to give them a good life. Their father couldn’t be counted on for anything, that was for sure. The last they knew he’d been in Osaka, but that had been three years before. They hadn’t heard from him since.
It didn’t really bother her much. Ritsuko had never really gotten along with the man. He was distant, and always seemed to be frowning. But she also knew that his abandonment had made life a lot harder for her mother. So she’d resolved that when she was old enough, she’d get a good job, one where she was able to stay with her mother and sister and support them. Then her mother could take it a bit easier.
But she also wanted to do something that would help people. Maybe something like nursing. She’d been thinking about that lately, and was trying to be better about doing her homework and reading for science.
She’d told her crush about that, and the woman had remarked that she thought it was a wonderful idea. And then it had turned out that she, too, had once been a nurse, although it had been before she’d gotten married, before her older sister had died. She even confided that she’d entertained the idea of working at the clinic, although she knew it wasn’t possible to. She had enough of her own duties, and it wouldn’t have worked in a place like Sotoba.
It was possible that there was a connection between this revelation and Ritsuko’s solidifying interest in the notion of becoming a nurse herself. It was definitely possible. But she was also sure that it was something she had a genuine interest in it; hadn’t she thought of it before her crush had said anything? So it wasn’t just from that.
She was bouncing her schoolbag off her knees as she walked along now, moving quickly by the edge of the road. She forced herself to slow, though, and moved the bag to her side again. It wasn’t very dignified to walk like that, like an elementary schooler might. What were her crush think of her if she saw it?
She sighed. It didn’t really matter much. She knew it was something that was going nowhere. The woman – the lady, really – was married. And she was a bit older, too. She stopped walking, picturing being kissed again, and flushed. An impossibility.
But even if it was, she didn’t want to be thought of as a child. She didn’t feel like she was being considered one, but she also didn’t want to do anything to change that. She really enjoyed having tea with her in the afternoons after school.
She’d fallen on the stairs, that’s how she’d met her. Well, she’d known her before, but more that she’d known of her, not personally known her. Ritsuko’s mother had sent her with the New Years’ donation, having forgotten to do so on-time. And so she was rushing, trying to get it there before it got even later than it already was, although in retrospect it didn’t make much of a difference whether she’d walked or run. It was still a week late.
But she’d been rushing, and her foot had caught on the edge of one of the steps, and she’d fallen, scraping her knee through her stockings. She even had managed to get grit in it, and it stung as she righted herself. She picked out the grit, wincing, digging in her pocket for something to wrap around it, feeling tears pricking at the edges of her eyes.
And, then, her voice, “Oh goodness, are you alright? Did you fall?”
Ritsuko had looked up, blinking furiously to banish any hint of tears, saw her standing there in her kimono. Even on such a cold day she looked so composed.
She was offered a hand, took it, and then herded up the stairs and through the gate, into the house where her crush had gently washed her injured knee and bandaged it. She’d also put a kettle on the stove, and insisted that Ritsuko stay and have some tea to warm her up before she went back out.
After that, Ritsuko found herself stopping by often, happy to see the other woman, eager to tell her about any sundry thing. She loved it when the photo album was taken out and she got to see pictures of her crush when she had been in school, too. They’d worn the sailor uniform in high school, too, back then, not just in junior high. She’d insisted that Ritsuko try it on once, and commented on how good a fit it was… well, except for the chest. Ritsuko was a bit “healthier” than she’d been in that regard. It made her blush when her crush had said that, and her crush had laughed lightly. It did seem like girls were blossoming a bit more than they had in her generation! Maybe it was all that milk…
Ritsuko had started walking again, found herself alighting on the stairs she’d slipped on just two years before. She was looking forward to being able to show her crush her own high school uniform, actually, although she hadn’t even taken her entrance exams yet. She would soon enough, although it wasn’t as if there were a lot of options for high school in the area – Mizobe High School and the Matsudaira School for Girls. Her mother had gone to Matsudaira, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to herself. But she was taking the exams for both, just in case.
She pictured the uniform for Mizobe, with its blazer and tie. It seemed very adult to her, preferable to the dresses worn by the girls at Matsudaira. They weren’t bad dresses, they just seemed… like something a little girl would wear, with a big white bow. She’d show her either way, but it wouldn’t be the same if it was for Matsudaira, not at all…
Finally, she crested the top step, and passed beneath the gate. It was a fairly warm day, the sun still strong despite the shortening of the days. She went around to the side automatically, and was happy when she saw she’d been right to, the sliding glass of the living room open.
“Ah, Ritsu-chan, you came again today.”
She hiked her skirt up slightly, and stepped up, grabbing the edge of the door with her free hand, pulling herself up, “Of course I did, Mrs. Muroi.”
And, then, she smiled.