On that day, I'm sorry to tell you, I woke up in bed with Madoka Ayukawa--well, I wouldn't exactly say 'I'm sorry to tell you.'
Still half-dozing, I reached out my hand to touch her. But Madoka had already gotten out of bed.
I held her pillow close to me, her sweet smell still on it, and tried to get back to sleep. But I suddenly heard the startup sound of the computer in the living room downstairs. The door to our room was open, and the sounds came in through the crack.
Madoka was about to begin work.
Recently, she had been doing her songwriting on the Mac. She was a fan of Macintosh notebook computers. Macs were also popular among people in the entertainment industry, apparently (3).
In the past, she had liked jazz, and hadn't cared much for writing modern songs.
"Well, I'm working as a professional now, so I have to make some compromises."
And that was that; she started composing directly on the Mac. She could take her work with her anywhere, and was completely hooked on her new toy.
I had barely learned how to use a stand-alone word processor. So when I heard that you could draw pictures or compose music and play it just like that on personal computers these days, I was surprised and let out a high-pitched noise: "Pee!"
I must have sounded like my sisters, Kurumi and Manami, making a silly sound like that.
I sat up in bed, and pulled the cord to open the curtains.
December was two-thirds over, but the morning sun was strong and bright in my eyes. It filled the room with light.
A well-organized desk.
On the desk was a picture of her parents, who were in Seattle, in America. (This picture always caught my eye.) (4)
I looked at the alarm clock, which set so that you could tell the time anywhere in the world. It was 8 o'clock am.
Beside the desk was a basket full of knitting needles and yarn. Madoka also loved knitting.
Let's see, what else?
Oh yes. A light blue half-coat which she had just bought. "I won't wear this until Christmas," she had said then.
It hung on the wall, just as it had in the boutique, pressed and new.
What else? Oh, next to the half-coat stood a miniature Christmas tree.
Heh. There's a bigger one downstairs.
I think that Madoka Ayukawa, secretly a little girl at heart, wanted to have a Christmas tree next to her while she slept.
It was nice, learning something new about her, however childish or immature. I laughed to myself.
"Kyosuke, you've got such a dirty mind!"
I looked up. Madoka was standing in the doorway.
Her hair up, Madoka was wearing her bathrobe and nothing underneath. The smell of coffee wafted across the room from a cup she held in her hand.
"Huh? What are you talking about?" I asked.
"You were making funny noises to yourself. What were you thinking?"
"You were laughing to yourself. Were you looking at my underwear on the floor or something?"
Madoka entered the room and looked around.
"No, I wasn't," I protested. "I was just thinking what a good morning it was today."
"You're really good..." she said devilishly.
I didn't know what she meant. "Good at what?"
She put the coffee cup on the side table and climbed on top of me, mounting me as if I were a horse.
"Kyosuke!" she said playfully. "You haven't been coming to classes at the university recently. You're not doing something you shouldn't be doing, are you?"
"What do you mean?"
Then Madoka smothered me with her body, and we kissed.
It was a strong, forceful kind of kiss. There was a faint taste of coffee. Madoka's nose was slightly cold as it brushed against my cheek.
I kissed her back, making a sucking noise with my mouth on purpose. She started to laugh at that, and said, "Good morning" as she rolled off of me.
"Good morning, Madoka. You're up early."
"Thanks to you, I slept well." She smiled, looking a little embarrassed, and looked away. "You're good," she said.
"You just said that."
"It's true! You've gotten much better!"
"Better at what?"
"_Baka!_ You're an esper, right? So why don't you try reading my mind, instead of going to the past and the future all the time."
"Hmmm. Okay, I'll try," I said. I made a serious face, and looked straight at her.
Now, I'm sorry to tell you this, but I don't have the ability of reading people's minds. But if that's what Madoka wants, then I don't mind giving it a try.
"Wait a minute," Madoka said now. "I was kidding, Kyosuke. Don't look at me like that."
"I'm getting something," I said. "I can see it."
"Um..." I continued, "I see something else. Size 'C' cup....35 inches...."
The next thing I knew, Madoka hit me with a pillow.
"Baka!" she said. "That's x-ray vision, not mind-reading!"
"I'm just kidding! I guess I just can't read people's minds after all. But what did you mean just then when you said I was 'good...'?"
"I can't believe you're that dense," Madoka said, teasing me. "Are you going to make me come out and say it?"
That was when I realized what she meant by 'good' and 'gotten better.' She was talking about last night.
"Ah, you mean sex," I said.
Bash! Bash! Madoka assaulted me with the pillow again, then buried my head in it.
"Hey, cut it out!"
I finally succeeded in getting the pillow away from her, but then she ran out of the room, laughing.
I took the cup she had left behind and drank down the still-steaming coffee. I had a feeling of of happiness I can't describe.
Six months had passed since I returned from war-torn Bosnia.
I had finally gotten used to being back in Japan, but it had been hard at first, with the news media after me all the time.
But that was to be expected.
The first headlines read, "_Student photographer Kyosuke Kasuga returns safely_," then, "_A Story of courage for Japanese young people, dulled by years of peace_." It was all so silly.
I was surprised by all the daily coverage, though, even after all this time.
I didn't have any particular reason for going there, aside from an odd desire to visit a country torn apart by civil war.
But what I saw there was...I mean, the pictures I took...they weren't something you could talk about with someone casually.
That's why I haven't been able to bring myself to develop the pictures I brought back with me yet.
I sighed and got out of bed. I opened the window, and cold air came into the room.
It was always the same.
No matter how happy I was with Madoka... The images of what I saw in Bosnia come back to me, and I feel that I am responsible somehow, as if I had somehow caused the war. It was a feeling I couldn't get rid of.
Although recently I have been able to get to sleep sometimes.
But to tell the truth...
I've been awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of my own voice, sobbing, again and again.
Of course, I've told all this to Madoka. But she doesn't ask me what's behind it all.
Once, she said to me, "I've decided not to ask you about the details of what happened there unless you really want me to. Unless you specifically want to tell me about it, I won't ask." She flashed a quick smile at me as she said this.
After this conversation, she seemed to be more at ease.
Another time, when I couldn't get into my own house because of all the news reporters waiting for me at my door, she said, "Why don't you stay here with me tonight?"
That was when I started spending the night in Madoka's room.
We had had sex before in this room. But that had been the first time she had said had asked me to spend the night.
This had been because Madoka had been unwilling to betray the trust of her parents, who live overseas. I had understood this, and had been going home every day up to that time.
Holding the coffee cup in one hand, I went downstairs and saw Madoka lying on the couch, using the Mac once again.
"Are you getting some good ideas for your songs?" I asked.
But Madoka sat up suddenly, her body rigid.
"It's a joke, right?" she let out, her voice a half-shriek.
She hadn't been working on her song lyrics, but instead had been logging into another computer using the telephone line.
She had been doing "pasocon networking" or networking with a personal computer a lot these days, as part of her work. Using an computer network that links the whole world together called the Internet, she was able to communicate freely with anyone not just inside Japan, but overseas as well.
"This can't be happening," she said. "Hikaru..."
"Huh? Hikaru-chan?" I said.
Hikaru-chan was in New York. She was attending a school in Greenwich Village called "Actor's Studio College," taking classes on music and dance.
Six months ago, she returned to Japan briefly, but had returned to America right after that.
"Madoka, what happened to Hikaru-chan?"
Madoka finally turned to look at me, then, as if she had witnessed a great tragedy, and pointed to the computer's screen.
There, written in English, were the words
Bye Bye, <STAR*>
"Something has happened to Hikaru in New York."
"What?!" My body, which had been warmed up by the coffee, suddenly grew cold inside.