Secrets and Things Not Well Hidden
~ Chapter 4: Amara and Michelle ~
Serena sprinted across the path and ducked behind a tree. Peeking around the tree trunk, she spotted her quarry, who still hadn’t seen her after almost an hour of her following them. Once again, Serena congratulated herself on her stealth and cunning as she prepared to follow Amara and Michelle farther into the park.
Last weekend when she’d gone to see Amy, the girl had told her to just leave it alone. Serena had tried, she really had. But her curiosity was getting the better of her.
‘Curiosity killed the cat,’ she could hear Mina saying. Serena thought it was more likely the cat went crazy from not having its curiosity sated.
The park was all but deserted this afternoon, so keeping up with Amara and Michelle wasn’t difficult. It had also been easy to stay on their tails through the shopping district, even if it had gotten a bit boring waiting for Michelle to finish trying on all those clothes. Serena couldn’t count the number of bags and boxes that had been left in Amara’s car before the two had started walking towards the park.
Serena crouched down behind a bush, then raised her head just enough to spy over the top.
Michelle was staring right at her.
Serena ‘eeped’ and fell backwards. A hand came down on her shoulder and pulled her up, turning her so she could see who was behind her.
“Why are you following us?” demanded Amara.
Serena tried to answer, but nothing more than a few stuttered syllables emerged.
Amara released the smaller girl with a light shove. “Go home, meatball head. If I catch you following us again, I won’t let you off so easy.”
Amara turned to walk away just as Serena found her voice. “I know about you,” she blurted out.
The older girl stopped, but didn’t turn around. Sounding as if she were talking to a slow child, she said, “I was there moonface, remember? The parking garage, the cathedral. We were all there and we all know.”
“No. I mean about you and Michelle. I know.”
That made Amara turn around. Serena shrank back from the girl’s cold glare.
“I don’t know what you think you know –“
“Amara.” Michelle’s tone was cautionary as she addressed her partner.
Serena looked back and forth between the two girls. Their eyes had locked, and she could sense the silent communication even if she couldn’t decipher it.
Amara nodded, then refocused on Serena. “Come on,” she said as she grabbed Serena’s arm.
The three girls left the park, Serena being more or less drug along by Amara. She didn’t question where they were going until she was stuffed in the back seat of Amara’s car with the bags and boxes that wouldn’t fit in the trunk. Again Amara’s glare was able to silence her. Serena shrank back against the car seat.
The ride to the apartment building was silent. No words were spoken as the car was parked or during the elevator ride.
Amara unlocked the door to the apartment she shared with Michelle. “In here,” she said as she led Serena into the sitting room. “Sit where you want.”
Serena chose to perch on the edge of the couch, hands folded in her lap and looking like a schoolgirl about to be scolded by an angry teacher.
Michelle sat in a chair across from Serena. Amara stood to the side of the chair, her body tense.
“You said you know about us,” began Michelle. “Could you elaborate on that a bit, please?”
Serena’s hands twisted nervously in her lap. “Well, you see, I found this picture in my brother’s magazine of a race and you two, well, you were there and you were kissing. Only it wasn’t the kind of kiss you give your cousin. It was more like the way I want Darien to kiss me and then Raye said it was obvious that Amara was gay even though I didn’t think so, but she didn’t say anything about Michelle, so I asked Amy, but she said it wasn’t any of our business even though she already knew and –“ Serena paused mid-ramble to take a breath. Her mouth opened again to continue.
“Just how many people have you told?” interrupted Amara.
“I tried to tell Raye, but she misunderstood. And Amy already knew, so I didn’t really tell her.”
“I wondered why Amy stopped coming by the sports center,” said Michelle sadly. “I missed our races. She was the only one who could give me a real challenge.”
Amara started to say something, but Michelle’s hand on hers stopped her. She looked down to the other girl, clearly annoyed at being interrupted.
“At this point,” said Michelle calmly to her partner, “we have nothing left to lose. Tell her the truth, Haruka.”
Serena stared curiously at them as the older blonde visibly deflated. The girl relaxed against the side of the chair and focused back on Serena.
“To begin with,” began Amara, “we aren’t cousins. That was just part of the disguise. Just like our names. Mine is really Haruka Tenoh. Michelle’s is Michiru Kaioh.”
Serena turned this information over in her head for several minutes. Finally she asked, “Why didn’t you just tell us that in the beginning? Why lie about it?”
“It’s not lying,” answered Haruka. “It’s just… just…”
“Easier,” supplied Michiru when the other girl couldn’t seem to find a word. “It was easier to explain two girls living together the way we are by saying we were related. This way we could enroll in school and no one would think much about it or ask any uncomfortable questions.”
“It was the same with our names,” continued Haruka. “First of all, Michiru’s name is too well known.”
“And yours isn’t?” smiled Michiru.
“No one outside the circuit would recognize me. But say Michiru Kaioh and people immediately start talking about this painting or that piece of music. Besides that, we also thought it would be easier to use names that were common to the people in this region,” explained Haruka.
Serena’s forehead wrinkled in confusion. “You thought ‘Amara’ was simpler and more common than ‘Haruka’?”
Michiru giggled and Haruka frowned. “No, I thought Alexandra was. But the idiot who made up our ID’s fouled up. He said I needed something feminine sounding. Gave me some stupid line about how if I used Alexandra people would inevitably call me ‘Alex’ and that it would cause gender confusion yadda, yadda, yadda. He’s just lucky we were rushing as much as we were to get out here. Otherwise…”
“I still don’t get it. Why did you think you had to lie? We would have understood.”
“We couldn’t be sure that everyone would, though,” answered Michiru. “Try and understand it from our point of view. I knew from the moment I saw Haruka that I wanted more than just friendship from her. It was a normal thing for me, but I had some friends who could never get used to the idea of me being like that. There are a lot of people who don’t approve. When we came here we wanted to avoid that sort of attention and fulfill the mission. That was it.”
“The mission,” said Serena solemnly.
“The mission,” repeated Haruka. “And that hasn’t changed. We’ll still proceed the way we think we have to. Even if you try to hold this over our heads in some way.”
“I wouldn’t,” protested Serena.
“You say that now,” said Haruka. She stood straight once again. “We’ve said all we need to for now. Nothing’s changed, odango. Remember that.”
Serena stood and followed Haruka and Michiru to the door.
Before Haruka could close the door, Michiru asked quietly, “How did Amy know? You said you didn’t have to tell her.”
Serena smiled at the girl and shrugged. “She said subtly wasn’t your strong point. She saw something in all those touches and whispers that I missed, I guess. Kinda like you were saying one thing and doing another.”
Michiru nodded back in understanding.
Before anything further could be said, Haruka closed the door. From her place in the hall, Serena heard the deadbolt click into place.
Serena put her hands behind her head and stretched her arms out with a sigh. “So unnecessary,” she said quietly to herself as she walked towards the elevator. “We would have understood.”
Inside the apartment, Michiru put her arms around Haruka’s waist and rested her head on the blonde’s chest. “Haruka, when this is all over, promise me we’ll go back home.”
Haruka returned the embrace. “I promise. We’ll take some time and go back to the coast, just the two of us.”
Michiru smiled. “And you’ll keep me out all night long and never let me go?”
“Right,” answered Haruka with a grin of her own. “I’ll even buy you an ice cream cone.”