Chapter 15: Not His Sister’s Keeper
I was tired and sweaty when I returned to my room, and all I wanted was a hot shower. Instead I found Tsuwabuki waiting for me, kneeling at the low table with Anthy and drinking tea.
“What’s he doing here?” I grumbled, irritated that he had obviously rushed to her behind my back.
“He has something important to tell us,” she told me.
“No he doesn’t! He just wants to tell tales on somebody. I won’t…”
“Stop. Please listen to what he has to say.” Anthy’s voice was firm. I stumbled to a halt, angry and confused.
“I heard Kiryuu-senpai on the phone,” Tsuwabuki blurted into the sudden silence. I opened my mouth again to shut him up, regardless of Anthy’s opinion, but he beat me to the punch.
“To the chairman!”
My jaw dropped. I felt myself turn pale. Anthy nodded at me meaningfully but only said gently:
“Sit down, Utena. Before you fall down.”
I did, stumbling over to sink to my knees across from our guest.
“Touga-san,” I repeated feeling dead. “I can’t believe it.”
“I couldn’t tell Nanami-sama.” Tsuwabuki hung his head miserably. “She wouldn’t have believed me.”
“We understand,” said Anthy, but I felt that I didn’t. How could have Touga betrayed us like this, betrayed me? Didn’t he really mean his resolution in the starlit dueling arena? Didn’t he care about his adoring younger sister, or Saionji, his best friend from childhood? About…me?
“What does it mean?” asked Tsuwabuki, gaze switching plaintively from me to Anthy as if we held all the answers.
“It means Touga-san’s working for Akio-san,” said Anthy, her voice hitching a little on her brother’s name. “That he never stopped working for him.”
“He worked for World’s End?” I repeated stupidly.
“He was his right hand man,” she revealed.
“Oh,” I said, feeling something crumble inside of me. “I thought he was a prince. One who’d lost his way maybe, but a prince all the same.”
“So did I!” cried Tsuwabuki. “He saved his little sister like a prince would. I saw him.”
“But he played his games on her too,” Anthy murmured in a tone I didn’t recognize. “A true prince would never do that.”
I stared at her, turning her words over and over in my mind. Why hadn’t she told me about Touga’s role at Ohtori? What on earth had he done to Nanami? And what else had she neglected to tell me?
Unexpectedly my mind flashed to the worst night of my life. A white couch-back with dark exposed skin rising behind it. Anthy, silent, stripped bare, staring at me with the eyes of a dead thing. They were hopelessly despairing eyes, straight out of my flickering childhood memories. Akio, his broad back turned away from me, no doubt smirking up at his sister. No doubt gleeful over the horrific secret he forced her to reveal alone. That together they deliberately forced me to face.
I was rooted there in frozen shock for what seemed like an eternity. No-one had moved, or even seemed to breathe. I don’t think my eyes could have gotten any wider, or that Anthy’s answering gaze could have been less responsive. It was a nightmare come to life. It was worse than I thought life could be.
Finally my nerve had shattered. Fleeing from the observatory I had rushed to huddle like a child under my covers, turned away from Anthy’s bed. There was no thought, just a steady rush of emotion too terrible to examine, to endure.
It had been a long time (too long, agonizingly long) before I’d heard Anthy’s quiet entry. What had she been thinking? (What had they been doing? Why the delay?!) What had she really thought of my grief and rage and misplaced blame?
Slowly I looked up now, to stare into her sad and shadowed face.
“But you’re a prince, Utena-senpai!” piped Tsuwabuki, dragging my attention back to him. He gazed up beseechingly. “I’m sorry I told tales, and I know you don’t like things like that, but really, I thought it was the right thing to do. You’re a prince and you have to know about the wicked plots. Right? Right?”
My head was all foggy with my thoughts; I didn’t know what to say. Anthy answered for me.
“Yes, you’re right, Utena is a true prince.” She reached over to gather up my limp hand. “Thank you for bringing us this important information. Will you keep it secret for now?”
“If Utena-senpai wants me to, then I shall,” he declared self-importantly.
“She does,” said Anthy, and I managed a weak nod at the squeeze of her hand. They exchanged more words which I didn’t listen to.
What had she thought?
“I need a shower,” I muttered, pulling away from Anthy’s hand, from this meaningless conversation and all the things I didn’t understand. Without looking back I headed to the bathroom.
My clothes were off in a second. In the stall I pressed my bowed head against the wall and let hot spray beat down. My temples throbbed. Only a short while ago I’d been filled with hope…but it was so hard to keep faith in the face of dark secrets.
Princes who weren’t princes.
Brothers who didn’t act like brothers.
Fairytales that were horror stories in disguise.
Slim arms slipped round my hips. I started (how long had it been?) as a naked Anthy stepped into the shower, pressing herself to my back.
“Utena,” she whispered, her voice rough with tears. Turning into her embrace I pulled her tightly to my chest, leaning us back against the shower wall. She started crying into the hollow of my neck, and I found myself crying silent tears with her, which mingled with the spray.
“I was so angry,” I whispered eventually. “I blamed you for stealing my prince from me. It was the first time I thought you really might be a witch.”
She met my eyes, her own broken shards of green.
“I am a witch.”
I tentatively stroked one hand through her long wet hair as I answered.
“I kn…know.” I leaned forward to kiss her forehead. “But you’re more than that.”
“Am I?” Her eyes almost challenged me now. “Am I really?”
“I was wrong to be angry,” I told her, hearing my own voice tremble on the admission. “So incredibly wrong. I should have blamed your brother for stealing your innocence. For using you, for forcing you, for making you his p…pawn. Seen him for the devil he is.”
She just stared at me with impossibly wide eyes, looking as if she was holding her breath to hear my words.
“It was easier to blame you, than to face up to the truth.” I cleared my throat, my voice cracking even more. “He d…didn’t love me. He didn’t love anybody.” My shaking hands settled on her shoulders. “I was weak.” A deep breath. Where had the air gone? Another breath. “I’m sorry.”
“You just did what everybody else has always done.” She looked down. I gently tilted her head back up.
“It’s easier to blame the victim,” I said, seeing that very clearly in this moment. “To say it’s their fault. And you were the rose bride, the scapegoat for everybody’s hate. But that doesn’t make it right. It’s wrong, Anthy, horribly wrong.”
One of her hands fluttered up to cup mine where it now rested on her cheek. Silent tears slipped from her eyes.
“Do you believe me?” I asked.
“I liked it.” Her voice was raw. “Some of it, the things Akio-san and I did…the games we played on you all…he said I liked it. S…sometimes I did.”
My own tears started up again. “You had no choice,” I said. “It was the only choice left to you.”
We stared at each other, under this cleansing rain, her eyes disbelieving, mine begging her to trust me. Didn’t she see that Akio’s words were clever lies, designed to justify his own wickedness? Didn’t she see that his reaction to her sacrifice was one of guilt, warping love into hate and a prince into a monster? I saw it. Somehow I saw it all.
“I don’t understand why you believe the things you do,” she said finally, as she trailed her hands down my chest. “But I see you, Utena. Only you.”
We both watched her fingers move to trace the light musculature of my abdomen. My breath was coming faster now. For the first time I really noticed her nakedness, so close and slick with spray. I felt hotter than when I’d first entered the shower all sweaty.
“Good,” I said, gasping then unexpectedly giggling. Her feather-touch was ticklish although I don’t think she meant it that way. “That’s good,” I sighed. Her body was beautiful; her closeness was intoxicating.
“You remind me of Dios,” she murmured. “Even more than you used to. There’s something about you now, a…clarity.” Suddenly her eyes widened and she caught mine sharply. “Do you have the power of Dios?”
“What?” I gasped, drawing back from her fingers. “Of course not.” I trailed off, thinking about it for the first time. “I mean, I don’t think I do. What is it anyway?” Unconsciously I had backed myself into the corner of the shower.
“You won the final duel,” she said, ignoring my question. “You changed the face of Ohtori Academy. You revolutionized the world.” She was ticking the evidence off on her fingers.
“I didn’t revolutionize the world,” I argued but she continued relentlessly.
“You survived the swords. Maybe you even…kept them from coming until now. You freed me. You freed the others. You empowered Arisugawa-senpai to stand up to Akio-san. You made him afraid.”
I shook my head. “He didn’t seem very afraid to me.”
“You don’t know him like I do.”
“No, I guess that’s true.” She’d stepped toward me and wouldn’t look away. Pressed back in the corner I had nowhere else to go. Did she have to stand so very close?
“Do you have it?” Her voice was intense as she actually stood on her tiptoes to peer up at my face. Her eyes searched mine, and I suddenly felt very nervous. I avoided her questioning gaze as best I could.
“Stop it,” I muttered, “I don’t know.”
“You always know more than you think.” She just wouldn’t let it go, forging on intently. “Look inside your heart, tell me what you see.” Her hand moved up to rest between my breasts. “What do you feel inside?”
Her strange words made me hot and uncomfortable. All at once I decided I was tired of the water streaming over us, stifled by the sensations of skin on skin and eyes trying to unravel my soul.
“That’s enough.” My words were clipped as I pushed past her and stepped from the shower. I felt the prickle of her searching gaze on my shoulderblades, but I ignored it to towel myself off.
“What are you hiding from?” she asked with the gentle persistence that was so very her.
“I’m not hiding.” I turned away and went looking for my nightwear. To my consternation I could hear her following me. Glancing over my shoulder I saw she was sitting on the bed (still naked, her long hair dripping on the covers), watching me pull on my underwear.
“Utena.” I saw her eyes in the mirror, searching me just like the time (so long ago) she asked me who I really was. Pulling on my pajama bottoms I did my best to ignore her. She sighed. ChuChu was bouncing on one of my feet suddenly, begging me to pick him up. Buttoning up my shirt I ignored him too.
“I’m tired,” I muttered into the silence, “I want to go to bed.” The only problem was it would be impossible to sleep with Anthy sitting there, and like that. I risked another glance at her. She hadn’t moved at all, and was still studying me in the exact way Akio always had (did their eyes have to be so similar?). His too-knowing gaze had always made me blush, and I felt myself turning red under hers.
“Right,” I muttered, leaving the bedroom to go and rifle through the mini-bar. Maybe a snack? Food was distracting. ChuChu rushed over in great excitement, leaping onto my reaching hand, his own paws reaching to steal the crisps I wanted. Glaring, I plucked him up by his tail and looked for somewhere safe to confine him.
“I’ll take him.” It was Anthy, standing right beside me (how did she move so quietly?), unexpectedly dry and dressed in her nightgown (so fast?). I handed her our loudly protesting pet.
“Er, thanks.” Throwing myself on the couch I started crunching my crisps. Loudly. Anthy sat down on the other end of the couch and held ChuChu around the waist as he ran in place, trying to reach me. She was watching me still. I just didn’t know the way to make her give up on something she wanted. I guess I’d always wanted her to want things, anything, as long as it was on her own. Now that she did want something, and I didn’t…what should I do?
“Please Anthy,” I muttered. “I’m trying to eat here.”
She smiled a little at that, causing me to turn red again and look at my crisp packet.
“Oh really?” she murmured, “is that what you’re doing?”
“I don’t want to fight,” I said tersely.
“Neither do I.” She sighed again. I ate my snack. She said nothing more and appeared to be watching the stars out the wall-length glass window. ChuChu squeaked in frustrated rage. I crunched some more and felt guilty. Which was silly, because I had absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. I finished the crisps and stood up.
“Uh, I’ll just go get ready for bed,” I told Anthy, rubbing the back of my neck. She made a non-committal noise and let ChuChu go. He rushed over to snatch the empty packet off me and shoved his head inside, licking up crumbs desperately.
“Sheesh, he acts like we don’t feed him.” With that I left them to go to the bathroom and clean my teeth. My stomach grumbled. I didn’t really like eating right before bed, but hey, what choice had I had? I brushed energetically. No choice, that’s what. Anthy with those big green eyes, and all her irritating questions. Couldn’t she just…respect what I wanted? I wanted stuff too. Or I didn’t want stuff. At the moment I just wanted to sleep and forget. It was all too much to think about.
Tentatively I poked my head out the bathroom. Nobody to be seen. Padding over to our bedroom I stuck my head around the doorway. Hmm. Anthy under the covers, facing the wall. Well, good, that meant I could go to sleep too. Flicking off the lamp I burrowed under the covers on my side. Immediately Anthy turned to face me.
“Utena,” she whispered, and I grunted warily trying to avoid her eyes. “Tell me what you remember,” she whispered. “Please. We have to talk about this.”
“Do you want me to go and sleep on the couch?” I asked her, seriously considering it. “I already said no.”
She reached out a consoling hand toward me but I shifted away. She stared at me, hurt and confused. “Why won’t you…”
“…stop it,” I whispered, trying not to cry. “Just stop.”
Slowly she pulled her hand back. I turned over so I wouldn’t have to see the questions in her eyes, and scrunched mine tightly closed.
It took a really long time to fall asleep.
Chapter 16: Husk
I was dreaming. I knew because I was back at Ohtori Academy, where I spent the majority of my dreams and nightmares. Peering through the glass door of the rose garden shaped like a bird cage, I searched for the rose bride. As always she was watering the roses, her hair pulled up tightly and sunlight reflecting off her glasses. I couldn’t see her eyes, and she wore a banally pleasant expression. Tentatively I stepped inside.
“Oi Himemiya! I knew I’d find you here.” Easily my dream self fell into old patterns, playing out a scene that had happened a hundred times before, with a hundred slight variations.
“Hello, Utena-sama,” she said, turning to smile at me. A small smile, a contained smile, the only kind the rose bride’s lips could curve into.
“Almost done?” I asked, wandering around the garden while she turned back to her task. Her watering-can never seemed to run out no matter how many of the brightly colored roses she tended to. It was really strange (like so many things about her, come to think of it…)
“Yes,” she said, and put the can down. “I’m finished.”
“Don’t stop on account of me,” I told her feeling faintly alarmed. “You can keep watering ‘till you’ve really finished you know. I’ll wait for you.”
“…Alright,” she said, and picked it up again. I rolled my shoulders back and huffed a sigh of relief. Anthy could be a tricky one. It was hard to get her to do more then just go along with everything she thought I wanted. But I wanted her to be her, to do what she wanted to do. Somehow it had become my greatest goal.
I was distracted from my younger self’s musings by the door slamming inwards. An angry Saionji made his grand entrance.
“Tenjou!” he snapped. “This time I’ll defeat you.” He flung a single black rose at my feet. It had been green I remembered vaguely, not black, or maybe it had been white? Saionji had never been a black rose duelist… While I stared stupidly at the rose Anthy moved to retrieve it. The moment she stood back up he slapped her hard enough to send her flying.
“Let Tenjou pick up after herself,” he growled. “You belong to me, not her, just as you promised.”
“Bastard!” Rushing to intercept his next blow, I caught the back of his hand in mine with a hiss of pain. His rose signet scored a line in my flesh. The sensation distracted me from his other fist arcing toward my jaw. Taking the full force of the blow I flew back, managing to twist my body into a kind of half roll that helped me avoid slamming into Anthy.
“Utena!” she cried. Rubbing my bruised jaw I sat up and stared at her. Saionji, completely distracted from me turned to stare at her. There was a lengthy pause. “…Sama,” she finished lamely.
“Anthy, come with me,” ordered Saionji, re-focusing on his mission. Taking her by the arm he practically forced her to her feet.
“Stop that!” I growled, clambering to my own feet to fling myself between them. “She’s not some kind of object for you to treat as you please. Can’t you get that through your thick head?!”
“The rose bride is mine,” he hissed, “and I’ll prove it with my blade.”
“Like you have the last two times?” This smug new voice belonged to Touga, standing to one side with arms crossed languidly over his snowy uniform jacket. “You’re always over-confident, Kyouichi. After all, Utena-kun has proven herself to be quite the duelist.”
“Tenjou is a damn cheat,” accused the other, turning to glare at his friend. “Her style is all over the place and she only wins because of that stupid apparition that comes down from the castle!”
“The power of Dios,” agreed Touga, sounding a little awed. “Such an awesome sight to behold.” His bright blue eyes raked my body suggestively where I had inserted myself between Saionji and Anthy. I flushed and glared up at him.
“I don’t care what it is,” snarled Saionji, “it’s cheating.”
As he often had, Touga continued to take my side. Knowing what I knew now I found myself studying his beautiful face suspiciously. Had any of it been real? His attraction to me? The smooth lines he dripped?
“How is it cheating?” he now asked calmly. “Isn’t that the power we’re all hoping to obtain?” His next sentence was said like a mantra. “The power to revolutionize the world.”
“That power belongs to Anthy and I! We’re the ones who will go to the castle of eternity.” Saionji sounded rather desperate. He reached for my shoulder to yank me out of his way. I dug my feet in and refused to budge, prying instead at the vice of his fingers. Touga reached over me to grab Saionji’s hand around mine, managing to throw me a meaningful look into the bargain. I flushed again and tugged away from them both…
…and the birdcage spun around us into nothingness. The last thing I saw was Anthy’s wide green eyes and then all four of us were standing on the dueling arena. Appropriately we duelists now sported our princely dueling uniforms, with Anthy’s bridal gown replacing her school uniform.
Touga and Saionji both dropped my hand at the same time. We three whirled to stare up at the castle sparkling overhead. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Anthy staring at me. I took a step toward her and she quickly looked down.
“That’s where I’m going to go!” proclaimed dream-Saionji, apparently not phased by our sudden change of location. “With Anthy.” He folded his arms smugly as though it was already settled.
“And how will you get there, old friend?” purred Touga. “For you surely don’t have the power of Dios and I don’t think you’ve quite got what it takes…”
“And you do I suppose,” ground out Saionji. “You arrogant…”
“Stop it,” I shouted. “Nobody has the power of Dios.”
“What about Dios?” asked Anthy, stepping suddenly to my side. I looked down at the white rose she was pinning on my chest (like so many times before), noting that she still wouldn’t meet my eyes. Weird. Anthy had always looked me head on, albeit with a vaguely distant gaze. Usually she was prone to staring.
“Himemiya,” I said, just to get her to look up at me. She did, although her eyes slid off to one side almost immediately. “Who’s Dios?” I asked, my past self needing to know as much as my present. “Who is he?”
“Your prince,” she said softly, “of course. You know that.”
I nodded slowly. I did. “Where is he?” I wondered aloud.
“Up there,” said Saionji pointing at the castle.
“He comes down when you need him,” pointed out Touga. “Like an angel.”
“Like a prince,” I mused.
“He’s dead,” said Anthy.
“What?” I gaped down at her again, thinking her hand had lingered on the rose at my breast for far too long.
“Over there,” she said, pointing to the far side of the arena with her unoccupied hand. “That’s his grave.”
Indeed the mausoleum of Dios was appearing out of the shadows (there were shadows on the arena? Since when?), a giant white stone where his silhouette sat with bowed head and drooping sword. Of course my present self recognized it from the final duel (hadn’t it shattered into nothingness? But this was back before…). My past self gawked in amazement. Touga and Saionji both exclaimed and rushed toward it. Anthy took my hand and tugged me along behind. I stared in confusion at the back of her head. She seemed…eager…
“What is it?!” gasped Saionji when we arrived below, craning his head as he ogled. “It’s amazing.”
“Dios!” Touga sounded exultant. “I can feel its power.”
“His power,” corrected Anthy giving rise to odd glances in her direction.
“My prince,” I muttered, dropping Anthy’s hand in favor of stretching mine out toward the grave. “It’s him. I’ve been looking for him for so long…”
“The prince from your childhood?” asked Touga sharply. I glanced at him, surprised at his tone.
“Yes. I’ve searched for him my entire life.”
“For eternity,” murmured Saionji, still entranced by the prince looming above.
“Yes. I want to be like him,” I added earnestly, not sure exactly why I wanted the others to understand that so badly. “To never lose my nobility.” I flushed.
“He’s beautiful,” decided Saionji with a strange note of bitterness. He’d pulled his eyes away from Dios to glare at Touga. “And he’s dead. The power of Dios is dead and gone.”
“Don’t be an idiot,” corrected Touga, still smiling up at Dios. “He comes down from his castle doesn’t he? To possess the victor.”
“Yes,” I murmured as I remembered the sensation of a smiling Dios slipping into my body, filling me with his powerful essence. At the most crucial moment of a fight he would overwhelm me with his righteous fury. The merging was…intoxicating.
“He’s a ghost, you fools,” hissed back Saionji. “A dead ghost. Obviously. I don’t know why I didn’t see that before.”
“Is that all he is?” asked Anthy reflectively, and she was staring at me again, her eyes burning into my profile. “A powerless ghost?”
I looked at her. She glanced away and I frowned. “He’s not just a ghost,” I said slowly, but my voice sounded uncertain even to my own ears.
“The power of Dios can revolutionize the world,” declared Touga importantly. “World’s End says so.”
“The power of Dios?” asked Anthy, this time looking at Touga. But I felt like she was really looking at me.
“The power to revolutionize the world,” repeated Touga, sounding exactly like a broken record. The urge to kick him rose within me. It was such a party line, pure rhetoric. What did it even mean?
“The power to find eternity,” agreed Saionji, but he didn’t sound like he believed in it. Rather his voice was mocking as he continued to glare at Touga. “The power to receive a miracle. To find your shining thing. To have your secret heart’s darkest desire: your black rose.”
“Yes, it can give you anything at all.” With shocking suddenness, Dream-Akio popped into being in our midst, a come-hither smirk on his handsome face.
My past self turned to mush in his presence. It had always been that way.
“Akio-san!” I gasped, feeling desire rush through me, hot and heady. Why did Anthy’s older brother have such an effect on me? It was almost like he was my long-lost prince…oh wait…he was…
“Akio-san,” purred Touga, stroking one hand through his long red hair as he fluttered his eyelashes.
“Oh great,” snarled Saionji. His scowl got noticeably darker. In fact, he almost looked like he was ready to kill them both. I stared at the strange sight. Slowly it came to me…Touga was acting around the chairman like he acted around me. He was flirting! My jaw dropped.
“Oh Utena-kun, don’t look so surprised,” purred that svelte voice that echoed through my schoolgirl fantasies. Akio reached over to tenderly cup my cheek with one powerful hand. “Didn’t you know about my…special relationship with Touga-kun?”
“It’s purely professional,” smirked Touga, stepping up to place his hand at the small of Akio’s back. Or was it lower? “Acting Chairman to Student Council President. We don’t lie down on the job.”
Saionji made a derogatory noise. For a moment his scoffing made sense, but I wanted to believe Akio so badly, and his smiling eyes were passionately pulling me in. They seemed supremely sincere. He was so…male, so…present. I leaned into his touch and sighed.
A sudden intake of air behind me, like a strangled sob. Akio glanced up and over my shoulder. In his verdant eyes I saw the mirror of Anthy’s eyes, but hers were filled with pain. I whirled out of his touch, knocking his hand away in the process. Now I faced only her.
She looked at her feet. But it was too late. Awareness came to me in a sudden crash of knowing, as I realized (too slowly) what all the small signs of wrongness added up to.
“Anthy!” I gasped instead, and with that I woke up.
Sitting bolt upright in our bed I gasped for air. I blinked sleep away to stare at Anthy accusingly. This was easy since she was only a hand’s-breadth away on her side of the bed, facing me. A vase of smoking incense was cupped on her lap and she sat in the lotus position. ChuChu was perched on her head, but far from reassuring me the blankness of his own staring eyes filled me with dread.
“What the hell?!” I shouted, leaping from the bed and stumbling to the far side of the room where I backed up against the wall. “What are you doing?!”
She simply stared back at me, looking shocked herself.
“You were in my dream!” I accused. “Weren’t you.” It wasn’t a question.
Anthy still said nothing. Sicklysweet-smelling smoke from the incense started me coughing.
“Put that out!” I cried. Biting her lip Anthy did so, covering the smoking tips with her own hand to quench them. This I took in with horror.
“Your hands…what are you doing?!” I yelled again, realizing I was more than upset, I was angry. ChuChu seemed to come to life then, yelping out an eep of protest and fleeing under our pillows.
Anthy finally spoke. “You said to put it out,” she said, calmly, deadly. I stared at her, hunting for her intentions on her face, but it was a blank slate.
“You were in my dream,” I repeated, forcing myself not to shout with some effort.
“Yes,” agreed Anthy. Then nothing.
“Why?!” I cried out, unable to stop my voice from breaking. Anthy looked down at her hands. They were folded around the vase. Silence stretched between us, during which my hands clutched closed and unclosed convulsively as I fought for control. I wanted answers, straight answers. I didn’t trust myself to speak again.
Finally Anthy broke the tableau.
“I’ll make some tea,” she said, rising gracefully to head out the room toward the tiny kitchenette. I stared at her as she crossed past me. Speechlessly I trailed after her. In the main room I stared at her back in abject disbelief as she bent over the stove.
“I don’t want tea,” I bit out, when I finally found my voice again. “I want answers, damn it, Anthy. I want to know what you were doing in my dream. I want to know now.”
“Have some tea, Utena-sama,” she repeated stubbornly. It will calm you down, echoed her unspoken words. My shoulders stiffened, and I slowly crossed to stand directly behind her. She stood looking down at the still-boiling kettle like it was the most fascinating thing in the world. I moved very close to her but didn’t touch her.
“Why Himemiya?” I asked softly, copying her unconscious choice of form. “Why do you want me to drink the tea?” It wasn’t for the pleasant ritual that we often shared, suddenly I was sure of it. My instincts were screaming a red alert.
She tensed, but didn’t turn. “It’s a good time for tea,” she tried, but the lie fell flat. I found my hands on her hips before I knew what I was doing. Soothingly I ran them up to lightly encircle her waist.
“I want to keep on hating lies,” I told her, and to my sudden shame I realized hot tears were now coursing down my cheeks. “The truth got us this far. We can’t let go of it now, Anthy. It will mean letting go of each other.”
Slowly, surely her body started to shake as fat tears rolled down her cheeks. Tentatively I tightened my embrace. The kettle was boiling now. I pressed myself to her trembling form and watched over her shoulder as she automatically turned off the stove.
“Why do you want me to drink the tea?” I whispered again.
She hesitated. But I could feel surrender in her shivering form. Slowly she reached into the folds of her silky nightgown (into a pocket I didn’t even know existed) and removed a tiny clear flask. She held it where we could both stare at it.
“It looks like water,” I murmured, while my stomach did flip flops.
“It is water,” she said. A beat. “From the river of Lethe.”
“Oh,” I said lamely, only knowing that whatever that meant was something bad.
“It’s one of the rivers of Hades, the Greek world of the dead,” she whispered, and now there was shame in her voice. “Those who drink from Lethe forget everything.”
“Forget?” I repeated stupidly. “Everything?”
“This is diluted,” she continued softly as though I hadn’t spoken. “You’d only forget the last little while.”
“The fight,” I said, catching on at once. “And that you were in my dream.”
“Yes,” she murmured. We both stared at the flask. I found myself reaching for it and removing it from her loosely grasping fingers. She let me. I stepped back from her and raised it in front of my eyes, peering at what for all the world looked to be mere water. I didn’t know how to feel, how to react.
“It’s not the truth,” I found myself muttering. “It wouldn’t be the truth.”
Anthy had turned, tea forgotten to watch me with that unreadable expression. Tears still tracked down her cheeks.
“Did you know,” she said calmly, “that Lethe derives from the Greek word for truth? Aletheia, Utena-sama. It means un-forgetfulness and un-concealment.”
“Do you have to call me that?” I muttered, not taking my eyes from the flask.
“Utena,” she went on, practically talking over me, “means Calyx, which is taken from the Greek word kalyx. It refers to a husk or covering.”
“What?” I said, finally lowering the flask to gape at her.
“I don’t understand,” she whispered. “Who you really are. The truth inside you.”
“What?” I repeated, my anger left behind in confusion. “Anthy, listen to me. The truth is us, here now. Together. Facing whatever happens. I thought by now you knew that.”
She looked at her feet and took a deep breath. “Facing the truth? Together?”
“Yes, of…” I trailed off, realizing too late she’d trapped me.
“What happened to the power of Dios?” she pressed me, and now she was looking into my eyes, my heart, and stepping forward to clasp my hands and the flask in hers. “That’s what I needed to know. What we need to find out. That’s why I came into your dream.”
“It’s my dream!” I retorted hotly, the anger and sense of violation flaring back up. “You should have asked!”
“I know,” she admitted, surprising me. I could have sworn she was blushing under her dusky skin. “I…I’m sorry.” The tears had started again. Helplessly my anger died all over again and I raised a hand to trace the paths of tears.
“Never do it again,” I whispered, my voice shaking. “Not without asking. We’re free of his games.”
She took my hands and kissed them, her tears soaking them. The flask loosened in my grasp, then slipped to shatter on the floor wetting both our feet. We ignored it. ChuChu squawked and left his pillow hidey hole to race around our feet, tugging pieces of glass away one after the other.
“Don’t drink it,” Anthy told him. He stuck out his tongue and waved his arms. Ignoring his antics I hugged Anthy fiercely, filled with conflicting emotions: protectiveness, lingering anger, sadness. I was so tired, and even more confused. I’d won an argument I’d never thought I’d have and lost it at the same time.
“Let’s go to bed,” Anthy whispered, “and try again.”
“Do we have to?” I asked as practically holding each other up we stumbled back to our bed. We fell there in a tangle of limbs.
“We don’t have a lot of time,” she whispered into my neck. “Please Utena. We need to try.”
“I know.” I sighed gustily, trying to prepare myself to face the fear that blocked all rational thought and action.
“I’m sorry,” she said, her blankness completely gone as she clung to me tighter still. “I’m sorry to make you do this, to entangle you in a mess that never belonged to you to start…”
Bending my head to hers I kissed her to put a stop to an apology we both could never seem to stop making. The kiss was fierce and sweet and left us both gasping for air. When it was over she lay quietly in my arms as I kissed her forehead.
“Anthy?” I said tentatively. “What do we do? How do we start?”