I've been taking care of Saeko for as far back as I can remember. I still feel the touch of his tiny fingers wrapped around my index and pinky when he was born. It was my thumb that he sucked on first before our mother's breast.
Neither she nor father gave us any attention. Despite the doctor telling mother that she should breastfeed Saeko for at least six months, she stopped after day one. They put him on formula and had me feed him on a daily basis.
One day, like any other day, our parents left for work without so much as a goodbye kiss. Saeko was sucking on his pacifier, but it wasn't enough. He wouldn't stop crying, and even pushed the baby bottle out of my hands. I didn't know what to do. All I knew was that mother and I were both girls. She may be older and bigger, but we have the same bodies.
I did the unthinkable— I let Saeko suck on my nipple. I couldn't believe my eyes. He stopped crying, and all I could think was: I did this.
From then on, let him do it whenever our parents weren't home. I nursed him every day when I came home from kindergarten. I taught him how to walk, bathed him, read to him, slept with him. Everything. His first word wasn't 'mom' or 'dad' like most babies— it was my name.
There was nothing I wanted more than to be the perfect big sister to Saeko. I was the one who walked him to school when he was old enough to go. By age six, I was already a better cook than our mother. But I wasn't cooking for their sake. It was for my little brother.
Somewhere inside me, I knew these feelings for Saeko were wrong. But I pushed those thoughts to the side because we only had each other. Mom and dad were like mannequins. Dolls brought home by some cosmic little girl to play house with. They might as well have been strangers, birthdays at school were just reminders that going home would be just another day. All that mattered to them was work.
I was happy for a time. Until the education system reminded me that we lived in very different worlds. Being four years Saeko's elder, we could never be in school together after elementary school. Junior high and high school took a lot of my time away from him, and I couldn't be there to protect him from the bullies he encountered in his grade. He started coming home with bruises, rocks in his backpack, and wet shoes.
All that culminated to the first time he rejected me.
I rushed across the street to the park. A group of boys had Saeko surrounded, clearly up to no good.
One of them looked up and saw me. "Geh. Big sister to the rescue again. Run!"
"You boys should be ashamed of yourselves!" I chucked a small stone at them, but they were already long gone. I looked down to see Saeko not in his usual school uniform, but in a dress. They must have forced him to put it on. I bent down to wipe the tears from his eyes, but he slapped my hand away.
"I don't want your help," he said.
My heart stopped for a moment, but I shook off the shock. "Don't be silly. You should rely on me more. If they give you trouble—"
"I said, I don't want your help!" Saeko shoved me back, and I fell hard on my butt.
Saeko gasped, mortified by his own harshness. Meanwhile, I was still processing the ache in my chest. Before I could even say anything, Saeko broke down in tears and raced away.
"Wait!" I tried to run after him, but as soon as I rounded the corner out of the park, he was nowhere to be seen. I hurried home hoping to make up with him, but he wasn't there. Not in his room or under his bed, he was gone.
I called mom and dad, but both of their phones go straight to voicemail. My head began to spin, and tears of my own welled around my eyes. The thought of losing my most precious person in the world made me nauseous. Saeko was too young, he wasn't strong enough to survive out there. I needed to find him before I lost him.
Tsukiji City was a huge place. There were many nooks and crannies that a small child could hide in. We lived in the suburban outskirts where storefronts were few, but parks were many. Eventually, I lost track of time. The sun was beginning to set. I must have gone up and down the neighborhood half a dozen times. I was scared that if I stopped running, my already sore and tired legs would give out.
Just where could he be?
That's right. Saeko knew his way home. I had walked him back so many times it should be ingrained into his memory. It's possible he had returned on his own while I was out. I raced back home out of breath and at wits' end, but to my horror, he still wasn't here.
I didn't want to think I lost him.
God, please. Just give me back my little brother. I'll do anything…
As though some greater being had answered my prayers, the doorbell rang.
When I threw open the door, Kana was the first one I saw. He was holding the hand of someone hiding behind his back.
"I wanted to call you, but Saeko said he wanted some time alone." Kana shook the hand in his grasp. "Come on. You're home, and it looks like you're sister was worried sick."
I collapsed to my knees as Saeko came out from behind. "I'm sorry, Hatsumi… please, don't be angry at me…"
"How… could I be…?" I wrapped my arms around him.
And that night, I wouldn't let him out of my sight.
How long has it been since then?
I've given Saeko space, but this feeling inside my heart won't be quenched. I just want to be with him— her even more now. Why is it that you can love someone so much that it can hurt?
"Whew. What a dream to have during a nap…" I wipe a tear from my eye and hop out of the sofa stretching.
It's six in the evening, and it seems like Saeko and Mio will be coming home late again. Those two are always out together.
"Ahh… it must be so nice, Mio. I want to be with Saeko, too!"
The both of them are in their final year of high school, so they must be making the most out of their time with friends. Soon enough, Saeko will be going to college, and I'll graduate. I wonder if Mio plans to go to college—
"Ngh!" A sharp pain pricks at my brain. Everytime I try to think of Mio's past, the same ache scratches at me until I think of something else.
Mio… is our cousin… from Hokkaido?
It's no use trying to think about it. I can just ask her when they get home. For now, I need to start making dinner in case they get hungry later. Maybe I'll call Kotaro to swing by—
"Er, no. I can't. I almost forgot I broke up with him yesterday." I sigh, recalling the breakup.
Fortunately, we ended on good terms. It was just so hard to see him the same way after Saeko and I…
This is for the best. Now that Saeko is a girl, she will need her big sister even more. My love for her hasn't changed, if anything it's only been strengthened and I need to be stronger for her.
I open up my phone to the lock screen image of myself and Kotaro. We had both gone to an amusement park after dating for a year, and he confessed that he wanted to begin dating with the intention of marriage. I'll never forget that day nor the memories we made. But I have to move on.
As I search through my photo library dedicated to pictures of Saeko, I come across one of when she was a boy. It's of him passed out in his room with a book in his hands. The drool and silly smile fills me with so much joy. I set this image as my lock screen photo so that I can always see his adorable face.
I kiss his image on my phone and hug it close to my chest. "Okay, that's it. I'm giving you a biiiig kiss when you get home, and I won't be taking no for an answer. Ahhh, I love you so much!"
The image of him makes me lose my train of thought. Even though I have to cook dinner, I just want to sit here and stare at Saeko. The sight of him as a boy is so nostalgic. We became so much closer as sisters, and even went as far as proving our love that night.
If he were still a boy, we could be proper lovers. The world wouldn't accept us. Our parents would disown us. But as long as we have each other is enough. Just the thought of having him inside me makes me so wet—
The doorbell rings, and I jump out of the sofa excited to see Saeko home. However, it is an older woman who greets me at the door. She has unusual purple eyes, and a smile that puts my worries away.
"I see by the nameplate at the front, but just to be sure, is this the Ito residence?" The strange woman asks.
"Yes, it is. Do I know you?"
"Actually, I'm Torii Sensei. I believe we met briefly at the school's faculty office."
It's coming back to me now. I do remember her. She and Principal Murata were there when I explained Saeko's gender situation.
"You're Saeko's homeroom instructor, aren't you? Thank you for looking after my little sister!" I bow to her as is customary.
"Please, no need to be so formal. May we speak inside?"
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