Tangled Up in Indigo, Part 7On the final day of After-School Tea Time's San Francisco tour, the afternoon saw Yui, Ritsu, Tsumugi, and Azusa in one last practice session before the grand finale.
It was going as well as could be expected. Something was missing, and it wasn't just the bass line and lead vocals. The girls were playing just fine; after five years, they knew what they were doing. But emotionally, spiritually, they were drained.
They got through their usual numbers without incident, but silence fell when they finished playing. There was an awkwardness between them that this group had never felt before. No one quite knew what to say.
"Once more for each?" suggested Azusa halfheartedly.
Ritsu sighed. "What's the point? We're ready. We've done all we can without knowing Mio's plans, and who knows what those will be."
"If she comes," said Tsumugi sadly.
Yui was on the brink of tears. She couldn't stand seeing her friends like this. In the past, whenever one of them had a problem, the rest wou
Tangled Up in Indigo, Part 6Dinner was finished, and the girls had to head home. Tsumugi had offered to pay for a cab ride, and Lil had gratefully accepted; Rai, who lived very close to the restaurant, had opted to walk instead. The three of them were at the curb saying their goodbyes.
"It's been awesome, Tsumugi," said Rai. "Thanks so much!"
"Think nothing of it," she said. Her hands were clasped in front of her chest; she seemed tense, as if expecting something big.
"So, uh... goodnight."
"Goodnight. Don't forget to say goodnight to Lil!"
"Right." She turned to her girlfriend. "Call you tomorrow, babe."
"You know it." They hugged, then separated.
Rai was already turning around when she felt Tsumugi gripping her upper arm. "It's okay!" she said. "Don't be shy! You two can be affectionate in front of me!"
"You're... you're hurting my arm..."
"Sorry." Tsumugi let go.
Rai looked at Lil. She shrugged, and the two of them kissed.
Tsumugi's eyes went wide.
And after a moment... her smile faded.
Mio didn't turn
Tangled Up in Indigo, Part 5Evening was turning to night, and Mio was turning to despair.
She'd recovered shortly after getting back to her hotel room (but not before another stairathon... she'd be feeling that tomorrow). In the hours since then, she'd been wracking her traumatized brain for song ideas, but all she had was a blank page.
Hmm... blank page... something about paper...?
"There's no point!" she yelled, crumpling up the page. No matter what she wrote, no matter how innocent the subject, their "fans" would find a way to twist it. They were like conspiracy theorists. Show them a verified, authentic picture of the moon landing, and they would use it to prove the moon was a lesbian.
Mio slumped on the desk. What am I going to do?
A familiar ringtone interrupted her depression. She found where she'd tossed her phone on the way in and opened it up. "Hi, Yui."
"Hi! Feeling better?"
"Great!" She's not listening. Big surprise... "Is Ricchan with you?"
The name clenched Mio's fist. "She
Tangled Up in Indigo, Part 4Mio slumped into a chair backstage, exhausted but satisfied. "I think we've finally done it," she said.
"We've definitely done something," Azusa replied.
"I like being a boy!" exclaimed Yui. "Big hands are so much better for holding the strings down!"
Azusa sighed. "For the last time, you haven't actually turned male."
"Are you calling me unmanly?" she thundered. "Ha! Watch me lift these boxes!"
Even the strongest believer in free will would have admitted that the events of the next few seconds -- namely Yui doing several hundred dollars of property damage and bruising her behind -- were predestined and unavoidable.
Tsumugi returned from the coat locker holding a headband. "Here you go, Ricchan."
"Thanks!" Ritsu slapped it back on her head. "That feels better. I don't know about Yui, but I'm all woman."
Mio burst out laughing.
"Hey!" yelled Ritsu. "Exactly what's so funny?"
"Sorry... it's just... all woman..."
"Stop laughing at that!"
Mio wiped a tear from her eye.
Tangled Up in Indigo, Part 3The next morning, Mio was face down in her hotel scrambled eggs.
"Guess it didn't work," said Yui, looking at the newspaper's music section. The headline said it all: "Lesbian rockers go super-femme."
Azusa sighed. "That's what the bloggers all said, too. Everybody figured we were being ironic."
Ritsu, nursing a hangover, just groaned.
The only one who seemed content was Tsumugi. She had brought binoculars to the concert. Whatever she'd been after, she must have gotten it, because she was back to her usual self.
Mio yanked her head up. "I can't believe this! I went to so much trouble writing those new girly songs! 'Girl Thing', 'I Love Kitty Cats', 'You and I are Like a Pair of Scissors'... how could they misinterpret all of that?"
"The one about purses was pretty good," contributed Azusa.
Yui whispered to Ritsu, "If I looked at Mio's desk, I'd see a purse, a pair of scissors, and something with a Hello Kitty sticker on it, right?" Ritsu nodded wearily.
Mio made a
Tangled Up in Indigo, Part 2Mio slammed the door to her room and fell to the floor behind it. She struggled in vain to control her panicked breathing.
A gay band? Did their fans really think that?
Okay, they were all girls. But there were lots of girl bands out there! Like... like the Indigo Girls! Okay, bad example. How about...
"Feeling better yet?"
Mio jumped. She hadn't seen anyone else when she came in. "R-Ritsu! How did you get here before me?"
"I took the elevator. I can't believe you ran all the way here. We're on the sixteenth floor."
Mio looked down. "I... I didn't want to, but..."
Ritsu grinned. "But it would have spoiled your whole panic attack to stop and wait for an elevator."
"Shut up!" scolded the bassist, turning red.
"You've gotta relax, Mio. So maybe our fans have a wrong idea about us. Who cares?"
Tangled Up in Indigo, Part 1Their eyes were still swimming from the glare of the stage lights. The loudest cheers and applause they'd ever heard were still ringing in their ears. None of them could keep from grinning. They were helpless to fight their excitement, their sheer giddy exhaustion.
It was unanimous: in five years as their manager, bringing After-School Teatime on tour to San Francisco was the best idea Ms. Sawako had ever had.
"Incredible! I can't believe how loud Americans are!" yelled Ritsu, whacking the side of her head as if to jostle the noise out of her ears. Look who's talking, Mio thought, but only for a second -- she was too thrilled to be snarky.
Azusa nodded five or six times. "And there were so many of them! I don't know how they all fit inside!"
"Ms. Sawako was right!" said Tsumugi. "We really do have a lot of fans here!"
Ritsu nudged Mio, winking. "Especially you! &
They Aim to PleaseMiina and Karen. Looking across the table at their faces, so hopeful and caring, I was sure I was making the right decision.
"We all have the same picture," I said. "Either one of you could be my twin sister. So until we know for sure, you can both stay here."
In unison, they raised their clasped hands to their chins and went wide-eyed with glee. "Really? You mean it?"
I nodded. "Of course, you'll have to do the housework and the cooking."
"Anything else?" asked Miina excitedly.
"I can't think of anything."
"Really?" said Karen. "You're sure there's nothing else a healthy young man needs that we girls can provide?"
"Yeah," I said.
"Oh." For a moment, she seemed disappointed about something. Then she and Miina were back to jumping around in delight.
"Well, that's settled," I said, heading upstairs. "You two will have to share the guest room for now. I'll be working la
Her Love is a StaplerIt was the usual sort of afternoon, and as usual, the light music club was wasting it.
Ritsu held her hands apart. "It was THIS big! Bigger!"
"Whoaaaa!" said Yui, open-mouthed. The plate of cupcakes was long forgotten.
"And as big around as your waist!"
Rolling her eyes, Mio took a sip of tea. She'd lost track a while ago of what Ritsu was actually talking about, and she suspected that Ritsu had too, but Yui was no less mesmerized for that.
"What colour was it?" she asked insistently.
"Two-fifths of the way between blue and... ha! I win," said Ritsu, checking her watch. She extended a hand, palm-up, to Mio, who sighed and handed over a bill from her pocket.
Yui was lost in the woods, miles from rescue. "You win? Between blue and what?"
"Oh, I made all that up," Ritsu said with a dismissive wave. "I just had a bet with Mio that I could distract you from the cupcakes for five whole minutes.