Concupiscentia in suburbia, and in old buildings, and in empty classrooms at the end of summer. Do you really know, I wonder? Do you really know what it feels like? Can you feel nostalgia still whe...
'Here. Let me do that.'
Deep male hands pass around her; a warmth and a tension. He touches her upper arm.
'Yes, my brother.'
'There's still orange juice left.'
'Yes, my brother.'
She watches his hands as he breaks eggs into the frying pan, slippery grey and yellow against the light. A couple of fragments of eggshell fall in as well. The orange juice is held circular in two glasses, a garish yellow, somewhere between pastel and neon; the colour of egg yolks.
She yawns suddenly, unladylike with her small mouth stretched wide, her tongue, as she'd swallow oyster flesh wet and raw and salty, or eggs just laid. Then she closes her mouth, and looks up again through glasses.
'Ah, Anthy, do we have any salt?'
She touches his back. 'Yes, my brother.'
'I almost drowned once, when I was little. That's what they told me, anyway. I don't think I remember it myself.'
This beach is deserted, and there's no sand, just rocks and mud and seaweed. Anthy'd shown her. Said she used to like picking mussels here, when she was small.
She takes her shoes and socks off to go out further. Silky grey silt squirms up between her toes, thick as toffee, sun-warmed and obscene. On paddling it off, she finds herself bleeding. Bits of fractured seashell drift away with the grit, with her blood, thin like water.
She's talking to herself.
'... you know?'
The oysters are cool and wet, and have a base taste that's incongruous against white china. Their brine leaves fine grit between her teeth. Particles of silt, estuary mud. White wine that tastes only sour and strong, as she's not yet learned to drink it.
'Is it good?'
He takes a single dainty bite out of a wax orange and sets it back down on the table. He dabs dust and fragments of eggshell lacquer from his lips, and she watches his mouth above the candle flame rather than meet his eyes. White paraffin wax pearls and blots onto the tablecloth, ripe for pressing fingerprints in, brittle seals. But no; this is a restaurant.
It's just, that she's not used to restaurants.
'I was passing through the market, so I bought some clams.'
Schoolchildren scream laughter outside the window, across the road. Granny went to market, and what did she buy? That old rhyme, that old rope.
'Shall I put them on to steam, then?'
'Hey, there are a lot here. Ah ... but that will do for lunch as well if I put them all on, that's okay. Have to wash them properly first, get the grit out ... ah, Himemiya? You still there?'
'You were a little late coming back, Utena-sama.'
She'll have to wash her feet off. Her ankles are greyed, silt shadows in place of socks, grit between her toes.
'I guess maybe I was ...'
Anthy is silhouetted, inscrutable before the mundane draining board, both abstracted in grey and yellow by the setting sun. Her body taut and poised in summer cotton. A heartbeat; Utena knows the taste. Like the fine hairs on the back of Anthy's neck, it's a taste she'll recognise, metallic and like salt.
Concupiscentia in suburbia, and in old buildings, and in empty classrooms at the end of summer. Do you really know, I wonder? Do you really know what it feels like? Can you feel nostalgia still when you weren't present at the scene?
You're so naÃ¯ve. 'Am I naÃ¯ve? I don't know...'
'When the winter comes, we can hole up here, right? It always snows here, you have to be careful not to slip on the steps. Oh, but I guess you'd know that already. You know, Wakaba used to tell me I could go stay at hers for New Year, for the holidays. And then I did once, and it was just - kind of awkward, you know? I don't know. Maybe you don't. I had this winter jumper before, really huge and woolly, and the cuffs used to trail in everything. In the food. They kept falling down over my hands. Say, Anthy, do you think I'm naÃ¯ve? I guess I am, sometimes ...'
Anthy cleans fingerprints from her glasses, and does not pay attention in class.
The days wear by, bruising themselves on hidden corners. She barely notices. This is her drifting time, her charnel-house of days. It could have been a line from a poem she read once and no longer remembers - because, it doesn't matter. And Utena, who lets the wool fall over her narrow, girlish hands, itchy woollen stockings for Sunday best in dead air. But this is summer.
'Aah, that's blown it.'
She scrapes burnt egg off the pan. 'And I was hungry as well.' Or was she? It's early in the morning and that knot in her stomach might well be lingering sleep. 'Is there any more food in the house, even? The bread went off ...'
She jumps. 'Himemiya.' She'd left her sleeping, hadn't heard her get up.
Anthy settles a slim, brown hand on Utena's waist, and leans round to retrieve the frying pan.
'I don't like to eat eggs.'