i n   g i r l ' s   r o o m s

Fuji Yuuta only comes home when he needs something, or when he knows aniki won’t be there. He knows this is kind of childish, but it’s been habit for so long that it’s hard to stop. In the holidays he leaves the house just after he gets up and comes home barely in time for dinner, or sometimes later, when most of the house has gone to bed. Syuusuke watches as he leaves. He’s always still up when Yuuta gets home, sitting in the living room with a magazine in his lap, or watching tv. Sometimes he’s just sitting there in the quiet, and it grips Yuuta’s stomach with guilt to go to bed right away.

Aniki always smiles at him and says goodnight.

--

He finds photos of Echizen Ryoma in aniki’s room when he goes in one day to borrow a book. Syuusuke is out somewhere. His room is quiet and empty, his neat bed, his cacti in clusters on the desk. Syuusuke’s room always smells better than Yuuta’s, clean and crisp and vaguely floral, like a girl’s. Yuuta has only been in a real girl’s room once before. His sister’s doesn’t count. Neither does Syuusuke’s.

The photos fall on the floor when he slides the book from the shelf, so he can’t help but look at them. Echizen Ryoma scowling at the camera, Echizen Ryoma lying shirtless on Syuusuke’s bed. He and Syuusuke together, lying on their backs and staring up and the camera that Syuusuke is holding high above their heads. Echizen never stops scowling, even in the last photo, when Syuusuke kisses his cheek. Syuusuke is always smiling, but that doesn’t mean much.

Yuuta stuffs the photos back on the shelf, feeling satisfied when they bend.

--

When Fuji Yuuta was five years old, his parents threw him a birthday party that he refused to attend. He sat beneath dining table crying and staring at people’s feet until aniki came to find him with a plate of cake. The party wasn’t so bad with aniki there, just the two of them under the table with light filtering pink through the floral tablecloth.

Fuji Syuusuke was his favourite person in the world right up until he started junior high.

--

Yuuta wants to tell somebody. He wants to tell his parents, they’ll be angry. He wants to tell the school. He could tell Mizuki, and then everybody would know. He looks up Tezuka Kunimitsu’s number in the phone directory and writes it angrily on his hand, but it smudges and blurs with his sweat. He wants to tell somebody and see the shock on their face.

He wants somebody to be outraged about this.

--

On their father’s birthday Yuuta goes home for dinner and their mother gives them red wine. Aniki is quiet, poking at his food and not talking much, except to make his weird jokes. When their mother asks after Mizuki, Syuusuke looks at Yuuta with eyes wide open and his jaw set.

“He’s fine,” Yuuta says, poking at a piece of tofu with his chopsticks.

When Yuuta leaves, Syuusuke follows him out the door and puts his arms around him. He smells rich and dark like the wine they’ve been drinking. Aniki used to do this when they were little kids and it didn’t seem weird then. Now Yuuta wants to check to see if anybody is watching.

“Come home more often,” aniki says, and lets Yuuta struggle out of his hold.

--

Yuuta dates a girl from the Volleyball club. He takes her to the movies and walks her home, standing with her in the shadows outside her front door. Her lips are dark and red like Cabernet and when he kisses them, he feels obscurely guilty.

He sees her for a month, and breaks up with her when she says she wants to meet his family.



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