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Moving into the second half of summer break, it was time for the annual Pivoine Summer Party.
It was still gorgeous and a good time, but after so many years a lot of the magic had worn off for me. Oniisama had graduated too.
Okaasama was in high spirits since parties were always a chance to dress me up like a doll, so she dragged me all over the place to choose a dress.
This year we decided on a layered chiffon dress in light pink. Personally I thought it was a little too cutesy for me, but Okaasama was really pleased with it.
Thinking it was a good chance, casually I said,
“Say, Okaasama, since is it summer after all, I was thinking about changing my hairstyle…”
“My, that wouldn’t do. Okaasama loves your hairstyle as it is, Reika-san.”
…Thought so. I mean, I knew this would happen. I just wanted to try.
“You know, as a child your Okaasama really loved Jumeau bisque dolls. It was my dream that if I ever had a daughter I would dress her up to be just as cute as one.”
Um, I think that might be a bit impossible. Aren’t they blonde for starters?
If you actually did have a kid like an antique doll, wouldn’t it be kind of scary though? She’d be just like a living doll. That has to be scary. I’d be scared. I’ve always hated dolls.
You know, my house still has some of them around. Some of them were bought when I was just born, and some of them were passed down. And the older they were the creepier they were.
And each year when we brought them out it would always be like,
‘Huh? Were the eyes this squinted before? Was the mouth smirking like this before?’
It gave me the shivers. I swear their expressions changed each year.
…Does the hair grow or something? I’ve always been too scared of the answer to ask though.
I wouldn’t be surprised if that one antique one actually walked about at night. People always say that the old ones gain souls.
…Let’s stop this. If I keep thinking about this I might really wake up to find her standing on my chest. And when we’d look each other in the eyes and my hair would turn white in an instant. It actually seems like it could happen.
…But bisque dolls, huh.
Can’t be helped.
I decided to bear with my Rococo hairstyle for a little longer to help Okaasama fulfil her childhood dreams.
When I arrived at the Summer Party, Kaburagi and Enjou were already surrounded by a throng of girls.
I exchanged greetings with other attendants with a drink in hand before heading out into the garden.
There was wind now that it was late, but it was still a little stuffy outside. It didn’t change the fact that the rose arch was still my favourite place each year.
Looking at the garden, I recalled how I rang the bell with ONS during my first time here. How nostalgic.
I still had the photo framed in my room.
I continued standing there looking at the rose arch when I noticed a little boy and girl nearby. They were small enough that they were probably from the Petit Pivoine, and seemed to be hanging around hesitantly.
Oh, could it be?
“Do you want to try ringing the bell?” I asked.
With a start, the two of them turned to face me. I realised they were holding hands. It was adorable.
They exchanged a look but didn’t know what to do.
“I have rung it before, myself. It was very fun. Go on. I will be right here with you.”
“…Can we really?”
“Of course! Bells are made to be rung!”
They held the rope together and hesitantly pulled a little.
“My, the bell will hardly ring with a tug like that.”
With a bit of encouragement, the two of them pulled again, harder this time, and the bell began to ring. I pulled out my camera and took a photo.
A crowd started to form from the sound of it. Although the two kids were turning red, they were wearing happy smiles.
“Yes! Thank you very much!”
“Thank you very much.”
Other people began to happily ring the bell as well. It felt like déjà vu.
I told the two of them that I would give them the photo at school later, and then they introduced themselves. Apparently they were in the same year, and were very close. How nice~ I didn’t come out of primary school with any sweet memories like that. We spoke for a little longer after that before the pair began heading back to the hotel building as they waved at me. Before they left though, the girl stopped and bowed to me.
“Thank you very much, Reika-oneesama,” she smiled shyly before disappearing.
Thinking about it, I don’t think I had ever been called that before. The only exception was when Ririna was being sarcastic.
It was oddly moving. I didn’t have much experience with being looked up to by somebody younger.
“Good evening, Kisshouin-san,” interrupted Enjou while I was basking in afterglow of the ‘oneesama’.
I hadn’t noticed him approaching at all. Are you a ninja or something!?
“Gokigen’yoh, Enjou-sama,” I replied with a fake smile.
I made sure to be on guard. Interacting with this guy was like navigating a minefield.
“You’re not going to ring the bell this time?”
“Didn’t you ring it before? With your Oniisan, if I’m remembering right.”
Why did he know that!
“It’s because Masaya looked like he was really envious of you.”
Oh my god. Not only did he see the waltz, he even saw that!? And stop it! Stop reading my mind!
“The dress you’re wearing tonight really suits you. It looks like your dieting really paid off.”
He still hadn’t forgotten about that…? Tsk, what an unpleasant guy.
“Masaya’s mum really loves you now, you know. She was talking about how she wanted to invite you to her dinner party too.”
A dinner party? Don’t joke with me! That would be even worse than the tea party.
“You don’t look happy to hear that.”
“Oh, no, I feel very honoured.”
Oh crap. Was it showing on my face?
I hated how it felt like he could see right through me. Why were there so many mind-readers around me.
“The wind is getting a little strong. I think I shall head back inside.”
With brisk steps I left him behind. Somehow it felt like he was laughing at me though.
Enjou had the same dark, unknowable depths as my Japanese dolls. Scary.