~~~~((~~~((@ THE ROSE GARDEN @))~~~))~~~~
From the memoirs of Chiba Mamoru, as re-told to Pandora Diane Waldron
"Mystery glows in the rose bed, the secret is hidden in the rose." --Farid ud-din Attar, 12th Century Persian poet.
Chapter 7: On The Threshold Of A Dream
Michiru looks at his reflection in the mirror. "The colour of your eyes is very noble. Perhaps you were a prince in a previous life." Mamoru's eyes widen. "How do you know that?" he asks. "This mirror reflects previous lives."
--from Sailor Moon Manga, Volume 24
I could not believe I was leaving the orphanage at last. I would be moving soon to Tokyo to attend Moto Azabu Private High School, where a scholarship had been procured for me, thanks to Mikata Suzuki. To my surprise, I discovered I would not have to live in residence with the other boarding students. It seems that the parents I just could not remember had not forgotten me; there was a small inheritance, apparently, enough for me to afford a pretty nice apartment. Mikata Suzuki and the previous administrators of the orphanage had invested my inheritance wisely over the years until it was--not huge, but comfortable.
In later years, I would discover, by budgeting carefully and with the help of numerous part-time jobs, that this inheritance was enough to get me the down payment on the car of my dreams, not to mention, a motorcycle. I know, I know, it's not like I needed them, but remember, I had up until then, owned very little of my own things.
Everything belonged to the orphanage, not even the clothes on my back were really mine, not even my garden that I tended all those years. Even the cat, Phoebe--she was the orphanage cat, and couldn't come with me. Now that was hard. But Mikata Suzuki solemnly promised me to look after Phoebe, and to let Phoebe join her for tea every day just the way I had. Crazy cat sometimes liked to lap cold green tea out of my saucer. Seemed to give her a buzz. Then she'd go out in my garden, and sniff everything growing there with evident ecstasy. Which is one more reason I really like cats. They really appreciate growing things, as I do.
The thought of growing things reminded me that I still needed to give some last minute instructions to Kuroko about the care of the bonsai, and how to mulch the roses in the fall and protect them against what was predicted to be a cold winter. You are probably surprised about Kuroko. I can only say, I noticed her following me around the garden, watching my every move, and it suddenly hit me, if she's going to hanging around anyway, why don't I teach her something besides how to steam rice?
So I started pointing things out to her around the garden, getting her to help me with little tasks, and then things that needed more skill. And I found to my surprise, that not only was Kuroko good with roses, she had the delicacy and skills needed to deal with bonsai. I left her my gardening books to help her learn more, and would you believe she made me sign my name in them, "From Mamoru to Kuroko," and the date? I really don't know why she asked me to do that. Well, if it made her happy, what the heck?
Anyway, I felt fairly confident the garden would be well looked after. Kuroko would have her head buried in those gardening books every time I came by, the week before I left. It just shows you should never underestimate anyone.
Mikata Suzuki allowed me one special privilege; I could go through her library and take any books with me that appealed to me. "You're getting your own place now, young Mamoru-kun. I don't want it looking like so many bachelor apartments I see, bare and unfinished, with no grace or atmosphere. So let's fill your bookcase, first of all. And we'll go over there together, a few times, and we'll plan out a total look for the place." Well, by this time, I'd gotten quite a taste for poetry, especially haikus, something I'm sure won't surprise you. So let's just say I added to my collection.
One thing I have to say about that; Mikata-chan never imposed her taste on my things. She gave me suggestions when I asked her for them, and kept quiet when she could see I'd made up my mind about a particular purchase. She did start chuckling, though, when she saw me buying all these flower vases. And when she saw me turn down lots of perfectly good apartments, up until I found one with a little conservatory, and a balcony, not far from a park, with a small botanical garden, all she said was, "It figures." And smirked.
She did ask me about the stereo, though. Why those particular speakers, the really expensive ones, and why do I need a graphic equalizer? I sighed, and explained again, for the fifth time, that my plants would only grow well with the right musical accompaniment, the right harmonics. I didn't bother trying to explain about the merits of having a graphic equalizer, and how you could adjust the settings for the room. Forgive me, but few women I've met understand about graphic equalizers.
[Incidentally, Usako is no exception. She just likes the flashing lights, she says, and she has thought a few times it would be fun to mess with the controls--and I've had to yell at her. She knows better than to play with it now. No, wait a minute, I take that back. Ami-chan knows all about graphic equalizers, and stereo equipment. But what doesn't Ami-chan know about? So when either of us thinks about upgrading our stereo equipment, we usually call the other. Usako is very envious; the discussion goes right over her head. But generally, she goes to fix the tea (the one thing she has mastered, surprisingly) with some of Makoto's homemade cookies, and leaves Ami-chan and I to our discussion, on the couch.]
Now how did I get talking about stereos? Oh yes, I was telling you about the apartment. It was planned that on the weekend, Karano would drive me over, with my few possessions, and I would wait for all that wonderful new furniture to be delivered, and be ready bright-and -early for class Monday.
Yes, I said, bright-and-early. *I* don't sleep late all the time, unlike a certain odango atama. Besides, it's best to garden in the early morning, before the midday sun makes garden work difficult, and that's what I'm used to. It's the best time for jogging too, if you want to be alone with your thoughts. I could see this would be a good neighbourhood for jogging in.
Well, I tried to be organized about things, but still, there was a last-minute dash for the car. All these people [all right, all right, it was mostly girls], wanted to take their last leave of me. So I went running out to the car, slammed the door, and Karano, getting fed up at all the wait, took off as if all the demons of hell were pursuing him.
Half way down the street, I slapped my hand to my forehead. "Oh, S---!"
"Now what?" Karano bawled. "Now what?" And he slammed on the brakes.
"I'm sorry," I muttered, and grabbed the door handle. And went running back down the street.
Now, what has he forgotten? Thought Mikata Suzuki. My, he's really running. Then, to her utter shock, Mamoru stopped six inches from her, and enveloped her in a massive hug.
"I'm sorry, Mikata-chan! I never said goodbye to you properly! I don't know how I can ever thank you...for everything...but...but...I promise you...no girls, no lamp posts, no roof tops, no walls! I'm going to study SO hard, you'll never be sorry!"
Good grief, Mikata Suzuki thought. He would go and lose his reserve totally, now, right in front of all the staff. Oh, the looks those young women are giving me! This is going to be a rough week with the staff, I can see that. But he's finally expressing those bottled up emotions, and that's the good thing.
She freed herself gently, and looked at him with a smile, "Now please don't make any promises you can't keep, Mamoru-kun! If a certain girl turns up, all bets are off, am I right?"
Mimicking her voice, Mamoru replied, "And I seem to remember we have discussed this, and we agreed there were to be no more remarks about princesses? You DO remember this discussion?" But he was grinning, not disconcerted at all.
Mikata Suzuki wisely decided to ignore this disrespectful remark, [really, he's getting quite out of hand!] and went on:
"And as for the lamp posts...well, try not to frighten the teachers too much, do it away from school--or they'll send you right back to me. Or maybe," her eyes twinkled, "maybe you should do it in disguise!"
It's just another evening at the Crown Game Centre. At the moment, this is my part-time job, to help defray some of my expenses, that just seem to keep increasing [SIGH]. And I don't want to touch that little nest egg my parents left me, unless I have to. It's coffee break time, and a friend at school has dropped by to see me. We chatted for a while, then she left me some reference books I had asked for, for a course I'm taking. Now my good friend Furuhata Motoki, is here, raising his eyebrows at me suggestively.
"Well!" Says Motoki, looking after the girl. "SHE'S a looker!" "Is she? I really hadn't noticed."
Motoki blinks at me a few times and widens his eyes. "Are you, like, blind, Mamoru? And maybe you haven't noticed her, but she's certainly noticed YOU! Are you going to throw away every opportunity that gets tossed into your lap?"
I sigh. How on earth am I going to explain myself to Motoki? That I still have dreams at night, about a princess, who's waiting for me. He's going to think I've totally lost it. I can't even believe I ever told Mikata-chan about that. Of course, she said she believes I'm going to meet my princess one day. But then again, Mikata-chan is a romantic, she admitted it herself. She believes in fairy tales, poetry, and love at first sight. And even after she lost her husband, lost her son, she still believes in these things, she still has hope. I wonder if I could be so strong. Or it that strength? Maybe it is weakness, just fooling yourself.
Me, I just don't know what I believe any more. I am nearly 17, never had a girlfriend. Not really. Lots of friends at school who are girls, that's all. Always, I hold myself back from getting involved. I focus on preparing myself for the day when I will meet...her. When maybe she's only a dream, and always will be. I am so discouraged now.
I am so tired. My life is so empty, I'm just going through the motions, dragging myself around, trying to lose myself in my schoolwork. Hey, Mamoru is getting such great marks, the other guys at school are envious. And all of it means nothing, nothing. Because I am so empty inside.
"Hey, Earth to Mamoru! Hello in there!" Motoki is waving his hand in front of my face, and I blink.
"Oh, sorry! You were saying?"
"I was saying, why don't you ask that girl out? What's wrong with her?"
"Nothing...nothing. But we're just friends. I help her studying with some of her courses, and in return, since she helps out at the school library, she makes sure I get first crack at the best reference books for the courses I'm taking. She keeps her eye out for whatever's relevant, saves me hours of searching, and she brings it right over to me here or at my apartment. She's great."
"And if she's so great,"Motoki says insistently, "why don't you ask her out?"
I manage a weak smile. "Motoki, I can't give you a really good answer. Except to say when the right girl comes along, I'll know. And when I find her..I'll never let her go."
Motoki stares at me a few moments, and then decides I'm sincere, and he's just not gonna budge me. He knows me...I am extremely stubborn. "Well, OK," he grins, "but if you have any other little friends you don't want to be bothered with, would you throw them my way? You ought to be reported to the environmental authorities, Mamoru...for monopolizing all the local available female natural resources and just discarding them. Next time you get a looker like that you're just friends with, you could at least introduce me. Then you'd be environmentally conscious at least. I'll be happy to take on all your recycled babes!"
I wince. I don't think of my friends like that. Just because I don't want to get involved that way doesn't mean....oh, he'll never understand. At least, Motoki didn't understand me, at that time. Later on, he met a girl, and then..his whole attitude changed. But to this day, Motoki is still an incorrigible flirt. But on this day, I wasn't in the mood for this. I stood up, and just said, without even noticing what I was saying any more, "Yeah, sure." And I got up and went to my post, staffing the counter.
It wasn't long after that I got a better paying job as a cameraman, and I even modelled for a while. I had all kinds of different part time jobs. I finally had some things of my own, and I wanted to hang onto them. And don't forget, I'm a Leo, and people born under that sign of the Zodiac have a taste for the better things in life. And you know if you do have those champagne tastes [Usagi's word for it, not mine], you do need a good cash flow.
But you don't really want to know about all the jobs I had, do you? I know what you really want to ask me about. The tuxedo.
PLEASE GO TO CHAPTER 8: Tuxedo Kamen