BTW – these notes are dedicated to Sean Gaffney, who whined like a 5-year old until I typed them up. I tried to get them done quickly *just* so I wouldn’t have to listen to him. :-)
Back Ground Noise [sic]
For the second half of the book, we return to Yumi’s point of view. Most of this part of the novel was merged into the Cherry Blossom arc, which was a shame, because it lessened the impact of both. So most of this was shown in the anime, but was still a little different in the novel…
Yumi is *so* out of it that’s she’s in homeroom, looking around for Shimako, who is a different class and can’t remember why Yoshino is standing there. The day before, she had accidentally gone to her first-year classroom.
As they speak, Yumi realizes that Yoshino has really already become Rosa Foetida en bouton.
To Yumi’s dismay, Mami, Minako’s (Pres. of the newspaper club) soeur is in her class.
Yumi’s problem is that her impression of Rosa Chinensis en bouton is Sachiko and in everyway she feels she has to live up to it.
Mami’s hairdo, Yumi think, allows her ears to catch more sound – Yumi has a bad feeling about having the reporter in her class.
Tsutako is now the president of the photography club, takes Yumi’s photo, saying that she’ll call it “Rosa Chinensis en bouton’s melancholy.” It’ll make a great exhibition.
Yumi grumps that there obviously will be no privacy in 2nd year Pine Group.
Yumi and Yoshino are in the bathroom. Re: cleaning – “In a girl’s school, the bathroom mirror received more attention than the blackboards.”
A pair of eyes, dressed in “civilian clothes”, are drawn to the sakura tree from across the hedge….
(How mysterious! Except it’s not, really.)
Yumi did not originally intend to look for Sei. She just found herself randomly wandering the University grounds. She didn’t think she’d be able to find Sei, in any case – all she had was a name and a department. She could hardly wander the grounds calling a name. And Sei might not even have been on campus. A kind student brings her to the student center. If she didn’t get to see Sei, oh well. But there was Sei, after all.
Sei presents Yumi with a cup of coffee, made the way she likes it. Yumi thinks Sei looks like a grownup – it’s hard to imagine that only a month ago she wore the same school uniform.
Yumi also thinks that it’s unfair that Sei has moved into a new life while Shimako is left behind, their relationship suddenly and completely terminated.
Sei, before she leaves to go to class with her new classmates, tells Yumi that she’s barking up the wrong tree about Shimako, that she should stay neutral.
Rei suggests using artificial flowers for the Maria-sai. This way they can be reused and they aren’t so difficult to care for. Sachiko is incensed and Yumi is relieved. Shimako actually teases Sachiko a little – so gently that Yumi isn’t quite sure if she really did or not. “So, that’s one vote against?” Yumi votes for real flowers
because they make her happy. Shimako admits that she did not notice the flowers at all, because she was too busy “admiring someone.”
It’s not so much that Touko is a problem – the problem is Sachiko’s behavior towards Touko. Touko acts entitled, as befits a spoiled brat and Sachiko *does* correct her, but also doesn’t seem to notice how her behavior affects Yumi….in Yumi’s opinion.
Yoshino warns Yumi that Touko is gunning for soeur. Yumi doesn’t comprehend at first, thinking that she means Shimako. Yoshino clarifies – if she’s your soeur, she’ll have free access to Sachiko.
Yoshino convinces her that Sachiko will ask for the rosary back and give it to Touko. They both decide to look for an assistant for Shimako for the Maria-sai, so Touko won’t be needed. They ask Tsutako, but she’ll be busy taking pictures. They think about asking Katsura and suddenly…Mami is there. Mami says that she’ll do it for the promise of an article. Yoshino and Yumi are skeptical, but Mami states that she is *not* like Minako. They find it a little weird that Mami is so willing and able to see her onee-sama so truthfully. Yoshino negotiates terms – they get to review any article Mami writes, and Mami gets a scoop on the elections. Provided the Rosas agree to all this, of course.
Sachiko opines that Sei always guarded Shimako’s heart so no one could force it open. Sachiko believes that they are the only ones who can safely open her heart and that Shimako desperately needs that…and to be the friends they want to be, so do they. In effect, she wants them to do an intervention.
When Yumi tells them that Sei said Shimako was a wolf without a pack, Rei wonders if she means a husky or a Chihuahua…Sachiko tells her to not digress, please.
It turns out that Rei told Sachiko about Shimako’s family at the time of the elections.
Sachiko, as she justifies why they should intervene with Shimako is “full of fighting spirit’ – she tries to crack her knuckles but no sound comes out.
Yumi wonders why now, Rei says that the time is ripe.
Rei and Sachiko actually plan for the confrontation to be newspaper worthy and public. They believe (accurately) that Shimako is punishing herself uneccesarily. By doing something big, they can save her from her self-imposed torment.
Rei muses that they don’t have enough shogi pieces on the board.
Touko says that she has the necessary piece – surprising them all, because she made *no* noise at all coming up those squeaky stairs.
Yumi is quite appalled at the idea of outing Shimako in front of all the first-years, but Sachiko argues that the Maria-sai is really the perfect situation, because the only people there are the Yamayurikai members and the new students – no teacher, administration, family or outsiders.
Yumi checks Noriko out: shag haircut (or maybe a long bob) and straight bangs. Reminds of her of a doll…nothing special. Actually, Yumi admits, she saw her at the front gate. More accurately, she saw her yesterday by chance and followed her off the bus. But yesterday was completely by chance. As a result, she saw Touko hide Noriko’s shoes, which upset her, but she didn’t try and stop Touko…or return the shoes to the locker.
Yumi tries to find commonalities between Noriko and Shimako. She wonders out loud if Noriko’s family also lives at a temple. A voice says, no, her father is a public official and her mother is a teacher, but she lives with a distant relative. Yumi jumps when she realizes that Touko has once again arrived without warning.
Touko calls her Yumi-sama. Objectively, this is fine and proper, but Touko upsets Yumi on principal – and in particular. Touko says that if Yumi is interested in Noriko, then she has something to show her. Yumi agrees, because her interest overwhelms her aversion to Touko, then she asks Touko why she’s at school early. Touko replies that she has something to do and Yumi wonders what she’s up to now.
Touko points out how Noriko is always like this – not even looking up from her book when other students approach. But after school and at lunch, she shows another face.
(BTW, Yumi sums up Noriko’s nature/behavior as not being the kind of girl that classmates invite to go to the bathroom together. lol)
When Yumi finally sees Noriko and Shimako interact, she’s shocked. Not only does Noriko have a different expression – Shimako looks different than Yumi’s ever seen her. For the first time since she’s known Shimako, Yumi sees her looking relaxed, unrestrained. This distresses Yumi, because she thinks that the Yamayurikai may have failed Shimako. Yumi is also distressed by Touko’s quite adult understanding of Noriko and Shimako’s relationship.
In general Yumi finds Touko stressful, because the younger girl possesses the self-confidence she herself lacks – although she has not yet come to realize this, it becomes more and more obvious throughout the book.
During the scene where Sachiko holds Yumi in her arms in the Rose Mansion, Yumi is thinking of Shimako (it’s this that made her cry in the first place – nothing Sachiko did or didn’t do – nor anything to do with Touko, either.) Yumi wonders if Noriko is Shimako’s savior.
Everytime Yumi is around Touko and the younger girl does something inappropriate, bratty or plain wrong, Yumi thinks “someone ought to do or say something”. But she never does anything herself.
Even as Touko tells them about her plan to take the juzu from Noriko’s bag, she’s justifying it as the act of a close friend – yuushin – but Yumi can see that she’s feeling pretty guilty about it.
Touko has, quite literally, created a script for the intervention. Rei stomps that down, saying that it would seem odd if Touko took charge of the whole affair. Rei takes the script out of Touko’s hands, rolls it up and bops her on the head with it.
Yumi grows increasingly uncomfortable with the whole plot, as they develop it.
Shimako comes into the council room, mentioning to Sachiko that the organ feels a bit stiff. Sachiko jokes that if Shimako can’t play it for the Maria-sai, they could always fall back on having the three second-years doing a talent show. Yoshino and Yumi both protest loudly, thinking back to the talent show for the graduating Rosas, and they all laugh.
Ultimately, its Rei who develops the scenario they use for the intervention.
Yumi begins to think the word “yuushin” as a sort of spell to make her feel better about the whole thing. When she comes into school the next day, Yumi can’t look Mary in the eye.
Yumi’s job at lunchtime is to stand at the first-years’ shoe lockers and keep an eye out for Noriko. Student after student greet her. She’s impressed that they all know who she is – and how polite they all are. She does keep an eye out for Noriko, but never sees her, until she turns around to go back. Her eyes are drawn to Noriko as if “her uniform was made from fluorescent paint and lame’.”
Yumi is in the hall when Sachiko and Rei give Noriko the once over. She can tell, even from the back, that they both approve of the girl. She also thinks that they both get carried away with their performance.
On the day of the Maria-sai, Yumi and Sachiko are in the church, waiting. Sachiko starts to say something to Yumi, but stops. Yumi can see that Sachiko’s hand is shaking.
A few moments later, Yumi feels suddenly uneasy, and turns to look at Sachiko which makes her feel more relaxed. She says (out loud) “Onee-sama, you’re very lovely,” and takes Sachiko’s trembling hands in her own, then says, “Because I want to look at you properly,” to explain her actions. Sachiko smiles at Yumi’s use of her own, oft-repeated words.
Tsutako snaps a picture of them with a “I’m personally interested in the Rosa Chinensis sisters”, more than to fulfill Mami’s request for good pictures of Shimako and Noriko together.
To keep Shimako from meeting Noriko (and hearing about the juzu) Yoshino hid the music Shimako was going to play – they “help” her look for it, until all the first-years are lined up.
Touko’s accusation moves the intervention forward and it approaches its climax, (during which Yumi is mentally urging Shimako on to make her confession, while Rei and Sachiko watch, smiling at Noriko’s protection of Shimako) Yumi hears a dry scratching noise from behind her, Mami is taking notes.
When Noriko begins to cry, so does Yumi.
When it is all over (after which Shimako says that she feels – and she clearly looks – much relieved) Yoshino, Rei, Yumi and Sachiko leave the church to find Sei standing outside waiting for them.
Sei says that she had wanted to get there earlier, but class just let out. She can tell they were successful from their expressions, and offers to treat them to something. Rei and Yoshino pass, they have a family thing tonight. Sachiko also passes, stating that she and Yumi have plans to make plans for this Sunday….Yumi boggles – this is the first she’s heard of this! She wonders if it’s just an excuse to get rid of Sei.
On the way back to the Rose Mansion to get their stuff, Yumi mentions that they didn’t do anything for White Day, and that her birthday is coming up. Sachiko is a little surprised, but suggests another half day date, to which Yumi agrees happily. Sachiko asks her where she’d like to go – Yumi replies with the amusement park. Sachiko thinks about it for a moment then agrees on one condition – she won’t go on the jet coaster. Yumi agrees to this, because she knows that the condition is Sachiko’s way of saying that it’s really okay with her. :-)
End of Cherry Blossom/BGN