Back during our kindergarten and primary school days, me and my brother were very much alike that even our parents couldn’t tell us apart. As that school did not have a uniform or use those standard bags (black for boys, red for girls), it was even easier to be alike. The visible difference ended when we had to wear gender-specific clothing as part of the middle school uniform and, as a result of that, I stopped caring about keeping my hair to look the same as my brother because our gender differences had started to become obvious anyway. Since my family moved to another city far away during my transition from primary to middle school, none of my primary school friends came along, but we still keep in contact. Those who thought I was a boy or mistake me for my brother thought I was crossdressing when they saw a picture of me in my middle school uniform because I was obviously wearing a girl’s uniform. It wasn’t easy to convince them that I’m really a girl without my brother until my bust became more noticeable. Now, I definitely look more like a young woman and bear no resemblance with my brother except for a few things we have in common inherited from our parents.
Even as I reached puberty, I was starting to become scared of how visibly different my own body had developed. I didn’t realize that my own natural behaviour has changed too. By now, the changes to our bodies from gender-specific genes is just too great to hide for either of us to disguise as the other: I can’t deepen my voice or become taller or hide the shape of my breasts bursting out from underneath my clothes, and neither can my brother change his masculine features or wear female clothing without being aroused or looking like a pervert. It’s just impossible for the either of us to be alike any more because our own bodies forces us to change for our development into adulthood. Everyone is changing, including myself, and it’s a sad fact of life.
I tend to feel uneasy if a friend or family member does something different from what I’m used to, like mum wearing formal business attire for work instead of casual with a white coat over it, or my father sitting at my brother’s place at the dining table when brother’s not home, or a friend talking to me in any language besides what we always talk in, even if I know that other language. Even my own family members are unpredictable.
Earlier today, I had unknowingly made my brother angry. Was it because of my tease to him, or was he already sad about something else and I just so happen to make him feel worse? Today, just as I though he would be staying elsewhere, because of how late it already is, he unexpectedly came home. The latest time he has reached home is some minutes after the last train for the day, but that doesn’t happen often. I had already undone my hair before any of my family members came back, so they had not seen me with my new hairstyle. Since they are family, they have seen me when I’m not wearing glasses before.
Me: “Onii-chan, sorry about earlier. I got too carried away with my new look to notice your mood. Did something happen the day before?”
Brother: “Well, we had a chess tournament match with Mizuho Girls’ Academy and… I lost my student ID! That card you saw me staring at yesterday was found inside Mizuho by someone, and I claimed it without looking at it. I only realized it was the wrong one when I was on the train to school this morning. I told our school about it, but they keep insisting its my own student ID, even with the photo of a girl being so glaringly obvious on it! I stayed there overnight while waiting for what I thought was my card to turn up at the lost and found counter, though there isn’t any except this. I found out that the accommodation was free to anyone for any length of time, so I will be saying there should I not feel like going to a friend’s house or talking the long train trip home.”
He showed me the card. The girl looks like a sister I never had as she has some resemblance to both of my parents. She even has the same name as my brother, which is gender neutral, along with other things like birthday, and blood type. Even the kanji and pronunciation are the same. Somehow, I get this feeling that this card does indeed belong to my brother and… I’m feeling something strange inside me right now as if this card is cursed or something.
Me: “Isn’t that a picture of you? How can this picture look like anyone else? Even your details are on it too.”
I had sub-consciously said that. In my mind, I knew that the girl in the photo is not him. The only way that is possible, judging by the similarities on the facial features, is if my brother had been born a girl. We don’t have any cousins that looks like anything close to that. Maybe this card is really cursed, and everyone else who sees it has been cursed too. The effect of this curse seem to be only be limited to having anyone who sees the card to think that the card belongs to my brother. I’m guessing that his student ID has been manipulated or replaced during the time he believed it went missing, but why go through the trouble of it?
Brother: “Huh? Why does everyone I asked thinks that the photo on this card is me?! Do I even look like a girl to begin with? Maybe it’s just me wanting a girlfriend so badly that I’m seeing the same girl on my student ID. It’s not even a girl I’ve seen before…”
No, I’m really seeing a photo of a girl instead of you! However, I had been forced by some mysterious power to say otherwise, or not talk about it at all.
Me: “So, why did you come back home this late if you had just told me you had found a place to stay?”
Brother: “I feel bad for getting angry at you earlier and want to make up for it. I’m also moving some of my things along, so I would have to leave home quite early tomorrow morning. Nothing much since it already has furniture and electronic goods.”
Since my brother started living there, he doesn’t come home much except when he doesn’t have any activities there or, after a late-night activity, the following morning if he doesn’t have anything. He has sent me messages and pictures inside Mizuho (the prestigious academy I mentioned before), but no voice calls or pictures containing him from there. Eventually, his absence doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. Besides, I should be focusing on my own life instead of relying on him.
Today is the first heavy thunderstorm after the summer holidays has ended, somewhere in September. I did not bring an umbrella, so I would be soaking wet the moment I leave shelter. It’s getting late, but there’s still no sign of the rain letting up. My brother is having his chess club activities elsewhere, so he’s not in school. I had run in this kind of weather before back in primary school, and that’s what I would have done if it wasn’t for me becoming a young woman and being my summer uniform: my blouse would be able to be seen through if it becomes wet and see my… why do girls like me have so many weaknesses?
Me: “I”ve been here since classes ended, but there’s no sign of the rain stopping. What should I do? I might develop a cold if I don’t take a shower as soon as possible once I enter the rain. My house is quite far away and might develop a cold before I even get the chance to wash it off…”
Male voice from behind: “Here, Isaka-san. Let’s share an umbrella and head home together. You’re taking trains to the area close to Oarai Station (大洗駅) aren’t you?”
Huh? What? That’s the name of the station just a few stops away from the station close to my house on the same line. Who said that to me? How did you even know my name?
Male student: “A-Ah! I’ve never introduced myself, haven’t I? I’m Tatsuya Tatsuya (立谷起也). Second Year. I know it sounded like I said my name twice, but the kanji of my family and given are completely different.”
His name is Tatsuya Tasuya??? That’s so confusing. Well, that gives the advantage of not knowing if people are calling him by his family name or given name, because calling someone by their given name in earshot of others tells the level of affection. Since they are both that and his family name are pronounced the same way, they couldn’t tell which is being called. At least not like my brother: his name is Isaka Tsukasa (井阪一), and the kanji of his given name is just one horizontal stroke, the same kanji for the numeral one, and can be easily confused as a dash or a long vowel mark in some contexts. That name with that kanji is both a male and female name, but since Tsukasa is more commonly associated as a girl’s name, he wants people to call him Hitoshi instead, which is a male-only name that the same kanji can be read as. His official given name is still Tsukasa though, and that’s the name I call him in front of his friends who may think of his given name as Hitoshi. My brother and I usually don’t call each other by name or any gender-specific terms.
Me: “I-I’m Isaka Yumiko. Nice to meet you. Do you live somewhere along the way?”
Tatsuya: “Actually, yes. In fact, we take the same lines towards school every morning: I saw you already on the train sometimes, but it’s only recent that I could remember your face. Who’s that guy who was always with you from the same school? Not much people from the countryside travel all the way to the city just for school, especially when there’s already one closer to where they live.”
Me: “Him? Don’t worry about him. He’s just my brother, Tsukasa, though he prefers to be called Hitoshi or our family name instead. You could say we are like-minded and had grew up in the capital. We don’t exactly fit in well at the schools near my current house, since almost everyone there knows each other well and has… “noticeable” fashion.”
His face had an odd expression at the mention of my brother’s name, almost laughing.
Tatsuya: “So that’s why you two are so close, because you two are siblings. I didn’t dare to approach you before, because I was thinking that he was your boyfriend. Okay, shall we go now? Once we’ve reached the station near here, it’s shelter all the way until your destination station.”
A boy whom I don’t know that I had been looked at by, approached me to walk together… What is this? Why am I blushing? Is my body telling me that I’m falling in love with him? My mind is in a state of confusion of what I’m feeling right now.
We still got wet on the way to the station on the way to the station since the umbrella is shared among the two of us, but at least my head stays dry, and I’m not drenched. I get sick easily if any rainwater hits me on the head and not wash it off within a certain amount of time. This also includes leaky ceilings or rain being blown into sheltered areas. We didn’t say much, but close to arriving into Oarai station, I had found myself automatically ccalling for Tatsuya’s attention.
Me: “Tatsuya-senpai. Could you give me your email address? I would like to know you better…”
Tatsuya’s face has a mix of not expecting me to ask this, but happy at the same time.