Author: sea_thoughts aka Starsea
For the Shakespeare challenge on sm_monthly
“Wh-What say you, Hermia? Be advised fair maid:
To you your father should be as a god… as a god…”
Minako stopped reading and desperately scanned her script, dropping her arm at the same time. She was meant to seem imposing and sober, but she looked like she was striking a pose for a dance video. Rei looked up from her book of the play and sighed.
“Minako-chan, you are meant to memorise your lines – as in, commit them to memory so you do not have to keep stopping and reading from your script. The director will put your understudy on again if you need so much prompting.”
“I know,” Minako said, still looking at her script. “I try, but this speech… it’s just so hard.”
Rei pinched the bridge of her nose for a moment. “Let’s try again, from the beginning of your speech.”
Minako lifted her arm and began again, her voice stronger and more confident.
“What say you, Hermia? be advised fair maid:
To you your father should be as a god;
One that composed your beauties, yea, and one
To whom you are but as a form in wax
By him imprinted and within his power
To leave the figure or disfigure it…”
The words swirled and drifted in front of Rei, stinging her skin like acid snowflakes. “To you, your father should be as a god…” Why? Why should Hermia think of her father that way? He had no reason to reject Lysander. All he could say was that Demetrius was his choice and that was why Hermia should marry him. How logical. Demetrius wasn’t even nice… Egeus wasn’t a god at all, he was a selfish and stubborn man. Rei didn’t blame Hermia for fighting him. She positively applauded her for it, and for trying to get as far away as possible from his ridiculous demands.
“You should understand, Rei… this is very important for me. He’s a respectable young man, from a good family. He’s never misbehaved in the slightest.”
She gazed down at the tablecloth, pure white linen, and the way the cutlery reflected the soft light of the candles around the restaurant. Her throat was burning. Her mouth was dry with anger.
“How dare you try and tell me what to do…”
She blinked. Minako was standing in front of her, worry written all over her face. “Are you okay? I called your name three times.”
Rei shook her head. “I’m fine. Let’s get back to your scene.”
Minako sat down beside her friend on the sofa. “Rei-chan, if you’re spacing out, you’re not fine. You never space out.” Her fingers curled around the edges of the script. Asking Rei about her private life was always a risky venture but sometimes it had to be done. “You went to dinner on your birthday, didn’t you?”
Rei stared straight ahead, her lips pressed together. Minako nodded to herself. Silence always meant ‘yes’ with Rei. She was never shy about saying ‘no’. Time for another question, then. “Did your father actually turn up?”
Rei’s nostrils flared and she looked down at her lap. Then, so quietly that Minako had to bend down to hear her, she said, “He wants me to marry someone.”
“How dare you tell me what to do. You’ve never shown the slightest interest in my life, and you think you can order me around? Because you’re my father? You’re the one who doesn’t understand.”
“What? He what?” Minako said, not sure if she’d heard correctly. “Marriage?”
Rei nodded and let out a breath. She’d told someone. Finally. It felt surprisingly good. She wasn’t a believer in this “let it all hang out” philosophy, but she did acknowledge that sometimes two heads were better than one. And Minako had proved that underneath her boy-crazy exterior, she was someone you could count on.
“The poster man for uninvolved parenting thinks he can tell you to marry someone?!” Minako exploded. “What a dick!”
Rei didn’t even protest at the swear word. While she’d never say it, everything about it described her father perfectly. “He kept going on about how important this was to him,” she said, flicking the pages of the play text she’d borrowed from the library. “How he needed me to do this because he needed to be seen as a good, steady, family man.” She clenched a fist. “It’s like he suddenly woke up and realised he had a daughter… no, he woke up and realised that I could be useful to him in some way. I didn’t need to be tucked out of sight anymore.” She swallowed really hard on the sudden lump in her throat. “A family man. If he wanted to be seen as a family man, he shouldn’t have dumped me here and then done his best to avoid me.”
Minako was watching her, slightly wary. This was what usually happened when Rei’s private life was under discussion: her normally calm friend turned into a fury, her eyes burning with bitterness and anger. “I thought you loved living here,” she said carefully.
Rei made an impatient gesture with her hand, and the pages of Minako’s script suddenly smoked beneath her fingers. She let go with a gasp. Rei’s eyes widened. “Minako-chan! Are you okay?” She grabbed the script, slamming it on the table. They both stared at it for a moment. The smoke disappeared. Nothing else happened.
“I’m fine,” Minako said, putting on a smile. “It was just a shock, that’s all…”
Rei sighed. “I’m sorry. Lately, my powers have been so erratic…” She took a deep breath, visibly calming herself. “I do love living here. I love helping ojii-san, I love being a miko; if I hadn’t been here, I probably wouldn’t have met Usagi-chan. But the fact is that I’m only here because ojii-san wanted to get rid of me, and this was the most convenient way to do that.” Her lips twisted. “I don’t owe him anything. And I told him so.”
Minako raised her eyebrows and whistled. “What did he say?”
Rei looked down at the text for a moment. “He told me that I shouldn’t be hasty. He wants me to ‘reconsider’ my options.” She clasped her hands and covered her mouth for a moment, her eyes darkening. “Basically, he’s saying that if I don’t do what he wants, he’ll stop paying ojii-san maintenance money for me.” She glanced at Minako. “You know how difficult it’s been since the recession, Minako-chan. How can I do that to ojii-san? After he’s taken such good care of me…”
“Your grandfather looks after you because he loves you, Rei-chan, not because he gets paid for it,” Minako said, putting a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “If you’re really that worried, talk to him about it.” She picked up her script and pointed at the page they’d been. “Look, this is what Theseus says about Hermia’s options: if she doesn’t agree to marry Demetrius, she’ll have to become a nun and live ‘a barren sister all your life, Chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon’.”
Their eyes met. “Well, that’s Theseus’s opinion,” Rei said, a small light in her eyes. “The moon isn’t that cold.”
Minako grinned. “No. And even Theseus says that those who do this are “thrice-blessed”.”
Rei nodded, considering. “Well… I guess I’ll talk to ojii-san about this. And you can help me work out a plan about what I’m going to say to my father when I see him next week.”
“Next week?” Minako repeated, standing up. “He must really want you to marry this guy. I’m almost tempted to say you should keep him dangling, just so you see him more often.”
Rei laughed a little. “That would be poetic justice, but… I don’t care enough to do that, Minako-chan. He’s not part of my life. I just have to make him realise that. I have to make him realise that I’d rather spend my life ‘chanting hymns to the moon’ than singing his praises to the press.”
“Yeah, well, when we’re the protectors of Crystal Tokyo, he’ll be the one singing your praises,” Minako said with a grin, and plunged back into her speech.
Rei watched her for a moment. A small smile grew on her lips. Now that was something she could look forward to.
(For those of you wondering why Minako is playing Theseus, a male part, she's in a play where the girls play the male parts and the boys play the female parts - very progressive theatre. ;D)