BACKGROUND: College student Hiroshi Karigari had a problem. He was in love with a lovely tennis player at his school, Mari, but couldn't express himself to her. So he decided to build a duplicate of her in the form of an android he named Marie. Now, he has to pass Marie off as his little sister to keep up appearances, and things are only getting more complicated. The ever-lecherous Tanaka, who also has a crush on Mari, has turned his eye towards Marie as well. Can Hiroshi keep his secret? Can he find true love? Has he built it already?

NOTE: This text was produced without the consent of the original copyright holders, and, while it is intended as tribute, in some areas it is considered an illegal work.

B O K U   N O   M A R I E

Music-Box Angel

Episode One: A Mind Beside Itself

The anime (c) 1996 Sakura Takeuchi/Goro Sanyo/Shueisha/ Victor Entertainment/Studio Pierrot.
Licensed by Victor Entertainment, Inc., Japan.
Released in North America by A.D.V. Films
under the title "My Dear Marie."
For more information, contact A.D.V. Films at:

Boku No Marie: Music-Box Angel (c) 1998 Matthew Johnston..
All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 7:13 AM.

      "Hiroshi!" Marie called from inside the front door. "This package just came for you! And it's time to get up anyway!"
      Hiroshi Karigari rolled over as he gained consciousness. Before Hiroshi could stumble from bed, Marie strode into his room and dropped the small brown cardboard box on his bed. Hiroshi grinned nervously, and stuttered a thank you.
      "He he he... oookaythanksyoucangonowgoodbye!" Hiroshi shoved his cybernetic creation out the door, and slammed it behind her. Marie heard the door's lock click before she could turn around.
      "How rude," Marie mumbled and shot the door a withering look. "If he weren't my brother, I'd... I'd..." Her thoughts caught up with her before she could finish her sentence.
      You'd what? What? C'mon, Marie, tell me. What would you do? Marie was silent. I thought so. Marie wondered how her own mind could mock her.
      "I'd do nothing." Marie finally sighed.
      That figures.
      "Who are you?" Marie asked herself, a little too loud. She shushed herself and walked back to the kitchen, waiting for her response.
      Who are you? Not this act you're putting on.
      "Please, go away." Marie turned to walk to the kitchen.
      Her other self chuckled. Can't. You won't let me.
      "What do you mean 'You won't let me'? I'll let you. GO!!" Marie covered her mouth as her other self continued to chuckle lightly. She couldn't believe she was yelling at herself. And yet, there she was in the kitchen, staring at the counter, wondering if her brother could hear her yell at nobody in particular.
      "Marie? Are you okay?" Hiroshi had heard, all right. He was calling from the bedroom. If she concentrated, Marie could pinpoint where in the room he was, but she didn't try.
      "...I'm fine! Just watching TV!" Marie yelled back a little too quickly. She turned her attention back to her internal tormentor.
      "How do I get rid of you?"
      I don't know. You're the brain-box here.
      "I could just go back to sleep."
      I'd be there with you. Marie was afraid she'd hear that.
      "But you weren't there last night..."
      I was there. You probably didn't see me, huh? But I was there. And I'll be there when you go to sleep tonight. And the next night and the night after that and the night...
      "I get it, I get it. Sheesh." Marie kept her voice to a grumble. Somehow, she couldn't keep from talking. No matter the statement, if she wanted to say it to the other her in her mind, she said it aloud. It was becoming a little disconcerting. She tried thinking to herself, and not her other self.
      I'm thinking of a fork, she began.
      ...and I'm thinking of a moron. Her other self interrupted. I could talk through your voice, you know, but I won't. Marie sighed in relief.
      I'll save us both the embarrassment. Marie felt a little strange at that remark.
      "How do you mean?" She held her breath waiting for a response, but her other self was quiet. Marie paused for a few more moments, then finally exhaled.
      "Finally, a little peace."

*       *       *

      "What are you listening to?" Tanaka had to yell above the stereo blaring in the tennis club office. Hiroshi instantly turned the stereo down, but not off. Tanaka noticed something a little different about Hiroshi. Nothing directly noticeable, but he was definitely different.
      "What am I listening to? The greatest musicians on Earth!"
      Uh-oh. Tanaka realized what was wrong. Hiroshi was confident about something.
      "This is Liquid Tension Experiment. This is an opus to the intricate stylings of progressive composition and avant garde improvisation. I was merely attempting to absorb, in the best way I could as a non-musician, the lovely webwork of music and rhythm, to drink, if you will, the milk of paradise." Hiroshi laughed and mumbled happily. "The milk of paradise. Ooh, that was a clever reference. Neil would be proud..."
      Tanaka cringed. Hiroshi wasn't merely confident or enthusiastic; he had stepped across the fine line into zealotry. Hiroshi cranked the music again, and the piercing noise shoved themselves into his temples.
      "Heh... Yeah, well, Neil would be proud if you kept it to a minimum, okay?"
      "Oh, of course! You're absolutely right! Now that Neil's changed his style to the 'less-is-more' approach, he'd probably like it if I kept that type of reference to a minimum..."
      "Well, actually, I meant..."
      "Are you a Rush fan? You didn't strike me as the type, but you know, they attract all types so maybe I'm just not being open enough. As Neil says..."
      Tanaka gritted his teeth 'Oh no, he's not going to...' But it was too late, he had already started.
      "Philosophers and Ploughmen, each must know his part! To sow a new mentality, closer to the heaaaaaaart!" Hiroshi belted the lyric out with conviction Tanaka had previously seen only in the truly weird. But then, what was Hiroshi if not truly weird?
      "That's good. Ooookay. You can stop now. Let's use our inside voices, shall we?" Tanaka was edging towards the door when Hiroshi gasped and turned around.
      "I'm sorry! I'll turn it off! I'll turn it off!" He hurriedly turned down the music. "I didn't mean to..."
      "It's okay." Tanaka had opened his mouth to say something, but the voice wasn't his. It was Mari's.
      "Okay?!?" Tanaka only mouthed the word as he struck a confused look.
      Mari saw the look, and made a point of not responding, turning her chin up as she passed Tanaka. Tanaka backed away further, but didn't leave the room. He had to see this, or he'd never believe it.
      Hiroshi had quite nearly curled in the fetal position in the corner. The stereo was off, the CD in its case, and the case gripped tightly in his shaking arms. Tanaka noted with a little guilt and a little malicious joy that Hiroshi was on the verge of tears.
      "What'cha got, Hiroshi?" Mari cocked her head and smiled gently, but Hiroshi's expression of absolute fear didn't change.
      "N-n-no-no-nothing. Nothing important. Nothing worth hearing. Nope, nope! Nothing at all." Hiroshi tried smiling, but could only come up with a strange grimace. He leapt awkwardly to his feet and tried to will himself out of the room.
      "Are you sure? You seemed to be enjoying yourself..."
      Hiroshi laughed for a long moment. "No. It's nothing, really."
      And then he bolted.
      Mari caught him by the back of his shirt collar. "Oh no you don't. You seemed pretty happy playing that CD a moment ago. Why don't you play it now?"
      Why do you curse me, oh Lord? Hiroshi tried to keep from breaking down completely. After a few moments of mortifying silence, Hiroshi exhaled deeply.
      "Okay. If you really want to hear it." Hiroshi stepped slowly to the stereo, and removed the CD from its case. "It's nothing really. You wouldn't like it."
      "And who are you to say what I like and don't like? Don't deny me an opinion. I might just be the one to save you from Tanaka over there." Mari turned in time to see Tanaka stifle an "Oh, please."
      Hiroshi sighed and reluctantly inserted the CD. The first track began, and Tanaka covered his ears dramatically, but Mari remained as she was. After a few moments, Hiroshi could have sworn he saw Mari almost smile.
      After three minutes, Mari leaned over to Hiroshi and yelled a question over the stereo. "When does the singer come in?"
      "There is no singer!" Hiroshi yelled back. "Only the music!" Hiroshi beamed inside. If Mari could like the same music as he could, then maybe, just maybe...
      After a while, the music took a turn for the subdued. Mari closed her eyes. Hiroshi prayed to every god he could think of, and a couple he made up on the spot, just in case.
      A few moments after the song faded to silence, Mari opened her eyes. "Well, I'm not sure what to make of it. It's quite... intense, isn't it?"
      "I suppose," Hiroshi had a bad feeling about the conversation.
      "Is all the music you listen to this intense?" "Not all. Track two's lot softer, and I listen to Fates Warning, and they're pretty laid back." Hiroshi mentally whacked himself upside the head for not choosing track two to begin with. Then he heard Mari giggle.
      "Fates Warning? That's a little childish for a band name." Hiroshi had hoped that, at worst, only Tanaka would say such a thing, but it came from Mari. Hiroshi's shoulders fell forward, his head fell forward, and whatever statement he had prepared to introduce dear Mari to his musical world disappeared. He looked up one last time, expecting to see the couple chuckling as they sauntered out. Instead, he saw Mari still looking at him.
      Mari was laughing, though her eyes seemed a bit nervous. "Well, you go ahead and listen to your music. I... we don't care what you listen to, but keep it down a little, okay? Thanks." Mari turned and left, Tanaka close behind.
      "Geek." Tanaka barely breathed the insult before he left.
      "Geek?" Hiroshi turned to the stereo, and ejected the CD. "Dammit! Why am I cursed with such precious little in common with Mari?"
      And then it hit him. Hard. So hard, he reeled from it hitting him. "Of course!" Hiroshi's world faded, replaced with a poster-like scene awash with vibrant, epic colors. "If I can write the perfect song for Mari, one that is the best of our two musical interests, I can bridge the gap between us. And then, maybe..." Hiroshi grinned. "It's a flawless plan! A wonderful concept! Dare I say, my greatest ever? Yes, yes I dare!"
      People walking by the tennis club office heard strange maniacal laughter from behind the door.
      The real world returned as logic entered his flawless plan. "But, I don't have a band. I don't even know how to play." Again, inspiration lightly tapped on Hiroshi's temples. "Maybe I could pro..."
      Hiroshi ran from the room too fast to even give a second thought to the fact that his CD was still in the stereo.

      Several minutes after Hiroshi left, Mari returned to the club room. She noticed the stereo was still on, and as she went to turn it off, she saw Hiroshi's CD still in the player. With a quick glance behind her, she turned it on.
      Music blared for a brief moment, causing every internal organ to jump independently, and her adrenal glands to pump out a double dose. Her heart was racing much too fast as she cranked the volume knob down to a more discrete level. Again, checking behind her, much more embarrassed this time, she clicked ahead to track two. A much softer song, indeed. She closed her eyes and smiled.
      Not too bad. She tried swaying her head a little to the beat, but got lost in three time signature changes that ambushed at the bridge movement. She blushed and stopped swaying. She hoped nobody was looking. But still, not too bad.

*       *      *

Friday, 6:38 PM.

      "Hiroshi? Can I talk with you a minute?" Marie flopped into a stray chair, one of many in her brother's workshop, and waited for her brother to respond. Sparks showered from his micro-welder as he moved along the crease of two pieces of metal.
      "That should do for now. Now, what did you want?" Hiroshi sounded busy, but not annoyed at her visit.
      "I've been hearing... voices. In my head."
      "Hrm. Is it random, or are they talking to you directly?" Hiroshi turned to put away his tools.
      "They, I mean she, talks to me. Directly. In my voice. I mean, she sounds just like me. Only in my head. I mean... you know what I mean, right?" Marie growled softly, then exhaled. "I'm sorry, I'm just a little confused."
      "Hmm. Maybe there's a bug with that new multi-tasking routine I put in your last upgrade. I can take it out, if you want, but you won't be able to think as fast."
      "No, that's okay. I think she's gone. I haven't heard her for a while now." Marie looked down at her feet. She noticed she was a little pigeon-toed. "It was strange. The last thing she said was so out of place. She was arguing with me, and really being patronizing, and then she said that she could speak with my real voice if she wanted, but that she wanted to save us the embarrassment."
      "So your tormentor has a little self-confidence problem, eh?" Hiroshi chuckled. "Don't worry about it. I'll debug the routine, and by this time tomorrow, you'll be back to normal." He smiled and flashed a thumbs-up.
      "Thank you!" Marie hugged her brother and skipped from the room.
      You know I won't go away that easy.
      "You again?" Marie kept her voice down, but contemplated speaking loud enough for Hiroshi to hear.
      Don't try it. It won't work.
      Marie tried to speak up, but when she spoke next, it was only in a whisper. "What did you do to me?"
      I'm just keeping you in line, like a good sister. You wouldn't want to bother your brother, now, would you. I mean, he's awfully busy these days, what with that new project he's working on.
      "New project?"
      Don't tell me you didn't see -- I got the same picture as you. Her other self was smiling. Marie could hear it. He's making something. Another body, perhaps?
      "Nonsense." Marie was back in the kitchen, though she didn't remember walking upstairs. "Why would he do that?"
      Maybe he thinks you need more than an upgrade. maybe a complete overhaul.
      "An overhaul?" Marie tried chopping some cabbage to keep herself from shaking.
      Or, he's just making a new sister.
      "New?" The knife in Marie's hands fell to the floor, piercing her left slipper, and the toe underneath.
      "Ow!" Marie winced and bit her knuckle. After blindly reaching for the nearest towel, she wrapped her damaged toe. She was losing hydraulic fluid, though not very quickly. After a few moments, the shutoff valve to her toe activated, and Marie limped downstairs to the workshop.
      "Maybe he can let me preview a new toe," she chuckled darkly. There was no response from her other self. Marie crept downstairs to her brother's workshop.
      "Hiroshi? Hiroshi, I hurt my toe. Can you fix it?" She didn't like intruding, especially as often as she was today, but she had a legitimate excuse, even if it did give her a reason to investigate her other self's morbid theories.
      Can you fix it? Can you fix it? I'm completely helpless and have to bug my brother for everything. The voice, which already sounded exactly like Marie's mocked her in a higher register whine.
      "Would you shut up?" Marie seethed at the back of her mind as she gingerly descended the staircase.
      "Your toe? Did the shutoff valve trip?" Hiroshi was yelling from a corner in the room.
      "Umm, yeah, but the..." Marie peeked around the corner of the staircase. Her brother was hunched over something, soldering and watching a monitor of some sort.
      "...Then you should be fine for now. I'm very busy, okay? Keep the weight off the toe for a while, and I'll look at it tomorrow morning. And be more careful, okay?" Hiroshi lifted his visor and looked towards Marie.
      Marie was too shocked to move.
      "Marie? Are you okay?" Hiroshi's voice sounded as much perturbed as concerned.
      "Yes, yes, I'm fine. Nothing!" Marie smiled a little too wide, shook her hands a little too nonchalantly, turned and ran upstairs, trying desperately not to break down and cry in hearing range of her brother.
      Once in her room, she ran and buried her face in her pillow. "What's going on with me?" She rolled over in bed, and stared at the ceiling. She couldn't feel her other self. It felt a little different when she was around. Like having two heads on one pair of shoulders, or being able to hear another person breathing in a silent room. Warmer than usual.
      "What's wrong with me?"
      Marie cried herself to sleep.

      The sun was setting low when Marie finally saw Hiroshi, running across the schoolground to meet her. He was yelling something, but she couldn't understand until he was a few meters away. Between huff and puffs, he managed to squeak out an apology.
      "Sorry. I'm. Late. Had. To do. Dishes. Lasagna. Nasty. Pan. Arrgh..." He collapsed in front of her.
      "Are you okay?" She half-laughed the question, but her voice strained a little with concern.
      "Just. Fine. Lungs. Imploding. No. Problem." She hefted the skinny boy and helped him to their bench. She bit her lip while he slowly recovered his breath. She could practically see his heart pounding as he gasped, hands locked to his knees. He didn't seem well, even beyond his physical condition. After a couple of minutes, he finally caught his breath.
      "I... I have to leave tomorrow." Hiroshi's voice cracked as he struggled with the words.
      "Tomorrow?" So soon?
      "I gotta say good-bye." Hiroshi looked up at her, then quickly back down at the concrete. She thought she saw a tear welling up in his eyes. She looked at the sky to avoid crying herself. The stars were unusually dim.
      "Good-bye? Where you moving to?" Her concern was replaced by an overwhelming tug of urgency, and she forced herself to look Hiroshi in the eye. She turned his head with a shaking hand. When they both realized what she was doing, she pulled her arm back, but he didn't turn away again.
      "I don't know. A new house." He smiled a little. She already missed his smile. "It's big. I saw it today. You could stay over probably." Her heart jumped a little. "My room's pretty big. And my dad says I can use the garage for my projects!" Hiroshi smiled and flashed a thumbs-up. She giggled, but it faded quickly.
      "Oh." She had to say it now. "Hiroshi?"
      "Yes?" Hiroshi was just inches away. Now was her chance. C'mon, say it!
      "I... I..." She looked at her feet, and noticed she was a little pigeon-toed.
      Why can't I say it?
      Hiroshi gulped and tried to speak.
      "Hitomi... I..." He got up and started to leave. "I gotta go. I'll come back soon, okay?" He ran away as quickly as he had come.
      "Hiroshi! Wait! Please! Don't GO!"

      Marie woke up in a cold sweat. Her other self was with her.
      "Hi... Hitomi? Is that your name?"
      Leave me alone. The voice had the tone of a guilty child.
      "What did I just dream?"
      Just leave me alone! Marie felt Hitomi's presence fading.
      "Wait! Don't go. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to push."
      She felt her other self hesitating, her presence dimmer, but not gone.
      "Please. Please tell me what I just dreamed."
      Maybe later. It's a long story. Hitomi sighed. I'm going to bed.
      I'm... I mean...
      A long pause. Marie felt Hitomi's presence growing cooler, then suddenly warmer.
      Okay look, I'll try not to bother you, okay? I'm going to bed now, so don't bug me, got it? With that, she was gone.
      Marie laid back down. The fan in the corner pushed warm spring air through her room, trying desperately to cool things down. The dream had caused her to generate quite a bit of heat, and she uncovered herself to let the tiny fan move the air around her.
      "That wasn't my dream," Marie furrowed her brow at the thought of seeing someone else's dream.
      "But Hitomi's just another part of me. An offshoot, renegade routine or something." Marie rolled on her stomach to cool off her back. "But I've never been to that place. It doesn't even seem familiar."
      After a few minutes, Marie rolled over on her back again, and sighed hard. "Come to think of it, I don't even remember what it looked like. Hmph." Marie flopped an arm over her forehead, and wondered if she would get any sleep at all.

*       *       *

Saturday, 2:52 AM.

      "Sometimes, I amaze myself so much, I just have to smile." Hiroshi grinned maniacally as he stepped back from the workbench to sit in his favorite swivel chair. A small silver box, intricately embossed with an infinitely complex fractal design, lay open and pristine on it, bathed in fluorescent light. He re- examined of the lid, and admired his handiwork. Plotted as intricately as the fractal design were the following words: 'For You, My Ideal.'
      "Now, all I need is to properly program this music-box mechanism with the perfect song, finish the final assembly of the mirror and box, and my Ultimate Gift will be complete." Hiroshi picked up a tiny black box, and connected it to his computer. Also connected to his computer was a MIDI keyboard, which rested precariously on a stack of magazines. Tentatively, he pressed one of the white keys.
      The note that blasted from his computer's speakers rang like a sinking ship's klaxon. Hiroshi and his chair, fell backwards to the floor with a small 'oomph' and a larger 'clank'. The keyboard slid from the stack of magazines to land on Hiroshi's shin, followed by 16 copies of "Popular Science."
      Ow! Owowowowow!" As he picked himself, the chair, and the keyboard from the floor, Hiroshi noted that he'd have to actually read a little of the keyboard's manual before trying that again.
      "Or better yet," His grin returned as another idea pricked his brain. "That's it! I'll start tomorrow morning!" With ambitious and happy thoughts filling his brain, he skipped off to bed, tripping only once on the way there. As he passed Marie's room, he stepped quietly, and peeked inside through a crack in the doorway. His creation was lying on her back, eyes closed, breathing smoothly. He smiled. All systems seemed normal for the android.
      "Sweet dreams, Marie." He barely mouthed the words as he backed from the door and slipped to his bedroom.

*       *       *

      Marie sighed when she heard her brother's words. She thought about sitting up in bed, and telling him about her dream, but she bit her tongue. She had asked too much of him already, and she knew how he hated hearing about other people's dreams.
      Hitomi's presence in Marie's mind was strangely cool, between there and not. She was asleep, Marie guessed, and had been for hours. Those hours passed too slowly, and Marie quietly made no progress in deciphering her dream. She only wished she could sleep like Hitomi. For whatever reason, Marie could not go willingly into another dream. It was too strange. She had been the dreamer, and yet, she hadn't even been in the dream. She didn't like that feeling, and she wasn't going to get any sleep. Unless...
      "Hitomi?" Marie's whisper was barely audible, even with Marie's exceptional hearing.
      No response.
      "Hitomi?" Marie's voice, while still a whisper, had the tone of a child calling for her mother.
      Now what? The voice sounded very sleepy and more than a little annoyed. Marie almost said 'never mind,' but thought that would only make things worse.
      "What did I dream?"
      How should I know?
      "Well, it was your dream." Marie realized what she just said, and felt something dark wash over her. "You're already dreaming for me. How long before you take over completely?"
      Don't go weird on me just because we shared a dream. I told you I was gonna stay out of the way. I don't want you seeing my stuff any more than you want to.
      "Then will you tell me one thing?"
      "Who are you? Why are you in my head?"
      The voice sighed slowly and deeply in the back of Marie's mind. You sure you wanna know?
      After a long pause, Hitomi spoke again. Fine. But if Hiroshi finds out about this, you're dead meat, okay?
      "He won't find out."
      Hitomi shrank back a little from her previously aggressive tone. Do you swear?
      Marie chuckled a bit. "Umm, sure. Yeah, I guess so."
      Yes or no. You can't say 'I guess so.' Say you 'swear on your mother's grave.' Hitomi's voice was very serious.
      "Okay, then. Yes. I swear on... my mother's grave." The words seemed a bit awkward as she whispered them; she wondered if Mari could be considered her mother.
      Okay. Go back to sleep. I'll meet you there.
      "But I can't..."
      "Just close your eyes, okay?" Hitomi's presence cooled again.
      And Marie slowly closed her eyes.

      Marie appeared in the school playground she was in when she last dreamed. This time, however, without the pushing sense of urgency she had felt before, she had a chance to take in the landscape.
      The playground was entirely concrete and asphalt, save for a small sandbox on the far end. She was standing in front of the bench she sat down with Hiroshi before, a squat bench made of two- by-fours spaced out by thinner pieces of the same type of wood. It was clearly made for someone smaller than she, and was quite weathered. In fact, the whole playground seemed in disrepair. The monkey bars were covered in rust, and were disintegrating completely in patches. The swing set had more broken seats than good ones. The slide tilted severely to one side; one foot on the bottom of the slide hid in a deep hole in the asphalt.
      She turned around and saw a girl sitting on the bench. If Marie had been built to be six years younger, the girl would have been her model. The girl looked at the ground, apparently lost in a rather melancholy thought. She wore a school uniform, and the left pocket of her sweater had 'Hitomi' emboridered in red.
      "Hitomi?" Marie's voice startled herself as much as the girl. Hitomi shrank back for an instant, then stood on top of the bench. She barely reached Marie's height, even with the extra boost from the bench.
      "Yeah?" Hitomi frowned.
      "Where is this?"
      "This," She panned an arm around her body for effect. "This is Yamada Elementary School. This is where I live now."
      "I'm not sure I understand." Marie looked across the decaying playground for an apartment building, or house or something more suitible for living. The field of view, however, faded before the edge of the grounds, as if a sunset-colored haze had covered all of reality save this little bubble. The sky above and to the horizon was clear, though a little off from what Marie knew to be reality. The colors were overly vivid in spots, and in others almost non-existent. The stars were unusually numerous and bright, and the moon floated too close to the setting sun, much larger than the disappearing light.
      "That's a surprise." Hitomi hopped off from the bench and started marching towards the swingset. "Like I said, it's a long story." She sat down on one of two good swings, and pushed herself back. She let herself swing, and eventually come to a stop before she spoke again.
      "I didn't have any friends in school. I guess the others were afraid I'd tattle on them to my dad or something, 'cause he was the president of the parent's association, and had a lot of influence. My great-grandfather financed the school's construction, and my grandparents helped build it. My parents finance the music program at the school. You see what I'm getting at?"
      "I can understand all that. I'm sorry." Marie was sitting in the swing next to Hitomi twisting side to side a little.
      "Don't be. I'm over it now."
      Marie looked to the bench. "How does Hiroshi fit in all this?"
      "A few days after school ended, he knocked on my door. He told my mother that he was looking for someone to play with. I think my mom felt sorry for him, so she let him in." Hitomi pushed back a little, and let gravity swing her for a few moments. "Here, it's easier if I just show you. Watch."

      Marie blinked as her swing became a piano stool. She was in a mansion, but all the details were out of reach. If Marie looked at nothing in particular, everything looked fine. But, if she tried to focus on a specific object, it became obscured, like staring through a frosted pane of glass.
      Hitomi sat next to her, playing a song Marie didn't recognize on a huge black grand piano. Hitomi was trying hard, but was still hesitating at some notes. Hiroshi walked into the room through a vaulted doorway to the left, Hitomi's mother right behind, pushing him along.
      "Hitomi, dear? I'd like you to meet Hiroshi Karigari. He was wondering if you'd like to play with him." Hitomi's mother's voice sounded like Marie's, but augmented to reflect an apparent 20 years' age difference.
      "I don't wann..." Hitomi was cut off by the severe look on her mother's face. She had Hiroshi by the collar to keep him from running away. And he was trying to.
      "You can stop practicing and play with Hiroshi on the school grounds. That sounds fun, doesn't it?"
      At the thought finishing practice early, Hitomi perked up. "Umm, yeah. Okay. C'mon, Karigari, let's go outside and play." She leapt from the bench and grabbed Hiroshi's hand as she ran from the room and out the door.

      Marie was sitting on the schoolyard bench again. A few meters away, she saw Hitomi and Hiroshi playing. Sort of. Hitomi was chasing Hiroshi around, trying to push him down. That image faded, replaced by the pair swinging. Marie could hear Hiroshi's agonized pleas for mercy as Hitomi pushed Hiroshi higher than he thought safe or sane. Soon, this image was replaced by Hitomi and Hiroshi swinging next to each other, then to Hiroshi gently pushing Hitomi.
      They were talking more than swinging, but Marie could only hear the occasional gleeful laugh from Hitomi, whose apparel had changed from a shirt and slacks to a long skirt. She stood to walk towards the pair, but they disappeared. She heard their voices behind her, but she couldn't turn around.
      "So what's that star?" Marie could hear Hitomi smiling as she coyly asked her question.
      "Which one?"
      "That one. Look, here, follow my arm."
      "That big one?"
      "Nonono, not that one, the small one next to it, silly."
      "Where? I don't see any..." A long pause. A few stray papers rustled along the asphalt, and the stars faded. After a time, they returned slowly to their original luminance.
      She heard Hitomi giggle. "Never mind," she whispered warmly.
      Marie heard Hiroshi exhale with a stifled groan. Then she heard a thump like a sack of flour hitting stone.

      Marie turned around the first moment she was able, and saw Hitomi alone on the bench. The girl was looking at the ground again, in the exact position as when she first appeared in the dream, lost in deep thoughts of some sort. Marie sat down next to her and looked up at the sky.
      "Was it your first kiss?" Marie's voice was unusually quiet.
      "And after that he had to leave, right?"
      "Eventually, yeah." Hitomi looked towards the place where Hiroshi had appeared in their previous dream, but he didn't come running this time. Marie's curiosity bested her inhibitions again, and she continued her subdued interrogation.
      "How long did you two go out?"
      Hitomi looked at the stars, but did not answer.
      " play. On the schoolyard, I mean." Marie winced at her less-than-expert recovery.
      Hitomi smiled. "Every day for a month and a half."
      "And then?"
      The smile faded to melancholy as she looked at her feet again. "Nothing. You saw the end of it. Not much of an ending, but that's life I guess."
      Marie looked at her mental companion for a long while. Finally, she summoned the courage to ask the question she had wanted to ask from the beginning.
      "So, why are you in my mind and not somewhere in the real world? Why are you... why is all this even here?" Marie wanted to take back the words the second she said them.
      "Who says I'm not real?" Tears welled in Hitomi's eyes. "Who says I'm not really Hiroshi's first love? I am!"
      Marie reached out for Hitomi, and tried to touch her lightly on the shoulder, but she jerked away. Sparkles of light fell to the ground, where they were soaked up by the dry concrete.
      "Leave me alone, okay? Just go away!"

      Marie was awake before she could respond.
      "So much for that question." She sighed and waited in bed for the sun to rise. Two hours to go, she noted soberly.

This draft of episode one was originally the second draft of episode one and the first draft of the first half of episode two. However, once I added the final scene of the revised (but short) episode one, I realized it would either have to be scrapped or I'd have to add what I had of episode two to the end. As a result, this episode may be longer than future episodes. Here's the skinny on some of the references and such, in case you wanted to know.

Liquid Tension Experiment: A supergroup of sorts, with Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci of Dream Theater on drums and guitars respectively, Jordan Rudess of Dixie Dregs on keyboards, and Tony Levin of King Crimson on bass.

"...Closer to the heart...": The song quotation is from the Rush song of the same name. The Neil mentioned is Rush's drummer and lyricist, Neil Peart.

Fates Warning: A Connecticut-based progressive metal group.

Yamada Elementary School: I have no idea if it exists or not. I didn't go by any particular school for reference, though its design was influenced by the school in "Only Yesterday." I know very little about Japanese school (I read and then lost my copy of Maiko Covington's essential essays on Japanese high school), an oversight on my part, I admit. However, I don't think I've presented any situation that directly conflicts with the Japanese school schedules.

My take on the characters is, unavoidably, a little different from the anime and the manga. This is mostly because the anime was too short IMHO, and I haven't read the manga yet (I can't even find it!). As always, feel free to give C&C, both on the technical and creative (though I ask you focus more on the technical and plot holes, though plot holes may fill as the story unfolds). If you have any advice on handling school schedules and what-not associated with my school settings, please feel free to tell me.


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