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it’s november and their maths teacher has just died.

something white is falling down--oh. the snow has come early this year. she’s sledding, she’s with kentarou, sitting tight together on the toboggan. the wood is hard and she numbs with cold through her skirt. she’s pressed back against him and his arms are wrapped around her tightly. a little too tightly, in fact, so when she struggles a little, saying jokingly, “kentarou! hey, i can’t breathe!” in a joking tone even though she’s tugging at his arms harder now. on the inside she’s starting to panic a little bit.

in front of her the sheep appears. “you’re always wrong,” he says.

look at her friend with his bright wide eyes. his innocent gaze, always smiling. he doesn’t know, he can’t.

does she want to tell him?

bright wide smile flashing white teeth like everything’s a joke. squeezing tighter and tighter. a vice.

talking shit about a dead man--it’s chilly inside hisano’s heart. (she knows it, and she knows she doesn’t feel quite guilty enough.)

koutarou’s just as cold as hisano is, but he’s too smart to show it.

what other people think about you matters, hisano. even if you don’t think it does.

it’s too tight, she and kentarou don’t fit together. the sheep is rubbing up on her. it leaps into her lap and starts crawling toward kentarou.

“shut up,” hisano says. “just shut up.”

“what are you talking about?” kentarou asks. “I didn’t say anything.”

then the snow is melting away and it’s getting too hot. hisano looks down to see flames licking at the toboggan’s treads. “sorry,” the sheep says, and disappears.

--

“why are you running from safety,” the sheep says. flicks its fluffy tail. hops up. “not just cold, but stupid, too.”

“i don’t care,” says hisano. “it’s my choice. you’re the stupid one.”

“i’m telling the truth.” those cold eyes, always.

and hisano knows knows she’s stupid to fall in love with the tall dark handsome enigmatic bad boy. knows she’s stupid to follow this cliche to its bitter end. knows it’s wrong want to hold a murderer’s hand. even if he can see the sheep too.

"you're not supposed to be here," the sheep says.

--

tanabe ai knows all the tricks.

give them a little show, shimizu says.

ai nods and laughs. but shimizu-san, i already know!

you have to tease them. pretend you don’t know why you’re there. act coy. pluck at your stockings like you’re nervous, shy, but really show that taut white inch of skin to make them crazy with want.

let him touch you first. unbutton your blouse. but don’t let him go too fast. you’re still in control, right? you didn’t buy that pretty bra for nothing, so go slow.

admire the lace, how it pushes against your breasts...if he forces your head you’ve taken too long...” shimizu is surprised but she doesn’t let it show. ai’s only fourteen but looks just like a woman. like a woman, ai says, but younger, prettier, sweeter, tighter--she knows because men have told her--

something vile should be burning shimizu’s stomach now. but instead she just gives ai a slap on the shoulder and the client’s address. i’ll see you tonight, shimizu says. have fun.

--

or maybe:

ai is a wreck, shivering on the bathroom floor.

“if you tell anyone, i’ll kill you,” shimizu says.

ai believes her because there’s a knife in shimizu’s hand, and with every shout from shimizu the blade jerks closer to ai’s neck.

her mobile phone is in her bag, one meter away.

tanabe ai wants nothing more than to dive for the bag, rifle through it, grab her phone, and call the cops. it would take maybe ten seconds. but her eyes are watching the knife.

how long would it take for the knife to fall? to plunge?

tanabe ai is failing mathematics.

tanabe ai stays on the floor.

--

what would happen?

hisano knows this won’t have a good ending. he’s not her prince. he’s not even her friend.

but when she looks at him, she doesn’t care, oh no. she just wonders: what would it be like?

would it matter? to me? to him? her heart is thumping, skipping, too heavy and then too light.

he wants to get closer to her. to me. what does it mean?

he pulls something out. what is it, a coin, a jewel, a blade?

a good luck charm?

that gem of a scale, again. precious, plastic.

disgusting, he’s disgusting, but i want him so much.

yukinari’s mouth out of the blackness, devouring. how much for a kiss?

she reaches for his hand and he escapes into blackness.

she’s left with the sheep.

i’ll rip you, i’ll smash you--hisano is crying.

we’re going to go away, the sheep mocks, we’re going to get away, together--you believed him?

i wanted, i wanted...

you’re a fool.

even the sheep is gone now.

hisako stands alone in the darkness.