What’s a Dyke?
Disclaimer: I didn’t create the characters of Tatsuki and Orihime; Kubo Tite did.
Description: PG13 Two very different girls become close friends. Somewhat of a sequel to
I Don't Like Girls
Written for thejennabides at bleach_flashfic at livejournal. Here’s the request:
“I think I have vertigo,” Orihime said.
She and Tatsuki lay on the bank of the Onose River. Orihime had insisted that they lie down, even though the grass would irritate Orihime’s bare legs.
“I wonder if there’s a cure for my vertigo.” After reading that constant exposure to whatever sets off rashes can make an allergy go away, Orihime had been lying down on Karakura grasses more than usual.
“What the hell, vertigo?” Tatsuki tried not to sound worried, but this was a dangerous condition for anyone, let alone klutzy Orihime, to have around a river. “You mean, like the medical condition?”
“I think so.”
Could vertigo make a person klutzy? Tatsuki remembered times Orihime had tripped or walked into a wall. These accidents had been the result of absent-mindedness, not some weird inner ear problem. Just yesterday Orihime had been talking over her shoulder; she hadn’t seen the wastebasket. As soon as she knocked it down, though, she apologized to it.
“Why do you think you have vertigo? That means being dizzy all the time.” Aware that she’d spoken the adjective most used to describe her whimsical friend, Tatsuki squinted in regret--there was no taking it back.
But Orihime didn’t notice. “Every time I lie down and look at the sky, it feels like I’m going to fall right off the planet and into some other place. It’s scary. Isn’t that vertigo?”
“No, it’s not.” Tatsuki put her hands in her lap to keep her school skirt from rising with a gust of wind. “Everybody does that. That’s why looking into the sky is fun--like a carnival ride at first. Then you get used to the feeling, right?”
“No,” said Orihime. The wind blew her skirt up. Her panties were light blue. “I’m still falling.”
“Still falling,” Tatsuki repeated. She didn’t understand.
Orihime took long walks on off-days from school. To the railroad, to construction sites, to the river. Tatsuki didn’t ask why; she just followed her. Girl bullies like the ones who cut off Orihime’s hair were no longer a threat; everyone knew that Tatsuki would pound into paste anyone who bothered Orihime.
Still, Tatsuki had to keep a close eye on her during river-walks. Once, when Tatsuki was at an important practice meet, Orihime had wandered away for days. A grand adventure only possible if one didn’t have parents but Tatsuki had been worried sick.
“What’s a dyke?” Orihime asked on the riverbank. Strong winds blew her ginger hair over her mouth and chin.
“A barrier built to keep water out,” Tatsuki said. She was used to answering the question with sarcasm.
“I know that,” Orihime said. “The Little Dutch Boy stuck his finger in one and saved the town. I always wanted to be him. I always wanted to save the world.”
“It’s not possible. The world stinks. There’s no saving it.”
“But what about a dyke who’s a person? Is that a compliment or an insult?”
The sky threatened rain, even the strong wind was blowing the rainclouds away. Tatsuki felt in her bookbag for the umbrella.
“Aren’t you going to tell me what a dyke is?”
“Has Aichi Midori been saying things about me again? I’ll smash her face in.”
Orihime sat up and frowned. “People call you a dyke?”
“They call any girl who plays sports a dyke.”
“They? Who are they?”
The tiny drops were falling. Tatsuki opened her umbrella. Not being monsoon season, it wouldn’t be a big rain. They could still sit outside, but Tatsuki thought it was safer to go home.
“Let’s go, Orihime.”
“What’s a bitch?”
There was no explaining some things to Orihime. She was one of the brightest girls in Karakura Middle School when it came to algebra and English, but she didn’t understand the simplest things.
But bitches and lesbians should be easy enough to explain to a thirteen-year-old, so Tatsuki gave it a try.
“Bitches,” Tatsuki sighed, “make up the majority of the female population. They’re…
just people you can’t trust because they’ll cut you down as soon as praise you. They’re very fake.”
Orihime looked confused, but Tatsuki continued anyway. “A dyke? Same thing as rezu, bian, lesbian, gay lady. A girl who likes other girls.”
“Maybe. A dyke likes girls the way you like Ichigo.”
Orihime’s eyes widened. “Like Chizuro likes me!”
The rain was falling steadily now, and Tatsuki inched closer to Orihime so that they could share the umbrella.
“Maybe we’ll get to see the river rise,” Orihime said.
“Nah. There won’t be enough rain,” Tatsuki said.
The wind blew rain onto the girls’ faces, though, and they had to get up and walk in the wind’s direction. Orihime twirled a grass blade between her fingers, and Tatsuki could see the Hime-logic spinning in her brain.
Finally, Orihime spoke. “I don’t think most girls are bitches, so that must mean I like girls more than you do, so that means I’m more of a dyke than you are. Why is it that no one ever calls me that?”
Tatsuki shut her eyes. Orihime just didn’t understand.
Soccer wasn’t one of Tatsuki’s passions, but since the school judo team didn’t meet in the summer, she began to show up at soccer practices. “Just to kick the ball around,” she said. Her off-campus dojo, which did meet regularly, was her priority, but whenever Tatsuki wasn’t following Orihime around town, she needed to exercise her legs somehow.
Orihime began coming to watch soccer practice. Or so she claimed. She really just sat in the stands and did homework.
Sunny days passed, and with most students gone to the beach or busy with their own summer agendas, the intimacy between friends deepened. Tatsuki had heard of the phenomenon last year. Cliques switched members. Girls came to recesses talking about “summer loves.” By third year, many girls walked hand in hand to school. Tatsuki knew she would always feel weird taking Orihime’s hand.
At the Onose River, Orihime showed off her rash-less legs. “See. It worked.”
“I wouldn’t try it if I were allergic to something like wood spiders.”
After Orihime’s miracle cure, Tatsuki spent less time horizontal on the grass and walked upright with her friend daily to the Fuurin Community Centre. The people there, Tatsuki observed, were not bitches so it was a suitable hang-out. Orihime wondered aloud if there was anyone else with vertigo among the crowd. Tatsuki doubted it, but then the girls met the man who sold sno-cones. One look at the pair and he said that Orihime and Tatsuki were sisters.
At the moment, Orihime was standing with a napkin wrapped around her strawberry cone. Her billowy skirt was pink with a floral pattern. There was a flower in her straw hat. Tatsuki wore jean shorts and a boy’s shirt. “Huh?” she said. “We don’t look anything alike.”
“Siblings don’t always look alike,” the sno-cone man said. “The one here sips through her straw and you bite through your cone, but I can tell. Oh yes, I can tell. When one soul walks with another soul, I can tell how close they are. You too are so close that you’re almost the same person.”
When the girls went to the next vendor for fishcakes, Tatsuki mumbled, “That cone man is a freak.”
The next day the girls went for sno-cones again and had to wait in line while the freaky man told people their fortunes. Orihime said that people are attracted to what they don’t understand, and as usual, Tatsuki didn’t understand her.
“Listen Orihime, people are just plain vain. They want to be talked about in some crazy man’s fortune-telling. Now, tell me that if this guy was wearing a tutu and singing down the street, would people flock around him?”
Orihime said that she’d run up to him right away to find out about the special occasion that required dancing clothes and a singing voice, and Tatsuki smiled at this inanity. “You’re so damn cute, Orihime.”
“Sometimes people have no patience with me,” Orihime said. “I can tell.”
“Screw them,” Tatsuki said. “Bitches don’t like to be around people who are different.”
“Oh I’m not talking about bitches.” The cuss-word sounded so benign in Orihime’s mouth. “I’m talking about nice girls like Mahana and Michiru. I feel bad when they’re confused by me.”
From rainy May to sweltering July, little by little, Orihime began to understand what Tatsuki meant by the word “bitch.” Tatsuki could tell because Orihime didn’t like to insult people, and Orihime stopped saying the word. “Dyke” was still a mystery to her because, obviously, Orihime didn’t understand sex. Tatsuki thought that this was strange for a post-pubescent girl whose hormones seemed to be working properly enough to build her the biggest boobs in school. Orihime was also crazy in love with Ichigo, but Tatsuki didn’t dwell on Hime-logic. To do so would be to challenge one’s sanity.
Orihime pointed at another vendor’s sign. “Let’s get the fried mochi. I like to watch the man make them.”
As the girls got closer to the mochi, they felt the heat of the grill where one vendor sold meats. Orihime fanned her face with her big hat, and Tatsuki marveled at the business sense of someone who would sell winter foods in the middle of summer. “Pretty dumb-ass, huh? I think we’re his first customers of the day.”
“I like different,” Orihime said.
“Well, that’s simple. You’re not a bitch. Bitches loathe different.”
“Sometimes…” And here Orihime smiled. “I like different especially if it confuses me.”
It was too late in the season for butterflies, but Tatsuki could swear that something bright and fluttery-winged circled Orihime’s head and flew off in the direction of the river.
“Yeah,” Tatsuki said. “Sometimes being confused is kind of fun.”
It was a rare moment of mutual understanding, and it shone under a clear July sky.