Has torn out every stitch. - "A Song for the Deaf", Queens of the Stone Age
Harima Mika is sixteen, and going to start high school, and hopelessly in love with Yagiri Seiji. She loves pink, she's a bit of a stalker, and she's been in true love at least ten times.
As her head hits the wall, she thinks this might be the last.
Harima Mika is six, and not in love.
She begins the elementary school year in a blue T-shirt and shorts (she hates pink), and her parents insist that she should switch to overalls after the fifth time she skins her knee running after the boys.
She spends her breaks roughhousing with the boys in the sandbox, laughing rowdily, and her time in the classroom is spent sitting in the back, playing pranks on the teacher. When the teacher turns around to check on them, Mika puts on her most innocent face, and the teacher's gaze slides past them.
One day, she's playing with Takashi, and he's gazing far away, tracing patterns in the sandbox with the edge of a shovel. She looks at the way that his fingers grip the handle, drawing lines in the wet sand, and she realises that she's in love. What she knows about love comes from the dramas that her parents watch, and the brief glimpses of the tail-end of girls' anime before Gundam comes on, but she knows that this is a feeling different from friendship, and she is a girl, and Takashi is a boy, so that leads to only one conclusion.
Harima Mika is six, and it's the first time she's in love.
She looks in the direction that Takashi was looking at. Three girls are playing with dolls. One of them is Kyoko from their class. The boys all call Kyoko the "little maiden" because she comes to school in the most impractical dresses and cries when the boys (and Mika) make fun of her. Her hair is long and elaborately curled, in comparison to Mika's blunt bob, and her clothes are pristine. As Kyoko turns to pour tea for her doll, her rhinestone necklace glitters in the sunlight.
Mika doesn't know what she wants, or how to go about doing it, but she tries to get Takashi's attention the only way she can - pushing him, nudging him, pointing at Kyoko in the distance and making a nasty comment.
Takashi responds cheerfully to her comment, but doesn't laugh as much as he usually does, and uses a splayed palm to wipe out whatever he was drawing. Before it's entirely gone, Mika glances down. It's an outline of a heart, traced over and over, and there are practically ruts in the sand.
Mika's fingers curl into her small palm.
When she gets home, she makes it a point to watch all of the show before Gundam. It's a rerun of a Sailormoon episode, and instead of feeling contempt for how impractical Usagi's hair and outfit are, she watches it avidly.
The part that fascinates her isn't the transformation sequence, but Usagi's disguise pen, and how it enables her to become a completely different person. The only other disguises she's encountered before this are masks, like Char Aznable from the old Gundam. The concept of completely changing her identity to suit the situation, instead of merely hiding it, hums in her head just before she goes to bed. She tucks her action figures in, next to her, so that they can share the pillow.
She figures it out the next morning. When the maid comes to dress her, she refuses the first three suggestions, and hunts through her walk-in wardrobe for the only frilly dress that she owns. The maid's confused, but she helps Mika put it on, and cautions her not to tear it during playtime. Mika assures her that it won't be a problem.
Mika instructs the maid on how she wants her hair done, and it's a struggle to get it in a ponytail because there simply isn't enough hair. They both give up eventually because Mika is about to cry in pain and be late for school. Her hair goes in twin ponytails, fastened with her mother's pearl butterfly clips, and the chauffeur ushers her into the car.
That week, the boys are confused by Mika's sudden metamorphosis. However, her donation of her old Gundam models to them serves to quell any dissent.
Her new pink diamond necklace is the envy of all the girls, even Kyoko, and it's a sign of her newfound poise that she doesn't fidget with the clasp. She knows her plan has worked when Takashi starts to look at her, not in the way that he used to, but with a tinge of admiration - it's the same way he looked at Kyoko.
By the end of the school year, her recesses consist of hunting Takashi down so that she can share her snacks with him and she ends up sitting next to Takashi every chance she gets in class. Takashi is so captivated by the fact that a fair maiden is in love with him that he doesn't seem to mind Mika's obsessive behaviour. Kyoko is long forgotten.
When they switch classes after the holidays, she's heartbroken for the first two days, mourning over her long-lost love, separated by the cruelties of fate. Her necklace is a familiar weight on her neck, and she clutches the pendant, remembering how Takashi loved to watch the pink diamond glimmer underneath the light.
Then a new boy sits beside her. As their eyes meet, the necklace suddenly feels like a strangling, oppressive choke-chain. She fumbles with the chain's clasp, trying to undo it with one hand, and he offers to help.
He hands it to her, his hand grazing hers, and the pink diamond falls into the depths of her backpack. She blushes, and spends the rest of the day staring avidly at his profile when he turns away, and observing the things that he seems to be interested in.
The next day, Harima Mika is someone completely different, and it's the second time she's in love.
Harima Mika is sixteen, and not in love.
She's been heartbroken at least nine times - well, nine major times.The last boy found out that she'd been picking his locks and transferred to another middle school to get away from her. She's sort of hoping to meet a boy, though, so she's changed her default outfit to a tight white shirt, pink tie and short skirt - it's feminine, but not aggressively so, and she can roll up the sleeves or take the tie off, if the boy's the gangsterish sort. She wears short boots, and carries floppy socks in her handbag just in case she meets a boy who likes the schoolgirl look - it's always best to be prepared. The socks also help to cushion her lockpick gun.
Her best friend is Sonohara Anri, who does a good job of making her look even livelier than she is, and Mika's brown hair and spunky attitude stands out really well next to Anri's boring staidness. If the boy she meets likes the shy sort, well, she'll have months of experience from observing Anri, it's a win-win symbiosis. All she'll have to do is mumble her name and speak very few words. She does make a point of going out with Anri from time to time, they even take print club photographs, because she read that the best way to get over a messy breakup was to keep busy. Anri doesn't seem interested in falling in love - all the better, less competition for her.
They're both going to take the high school entrance exam in a few hours, and she's hoping she gets into Raira Academy. If she can get into the same class as Anri, she'll have a built-in foil to make her look even more outstanding. Maybe then the boys would flock to her - but she'd lose a bit of the thrill of the chase.
These thoughts flood her mind right before the exam - her potential future classmates are clasping good-luck charms or frantically cramming, but she doesn't care. She knows she'll get in.
When they take their seats, her eyes flit around the room, looking for prospects. Ryuugamine Mikado's sitting next to her - impressive name. She loves his graceful kanji, and she loves the way he twirls his pen when he's nervous and thinking. For a moment she imagines him writing love letters to her, skilfully handling his pen, but sadly he's not her type.
Ryuugamine Mikado had a really cool name, though. She wonders what names the people around her have, and her eyes look to the left and meet Seiji's. His lips twitch - a smile, perhaps? - and she knows that he's the one for her. She rushes through her paper, not even bothering to check, and spends the remaining time staring at what he's writing - subtly, of course, lest she be accused of cheating. His answers on the comprehension section aren't very revealing of his psyche, so further research will be required.
Harima Mika is sixteen, and it's the tenth time she's in love.
She follows Seiji home that day, and her search history for the next few weeks consists primarily of the keywords "Yagiri Seiji", "Yagiri Pharmaceuticals", and whatever additional keywords she deems relevant. She makes a dossier, and through an elaborate scouring of the internet, she manages to find out his birthday. She isn't sure what gift he'd like, but she checks their horoscopes for compatibility.
They're a perfect match.
The day before school term starts, she decides to pay his home a visit again - it's the night before school, so he's likely to be home. If he isn't, she can probably look through his personal belongings again to try and figure out what kind of girl he likes! He has a charming habit of leaving the door unlocked, and she finds his absent-mindedness endearing.
She readies her lockpicks, pulls on her boots, and sets out to (possibly) meet her lover. He doesn't know that he's going to be her lover yet, but he will soon. It's a short trek to where he's at, she knows all the shortcuts by heart.
The light's on at his apartment. He's definitely home, but she's struck with a flash of worry, as he doesn't seem to be answering the door after she knocked on it a few (twenty) times. She manages to open the door, and removes her boots - it wouldn't be polite to track dirt into her boyfriend's house, after all. Her ankle-length socks nearly cause her to slide on the floor, but she manages to stay steady-footed, padding into the apartment.
She's surprised to find a head in a jar there, as it wasn't there during her previous visits.
She's even more surprised when Seiji comes home, and it's a lot of backpedaling. She's actually fine with his hobby, although she hopes he wasn't the one to kill the person whose head was in the jar, and she frantically tries to explain that. She's interrupted by his hand on her cheek, telling her that everything's fine, and she feels a warm surge of affection for Seiji at the moment.
He doesn't deepen the touch, or even move his hand, and she's beginning to get very worried, especially since Seiji seems to be looking at her with a cold expression. Is he trying to keep her occupied so he can report her to the police?
His grip tightens on the side of her head, and her brown eyes widen, and there's a moment of shocked realisation.
Tenth time unlucky, Mika thinks.
He slams her head against the wall.
Harima Mika is sixteen, and, surprisingly, alive.
She opens her eyes to the sight of Namie, Seiji's sister, and she wonders what honorific is appropriate, then she realises she can't talk.
Namie is asking if she wants Seiji to like her, and yes, Mika does, more than anything, so she blinks her eye in assent. She's sure that Seiji was just acting out of shock, and he'll grow to love her in time.
The doctor comes - she hasn't seen his face in any of her searches, so she supposes this isn't a relative.
He tells her that Seiji is in love with a head, which she has managed to figure out by now, but she blinks to acknowledge it anyway. He tells her that cosmetic surgery and makeup can make her look like that head.
It's going to be a permanent transformation, she thinks. From this, there's no going back.
She blinks in agreement, and Namie chuckles bitterly.
The doctor gives her a new name, and she can't move her mouth to try it out, but she repeats it hundreds of times in her head before the anesthesia takes hold.
Seiji's love, Celty. Celty loves Seiji. Seiji loves Celty. Celty, Celty, Celty, Celtyceltyceltyceltycelty.
Harima Mika is sixteen, and it's the last time she's in love.
She closes her eyes.
She wakes up from the anesthetic in a different place, as a different person. She feels older than she is.
She wonders how old the head is supposed to be, and decides it doesn't matter.
They've changed her nose, it's slightly more pointed, more European. Her eyes are blue now. Her complexion is a bit paler, but not by much - she supposes she can touch that up with makeup, although it was hard to see what the head actually looked like, inside all that green fluid, but if she gets a second look she can probably get it right. There's a ridge of scar tissue running around her neck, in a continuous line.
Celty is newly born, and it's the first time she's in love.
She traces the scars, and doesn't wince.