Fuyumi is not yet thirteen when she learns that the world isn’t fair.
She doesn’t see it happen, sheltered from that side of her family as she is. Since her little brother’s quirk came in, it’s been this way. Shouto lives on one side of the house, the one where Father spends most of his time, and the rest of the siblings aren’t allowed to visit, since that would be too distracting for him.
Only mom is allowed to cross the boundary. Touya always brags that he’s the bravest one in the family, but Fuyumi quietly thinks that the title belongs to mom. Even though she’s always tired or crying, she puts up with it. Even when she has bruises and cuts she thinks Fuyumi doesn’t notice, she never shows any outward signs of being in pain.
“It’s a sign of strength for a woman to endure,” she tells Fuyumi one night. “And you’re strong, aren’t you?”
Fuyumi nods. She hopes she’s strong, and she hopes she hasn’t been showing that she’s worried. Touya always tells her to lighten up, and her friends at school say her resting face is concerned, but she can do better, can’t she?
“Good. You’ve got your little brothers relying on you, so you can’t let them worry. It’s a heavy burden, but I know you can do it.” She wraps Fuyumi in a hug, an occurrence that’s been growing more and more rare. It feels like it always does, soft and safe and comforting.
Until it’s not. She won’t let go; her arms are rigid like glass and Fuyumi can’t leave and something is wrong.
“Fuyumi, dear...how long has your hair been like this?”
“Like what?” You’re hurting me, she wants to say, but she can’t. Isn’t she supposed to be strong?
“There’s so much red,” she murmurs, and Fuyumi feels a wisp of dread begin to curl around her throat. “Have you always been so much like your father?”
“Sorry, dear.” Mom pulls away, trembling like she’s about to start crying again. “I’m afraid I’m not feeling like myself lately. I think I’ll make myself some chamomile and go to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.”
But that doesn’t happen.
That night, mom leaves and never comes back. Shouto has a fresh burn covering his left eye, and asks Fuyumi if she thinks he’s ugly. Father storms in and out, leaving the scent of smoke in his wake, and there’s a half empty kettle leaking in the kitchen that no one touches.
She’s smart enough to figure it out, but she’s not brave enough to ask about it. She and Touya used to say that she took all the thinking genes, and he took all the doing ones. That’s just the way it is with twins, really. They’re like yin and yang, personalities complementing each other perfectly. She’s the smart one, and he’s the brave one.
That’s why Touya is the one who comes home one day clutching a glossy pamphlet.
“This is where he put mom,” he declares triumphantly, stabbing at the page with his finger.
Fuyumi takes it from him and smooths it out. It’s...for a mental hospital. She scans through, looking for useful information. Weirdly enough, it doesn’t seem to be aimed towards patients, but people who want to have relatives committed. Isn’t a hospital supposed to be somewhere you go in order to get better? Mom... was sick. She was scared and unhappy all the time. She was crying more often than not.
As Fuyumi continues reading through their policies, it looks less and less like a hospital. It emphasizes discretion over care, privacy over wellness. Aren’t those days over? Sure, there’s a lot of stigma against getting mental healthcare, and she herself made some insensitive remarks before she knew better, but… but her mom deserves more.
One line in particular catches her eye: mom can’t be released until Father says it’s okay.
“Is this even legal?” She asks.
“Does it matter? She’s not coming back until dad lets her. He’s probably going to hold that over our heads or something.”
“But we need her! Even…” Even though she sometimes flinches when she sees us. “Even if she’s not well right now. Do you think we can visit?”
“What if dad catches us?” Touya points out.
“This can’t be right, though! There has to be some law against it.”
Touya scoffs. “Who needs the law anyways? Dad knows all the cops. They’re scared of him. What good has the law ever done for us? Why should we follow it?”
And Fuyumi doesn’t have an answer for that. Not yet.
In two more years, she will find her answer. And so will Touya.