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June Birth

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Birth months are the big trend the year that Go-Go hits tenth grade. The year before that involved colored friendship scarves. Between the two, the girl prefers the latter. Scarves are easily turned into ropes with just a few simple twists, and ropes are useful everywhere if you are creative. Time isn't.

Kana is obsessed with fads, but that's why Go-Go hangs out with her. Kana isn't bright enough to realize that the tanto Go-Go cleans during lunchtime isn't ornamental; she doesn't pay attention when Go-Go lines up big fat waterbeetles and plays hopscotch on them. Crunch crunch crunch. They sound like chocolate wafer bars when Go-Go does it right. The beetles make the treads of Go-Go's shoes all gooey, but they don't taste as good as Meltykiss so Go-Go steals Kana's handkerchief to clean the gunk off.

There is only one problem with Kana's brainlessness. She is too clingy, and Go-Go doesn't know yet if she wants to kill Kana for it or just watch her bumble around. Right now Kana is busy flipping through the latest fashion magazine in Go-Go's bedroom, her sock-wrapped feet bumping against the bookshelf. One of her fingers is twirling itself in her bangs. Go-Go can't read the article because it's at the wrong angle from her point-of-view, or maybe it's that Go-Go is at the wrong angle from the world.

Another deep inhalation. There is a tremble in Go-Go's left arm which blossoms into a sour ache in the muscle; she exhales slowly, letting her weight settle into her sturdy elbows. Waterfalls of blood are clamoring in Go-Go's ears. It sounds like a rock concert on TV. Too much static.

Go-go prefers push-ups when it's O-ren who is watching. Upside-down, handstands against the wall. Go-go likes looking at the world inverted. She doesn't say this out loud, but O-ren knows it, and doesn't chastise the girl for the way her skirt falls down to her chin--also inverted--and shows off her Keroppi underwear.

Kana is nothing like O-ren. The girl's mouth when she breathes is a peppermint O. She allows her jaw to dangle while she reads, moving it at last to declare, "If you are born in June," page-flip, pouring over the magazine with the lust of an otaku, "you are the furthest distance away from winter, so you are prone to being unstable. Your lucky color is green."

"That is stupid." Go-Go's judgments are swift and clean. She doesn't like wasting the effort on doubt. "Maybe it's December that's wrong. If you're on the opposite of something, that doesn't make you the bad one."

"Being born in June means you have too much sun." Fussing with the survey, Kana bites the end of her pencil in Kyoto-crooked teeth. "You must become involved with a moon-boy from winter to keep from using up too much of your energy. Just like if you are an autumn, you are supposed to date a spring boyfriend. Are you a summer birth, Go-chan?"

Summer is hot. Winter reminds Go-Go of O-ren; so does control, and popsicles on the tongue, melting into a slow slush of flavor. Stupid, the whole thing. Go-Go answers carelessly. "Snow is pretty."

"You shouldn't like snow," Kana whines. "It's cold and it's miserable and I hate it. My obaaaachan," the girl's voice drawls the word into a wail that briefly causes Go-Go to fantasize about decapitation, "always keeps the heaters off whenever I go to visit her. Snow is bad for my complexion. It's not good for people."

Go-Go ignores her friend's complaints while she levers herself back up into another handstand, thinking about O-ren's hair instead. O-ren's scalp is a pale fish hiding underneath dark river-fronds. Black and white, which is not as pretty as black and red; Go-Go likes the way that skull-bones crack underneath a proper application of force. They remind her of crabs, spilling out soft innards from a hardened shell. Yummy.

But O-ren's hair is perfect, each strand in place, and not at all like the grubby convenience-store worker who sold Go-Go two packs of mochi for the price of one, and then was lured out to the alleyway afterwards. Black and crimson. Go-Go had finished her snack by the time the bodybag crew arrived, sucking flour off her fingers and kicking her heels on the garbage cans.

Just thinking about last night makes Go-Go restless. O-ren told her that she was not allowed to kill more than two people this week because the Bosses are discussing the best way to bribe the local authorities--which means that Go-Go is already halfway through her queue. She will have to make the next murder last. Just like a candy bar. Put it in the cold, cold fridge, and bite off only one inch at a time, nibble nibble.

Go-Go doesn't want to have to wait, but O-ren gave the order, so the girl will have to listen.

"They have proof!" Kana's triumphant crow breaks through Go-Go's concentration. "It says that June children are typically positioned wrong during birth. They cause problems for their mothers."

"I have not killed my mother yet." Go-Go's weight moves from her forearms to her elbows as she lowers herself again, pushing against gravity upside-down.

Kana sighs, petty faux-sophistication, attempting to sound worldly when she has never even left the country. "That's beside the point. You need a boyfriend."

Kana's presence in Go-Go's room is heavy. Kana does not move like one of the veteran Crazy 88's. She stumbles on the sidewalk and looks straight ahead at all times, instead of letting her pupils unfocus and her peripheral vision warn her of surprises. Kana smells like wet noodles when it rains. And Kana does not look enough like O-ren except if Go-Go squints.

"Boyfriend, Go-chan!"

A grunt. "They break too easily."

Bored of her exercises, Go-Go shifts her fingers. The world twists beneath her as she balances on her hands, spinning herself in one long circle so that she's cycling her palms in flat slaps on the carpet. She manages to turn in place twelve times this way; her current record is sixteen before she gets dizzy, and has to fall down.

Today it is only twelve. Knees bending as she folds over like a spinal victim, Go-Go scuffs her shin on the carpet. A 7.3 landing, out of a possible score of 10. What O-ren would say if she saw that. Go-Go doesn't know. She can guess, but she doesn't want to think about it. O-ren's disapproval is a cold thing, a naked fish, empty eyes staring. "I would not be good with a boyfriend," Go-Go declares instead, pushing herself up to a squat and watching the soft body of her friend on the beige of the floor. "I don't like how they work."

"Ehhh?" Confusion turns Kana even more dramatic than usual. "What are you saying?"

"They are too silly." Unrefined. Not like O-ren, who is tucked inside fresh, clean kimonos each day. Gift-wrapped. "They are not pretty. I want a pretty boyfriend."

They have talked about this before. Kana's opinion is old, exasperated. "Then you should date a girl." Her eyes roll in their sockets. "Boys will never be pretty, unless they are pop stars, and then they're too expensive to have around. But a girlfriend would be perverse."

"I don't know about girls either." Go-Go's veins are tingling in her wrists, happy firecrackers of sensation post-exercise. O-ren's face is a neutral moon in her mind: winter nights crisp and empty where breath comes out congealed in cotton-candy puffs. Winter is harsh. It does not even let you exhale without a warning.

Rolling over suddenly, Go-Go sees Kana's face flip-flopped above her. Kana's hair is medium-cut to her shoulders and it drips like the tassels of a European window-curtain. It parts when Go-Go reaches up and finds Kana's throat with her thumb; she pulls the other girl down towards her with the same swift efficiency of a roundhouse punch. Kana starts to spasm in protest, shoulders hunching up, but Go-Go follows up on the initial attack by seizing Kana's lower lip between her teeth.

Nibble nibble. It doesn't take much effort for Go-Go to twist her own body again, her fingers in Kana's sailor shirt as she pulls her friend closer. Kana's mouth seems smaller than Go-Go's, because it feels as if Go-Go can swallow her like a raspberry sugar-drop, licking Kana's lips until they dissolve.

The texture is different than a boy's. Plumper. No hopeful whisker stubble. The muffled horror of Kana's voice echoes out of her throat and dives into Go-Go's own, traveling the shared channel of their mouths.

She pushes forward, as indifferently curious as a lion. Hungry. Kana's saliva tastes like milk coffee from lunch. Her gums are bitter from too much toothpaste. Kana's hair smells of coconut shampoo and the girl squirms in Go-Go's hands, awkward and graceless and not at all like what Go-Go imagines O-ren would be like, a yakuza goddess who is too powerful to be called a simple ice queen.

When Go-Go finally lets go of her friend, Kana tumbles back with a squeak. "Why did you do that?"

Go-Go doesn't answer at first, her attention remote and focused. She thinks about the live oyster of Kana's tongue, cringing away from Go-Go's intrusion. She thinks about the difference between girls and boys, and about the difference of O-ren from everyone, and finally chooses to remain silent.

"You're weird, Go-chan." The protest is short-lived. Kana forgets it almost instantly after wiping off her mouth with the back of her wrist. Lip gloss smears on the skin; the waxy butterscotch which Go-Go can still taste on her own teeth.

"Boys," is all Go-Go replies. Then she shrugs.

"Ne, ne," Kana says, plastic pages of the magazine crinkling in her hands as she resumes her dating studies. "What blood type are you, Go-chan? Tell me, so I can look up your perfect match."

After a long, reflective moment, Go-Go shoves her thumb into her mouth. Her teeth pierce the taunt ridge of skin; pain shoots up along her knuckle into her palm and down her wrist. First instinct is to lick, and the warmth of Go-Go's spit laves over the tiny gash.