That year had been much quieter for me. I have been too busy with school and my priest studies to have a social life. My Mother hadn�t been having so many fits as she had in two years. She still neglected her ikebana, but there was no looks of terror or trembling. She sat in front of the TV in silence. I kissed her on the cheek and went off to do my studies in my room. We didn�t talk like last year. It�s a little bit better, but it still made me nervous. I would still love to hear her voice once more, even if she was talking to her flowers.

Things had not changed between me and the twins. Haruka still gave me icy looks while Juriko mocked me. I couldn�t avoid them with their charm and twisted mind games. Speaking of which, the latter had gotten more popular of the summer. Even the male teachers had to take a second look at her. More and more boys in our neighborhood really took notice of her. Pretty soon, they wanted to do things for her. Juriko took it all in and used the attention to her advantage.

�Men are sheep,� she told me as she fanned herself with a paper fan that a boy in our class made for her. �They will do anything for a girl.�

�What about me?� I asked at my desk in the classroom.

Juriko looked at me as she twirled her hair in her fingers. �What about you?�

�Am I a sheep?� I asked in a small voice as she batted her eyelashes.

She nodded without a thought. �Yes.�

I blinked with over another blank stare. �Why?�

�You�re still trying to get close to my sister. That�s what makes you a sheep,� Juriko explained without missing a beat.

�But� I just want to make her smile. Is that wrong?� I asked, child-like.

�I didn�t say it was wrong,� she said with a fake sweetness.

�You made it sound like it was.�

�Did I?�

�Well, yes��

�Do you think it is?�

�Uh� well�� I looked away from her.

�Is it?�

I bit my lower lip. �I don�t know��

Juriko smiled as she shook her head and lightly tapped me on the nose. �You poor soul.� I stared at her as she pouted.

�What�s the matter, Iwao-kun?� she asked. I sighed aloud.

�Why do you do this to me?� I asked.

�Do what?�

�Play these mind games with me.�

�Do I?� she asked as she showed me her pretty painted nails.

�Yes! Now why?� I wailed. Juriko giggled. I frowned as I didn�t enjoy where this could possibly go. She looked at me with those sweet amber eyes as she stroked my dark brown hair and cheek.

�Because, you�re just that fun to mess with,� she said. I stared at her with blank eyes. She did it again. It was times like these that I wished she wasn�t so pretty.