Moved the first chapter down to this post 10/06/12.Title Post
_______________________________________________Chapter 1 - Curiosity
The Yamaku Festival looms; I can't help but feel dread at the thought. Lying in bed is my only refuge for now. In a few short minutes, I'll have to get up, get dressed, and put on a smile as I'm bombarded with questions about -well- festival stuff. Being my class' representative may have been a bad idea; I regret it, but I also enjoy it. The idea that I have the final say on what we do with our booth is empowering – if a little empty.
Sighing, I lift my head off the pillow, but not to get up; I'm not nearly awake enough to be standing up yet. Instead, I look down at my feet sticking out of the covers and smile. Painting my toes late last night on a whim was probably not my best idea, but they look to have dried right. One less thing to worry about for the festival. Of course, I had some extra time considering that I couldn't fall asleep. Still three days out from the festival and I'm already worked up. Insomnia on top of extra work and late nights? Murphy's Law in practice. It might just be bitter irony, though. Maybe I'll resign after this. I could use the rest.
Amaya wouldn't let me, though. After all I put her through helping me get the position, she has just as much stake in my continued representation as myself. Lying back, I try closing my eyes even though it's futile. My alarm will start going off in less than a minute, I'm sure. Still, as the morning light filters in through the curtains, I can't help but feel a little excited. As hectic as this week has been -will be- I'm ready for the challenge. As I'm planning to become a CPA, all this grunt work juggling budgets and dealing with my subordinates clerical errors will probably be good practice.
Just as I thought, the alarm starts playing a jarring pop song I don't recognize; nor do I want to recognize. It's officially time for me to get out of bed and start another day of boring classes and paper work. Having already been awake for the last half hour, I'm already alert enough to leap out of bed and grab my glasses from the dresser. Sitting down on my desk chair to check myself over in the mirror, I grin at the narrow, white stripe running from my temple and down to the tip of my wavy hair.
Mom yelled at me initially, saying it was unbecoming of a lady, but when I explained my logical reason, she calmed down. Being deaf in one ear, I can still hear pretty well -clearly, even- from the other side. However, when people try talking to me on my left side, I barely hear them most of the time. The stripe helps them realize why I'm ignoring them, and I don't get tapped on the shoulder quite so often.Or have my hair pulled, or other more rude gestures.
Running a brush through my hair to get some of the tangles out, I grab my uniform and head out of my little room toward the showers. Having not gotten enough sleep last night, what with the insomnia and waking before the alarm, one might think I'd be fatigued, but I'm used to getting little sleep. Though, I'm not sure if I should be proud of that or not.
The girls dorm is usually pretty empty this early, so I'm not surprised when nobody's out in the halls. Of course, not everyone sleeps late. As I get closer to the corner leading to the showers, I hear the distinctive bouncy squeak from Emi's running spikes. Deciding to be cautious, I call ahead of me, “Morning Emi, enjoy the run?”
The bouncing slows a bit and, a few seconds later, the perky little double-amputee comes around the corner beaming a smile that could stop traffic. “Heya Aiko, gettin' an early start?” She's dressed in her track uniform as expected, girly twin-tails bouncing over her youthful features.
Nodding, I notice she looks particularly happy about something. “You seem happier than normal,” I comment, smiling faintly.
She blushes and giggles airily. “Really?” she inquires, placing a finger on her chin. Bouncing in place on her prosthetic running spikes, she shrugs and explains, “I had a good morning, I guess.”
Realizing there's something she's not telling me, but figuring she'd avoid the question, I decide to let the subject drop. Moving to walk around her, I smile cordially, but she catches my arm as I pass by and leans in, cupping her hand over my ear like a schoolgirl with a secret. “The new guy's gonna be running with me,” she whispers, smiling wistfully.New guy? I don't remember there being any new guy in school.
The giggle she lets out as she releases her grip and leans back to continue her bouncing sounds innocent and devious at the same time. Not knowing Emi particularly well, even though we run into each other in the girl's dorm on most mornings, I don't know what to make of her giddiness. We haven't said much more than “Good Morning” to each other in the past two years; barring a few late-night conversations in the common room. Why she's deciding to open up and tell me about some boy she's crushing on is confusing at the very least.
Choosing not to go down that line of questioning -we barely know each other- I choose to ask, “new guy?”
She leans against the wall with her arms folded behind her and nods. “Hisao Nakai. He started Monday. Tall, skinny, kinda grumpy-looking,” she describes.
Unfortunately, I'm at a loss. “I haven't seen him, I guess,” I reply with a shrug.
“He's in 3-3, with Mutou,” she states.
Blinking at the new information, I still don't know who she's talking about. “Well I'm in 3-1, so no wonder,” looking away as I talk, I glance toward the bathroom, but this conversation isn't over for Emi.
“I kinda... bumped into him yesterday...” she says tentatively. Looking away to hide her guilty expression, she adds “he wasn't mad, but I got reamed by Deaf-charge.”
Hearing that nickname makes me grin. Our Class President, Shizune Hakamichi, is well-known for being a bit overbearing and zealous. Some of the students had given her that nickname, but it was never used in earshot – not that she'd hear it used. I actually disagree with the nickname, thinking it unfair, but decide not to say anything about that to Emi. “Well you were probably running in the halls again if you hit him hard enough to draw her ire,” I say, surprising myself.Ire? Did I just say that? I should stop sitting near the literature club. Too bad they're my best friends.
Emi frowns and starts swinging her arms, staring at me with puppy-dog eyes. “Yeah, well. He forgave me,” she smiles brightly and stops waving. Instead, she makes playful fists in front of her face, grinning wickedly, “Nurse told me to keep an eye on him, too.”
That catches my attention, “Why? Is he an invalid or something?”
Emi just smiles and starts bouncing on her spikes again. “No, but he's new and kinda grumpy about it, so he wanted me to try and help get his spirits up. He suggested running,” she explains.Or you suggested running.
Aside from where the idea may have come from, everything about that made sense, so I just nod sagely and start toward the showers. Looking back, I see Emi headed down the hall again, though much more slowly - dreamily, maybe. I consider saying something else, but Emi's too far away to really hear me, and I don't know what I'd say.
Later today I have to visit room 3-3 to coordinate with Shizune, so maybe I'll see this new guy for myself. If he's got Emi flustered, he might not be bad on the eyes – or he might be barely five feet tall. Maybe he's missing his legs like her, or he lost his arms in a train accident like that art chick, Rin, in 3-4. Well, okay, she was born without arms, but he would have been sent here sooner if he had lost his arms that early in life.Why am I so curious?
Pushing through the door, I quickly get the water running and leap under the cold stream. It has the desired effect of both revitalizing me and pushing the inner monologue away. I have more important things to be concerned about than some new boy in school.
Meeting Amaya down in the common room, we start walking across campus to the main building. She looks a little out of it, leaning forward with her hands wrapped around the straps of her backpack, a forlorn expression on her round face. “You're quiet this-morning,” I say, trying not to yawn.
She looks at me sleepily and shrugs, “couldn't sleep.”
“Ah. Me neither,” I mention. Grinning, I continue, “got my toes painted, though.” I lift my feet as though she could magically see through my shoes.
“I was gonna do that!” she balks, but, with eyes half-closed, her frustration seems much less sincere.
“Well I had to do something to try and wear myself down so I could get some sleep,” I explain, offering a sincere shrug. Looking up at me, she shrugs and lets out a yawn.
The conversation ends at that. Neither of us has the energy to bother with something so frivolous. The walk through the school is equally quiet. Most of the students, and the teachers, are shuffling through the halls like zombies. Festival week has this effect every year.
Walking into the classroom, I take my seat by the window and Amaya sits behind me, practically falling into her chair and immediately dropping her head on the desk. The cold shower seems to have a lasting effect as I'm much more alert when Ito-sensei makes his grand entrance.
Ito flops his briefcase down on his desk and draws a towel across his sweaty brow, heaving a frustrated sigh. We don't expect him to be jovial or even friendly, but the look on his face today is somewhere between angry and constipated – maybe both. He casts a disapproving gaze across the room and I reflexively bump the desk behind me with my elbow, trying to save Amaya from being caught with her head down; hearing her shuffle just in time.
Frowning, Ito starts digging into the briefcase. Drawing out a stack of papers, yesterday's pop-quiz, he starts passing them around the room in silence. His cheap suit doesn't do a very good job hiding his ever-expanding gut, and I swear I can see the seams stretching as he walks between the desks. When he hands my quiz back, I catch the hint of a smile, but he forces it away to keep up appearances. He smells like he left without a shower this-morning.
“You're all going to have to work harder if you expect to pass the real thing,” he says flatly as he makes his way back to his desk, huffing and puffing. Looking like he might keel over, he leans against the desk and crosses his arms to wait while we flip through our tests. Hearing Amaya quietly cursing behind me, I wonder if she'll finally take me up on the offer to study with her some nights.
The test on my desk is decidedly better off than the rest of the class. Math is my best subject, though, so I'm not really surprised. I had missed a few answers, so I knew I still had room to improve, but the amount of red marking I can see on my classmates papers is staggering. Calculus is something people either understand or don't. Apparently I do. Hearing Amaya groan behind me, I can't help but grin.
Amaya's pleading tone comes in a whisper, “you have to help me with this stuff.”
Leaning back, I whisper, “all you had to do was ask.”
A few minutes pass as Ito waits for everyone to start looking his way. Once most of the class has turned back toward him, he offers some consolation, “I know you can all learn this material, I have faith.” Standing, he steps over to the board, his suit-coat wrinkled and matted to his backside, and starts writing out equations.
The rest of the class consists of lecturing and more equations. Ito is a bit of a mess, but he genuinely wants his students to understand the material, or at least retain enough to pass the necessary tests. He usually avoids calling me to the board because he doesn't want to hold anyone on a pedestal, and he knows I already understand the material. Taking that advantage, I let my mind wander. Strangely, I find myself thinking about Emi's new boy-toy.
It's a curious thing for someone to start at Yamaku as a third-year, and already a few months into the school year. Whatever sent him here, it probably happened recently. Trying to recall newspaper articles or TV news stories I've seen recently, I wonder if he might have been in a car wreck, a building collapse, or a fire. Though, it could have been in a totally different part of Japan.
Perhaps he lost a hand like the new girl, Miura, or he was diagnosed with some life-threatening disease, or maybe he just developed mutant powers. My mind whirls with possibilities as I consider how this new guy, Hisao Nakai -what kind of name is that, anyway?- found himself here at Yamaku Academy. That could happen, right?
Ito continues to carefully relate the material, while I carefully consider just how far my curiosity goes. Far enough, it seems, that my wandering eyes have turned me away from the front of the class.
“Kurai. Can you come help Miss Yamada solve this equation?” Ito's asks, breaking me out of my reverie.
Spurned by my inattentiveness, I leap out of my chair faster than I should. Wobbling a little with a slight dizzy spell, I make my way toward the board, trying to maintain my balance and read the equation, and ignoring a few murmuring laughs from the back row. In front of the board, shuffling on her feet and holding the chalk out to me like a gift, Naoko watches me with a sheepish grin. [Thanks,] I sign to her as I approach.
Sidling out of the way, Naoko continues shuffling back and forth and bearing that sheepish grin. Sixteen pairs of eyes seem to be burning a hole in the back of my blouse as I lift the chalk and scrawl the answer in place. Glancing at Ito, I offer a nod and then hand the chalk back to Naoko.
Leaning to the side, Ito checks my answer and then nods. “Thank you, Miss Kurai," he says with a half-smile, "Miss Yamada, you may both sit back down.”
Naoko offers a slight bow and I smile in response. As we both head for our respective desks, I can't help but feel a little like the teacher's pet. My classmates eyes are still on the board, though, so they don't seem to be having that same thought. Except Jun, who's watching me intently with a disdainful expression as I take my seat.No big surprise, there.
As I sit back down, I remember I need to see Shizune about the financial reports. I could even get two birds with one stone if Nakai is still there. If he were horribly burned, lost any limbs or something obvious, it would quickly sate my curiosity and I could stop being so distracted. Then again, if it's something less obvious, I might be making myself even more distracted by finding out.
Amaya pokes my shoulder and whispers, “where's your head at, Aiko? Ito had to call you twice.”Twice? Was I that lost in thought?
I resist turning to answer, instead waving over my shoulder as if to say, “don't bother.”
She seems to accept the answer. Knowing I already have a lot on my mind with the festival preparations, she probably figures it's just that; It wouldn't really be far off, either. This business about the new guy is just a curiosity. A distraction I need to deal with so I can focus on the preparations for Sunday. Shizune will have me in a noose if I don't get those reports finished.I might need help, though.
Glancing over my shoulder, I peek at Amaya and ponder whether I should ask her. With her eyes locked on the board, she furiously writes down the equations Ito keeps writing and erasing. They're all the same ones that were on the test, I realize, but Amaya doesn't seem to see the similarities. Watching her being studious is a bit rare, and she looks like she's actually starting to understand, so I'd feel bad asking her to help. Looking to her right, I consider asking Tadao for help, but he's supposed to be working on constructing our class' booth later.Maybe I can ask Shizune for help?
Worst case scenario, I get a mouthful from Misha courtesy of her puppeteer about setting time aside before the deadline looms; though I can conveniently turn and avoid the brunt of Misha's audio assault. Shizune has a lot going on, though, and would probably have to rope someone else into helping. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, but it might be my only option. She needs those inventory reports by tomorrow morning so she can make the orders, and I just don't have enough time.
In a lot of ways, I feel like I haven't actually decided anything. As though the idea of asking Shizune for help and getting some poor sap involved were the inevitable result of my procrastination.
Lunchtime comes and goes, Amaya and I staying in the class with Tadao to eat and go over some of the equations they're still having trouble understanding. I'm actually surprised there aren't a million festival questions being levied at me, but Ito's morning lecture probably had something to do with that.
Later, in English class, Amaya and Tadao flex their literary minds for a group assignment that leaves my head spinning. It's humbling to get a top score in one class and then be completely baffled by the next – I just don't get English, I guess. After that, the day crawls by and everyone starts looking restless. Staring at the clock, looking out the windows, or examining the wood grain of their desks seem to be the most common activities.
Finally the bell rings, and we start shuffling out into the halls. Amaya walks with me, but isn't expecting me to veer off toward 3-3. Sounding frustrated, she calls after me, “where are you going?”
“I have some class rep stuff to discuss with Shizune,” I answer, drawing a groan from my skinny friend.
Spinning around to regard her, I see she's dragging her feet. “I dunno how you get along with her,” she comments, sighing heavily. Placing her hands on her hips mockingly, she complains, “she's so bossy.”
Turning back toward 3-3, I mention, “I'll probably be back late, so don't wait up.”
Amaya takes the hint, realizing I'm saying she doesn't need to come along, and walks in the other direction. She's a little too scattered to hold up in a conversation with Shizune, and I'm letting her avoid the ordeal.
As I near the classroom, I see Mutou-sensei walking toward me. He offers a nod as I pass by, not being much for words. He's used to seeing me headed for his classroom after school to talk with Shizune.
Arriving at the door, I suddenly stop myself from pushing through. Realizing there's probably something different waiting on the other side -the new guy - I want to be alert. Assuming he hasn't left yet, he's likely still in there, and my imagination gets a little carried away. His face is probably torn and battered, and he's missing both feet. Maybe he's drooling on himself and talks with a lisp, or he's in a robotic wheelchair and talks through a computer.
Pushing the images out of my head, I lean against the door and it slowly gives way. Stopping again when I've fully entered the room, I can't help but send my curious gaze scouting for the horrible, broken mass of- Oh. That must be him.
Trying not to stare, I notice he's looking at his notes pretty intently with his eyes narrowed. His hair is light brown and his eyes seem to be green – it's hard to tell with him looking down. He's very thin, almost emaciated, but that has to do with time spent in a hospital, I assume. Sitting down with his school blazer draped across the back of his chair, it's hard to tell how tall he is, but he's wiry.
He's wearing a dorky sweater-vest like Takashi, but it seems to suit him better. His tie is crooked and loose, and his pants are a little wrinkled, but he looks cleaner than most of the guys. There are no visible scars, no missing limbs, and no apparent super powers. I really have no idea what could have happened to him, but, If not for the glum expression on his face, he'd be approaching cute – handsome, even.He looks normal. How disappointing.
By now Shizune has noticed me, and she waves me over, an expectant look on her face. Frowning, I realize she might think I already have the reports finished. This is not going to be a fun conversation.
Misha starts talking almost immediately, even though she knows I can understand Shizune's signing perfectly, “Shicchan was expecting to see you today, Aiko-chan~!” Her explosive, lilting voice nearly causes me to stagger backward.
Deciding not to fill the room with any more unnecessary noise, I sign my response, [I've hit a bit of a snag, and I need a bit more time.]
Shizune narrows her eyes and starts signing furiously. Misha continues translating verbally, unabated, “You've had a week to figure out all the inventory needs, Aiko-chan~! You know I need to place those orders by tomorrow or it will be too late~!”
[I know. I tried. More stuff got piled on, and I’ve been missing sleep to try and get it done.] That was at least mostly true. I left out the part about having waited until Monday to even look over the reports. [I was hoping you might be able to help,] I request, offering a remorseful pout.
Shizune mulls this over for a moment before continuing to sign, which is dutifully translated by Misha, “we don't have enough people to spare.” She stops as Shizune snaps her fingers like a thunderbolt. Misha continues translating, her eyes lighting up as she looks over my shoulder. “But~! We might be able to get someone to help you out. He's new, but he's been helpful so far,” she says with a bright smile. My eyes widen a bit and I reflexively glance over at the new guy.They couldn't mean him, could they?
Thinking about it for a few seconds, though, I can imagine Shizune has probably been trying to draw him into her little circle. I doubt he's taken to her blunt approach very well - unless he likes being dominated.Where did that thought come from?
Shizune assumes a devious look with an equally dubious smile as she and Misha walk over to the new guy's desk; Misha gives him a tap on the shoulder, “Hicchan.” Her tone and the nickname make me think this isn't their first meeting; as I had thought.
Nakai looks up from his notes grimly and breathes an expressionless reply, “Yes, Misha?” I'm not sure if he heard our conversation -how could he not hear Misha?- but the dour look he's giving her says he expects what she's about to ask.
Shizune signs and Misha translates. From his tendency to watch Misha rather than Shizune, I assume he isn't deaf, and he hasn't gotten used to these kinds of peripheral conversations. He doesn't look completely disinterested, though, which might be a good sign. “You said earlier that you weren't useless, Hicchan, and now you have a chance to prove it~!” Misha's lilt fills the room, but her beaming smile seems to fill him with dread.
He groans, apparently recalling some earlier altercation. Holding back a laugh, I observe him rolling his eyes, assuming a defensive posture with his arms folded. “I did say that, didn't I? I didn't think you'd be collecting so soon,” he remarks.
Misha lets out her trademark laugh, “Wahaha~!” She continues translating for Shizune, “well, if you're going to join the Student Council,” Nakai lifts a finger as if to protest, but she ignores the gesture, “you'll have to be willing to offer your assistance to other class representatives if the need should arise.”
Squirming, I realize I'm about to become part of their sales pitch.
Shizune takes a step around behind me, which draws his attention in my direction. His glassy expression wanders over me as Misha continues her translation, “this is Aiko Kurai. She's the class rep for room 3-1, and she's in a bit of a bind.” Offering a wave, I shift on my feet uncomfortably, feeling like I'm being auctioned off by a slave trader. Or maybe I'm the one who should be inspecting their slave?
He puts on a smile and greets me in a warmer tone than he used to answer Misha, “Hi, Kurai. I'm Hisao Nakai. I just transferred in this week and these two are trying to turn me into an indentured servant.” His reaction is a bit more melancholy than I hoped. Hoped? What exactly was I hoping for?
I smile and laugh at his flippant reference to Shizune and Misha, but Shizune scowls and signs with voracity. Misha's translation loses a bit of the emotion though, “that's quite the attitude for a prospective member of the Student Council, Hicchan~! don't you want to help your school?”
He leans back in his chair and sighs, patting the air with his hand. “Fine, calm down. What does she need me to do?” he inquires.
The room is silent for a moment before I realize he's directing the question at me. Dumbfounded, I just stand there like a deer in the headlights.Why do I suddenly feel nervous?
Misha answers based on Shizune's signs, saving me from the inquisition, “she has to balance the inventory for the festival booths, so we can place the orders before noon tomorrow.”
Nakai shrugs. “Paperwork? I can do that,” he says, offering a nod.
I'm not sure if he's saying that because he's interested, or because he's glad it wasn't something strenuous. I smile anyway; whatever the reason, he seems willing to help. After a brief exchange with Shizune about deadlines and procrastination, a lecture I had expected, I lead Nakai out the room and up the stairs toward the math lab.
Now that he's standing, I can see he's a bit taller than most of the boys; he must tower over little Emi. Following silently, almost to the point of being detached, he keeps looking at me like he wants to ask something, but his mouth never starts to move.
When we reach the math lab, I lead him over to a seat by the window and head over to the filing cabinet to retrieve the reports. Dropping half the stack in front of him, I ask, “so, do you want a soda or something before we start?” Practically leaping out of his chair, he stares at me with a shocked expression and lets out a gasp. Leaning back with surprise, I return a quizzical look. What kind of reaction was that?
Then I realize; I hadn't said a single word during the previous discussion. He probably thinks I’m just as deaf and mute as Shizune – or thought I was, anyway.
“Sorry,” I say, letting out a little laugh as he calms back down, “I usually don't bother to talk with Shizune since Misha usually does enough talking for a whole room full of people.”
He leans forward and laughs, “You had me convinced you were a deaf-mute.”
“Well, in that case, I'm sorry I said anything,” I say with a sly wink.
He stops laughing. Strangely, his face seems much more comfortable with the frown he offers now, a fact I find distressing. “I assume you can hear, too,” he asks.
Deciding to act a little coy, I yell, “what?” loudly.Am I flirting?
He raises an eyebrow and offers a sideways glance. “You heard me,” he says flatly.
I laugh, and he joins in again. He looks so much more natural with a smile on his face. Like he used to smile a lot, but hasn't done so much lately. It makes me a little sad to think what he went through to end up here.
“Well you're half right,” I say, earning a furrowed brow in response before I add, “I fell off a pier when I was seven and hit the water hard on my left side.” I lift the white trail of hair on the side of my face. “It blew out my eardrum on this side.”
He leans back and breathes, “Oh.”
I shrug and start sorting out the files in front of me. “If you ever want to ask me something, try to be on my right side,” I mention.
He nods absently, his mind a little bit distracted by the information dump. When he starts thumbing through the reports, I start explaining what to do with them. It's mundane, really. All we need to do is go over all the different reports and add up all the materials they'll need, then sort them out by class, room and quantity, and add up all the costs. I probably could have done this all by evening, but the extra help is certainly appreciated.
The way he's started going through them at a relatively fast pace makes me wonder if he's doing it right, or if I'll have to spend half the night checking his work. I don't let him know that, though. He looks like he's already had a tough enough week ducking the Student Council on top of everything else that goes with starting at a new school – especially one like this.
“You shouldn't be so grumpy with Shizune and Misha,” I blurt, immediately feeling like I shouldn't have.
He lifts his gaze to meet mine, and there's a half-smile there. I see it as an opportunity to explain myself, “they're not so bad, really. Shizune's kinda sweet when you get to know her, and Misha's all kinds of fun.”
He furrows his brow, making a face like something I said doesn't make sense. After a few awkward moments, he puts his question to words, “sweet? I haven't quite gotten that vibe.”
“That's 'cause she's so intense,” I retort. He nods at hearing that. I'm not sure why I'm defending Shizune, but she's easily misunderstood, so I continue, “always barreling through like a shinkansen.” The analogy sits well, seeing his continued nods, “When she's not striving for world domination, she's like a child – kinda sweet.”
He smirks, and I'm pretty sure he's picturing Shizune acting like a child; perhaps stomping around frustrated or making silly faces. Finally he shrugs and looks back down, “I'll take your word for it.”
Smiling, I go back to browsing the reports. I'm not sure why I said any of that, but I saw what Shizune was trying to do -help out the new guy- and felt like I should try and do my part. Her methods could use some work, but her intent is honorable. I think if Nakai understood what Shizune was doing, he'd be more inclined to go along with it; he might even enjoy her company. I suddenly feel jealous at that thought, but I don't know why.
Feeling him stare at my face –or my ear at least- I look up and catch him looking away. Having seen that kind of reaction, I'm used to seeing it, but I've never thought it was malicious. People are curious about that kind of thing, I guess. After sending half the morning trying to guess what emergency medical problem sent him to Yamaku, I think he can take a few minutes to wonder what it's like to be deaf in one ear - assuming that's what he was doing. Maybe I have something on my face?
Of course, now that I've thought about it, I begin wondering about his medical problem again. He doesn't look like there's anything wrong with him. Although a lot of the students here don't; Amaya, for instance. He's started running with Emi, so it's likely not a motor control problem. He seems mentally quick, so I don't think it's something like LeLoush's aphasia. It takes a while before I notice that I’m staring at him. Our eyes meet and we both look away.
He clears his throat and asks, “sorry, did you need something?”
I feel my cheeks getting hot before I can even think of a response. I shake my head and look down at the reports, hoping he didn't see. Why am I blushing? I'm just curious about whatever medical drama brought him here, right?
Whatever it is, he doesn't seem like he's ready to talk about it with anyone, much less someone he just met. I could ask Emi if we bump into each other tomorrow morning. Or I could just straight-up ask him right now.
When I look up, I see he's looking at me again, but this time it looks like he has a question; one that he's embarrassed to ask. “Your eyes,” he says, the slightest tint of red wells up in his cheeks, “er, I mean. Why-”
Realizing what he's trying to ask, I save him from the awkward double entendre, “Heterochromia. I have both my parents eye colors – brown in the left and green in the right.”
“Oh,” he says simply. “I've never met anyone with two different colored eyes before.”
I nod, already having a canned answer, “It's pretty uncommon. Only about a tenth of cases actually have two different color eyes. About one percent of the world population.”
“So it makes you kinda unique,” he says, offering a serene smile. I can't help but smile in response.
I never really thought of it that way, but I don't say anything. I just nod and go back to the reports. I'm also trying to hide my flushed face. The way he reacted when he tried asking that question was... well, cute. Maybe his interest wasn't limited to the oddity. Was he saving himself from asking a more embarrassing question by opting for the readily available, completely innocuous query? Why am I even thinking like this?
Continuing to work in silence for quite a while, I happen to look over and notice it's after 5pm. Seeing he's still engrossed in working out the math for his last file, I figure we'll be done with enough time to drop them off in the Student Council room before they lock up for the night.
Before he can see me looking up, wanting to avoid another awkward conversation, I put my head down and force my way through the last of my own files. Ten minutes later, we're done. I get up and stretch while he does the same, and we both start picking up the files – almost simultaneously.
When he sets down the files in a stack with the completed total sheet on top, I smile and take the sheet, looking it over to check the math. If there are errors on it, I might have to look through his whole stack.
He raises an eyebrow as I meticulously scan over all his figures, a smile slowly spreading on my face. “Not bad, Nakai,” I chirp, nodding with approval.
He grins and holds up a hand. “Call me Hisao,” he says, “my teachers call me Nakai.”
“Aiko,” I nod, pointing to myself with the total sheet. “Not bad at all. I thought I was the only accounting whiz here.”
He ignores the boast, instead shaking his head looking bewildered, “I'm not that great at it. The calculator did most of the work.”
One of my dad's old mantras comes to mind, “even a calculator is wrong if the operator isn't right.” He offers that a sagely nod and a grin in response.
Stacking the rest of the files together, I start heading for the door. He courteously opens it for me and starts following me toward the Student Council room. “I think I'll be all set from here if you wanna head back to your room,” I say, deciding he's helped enough for today; and trying to put some distance between us.
“You're sure?” he asks politely.
“You cut my workload in half already. Go decorate your room or something,” I suggest, stopping and turning. “You're new here, right?” I ask rhetorically.
“Yeah. Started Monday,” he replies.
“If you need someone to show you around, look me up. I'm in 3-1 with Ito,” as I say it, I'm not even sure what I'm thinking. He's got a whole classroom full of people that can help him get acclimated, and it seems Shizune already has designs on him joining the Student Council. Why am I volunteering?
“3-3 with Mutou,” he says, ending with a shake of his head, “you knew that, though.”
Nodding, i extend an invitation, “If you wanna meet up for lunch or something, I usually spend them in the classroom.”
Maybe I'm just being courteous, it's the right thing to do. Help out the new kid; be a good Samaritan. I remember when I was the new kid and I needed someone to show me around. There seems to be more to it than simple courtesy, though. Maybe my curiosity is getting the better of me, and I won't be satisfied until I know what horrible fate befell Hisao Nakai. Maybe I'm just intrigued about how easily he took to filling out the reports. Maybe I just want to help him smile.
“Okay,” he says, waving goodbye with a small smile. “I'll think about it,” he adds.
I smile, nod and turn, continuing my trek toward the Student Council room. With my back turned, I'm less concerned about the redness spreading across my face. For whatever reason, the idea of Hisao stopping by for lunch puts a spring in my step; I'm probably just happy to have made a new friend.
Waiting outside the student council room for the redness to fade, I find Shizune inside with Misha as soon as I push through the door. Seeing the finished reports in my hand, Shizune grins happily and starts going over the total-sheets almost immediately. Deciding not to stay and chat, I mention I had a late night and an early morning. With the reports held firmly in their hands, they're happy to let me go.
Heading back to the girl's dorm, I notice Amaya in the common room watching TV. She doesn't see me walk by, and I don't make an effort to be noticed. Not wanting to think about today's curious events, or think about them, I head up the stairs swiftly. I just want to get to my room, lie down and let this day fade into unconscious bliss. As I hit my pillow, I consider that I haven't eaten anything since lunch. However, the comfort afforded by my bed seems doubly powerful, and, unlike last night, I feel myself drifting to sleep almost immediately.Maybe I'll ask Emi what's wrong with Hisao tomorrow.