And so we come to the final chapter.
Well, let’s get to it then. Ave Imperator! WORDS FOR THE WORD GOD! TROPES FOR THE TROPE THRONE!
…I’m on a lot of Fireball for my sore throat right now. Anywho:
Chapter Twenty-One: Full Circle
I don’t actually process the realization that I’ve been at Yamaku for a full week until I’m at the pool. That fact is a little startling, but I don’t want it to distract me right now, so I do my laps and a few extra to make up for not having anything else to do all day.
When I finish, I’m breathing hard and my eyes sting a bit from the chlorine, but my mind is properly clear and blank, which is what I wanted.
While I towel off, Isobe wanders over to me, smiling tiredly, “You really went for it today, didn’t you?”
I lower the towel from my hair and turn to her, smiling from the endorphins and a clear head, “Yeah. Felt good to push myself again. Fortunately I don’t have PE tomorrow.”
There’s still club practice, but I can always cut down on my laps tomorrow.
“Sounds like you got the hang of this place,” Isobe remarks.
I shrug, “Maybe. I’m sleeping better now, at least.”
Possibly because I was just tired from the previous week of rocky sleep, but I’ll take what I can get.
Isobe smiles at me, “That’s always a good thing. Well, I don’t wanna keep you.”
“You’re not,” I state, “I don’t have anything planned for today, and I appreciate your concern. Thank you.”
Isobe blinks at me a few times, then grins, “No problem, Kim. I like having you around –keeps me awake, and you’re fun to talk to.”
I don’t even talk that much.
Kenji said when people say that, it means you’re a good listener. Which is good, I guess.
Isobe goes back to walking around the pool, while I towel off, shower, change, and grab some breakfast.
Okay, a lot of breakfast. I swam a lot, I’m hungry, and I like breakfast food.
Actually I like pretty much any food. Except instant oatmeal. Never. Again.
It’s on my way back to my room that I finally start to mull over the fact that I’ve been here a week. It seems like longer, and yet like it was practically yesterday. Maybe it’s because I’m still getting used to being out of the hospital, where time just sort of slogged along. Even with my schoolwork and training back then, things seemed so… I don’t want to say lifeless, but like that. Like everything was in grayscale or something. Maybe because it was temporary, and everyone involved knew it, so it lacked any real vitality or permanence.
Or I’m over-thinking it. Maybe I’ll bring it up with the Doc Saturday.
With nothing else to do until lunch, I head back to my room, taking my time and enjoying my walk through the grounds. It’s a bit cool outside, but I have a jacket. There is a slight breeze, though, and it makes my nose twitch a bit, as my allergy meds haven’t quite kicked in yet.
Or I need a stronger dosage….
My throat’s not dry or scratchy, though, so maybe it’s just the wind.
When I get to the dormitory I pause just inside the doors. There’s a girl about to make her way up the stairs, and I know I’ve seen her before, but…
The girl, dressed in her Western Sunday best, saw me enter the building, and, smiling lightly, waves briefly and greets, “Good morning, Soon-hee.”
“Good morning, Nakajima-Sempai,” I return the greeting and as I walk over to the stairs, I once again see her silver crucifix necklace. I wonder…, “Are you back from a service?”
Guess she’s the real deal, then.
The two of us are just standing awkwardly at the foot of the steps, like we’re trying to have a conversation, but aren’t quite sure how. Nakajima is shuffling her feet a bit, so maybe she just wants to leave. Best to hurry this along.
Thinking of something to say, I end up with, “I didn’t know there was a church in town.”
“There’s not,” Nakajima states, “I go into the city.”
That explains why we ran into each other. We both got up early.
Well, that was a stimulating conversation. Rather than try and say anything else, I just start climbing the stairs. Nakajima follows me, matching my pace despite her still fidgeting feet.
Am I really making her that nervous? Or… maybe it’s her condition?
“So how was the service?” I ask, once again groping for a conversation to try and make this as least awkward as possible.
“Hmm?” Nakajima seems surprised I spoke, “Oh, it was lovely.”
I nod, as I once again have nothing to say.
We reach our floor and make our way down the hall to our rooms. When I get to mine, Nakajima turns to me and smiles.
“Have a good day, Soon-hee.”
I smile and nod, “Thanks... God be with you," I offer.
Nakajima smiles, says a quick "Thank you," and heads down the hall to her room.
So that happened. She seems nice. I wonder why she and Maiko don’t get along?
Maybe Maiko blames her for the rumor-mongering in the occult club.
Moving on from my encounter with the reclusive senior, I open my door, close it, kick off my shoes, and set my bag down. With nothing to do, I figure I may as well read the books I checked out from the library. If I finish one I can return it and spend some time on the computer after lunch. Maybe send a message to Kenji.
My reading is interrupted some time later by a series of knocks outside. I jump and turn to the door, and I hear a muffled voice calling from the hallway.
Is that Maiko?
I hear knocking again, but now that I’m focused on it I realize it’s not on my door. It sounds like Maiko is knocking on Setsuko’s door.
I try and go back to my reading, but I can hear them talking in the hallway, and my innate fight or flight response has got me too geared up, so I stand by the door and listen in while hoping things don’t escalate.
Not that I expect them to, but the rodent in me isn’t going to go away easily.
“It’s not my fault the book club went to hell in a handcart and needed me to play damage control,” Maiko pleads.
“Well I can’t fault you for that,” Setsuko says. I can her sigh before continuing, “alright, come on in and I’ll catch you up as best I can. And since you knocked loud enough to wake the dead, you may as well ask Sonny for help, too.”
I sense an incoming Maiko.
Somehow, I’m not surprised when Maiko knocks on my door.
“Hey Muscles, you in there?” she calls.
“Yes,” I reply.
I open the door to see Maiko standing in front of it, a collection of books, notebooks, and pencils clutched in one hand as her other prepares to rap once again on my now open door.
“Oh. Hi,” Maiko says, apparently unprepared for my rapid response. She rallies quickly, though, and with her weary eyes practically pleading at me, asks, “Did you finish your Japanese homework?”
“Yes,” I reply, “I finished all my homework yesterday.”
“Great! Could you help me with mine? I swear that old bat has it out for me, and this way we aren’t bothering Setsuko as much.”
“Except for the part where you’re using mah room to study,” Setsuko retorts.
I lean sideways a bit so I can see our senior, who’s grinning as she leans against her threshold, clad in a kimono jacket and a purple t-shirt several sizes too big. She’s not wearing her leg again. Or pants, for that matter.
Never change, Setsuko.
“I don’t want to impose,” I say.
Setsuko waves the air in front of her, “You ain’t an imposition, Sonny. And neither is Maiko, so come on in and set up while I make some tea.”
Setsuko turns around and heads back into her room, leaving the door open for Maiko and me. Maiko turns and walks into the room, while I grab my book, some pencils, my notebook, and several boxes of Pocky sticks –no reason not to be a good guest, after all.
I close and lock my room and head into Setsuko’s room, closing the door behind me.
Setsuko’s sitting at the table preparing tea, while Maiko is sitting in front of the small shrine; I guess she took Setsuko’s words yesterday seriously.
I take the spot opposite Setsuko and put my stuff down, muttering, “I brought snacks.”
Setsuko grins, “Thank you kindly.”
I turn to look at the shrine, where the old photo of who I presume is Setsuko’s great-grandfather is looking down at us. Maiko finishes paying her respects and takes the seat to my left, where her stuff was waiting. Fortunately the table’s large enough her being on my left side won’t be a problem.
“Thanks for having us over,” Maiko states.
“No problem,” Setsuko says, “Sonny brought snacks.”
Maiko grins, “Great! Thanks for that.”
“No problem,” I say, my gaze still towards the old photo. Remembering yesterday’s conversations, I turn to Setsuko and ask, “Did you say he,” I jerk my head towards the shrine, “was your great-grandfather?”
Setsuko nods, “Yeah. My grandparents were pretty busy, but when ah was laid up in the hospital he visited me all the time. Even gave me his cane when ah got my leg,” she turns toward the photo and sighs wistfully, “He died not long after I was released.”
Setsuko turns an eye to me, then shrugs, “He got to see me walk with two legs again, so to speak. That was all he really wanted near the end, ah think.”
I nod in lieu of anything else to say, then offer one of the boxes to Setsuko, who opens it and starts eating.
“Thanks,” Setsuko says.
“Least I could do for imposing on you,” I state, “Twice.”
Setsuko rolls her eyes, “You ain’t intrudin’- I just gotta make sure this one-” she jerks a thumb at Maiko, who sticks out her tongue at the senior, “Doesn’t start geekin’ out or somethin’.”
“Too late,” Maiko says grinning as she explains, “I’m in her room, and you can’t take that from me,” she glances at Setsuko’s futon, “I wonder if the bed I’ll get will be the same one she slept in….”
Somehow that kind of thing doesn’t seem creepy when she says it. Or I’m just used to her fangirling.
That was quick. Then again, we do hang out a lot.