I am Disappeared - A Rika x Saki Story PT1
Feeling lurks in that interval of time between desire and its consummation.
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World.
“You ever think maybe we’re not meant to know?” Saki asks, playfully dancing her brush against the canvas.
“I’m not sure,” she stops her painting for a moment and looks back at me, “I think we’re meant to try. Something about the journey and not the destination,” I explain. Maybe explain is the wrong word, but still.
“Maybe,” she agrees, before returning to the canvas. Somehow, her brush strokes seem slower, less alive.
“What’s got you thinking about this, anyway?” I ask, and take another looks at my canvas. It’s blank.
“I don’t know,” she sets down her brush, “I was wondering how many kids never see graduation here, I guess.”
I shrug. It’s not exactly a cheery topic.
“Everything all right?” I reply.
“Yeah, I wasn’t actually talking about me. I should get that far at least.” It wouldn’t be the first time Saki’s thoughts had taken a… darker turn. Hell, it wouldn’t be the first that mine had.
“I don’t know the exact number.” After a moment of silence from both of us, I sigh and stand up from my stool. “I don’t really want to know either.”
“Sorry,” she whispers solemnly. I give her a shrug.
“It’s alright, I think about this kind of stuff too I just…” I don’t know how to finish that sentence.
“You just wish you didn’t?” she asks. There’s a tiny smirk creeping onto her face.
“Maybe,” I reply, and she reaches for her cane to stand up.
I walk over and pick it up for her and she gives me a grateful nod as I pass it over.
“Did you get much done today?” Her attempt to lighten up the conversation is appreciated, if a bit transparent.
“Hm, a little,” I lie, and fling the cover over my canvas. Before Saki can do the same, I catch a glimpse of the vibrant colours painted onto it. It looks to be a natural landscape, with a fast-flowing river snaking down the middle. I don’t get a very good luck before the cover-sheet is pinned over it gently. I turn around to pick up my rucksack.
“This assignment will be the death of me,” Saki jokes, and I let out a quick laugh.
“Maybe you won’t make graduation after all,” I tease, and Saki giggles immediately. It’s not often we joke about our conditions, but sometimes the fruit is just too low hanging to ignore.
“I would haunt Nomiya until his last breath,” she responds, before slinging her arm through her bag. I guess she’s a little more lady like than me, especially since this rucksack was originally my brother’s.
“The way he smokes,” I pretend to inhale a cigarette, “that shouldn’t be so far away.”
Saki looks down at the ground and sighs, “I’ll never understand why people insist on shortening their life like that,” she’s got this angry glint in her eye. I get it, even if I don’t share her contempt for the vices to quite the same degree, “drinking and smoking their life away like that. Ought to give them a week in our shoes, see if they still do that stuff,” she huffs and we head over to the door.
“If we’re trading bodies, let’s give them longer than a week,” I joke, and Saki quickly smiles again. “Let’s let them have it on a more permanent basis.”
“You’re telling me you’d want a body like Nomiya?” she playfully asks. I open the door for her, and she exists into the hallway. I turn off the lights in the art room and follow her.
“Who wouldn’t?” I joke. Saki just sticks her tongue out at me.
“You can be really weird sometimes, Rika.”
With a few more jokes, and a few more excuses for Saki to call me weird, we exit out into the evening. It’s that kind of golden colour now, with hints of purple, and there’s a gentle breeze in the air. It’s been getting a bit warmer recently, but even still there’s this nip in the air. I’m thankful for my hoodie, at least. Saki stops, and taps her cane in front of me for me to do the same.
“Hey, the night’s still young, shall we head into town for some food?” She asks.
I don’t really have anything better to do, I suppose.
“Sure,” I reply, and she smiles brightly. “The usual?”
“Yup, Dragon Eats
Honestly, I have food to eat in the pantry, but I can’t help but spend money sometimes. At least the stuff in town is better than the crap they feed us in the cafeteria, and at least the stuff at Dragon Eats
is better than the Shanghai.
Saki looks really pretty tonight, not that she doesn’t always look pretty. She’s repainted her nails that lovely crimson colour, and she’s wearing these beautiful earrings that perfectly stand out from her light brown hair. That’s something she does a lot, make an effort to look pretty, to look girly. I can’t say it’s a joy we share, my hoodie probably says as much. Different strokes, and all that. Maybe that’s what having a brother has done to me, he always teased me for crying so much. Then again, Saki isn’t exactly weak or anything… pretty and strong. That makes me a bit jealous, I suppose.
“When was the last time we ate in town?” Saki asks. The tapping of her cane and our slow exit from Yamaku grounds makes for quite the relaxing trip. If it was just a little darker, we’d have a pretty picturesque view of the town from here. She’s looking at me expectantly.
“It was like, a week ago,” I answer, and she simply nods.
“Time flies,” she mutters a little sadly.
“Oh, how I wish it wouldn’t,” I reply. Only half
“You quoting something?” she asks me. A car passes us by with its headlights on full beam.
“No, just being weird again,” I explain and she giggles.
“It’s true though; that’s why we have to cease the day.”
“Is that what you call this?” I ask, and again, she giggles.
We continue down the hill wordlessly. The sounds of the evening, and the continuous clicking of Saki’s cane against the floor making a gentle rhythm for us as we walk. I guess it’s more like a walking stick then a cane, since she doesn’t need it to navigate; her legs just don’t work very well anymore. There’s this smell in the air… like, rain? I try not to think about it, and eventually the smell and sounds of the town replace it.
We pass the Shanghai, the local bookshop, and the park, all of which are surprisingly busy considering that it’s a Tuesday evening. By the time we’ve crossed the park, the smell from our go-to food stop has thoroughly intoxicated us both; Saki is practically floating towards it.
Unlike the Shanghai, Dragon Eats
is more like a fast food restaurant, with mostly outdoor seating and a range of unhealthy fried food. The owner gives us a polite nod as we take our seats across the bar from him. Aside from two others, it’s fairly empty, so we’re offered drinks quickly. Saki and I both opt for some green tea, and it’s quickly provided.
The owner, Mr Domen, makes some polite small talk with Saki as I mull over the menu for the hundredth time this year. That’s probably a conservative estimate.
Saki gestures towards me. I smile and give Mr Domen my order. His energy is positively contagious, and I find myself clapping my hands together in excitement for my food. With both of our orders, he disappears behind the bar and starts getting to work. It’s mesmerising watching him finely chop everything and add it to each respective pot.
“So, I have some news,” she begins.
I take a sip from my tea and raise an eyebrow.
“The new guy?” I ask, and immediately she begins to blush.
“Well go on, spill.”
I place my hand on neck and feel my pulse.
Saki also takes a sip of her tea, before looking around us, like her mysterious boy might be lurking somewhere. She clasps both of my hands in hers, taking my own from my neck, and I’m sure out of the corner of my eye I see Mr Domen smiling.
“So, I think he might have asked me out,” she whispers excitedly.
“On a date!” she exclaims, suddenly loud. The few people around look at us, but in a friendly way. Saki still goes quite red in the face. I giggle, though it’s not really my voice.
“Exciting news indeed,” I squeeze her hands back. She withdraws them and begins tapping on the counter with her fingers rhythmically. She looks very cute when she’s all excited like this. I suddenly feel a bit queasy.
“He was being really… shy, I guess. It was cute.”
“Was he doing that thing when he holds his chest?” I ask with a sly smile, apparently Saki finds it adorable that he’s always doing that. I tried it a few times too.
“Sure was; he kept rubbing the back of his head too. I think he was preparing for me to say no,” she looks a little sad then, but quickly perks back up. “As if I would!”
Since Saki met the new guy, Nakai, I think he’s called, she’s been totally enamoured with him. Even though her excitement is contagious, and I’m genuinely happy for her, it has become quite frustrating to constantly hear about him. I haven’t met him yet, but I doubt anyone could be as wonderful as she’s making him out to be.
Maybe I’m jealous.
Before I can dwell too much on those thoughts, my attention is drawn by a rather slender man taking his seat beside us. Well, a few seats down, but still. He’s wearing a long brown coat, and he looks really tired… the five-o-clock shadow probably isn’t helping. I recognise him from Yamaku, he’s a science teacher I think, but I’ve never been in his class. He notices us sitting here, and gives us a polite nod. We nod back, and I tap Saki on the shoulder.
“Is he your teacher?” I ask, and Saki giggles.
“Yeah, class 3-3’s homeroom and my science teacher,” she explains. Even though there’s only a one-year difference between us, Saki still makes me feel like there are some things I should just know
; like she’s much older and wiser than me. Maybe I’m just stupid, I guess. “Mutou. Hisao is in his class actually,” she continues. “You’ll probably have him next year.”
“Ah,” I respond, and Saki quickly returns to excitedly discussing the various outfits she’s considering for her date. I’m happy for her, and even a little excited on her behalf; I just wish I could find someone to make me that happy, I suppose. Or I wish I could make someone else that happy.
I take a long sip of my tea and finish the cup.
“I just need this one to go okay, I don’t want to be – Oh wow!” Mr Domen delicately places our meals before us, interrupting Saki. It smells incredible, and it looks just as good. Saki quickly picks up her chopsticks, and Mr Domen notices my empty cup of tea. I don’t even ask, but he fills it back up and gives me a cheery smile.
Saki leans over her bowl, before raising her head with a bright and beaming smile at Mr Domen.
“You’re honestly a magician, Sensei,” she bows politely, and Mr Domen returns to his other customers with a light chuckle. I faintly hear him discuss something with the man who sat beside us, Mutou. From the look on Mr Domen’s face, the conversation is a solemn one.
I shrug and tuck into my food. Saki is too busy stuffing her face to notice Mutou, otherwise she might say something. She can be very talkative and nosy.
Even though I try to savour every bite, I finish my bowl far too quickly, and have to watch Saki slurp up the rest of her noodles.
“Show aash I wush shaying,” Saki swallows. “So, as I was saying, I need you to help me pick out a cute outfit for the track meet.”
“Oh, so that’s where he’s taking you? To watch Ibarazaki win?”
Saki sticks her tongue out of me. It’s actually adorable.
“Okay, well we’re going to dinner afterwards too! I think him and Ibarazaki are friends or something, so he wanted to watch her race.”
“Well, I guess I’ll watch the race with Akio then, we haven’t hung out one-on-one in forever!” I say, and Saki looks glad.
“You coming to back me up then?” She asks coyly.
“I wanted to come anyway,” after a few seconds of silence, I ask, “do you not want me to be around?”
Saki shakes her head defensively and takes a swig of her tea.
“No! I’d feel better knowing you were there, I think.”
She giggles, and then grasps my hands again.
“You know, I’m so grateful to have met you,” she says, but before I can appreciate the moment, she lets go.
We gesture to Mr Domen and he heads over with our bill. Saki pays for us both, and I give her a grateful bow. I think I paid last time, so I don’t feel too bad letting her get it. Still, something seems off as we get up; Mr Domen isn’t smiling quite so brightly.
Before we leave, I take a look at the man beside us. He looks sad.
He looks scared.
I turn to Saki.
“Sorry, let’s go.”
I finish yawning and turn towards Akio. He’s wearing his uniform without the tie; it gives him this cool look
, like he doesn’t follow the rules or something. What a bad boy.
I’m kidding; well he is kind of handsome I suppose. Not my particularly flavour of tea, though. I don’t think. I don’t know.
“Yeah, Saki had me up all night going through her wardrobe,” I reply.
Akio laughs. “Ready for the big date and everything then,” after a moment of looking around, he adds, “poor Nakai doesn’t know what’s coming for him.”
We share a giggle, and begin scanning the crowds forming at the edges of the track. There are two bleachers, both half-filled with people, since anyone who really
wants to watch the race will try to get as close to it as possible. There are also a few vehicles besides the track, some medical and some media. The track meet is a big deal for Yamaku; something about overcoming our adversity.
I don’t know about that. There’s a girl in the year above me, Ibarazaki, who calls herself the ‘fastest thing on no legs’. That doesn’t sound like overcoming her disability, it sounds like being good because of it, not in spite. I wonder if I’m being a bit harsh; it’s not like I can do anything in spite of my disability.
If anything, the whole day just reminds me how fragile I am. It reminds me of getting winded at the top of the staircase. It reminds me that I have to avoid fast moving crowds; that I can never go on a rollercoaster. It reminds me of my family; preparing for my inevitable disappearance.
“Rika,” Akio snaps his fingers and I’m grounded in reality again, “there’s a spot over there.”
As we being heading over, he turns to me with a sly smile.
“It also gives us good visibility of Saki and Hisao’s date, you know, in case he tries anything funny,” he laughs.
Sure enough, the seats we’re headed towards are a few rows above Saki and to her right. She notices us passing, and gives us an enthusiastic wave.
Once we’re settled in our seats, far enough away from the lovers below, I tap Akio on the shoulder.
“Isn’t he in your class?” I ask, and he nods. “Well, what do you make of him. Should we be worried?”
Akio thinks for a second, but shakes his head.
“Nah, he seems a bit like a lost puppy, but otherwise he actually seems to be quite a good guy. He even made an effort with Ikezawa, and he hasn’t told the council duo where to stick it yet, so he must be patient.” He explains.
“Ikezawa?” I ask. I’m not sure I’ve heard the name before.
“Ah, yeah,” Akio scratches the back of his head awkwardly. “She’s this girl in our homeroom class; very shy…” After a few moments he adds, “she has some severe burns.”
I sigh. I don’t really know why, but I feel a bit guilty knowing who she is just from that description.
“So, he seems nice then,” I say rather than ask, changing the subject.
“Yes, he does.”
There’s a bit of an awkward silence between us. If I’m honest, I suspect that Akio had a bit of a thing for Saki, so watching her with someone else must sting. Maybe he moved on already. Maybe he never liked her at all. I remind myself to just ask.
People start to gather on the track. From here, they look a little like mini-figures gathering up to start their big race. For the third years, this might well be the last and biggest year of their lives. I lean forward as they line up.
The bang still takes me by surprise, and I instinctively place my fingers underneath my jaw on my neck to feel my pulse. It’s risen a little, but it’s not too bad. Akio gives me a curious glance, but his attention quickly returns to the race. He knows about my condition, so I’m not surprised he looked a little worried for a moment there.
I try to keep up with the race, but it loses my interest pretty quickly. The first event is a 3000m middle-distance race, so it’s not clear yet who’s going to win. A few people are tailing at the back though, If I were the betting kind, I’d probably say they won’t.
My attention ends up drifting from the track to the crowd; there are a few people I recognise, sitting with their parents or their friends. I end up back on Saki and Hisao. I squint and lean forward a little.
Yup. They’re definitely holding hands. Something inside my stomach starts doing backflips.
I lean back and watch the clouds slowly passing by above. Time seems to take forever to pass; everyone is either quietly murmuring to one another or fully invested in the race. At least Akio seems to be getting bored now too.
“Wanna make a bet?” He asks quietly, nudging me back into reality.
“Nah, I don’t gamble,” I say and stick my tongue out.
“Boring,” he huffs.
“No, this race is boring,” I correct him, and he covers his mouth to snort with laughter.
“Fair point,” he eventually says. Thankfully no one has turned around to face us. We’re being more than a little rude.
“So, can I ask you something?” I whisper, and he leans over, his attention still half-on the race.
“How do you feel about Saki and the new guy?” I ask, and Akio tenses up visibly.
“What do you mean?” He replies, quieter than before and his voice a few tones deeper than it just was.
“Does it…” I think carefully on the word I want to use, and put my hand on his knee. “Does it sting?” I ask tentatively.
He doesn’t flinch at my touch, but his eyebrows furrow quiet heavily. We sit in silence for a few seconds, and a bell rings from the track announcing that the runners only have one lap left.
“Yeah, it does,” he admits, but he relaxes a little. “I was beginning to think I liked her.”
“For what it’s worth, I think you’re a really good guy. She does too. I think she would have said yes if you’d asked,” I say, and that just twists the knife a little deeper. Still, Akio starts to smile.
“I just want her to be happy,” he whispers quietly, but we’re interrupted by the sound of cheering and chanting, as the first of the 3000m runners approaches the finish. Sure enough, it’s one of our own, not that I recognise them. Yamaku comes in first and second, and a wave of cheers echo through the crowds. Akio withdraws from beside me and begins clapping and cheering. Another wave of runners begins to line up for the next event.
We don’t talk much for the rest of the races, but Akio does convince me to bet dinner on the last set of sprints. The short girl with no legs, Ibarazaki lines up, so I bet on the slender girl beside her, the one missing a hand. It’s a fairly close race, but Ibarazaki takes it at the last second, sending Akio cheering.
“Okay, okay, no need to get over-excited,” I laugh, and Akio pumps the air with his fist a few times.
He points his thumb at himself and shouts fairly loudly, “this guy just won a free dinner!” The crowd on our bleacher shares an uproarious laugh, before beginning to get up and shuffle down from their seats. Since we’re sat at the back, we might as well wait until it’s gotten quieter. Akio doesn’t seem to mind waiting, and sits back down in his seat.
Saki turns to face us from below and smiles, before taking her date’s hand and disappearing behind a surge of people. They’re presumably heading into town for some dinner. I hope she has fun.
Akio smiles at them as they go, but it looks a bit strained. It’s understandable though; I really feel for him. Or maybe I’m just being jealous again, maybe I want what they have and I’m desperately trying to convince myself I’m not the only feeling left behind.
I sigh again and tilt back to watch the clouds.
“How did you know?” Akio asks, breaking the silence.
“How did I know what?” I ask him, and he leans back to join me.
“How did you know I liked her?”
I bite my lip and close my eyes.
“I’ve seen that look before, I guess.” I explain, and Akio just sighs.
Thankfully, he doesn’t ask me to elaborate. I wouldn’t want too anyway.
“Wanna go for dinner now, or should we feel sorry for ourselves some more?” He asks with a playful nudge, and I hoist myself up.
“Dinner sounds good to me,” I reply, and the two of us begin our decent from the benches. There are still plenty of people loitering about, but the majority of the crowd has already dispersed. I imagine families have taken their children into town for dinner, so in spot of quick thinking, (and thinking about my wallet), I decide to tow us in the direction of the cafeteria. Akio doesn’t fault my logic, and we head off.
I’m glad it’s such a warm day today, but I always feel a little exposed without my hoodie. I always feel safe within it, so without, it’s like I’m not wearing my armour or something.
Akio doesn’t make any small talk as we walk the winding pathway back to the main building. I’m not surprised, he’s probably feeling quite down about Saki. I can understand that feeling, of missing your chance. It really burns from the inside out.
Just as we enter building, Mutou, who we saw the other night at Dragon Eats
passes by us and exchanges a nod with Akio and me.
“Hayashi,” the man says with a bow. He looks really tired.
“Sensei,” Akio bows back.
Mutou… I think his name is, turns to face me. “I… don’t believe we’ve met,” he says, tilting his head to the side. He sounds a bit awkward.
“Katayama, Rika,” I bow, and he does the same.
“Mutou,” he responds. “You’re a second year?” He asks, and Akio looks like he might start laughing any minute now.
“Yes, Mr Sato is my homeroom teacher.”
Mutou scratches his head, the school is small so I wasn’t expecting it to be hard for him to remember a colleague. Though, if this is the teacher Akio has had the last year, I’m not surprised. He mentioned he was a bit scatter brained.
“Ah, yes,” he nods. After a few moments, he gives me a slight smile. It doesn’t really suit him, I don’t think, but it does look very genuine. “You have very good taste in restaurant,” he says.
Akio looks at me curiously, and I give Mutou an awkward bow again.
“Thank you, Sensei,” I nod. And he hovers for a moment, unsure how to proceed.
“Uh, yes, good-evening Hayashi, good-evening Katayama,” he practically whispers the last part and disappears around the corner.
Once Mutou has fully disappeared, Akio bursts out laughing.
“You’ve been eating with Mutou? How scandalous!” he jests, and playfully nudges me with his elbow.
“He just bumped into us in town, that’s it!”
Akio laughs again, but begins walking.
“I don’t know why you two insist on eating down in town all the time, the cheap food down there is suspicious,” he says, and I catch up beside him.
“You think the canteen food is ethically sourced and morally unambiguous?” I ask with a grin.
He opens his mouth to reply, but quickly shuts it again.
“Ah, okay, good point,” he finally says, and we both laugh.
Laughing with Akio like this feels great, I wonder if Saki and Hisao are laughing now.
I wonder if they’ll kiss.
I stop, and Akio turns to face me.
“Something up?” he asks.
I close my eyes. I feel something inside me restart.
“No,” I reply.
And I pretend to mean it.