A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

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Downix
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:39 pm

A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:09 am

While fanfic diving, I ran across an incomplete story by Leaty, Mean Time to Breakdown, which took the Iwanako/Hisao confession, and flipped it on its head. Instead of Hisao collapsing due to a heart condition, she had Iwanako collapse. The story idea I found absolutely enthralling, because it allows a "what if" of throwing a different person into the makeup of Yamaku, but one which is still there at the initial point where the story began. However, the last entry for it was years ago, so I have to assume it is, if not abandoned, at least suspended.

But the idea of flipping the two is interesting, and deserves to be explored. Originally, this began following her posted encouragement on MTtB for people to take her first parts and develop them, but quickly it became clear that I could never write for her character. So, working from the same initial idea, of switching places, I have been working on this piece, which is newly written, but still retaining some elements and beats from Leaty's original work. Some similarities are going to happen due to the nature of how this was developed, but I have aimed to make it unique unto itself.

I do owe Leaty much for the original idea, and her work in many of the initial concepts and inversion steps.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did in writing it.
Last edited by Downix on Thu Oct 18, 2018 1:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Downix
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:39 pm

Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:10 am

Prologue:

Overhead, the trees rattle like the chimes outside the garden window, preventing the stillness from becoming too overwhelming.

During the summer, this place would be filled with couples enjoying the beauty. Now, with snow covering the ground and the trees bare, it is equally as beautiful but also isolated. Teachers and students are elsewhere, and nobody else would be here. I am already nervous of what I was about to do, and if others are around, I would lose what little nerve I had.

The beauty of the snowflakes drifting down fills me with hope, even as the pounding of my heart in my chest grows stronger. I’ve not been feeling good for the past several hours, nerves I suppose.

Only a single pair of footprints cross the otherwise virgin carpet of white. I am already late, almost having lost my nerve several times. But the footprints only lead in. I hope that means he was patient enough for me. I move slowly, the anxieties filling me with a flutter in my chest.

I wrote the note weeks ago, but lost my nerve to give it to him. Finally Mai grabbed it from me, and delivered it in secret, forcing this to happen today. I know I’d asked her to deliver it, then told her I wasn’t going to, but she took it anyways.

When she told me, I almost lost it. Since then, the pain of anxiety have been building up, until now the sound of my own heartbeat is filling my ears over even that of the crunch of flakes beneath my feet.

I rub my hands, them having fallen to pins and needles several minutes ago. The cold must be getting to me. Even my feet feel like they’re asleep.
The shock of hair, always a mess, floats there, just beyond the branches ahead. He waited for me.

You need to be brave Iwanako. Just a few more steps. The pounding in my chest keeps growing ever louder as I take the last few steps forward. I twist a bit of my hair around my finger nervously.

A few meters away, I finally gain my voice.

"Hi... Hisao? You came?"

So nervous, I can’t even ask the question right. Stupid! I practiced what to say, and I blurt that out!

He looks as petrified as I feel while stammering out a reply. “Iwanako? I got a note telling me to wait here… it was yours?”

Don’t panic! Iwanako has something to say, so say it!

“Ahmm… yes. I asked a friend to give you that note… I’m so glad you got it.”

Why? No! Wrong! Not ready! Damn you Mai! It’s so hard to breathe. My stomach is doing somersaults on me as well. I am fighting to keep the nausea down. Everything is just all on edge.

Even then, I can’t help but smile. He’s here, for me. Because I asked.

"So... ah... here we are. Out in the cold…" He stutters out, sounding as nervous as I feel.

So handsome standing there, as awkward as he is.

I have to fight to get the next words out. I can’t seem to catch my breath. Must be why I’m feeling so lightheaded. You can get through this.

"Y," I gasp, "You see… I w… I wanted to… to know… if, y-you would… go…"

I can’t say it. I can’t say anything. Breathe? Why can’t I catch my breath?

In front of me, the look of surprise on his face is replaced with concern, then fear. What did I do wrong? What’s wrong Hisao? Why…

When the pain hits me, it’s like I just was hit in the chest by a giant’s club, blinding me for several moments. When I can focus again, all I can see are the naked branches above me. What’s happening?

Vaguely, like someone shouting from a great distance, I hear someone calling my name "Iwanako?!" But, it’s getting fainter. The sky, so dark. It shouldn’t be this dark so early. But the silence is even more remarkable. I can vaguely feel something touching my cheek before everything is gone.

...

Four months ago, standing there in the snow, confessing to the boy I had been crushing on for nearly two years, I fainted.

This might normally be waved off as nothing but nerves, but when the nurse checked, they found something. My heart was beating irregularly, and incredibly fast. If Hisao hadn’t carried me to the nurse, it could have turned into a full fledged heart failure. Without his quick thinking, I might have died there. But, if this is being alive, what really is the difference?

I had my first episode of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, or WPW for short. What the nurse had discovered is that my heart has extra electrical nodes which can cause it to beat so rapidly it can no longer do its job properly.

Normally, this would have been a simple treatment, fixing a broken node within my heart. Of course, things did not go so easy for me. Instead of of one broken node, they found four, one of which could not be treated through surgery due to its location. And when they went in to fix the three they could, complications set in.

During surgery, I developed what the doctors called an atrioventricular block, forcing them to open up my chest. Two operations later, I now had a pair of scars on my chest, and a foreign device now resides within my body. A pacemaker I always took to be something only old people get, but now I had the scar to demonstrate that I, too, had one.

What was to be a day or two in the hospital turned rapidly into a waking nightmare.

Instead of a simple condition, one which I could have lived my whole life with only a low chance of another incident, now I have serious damage. Apparently I have had WPW my whole life, but somehow it had been minor, unnoticed. And in the rush to “fix” me, my parents gave the authorization for surgery, which then caused a bad situation to become worse.

Now I had to stay until my heart fully healed from the damage done by surgery. But what if it never was? Was I going to live here the rest of my life?
I was looking forward to my last year before University. I wanted to enter it with a kind, gentle boyfriend who would be there for me. Instead, I am alone.

The universe laughed at the girl with the broken heart.

My parents took the news well I suppose. It was a problem they could throw money at. Only a minor inconvenience, that’s all it was. It’s not as if they visited me that often. They left me a portable movie player, but with them never being here, it felt like a hollow present, some bauble to keep me entertained as I faded away, locked up for my own good.

My class took my hospitalization as a project. Flowers, cards, gifts, all filled the room for the first week. Regular visitations from classmates and friends dwindled to fewer, and fewer, until only one kept coming at all.

Hisao would always talk about what was happening outside of these walls, trying to keep me in touch with the rest of the world. For two months, every day, he would be there for hours. The nursing staff had to kick him out so often that he was on a first name basis with them.

I didn’t want to know what was happening outside of the hospital anymore. Was I ever going to leave here, I wondered. And if I didn’t, it all felt so hopeless.

I was wasting away. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore. I was becoming a corpse, thin and dried out.

But there he was, every day, offering to help. He brought me water. He helped me to the bathroom. He brought schoolwork so I wouldn’t fall behind. He even spent time helping to take care of my hair.

I never wanted him to see me like this. Especially not him.

I stopped talking to him at one point, but he kept coming, kept talking to me, kept trying to study with me, no matter how silent I was. He always had that smile on his face, that beautiful face I’d admired from afar for so long.

Now I wanted nothing but for it to go away.

He was wasting his life away coming here. He should be finding someone who could give a future to him, not some dying girl in the hospital.
After two months came the fateful talk with the cardiologist – when I learned that I was broken on the most basic level of being a woman.

If I were to become pregnant, the medications used to keep me alive most likely would result in either the fetus miscarrying, or my heart failing. Statistically I would be looking at only a one in six chance of making it to the end of my third trimester.

That day, he came as ever after class, still smiling, still cheerful, still full of hope.

And there I was, someone who could never give him what he deserved. Who should never date, who should never marry, who could never have a family. If he stayed, he would be throwing away his future, for nothing.

I told him to leave. I told him to never come back, that I hated him. I said the worst things I could imagine, to save him from me.

It tore my heart out, that look on his face. I drove him to the point I never wanted to see, but I knew I had to do it for his own good. Without me, he would find someone to build a future with, not a dead end like I was.

When he left, my resolve collapsed. I didn’t know one could cry for so long. I ripped my own warmth out that day.

One does not live in a hospital. One dies in the hospital. Having saved him, I was ready to die, for it all to be over.

But the end never came. Day after day, I kept returning, ever more aware of how alone I was. At one point, I realized that nobody had visited for a week. And after that, I realized nobody ever called me by the name I have used since primary school.

The days just blended together. Good news from the doctors means nothing, because nothing ever changes. I am just here, just occupying space, for no good reason at all.

Finally the doctors disconnected me from the monitoring machines. I was free to move about again.

But where could I have gone? The first time I set out to explore the hospital, I found myself in the burn ward. Seeing those tents, the people inside, it was just too much for me. One of them could not have been more than a few months old. I never ventured out of my room again.

I am useless to everyone, but stuck here anyways. What is the point of this? Why am I even being treated, when it will mean nothing in the end?

The scars on my chest do little to assure me to their words that I am getting better. I can see the marks my heart left on me, the damage done. I am not going to get better, not where it mattered.

And then came today, when all of it changes.

When my parents arrive this morning, I know something is up. Both of them, together, after forgetting I was here for months? All dressed up, and coming with the doctor as well? Am I already dead, and witnessing my own funeral?

The doctor sits on the edge of my bed before he talks.

“Hello Nanako. How are you today?”

Smile, pretend everything is fine. You know how to do that.

“It is time for you to go home. Your heart is ready now, and as long as you take care of yourself, you should be all right. With your medication sorted out, it looks like you are out of the woods. Your parents have your prescriptions already."

I can see the papers in my fathers hand. How many medications did I need to take?

Fearing the answer, I ask, “May I see?”

My mother takes the papers from him, and hands them over.

Six pieces of paper is what I have, not as bad as I’d feared. Foreign words detailing out chemical composition, side effects, and concerns. No matter how hard I try and understand it all, I can only fail.

The doctor smiles at me in that clinical manner doctors have as I try to understand the list. “Thankfully you seem to have become asymptomatic again. And as surgery techniques improve, it is highly probable that you can eventually have your heart fully repaired.

"Also, after consulting with your parents and your teachers, we agreed it would be best that you don't return to your old school."

He pauses, looking my face over as if he is expecting a reaction. What did they expect? Anger? Frustration? No, instead I have to agree with them. If I returned, I would have to face…

No, I can’t look him in the eye again, not after what I said to him.

I look at the doctor and nod slowly. Settling the papers down I fold my hands over them.

“What did you have in mind?”

If it means I can leave, it does not matter. I do not even remember what the sky looks like.

The doctor seems comforted with my response. “As your schooling is important, our thought was for you to attend a school with the medical support should you have another episode.”

My mother then interrupts. “There is a school up in Sendai which specializes in students with medical needs. We went to visit it a few weeks ago, and feel that it is the best fit for you.”

“Sendai is several hours commute, is it not?” I ask, rather perplexed.

The doctor answers. “Most of the students board on-campus. You would be living there, which is good in your case. They have a 24-hour nursing staff and, barring major surgery, medical treatment for most needs. You would gain your independence, while still having the support you will need for awhile more.”

Independence? I’m not sure I understand what he means. Am I being packed up, and stuck in a hole far away? Out of sight, out of mind?
And yet surprisingly, I do not care even if that is the case. I would be free from this room. So long as I am not here, they could send me to the moon for all that I care right now.

“It will take some work, but I am certain you can recover your studies in time for exams,” my father says. Of course he is more worried about how well I test than anything important to me.

What was school even like? I only have a vague memory of attending classes. Anything other than these four walls seems only a dream now.

The doctor interrupts my train of thought. “You are a very lucky girl. Compared to a lot of other patients I've seen over the years, you are going to live a long time, provided you do some basic preventative care.

“Yamaku Academy is a highly rated school. You’re getting a second chance, so make the most out of it. I know a few people who have gone there over the years, including the surgeon who assisted me with your own treatment. She is the one who suggested that the school would be a good fit for you.”

I nod, taking in that information.

He then stands up. “I’ll leave you three to discuss it, but in my opinion, it is the best opportunity for you.”

“Nanako,” my father says as the doctor leaves, “We know this has been hard on you.” He pauses a moment to collect his thoughts. “Right now, we want to give you the best opportunity possible. This is the right thing for you we feel.”

“I already agreed, so why are you continuing to sell me on it?” I ask, not really caring about the answer.

My mother answers instead. “After all that has happened, we have been worried that you would be angry, that after all this we’re sending you hundreds of kilometers away.”

I grab hold of her hand and squeeze it. “Mom, as long as I am out of this room, it will be fine. Can you tell me anything more about this school?”

“Well, it turns out that one of your father’s business partners has a daughter at Yamaku, and we’re told she loves it there. It’s out in the country, it’s beautiful, and I can visit every weekend, if that’s what you want. We just want you to be happy.”

“Do you remember Enomoto at the holiday party after the merger?” My dad asks.

“Holiday… dad, your merger was 4 years ago!”

“Was it? Oh, well, she was the young girl who gave the violin performance.”

“I do not remember her, sorry.” I lie. I remember her, the little miss perfect prodigy being shown off while being waited on hand and foot by her parents. But, why is she at a school for medical needs?

“Oh, well, anyways, are you certain you are fine with this?”

I nod. “Yes, it does sound to be for the best.”

Am I actually going to be free from this place?

Or am I trading one cell for another?

There is only one way to know for certain.

...

The day passes in a blur. Exiting the hospital, it feels like I was finally freed from a cage. The sunlight, so alien to me, pours down like a cascade of light from the heavens.

I am free.

It will be a long drive tomorrow, so a quick return to our house was in order. Once inside, what should feel familiar instead looks like it belongs to someone else. But while I expect something musty with dust in the corners, I find it clean and cared for. Still, the room which had once reflected who I was now is strange and alien. Who I am in many ways died in the snow that fateful February day.

Most curious, on my desk, the pot which I’d planted lavender seeds just weeks before I went into the hospital, sits there, blooming. Mother must have been taking care of them for me. But, she was no good at flowers. Nevermind, unimportant.

I do not bother cataloging what is in there, don’t even notice it beyond a casual glance. It all belongs to a stranger now. Iwanako, the nickname I’d had since primary school, that is who she was. Am I still her? Or am I just Nanako Iwanaga?

In the mirror on my wall, the girl who stares back at me I no longer recognize. Thin, gaunt, her hair suffering from months of neglect. Hair…
In front, strands of grey stand out from the field of black.

Not many, but enough, a collection of hairs in front at the roots. How did this happen? When did this happen? They were not there 4 months ago!
I refuse to be grey. But, if I dye them darker, the grey will just show up again when it grows out. What if instead….

Yes, lighten it. It has been a few years since that horrible experiment, but I still remember how it’s done.

“Nanako, we should get going. You need new clothes, and we should do something with your hair.”

Perfect. I am not going to start a new place looking any less than my best. Smile, nod, laugh, never let anyone see the pain. You know how to do this. You’ve been doing it all of your life.

Steeling myself, I stand up, gaze around the room once more, and nod silently. This room belongs to someone else, someone long dead. Best to leave it in memorial of her.

Time for Iwanako to put on her show.

Downix
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:39 pm

Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:20 am

Act 1: Palette
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuhMM02QcMs
title card_Act1_card.png
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Title Card artwork by BluPhoenix

The Princess from the Land of Porcelain


Before us, the grand gate of the school, open and welcoming. Getting up at 4 in the morning was surprisingly easy. Getting here before school starts, I could already see the throngs of students moving about the campus.

Green uniforms? I feel so odd standing there in a green uniform after wearing a black and burgundy one for years. The other students look like anybody else I might see. Or so I think until I see the first person in a wheelchair. Then someone walking with a cane, someone else missing a leg.

What am I doing here?

“There must be the main building,” My mother points to the most prominent structure in view. The architecture is certainly unlike any school I have ever seen before.

Without pause, she takes off in the large structures direction. I fall in behind her, trying to keep up.

By the time we reach the doors, I am already winded. Why is she in such a hurry?

In the glass of the front door, I can see my reflection. A pair of golden streaks stand out in front of my freshly styled hair. My makeup, all in order. The earrings I so prized. Even the jewelry I had originally thought no longer belonging to me found itself once more on my fingers. This girl before me, she may be hurt, but she looked good.

Passing through the door, we find ourselves in a very nice foyer. Standing in the middle, a tall, sloppy-looking middle-aged teacher is looking around while the students move past him. Seeing us, he moves in our direction.

“You two must be… um…Iwagan… Iwanab…”

“Iwanaga,” I interject, looking him in his weary eyes.

He nods, and seems to absorb that information.

“…Iwanaga. It’s nice to meet you. I’ll be your homeroom and science teacher. My name is Mutou. Welcome.”

I bow to him before turning to my mother.

“Mother…” I finally say.

“I need to bring your things to your room. Is there anything you need me to get you before I head back home?”

I shake my head in the negative. “If I think of something, I will call you, I promise.”

She sighs, and gingerly runs a hand through my hair. “Alright. I am planning on coming back up this weekend, so we will see each other then. Now be careful, and listen to your teacher.”

Not wanting to drag this moment out, I nod and smile, watching her leave through the same door we came in.

Looking back to Mutou, he stands there patiently waiting for me. Once we re-establish eye contact, he continues his line of thought. “The head nurse wants to see you for a brief check-in. As you’re here early, we can get it done now, if you like.”

I simply nod. Being here, among all of these students heading to classes, it all is a bit overwhelming. And each of them is giving me a look. It is a small, close-knit school after all, and here I was, a stranger appearing in the middle of it.

Mutou nods again, a little too vigorously. “Well, then, if you’ll just follow me… It’s actually the next building over.”

Walking to the door, he holds it open for me to head out, and the morning sun once more shines down on me.

A quick trek off to the side, and we come across what, from first glance, I earlier took to be part of the main building. But now I can see, it is a separate structure.

“This is the administrative building,” Mutou explains tiredly. “In here we can find, well, administration, but also the nursing offices, sports showers, even the pool.”

A pool? Sports? This is a school for sick kids, right?

Inside, he guides me to an office almost immediately inside the door, and raps on the door. From inside, a voice calls out, I assume to invite us in. Mutou just opens the door and enters.

“I’ve got that new student here to see you,” Mutou says to someone inside.

Following in his wake, I take that moment to look around. Inside the room is a rather normal nursing office. The same smells, the same health posters, nothing extraordinary.

Within it, I see the man Mutou was talking to. He is about the same height as my teacher, but while Mutou looks lethargic, this man was full of youthful energy. He is young-looking and sort of rugged, but the dimples in his cheeks wash that impression away when he smiles.

“Just on time. Hold on as I grab her file.” a much younger man’s voice says from behind him.

Mutou turns around and looks down at me. Gesturing to the door he tells me, “This is the Head Nurse. Um… I’ll wait outside I suppose.”

“Actually,” the man tells Mutou, “can you go fetch Katayama? She should be by the therapy rooms.”

Mutou seems confused, “I thought to wait...”

“It will just take a moment, and would be helpful to our new face here.”

Shrugging, Mutou walks further into the building.

I finally speak up. “Good morning, nurse”

The Nurse grins, a gesture that seems far too natural on him to be anything but genuine.

“Hello there! You can call me by my name or just 'the nurse' like everyone else. ”

He picks up the folder which is sitting in the middle of his desk. “So,” he says nonchalantly, “Nanako Iwanaga. Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome and a related atrial fibrillation. Ah, and it looks like you had surgery four months ago which treated… three nodes, a fourth being inoperable along with a pacemaker…” His eyebrows go up on reading that before he lets out a low exhale.

Gesturing to an empty chair, he sits in the opposite chair. I join him in the remarkably comfortable office chair, realizing my feet only barely reach the floor while I’m sitting in it. I am not exactly short myself, so it must have been last used by someone quite tall.

“Yes sir, that’s correct,” I manage to say, trying to meet his gaze. Be polite, show respect, we can do this. Glancing to my hand, swirling a bit of my hair around a finger, I force it to start. Do not show how nervous you are, I chastise myself.

He nods. “Good. Well, you've probably been briefed about the school enough, so I'll just go over this quickly. We have all kinds of facilities available, mostly physical therapy and such. There's always someone from my staff around, even at night, so never hesitate to call us if there is a problem.”

The room falls into silence for a moment. When I fail to respond, he picks right up where he was “So, you already have your medication. In your case especially you need to remember to take your pills as scheduled or it won't be much help.

“We've not had a student with your model pacemaker before, so we placed an order for the wand used to read the record it's making. You will need to do weekly check-ins on Mondays while here for us to make a copy.”

My model pacemaker? Does that mean they have students with other models? Just the thought gives me a slight level of relief, that maybe I'm not so unusual after all.

He then takes a deep breath before continuing, a look of tired repetition on his face. “Now I have to be the nagging mother for a moment. You have a medication with special requirements, namely your levothyroxine. It cannot under any circumstances be taken with any food or medication in your stomach, so be very careful. Apart from that... do you do any sports? Rash stuff like... I don't know, boxing?”

“Definitely not,” I answer. I try and smile for him, but it feels plastic.

He nods, as if that was what he was expecting. “Well, at any rate, any kind of concussion to your chest area could be very dangerous, so I’m going to have to recommend you stay away from any activities like that. For now, anyway.”

Another pause, but he leaves me be and looks back in his file. “Still, you need to keep your body healthy so some exercise would do you good. We have physical therapy and such available as I said, but I don't think you really need such heavy measures. Just get some light exercise regularly. Brisk walks or even light jogging, jumping rope, that sort of thing. Swimming, maybe? There's a pool here.”

I nod. “Mutou mentioned that on the way here, but I never learned how to swim.”

“Well, there are plenty of students who didn’t know when they came here either,” he says in that jovial tone I’m starting to realize is a trademark of his. “We do have lessons, or you could ask another student. Many are willing to teach. In any case, we don’t want you to overexert yourself.”

I maintain the smile. “Certainly not.”

His expression gets more serious. “Absolutely no risks. Take care of yourself.”

Finished, the Nurse relaxes. “Good, that’s just about it then. If you do need anything, don’t hesitate to come and see me.”

I nod, not really able to talk. Pushing aside the nervousness gripping my chest, I stand up. A doctors visit I can handle. Have had plenty every day for months. But now, going to school, it suddenly feels far more real than it did before.

At that moment comes a knock on the door, followed by a head covered in white hair sticking its way through it.

“You wanted to see me?” asks the pale girl now looking in the room.

The nurse smiles. “Yes, come in Rika. Rika, this is Nanako Iwanaga, a new transfer student. Iwanaga, this is Rika Katayama. She is assigned the paired dorm room to your own.”

I blink, then look at the nurse.

“In the hallway you will be staying in, two dorm rooms share a bathroom. Yours is shared with Rika here. We try and make room assignments based on various criteria, including what conditions the students have.”

Rika face spreads with a small smile as she pipes up with, “Which means… you’ve got a bad heart too! Right?”

I blink at her. Is that how you’re supposed to be introduced to people here? ‘Hi, I’m Iwanako, and my heart can stop at any moment.’

“R-right. Excuse me, a bad heart, too?”

Rika nods and points her thumb at her chest. “Hypoplastic left heart syndrome.”

“I am afraid I do not know what that is,” I answer honestly.

“I have half a heart, only two chambers.” she says, with far too much enthusiasm for what she is saying. That she emphasizes this by holding up two fingers while winking at me makes the whole scene very surreal.

I blink. Suddenly my own issue seemed relatively minor. At least I have a whole heart.

“Um… Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome,” I stammer out.

“Well, glad to meet you Iwanaga. I guess I will be seeing you after classes! Don’t mind the girls across the hall. One walks with help of a cane and the other is su-u-uper sleepy, but they’re both cool in their own way.”

Looking her over, she is almost 10 cm shorter than me, with a thin braid running over her shoulder, which she is currently playing with.
I glance down to my own hand, still holding my hair, before looking back to her.

“Please, call me Iwanako,” I blurt out. I guess I will try my old name for a bit. It still feels alien to me. But so does this place.

“Okay! And call me Rika!”

“Are you finished?” Mutou’s voice enters the room.

The nurse smiles. “Yup. I just knew Rika was here because she’d just left when you arrived. Figured use the opportunity to introduce the new dorm-mates.”

Mutou nods. “We should head back to the classroom. It’s still a few minutes before class starts and we can get you settled in.”

“See you tonight, roomie,” the far too cheerful girl cries out as I exit the room. I hope not everyone here is as, well, forward as Rika Katayama. I do not think I could stand a school filled with such perkiness.

Once more the alien sunlight falls on me as we exit the building. Not even 24 hours ago, I had despaired of never seeing it again. No matter how blinding it is now, it still feels wonderful.

Even if it does nothing to help my nervousness, it physically is refreshing.

As we enter the building, a thought seems to strike Mutou and he turns to me.

“Do you want to introduce yourself to the class?”

The question takes me by surprise. What would I say? What do I talk about? Do I talk about my heart? Being stuck in a hospital? That my hair is going gray? My flowers?

My flowers? Ikebana… remembering how much I enjoyed it makes me smile inside a moment. Ok, I can do something.

“I thought that is what I am… supposed to do, right?”

He smiles slightly. “Not everyone likes to be at the center of attention.”

Looking out the corner of my eye, I catch my reflection in the glass. The girl standing there looks scared. And I am scared. But, smile, nod, laugh, never let anyone see the fear. It is what I have always done.

I stand up a bit taller, I will do this.

“Yes, I would like to introduce myself,” I tell him.

He gives me a slight smile as I say that. Climbing the stairs, the throng of other students were already filling the corridors. Classes would start soon.
I have not seen the inside of a classroom in months. But somehow, the other students feel almost normal around me – the familiarity of the motion, the life of a school around me. The uniforms may be different, the faces those of strangers, but the pattern so familiar, as if remembering a song I hadn’t heard in years.

As we reach the classroom door, marked 3-3, I wonder, why am I building myself up like this? Why do I care what my new classmates see? Do I plan on making friends?

Prim and proper, never let them see something unless you want them to. Mask in place, I follow Mutou into the room. He sits down, then looks back to talk to me. “You can just take your seat until we’re ready to begin, if you’d like. Your desk is in the middle row, right next to the window. Feel free to put your belongings down.” He gestures to a seat.

I move to my seat, and sit down politely, folding my hands on top of my bag in front of me. Glancing around, I only see 6 other people in the room. Nobody so far is seated near me, the closest being in the front row a few chairs down. With her head down, she seems to be talking with the long haired girl next to her.

Glancing over to the other girl, I find a darker skinned young woman, but one without any sense of beauty. Wearing a boy’s uniform shirt and tie, with no makeup on at all, I think it’s a shame. With just a little work, she would be turning the heads of every boy she encountered. Then my eyes wander down, and come to the end of her arm, where a hand should be.

For the first time up close, I’ve been presented with clear, visible evidence as to where I am. Certainly, the pale skinned girl this morning was forward with her condition, but she looks normal, even if she could stand some time in a tanning bed. When my eyes move up again, I realize that both girls are now looking in my direction.

A new girl, sitting in a desk which, I presume, was unoccupied last week, of course they would look this way. I put on my best disarming smile and sit up a bit more.

Their, or I should say our, uniform uses a green which is not that flattering on me. However, if that is the uniform, I suppose I must live with it.

The room is filling up much faster now. A large boy sits behind me, two more students move in front, all of them seem to be avoiding looking at me directly, giving me that not-staring stare I’ve seen before. Every school has their own order, and I represent disharmony. Their stares are exactly what is to be expected.

The gentle din of the room is broken when a voice as loud as a siren yells out of nowhere, making everyone visibly react.

“Woohoo, new student~!”

Locking my eyes on the source of the voice, the sight entering the room is beyond anything I could have predicted. Standing a few cm shorter than me, the girl has a solidly built figure which by itself would draw boys attention to her.

My concern that my blonde streaks would stand out in class is quickly dismissed by what resides on top of the new girl’s head. Done up in ringlets, her hair stands as pink as cotton candy and looks to have taken an hour of work this morning. I could never pull off such a hairstyle even if I want to, my hair being too brittle now. On her, it is nothing if not visibly obnoxious.

Oddly, she is gesturing with her hands as she talks. Next to her, another girl with dark, short hair, also gestures. It takes a moment, especially as the second girl is saying nothing, for it to dawn on me that they are using sign language. The pair make a beeline to where I am sitting, and take positions at the desk directly aside mine.

“So you’re really the new student?” The girl says, gesturing to her companion. “Well, yeah, she must be, right? I guess we weren’t getting a boy after all. But I swore we gave a tour to parents taking a boy around. Yes we did, but that must have been someone else.”

She’s… she’s translating for the other girl. And talking out loud what both of them are saying.

“Wahaha~! Welcome to Yamaku Academy! I’m Misha! We’ll be sitting right next to each other!”

For a brief moment, I long for the silence of my hospital room, and then immediately dismiss that thought.

Gesturing to her silent partner, Misha introduces us. “This is Shicchan, the class representative! She says ‘it’s nice to meet you!’”

Looking at the other girl, I watch her examining me with analytical eyes. I know that look, having done that myself many times. Her gaze drifts over me, absorbing detail and making judgments before finally settling on my eyes. A polite smile crosses her face as she adjusts her glasses.

“Ah… It is very nice to meet you as well,” I say, forcing myself into formality. “I am Iwanako.”

The girl, Shicchan (obviously a nickname, which would be impolite for me to use without permission), makes some other signs, but whatever she was saying is interrupted as the school bell rings. Both girls rush to sit down, and at a glance I see a few others doing the same.

“Good morning, everyone; we’re going to get started,” Mutou says as he stands up. “Today, we have a new student.”

Turning to make eye contact with me, he gestures to come to the front of the classroom with his hand. “Would you please come to the front for a moment?”

Introductions, right. I’d forgotten all about it with the excitement of meeting Misha and Shicchan.

I recompose myself, stand with the best grace I can, and move to stand beside Mutou.

Doing some quick math, I have 19 other students in here with me, a smaller classroom than I have been in before. But that means I have 38 eyes all turning in my direction. Glancing over, I see some people with obvious conditions, others whom I could only guess. But in the back of my head, hiding behind the polite smile, I know that every single one of them is here for the same reason I am – because they need to me.

The other students look like my old class, nothing grossly abnormal. No wheelchairs, strange medical machines, or gross abnormalities – just kids like me. One girl in the front row, the one I noticed earlier, looks to be asleep. Glancing around, I see a flash of dark hair in the back row, someone looking at me while trying not to be noticed. I’ve seen that before. In front of her, a boy wearing a hat (they allow hats here?) sits there with another look I knew all too well, undressing me with his eyes. Ugh.

That disgusts me enough I stop looking around. I am not some object to ogle.

I tune Mutou in as he reaches the point in his monologue indicating I should talk. “Please welcome our newest classmate Nanako Iwanaga,” he finally says, clapping his hands. The rest of the class follows along and I feel a rush of embarrassment at the gesture.

I want to ask why the class is applauding me. I have done nothing to deserve it.

I steel myself, push my shoulders back, put on a disarming smile, and begin. “I am Iwanako. I enjoy ikebana and tea. It is my hope that we can be friends.”

To the side, I note that Misha is signing as I talk, translating for the other girl.

Mutou finishes what he has to say, and the classroom erupts into applause again. The girl with one hand is clapping against the stump of her missing left hand, and the girl I thought was asleep was clapping while not lifting her head from the desk.

Smile, keep smiling. Just keep smiling.

Mutou turns to me, and the other students, realizing he’s not addressing them for a moment, go back to engaging each other in a low, ambient hum of conversation, all catching glances in my direction.

“Today we’re doing some group work, so you’ll have an opportunity to talk with everyone. Is that alright?”

“Uh… Y-yes,” I stammer.

“You can go ahead and work with the class representative, Shizune Hakamichi. I noticed you were talking with her earlier, I believe. She can help you get up to speed on the coursework. And feel free to ask her any questions you might have about the school. Who else would be able to do that better, right?”

I remember being the class representative our first year, and I did not enjoy it. Instantly I feel empathy for Shicchan… Shizune he called her.
Misha waves me back over as I move as gracefully as I can while returning to my seat. Those enormous gold eyes of hers follow me as I move.
“So… Shizune is the class representative, yes?” I ask her.

Misha’s smile turns into a huge grin as she nods. Behind her, Shizune on the other hand is glaring at Misha. When Misha looks, the smile on her face falters and a look of puzzlement, followed by embarrassment.

“Yes! Oh, she says thank you for calling her Shizune. Sorry Shicchan.”

I sigh slightly before recomposing myself. “I guess we are supposed to work together,” I say, finally.

Her voice belts out “We sure are~! I’m really excited!” I do not know how much my poor ears can handle of her.

The two girls start signing something to each other, and I stare at them curiously. Though neither of them is actually speaking, I feel like I can not get a word in edgewise. I should make sure my guess is correct.

“…Misha?”

Turning to me, she signs as she talks. “Yes Iwacchan?”

I forget entirely what I was about to ask with that simple statement. “Did you call me Iwacchan?”

Misha nods emphatically. “Yup! It fits, doesn’t it?”

I sigh again. Iwacchan... at least she didn’t use my actual given name and call me Nanachan… I hate that nickname, which is why I began going by Iwanako in the first place. But, it seems to make Misha happy, so as long as it does not catch on, fine. Let her have her little… quirk.

The assignment lands on my desk, and I glance it over. I can’t remember nearly anything from this. Not as if science was ever my favorite subject, but I can’t even remember what some of these words mean. I look over to Misha and Shizune, and both of them are already getting their pens out to work on it.

Shizune seems to notice the look on my face, and taps Misha’s shoulder to get her attention. A few signs later, and Misha turns to me.

“You seem nervous. First day jitters?”

“Nothing like that. It has just… been a while since I was in a classroom,” I respond.

“Huh,” Misha responds, but Shizune picks up on it immediately. A few signs later, Misha seems to understand what I just said. “Oh…”

With Misha muted, I inject myself. “My apologies, but I do not know any of this content.” I sigh as I look over the paper.

Shizune smiles confidently and responds.

Misha translates. “You need to relax Iwacchan. Shicchan wants you to know that if there is anything you need to know, you can feel free to ask her.”
Shizune just smiles at me as she continues to sign.

“Do you like the school so far? We can show you around a little if you haven't had the time to walk around and... familiarize? yourself with it!”

I consider the question for a moment. “I will admit, it is all a lot to take in. I have not seen a campus like it before. And to be honest, I needed the clean break.”

The smile on Misha’s face is genuine, even if far too jovial for the subject. Shizune continues her study of me. Those eyes of hers are so analytical, it almost feels like I am sitting under a microscope.

I look around for a subject change, and hit upon what is on our desk. “The assignment?”

“Oh, yes, right! And you said you needed help with it…”

Shizune signs something to Misha. “Shicchan says ‘We can work on this together. Jump in where you can!”

“Thank you.”

Despite the assurances, I find myself hopelessly over my head with the assignment. Even the textbook proves of little assistance, I am simply too far behind.

It takes some time before Shizune finally recognizes how far behind I am. She seems like someone who does not like being held back, and the realization of my problems is frustrating her. I used to be the same way, so I do understand what she is going through. Maybe I still am, considering how much I am mentally beating myself up over it.

I asked my parents for schoolwork so I could keep up, but nobody would bring me the material. Only Hisao did… and I sent him away.

I can’t think about him, not now. In the back of my mind, a thought registers. I hope he has forgotten all about me.

“Iwacchan? You look upset,” Misha’s voice interrupts my thoughts. “Are you okay?”

I fight it down. Smile, smile, just smile. You can do this.

“Nothing, nothing. It is just… overwhelming, that is all.”

Yes, make it about the schoolwork. Don’t dig, please don’t push.

“After class, we can do some review work to help you catch up.”

My smile grows a bit more genuine. “I appreciate that, thank you. Can you please tell Shizune that I am not as much of an idiot as she probably thinks I am.”

A few signs exchanged, and Shizune breaks out in a smile. She is looking me in the eyes. I can’t help but notice how her eyes are a deep, dark, blue, and that they are twinkling with something like amusement.

“So long as you admit when you need help and are willing to work for it puts you ahead of certain others. Really Shicchan? That’s not nice.”
I have absolutely no idea what she is talking about.

Misha looks over my paper and tells me “We’re already past that point Iwacchan. You’re really struggling, aren’t you?”

Looking back at Shizune, I say to them “I never was very good at this subject, and I have months of catching up…”

“We can’t help you unless you say something. Let us help you with the problems. That’s what we’re here for. You can’t just sit there like a lost puppy.”

Before they can continue I interject. “I am sorry… I am feeling very overwhelmed with everything…”

Misha breaks out with a softer smile than I had seen before on her while Shizune sighs silently. “You need to relax, Iwacchan. The assignment is almost done, and we can work on it some more later to make sure you’re ready for tomorrow!”

I feel ashamed. I should not be here. I am not ready to come back to school. This is all so overwhelming.

The bell rings announcing lunch, and with a glance over I realize that Shizune and Misha have finished the group assignment.
I am useless right now.

“Come on Iwacchan, bring your textbook with you. We can do some reviewing while we eat.”

I gather my book and stand up, making sure to maintain my poise. As I stand and turn towards the exit, I find myself with someone in the way, the boy with the hat on who was earlier ogling me like some piece of meat in a butcher shop window.

The hat I now can see is a beret, pulled over to partially hide a bandage on the side of his head. A shock of hair sticks out from the other side, peeking out from under the lip. His look has gone from one of undressing me to that of a shark bearing down on a baby seal.

“Hi there, I’m Takeshi Maeda.” His tone does not help my earlier impression of him. “I’m heading to lunch and…”

“Iwacchan, come on!” I never thought I would be so grateful for Misha’s foghorn vocal cords as I was right then.

I brush past him, but he continues to talk in my direction. “Maybe tomorrow?”

Ugh, he feels so slimy, I want to take a shower.

“Maeda bothering you?” comes Misha’s voice carrying Shizune’s words.

“I don’t like the way he was looking at me,” I spit out, hurrying along. Misha and Shizune rush to catch up.

...

I am not very hungry, and apparently neither is Shizune. Misha however is eating some monstrosity of a dish that I cannot even begin to describe.
Fruit suspended in gelatin with gobs of other things slathered on top. I vaguely remember seeing a similar dish while vacationing up in Hokkaido last summer.

I put the textbook down, and start trying to figure out where to begin. Shizune pulls herself over next to me and starts pointing to areas.

I start taking down notes, trying to absorb the information as presented. Despite her frank attitude in the classroom, she is showing considerable patience with me. Maybe I misjudged her.

Misha seems almost oblivious as I work in silence, busying herself with the plate before her. That bubblegum attitude of hers seems to be about as genuine as possible. I doubt this girl could be deceptive if she tried, with that heart on her sleeve.

With about 10 minutes left in the lunch break, Misha finishes up her… whatever it was and starts talking again, breaking the silence which had been very relaxing up until that moment.

“So, what was Maeda doing, anyways?” I didn’t see Shizune sign anything, so I assume it is Misha herself asking.

“When I was at the front of the class, I caught him staring at me. I know the look when a boy has one thing on his mind, and it certainly was on Maeda’s.” I sit back and look away, crossing my arms in front of myself. “And he doesn’t seem the type to take no for an answer, to be frank.”

“Well, it didn’t go well with his last girlfriend I remember. And the one before that… well nevermind. He does have a bad track record is what I’m trying to say,” this time it is Shizune talking.

“Do you have someone,” Misha pipes up. Shizune flashes a scolding look at her.

I shake my head. “I broke up with my boyfriend… before I came here.”

“Oh! Why?”

“For his own good,” I mutter to myself. Speaking up, I turn to her again. “I would rather not talk about it, ok?”

“Okay Iwacchan. How goes the studying?”

I turn to Shizune. “Thank you for the help. It means a lot to me.”

“Just doing my duty as class representative.”

I smile a bit. “I know, but I also know how thankless the position is. I was the class rep for my first year, so I’ve been in those shoes. I want to make sure you know I appreciate it, truly.”

Shizune seems to smile at that.

I sigh and sit back a bit. “I still have a lot to absorb. I failed to realize how far I fell behind while in the hospital.”

When it hits me what I let slip I suddenly close up.

“The hospital? Iwacchan?” Yes, this was pure Misha.

Damnit, I can’t clam up now. Katayama was forthcoming about her heart. Just tell them.

“I have a heart condition. Since February, I have been pretty much confined to a hospital bed, until yesterday.”

“You have a what?” Misha seems unable to process what I just said, and isn’t even looking at Shizune trying to sign to her.

I fold my hands and sit up trying to make myself proper. “A heart condition. It has a long name, but it comes down to that under certain conditions, my heart stops working right. Too much stress, physical activity, being hit in the chest, that kind of thing.”

“W-will you be…”

I shake my head. “That is why I broke up with my boyfriend. He deserves someone who… do you mind if I head back to class early?”

“Oh, do you want us to…”

I wave a hand. “No, finish up. I could use a little time alone.”

“Okay Iwacchan. See you in class.”

“I will. See you in a bit.”

Escaping the cafeteria, I am keenly aware of the looks in my direction. I know the glances I am getting, and I desperately want them to stop. For that to happen it will take time. Yet despite the people staring at me, nobody has come up to me. Are they nervous around new people, or are they avoiding Shizune or Misha? Shizune I can’t see why, but Misha’s voice, yeah, I would avoid her if I could.

When I reach our classroom, I seem to be only the second person to return. In the back, the girl with the long, dark hair I saw this morning is sitting quietly, a book open in her hand. I can’t see what book it is due to her hair falling over the cover, but she certainly is absorbed in it.

“Good afternoon,” I say as I cross the room.

Clearly catching her by surprise, she sits straight up, hair flying everywhere. Her eyes lock on mine for a moment before her hair falls back into place, hiding them. I get the impression of a pair of dark pools, ones which looked very pretty.

With a soft voice she responds with “G, good aftern-noon.” It almost sounds like she is on the verge of panic.

Confused, I reply with “Sorry... It was not my intent to scare you.”

She mumbles something and slumps back into her seat. Great, Iwanako, terrifying your classmates. Looking at my reflection in the glass, I don’t think I look scary. Glancing back at the girl, I feel a great sympathy. Why is she so frightened of a simple hello?

The entrance of Shizune and Misha brings an end to the quiet room. The waves from their entrance makes the purple haired girl flinch, and drop her book onto the desk. To be fair, I flinched as well.

This girl intrigues me. I’d like to get to know her better.

For their part, Shizune and Misha seem content to leave what we talked about downstairs be. Looking out the window, the sky looks beautiful. I can hear the other students filing in behind me but I have no interest in them right now. I already scared one person, and have another one who is creeping me out. Not a particularly good start.

When I glance back, I notice the girl who sits in front of me enter. Her dark skin and facial features mark her as foreign, ethnically if not nationally. I have to do a double take when I realize that she is walking on prosthetic legs. Yet, despite lacking real knees or feet, she walks perfectly fine. Better even than many girls I knew before…

I’d all but forgotten that this was a school for the disabled, for those with medical conditions like me, and had just I spent the past several hours with a girl who couldn’t even hear. Once the initial shock was over, her disability just vanished for me, and she was another student.

She sets her things down and turns to talk to the long haired guy coming in behind her, who sits at the desk in front of Misha. They were working together earlier, I recall.

Looking back out the window, I can’t help but smile. A classroom, even with me lost like this, is still preferable to that hospital room.
Last edited by Downix on Sat Sep 22, 2018 12:58 am, edited 5 times in total.

Downix
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:39 pm

Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:26 am

Note in Red

I have been awake now for nearly 12 hours after a short nights sleep. The drive here was long, but it seems to be worth it. Even the teacher’s droning voice is not enough to break me of this feeling of freedom. I am no longer in that hospital bed. I may be broken, my hopes for a future gone, but I’m still here.

Still, the monotony of her voice is making me sleepy. Sitting here focusing on her is just taxing. Although it is English at least, and one thing I did manage to keep up while at the hospital were my English skills.

When the final bell tolls, I see Shizune and Misha collect their things as they get ready to leave. As they stand, they both wave to me as Misha tells me “Bye, Iwacchan~! See you tomorrow morning!”

“Misha,” I say, stopping her from leaving, “Are you going back to the dorms?”

“Um… no,” she says. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, I don’t actually know where they are.”

She seems puzzled for a moment before answering. “It’s super easy to find them. You go out the main door, and they will be to your right. You can’t miss them.”

“Thank you. I will see you tomorrow.”

“See you Iwacchan!”

They both rush out, acting as if I’d caused a critical delay in something or other. Perhaps I did. I don’t know what afterschool activities are here after all.

Nothing left in the room for me, I pick up my bag and head to the door, glancing back to the girl in the back of the classroom, who hasn’t moved yet. I wave to her as I go by. “Goodbye, see you tomorrow.”

Like earlier, she sits up, but a bit slower. Her eyes lock on me again, before relaxing slightly as she raises a hand to wave back. “B-bye.”

As promised, there are a pair of buildings off to the right which stand out. But as I walk, I close my eyes and look up, feeling the sun falling on me. I never knew this could feel so good. The scents of the air, the sounds, it all just felt, right.

From the outside, the dorm buildings are squat structures made out of red brick. Honestly, it looks like something I would expect in America, not in Japan. Considering, I look back to the main building, and find the same thing. These are not buildings I would expect here. But, I came here for a reason.

Heading inside, I find the hallways clean, but rather sterile. I don’t think they have put in much effort into making this feel like home. In the common room, there are a few people sitting about. I recognize one of them as the girl in the front of my class who I thought was sleeping this morning. She is asleep in one of the beanbag chairs in a corner.

Ok, my room number is 314… this is not too challenging. Quickly I figure out that the first number is not floor, as the room I see to my left on the first floor is 201, and on the right I see 302. A bit of guesswork, and I figure out which way I need to go. As I cross the common room, some of the girls in there glance my way, but do not make any motion to talk to me.

Down the 300 hallway, I see that it breaks off into several smaller hallways, making small clusters of four rooms each I see. I find the one marked 313-316 and head that way. On the wall are a few bulletin boards, each one with fliers of various school activities on them. Repeated a lot is a mention of some kind of festival. Nothing to do with me, so I move past them.

As I reach 314, I hear the door to my right open. As 313 swings on its hinges, a girl with shoulder length chestnut hair backs out of the room. She sets her cane down as she pulls the door closed behind her and turns down the hallway, coming face to face with me.

It takes her a moment to realize that she is staring. To be fair, it takes the same amount of time for me as well. Then it strikes me that I know this face.

“Enomoto?”

It takes a few heartbeats before recognition sets in for her as well. “Iwanaga?”

I nod. “My father mentioned you came here.”

She shifts herself a bit to better face me. “Well, ah, I’m on my way to art club, so I can’t talk, but, wow. After?”

“Oh sure. I’ll be in my room.” I gesture to 314.

She blinks as she looks at the door. “Oh? Small world. Anyways, good to see you. Let’s catch up in a bit. I’m already running late.”

“Sure, don’t let me keep you. We’ll have plenty of time to talk later.”

I watch Enomoto walk down the hallway a moment. She is leaning on a cane. I don’t remember her needing a cane when I last saw her. But, having connected with a familiar, even only just, face, suddenly I do not want to be alone.

“Enomoto? Could I come with you?”

She pauses and looks back. “You sure?”

“It is my first day, and I do not have anything to do yet. I should at least know where something is.”

Enomoto smiles. “Alright. Come on.”

I can handle it a little while longer.

“So what brings you here,” she asks as we exit the building.

Of course, the big question right off the bat. I should not feel so self conscious about it.

“They put me up with Katayama due to sharing related conditions,” I finally say.

Enomoto considers this a moment. “Your heart then, got it.”

“Yes, my heart. They discovered it in February. Been in a hospital bed since then. The sunshine right now feels very good.”

“Rough. So, they packed you up and shipped you here?”

I nod. “It certainly feels like it.”

“Sounds familiar,” she says gravely. The hallways are a lot emptier than they were. Climbing the stairs up, I notice we wind up facing my classroom.

“Huh,” I say.

“What is it?”

“My classroom.”

She looks at me, then at the door to 3-3. “You’re in Shizune’s class? You poor thing.”

I raise an eyebrow at that as we continue down the hallway. “You don’t like her?”

“It’s a school like any other. There are some people you get along with…” She opens a door, revealing a large room with various art supplies scattered about. Her eyes lock on something. Following her gaze, I see that she is scowling at Maeda. “And some you don’t.”

“Oh, him again,” I groan.

“He tried hitting on you already?”

“Yes,” I growl. “Why do you ask?”

“He’s my ex-boyfriend.”

“You poor thing,” I echo her statement from earlier. She looks at me, and we both start to laugh.

Maeda looks up, and seeing me starts to smile. When his gaze shifts to the girl I was walking with, that smile wipes away instantly. “Oh, you two know each other.”

Enomoto sits down, and flashes him a vicious smile. “We go way back.”

He turns away and groans. “Figures. First new face and she’s friends with you.” Apparently I was no longer on his radar which was fine with me.
I lean in and whisper to her, “I owe you one Enomoto.”

She looks back and flashes me a smile. “Don’t you forget it. And call me Saki.”

“Iwanako.”

I look around the people gathered in here. Aside from Maeda and Saki, there was a grey haired girl sitting in the front, a boy wearing dark sunglasses over to the side, a boy next to Maeda, and next to Saki I see the white hair of Rika, the rest of her face being buried in a sketchbook. Movement in the corner of my eye draws my attention to the window, where a red haired girl was sitting, staring outside.

Looking around, there’s only a few chairs. Taking the stool across the table from Saki, I find myself with the red haired girl to my immediate left.
Why am I in the art club room? Because I don’t want to be alone? It’s not like I’m joining anything, just being somewhere.

“Hi Rika,” I call out to my now-dormmate. The frantic sketching stops, and her head slowly lifts and looks around. Her gaze falls on me and stares for a few moments before her face brightens up in recognition.

“Oh! Iwanako! What are you doing here?”

I gesture to Saki.

“You two know each other?” She seems puzzled by this information.

“Our fathers are business partners,” I volunteer.

“Oh, well, ok then. Joining the art club?”

“I am not certain, but who knows. It’s just my first day.”

“Well, glad you’re here anyways. Maybe we can have dinner afterwards?”

I nod. “That would be nice.”

A rather large man enters the room. His hair was faded to a silvery gray, a clear dye job. I’ve done enough of them over the years to recognize the look. He peers over small round glasses which are hanging on the bridge of his nose.

“Good afternoon everyone,” He calls out. “I hope everyone has been making progress on their festival projects. We only have six days left after all.”
At this point he pauses, and starts counting on his fingers while looking over everyone. He repeats himself twice before scratching his head, then shrugging. “Must be going soft,” he mutters to himself.

“Anyways, today I just want everyone to focus on their festival work. We don’t have much time, and it is important for the spirit of the school.”

Everyone mumbles a response, and pulls something out from under their tables. I see Saki is pulling out some needlework and pieces of cloth, and Rika is back in her sketchbook. Only the girl next to me is unmoving. Her gaze remains out the window, the activities of her clubmates seemingly unimportant to her.

I take a look over to get a better view. Curiously, the girl is wearing a boy's uniform. She’s thin, her body almost angular in a way which reminds me a little of that British supermodel from the sixties. In the sun, her hair’s color is this rich auburn shade that seems to catch the afternoon sunlight in just the right way. Her hair is an utter mess, mind you, but at the same time it seems to fit her perfectly.

I would classify her an unconventional beauty, with the features that normally would detract working for her, in some crazy and unorthodox way. Like a piece of driftwood which has been lovingly turned into a piece of art, made all the more beautiful by the odd shapes and colors within the material. Her emerald eyes glisten as she stares off into some distant spot.

It is not until after assessing her looks that I realize that she seems to lack hands. What there is of her arms ends within tied off long sleeves. She has a beauty in all of this chaos, a bit infuriating considering how much work I put into my appearance.

“Hello,” comes the rather sedate voice of the girl. She hasn’t turned her gaze away from the window at all.

“Um, hello to you to.” I am not entirely certain what to say to her.

She turns her head to look at me, and I find myself facing eyes that were not looking at me, but past and through me. It is very unsettling.

“Who are you?” She tilts her head slightly to look at me.

“Nanako Iwanaga. I just transferred in today.”

“I'm Rin. Tezuka Rin. Rin Tezuka. I won't shake hands with you, but at least we know who we are now. That's very nice.”

This manner of talking is almost comedic. I manage to fight a smile. Be proper, Iwanako. She is being polite after all.

She leans back against the window and considers me a bit. “So, Iwanaga, what brings you to this place?”

“I only know a few people here, so I followed Saki.”

She frowns slightly. “No, the school. From the outside you look fine. Is your problem inside?”

This again. It is yet another greeting through my condition, right. “My heart. I have a condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.”

She frowns slightly. “Oh, I already collected a girl with a heart condition.” She points to Rika with one of her feet.

“Collected?”

“Yes. People with different problems. But you have the same problem, and that’s no good.”

I consider this a moment. “So, you just ask people what their problem is?”

“Pretty much.”

What an odd person. “Well, I am sorry to disappoint?”

“I forgive you.” She looks absolutely serious.

At this point I notice the presence of the teacher standing there.

“Rin, will you be ready for Sunday?”

“Maybe, I should know better later this week.”

He nods. “Well, remember, I have people coming Sunday to see the mural, so I am expecting your best.”

“I can’t guarantee that, but I will do what I can.”

He smiles. “That’s my girl.”

He starts to turn, then goes the counting thing with his fingers again, before finally looking at me.

“Oh, hello there. I don’t think I know you.”

“Uh, hello. Nanako Iwanaga. I just transferred in today,” I say. The look in his eye is highly disturbing to say the least.

“Here because of an interest in the art club?”

“I know Enomoto. I am following her around to help learn the school.”

He nods. “Well, we are always looking for more members if you do decide to join us.”

I keep my polite smile up. “I will keep that in mind. Thank you teacher.”

He smiles and continues walking around the room.

Next to me, I can feel more than see Rin’s attention. It feels unsettling, but not in the creepy way Maeda’s was. This is more cold, analytical, like she’s trying to figure me out.

The club passes quickly enough. I wind up assisting both Saki and Rika a few times as they work. It seems Saki is working on outfits for another class and Rika is working on decorations for her class booth. Rin, on the other hand, seems busily doing nothing but watching. Very curious girl.

By the time club ends, I am feeling the exhaustion.

“You said you’d join us for dinner, right Iwanako?” Saki asks, standing up.

I vaguely remember that. “Y-yes, yes I did, right.”

“Then come on, we’ll head back to the dorms together.” Saki is taking a more casual pace than earlier, likely because she is no longer in a rush.
“Bye Tezuka,” I tell the girl still sitting in the window.

“You can call me Rin. I feel that our relationship is at this point good enough to warrant this much,” she says in reply.

I smile in response. “Sounds good. Then please call me Iwanako.”

Rin closes her eyes, as if considering what I just said. “Then I will. See you later Iwanako.”

I may be imagining it, but I think I can see a slight smile on her face. No matter how odd she may behave, I’m mildly amused by her.

Glancing around, I notice that Maeda has already fled the room. Good. Let him creep on someone else.

As we head back to the dorms together, Saki and Rika are talking about this festival, whatever it is. When we take the turn to head to the dorms, I notice how she shifts it with the turn.

I am just too tired to care about their conversation right now. For now, I just want to lie down. When we reach the hallway, we each split up and head to our respective doors. I insert my key into room 314 and open the door.

It takes a few moments before the sight before me makes sense. I expected a mostly empty dorm room. Instead, my mother has taken the time to decorate. The rug from my old room now sits on top of the gray carpet. A poster of some anime I had over my bed now sits along one wall. The mirror I have used since grade school now hangs on the wall. Even my old duvet covers the bed, making this all feel far more at home than I was expecting.

Tucked along the wall, I can see my old tea table on its end. Glancing around, I can see the telltale shape of my tea set in its carrier. She even brought my flower vases, all set in a row. And in the middle, my lavender, still fresh, their gentle scent filling the room.

“I still can’t believe you cared for them,” I muse to myself. Mother always said that my skill with plants came from anywhere but her.
On the night table, a note sits, folded, leaning against a picture frame holding a snapshot of my mother, father, and myself.

“For my perfect daughter” is written on the outside. My mother’s handwriting is immediately obvious.

I unfold it to read the message inside.
To my dearest Nanako;
I hope your first day has gone well. I know that all of this has been incredibly unfair to you, but you have been making your father and I proud with how well you are handling it.
I thought you needed some reminders of home. I hope that they will make you happy here.
You will find some topsoil, flowerpots and seeds by the window. I know how much flowers make you happy, and hope they will continue to do so.
We love you so much, and want to see you grow into the strong woman I’ve always known you would be.
PS: Take your medicine!
It is hard to finish reading the note as tears start to well up on me. My parents always focused their energy on their careers, and for the past few months I had barely seen them at all. Certainly they called, but it is not the same as being there. But now, this focus on me, it makes me feel warm from the love shown.

Behind the picture, I notice that my medication is already arranged. Looking at the time, it is about when I should take the evening batch. Before I can however comes a knock at the side door, to the bathroom I take it.

“Come in,” I tell it.

The white hair of Rika peeks around the corner. “We’re almost ready with dinner if you still want to join us. I made extra just in case.”

“Sure, give me a moment to change out of my uniform, alright?”

Rika nods and pulls her head back inside.

The school day is over, so I should wear something else, as my grandmother used to tell me. Inside my closet, several outfits hang next to the six uniforms I will be wearing for the rest of the school year. I pick my nightgown, designed to flatter my figure, and a pair of shorts to go under it.

I quickly take my medication before looking in my old bureau mirror to check myself over. Makeup still fine, my hair only needs a minor adjustment. My gown thankfully covers up the pair of scars on my chest. Polite smile firmly in place, “Time to be sociable,” I tell myself.

Inside the room, I see that a low table, the same kind I used to use for serving tea, has been set up with three bowls of udon soup on it. I inhale the smell and feel my smile become a bit more genuine.

“Dig in,” Rika invites. Saki is already seated and eating her soup. I carefully move to sit beside her and take my first sip.

After months of hospital food, this tastes like an imperial feast.

A few bites in, Rika starts to chuckle. I pause, and look over at her.

“Oh, nothing, nothing. I do the same thing every time I get out of the hospital. Even simple food tastes amazing,” she smiles behind her hand.
Then it weighs on me a bit, she would be the one who knows.

“That obvious?”

She nods. “Don’t worry. You’re not the only one here. I think most of us have spent far too much time on one of those beds.”

Saki nods in agreement.

Their candidness and frank manner about our disabilities almost feels welcome. I’m not that much different than anyone else here in the end.

Sitting around the table, sharing girl talk, it all feels strange, like recalling the details of a poem you wrote years ago. You know how it goes, but reciting it is awkward. And when done, you feel more in touch with it than you did when you wrote it.

I don’t talk much, as I am not up on the local gossip, but listening in, yes, I think I will like it here.

When dinner is over, I return to my room. Laying on my bed, I still feel like I haven’t accomplished something today. It’s all been about catching up, not moving forward. Glancing over to the windowsill, and the pots my mother has arranged on it, I know what I need to do.

One by one, I fill each pot with the soil she brought, carefully planting the seed within. I love my mother, but she does not know how to set up flowers properly, and they would never grow the right way if left where they were. A few adjustments, adding some water, and there, just right.

“There you are, you’ll be standing tall before you know it,” I tell the seeds. Looking out my window, the sun is on the horizon. It has been a full day.
Looking back at my closet, my uniforms hang on one side. They may be unfamiliar, but they are mine now.

As I sit down to work on catching up in class I think to myself “Iwanako, you can do this.”

Downix
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:39 pm

Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:30 am

The Unlikely Pair

The pounding wakes me from my slumber with a start. Glancing over to my clock, 7:15, 15 minutes before my alarm was to go off. Who the hell is making such a racket this early in the morning?

I pull myself out of bed, and stomp my way to the door, still not fully awake. Opening it, I find the dark skinned girl from my class who was missing a hand pounding on the door kitty corner from mine.

“Suzu! I know you’re in there!” She hollers. “Don’t make me break this door down.”

“Some people are trying to sleep here,” I blurt out.

Her face, which previously was annoyed, suddenly draws into a pensive state, her lips pulled tight together as she looks back at me. After a moment, she then breaks out into a huge smile.

“Hey, it’s the new girl! Sorry about that, but if I don’t make enough noise, she doesn’t wake up, and I’m hungry!” She returns to pounding on the door. “Suzu! Get up!”

The door opens up and the girl I thought was sleeping in class yesterday, Suzu I suppose, glares out at the girl standing in the hallway. “I’m awake, just… hold on while I get ready.”

“Okay! Hurry up before the good stuff’s all gone.”

Suzu just rolls her eyes before closing the door.

Turning around to lean up against the door, the girl looks me over before breaking out into a smile again. “You want to join us? Since you’re up and all.”

Up thanks to you making a racket I consider to myself a moment. But, I should get to know my classmates, it is only the proper thing to do.

“Sure, sure. Give me a bit to get ready.”

I can hear Suzu’s shower start up, which means that I have enough time to take one as well. That should help me wake up.

Pulling down a towel from the top shelf of my closet, I wander into the bathroom and look around. A rather normal setup, one sink, a shower, and a toilet. In the shower, the water is hot, but I don’t have the time to soak it in this morning like I wanted. A quick shampoo, lavender-scented I note in the back of my head, and I’m done.

With a glass of water, I take the first of my morning medications. The others, the ones which I have to take after I eat, go in the pill carrier my mother left for me. Thank you mom. As I collect my uniform, I notice that there is a piece of cloth on the floor by my closet. Looking around, I realize it must have fallen when I took my towel.

Bending over to inspect the unusual piece of fabric, I realize that it is a new bathing suit. I’ve never seen this suit before. Mother must have picked it up for me. A sleek one-piece, high-necked, with a deep plunge in the back, mostly black, but with a pink stripe above the bust, it is ideal for covering up my scars without making me look like I was wearing a burkini.

Thank you mother.

Like a glove, my new uniform slides on without trouble. Looking in my mirror, I take out and apply my makeup. Nothing fancy or complex, just foundation, mascara and lip gloss. Then on goes the jewelry. Slipping on my school shoes, I look like the perfect student my mother always wants me to be. I consider a braid for my hair, but decide against it considering that there was someone waiting for me in the hall. One final examination in the mirror, yes, just right. Time to smile. Always smile.

Stepping into the hallway, the dark skinned girl is now sitting in front of Suzu’s door, busying herself looking at the ceiling. I guess Suzu isn’t ready yet. Closing my door, I stand there waiting.

“So, what’s your story?” she asks.

“What do you mean?” I ask back. Great, another person I have to give my medical history too.

Interrupting the conversation, the door behind her starts to open, and the girl stands up. “Hey Suzu, mind if the new girl joins us?”

Suzu looks me over under half-closed eyes, then shrugs. “I guess.”

I fall in behind them as Suzu leads the way down the corridor.

...

I settle for a rice ball with seasoned nori. The darker skinned girl, I overhear that Miki is her name, seems busy discussing some topic or other with the sleepy eyed Suzu next to her. I just zone out, leaving them to their decidedly one-sided conversation. I cannot help but notice the glances in my direction, likely curious who I am, but at least I know I am looking my best. What surprises me about the stares however is that most of them should know better than to gape at people.

During a lull in the conversation, I finally inject something which is bothering me.

“Do Saki and Rika get annoyed at the pounding at your door that early, Suzu?”

She looks over, while Miki laughs.

“Oh, they’re already out by then, that’s why I can pound away. Well, I could before today anyways.”

“Out?”

Suzu finishes chewing before responding. “They head to the pool every morning.”

I consider that a moment. “Ah, that makes sense. I was wondering why neither of them responded.”

“So, how are you liking it here so far, Iwanako?” Miki asks, still eating. Ugh! I hide the revulsion at seeing half-chewed nori strips as she talks.

“It’s a lot to take in, but so far everyone seems nice,” I reply, trying to put on my best lady-like manners.

“Yeah, well, just don’t take it all on face value, you know?” Can she please finish eating before saying something?

About then it becomes apparent that Suzu’s stopped eating. Looking over, she’s actually leaning up against Miki, apparently asleep. Miki follows my gaze, then looks back smiling. “Don’t worry about her.”

“Is she always this tired?”

Miki breaks out laughing, which shocks Suzu back awake. Blinking her eyes, she looks around, then up at Miki, still laughing. Suzu just shakes her head.

“Sorry, I dozed off,” she says, half fighting off a yawn.

“Didn’t sleep well?” I ask her.

She chuckles dryly. “You can say that, yeah.”

“I should probably head to class. I still am playing catch up with schoolwork and could use some time studying,” I tell the pair.

Miki puts on a sour face. “Booooorr-iiiiing.”

Suzu snickers a bit at her friend. “We’ll see you in class.”

I wave goodbye to the pair, and ignore the gazes which follow me out of the cafeteria. As I exit, I quickly take the last of my morning pills, and down it with the last of my water.

Surprisingly, Shizune and Misha beat me to class. Yesterday they barely made it before the bell, but today they’re already here twenty minutes early. Guess my initial impression of them was wrong. They’re in the middle of a conversation, but Misha turns to me happily as I sit down.

“Good morning, Iwacchan~!”

“Good morning Shizune, Misha,” I say, giving her a tired smile. She’s as loud as ever, but it’s kind of nice to be greeted with such enthusiasm. She goes back to focusing on Shizune, though, who nods and smiles at me in passing.

I open my book and begin studying for the morning.

A few minutes before the bell I see Miki enter, with Suzu being partially carried in. I wave to them as they take their seats.
Shizune looks at the exchange, and signs something to Misha.

“You know Muira and Suzuki?”

“Suzu is across the hallway from my room. We met this morning,” I tell them.

Shizune starts a reply, but stops as Mutou enters the room.

This morning’s assignment, another group activity. Fun.

I look at the two aside from me. Misha’s has her back to me and Shizune seems to be occupied with whatever Misha is talking about.

Before I say anything, Mutou gestures to me. “Iwanaga, would you come over here for a moment?”

I head up to the desk, curious what he wants.

When I get there, he starts to talk. “How was yesterday’s assignment?”

I consider a moment. “What do you mean, teacher?”

“How difficult was it for you?”

I consider what to say. Maintain the smile, how I stand says as much as the words I use. “I am out of practice, I think. This was never my strongest subject to begin with…”

Mutou then nods, as if I was confirming what he was thinking.

“You may have missed a lot of important material,” he sighs. “If you don’t mind, I’d like you to stay after class this afternoon, so I can take the time and gauge where you’re at. That way we can better assess where you need to focus.”

Keep up appearances. Look grateful. “Yes, teacher. That would be most helpful, thank you.” I say, mentally chastising myself.

“Now, go and partner up for today’s assignment?” He sounds like he’s trying to be helpful.

Turning around, it is immediately obvious that everyone else has already partnered up during my time at the teacher’s desk. Looking a bit more desperately for some way out of this situation, I peer over the whole classroom, but every student seems to form what I guess are their usual groups.
As I stand there, I notice the dark haired girl in the back row entering the room, 10 minutes late. She ignores everyone as she heads straight to her desk. The rest of the class seem to ignore her as well.

An idea strikes me.

Based on the brief interaction with her yesterday, the girl is obviously anxious around people. And, as I suspected, she is not even trying to form a group despite being late in arriving, and nobody is making any effort to invite her, or even acknowledge that she is there. If this is normal for her, that means she has to have enough of a grasp of the schoolwork on her own. I hope that means she knows enough to help me get through this assignment. And by walking over there to partner up, it should appear that I was only concerned over her isolation, rather than create any social waves.

I like this plan. Not that I dislike working with Shizune and Misha, but I can tell that my continuing difficulties in class will only annoy Shizune as time goes on. Best if I work out a solution for myself.

Not saying anything, I quickly pick up my chair and head in her direction. Several eyes all glance up at me as I move about the room, doubtlessly curious where I am going. I am, after all, still the outsider here.

Put on the most disarming smile you can Iwanako, this is easy. I don’t know why everyone is avoiding her, but it serves as an opportunity for me. You’re happy, chipper, unthreatening. Show it.

Damnit, my hand wants to play with my hair. Not now.

I put the most disarming tone into my voice as I speak to her. “Hello?”

Like yesterday, she bolts up in her chair. Clearly I surprised her. She locks eyes with me and…

When she lifts her face, I am momentarily distracted by the discolored pattern of scar tissue peeking out from under her bangs.

No! It doesn’t matter. Keep eye contact. Do not let your attention wander. Never pause, keep going. You can do it!

I manage to keep the smile up. “H-hi! I’m Iwanako. I saw you were late to class, and haven’t joined a group yet and was wondering if I could be your partner?”

At that moment, it strikes me that the entire room has gone silent. Why is this so interesting to people. Disgusting. We’re just two students, the last ones not in a group, that’s all. Happens every day in classrooms across Japan.

She looks around, clearly aware of how the room is reacting. She obviously is uncomfortable with the attention everyone is giving us. I am so sorry, I never wanted to draw so much attention, to either of us. Why is everyone staring at us all bug-eyed?

This was a bad idea. I should have just worked with Misha and Shizune again. Or maybe gone to work with Miki and Suzu, or the dark skinned girl and that long haired guy she’s currently with…

Her eyes return to mine before she responds. “O-okay.”

I am momentarily surprised before a wave of relief washes over me. It worked.

The smile on my face becomes a bit more genuine as I set my chair down. “Thank you very much.”

“Y-you’re welcome… Iwanako.”

The girl returns to her more camouflaged position as I sit down. The rest of the class returns to their studies, apparently their curiosity sated. Looking up, I see Mutou glancing in our general direction with what appears to be a pleased look on his face. Peering back at Shizune, I find her sitting there stunned, but she turns away just as our eyes meet.

Looking at me out of the corner of her eye, it is clear that she intentionally has her head turned to hide the scarring on the right side of her face. Obviously this is something she is very self conscious about. But then again, so am I about the red marks running across my own chest.

“It looks like today is mostly reading with four questions at the end. Do you want to focus on that, and then work on the questions together?”

She nods and quickly picks up her copy of the assignment. As with the book yesterday, she reads it upright, which means it also helps shield her face from the gaze of others.

Putting things out of my mind, I pick up the assignment myself. This is easier than yesterday, I guess that time with Shizune at lunch was more help than I thought. My finger twirls my hair, freed from the prison I kept it in.

Whenever I look up however, the burn scars on this girl’s hand are plainly obvious. Yet, even with the scarring, I can’t help but find her beautiful. That perfect hair, those large eyes, without even a trace of cosmetics, she radiates her beauty. I am almost a bit envious, remembering the preparation I have to undergo every morning.

She looks up, and catches my eyes staring at her. For a moment however, the fear rises, but it fades, replaced by confusion.

She speaks up first. “D-did you finish the reading?”

I let my mask down while lost in my thoughts. Relaxing, I compose myself again. “Oh, yes,” I reply softly. “Could I try answering the first question, and you tell me where I make a mistake?”

She looks hesitant, but slowly nods. I think that the help Shizune gave me yesterday and the studying last night might have been better than I thought. The question isn’t a pile of gibberish terms and nonsense formula anymore. I try and reason out the answer, correcting it a few times before I am satisfied with the answer. I turn my paper around to show her.

“How did I do?”

Slowly, she reaches out to take the paper. With concentrated eyes, she reads it over carefully, silently talking to herself as she reviews. I almost hope that I managed to get things right when she takes out her pencil and puts down a few corrections.

She looks apologetic as she answers “You were close.”

I was so hoping too. But, months without practice will do that to someone.

“H-here… Watch me.”

She turns her paper sideways so I can see what she’s doing from where I am sitting. She easily handles the second question, working slowly enough for me to follow her logic as she writes it. This girl has a lot of patience, something I am thankful for. Finishing the question, she rotates the paper to face me fully, allowing me to review her technique. Somehow she has made the process easy to follow, and I manage to sort it out in short order. I understand how she did it, and there is no way I could have figured this out on my own.

“It’s obvious you’re smarter than me in this subject. I could never have managed this myself,” I say appreciatively. “Thank you.”

A slight smile crosses her face, as beautiful as I knew it would be. Nodding gently she adds, “Hanako… my name… is Hanako…”

“Very well, thank you Hanako,” I answer, a little surprised. The mask of a smile becomes genuine. This girl is starting to grow on me. “Hanako… Could we pair up again if there’s another group assignment?”

She pauses, as if not certain how to respond to me. But, when done, she slowly nods again. Inside, I am dancing a jig of triumph.

“Wonderful.”

The rest of the questions go far more smoothly than my work yesterday. Only a few times more did Hanako find any mistakes, something of a relief to me. Mutou moves to collect the completed assignments, and students begin to file out of the classroom for the lunch break. Hanako seems to be staying put however. Standing up, I turn to her. “Are you eating lunch in here?”

“N, no. I’m… waiting for somebody.”

“Oh, well, I will see you after lunch, then.”

“Bye… Iwanako.”

Moving my chair back, I notice that Misha and Shizune have already left. However, Miki is standing there, like she is waiting for me.

“Look at you, making friends left and right,” Miki says, grinning. “Can’t say I expected that.”

“Why is it such a big deal?” I ask.

“You don’t know her,” Miki says, watching Suzu as she finally stands up. “Any plans for lunch?”

“No, I was just trying to figure out what to do myself,” I tell her.

“Great, come on.” Miki leads Suzu and me to the door, and the boy who sits closest to the door gets up to follow us out.

As we exit the classroom I turn my head, waving to Hanako. Looking up, she gingerly waves a hand back.

I hope she will be more relaxed around me. She seems like a very nice girl.

...

“Iwanako, you still with us?”

Ripped out from my book, I find myself with Miki and Suzu across the lunch table, a strange repeat from this morning. The two boys from our class are sitting with us. The boy with the headband near the front door and the long haired boy who sits next to Suzu.

I tell them, “Sorry, I am trying to catch up.”

Miki sticks her tongue out (dear gods woman, swallow what’s in your mouth first). “Are you trying to turn yourself into a walking computer?”

“Very funny,” I say. “What did you ask?”

Suzu pipes up this time. “What are you doing for the Festival?”

It takes a moment to put a few things together. “I heard something about a festival yesterday. What is it?”

“It’s on Sunday. You really don’t know about it?”

“Afraid not.”

“Well,” Suzu says, “the school sets up a variety of booths. Food, games, the performing arts are doing things on the stage, and supposedly they’re even making a mural for the wall in front of the dorms.”

I consider a moment. “Well, what are you guys doing for the festival?”

She shrugs. “I am helping to set up our classes booth.”

I nod. “I hate being the odd man out here. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Sorry, I’m afraid not,” Miki admits. “We delegated tasks a long time ago. All the shifts are taken, I think.”

She turns to our classmates, who have been mostly sidetracked with their own discussion. “Do you guys know what’s left to do for the festival?”

A round of head shakes tells me the answer. “You could ask Shizune,” the boy with the headband, Haru I believe she called him earlier, suggests.

“That is a very good idea. I will check with her… later. I am still sort of overwhelmed with things.”

As I finish my food, I excuse myself to return to the classroom, in order to get a little more studying in. I refuse to let myself stay behind in class.

Downix
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:39 pm

Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:33 am

A Lady in Rags

Returning to the classroom, it seems I am the first one to arrive. Only the next teacher is there, preparing for the upcoming history class. I move to my seat and get myself ready. I glance over as people walk in, and when Hanako enters through the rear door, she pauses before sitting down, and tentatively waves a hand in my direction. I return the gesture, smiling at her.

She is such a sweet girl.

By this point, it is clear that unlike my morning classes, my afternoon classes I am not struggling to keep up with. History I always found an easy subject to learn, and with 18 hours of my day for the past two months dedicated to watching movies, most of which were in English, I somehow actually improved my proficiency. This seems to please the last teacher of the day, Miyagi.

After class however, then is the time I am supposed to spend with Mutou, trying to establish how much I have retained. He and Miyagi have a brief conversation, clearly about me with both of them looking in my direction a few times. Whatever Miyagi says seems to please Mutou, so when Miyagi leaves and Mutou calls me up to his desk, the look of concern from this morning seems far less severe.

I place my chair beside Mutou’s desk, and he hands me an assignment, apparently an old one from a few weeks ago.

“All right,” he says, gesturing to the top of the paper. “Can you show me how you would answer this?”

After an hour, Mutou seems satisfied that with extra work I can catch up in science class. While I missed a lot of material, I have not fallen so far behind I would need to start things over. It is going to take extra studying on my part however, maybe even a tutor – something I dread.

Sending me on my way, I find myself flanked as I step into the hallway by Shizune and Misha.

“Iwacchan! There you are!” Misha’s voice echoes through the now empty corridors.

Polite, refined, smile Iwanako, smile.

“Hello Shizune, Misha. What can I do for you?”

“You know, it’s funny you should say that, because…” Misha starts, but can’t finish her sentence as she is interrupted.

“There you are Iwanako. Been looking everywhere for you,” comes a voice from down the corridor.

Misha spins around, “Enomoto?”

“Hi Saki,” I tell to the girl walking down the corridor, her cane enabled gait not looking entirely natural.

Shizune signs something to Misha, who translates for her. “You two know each other?”

“We go way back. Come on, need your help with something.”

Misha puts her hands on her hips. “Now wait a minute…”

Saki puts on a flat face and looks over at Shizune, not blinking as she tries to stare my class rep down. “Its for the festival, so unless you want to deal with a booth not being ready on time…”

Shizune looks annoyed, but nods.

“Okay. See you tomorrow Iwacchan!” Misha and Shizune both walk down the hallway, Shizune’s feet sounding a bit firmer than they should.

“That’s two you owe me for now,” Saki says, giving me a wink.

“What was that all about?”

“Seen it before, they would have tried to rope you into doing festival work,” Saki muses. “Seen it dozens of times. They always target the new blood.”

“What’s so wrong about that?” I ask.

“Because it’s not fair to force someone who is just getting their feet wet here to do their dirtywork. Anyways, I wasn’t kidding that I need your help. You’re just right for this job.”

I nod. “Ok, what do you need?”

...

“When I said I would help this is not what was imagined,” I tell her while trying hard not to breathe too deeply.

She chuckles while skillfully running the needle through. “You volunteered, remember?”

“Well, I did not think helping with clothes would mean being the mannequin.”

Standing there in a half finished yukata was certainly not on my list of things I would be doing today.

“Why are you making these anyways?” I ask.

“Rika’s class is doing some kind of tea house theme for their food both,” Saki explains. “Problem is, several of the girls only brought winter kimonos, and it’s going to be stifling on Sunday. That means I need to make a few emergency outfits or else they’ll pass out before noon.”

“So, why me?”

Saki chuckles. “Because you’re the right height.”

“Oh, well, that makes sense,” I concede. “I just hope nobody sees me like this.”

Saki winks. “Oh come on, a cutie like you?”

“I have some pride, you know.” I pout. “Plus with my luck it would be Maeda.”

“Yeah, you have a point.”

“What did you ever see in him?”

Saki shrugs a shoulder, focused on her work still. “I felt sorry for him. I didn’t know he’d turn into such a jerk.”

I nod. “You’re better than him anyways. Plus, never date a boy who wears more hats than you do.”

A snort erupts from Saki. “Don’t make me laugh, I’m trying hard not to stick you.”

I consider a bit more. “Why are you doing this, if it is for Rika’s class?”

“Because I can sew,” she replies.

“Because you… what?”

Saki nods. “Not everyone can sew you know. Nobody in Rika’s class is good with needlework, so Rika and I switched jobs. I stitch these up, and she works on things for my own booth.”

“Which is why I’m here,” a voice says behind me. Looking back, I see a smile crossing Rika’s face. “How’s it going Saki?”

“Coming along, thanks to Iwanako here. Having a mannequin makes this a lot easier.” Saki is focused in concentration. “What’s up?”

“Just thought to check on how things are going, see if there’s anything more I can do to help since I finished the signs.”

“Well, you’re too short to be useful for this,” Saki gestures to me. “Maybe you could work on the nets some?”

“Sure, sounds good,” Rika says, and sits down at a nearby table, taking out some wire and paper.

A few more minutes pass while I sit deep in thought, trying very hard not to move as Saki restitches several seams.

“Saki?”

“Yes?” she responds, in the middle of working on a stitch.

“What are you doing for festival, if it’s not for this booth?”

Saki glances up and smiles. “Well, the performing arts have three in total, two booths plus we’ll be performing on the stage outside. I’m supposed to take the opening to 2pm shift at the goldfish booth.”

I nod. “That sounds like fun.”

Saki gives a dry chuckle. “That depends on who shows up to fish now, doesn’t it?”

A few more minutes pass before I speak up again.

“Hey guys?” I ask.

Saki makes a nonverbal response, deep in focus on her work. Rika looks up. “What’s up?”

“Miki mentioned this morning that you two go to the pool in the morning.”

“Yeah, why?” Saki responds, taking the needle out of her mouth to work with it.

“The nurse suggested I try the pool for exercise, and…”

Saki is right to the point in her response, not taking her eyes from the needle and thread she is working with. “Sure, feel free to join us. We get going at 7:00, just as the pool opens however. You sure you want to get up that early?”

“Miki wakes Suzu up fifteen minutes later, I would fail to get much more sleep anyways.”

Saki eyes me, then breaks into a smile. “Glad to have you join us. Here, hold this.” She hands me a spool of thread.

Rika hasn’t said a thing this whole time, and seems engrossed in working on the nets.

“Everything ok, Rika?”

She considers a moment, then nods. “Yes, just thinking how to show you.”

“Show me what?”

Saki laughs. “Oh, she is going to be surprised, isn’t she?”

Rika considers. “I don’t know. She might have one too.”

Saki muses. “Maybe, you’re right.”

“Have what? What are you guys talking about?” I’m a bit annoyed at the exchange.

“Chest scar,” Rika answers. “I can’t hide it in my swimsuit. A lot of people stare at first, so I try and show it to them before they’re in the pool. Otherwise, they might drown.”

I chuckle a bit. “Drown? Happen often?”

“Not yet, but why take the chance?” She hasn’t looked up from her work on the aprons this whole time I realize.

“Well relax, I have two,” I tell them.

Saki raises an eyebrow. “Guess that answers that.”

We all chuckle a bit. I’m laughing about my condition? How did that happen?

It happened because I’m facing a reality with a lot of other kids in the same boat I am. I’m not alone.

...

Back in my dorm room, dinner now in the past, relaxing in my nightgown, I reflect on today. It’s only my second day here, but I feel more alive than I have in months. Doing the daily care for my still germinating flowers, I can’t help but smile as I consider how pretty they will be when in bloom.

Then I glance over to the note my mother left. I should call her and let her know how I am doing.

Putting down my watering can, I take out my cell phone and hit the speeddial.

“Nanako, how is everything going?” my mother’s voice carries through the airwaves.

“Mom, I am enjoying myself, thank you again for this.”

“Are you settling in alright?” she asks, clearly curious.

“I think so. I’ve met several people. Interestingly they put me across the hall from Enomoto, so I had someone to talk to right away.”

“That is very good to hear. Now, I did promise to come up this weekend, but I can’t make it up until Sunday, is that alright?”

I consider a moment. “Absolutely fine. Mom? If you are coming on Sunday, they are having some kind of festival on that day, if you would like to…”

“Oh, that sounds lovely. I’ll see if anyone else wants to come as well.” She sounds genuinely happy at the prospect. “Otherwise, how is everything else going?”

“It seems my time out of school has hurt my studies for science. I have a lot of catching up to do. My English and history I seem to be all set on however,” I tell her, the truth straight and simple.

“Well, if you need any help with science, I can see about finding you a tutor for the weekends.”

“That would be appreciated, thank you,” I say, not really telling the truth, but knowing her she will forget about the tutor by next week anyways. Besides, I know it would make her happy to feel that she is doing something to help. “So, I’ll see you Sunday?”

“Yes dear. Now, it’s getting late, so you need your rest young lady. I will see you bright and early Sunday.”

“I love you mom.”

“I love you too dear.”

Hanging up, I look at the purple and red tones of the horizon, the sun already having dipped below sight. For a moment, I let my mind wander, to that wood, and the boy there. A future I wanted, now gone. I hope he is able to look at that sunset, and admire it with someone whom he deserves. But for a moment, I let my heart wish it were different.

Wherever you are Hisao, I hope you are happy.

Downix
Posts: 126
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Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:36 am

A Fish Out Of Water No More

I am wide awake, and it is only 6am. After half an hour of laying there, I give up on any hope for sleep, and start preparing for my first day at the pool.

I pack up the suit and a towel into the small carrier sitting to the side on my closet shelf. Then I look through the clothes hanging, and find what I am looking for. A gym uniform. I’ve been exempted from physical education, but even then I was issued the standard school gym uniform.

As I change, I glance at the mirror, and catch sight of my naked torso. Months later, and the jagged scars still stand out, red as ever, one down my sternum, the other over the top of my left breast. I sigh, a permanent reminder of what I lost.

They have changing rooms by the pool, certainly. They have to, for the sports teams if nothing else. I don’t want to imagine wearing a wet swimsuit across campus, especially in winter.

I don the gym uniform, pick up the clothes carrier, and head out.

It is a brisk morning. The sun is just creeping over the horizon. The air is filled with that subtle energy of dawn. A new day, new possibilities, new hope.

A few other students are milling about. There’s a lone figure already on the jogging track I can see in the distance. It feels right.

I notice something else, the stares I was getting the past few days are completely missing. It seems my novelty is wearing off. Anonymity is comfortable right at this moment.

The door to the administrative building is already unlocked, and the nurse said that the pool was further in. I hope I can sort out where it is. Why didn’t I wait for Rika and Saki?

Ah, the locker room. Easy enough it turns out. Inside, I look around, not really much privacy in here. Well, nobody’s around I suppose.

Of course when I am halfway through changing, with no shirt on, is when someone comes into the room. I jump and cover myself in surprise, as the white hair comes into view.

“Ah, Rika, you surprised me,” I belt out when I catch my breath.

“I heard you leaving, so thought to head out early too. I left Saki a note to meet us down here.”

Without even pausing, she starts to take off her gym shirt.

I feel silly. I shouldn’t be so nervous over this. I slowly put the towel down, as Rika turns around topless.

Thoughts of my chest scars vanished as the gash running from collarbone to navel enters my view. She notices my gaze, and winks at me. “Hey, when I die, the mortician will know exactly where to cut for my autopsy!”

She puts her hands on her hips while posing like some fashion model.

I look down to my own scars, together not even half of its length. Rika’s gone through more than I ever have dreamed possible, and is still smiling bright and shiny as ever.

Sliding on my swimsuit, I adjust to feel how it fits. It’s not too tight, and it clings to my hips without a problem. That has always been an issue in the past.

Standing up, I look into the locker room mirror, seeing how I look from various angles.

Rika pipes up. “New suit?”

“Yes. A surprise from my mother,” I tell her.

She sits up and considers a moment. “You look good.”

“Thank you,” I feel the smile hit my face, genuine and honest. “Could you tell that I was discharged from the hospital only four days ago?”

Rika shakes her head. “Nope.” She finishes adjusting her own swimsuit, a dark blue number. The top of her scar peeks out over the upper edge, no way to hide it outside of a burkini.

As she finishes, she joins me in front of the mirror, both of us now pulling our hair up into a ponytail before putting a swimcap over. I don’t want to deal with the mess of chlorine in my hair, and considering how brittle Rika’s hair looks now that I can see it up close, I don’t blame her either.

A tap tap sound coming from the entrance draws both of our attention as Saki walks into the locker room.

“Thanks for waiting, guys,” she complains, still with a smile on her face.

“My fault,” I tell her. “Medicine messing with my sleep schedule.”

Saki considers that a moment then nods. “Well, ok. But would it have hurt you two to wait?”

“I promise, next time,” I assure her.

Saki then looks at both of us. “And I missed the grand unveiling. A special double-show too.”

“It’s not that interesting,” I assure her.

She laughs and sits down on a bench. “I know, just kidding with you.”

She has her swimsuit under her sweats, so is quickly ready. It is of a similar cut to mine, but is solid black while I have some pink trim. Tucking her own hair under a swim cap, she walks up to the mirrors and does the same prim and check we did moments before.

Walking in, the sight of the pool itself takes me off guard. An incredibly bright room, the ceiling extends far overhead. Everything is white and grey, with the windows along one wall letting the hues of dawn fill the room. The room is clearly designed with as much attention to aesthetic as function, from the windows to the tile pattern. One wall even features bleachers. I ponder a moment if this school has a swim team.

Other than us, the room is nearly empty. Not surprising, considering the time of day. A single lifeguard, a woman in her late thirties, sits alone along the head of the pool, idly observing us from the corner of her eyes. Otherwise, the room is ours.

“So, why did you want to join us anyways Iwanako?” Saki asks as she sits down on the pool edge, putting her cane off to one side on the concrete, placing her towel on top of it.

“The nurse suggested it for exercise, so I can avoid needing to take physical therapy. Four months in a hospital bed does nothing for ones physique,” I say as I set my towel down next to Saki’s and sit on the pool edge as well. “The problem is, I do not actually know how to swim.”

Rika chuckles. “That’s ok. I didn’t know either until a month ago. Saki is a good teacher. Same reason as you, after my last hospital stint, the nurse suggested it after my try at running bombed out.”

Saki chuckles. “Well, you were partnered up with the track’s star athlete, so what did they expect?”

Rika shrugs.

“Anyways, it’s not hard to learn.” Saki slides off the edge and into the pool.

Rika now sets down her towel and sits on the edge next to me. “So, how are you enjoying being in the student council president’s class anyways?”

“The what?”

“Hakamichi, you’re in her class, right?”

It takes a moment to put 2 and 2 together. “Shizune is the student council president?”

Seeing Saki standing in the pool, it dawns on me that this is the first time I have ever actually seen her standing freely, something I never gave thought to before. “I’m surprised she hasn’t tried to recruit you to the student council yet.”

“It is a big responsibility, I would never think she would ask just anyone,” I tell them.

Rika laughs. “Nobody will join it with her, other than Mikado. She even got her own cousin so fed up that she quit last year. So, Hakamichi tries to recruit anyone and everyone for it.”

Saki gently sets herself further into the pool, so the water is now up to her shoulders. “Yeah, sad but true.”

“Wait, so the student council is… two people?” I slide into the pool as well.

Rika nods as she joins us in the water. “Yup, just Hakamichi and Mikado.”

I think a moment. “I do not recall anyone named Mikado.”

Saki starts floating on her back. “If you’ve met Shizune, you’ve met Shiina. She follows around Shizune like a puppy. Even dyed her hair pink last year for her.”

“Wait, do you mean Misha?”

Saki looks at me out of the corner of her eyes. “Mikado Shiina, Misha for short, that’s her.”

So Misha does the same nickname trick I do? I feel a bit of kinship with my pink haired classmate for a moment.

“I don’t get why she is so focused on Hakamichi,” Rika says, starting to float herself.

Gossip, oh how I missed thee. Every high schools life blood flows through the gossip line.

Rika floats next to me while asking “My parents discouraged me from any physical activity out of concern for my heart, which is why I didn’t know how to swim. Why don’t you?”

I stumble my words a bit. “Because… I… kindasteppedonajellyfishasakid.”

The two girls look at me, then break out laughing.

“It hurt!”

Saki breaks the laughter first. “Alright, swimming lessons!”

For the next half hour, Saki and Rika take turns helping me get used to the pool. While one of them is helping me, the other one is doing laps in the pool, with them trading off as we go. It takes some time, and a few false starts, but I finally manage to successfully tread water.

Not the most glamorous start, but it feels wonderful. Why didn’t I start this sooner?

A little after 7:30, we’re on our way back to our rooms. I hang back a bit as Saki and Rika exchange gossip. And I have enough time this morning to do up my hair properly as well. This day is already looking up. Nothing can ruin it.

“Saki, something I was wondering,” I call out to her as we reach our dorm rooms.

“Sure, what’s up?”

“You are in the art club, you mentioned being in music, you swim. How do you manage to find the time?”

“Not well, that’s how,” she says.

Rika then considers me a moment. “What club were you in before?”

“The ikebana club. I was the president… Well, I was, but then we merged with the tea club…”

Saki has an amused look on her face. “Still love those flowers, huh?”

“It relaxes me, and I like doing it.”

Rika ponders. “Well, we don’t have an ikebana club here. It sounds neat, but if I touch a plant it dies.”

Saki interjects, “And catches fire.”

“That was only once,” Rika protests. “And it wasn’t my fault!” She then recomposes herself. “Anyways, I don’t think you’ll have much luck there. We don’t have an ikebana club here, and the closest thing to a tea club is what Satou does in that little room of hers.”

“Anyways, let’s get showered or else we’ll be late to class,” Saki finally says.

We each head into our respective rooms. I tell Rika to go first, giving me a moment to take my medicine and work on the flowerpots.

A knock at the mutual door tells me when Rika has finished, and with plenty of time for me to get ready too. A nice, relaxing, hot shower is exactly what I want. Slipping back into a school uniform, for the third day in a row, is almost starting to feel routine. I absentmindedly scratch at my scar for a moment, noting how my bra is starting to make it itch.

But we have only a half hour until class starts. Still I want to look good. Rather than do something complex with my hair, I settle for something quick and simple which will keep my hair down, a half-crown braid. Less than three minutes later, and I am finishing it. The same light makeup, perfume, and with a look in my mirror I see that I am ready for the world.

Chin up. Chest forward. Smile, always smile.

Downix
Posts: 126
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Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:38 am

Light at the End of the Tunnel

A group assignment, again. Mutou really seems to enjoy these. Groups, again. I look over, and Hanako’s desk sits empty. No helping it then. A glance over and I see Misha’s smiling face looking in my direction. “You joining us, Iwacchan?” It was asked as a question, but I knew what she meant.

A glance over, and I see Shizune smiling, as if to say “You’re not getting away today.” Clearly me working with Hanako yesterday was some kind of challenge against her. Two can play at this game. I put on my best “Bring it,” smile, and push my desk up with theirs.

Looking it over, there are fewer questions than even yesterday’s assignment. Only two this time, in fact. Otherwise, it is reading. I’m feeling much more confident after yesterday, and spending several hours over the past two days trying to catch up, so I hold it up, stare Shizune in the eyes and nod. She returns the nod, and we both start the reading at the same time.

Misha for her part keeps looking between us, trying to figure out what just happened.

I glance up at a motion, and see Hanako entering the room, taking her seat. Too late to join her now. Plus, not giving Shizune the satisfaction.
Misha notices my glance and then looks at Hanako. Shizune then follows the gaze as well.

“I’m surprised you worked with her yesterday Iwacchan,” Misha tells me.

I shrug. “She seems nice. A little shy, perhaps. Any idea why nobody else works with her?”

“We’ve tried. You’re the first person since Lilly who she hasn’t run away from.”

“Lilly?”

Misha nods. “The Class Representative from 3-2.”

I nod. So she does have friends, that’s good.

Turning to look at the papers in front of me, a slight motion catches my attention. On the edge of my desk, a large brown spider is slowly walking along. I’ve had to take care of more than one in my windowsill flower garden, so I recognize that it’s harmless, and eats things that would hurt my flowers.

I slide my book over next to it, hoping to entice it on. As if obeying my silent command, the 8 legged figure moved onto the white sheet. Sliding it back, then I place my finger down. This is far more interesting than the science if nothing else.

Such a little thing, just as alive as I was, just as fragile. All it wants is to survive, to leave its legacy with its children. It knows no more, while I do. In the corner of the window, I see the spiderweb, and a small egg sack hanging there.

So, this little thing is a mommy. It has, despite it’s small size and limited knowledge, done something I can never do. For the briefest of moments, the pangs of jealousy strike. Here I am letting a spider make me jealous. What’s wrong with me?

It makes its way almost halfway up the back of my hand when I hear a squeal next to me. Glancing over, Misha stares at the spider on my hand, terrified. I could never have suspected that she was afraid of spiders.

Shizune gives Misha and me a glare. Likely she’s annoyed that we’re not working. Looking up, Mutou is giving us the same look.
“We need to get to work,” I tell her.

“R-right!” Misha says, clearly still fearing the little figure on my hand.

Leaning over, I gently brush the spider onto the windowsill before returning to normal, picking up my pencil and starting to work on the assignment.
We finish the assignment with plenty of time to spare. Shizune reviews my answers, and smiles when she hands them back, not needing any corrections to my relief. After that, the two of them descend into a conversation about their favorite restaurants, likely because Lunch is coming up. But all of them are in town I would expect. There certainly is not enough time to get there and back before the next class.

When the bell rings, I consider what to do. I guess I can go to the cafeteria again, but I’m not really hungry. Misha will not even look in my direction now. If I’d have known she would have acted like this, I would have found a spider sooner. She’s not a bad person, but the silence is so nice. Miki, Suzu and Haru left before I even noticed, and glancing around, only a few people are left in the room. Other than me, and the two girls I now knew were the student council, only Hanako remains seated.

Maybe she doesn’t have any lunch plans today?

I wander over. “Hello Hanako.”

She sits up with a start. “I-iwanako?”

“I thought to see if you were doing anything for lunch today.”

“I’m… meeting someone for lunch.”

“Oh, okay. See you after lunch, then.”

I turn to head back to my desk. Sitting down, I see Hanako has gotten up and is standing at the door talking to someone outside. I sigh and just look back out the window. She sky is so beautiful. The little spider has rejoined her eggsack in the corner, and seems readily adding to the web.

“Iwanako?” comes the soft voice behind me. Turning, I see Hanako has come a ways back into the room. “W… would you like to join us?”

I can’t help but smile at that.

“I would be delighted, thank you.”

As I reach the doorway, beyond I see someone standing in the hallway. She easily was taller than Hanako and surely almost a head taller than me, with shimmering, voluminous golden hair collected into a ponytail held up with a black bow spilling far down her back, and smooth, delicate features, like a figure from a painting. She’s so preposterously beautiful that I nearly find myself completely dumbstruck for a moment.

“Hello,” the girl says, without a trace of accent. Clearly my passing thought that she might be foreign was incorrect. “Hanako tells me that you are a new transfer student, and asked if you could join us.”

Regaining my composure, I respond with, “Yes, this is only my third day. Hanako was kind enough to help me with yesterday’s lessons.”

She smiles, and something about it makes me feel at once both calm and insufferably frantic. “I am glad to meet you,” she says gently, her speech formal, giving a slight bow. “My name is Lilly Satou. I’m the class representative of class 3-2, and a friend of Hanako’s.”

Satou, I remember that as the person whom Rika and Misha both mentioned earlier this morning. “It is very nice to meet you. I am Nanako Iwanaga.”

“Shall we go then Iwanaga?”

“Please, call me Iwanako,” I say, feeling the need to me congenial.

She nods confidently, her smile unyielding. “Of course. And I hope you will call me Lilly as well.”

Her speech is so refined, like a lady should be. It feels far more natural talking with her than most of the other people I have spoken to as of late. The thought alone makes this more relaxing than any other interaction this week.

Heading into the hallway, I note the cane in Lilly’s hand. I glance up, and realize that she is not tracking with her eyes as she walks. Looking closer her azure eyes have a faint sort of milkiness to them that I didn’t notice earlier. How can anybody be so beautiful and not even see?

Is this school filled with such natural beauties? First Rin, then Hanako, and now this Lilly. I’m trying to wrap my head around it and the wrapping is too frayed to cover it completely. It’s such a startling thing that I’m not really paying attention as I round the corner and –

CRACK—

It feels as if I ran into a moving car, knocking me back and into the wall before I tumble to the ground. Everything goes black as my head collides with the linoleum, and my ears begin to ring like a temple gong. I could hear Hanako give out a little shriek somewhere nearby.

Lilly’s voice carries across my hearing. “What happened? Hanako? Iwanako?”

"Aw man, I… Oh, oh crap. Are you all right?" A strange, high pitched girls voice assaults my eardrums. She wasn’t talking that loudly, but for some reason it was incredibly painful to hear.

I feel myself being rolled onto my back, and across my face there is the gentle sensation of someone else's hair tickling my cheeks… and I faintly smell strawberries? I open my eyes to an unfamiliar face leaning over me. Urgh… Where am I, again? My head…

"Shit! I'm so, so sorry…" The strange girl looks to be nearly in a panic as she looks down on me.

"Emi? Is that you?" the voice I swear I know sounds very confused. I knew this voice a moment ago. Now, so hard to remember.

The stranger turns away from me. "She just came out of nowhere—I didn't—" She turns back to me. "You're okay, right? I… do you need me to get the nurse?"

“Miss Ibarazaki,” comes the siren voice exiting the classroom behind us. I try and focus, but only see a pink and blue blob love past me and march up to the now out of focus girl who had run into me. “Running in the halls is strictly forbidden!”

I am trying to say something, but as I try to speak I feel a heaviness in my chest… It's a sharp, sucking pain… I feel as if my thoughts are like molasses, slow and thick…

And in my ears, a repetitive pounding resonates. Under my sternum, it feels almost like a set of marbles is rolling around in there. Breathing is so hard… It reminds me of…

With a jolt I remember that sensation. Not now, no! Stop! Calm it Iwanako. Calm down!

Misha’s voice, yes, that’s who it belongs to, then seems to be turned in my direction. “Oh no, Iwacchan! She said something about her heart… right Shicchan, she can’t take any knocks to the… oh no! Get the nurse! Right now, move!”

I hear the fading sounds of some kind of hard objects hitting the floor, and am vaguely aware that there is one less shape above me. It is so hard to focus.

“Everything is going to be fine Iwacchan, we’re getting help. Can you talk?”

I manage to shake my head, though I stop almost immediately when I realize how much the movement hurts…

So just focus… Just…

The marbles in my chest are slowly coming to a stop… Can I… yes I can still feel my feet. But this still… oh the pain.

"I-iwanako, you’ll be fine. The nurse will be here soon.” I vaguely remember knowing who this voice is, but it’s so distant I can barely make it out.
I can feel more than hear a lot of feet stomping up to me. My hearing is just about gone. I can hear only the sound of my own heartbeat, oddly perfect.

Not knowing how, I vaguely get the sensation of being lifted, and then that I’m resting on something hard.

The world turns blissfully white.

Downix
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:39 pm

Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:44 am

A Light Problem

When the pain finally subsides enough, I’m aware that I’m no longer moving. Opening my eyes, I can’t quite make out where I am. I can hear several voices nearby, slightly muffled like they’re behind a door. From the tone I was reminded of when my mother would scold me as a child.

But why is everything so fuzzy? I hold up my own hand, and can’t even focus on that.

Trying to sit up was a mistake. The wave of dizziness forces me back down before I even make a few centimeters movement.

For a few brief moments I panic, fearing I was back in my hospital room, but no, the walls are brownish-red, not beige. The light is the clear white of sunlight, not the green of fluorescent. And the smell is blissfully free of disinfectant.

I hear a door open, and the dividing curtain is pulled back. I can’t make out the figure standing there, but he vaguely looks familiar.

“Ah, good, you’re awake. Seems you took a nasty fall. What do you remember?”

I blink, and with my vision not coming back I just close my eyes and concentrate. “I remember running into someone, then hitting the floor. After that it gets a bit confusing. Now, I have an unbearable headache, I’m nauseated, and my vision is blurry.”

The voice of the figure sounds disappointed. “That doesn’t sound good. How many fingers am I holding up?”

I open my eyes and look. “You’re holding fingers up?”

What’s your name?”

“What?” I blink at him, confused. “Nanako Iwanaga.”

“Where do you live?”

It takes a moment to remember, the question coming too quickly for me. “Chiba,”

“Who is your teacher?"

I try and remember. “Err… Moo, uh, moo two?”

“Yes. What’s your mother’s name?”

“It’s… Yoshiko.”

A few motions, a click, and my eyes are assaulted by a bright light, first my left then my right. Another click, and the light is gone.

“It seems you have a mild to moderate concussion from your little run-in. Just lay here for now. I’ll bring you something for the pain.”

“Thank you,” I tell him. The nurse, it finally registers. The voice belongs to the nurse.

I can faintly hear him talking sternly to someone.

A concussion? And here I was worrying about my heart. Instead my head is what gets banged up. Way to go Iwanako.

I vaguely remember someone, a girl, she looked smaller than me. How could someone so small have caused so much havoc?

Rubbing my temples, I am surprised as a strand of bleached blonde hair falls into my line of vision. What is going on? I stare at it, confused as to why it was there. What does it mean?

Oh, right. I had that done after I was released from the hospital. Before I returned to school. But I didn’t return, did I? I went… somewhere else. It’s so confusing. Someone is missing. He was always there, always waiting patiently, wasn’t he?

I see the curtains start to move and I blurt out, “Hisao?”

“Uh, no.”

My eyes manage to focus a bit better at the figure now standing there. It’s another student, this one wearing a gym outfit. Glancing down, I notice that she is standing on a pair of what look to be strangely shaped semicircles. Those are funny looking legs I muse. Then something clicks, they’re prosthetic, not real. She appears to be about 10cm shorter than I am, with a cherubic face and fine, strawberry blonde hair held up in twintails.

I am having the hardest time trying to remember where I’ve seen her before. Then the faint smell of strawberries crosses my nose, and it rushes in on me all at once. Memories of the hallway, the people around me all worried…

And before me, the rich, vibrant forest green color of her eyes, floating above me as I lay there on the ground. It’s the girl who put me here. Why is she here? I straighten myself out. Composure, composure, you’re a lady.

"Um… we've, uh… I… " she stammers out. Taking a deep breath and closing her eyes, she finally puts her thoughts together. “My name is Emi Ibarazaki… And… Um… I’m sorry for running into you.”

She bows deeply, staying there for a long moment, before standing back up, her feet shuffling in a nervous manner while she wrings her hands. She is almost cute with how overwhelmed she is by the awkwardness of the encounter. For my part, I can't think of what I should say. Just, what do I do? Smile? Yes, smile. Maintain the mask. I hope I can remember it.

“I’m Nanako Iwanaga, but please call me Iwanako,” I manage to answer. Somehow, I remember my manners, bowing my head slightly in her direction. This proves a mistake as another wave of pain hits me, forcing me to put my head back on the pillow behind me. My headache is starting to buzz into focus again.

Finally she manages to speak again. “I—look,” she says, collecting herself, “I’m really… I’m glad that you’re okay.”
“…Thank you,” I manage to say, not able to look at her. To look at anything really. Gods this headache.

“I… last year, I even had a close call with another girl with a bad heart, and I stopped running in the halls, but today I was running late…”

“I… I’m really not good at these,” she continues. “This is… I screwed up so badly. What I’m trying to say is… I’m really, really sorry. For all of this.”

I manage to open my eyes and look at her. Her facial features are beautiful, despite the lack of makeup and that she’s covered in sweat. She had to have been exercising before she ran into me, yet she still looks amazing. What is it with the girls in this school?

“I…” she stammers, “I want to…”

“Please don’t.”

“Huh?”

“You want to fix this,” I answer, maintaining an even tone, “but you can’t fix the past.”

She pauses, clearly confused by my response. “No, look, really, I need to do something… This is all my fault.”

I can’t keep my eyes open, and just relent to gravity.

“I have a heart defect. You and I are both lucky that I only wound up with a concussion from this. It could have been a lot, a lot worse.”

“Something we’re all grateful for,” the nurse voice pipes in. “Alright, Iwanaga, you’re going to need to stay here until your head clears. I already let Rika know to come to your room as soon as classes are over.”

“Rika?” The name sounds familiar but with my thoughts the way they are, it’s not quite connecting.

“Remember when I mentioned how our dorms are set up? This is why. Rika now gets to serve as an observer for the next few days. But we will need to find someone to help while she is at class…”

“I’ll do it,” pipes up the girl standing next to him.

“Look sunshine, I know you mean well, but…”

“It’s my fault, it should be me who helps fix it.”

“Well, what does the patient say?”

I am just in too much pain to really put any thought into it. “Fine, if she wants to help, let her.”

“Well, alright. You’ll need to stay out of classes for the next few days, and no studying either for the immediate future. It could make things worse if you push your brain too much for the next 48 hours or so. But, basic rest should be fine otherwise.”

He backs out of the room, while she, Emi, right her name is Emi, stands there. Why is it so hard to concentrate?

“What about your classes?”

“Well… after what happened… I’m kinda… suspended till Monday.”

I sigh. “We’re in the same boat then, aren’t we Emi?”

“Yeah…” She sounds as forlorn as I feel.

“Well, if you’re stuck with me for the next few days, I guess we should get to know each other. So… tell me about yourself. What do you do when you’re not a human battering ram?” I try and put on a disarming smile. It’s a small jab, just enough to remind her of her place, but it is necessary. If she is supposed to be punished till the end of the week, then she will be punished. But I will not be cruel about it.

“Well, ok. I’m, uh, on the track team. I’m suspended for the next race… I’m 19, and in class 3-4. My mom and I live in Sendai, not too far away. I like stawberries.”

This girl is all over the place. I start to chuckle to myself, letting my mask of formality fall apart for being too hard to maintain in my condition.
“What’s so funny?” She sounds a bit offended.

“It’s not you. It’s just… here you are being all morose… and apologetic… while I’m just happy not to be in a hospital.”

“Well, you kind of are,” the nurses voice interrupts. “Anything short of surgery, we have the facilities here to handle.”

“No smell of disinfectant and the walls aren’t that hideous beige color, that’s good enough for me.”

“I just got off the phone with your mother. I told her she did not need to come right away. She mentioned she was planning on coming up this Sunday for the festival already, so she should drop by the office here while she’s here,” the nurse seemed pleased with that.

“Otherwise, I sent everyone else back to class. You had quite the crowd here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a class representative chew out someone before so thoroughly, no less two of them.”

“Yeah, I was on my way to… lunch with Satou from 3-2. And I remember hearing Misha there…”

“Explains that then. Ok, I’ll leave you two for a bit. Emi, in 20 minutes, try and have Iwanako sit up. If she can, help her stand.”

“R-right, yes, yes I will.”

“But for now, stay laying down. We should know in 20 minutes how severe your concussion is, alright Iwanako?”

I try to nod, but that just sends another wave of pain through my skull.

I hear the curtain being drawn again, and I am left with the girl in here.

“So, what about you? Where are you from? What do you like to do?” She seems at least genuinely interested to know.

“I grew up in Chiba, near Tokyo. I used to be president of the ikebana club in my old school. I wonder what happened to it after I left,” I muse to myself, forgetting for a moment of the other girl in here.

She pipes up with, “That sounds interesting. You enjoy flowers then?”

“Yes, I even have several I’m growing in my room, although I just planted them so it’s going to be awhile. I figure by the beginning of August they’ll be ready.”

“Just in time for Tanabata then,” she says.

“No… Tanabata’s in July,” I say, confused.

“Not here. We use the old calendar, so it’s held in August.”

“Oh, that would be nice to use them for.” I relax, feeling a smile on my face. “Yes, I’d like that.”

Looking up, I see Emi grinning as she studies my features. I can’t help but laugh. The whole image is too cute for words. “You know you’re adorable, right?”

“Well yeah, I’m pretty awesome.”

“Humble too I see!” I can’t help but keep smiling at her.

She puts on a smile that could light up the room. Despite how we met, I think I like this girl.

“Come on, it’s been 20 minutes. Let’s see if you can sit up. With me,” She puts an arm behind my back, and with a surprising amount of strength helps me sit up.

The wave of dizziness washes over me, then passes away. I blink my eyes, and slowly turn my head around. The pain is a lot less severe now. I realize I can see her more clearly now. I open my eyes a bit wider and look around.

“I think I’m good. He said to try standing up next, right?”

“Right! So, come on, here we go…”

She seems quite familiar with physical therapy methods. Glancing down at her legs, I realize clearly why she would be.

Despite my earlier success, standing up only nauseates me, and my legs feel weak. Emi helps me over to the sink, where I’m greeted by the disheveled nightmare of my own reflection. I take the opportunity to wash my face.

“Goodness, I look a mess,” I say to my own reflection. I try and get my hands to move and fix my hair, but they feel clumsy, like they’re wrapped in styrofoam.

“Here, let me help. Sit down,” Emi commands, helping me to sit in the chair next to the exam table I was on. She looks my hair over a bit, then starts to work. Good, she found my brush, but where did it come from? Glancing down, I realize that my bag’s at my feet, giving me my answer.

A look at the clock tells me that it is only 12:40. It certainly feels longer than 30 minutes since the accident happened.

“There, done. Take a look,” Emi points to the mirror again.

Standing up I look, and my hair is all back in place. “Thank you. I never want to walk around looking like a scarecrow.”

The curtain opens and I see the nurses face peek in. “Oh good, you’re up. Come here, I need to examine you before sending you on your way. Have a seat.”

He gestures over to a molded-plastic chair positioned to face his desk, which I sit down in without a word. I feel more than see Emi standing off to the side. He spends another minute quietly typing away at his computer screen before he finally turns to me.

“So how are you feeling?”

“Fine, I suppose. A little pain, but my vision’s cleared up and I am not nauseous anymore.”

“Great. I’m glad to hear that,” he says, tapping a pencil on the desk.

He pulls some blank forms out from a drawer on his desk and turns his office chair to face me directly, resting his free hand on his knees. “Anyway, this shouldn’t take too long. I just need to take your vitals and if everything checks out you can return to your room to rest.”

I nod. “I understand.”

As he gets up out of his chair and looks to Emi. “Can you wait in the hallway?”

“Oh, sure. I’ll be right out here,” she says as she closes the door behind her.

I hold my arm out so that he can take my blood pressure, something I’ve had done so many times this year that it’s basically second nature now. He quietly wraps the cuff around my arm and inflates it until it’s just beginning to feel uncomfortable.

“Other than today, how has everything been treating you?”

I consider a moment. “Better than I expected. There are some nice people here. Rika is really a sweetheart.”

He nods while handing me the electronic thermometer, placing the probe in my palm for me to place in my mouth myself. I watch disinterestedly as the number on the display crawls slowly up to thirty-seven degrees and determinedly sits there another thirty seconds until the machine beeps and the Nurse quickly scribbles down a few more measurements.

“So far, everything looks good. Can you get on the scale now?”

I nod and stand up. Stepping onto the scale, the nurse busies himself adjusting the weight sliders.

Thinking back, in February my weight was about fifty kilograms. Time in the hospital has hurt that some, so I guess I should be fourty-eight.

“Fourty four point two kilograms,” the Nurse notes. When he turns and looks at me, he gives me a puzzled look. “Why do you look so surprised?”

I step off the scale and look at the numbers on the scale, not quite believing them. “I knew I’d lost weight, but not that much.”

“Oh?” He considers. “How about you sit back down?” he says, a bit more somber than before.

I sit down and look at him expectantly.

“All right, so, we now have a problem. I know I told you to exercise, but that’s suspended until Saturday at the earliest. Any exertion could cause you problems.”

“Oh,” I say slightly disappointed. “I went to the pool with Rika and Saki this morning. I was looking forward to it.”

“You can start again on Saturday. Or you could pick up running. Emi there is a bit of a track star in case you hadn’t heard, and would be able help you get into a routine you could handle. In the meantime, there are things you can start doing,” he continues. “I’m sure you’ve noticed that you’re underweight.”

It takes me a moment to process what he just said. “Underweight?”

He nods. “The low end of the healthy range for a girl of your height and build is fifty two kilograms. Emi is a good ten cm shorter than you, and she’s fourty one kilograms, already on the low end of the scale, even when you consider her circumstances. But you’re only three kilograms heavier, despite having ten centimeters more in your height.”

“That is certainly not good,” I say, considering the implications.

He considers his words. “Now, the way they determine healthy weight is a bit arbitrary, but still it is a good guideline. Do you remember how much you weighed before your hospitalization?”

I think about it a moment. “About fifty kilos.”

“Which means that you were already underweight before you were in the hospital. In four months, you’ve lost more than a tenth of your body weight, which is a very serious concern.”

I chew this over in my head a bit. “I am a bit confused as to how.”

“How has your appetite been?”

I consider it a moment. “I have not really thought about it. I will admit to not being that hungry lately.”

“Well, you were about to have lunch. What were you going to eat?”

“I had not really worked up much of an appetite, so I was planning on a rice ball and some nori.”

He considers this a moment.

“Sounds like loss of appetite to me.”

“Well, I suppose,” I say, considering my words. “I vaguely remember that may be one of the side effects of my medications.”

“Yes, that is the side effect from one of your medications, but the side effects from one of your other medications should be causing weight gain. In other words, it should be pretty balanced.” He is mulling this over in his head, clearly.

I wonder a moment if he’s thinking something. “Are you suggesting I have an eating disorder?”

I don’t need the nurse thinking that. If he told even the hint of this to my mother, she’d just blame herself.

He shakes his head, though. “An eating disorder? Oh, no. Just that what you’re eating may not be enough calories. I’d like to work up a diet plan for you, if that’s alright.”

“I suppose… sorry, usually I hear diet and it means to lose weight. You want me to go on a diet, to gain weight?”

He nods. “Yes. I’ll have it ready for you tomorrow.” He then considers a moment. “Tell me, how are you handling everything so far?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re only just out of the hospital, in a school where you know nobody, and now you just had an accident. Honestly, I’d be surprised if you weren’t feeling some stress over everything.”

I sigh. “For one, I did know somebody. Enomoto and my father are business partners. We’ve met each other a few times before.”

“Oh, well, that helps things. How well do you get along with her?”

I consider a moment. “Well, honestly I used to think of her as a spoiled princess. Now, she’s pretty cool.”

He smiles. “Well, that’s good. Making friends is important.”

“Beyond that, I get to walk outside and feel the sunshine. That alone makes me feel better,” I consider out loud. “And my mother left me with some flowers to grow. That’s how I relaxed before… well, you know.”

He nods. “Sounds like you are handling this better than I would have expected. Many times we have kids come here depressed, or feeling like they’ve hit rock bottom. We have a whole team of experts in the floors above here to help them.”

Continuing, he says “Of course, if something changes and you do feel the need to talk to someone, you just have to ask.”

I nod. “Thank you.”

He nods. “Well, go to your room and rest a bit. I’ll make sure Rika knows what’s going on.

Smile, always smile. This is something you can control. “Thank you nurse.”

I get up, and exiting the room find Emi standing there in the hall waiting for me.

“Everything ok?”

I consider my words. “I’m underweight. Apparently I am only three kilograms heavier than you are.” I rub my forehead.

She nods, then her eyes go wide, and flash some anger. “Hold on, he told you my weight!!!” She then throws the door open and glares at the nurse.
He looks at her, then at me. “Oh, uh… sorry about that.”

She waves a finger at him. “Never tell a girls weight, asshole!”

She then slams the door shut, and turns her back to it, crossing her arms and sulking.

I fight laughing at the whole picture. “Anyways, he said I need to rest, But I really don’t want to go to my room. Is there a good spot to sit around here?”

Emi muses a moment. “We could go to the roof. I usually have lunch up there with a friend.”

I consider. “Stairs are not a good idea right now. Glad I live on the first floor.”

Emi considers more. “There’s the gardens behind the school.”

I nod. “That sounds good. Lead the way.”

A left turn and we find ourselves in an open area with several trees and a few tables set up.

“Oh, I was hoping for some flowers,” I tell Emi, feeling a little sad at this.

Emi looks around. “I never really thought about it, but you’re right, there aren’t any flowers here.”

We both sit down at one of the tables.

Looking around at my surroundings it occurs to me that… I’m free. I’m not bound to my hospital room, not obligated to be anywhere. Despite this, nothing really feels right. Theoretically I’ll be back to class on Saturday, but it feels surreal, like it’s happening to someone else.

“Emi, do you ever feel like you’re all wrong?”

She looks confused. “What do you mean?”

I collect my thoughts. “Like you are not the person you were supposed to be?”

She considers. “No, not really.”

“Lucky,” I tell her.

“Well, who were you supposed to be?”

I picture in my head the image of my life, where I was supposed to go. It used to bring joy, now only feelings of melancholy. “I always imagined I would be a wife and mother. Now… It’s not going to happen.”

“Well, if you sit there feeling sorry for yourself, of course it’s not going to happen,” Emi says rather bluntly.

I look at her, a bit surprised at how direct she is.

“Look, if that’s what you want to be, you just need to figure out how to make it happen. Sure, your situation may have changed, but that doesn’t mean you give up.” She then jumps onto her feet and starts bouncing in place. “Running is what I’ve always done. I didn’t give up. And you shouldn’t either.”

“You make it sound easy,” I tell her.

She winks at me. “I make it look easy! But I work my ass off for it.”

The school lunch bell finally rings, sending a driving spike of pain through my head.

“Are you ok?” Emi looks surprised at my reaction.

“Just… give me a minute,” I say through clenched teeth. “Maybe I should go to my room. I don’t think I could take another bell right now.”

“Ok, lead away,” Emi tells me.

The pathway is unusually quiet as we make our way to the dorm complex. Only one other student passes us before getting to the building, and he’s so involved in what he’s doing that he hardly even notices. I should be in class right now, but nurse’s orders.

In my room, I lie down as soon as I see my bed. Emi scoots into the chair, and looks around.

She sounds impressed by what she sees. “Wow, you have that lived in look already!”

I sigh. “My mother decorated on Monday. I did not even have the chance to pick anything out. Was a complete surprise, honestly.”

“Well, I think I’ve only seen Rin’s room more decorated.”

“Tezuka?” I ask, looking over to her.

“Oh, you’ve met her? Yeah, she’s next door to me,” Emi tells me matter of factly.

“She is interesting,” I tell Emi.

Emi smiles. “A bit weird, but we’re friends.”

I roll over onto my back. “Well, at least I can relax for the next few days.”

“What were you in the middle of doing anyways?”

I shrug. “Heading to lunch. I skipped breakfast.”

Emi considers a moment, then stands up looking excited. “Wait here!”

The door flies open before I can even put a word together. Isn’t she supposed to be keeping an eye on me? She has the attention span of a goldfish.

A minute later she charges back in the room, carrying two lunchboxes.

“Here, I made these this morning,” she hands one to me.

“Do you usually make two?” I ask her, puzzled.

“Normally the second one is for Rin. But by now lunch is over and she’s back in class, so, I have an extra for you.”

I smile at this. “Then what are we waiting for? Let’s eat.”

We both tear into the box lunches. Curry chicken it seems. I’d not eaten much curry before, only when over friends houses in elementary or middle school. This seems particularly good.

Once finished, I just find myself laying down content.

“Is your family coming to the festival, Sunday?” I ask Emi.

She shakes her head. “Mom is coming for my track meet… oh. Maybe we should change that up.” Emi looks a bit sad now, with the realization sinking in of what she’s lost today.

“I’m sorry for what happened Emi, I really am.” Then I chuckle. “I guess I have an extra reason to be sorry, don’t I?”

Emi still looks a bit sad. “I wanted to be able to show her how good I am.”

“You will have another chance later, right?” I ask.

“Yeah… I know,” Emi still looks dejected.

“My mother’s coming up Sunday,” I tell her, trying to drag her out of her funk. “I don’t think she’s used to me being so far away.”

“Mine’s just a bus ride away, but for the first few weeks, yeah, I had to come home every weekend or else she’d worry,” Emi says, looking a little better.

“So, see if she can come this Sunday instead. You should spend time with her.”

Emi smiles finally. “You’re right.”
Last edited by Downix on Thu Jul 19, 2018 7:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Downix
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:39 pm

Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:49 am

Take Two

The afternoon passes rather quickly. Without much else to do, I wind up sharing girl talk with Emi. She has so many interesting anecdotes about the school and surrounding area. We lose track of time, which means when a knock comes at the door, it’s a surprise to both of us.

Behind the door, Rika’s voice is unmistakable. “Iwanako? The Nurse told me what happened. I’m coming in.”

“The doors unlocked, don’t worry,” I yell to her.

The door opens, and there’s Rika. She walks in, quickly and closes the door behind her. Then she looks around, and appears confused a moment. “Iwanako?”

I wave. “Here.”

She blinks. “Your room, it’s… uh…”

She keeps looking around the room, then her eyes settle on Emi.

Emi waves. “Hi Rika.”

“Oh, Emi? You’re here?”

“Rika, relax,” I tell her. “You are in such a fluster that you’re all over the place. Why don’t you sit down?”

“It’s time for me to go anyways,” Emi says, standing up from the chair she’s been lounging in. “I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow, Iwanako.”

“See you then,” I tell her.

Rika finds the chair and sits down.

“So, it’s your turn huh?”

I blink. “My turn?”

“Emi ran me over last year.”

I chuckle. “She mentioned that.”

Rika moans. “One day she’s going to seriously injure someone.”

“She did,” I tell her. “She is suspended until Monday from classes and from her club activities until after the next meet apparently.”

Rika flinches. “Ouch. Let’s hope that helps serve as a lesson. But, why was she here?”

“Part of her punishment. I need someone to keep an eye on me till Saturday. When you are in classes, Emi is the one observing.”

Rika smiles and sits back. “Well, it fits the crime I suppose. Are you hungry?”

“Famished.” I’m not, but the nurse made it clear that I need to eat more, so I’ll make myself do just that.

“Come on, let me make you something.”

“I will go get changed. I don’t want to get my uniform dirty.” Wanting to lounge around, I put on my gym uniform from this morning, still handily available on my bed where I’d left it.

A bit later, sitting at my old tea table, it feels nice to have company. Rika has made Udon again. It’s not fancy, but it strikes me that I associate its flavor with freedom from the hospital. With dinner finished, I make us some tea. Saki is at music practice so I understand, so it’s just us tonight.
And then came the knock at my door.

“Come in, I left it unlocked,” I tell whomever is there.

A soft voice calls in as the door opens slightly. “I, Iwanako?”

“Hanako, is that you?” I ask the person beyond.

“Y-yes, and Lilly came too.” The door opens a bit more, showing the shy girl beyond.

“Please, come in. We were just about to have some tea, would you care to join us?”

“I would love some tea, actually,” comes Lilly’s voice as she enters in behind Hanako.

“There is a low table in the center of the room, with places to sit at to the left and in front, respectively. It is directly in front of me,” says Rika in a matter of fact tone.

Lilly tilts her head slightly. “Katayama, is that you?”

“Yes. And call me Rika. There is no reason for formality here.”

“As you wish Rika.”

It strikes me that Rika was describing my room so Lilly could move about it far easier. It makes me smile a bit to realize that such a simple gesture would mean more to someone.

I see Hanako shuffle to the side of my table next to the bed before sitting down.

Lilly sits down opposite from me, her smile somehow taking on even more warmth. “Knowing that you’ll need to rest in your room for awhile, we had the thought that you might need some company to help pass the tedium.”

“This… thank you,” I manage to say finally.

She smiles and gives an almost imperceptible nod of the head. “You’re w-welcome.”

“Now, I promised tea. One moment,” I turn around and fetch two more cups from my set’s carrier, and set them down on the table. I consider a moment what Rika did a moment ago, and slide the one for Lilly against her hand resting on the table, so she knows where it is. I deftly pour some tea into each.

Glancing over to Hanako, I notice that while she is looking at me, she is not making eye contact. Instead she is looking downward. It takes a few moments for it to dawn on me what she is seeing.

The Yamaku Phys Ed shirt, I’d forgotten I was wearing it. It has a V neck, and if leaning forward, from the right angle you can see one or the other of my scars. Hanako has been trying to avoid looking at my scars since the moment she walked in.

Thinking on it, I don’t actually have a problem here. Hanako’s scars are quite visible after all. Rika’s already seen them, so I hadn’t even given it a thought until now.

Considering Hanako’s scars for a moment, a terrible thought then strikes me.

Hanako and I are virtually the same.

Something happened to her in the past, something terrible, and her scars are the marks left behind. Those are old wounds, ones so old that they have become affixed and immutable. She doesn’t want to be reminded of what happened, and every time someone stares at them…

If our positions were swapped, I couldn’t act any differently.

She maintains her own facade for survival, just as I do, to only draw attention to what we want people to see, and ignore what we do not. We are not so different, she and I. In the end the only real difference is that I can pull a shirt over my scars, while she has no such luxury.

Having first tasted the tea, Lilly’s smooth voice rings out, “So, are you feeling better now?”

“The headache and nausea are gone, and my vision now can focus. It seems that the worst of it is over.”

Taking a sip from her teacup before she answers, Lilly says “That is very good to hear”

I take a sip myself before continue. My mother’s taste in tea is not my own, but until I can go to a store, I am going to have to live with it. Still, the enjoyment is in the presentation as much as in the drink itself.

They were there when the accident happened. They know something is wrong. Hanako has seen my scars, at least in part, so she must suspect. I should clear the air.

“In case you missed what Misha said this afternoon, I have a heart condition,” I say, finally. “Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. To help treat it, I have a pacemaker. I have been hospitalized for the past four months due to complications from surgery.”

Lilly just continues sipping her tea. Hanako seems more curious now than anything.

“I’m going to be fine,” I say. “I have two scars in my chest, which Rika and now you Hanako have both gotten a glimpse of. One is for my heart itself, the other for the pacemaker. As for today, the accident left me with a moderate concussion, but I’m going to make a full recovery the nurse assures me.”

Lilly seems more concerned now “A concussion?” Giving it a lot of thought, she stops whatever line of thought she was going to venture down. There is nothing she can bring to the discussion after all.

“Well, on a happier note,” I say, “I will be back in class by Saturday I’ve been assured. And on that, Hanako, did I miss anything in class this afternoon?”

This surprises Hanako, who takes a moment to reply. “I-I w-wasn’t there this a-afternoon…”

“Huh?” I pause for a second to ponder that. “Well, ok. I just wish that I’d been knocked over before science class instead of after.”

Lilly chuckles a bit behind her hand. Remarkably, it reminds me of Shizune doing the same thing. “I take it you are not fond of science class?”

“I like it more than being run over,” I say with a chuckle in my throat, “but not by much.”

Lilly giggles again, and I study her movements a bit closer. She had to have had years of training to be so careful with her gestures. Then it strikes me that is likely why her actions remind me of Shizune, they both have the same kind of training. They both must have attended similar classes to learn all of this.

Rika pipes up with “I like Mutou. He’s soooo funny.”

I shrug. “He’s a bit strange still. I like Miyagi.”

Lilly says, warmly, “She’s my classes homeroom teacher. I have always enjoyed her lessons.”

A middle aged woman, Miyagi has a clear passion for her work. I’ll admit, so far everything she has assigned seems very easy, but I am already ahead of the rest of the class. I really regret missing it this afternoon.

Rika then says “Do you like stars? The astronomy club has her as its supervisor.”

“An English teacher? Supervising the astronomy club?”

She nods. “I was in the astronomy club last year, but my grades suffered, so I’m down to just the Art club now.”

“…More tea?” I ask, noticing that at least two cups now are empty.

“Yes, I would like some more, please,” Lilly says in her crisp manner.

“M-me too,” Hanako joins in.

Rika just nods, and slides her cup out slightly for me.

I pour the tea with practiced form. I am a bit rusty, but I remember the movements well enough. I will need to rehearse some before I have more people over however. It would be unseemly otherwise.

I aim to keep the conversation light. “Well, the next time I am injured, you are more than welcome to come over.”

“Hey now!” Rika exclaims. “I go to the hospital three times a year. Everyone should drop by and have tea when I’m injured.”

I laugh. “Maybe we should form a club, the ‘heart problems and tea’ club.”

“I am not sure you will readily find a supervisor for such a club,” Lilly says, while trying to stifle her own laughter.

“I’m not being serious,” I muse. “I think I have enough on my plate without clubs, anyway.”

Lilly says, “Don’t feel pressure to join one. After all, I have not joined one, either. To be honest, being class representative does not give me enough time to participate. Although there are times I do miss being on the Student Council.”

“I know what you mean,” I tell her. “My class elected me our class representative our first year. It took a lot of time and wore me out. And I didn’t know you were on the student council. Admittedly, I only learned this morning we even had one.”

She smiles more warmly, as if remembering a pleasant moment from long ago. “It was fun, but became a problem when I was picked to represent my class. I admit, my classmates do help out a lot, but it was not fair the amount of time the council was taking up.”

She pauses. “Which reminds me, what is the time?”

A quick glance at the clock gives me the answer. “Five forty.”

Lilly sighs. “I’m sorry, I need to get back to my classroom. We are working on our booth, and I promised I would only be gone an hour.”

“That’s fine,” I say, keeping my mask up “The festival is important to the whole school, and it would not do for one class to be behind. What is your class doing for the Festival?”

“We are making a noodle stand,” she answers, with a weariness of weeks of work weighing down on her. “We should be finished with all but the painting tonight.”

“Oh very nice,” I tell her.

“We think so,” she says. Then she considers something before speaking again. “Does the nurse think you will you be able to attend the Festival?”

“I am planning to be at the Festival, yes. My mother is coming up then as well, and I want to show her around. If it gets to be too much for me, there are plenty of places to rest as well.”

Hanako watches all of this through her hair, but seems more relaxed than I have seen her before.

Lilly is giving me a slight smile while finishing off her tea. Once finished, she says “That is good to hear. I would hate to think that you would be unable to attend.”

With the tea now finished, I stand up to carry the now empty teapot to the bathroom and spend the next few moments washing it out. Hanako helpfully takes it and puts it back into its carrier as I work on my teacups.

As Lilly stands up, I see her extend out a long, white, segmented cane.

Walking over to the doorway to see them off, I can’t help but smile at them.

“Lilly, it was nice to finally meet you properly. And thank you both for checking up on me.”

Lilly gently places a hand on my shoulder before speaking. “You as well, Iwanako. I look forward to next time.”

Looking at Hanako again. “Thank you again for coming, Hanako. It really does mean a lot to me.”

She finally returns the smile, nodding gently. “I-I’m glad you’re alright.”

“Well… maybe I’ll see you on Saturday, then.”

We get through our courtesies and farewells, and they both turn away, headed down the hallway. Hanako stops after a step, though, and turns back to me.

“I-Iwanako?”

“Hm?”

“Would y-you like to join us for lunch tomorrow?”

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to. Loud noises, like the lunch bell, still hurt. But I will try and let you know either way, alright?

“O-ok.” She smiles at that. Such a sweet smile that girl has.

“Take care, Hanako. And thank you again for visiting.”

Closing the door, I look back to Rika, who has resumed sitting in the corner chair, having put my tea table back into its spot.

I sit on the bed and look over to her. “It strikes me, before I met you, I don’t think I’ve ever known someone who has white hair that wasn’t old enough to be my grandmother.”

She smiles and looks out the window. “Side effect of my medication. Based on those two streaks in your hair, my guess is that it started for you too.”

“Started?” I ask, genuinely curious.

She looks back to me. “Your hair turning white. When it began with me, I tried dying my hair to hide it too.”

I blink, stunned.

She twists her face up in concentration. “Part of the medication regimen I take, well, most of the medication honestly, is to fight side-effects. The medicine which keeps my heart from fluttering also causes my thyroid to shut off, so I have to take a pill to prevent that. Unfortunately, that pill...”

She gestures to her head, then looks at the pill bottles on my desk.

“You take fewer pills than I do, you know. Must be nice.”

I shrug. “I don’t know everything about them yet.”

Rika nods. “Well, take the time to learn. You’re the one who has to live with this the rest of your life. Do you want to do that without knowing what is keeping you alive?”

I consider a moment. “I suppose not.”

“Well then,” Rika says. “Let’s find out. One moment.”

Rika walks to the bathroom door and slips through.

Does everyone in this school have such a short attention span?

A moment later she returns, carrying a huge tome under one arm. The thing looks enormous in her tiny hands.

“Right,” she says, setting it down on the bed aside me. “First pill bottle.”

She holds out one hand.

It takes me a moment to register what she’s asking. I hand over my first pill bottle.

“Alright, good old Amiodarone,” she says, flipping the book open.

Once open I can see it’s a drug reference manual.

“Rika? Why do you have this book?” I ask, confused.

Rika smiles while she flips through the book. “When you take eight different medications a day, better safe than sorry. Plus, I like to be helpful to the other girls when they get medication changes,” she answers matter of factly. “And I want to be a pharmacist when I graduate. Here we are. Strong stuff, lots of side effects, including thyroid issues. Also should keep an eye out for lung issues, liver issues, and your eyes may change color like mine did.”

“Eye… eye color?”

Rika sits up and looks over at me. “Oh come now, you can’t not have noticed that my eyes are reddish.”

“Uh, honestly, I figured you just had funny contacts,” I answer.

Rika’s face quirks up, and then she starts to laugh. A few moments later, she catches herself and says, “No, no. My eyes used to be brown. Amiodarone turned them into this chestnut color. Also makes it so when I go from a bright area to a dark, I can’t see anything further away then right in front of my face for several minutes.”

“Well, your eyes look beautiful,” I tell her.

She smiles. “Thank you. Now, second bottle!”

She holds her hand out, my first pill bottle still in it. I take it, and put down the next bottle.

And so we continue. I learn to watch out for skin rashes, my toenails becoming brittle, things like that. Also that I will almost assuredly have my hair turn white. Well, I can live with that.

When we finish, she looks me over. “You know, I love the way you’ve done up your hair.”

“Thank you,” I tell her. “Emi helped.” I lay back down on my bed as Rika moves back to the chair.

“I stopped dying my hair when it became too brittle,” Rika says, leaning back in the chair.

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Sucks. So, I live with it now,” she says, a bit resigned.

“How long did it take?” I ask.

“For my hair to change color entirely, or for it to become brittle?”

I think a moment. “Change color I suppose.”

“About a year,” she says in a clinical tone.

I pause and consider. “That… means I likely will have white hair by next year too.”

“Every person is different Iwanako. Just because my hair went white in 12 months doesn’t mean yours will. Just roll with what happens,” Rika says. Then she looks at the bed, and asks “Ok, so, how shall we handle sleeping tonight?”

“Um… oh, because you need to stay with me. Uh… I don’t know. I have no sleeping bag.”

“The beds are wide enough we could share one,” Rika suggests. “We’re both tiny too.”

“Would you be comfortable sharing a bed with me?”

Rika laughs. “Only if you are. Come on, it’ll be a slumber party. We can’t do marshmallows, but I know some good ghost stories.”

I smile at this. “Ok.”

This perky girl is making me feel like I’m a kid again.

Downix
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Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:49 am

There is the first half of Act 1. I will post the second half tomorrow. Please feel free to leave feedback.

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QuietlySomething
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Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by QuietlySomething » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:53 am

Well I have to say, I was a little concerned about this fic from the premise. I think someone a little less committed could easily just take the VN and do a lazy gender-bend with it, so I was happy to see that your story does not feel like that at all.
I really enjoyed the prologue especially, felt thoughtful and personal without retreading old ground (though maybe going a teensy bit overboard with medical talk). The whole fic feels that way really; there are a few bits that naturally are very similar to the VN but by and large it feels like its own thing. I like the similar-but-distinct feel you've established. I like that the main supporting cast seems to be made up of the tertiary characters that tend to appear in other fanfics.
I still really can't tell where this fic is going, but right now I am definitely optimistic.
I'm not familiar with this story's inspiration or how much is borrowed, but on its own merits, I have to say, you did a nice job.

Downix
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:39 pm

Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 10:53 am

Tossed and Turned

After last night, one thing stands out above all others.

Rika is a cover hog.

As with yesterday, my medication wakes me up long before my alarm is set. A nice long shower, then I have to consider what to wear. As I am not attending classes, I don’t need to wear my uniforms, my nice, new, green uniforms (still not my color), so I have a wide selection to pick from.

I’ll go with the pink and black blouse and the purple skirt today. Cute socks with ballet flats, and I feel like the outfit is correct. I’ll do the braid again, I really think it looks good with my hair. The basics for makeup, and I look fantastic if I do say so myself.

But who am I dressing up for? Used to be I’d dressed up to make my mother proud. Then I would to try and get Hisao’s attention. He was always so clueless, it was adorable.

Why can’t I just forget him? He must have forgotten me. He has to have forgotten me. I drift off into a memory for a bit, remembering just watching him across the classroom, always with the same group of friends. He always looked so happy.

Then in the hospital, he still maintained that smile. Always trying to cheer me up. I remember how he’d always bring me flowers so I could arrange them. It helped, I realize now. Without that, I may have fallen into a serious depression.

Medicine done, flowers watered, it feels like a good start to the day. I look over my tea set, used for the first time in months, and feel proud that I remembered the protocol for serving. At the door, I hear a gentle knock.

“Come in,” I tell to the mysterious visitor arriving here at 7 in the morning.

“Hi,” comes Emi’s voice as the door opens. “I forgot to ask when I should get here.”

“Now’s fine. Rika’s still sleeping.”

Emi looks over at the bed. “Did you two…?”

“Just sleep. Made me feel like I was 12 again and having a sleepover. Kind of fun, really.”

Emi eyes me, then breaks into a smile. “Okay. Hey, since you need to hit the Nurse this morning anyways, I thought to see if you’d come to the track while I do my morning routine?”

“I can’t run,” I begin.

“Just sit on the bleachers and enjoy the sunshine before it gets noisy out there,” she suggests.

I consider. “Okay. Let me tell Rika what’s up.”

Gently shaking the sleeping girl, I finally get a half open eye.

“Hey, Emi’s here for her shift. You need to swim shortly anyways. See you tonight.”

I get a noncommittal grunt and she rolls back over.

“I guess that’s that. Come on,” I tell Emi as we both bounce out the door.

As we head down the hallway, Emi pipes up with “I wouldn’t say anything if something did happen between you two either you know, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

I shake my head. “Sorry Emi. That is a bit of a bad subject for me, so can we drop it, please?

“Okay. So, you get to see me going all out today, huh! I am pretty good if I do say so myself.”

I roll my eyes. Humble, this girl is not.

The sun has risen over the treeline, just, as we reach the track. I pick a spot on the bleachers and watch Emi perform some stretches. This girl is incredibly flexible I think to myself. I used to be, back when I was in gymnastics, but that was years ago.

I wonder, how much of that do I remember? As Emi charges onto the track, I take a moment to slide off the bleachers, and sit down on the ground. Securely placing myself, I lift and extend both legs, sliding them out to each side. Closing my eyes, I gently stretch to the left, then the right, before stretching down the center.

I’m surprised at how limber I still am. While I feel my muscles are a bit tight, they’re nowhere near as bad as I’d figured they would be.

Back on my feet, I work on my hamstrings and quads. Much as with my legs, they’re tight, but not as bad as I’d been thinking.

Then, I look at the bleacher, and an idea strikes me.

I stand back on it, then lower myself on one leg while extending my other for balance. Old muscle memory, still intact. I close my eyes, and just feel the sunlight falling on me as I balance here. It’s quite relaxing, truth be told.

“Whatcha doin,” comes Emi’s voice, bounding up to me.

Not even opening my eyes I respond to her. “Practicing some stretches. I have not done this in years, and it feels good.”

“I don’t think the nurse would like you doing them… buuuut I won’t tell if you won’t.”

I chuckle, put my leg back down on the ground, and turn around to face the strawberry scented track star. “It’s fine if you do tell. How did the run go?”

“Running is a good way to clear your head.”

I nod. “Well, I could imagine so. Where to now?”

“The nurse, silly.”

I chuckle. “Of course.”

I hop off the bleachers and we both head to the nurses office, with Emi heading in first.

Standing in the hallway, I look at my reflection in the glass, and consider a moment the girl standing there. A few days ago, she looked confident, but it was a hollow shell, fragile. Today, she looks relaxed. Not really confident, but relaxed.

The door opens, and Emi cries out, “Your turn. I’ll wait here for you.”

Inside, the nurse pulls out a sheet of paper. “I gave this to Emi as well, so you’ll have an extra set of eyes watching to help you with your diet.” He hands it over to me. “We want to see you healthy.”

The initial discomfort done, he then begins the examination. I know the routine, breathe deep, check reflexes, check eyes…

“You seem to be recovering well. Emi mentioned this morning you tried some stretches, care to tell me what you were thinking?”

I consider a moment. “I was thinking how I have not done gymnastics in years, and I was curious if I still remembered how to stretch.”

He purses his lips up and nods. “Well, I won’t tell you not to, but I will say to limit such activity until next week. Last thing we need is for you to stumble and turn your moderate concussion into a serious one.

“Now, how are you and Emi getting along?”

I smile at that. “She is such a sweetheart. I enjoyed spending time with her yesterday.”

“I’m glad,” he tells me. “You’re not out of the woods however, so you need to rest. I think that’s going to be the most punishment for Emi, honestly, that she has to stay in one place for so long.”

“I will keep that in mind. See you tomorrow,” I tell him.

He smiles and waves as I head out.

“So, first things first, need to feed you!” Emi looks a bit too excited about that.

...

“Are you certain that this will help with my weight,” I ask, disbelieving what was set down before me.

“Yes, that’s all on the plan,” Emi tells me.

I look over the odd collection of food. A riceball, nuts, dried fruit, something called an avocado, and a strip of salmon.

“For breakfast?”

Emi nods with a bit too much enthusiasm.

Back in my room, the food smells delicious, but it looks odd to me. Not what I usually ate this early in the morning anyways.

I yawn a bit, darn medicine and sleep schedules. Then start to graze at it. Emi tears into her breakfast as well.

With a half hour before classes start, the last thing I expected was the knock at my door.

“Come in, the door is unlocked,” I tell whomever is on the other side.

As the pink head of hair rounds my door frame, I wince in anticipation of the volume of her voice.

“Oh! It’s good to see you, Iwacchan!”

Misha’s bright, gold eyes lock on to me. I’m not surprised to see Shizune sleekly filing in beside her, her expression unreadable as ever. Yet, after yesterday, I’m actually happy to see them.

“It is very good to see you two as well,” I say before putting another bite of food into my mouth.

Shizune’s eyes lock into Emi, and go flat.

Misha translates for her. “Miss Ibarazaki, what are you doing here?”

I point to her with my chopsticks, and swallow my food before speaking. “The nurse requires me to have round the clock observation to make sure I am recovering. Emi is handling it for half of the day as part of her punishment.”

Emi looks a bit awkward with them here. Can’t blame her, considering how thoroughly I heard that Shizune chewed her out. I think this is the quietest I’ve seen her, in fact.

Shizune however smiles her little enigmatic smile.

Misha translates. “Oh. Well, the teacher asked us to drop off yesterday’s assignments.”

“Thank you, I appreciate that. I will not be able to work on them until tomorrow however, nurse’s orders.”

I note that my head isn’t hurting from Misha’s voice as much as I’d thought it would either. I guess that’s a good thing.

“I’m surprised you came,” I say, looking between them.

“Why Iwacchan? Can’t two people look out for their friends after an accident?” Misha asks, seemingly annoyed that I said that.

Friends? Do they genuinely consider me one? Doubtful, but it does feel good to hear that.

“Well, thank you, again. I do need to finish my breakfast however, again, nurses orders.”

“Oooo, what do you have Iwacchan?” Misha moves past me and over to my tray, looking down at it. “This is… a little odd. The nurse came up with this? Why?”

I move back to my bed and sit down. “Found out yesterday that I am underweight. Seems my medications are causing weight loss.” I gesture to the pill bottles on my nightstand.

Shizune looks from them, to me, a look of surprise on her face before recomposing herself.

“Weight… loss? Well, we can’t have that, can we? Do you want to join us for lunch, Iwacchan? You too Emi.”

This is now the second lunch invitation I’ve had for today. Am I Miss Popularity or something?

“I’m supposed to be resting, so I should really not be going anywhere, sorry.”

“Oh, after?”

I nod. “We’ll figure out lunch sometime after, that sounds good. But you two should be getting to class. Have to set a good example, right?”

“Right! Plus you were not the only person we were looking for either, and we need to find her. See you after class Iwacchan, Emi!”

I look at the door as they leave, and sigh. “Can we be somewhere else after class, Emi?”

“You’re supposed to be resting,” she points out.

“Well, I can rest outside somewhere, right? Maybe just outside the dorms, so I’m close enough in case I get tired?”

Emi considers, then smiles. “Okay, that seems doable. Maybe we could help Rin?”

“Help Rin with what?”

“She’s painting a the mural in front of the building for the festival,” Emi tells me.

I tilt my head, considering.

“I am no good at painting.”

“Me either. I just help her mix colors.”

I nod. “That I can do. Maybe I would feel less useless for this festival.”

We both fall into silence. Skipping school really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It takes a few minutes before the silence is broken.

Emi sighs and leans back. “Okay, watching someone rest is boring.”

“Yeah,” I tell her. “Boring on this end too. Want to watch a movie or something?”

Emi shakes her head. “Not really.”

“Me either,” I tell her.

...

When you’re not in class, a school is dull it turns out. Mutou’s class is going on right now, I suppose. When you’re stuck in a single room, it can be hard to remember that time passes outside, that your classmates are attending lessons and making memories you’re not a part of.

“Emi, what is there to do around here?”

“Well, you can walk into town, but you’re not allowed to do that. There are the woods behind the school too. Uh…”

“Woods?” I ask, my interest piping up. “Would there be any flowers out there?”

“I don’t know. Rin goes out there sometimes,” Emi says.

“Want to go look?”

Emi hesitates a moment. “Are you up to it?”

“I feel fine… mostly. It’s mainly loud noises which hurt. Being away from the school should help with that, right?” I plead with her. “Plus if something happens you will be there.” I pick up my gathering basket, a simple thing I have used since I was 7, and look at her.

Emi considers a moment, then smiles. “Right! Let’s go!”

Heading to the far side of the enclosure wall, Emi leads us to a small back gate. On initial sight, it looks to be made from the same wrought iron as the main gate. Beyond its slightly open maw, we can see the shadowy woodland park behind the school.

Clearly this is not an unexplored area, as a well worn path leads deeper into the forest. Tall zelkova and maple trees rustle in the wind, their canopies creating patches of chill air hanging in the places where the shadows fall. The deep earth smell permeates the forest, making it feel more like a hidden garden than a wild area. The muted brown and gray trunks line the path on both sides, peppered with ferns and other undergrowth.

And I see what I am looking for there, in the undergrowth just a dozen or so meters out from the gate. I take out my basket and clippers, and start to work. Emi walks up behind me, and looks over my shoulder.

“What are you doing?” She asks, clearly confused.

I point to the bush I am working on. “This is a kerria bush. They are common in forest areas like this. And, if you trim them properly… there are these beautiful yellow flowers.” I hold one up for Emi.

“Combine flower, leaf, stem, all parts to make a whole,” I say quietly to myself, remembering the mantra my grandmother taught me.

“Oh! And you’re going to…?”

I nod. “Arrange them, yes. I miss doing ikebana, and I have my tools, so…”

“Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone do that before,” Emi seems genuinely curious.

I smile, snipping myself a few fern branches to go with them. “I would be delighted to have you watch.”

Assessing what I’ve collected, I feel a bit of satisfaction. “There, with what I have in my room already, these should be sufficient. We should be head back.”

“Only three flowers?” Emi considers what I’ve collected.

“Nature is never organized, but asymmetrical. Odd numbered flowers represent good luck. But the flowers are not the most important part. See the fern leaves I have here? They are the foundation for this. Add the branches I collected for support and strength. And in my room I have the lavender I was going to use for… well nevermind. I have lavender which is not going to be used for what I had planned.”

“So, how does this work anyways?” Emi seems quite curious.

“It’s difficult to explain, better to show you, but what you are doing at its core is that each piece represents something unique. These flowers here represent longing. The ones in my room represent faithfulness. The ferns represent earth, upon which things shall grow. The pine branches here are for a long life. And the ivy is for… for…”

I can remember what I had wished for, what I was going to make. Every detail planned out. A gift for him. Why can’t I forget him? He has to have forgotten me by now.

Emi looks at me with concern in her eyes. “Iwanako? Is… are you alright?”

I nod slowly. “I will be. I just… just… Emi? Do you have anyone?”

“Like a boyfriend?” She asks, curious.

I nod. “Like a boyfriend, yes.”

“No. Not anymore. I dated someone last year, but it didn’t work out. What about you? I mean, you’re pretty, so I bet you had all the boys…”

“Just one, I just wanted one.”

“Iwanako, why are you crying?” Emi says, looking concerned. “What happened?”

I pat my chest. “This happened. In front of him, as I confessed. For the longest time I wished for… a particular boy to be my boyfriend. When I finally worked up the nerve, my heart just…”

“And he left you?” Emi looks upset at the thought.

I shake my head. “The opposite. He visited me every day. He was so sweet. But, he was wasting his life, so I told him to go away. I made him go away,” I remember it all so clearly.

“Is that who Hisao is?”

I nod.

“Why did you do that? You didn’t think he’d wait for you?” Emi looks a bit irritated at me.

“Because I knew he would. That stupid, dumb, beautiful boy. He deserves someone… I need him to forget me. He deserves someone he can build a future with. I’d just hold him back.” I can’t look at her. I’ve known her for less than 24 hours, and here I am pouring my heart out. “I should just forget him, but I can’t. I see that smile, always there no matter how I was.”

And as I say that, Emi walks up to me, and punches me in the arm.

“Ow! What was that for?”

Emi looks at me sternly before saying “For giving up. If you remember him, then remember him. But standing here wallowing in your misery isn’t going to help you out any, so shape up, you hear me!”

I glare at her. We both stare at each other for a moment before Emi breaks out in a smile.

I return it, and we both laugh. “I’m just feeling sorry for myself. I know he’s gone. I know it’s my fault. I just can’t help… I just wish it were different, that’s all”

Emi considers. “Do you know why I run?”

I shake my head.

“Running clears my head. I don't have to worry about anything while I'm running. I just concentrate on breathing, on the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement. It's easier that way. Life's easier that way. Just keep moving forward, you know?”

I nod, “You know, that’s pretty wise.”

Emi’s smile deepens. “I know! Come on, let’s get back.”

“Let’s.”

Downix
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:39 pm

Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 10:58 am

Flower, Stem and Branch

My tools lay out on the desk, next to an empty bowl, and the material I gathered. This makes me feel more at ease than I have in months. On the bed, Emi looks on with curiosity as I start to work.

I take my kenzan and set it down in the bowl. Made of brass, it feels so familiar. This particular one I have used for several years. I remember previous arrangements I have used this one for. My home, for school, friends birthdays, even holidays, the arrangements were always a joy to create.

Same with this bowl, a simple glass unit not more than 4cm high. I have used it so often that I know every little flaw and nuance. But these little details are what make it perfect for this.

For awhile, the world just is not there. This is everything, all I have, and all I need. Lengths in the right ratio, instinct now, the arrangement reaches its balance. Flowers arranged, I snip a sprig from my lavender to accent the kerria blossoms. Branches to hold them all in place, the piece comes together finally when I add the water to the bowl.

“There. What do you think?”

Emi looks it over. “Well, I don’t really understand it. But it’s pretty. What are you going to do with it?”

I shrug. “I don’t know, honestly. Could one of the festival booths use it?”

“Can’t hurt to find out,” Emi suggests.

“I want to contribute something to the festival.”

A knock at the door brings us back to the world for a bit. “Come in,” I tell the mysterious knocker.

“My hand’s full,” comes Miki’s voice from the other side.

Emi and I look at each other before she jumps up (how she does that on those legs is beyond me) and opens the door.

On the other side, my classmate is standing there with a sack in her one hand.

“I bring deliciousness,” she says as she strides into the room.

“Miki, what are you doing here?” I ask, surprised to see her.

“Well-l-l, SOMEone didn’t show up for class after being pancaked by the shortie…”

“Hey!” Emi exclaims

Miki continues as if Emi didn’t say anything. “… so we had the idea of getting you a get-well cake.”

“Don’t lie. You conned Haru into giving it to you,” comes Suzu’s voice from down the hall. A few moments later she rounds the corner of the room, closing the door behind her.

Miki frowns at her deception being exposed. “Well, yeah, but it sounds better the way I said it.”

Looking from one to the other, I say “What are you two doing here?”

“Bringing lunch,” Miki says with a wink.

Emi glares at Miki. “Cake is not lunch!”

Miki sticks her tongue out at Emi. “Spoilsport.”

“Is it lunchtime already?”

“Well, yeah, didn’t you hear the bell?” Miki looks dumbfounded.

I think back, and I must have been completely engrossed in my work. “I guess not.” I pull out my table and set it down. “Come on!”

I see the sour look Emi is giving me. “Hey, nurse said I needed calories, right?”

“This is not what he meant,” she pouts.

Miki waves the cake in front of Emi. “You can have an extra sli-i-i-ce.”

“Bribery will not help get you out of this…”

Suzu chuckles as she sits down. “I guess I’ll have it then.”

“Wait! I never said I wouldn’t take it!” Emi jumps up then plops down at the table.

I put out the plates for everyone and set up my teapot.

As we eat, I can’t help but enjoy this feeling. I’ve only been here a few days, and everyone is doing what they can to make me feel welcome. If anyone asked me last week if I would be out of the hospital, sitting at a table with not one, but two amputees while enjoying a chocolate cake for lunch, I would have called them a liar. And yet, here I am, laughing, enjoying the gossip, being a teenaged girl again.

“Thank you for coming, seriously,” I tell them.

“We were worried about you,” Suzu says between sips of tea.

Miki nods. “After what happened, nobody would be surprised if you hated it here, ya know?”

“It was an accident, right Emi?”

She nods, looking a bit sheepish as she does so.

“Emi’s mistake does not forgive my own carelessness. I should have been looking as to where I was going, just as she should not have been running in the halls. I can’t blame a school for that, can I?”

“Man, you are way too chill,” Miki says, looking at me oddly.

I smile. “After working, I am usually pretty relaxed.”

“Working?” Miki seems quite confused.

Suzu looks behind me and inhales sharply as her eyes go wide. “Oh wow, that’s beautiful!”

Miki looks at it, and tilts her head as if trying to figure it out. “How’d you do that?”

“I saw her do it, and I still don’t know how she did it,” Emi responds.

I shrug. “I began learning it when I was 7. My grandmother used to and I learned it from her.”

Emi then looks to the other girls, and clearly is considering something.

“Something on your mind?” I ask her.

“Um… could I leave her in your care for 10 minutes Miki?”

Clearly not expecting the question, Miki almost chokes on her cake. “Wait, what? It sounded to me like you just asked me to be responsible for something.”

“Just 10 minutes, promise.”

Suzu pats Miki’s arm. “We can manage that.”

I remember something. “Emi, are you going near the school?”

“Well, yes, why?”

“Can you let Hanako and Lilly know that I can’t join them for lunch? I’d promised to let them know, but I did not think about how much the bells would hurt.”

“Great! Ok, I can do that!” Emi charges out of the room at full throttle.

“Isn’t that how she got into this mess?” I muse to the room.

...

After Miki and Suzu exit, Emi is not back yet so I lay down on my bed and sigh. Around my room, it dawns on me that I’ve spent so much time here over the past 24 hours that it’s actually feeling like home. I can’t help but smile. This is my room, mine, not the hospital’s.
I roll onto my back, and just relax. It takes a moment, but I manage to drift off into a comfortable nap.

At some point Emi returned, and I find her at the desk studying. Good for her. Just because you’re suspended doesn’t make you exempt from homework. I’ll need to work on my own tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, once I’m cleared, I need to go in-town for supplies. I can’t live off of Rika’s food after all. And Rika’s been such a sweetheart, I need to do something special for her.

Before I know it, the clock is reading 3:30.

“Hey Emi, weren’t we going to go do something?” I remind the pigtailed person currently reviewing her English.

Apparently she’d zoned out too, as she jumps up in surprise.

Emi exclaims “Oh! Right! The Mural! Come on!”

As we exit our dorm it’s not hard to see the bobbing tangle of red hair moving back and forth on the other side of the wall just off to the side.
Rounding the corner, what everyone was talking about comes into view. One of the raised walls by the steps is covered with what appears to be some kind of neo-surrealist painting in progress. I swear I do not remember this being here before, but then I think back and realize, I hadn’t walked past this spot since Tuesday. That means the amount of work here was done over the past two days. I can’t help but be impressed.

Rin looks to be deep in concentration, staring at part of the wall, before she picks up a brush with one of her feet and starts attacking the white surface with such vigor I wonder if the wall had offended her ancestors. If I didn’t know that she was painting beforehand, I would have taken her movements as some form of exercise routine.

“I need your help,” she says, not even looking over at us.

“Right!” Emi just hustles over and looks around. “What do you need?”

Rin tilts her head at the wall and takes a moment before speaking. “Emi, I need the Prussian blue paint.”

Glancing at the cans surrounding Rin, Emi asks “Which one's Prussian blue…?

Looking around, I can see that there are 8 cans of blue, but none of them look particularly Prussian-like.

Clearly in distress, Rin tells Emi “It's the one with Prussian blue paint in it.”

Emi sticks her tongue out at Rin. "Geez, Rin! You're not helping at all!"

I quickly spin the cans to read the labels, wiping off the labels. “Ultramarine, Cobalt, Winsor, Cerulean, Pthalo, Manganese, Mauve, Indanthrene… I’m sorry Rin, I do not see any Prussian blue here.”

I sigh as I look at my hands, which now look like I was just fingerprinted by the police.

Emi then stands up. “Right. We need to go get more, then!”

“You go on, I’ll help Rin down here. If we split up she can work faster, right?”

Emi considers this, then nods. “Good idea! I’ll be right back!”

“Iwanako?”

I was so focused on Emi rushing off that Rin’s voice makes me jump slightly. Looking back to her, she’s looking straight at me with those deep green eyes that vaguely remind me of the bottoms of dark green beer bottles. I think this is the first time I’ve noticed her actually looking straight at me rather than through me.

“I have three paints that I can’t use. I need for them to be one paint I can use.”

“Ok, so you need me to mix paint for you?”

“Yes.” She talks in such a matter of fact, it takes me a moment to respond. “It would have been better to have it earlier, but you weren't here then.”

I sit down next to the tray she gestured to. “I don’t really know the first thing about mixing paint.”

“That part’s easy,” she says, her expression blank. “The first thing about mixing paint is to take two or more colors of paint and pour them into the same container.”

I wait for the next thing… and wait…

“Actually,” she says thoughtfully, “that may be the only thing about mixing paint.”

I stifle a laugh as I look at the two metal cylinders by the tray. I gesture to them, asking “These two cans?”

“No. those two,” she says, tapping the cans with her feet, “and that one over there.” She swings her foot in a direction and I can vaguely make out the can she’s pointing at a few meters away.

“Sure thing,” I say, standing back up and walking over to grab the wayward can. It’s a lot heavier than it looks, and I find myself grunting in a less-than-ladylike tone under my breath as I heave it over to where the girl is standing. I guess that with all that weight I lost over my hospitalization, I lost what little muscle tone I had, too.

Setting the can on the ground, and taking a moment to shake the numbness out of my arms, I look up at the girl. She’s just standing over me, watching me with what is quite possibly the most unreadable expression I’ve ever seen. I don’t even know if it’s blank, per se. It’s almost like an owl, uncertain of what to make of a person in its presence.

I look at the two cans, and consider how they work. “So… how do you get these open?”

Wordlessly, she turns away, and I have a moment to look at her a bit closer. Now that she’s not sitting down like on Monday I can see that she is the same height as I am. Watching her, I consider how the boys uniform hangs on her frail frame, and I can’t help but think on how right now I’m even skinnier than her.

She turns to me, and throws a screwdriver over with her feet.

She says in that deadpan voice I’ve already gotten used to, “Use this.”

I nod, and pick up the screwdriver. Rin is already picking up another brush with her toes, and looking at the tray in anticipation.

I murmur, “I guess I’ll pop these open, then.”

“Seems like a good guess to me.”

Giving her a sidelong glance, the way she speaks makes me chuckle a little bit to myself as I kneel down beside the can and gently try and pry it open. It proves to be easier than it looks. Once both cans are open, I start pouring the first one into the tray.

“Stop. Stop there.”

I set the can back down. “That’s enough?”

Rin nods. “It is. Now the next one.”

Silently shaking my head, I place the lid back on the can and take the other one, setting its lid aside and pouring the paint slowly into the basin, where it swirls and mixes with the other color. Taking a moment to watch, I find that the sight is beautiful.

Rin then blurts out, “Stop.”

I pick up the third, and this time I only put a little bit in before the call comes out, “Stop.”

“Okay,” I say, setting the can down. “Is that all?”

“No. It’s only a portion. I don’t need anymore of this, though.”

“I… good. Mind if I stay here till Emi gets back?”

Rin doesn’t even seem to notice that I said anything to her, being lost in her work. Watching her, I can see the kind of peaceful look on her face that people have told me I had sometimes when working with flowers. She is a bit more aggressive than I am about it however, moving with quick motions many times too difficult to follow.

It’s not long before Emi comes back, covered head to toe with at least 5 different colors of paint, carrying a can.

“What happened to you?” I ask, completely bewildered.

“The… Prussian… Blue… Was… On… The… Top… Shelf…” Emi says, breathing hard as she carries the can and sets it down loudly next to where Rin is working.

“Uh… I think you spilled a little on you…” I say, trying very hard not to laugh.

She gives me a very flat look, which finally sends me over the edge into a giggle fit.

Emi is giving me a furious face, which only makes me laugh harder. Even when upset she looks adorable!

“So, Rin, what made you think to use Prussian blue anyways?” I ask, ignoring the glare Emi is giving me.

“Because it’s Emi’s color,” Rin answers matter-of-factly.

“What?!” Emi says, resetting her face from fury to curiosity.

Rin seems nonplussed. “When I see you I see blue.” She then points to me with the brush, splattering paint in my direction, then down at the paint I’d just mixed. “When I see her, I see burgundy, so I had her make burgundy.”

I then look over the in-progress mural. There are the outlines for several human-ish figures already. Huh, if I were guessing, it seems that she is drawing from the immediate area, as it is happening. I look above the wall, and realize that the main view is of other people’s feet. And there in the mural, the outlines of a lot of feet.

But then I consider that there is a naked woman’s torso in the middle of the mural, in the area Rin is currently working on. “Huh, what is that doing there?” I wonder to myself. Looking up, I blush and shoot my eyes downward, realizing that whomever is in the room directly above this spot clearly hasn’t realized that with her curtains open we can see everything while she’s changing!

Looking back, I see that I’m not the only person who has noticed the girl’s predicament.

“Getting an eyeful Maeda?” I tell the boy standing about 3 meters behind me.

He looks down, then groans. “You again? Man, you are certainly trouble, aren’t you.”

Emi looks up at him, then at me, then up at the window before her eyes go wide. She yells out, “Hey, close your curtain! Everybody can see you!”

Glancing back, I see that the girl has stopped, then shrieks. When she does that, I recognize the voice immediately. With a flash of pink hair, Misha closes the curtains, and so ends Maeda’s show.

Rin looks up, tilts her head, then back at Maeda, and seems to be studying him.

“Bah,” he says as he marches into the boys dorm.

Rin shrugs, and returns back to painting.

“I’m sorry,” I tell her.

“I don’t know what you did, but I forgive you,” Rin replies with.

It is clear that she’s not upset by losing her subject, but then again, she may not even been aware that she was using a subject at all. It’s all very confusing.

A few minutes later Misha comes rushing out of the dorm, looking quite flustered. She tries very hard not to look in our direction as she charges forward to the main building at a solid clip.

Glancing back, I see that Rin has now begun tracing what I think is a leering face as part of the woman’s torso. I smile a bit, considering. I look to the crowd and see that Rika is heading our way.

“Alright Emi, it seems your shift is over. I will see you tomorrow. Have a good day Rin,” I tell her.

Rin responds, not looking in my direction, “That’s a good idea. I think I’ll try to have it in a few weeks.”

Emi looks at her, then breaks out in a huge smile before saying, “See you tomorrow Iwanako.”

Downix
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:39 pm

Re: A Butterfly Dream - Iwanako/Hisao Inversion

Post by Downix » Thu Jul 19, 2018 11:02 am

The Key Unlocked

The next morning comes far too quickly. Rika certainly takes her job seriously, but does she need to be that close?

I pry myself loose from her icy death grip and pull myself to the bathroom.

Last night we slept in her room, rather than mine, to ‘keep the experience fresh’ as Rika put it. I think it’s more likely because I don’t have a night-light.

The shower feels so good this morning. Knowing that by the end of school I’ll be free to wander about again helps as well. I want to dress well today.

A long, plaid skirt with blue top, accented by a pair of bracelets and that necklace mom gave me for my birthday last year should do. Light on the makeup, and there, I look ready to face the world.

Rika’s been feeding me all week. I should buy supplies and return the favor. The town has to have some kind of store, right?

At 6:58, I open the door, to a surprised Emi standing there with her hand up ready to knock.

“Ready?” I ask her as I brush past into the hallway.

“You seem eager,” she notes as I head out.

“I want to sit in the sunshine,” I tell her turning around in place to face her while I talked, still heading down the hallway.

It takes her a moment to realize that she’s standing still while I’m leaving her behind. Once she does it takes no time to catch up, but the look on her face is priceless.

“And I want to see the nurse, so he’ll give me the all clear for this afternoon!”

Emi now gets it, and charges after me, a smile on her face.

So there we are, two teenagers charging down the hall like a pair of grade schoolers, giggling as we go.

When we arrive at the track, I let Emi’s hand go, and plop myself down on the bleachers. Closing my eyes as she rushes off to the track, I inhale through my nose deeply, just taking in the scents of Yamaku. The sounds of the birds rising as the sun slowly moves on its journey across the sky makes me lift my eyelids to watch the tiny speck of yellow peeking through the treeline.

A skinny, small girl in her pink blouse and plaid skirt on those cold benches, at 7 in the morning? Sitting there cross-legged on the bleachers, I must have looked utterly mad.

It does not seem to matter to Emi however as she hurls herself around the track. The nurse asked me not to practice any exercises, so I’m not. Instead I practice controlling my breathing. It always relaxes me to just sit there with such a simple exercise.

When Emi finishes her routine, she bounds up as energetic as ever. Standing up from my seat, I join her in the jog up to the nurses office.

“You first,” I tell the track star. Waiting in the hallway, I look around the hallway. Along the side opposite the nurses office are other exam rooms, apparently for visiting doctors. Well, some of my classmates do need more direct care than others.

When did I start considering them “my classmates” anyways? Huh, it hasn’t even been a week, and yet I feel more at ease here than I thought I could.

Glancing at the usual health pamphlets on the outside of the office, one catches my attention.

The picture of a pregnant teenager on the cover is meant to instill a fear, that if someone is not careful they may be a teenaged mother. Instead of fear, it only fills me with sadness and regret. I would trade spots with that girl this instant.

You don’t know how lucky you are until something you took for granted is gone. I took it for granted that I could have children, could have a family, and now…

Lost in my own despair, I am surprised as Emi has charges out of the Nurses office, yelling “Your turn,” before beginning her impatient act of waiting in the middle of the hallway.

Setting the pamphlet down, I peek into the office, and the nurse waves me over.

“Just on time,” he tells me. “Emi told me you did not engage in any balance beam or pole vaulting this morning, so it seems you’ve been listening to my instructions.”

I put on my disarming smile. “Of course. I am trying very hard to recover.”

The smile feels more hollow today. Flashes of the girl on the pamphlet keep crossing my mind. Why can’t I just resign myself to my fate?
The exam is rather brief before he begins giving out the advise.

“It looks like you’ve pretty much recovered no worse for wear. I still am going to recommend you not go to class today, but you should be good to return tomorrow.” He says with his usual grin. “Think you can live without Emi and Rika at your beck and call?”

I nod. “I think so, yes. Nurse? I had a question.”

He nods to go ahead.

“Do you think I could manage to walk into town this evening?”

He muses a moment, then nods. “I don’t see why not.”

My smile became a bit more genuine then. “Ok, good.”

He then looks a bit more serious. “Now, there is something else I’ve wanted to bring up,” he says. “Something is bothering you today, isn’t it?”

I shake my head slightly. “Nothing important.”

He looks at me sternly. “Now hear me out. Four months ago you suffered a near-death experience. From that, you discovered a life-threatening chronic condition. And now that you are free from the hospital, here you are uprooted from home on very short notice. Honestly, if you weren’t being bothered by something, I’d be more worried.”

I look down, I don’t want this conversation right now. “No, it’s… It’s just… Yes, something is bothering me, but it’s not what you think.”
He looks at me with a “go on” impression in his eyes.

Taking a deep breath, I ask him “Look, the subject would make both of us uncomfortable. Do you understand?”

He raises an eyebrow, and nods slightly.

I can’t look at him. No, compose yourself Iwanako. Be poised, proper. “The subject is very sensitive for me right now.”

He considers a moment. “Ah, I understand. Well, if you want to talk about it…”

“I know where to come, yes. But I can’t, not right now.”

Chewing that over, he finally says “If talking to a woman would be better, we do have a highly trained lady who works upstairs.”

“Of course. I’m just… I don’t want to think about it.”

“Running away from your problems solves nothing… despite what Emi might have you think,” the nurse says with a wink at the end. “Only you can decide when you want to talk. We’re here to help, alright?”

“Thank you, I do appreciate it,” I tell him. And considering, I do actually appreciate what he and everyone else is doing for me here. “It’s all… It really does not help that I’ve been out since Wednesday either.”

“Yes, I suppose so,” he says. “Well, yes, you should be fine for tonight, and be sure to show up for your classes tomorrow.”

I smile, fully genuine now. “I am looking forward to it.”

“Now get going,” he tells me.

In the hallway, Emi is bouncing a bit in place. As much as me being forced to rest was annoying, not being able to engage with much over the past two days has made Emi antsy.

Heading back to the dorms, I am surprised to find Rika in my room when I get there, sitting at the desk, staring at my flower arrangement with her face just inches away from it. Failing to notice our return, she looks almost mesmerized.

“Everything alright,” I ask her, causing her to jump up and nearly falling backwards out of the seat she was in. Thankfully Emi was already there and caught her.

Initially I was going to chuckle, but the look on her face suddenly goes pained.

OHSHITOHSHITOHSHIT!!

Um.. what was I supposed to do… breathe, right, concentrate on breathing.

Realizing something’s wrong, Emi gently sets Rika down on the ground as I rush up and grab her hand.

“Rika, hold on. Concentrate on your breathing. In, and out. Focus on that,” I say in as reassuring a voice as I can. Keep up the face, don’t let the fear show. She needs reassurance right now, to know that everything will be alright.

The pain fades from her face and she slowly opens her eyes again to look at me.

“I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you like that,” I tell her. My eyes are a bit itchy, then after a few blinks it dawns on me that I was actually crying.

Rika just keeps breathing heavily.

Emi then looks at her. “Ok, time to see the Nurse.”

Rika sticks out her tongue. “I’m fine now.”

“No way. You’re not fine till he says you’re fine, got that!” She may be tiny but man that girl can give a glare.

Chuckling I tell Rika “She’s not going to let up till you go. Do you honestly want her stalking you the rest of the day going ‘Rika, go to the nurse’? Come on. I’ll go with you.

We help her up to her feet. Just as we start to exit the room, Rika spins back around and points to the flower arrangement.

“Where’d you get that?” She asks all of a sudden.

“I made it, why?” I reply.

She grabs both of my hands. “Can you make more?”

I blink, not expecting that. “Well, yes. I’d need more flowers, but yes I can. Why?”

“How many could you make by Sunday?” Rika seems very eager here.

I think for a moment. “Well, I would not have time to go into the forest and hunt for flowers like before, but if I had flowers, 7 or 8, why?”

Rika then gets this look on her face like she just found a hundred thousand yen note. “Ok, can you please? The flowers we ordered aren’t going to be ready on time for our booth. Please Iwanako?” I guess Emi isn’t the only one with a pouty face.

“Is there a florist nearby?” I ask tentatively.

Emi pipes up with “The art store Rin and I visit carries flowers. Need me to show you?”

Shaking my head I tell her “I need to learn this town anyways. It’s small, I’m sure I can find it.”

“Well, ok. It’s by the Aura Mart,” she says finally.

“Is that a market?”

Both girls nod. “It’s where most students usually resupply. Miki picks stuff up there for me when she and Suzu go out,” Rika says.

I smile. “Sounds good. I’ll do that after 4.”

Wait a second, did I just find a way to help with the festival?

“Where should I bring the arrangements when I’m finished?”

“We’ll be setting up the booth at 7am sharp Sunday morning,” Rika tells me. “It’s going to be… uh… you know the walkway going from here straight to the Nurses office? We’ll be along there. You can’t miss us, we’ll all be in those yukatas you helped Saki make.”

Emi finally loses her patience. “Right, nurse, now young lady!”

Hanging her head, Rika moves forward, sighing out “Yes ma’am.”

...

The nurse quickly determines that Rika is fine, but scolds me for scaring her. I deserve that.

Afterwards, standing in the corridor outside of his office, Emi seems to have come up with some kind of idea.

“Um… Iwanako? Rika?”

“Yes Emi?” I respond, while Rika tilts her head in a curious manner.

“Do you feel up to lunch on the roof?”

I consider the request. I’ve not had any dizziness today. “My worry are the bells. But, we can consider it a test? Why?”

Emi looks up at the top of the building. “Because I’m afraid if I don’t show up she’ll wander off.”

“Who?” asks Rika.

“Rin,” Emi answers.

Rika considers a moment more. “Tezuka?”

Emi nods.

Rika sighs. “I guess I can see that. Alright, I’ll join you guys on the roof, that is if you’re going Iwanako.”

Nodding, I respond with “It’ll be a good test. If I can manage that, I should be good to go. I’ll make lunch for you both, a way to thank you for helping the past few days.”

The little food my mother left with me will do for lunch. Plus I will be resupplying tonight anyways, so it does not matter if I use up the last of it today.

Checking the clock, I tell Rika “You have just enough time to get to class. We’ll see you at noon, right?”

Rika nods. “See you then.”

Heading outside, I slow down, causing Emi some confusion.

“Everything alright?”

I hold up one hand. “Shh!”

She looks on, puzzled by my behavior.

And then the school bell rings.

I take a deep breath, and exhale it slowly, smiling as I finish.

“There,” I tell her.

She confused look on her face slowly melts away. “It didn’t hurt?”

Nodding, I agree. “It didn’t hurt. That means I can definitely do lunch today.”

The rest of the morning Emi uses to keep up with her studies, while I prepare for tomorrows floral work. After I do my studying this afternoon, then go to town.

Finishing it, I roll onto my back, enjoying the end of the morning.

With her studying apparently done, Emi also looks as bored as I feel.

“Iwanako, want to do something?” she asks out of the blue.

“Yeah, but what?”

Emi thinks. “It’s an hour to lunch. We could make them now and get up there early.”

I turn this idea over in my head. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Let’s hit the kitchen.”

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