Act 1: Palette
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.
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!”
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.”
“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.