“Kill them, Jason. Kill them for Mommy.”
A horror movie marathon was not exactly what I had in mind for keeping Suzu awake, but it certainly seems to be working. For the past two hours she’s been practically glued to the screen, sitting forward and upright instead of her usual relaxed slouch. Miki and myself, on the other hand, are both leaning against the wall seated on Suzu’s bed.
“And Emi really didn’t try to stop you?”
“I don’t think she saw any reason to until I fell.”
Miki crosses her arms and scowls at the floor, shaking her head. “That girl...I swear, it’s like she’s trying to kill you or something.”
“I don’t know. She seems nice enough, and it wasn’t like she was forcing me to go as fast as she was.”
“Well she certainly didn’t try to stop you either!” Miki retorts, still angry for a moment before she seems to have an idea. “Hey, Hisao...do you really want to run in the mornings?”
I look at her a bit confused. “From the way you worded that, I take it you have some other time in mind?”
Miki shrugs, grabbing one of Suzu’s sizable stuffed animals and hugging it to her chest. “I run after school instead of at the buttcrack of dawn since I can’t be bothered to get up that early. If you want, you could run with me instead. Might be nice to not have the Nurse’s snitch on your ass at all times.”
“I’ll...think about it. It’s only day two, and I don’t really want to seem rude or anything.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Miki waves her hand dismissively. “Emi might get all huffy and puffy next time she sees you, but she can’t hold a grudge to save her life.”
I am certainly closer with Miki than I am Emi, as much as being friends with Emi seems like a good idea. Like Saki, Emi seems to have a natural talent for putting people in good moods. Unlike
Miki, Emi also seems to have a tendency to push people past their limits as long they’re willing to keep going.
“You know what? Sure, why not. I could use the extra sleep in the morning.”
“Smart boy.” Miki nudges me to punctuate her statement.
“Can you two shut up? You’re distracting.”
We both turn to look at Suzu. Miki looks rather amused as she pushes herself forward and wraps her arms around Suzu. “Oh, am I distracting you from your slashers, Suzu? Oh, how awful of me! I must be just the worst friend ever
Suzu’s annoyance with us quickly melts into laughter as Miki practically wrestles with her for a few moments. After being released, Suzu lets out a rather loud yawn.
“Alright, I think it is probably late enough to let you get some shut eye, twerp.” Miki rises from Suzu’s bed and I follow suit. “Promise me you won’t watch another one after this, Suzu.”
“I promise.” Suzu mutters back, already starting to shift into a more comfortable position on her now-unoccupied bed.
“Good girl.” Miki and I exit the room. She fishes a key ring out of her pocket and locks Suzu’s door, twiddling a key at me before stuffing it back into her pocket. “Present from the Nurse. Figured it was a good idea for me to be able to barge in if I really need to.”
Huh. Wonder if that would be a good idea for me. “You two are pretty close, huh?”
“Thick as thieves.” Miki replies, crossing her fingers in front of me to emphasize her point. “Suzu and I actually go way back. We met first year of middle school, but we didn’t really get as close as we are until I transferred in.”
That’s...interesting. I had assumed most people here were...like me. Having to start over when they came here, without anything familiar in their lives. Something like that would definitely have made the transition easier.
“You transferred in?”
Miki smirks at me and leans against her door, crossing her arms and holding her stump up. “What, you thought I was just like this?” She doesn’t give me a chance to respond, waving her stump to brush away the question. “Nah, I lost it; that’s a story for another day though, lover boy.”
She punches me in the shoulder and turns to unlock her door. “You know, we should do this more often. It’s actually kinda nice hanging out with you instead of just the gals.” She opens her door and steps in backwards, pausing in the doorway a moment.
"Play your cards right and we can have a lot more
fun." Miki gives me a wide smirk and a sultry wink before disappearing behind her closing door.
I'm quickly coming to realize that being friends with Miki Miura is both a blessing and a curse. I think I've had enough excitement for today. I make my way back to my dorm room and flop down on my bed.
Now that I'm alone, I can't help but think about what Saki said today.
'Music can be just the escape the mind needs from all of its troubles.'
Maybe I feel so beat up about this because it's all I think about. I spend so much time worrying about fitting in that I don't let myself actually try to. Perhaps all I really need is an escape from my own dark thoughts.
After all, it's not like all of my misgivings about this place have come true. I would like to think I've found friends in Miki, Saki, and Suzu, I'm doing fine enough in classes, and I've yet to really have anyone treat me like the broken thing I see myself as.
Maybe it really is just all in my head.
Whatever it really is, sleep is a more pressing matter at the moment. One more half day of classes before the festival. I'm actually looking forward to something I'd been dreading just the day before.
It feels wrong to have Shizune ignore me like she has ever since she tried dragging me into her argument with Lilly. As much as I like not being hounded to join the Student Council, I guess I also kind of liked the attention. Misha has certainly tried to ignore me as well, at least whenever Shizune is looking. She just doesn't have it in her to be as severe with me.
Whatever. I have new partners for group assignments anyway. I bring my desk over towards Miki and Suzu’s, slotting myself into the open space between them.
“Awesome! We’ve got the nerd on our side this time, this’ll be a piece of cake.” Miki smiles at me, nudging me with her
Suzu snorts. “Then maybe you should look at Hisao’s notes when you don’t pay attention in class.”
Miki presses her hand to her chest, looking as offended as she possibly can. “Suzu, words hurt.”
“Not as much as my foot.”
“Okay, okay you two.” I don’t care if it’s all in good fun, it’s a bit much. “Can we just get to work?”
Miki rolls her eyes and Suzu slumps down onto her arms, looking on the verge of passing out on us. “I don’t wanna…” She grumbles.
Well, at least one of us will get this done by the end of class.
“Maaaan,” Miki groans, stretching her arms out, which puffs out her chest and draws her shirt tight. Even with the boys uniform being looser, it’s difficult not to notice Miki’s chest like that. “Feels good to be free!”
“Speaking of free…” Saki starts, her fingers drumming along the top of her cane. “Why don’t we go into town? I’m sure Hisao wouldn’t mind carrying a few things for his ladies.”
I feel three sets of eyes settle on me like lionesses eyeing up a meal. I turn my head down in response, trying my best to not make eye contact with any of them.
“He looks like he can take it.” Miki retorts, wrapping her arm around my shoulders and pulling me in. “‘Sides, what guy doesn’t want a chance to show off for cute girls?”
“So only my stuff then?” Suzu fires in, a smirk on her face that even reaches her usually-tired eyes. “Everyone says I’m the cute one.”
“Positively adorable.” Saki agrees, patting Suzu on the head. “Guys around here would kill for their Sleeping Beauty.”
I will never understand the idle banter of teenage girls, not for as long as I live. At this rate, the three of them might be what kills me. Still, the absolute last thing that I want to deal with is having a heart flutter with all of them around.
“As much as I’d love to, I have a...maximum capacity? I...really shouldn’t carry too much for too long.”
The varied levels of disappointment on their faces send pangs of guilt through me. It really just drives home the limitations my heart brings. Try as I might to let distractions keep me from having to worry about it, it keeps rearing its ugly head.
“Don’t worry about it.” Saki speaks up first, rapping her cane twice on the ground as she steps closer, placing a gentle hand on my back. “I can’t stay on my legs for too long anyways. Let’s go to a few places and we’ll get dinner a little bit early, my treat.”
Gods bless you, Saki Enomoto.
“Oooh, there’s that place a few blocks from the mall, the one I pointed out when we were leaving last time.” Miki speaks up as we head for the gate. “It looked like it probably had something good.”
“You’re judging how good the food is by how the building looked?”
Miki stares at me like I’ve just slapped her.
“Well, how else am I supposed to without going in, gaylord?”
I shrug, conceding the point. “Fair enough.”
It thankfully doesn’t take long for the bus to arrive. We file in and settle into our seats, Suzu and Miki across the aisle, while Saki takes the window seat next to me. About halfway towards our destination, I notice Saki humming under her breath and turn to look at her.
Her gaze is fixed on the rapidly moving scenery out the window, two small white cords connection to headphones in her ears that connect and then disappear into her purse. A soft smile rests on her lips as she watches the trees slowly shift to buildings and skyscrapers. She seems so peaceful in this moment, almost serene in a strange way.
Who is this girl? Who is this girl that always swoops in when the moment is tense to lighten the mood? Who’s always there with a touch and a smile to brighten your day?
And why do I get the feeling there’s far more to her than what I’ve seen?
Then there’s Miki and Suzu as well. I turn to them to find Suzu fast asleep against the bus window, with Miki slumped against her asleep as well. Whereas Suzu usually looks rather peaceful and innocent while she’s asleep, Miki is far from it. Her mouth hangs open and her hair covers her face; anything but graceful or proper, she is.
I really do appreciate these three. They’ve made trying to adjust a lot easier than it would have been on my own.
The bus slows and we depart at our stop. Even in waking, Miki keeps the trend rolling by sniffling and rubbing her face with her hand, while Suzu gives a high-pitched yawn and bundles herself a bit tighter in her sweater. Why does she dress like that in the middle of summer.
Heh. Said the guy in a sweater vest.
“Come on, Hisao! Let’s get this shopping trip done right!” Saki grabs my hand and leads the charge at her own pace, releasing her grasp on me as we enter into the mall, and I’m immediately reminded why I always hated shopping with my mother.
It’s never just one store.
The final trek up the stairs of the girl’s dorm has left my arms feeling like lead, but as I dump my shares of the girls’ bags into the hallway, I finally get a chance to catch my breath. Stairs aren’t easy for me, especially carrying things. Thankfully, my heart doesn’t seem to mind the strain too much.
“Thank you so much for your help, Hisao.” Saki chimes, unlocking her door and beginning to drag her things inside. “We really need to all hang out together more outside of just lunch.”
“Yeah. It was a lot of fun.” Suzu says, the last of her strength leaving her as she begins shuffling towards her room. “Night guys…”
A chorus of “good nights” follow her departure before Saki disappears inside her room, leaving me alone with Miki. Unlike the other two, Miki has limited herself to a single bag, which she tosses into her room and shuts the door.
“Still got some fight left in you, lover boy?”
“Why do you keep calling me that?”
Miki shrugs, crossing her arms and leaning against the wall. “Seems fitting. Anyways, I asked you a question. You need the Z’s, or you still got some time in you?”
[>Sure, why not?]
[It is kind of late]
When it comes to Miki I’ve learned that rolling with the punches and just going with the flow is the way to go.
“Yeah, sure. What’ve you got in mind?”
Miki smiles and pushes away from the wall, turning and walking away. “Follow me.”
I do as Miki commands and follow after her. She leads me up a flight of stairs, then a second, then finally a third before we arrive at a door. Miki winds up and drives into it with her shoulder. With a grinding of metal on stone, the door opens, revealing the roof of the girl's dorm.
The loose stone roof mimics the roof of the school building proper, except this one sports a trio of folding lawn chairs and a red cooler. Miki strides towards them and plops down in the leftmost with practiced ease. I approach and take the opposite side from her, while she produces two cold, wet cans of soda. She tosses one in my direction and I catch it, looking at the label. There’s worse flavors than Melon.
“Welcome to the sanctuary, lover boy.” Miki says, cracking open her can and taking a swig. “We come up here to unwind sometimes, but sometimes I like to come up by myself. A little quiet to yourself never hurt nobody.”
“Why’d you bring me up here then?”
She smiles at my question, letting it hang for a moment before responding, like she’s carefully choosing her words. “To show you that you’re not alone.” I’m taken aback by her forwardness, but she continues. “You’re kinda frustrating, you know that? One minute you’re smiling with the rest of us, then suddenly you look all sullen and hollow about something you’ve got rattling around inside your head.”
Miki takes another swig, almost using it to punctuate her shift in tone. “I’m sure Saki gave you some spiel about ‘all you need is a friend’ or something. She’s sweet like that, and I know that I’m more snarky and a lot more fun.” She can’t resist the urge to toot her own horn, of course. “That doesn’t mean I don’t care about you, Hisao. Only been a few days, but I can tell that you’re a nice guy. I’d certainly like to think we’re friends at this point.”
“Of course we are.” I respond, both to her and to myself. They are my friends. I never really needed a wide circle, just a few people I could rely on was all I ever really needed, or even wanted. Perhaps just a few days is long enough to find those people.
I see Miki smile at me over the rim of my soda can before she downs the last of her drink and tosses the can in front of her, crushing it with her foot. “Good. Just do us all a favor and quit being so mopey. You’re a lot cuter when you’re smiling.”
My face flushes as Miki turns her attention away from me and to the skyline. The sun is dipping below the horizon, painting the sky beautiful pinks and purples. I take a long drink of cold soda until I feel my face return to it’s normal color.
I came to Yamaku with nothing and no one. My previous life was gone, and now I had something terrifying and lonely ahead of me.
And yet, despite all of my gnawing fears about this place, I have friends. In less than a week, I have people telling me that they care about me, but they don’t pity me. Miki isn’t saying any of this just to make her feel better about herself.
“Thank you.” I say simply, smiling at Miki. It feels good to smile and mean it. Miki returns my expression, a beaming grin on her face.
“That’s more like it. Keep that up, Hisao.”
We spend some time simply relaxing on the roof together until the sun completes its journey beyond the treeline and the sky grows dark. Miki leads the way once more, pausing again at her door to turn to me. “See you in the morning. Night, lover boy.” And without waiting for my reply, she slips into her room and is gone.
Huh. Maybe her nickname is starting to grow on me.
I make my way back the boy’s dorm and up to my room, taking my medication for the night before undressing and slipping into bed. I decide to make sure I’m up early enough to not be dragged out of bed kicking and screaming, and so I set an alarm for a reasonable time before my head hits the pillow.
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