Act 2 - Part 2-2: Gathering Information
The lunch bell doesn’t come any sooner, despite the fact that I managed to stay immersed in the lesson all throughout class. Maybe time only flies if you're having fun. Or maybe it has to do with that thing about time being a relative concept that depends on-
I am thinking way too hard about stuff lately. No more thoughts, only lunch now.
Considering that the roof always leads me to one awkward situation or another, I decide to stick with the cafeteria today. I may end up sitting alone, or being stuck with the sub-par quality of our school's food, but it's better than stumbling upon a sleeping Kenji again.
The stack of papers and belongings is shuffled into my bag, its strap slung around my shoulder, and my body carried to the door, driven by the lust for a satiated appetite.
Naturally, I’m stopped halfway there.
“Hisao, are you still going to the lectures this Saturday?”
“Yeah, I went out and bought a suit yesterday.” I reply, nodding.
“Good man, good man.” Mutou answers with a thumbs-up. “Are you sure you want to go? I don’t want to feel like I’m pressuring you into it.”
“Of course I want to go. I’ve got nothing to do this weekend, and I'm hoping that maybe I’ll find something to do with my life while I’m there.”
He grimaces at the latter part of my statement, but nods his head just the same.
“Alright then. I’ll be in front of the gate at seven A.M. It takes about an hour to get there. Bring some money for food as well, since we won’t be getting back ‘til around five or six.”
I nod my head in acknowledgment and wave goodbye, stepping out the door and back onto the trail of righteous lunch-seeking.
It only takes a few glances into the maelstrom of other hungry students to steer me back off of that path, however. It's only now that I remember why I never come here for food. All of the lines are backed up at least halfway across the cafeteria, with no signs of suddenly dissipating and allowing me passage.
Is there a special system here? Do students with special food-related needs get 1st-in-line privileges? Maybe they get their own line, so they don’t have to waste away in line with the other students. But what if the special-needs line attracts too many takers and that line also backs up against the opposite wall?
Maybe that’s why this cafeteria has five different serving lines. None of which have gotten any shorter within the duration of my pointless musings.
Rooftop it is, then. For a second there I thought I had a choice.
I turn away from the chamber of starving students and make my way back up the stairs, this time to be sidestepped by something different.
Or someone different, rather.
The tapping of a long, slender cane rings out through the hallways, having emptied within the past few minutes thanks to the aforementioned lunch bell. Behind the noise lies a tall, blonde-haired girl; a certain 'Lilly Satou.'
“Hey Lilly.” I call out.
She stops and perks up, as if trying to pick out the right name to match with my voice, no doubt from a mental registry of hundreds of others.
“Good afternoon, Hisao. How are you?”
“I’m doing great. Decided I’d go up and get some fresh air since the cafeteria is so crowded.”
“That’s nice to hear. The cafeteria is avoidable, if you’ve got some free time.” Lilly responds.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m inviting you to have lunch with us. If you have nothing else planned, of course.”
“Ah. I’d love to.” I answer.
Lilly gives me a warm smile and turns back toward her previous destination, the ‘tap tap tapping’ of her cane resuming as her free hand guides along the wall. I've had tea with her once before, and I know where the room is, but I think it's safe to assume that our usage of that space may have been a one-time thing.
Anyway, today is going better than planned.
“What did you mean by ‘us’? Are there other people you eat with?” I ask.
“Only one other, I believe she’s in your class. I’ll introduce her if you two aren’t acquainted.”
I nod my head, mentally slapping myself as I realized what I just did.
You see, it’s things like this. Everyone tries to tell me that it isn’t that big of a deal, but I just can’t get past it. Gesturing to blind people, staring at girls with skin conditions or deformities, trying to shake hands with a girl who has no hands to shake, and even talking to deaf people. Is it something I’m just supposed to get used to? And if so, when do I get used to it?!
It doesn’t take long for us to reach our destination; an unused classroom on the 2nd floor. My assumptions weren't safe to make, as this is the same room I stumbled upon her last week, and more than likely the room she resides in any time class isn't in session.
“Please, have a seat wherever you like. I’ll get some tea going.” she states.
She follows through what must be a practiced routine as she fills a small water heater and sets it on the table. A pot and a pair of teacups join it, ready to fulfill their duty. After that, she opens a cupboard and lays out some food; nothing special, just a loaf of bread among other things.
“Here, let me take care of that.” I comment as she feels around for something else, beginning to look frustrated as her hand fails to locate whatever she must be looking for.
“Ah, would you?” she replies with a smile.
As she takes a seat and waits for the water to boil, I can’t help but study her facial features. Long, blonde-hair, blue eyes, a thin and soft nose…
It’s familiar somehow. I can’t put my finger on it, but it's uncanny. I thought the exact same thing when I met that woman from yesterday as well. It doesn’t help that she stands out in my mind more than anything; that messy hair, those ruby-red eyes, that thin figure...
“Hey Lilly, can I ask you something?”
“I don't mind; what is it?”
“Do you have a sister?” I ask.
She tilts her head, curious as to where this is coming from.
“Why yes, I do. Why do you ask?”
“I met someone yesterday named ‘Ms. Satou’, and I couldn't help but think that there was some kind of relation between you and her.”
“My sister's name is Akira. I’m not sure if she’s the same ‘Ms. Satou’ you met, but the possibility is certainly there.” she replies. “She comes to visit quite often, so I'm sure you'll cross paths with her someday.”
“Maybe.” I respond, adding the last touch to a stack of sandwiches and placing the tray on the table between Lilly and I.
I sit back in my chair and take one of the sandwiches as Lilly pours the heated water, maneuvering the nozzle of the water heater into the teapot and back to the edge of the table in a display of practiced dexterity, not once spilling or burning herself.
“Strange, Hanako doesn't appear to be joining us today.”
“Hanako?” I ask.
“Ah, I'm certain that you've met her. She's in your class.”
I feel so stupid right now. I've seen her leave class with Lilly multiple times; of course she's the other person.
“So you two have lunch together?”
“Quite often, yes. Not today, however. She may be in the library, lost in another story.” Lilly muses, giggling to herself.
Always in the library, huh? I remember running into her during my first week and trying to introduce myself after shying away from doing so in front of the entire class. Of course, that just went even worse and she wound up bolting out like a terrified rabbit.
“I see.” I answer, unable to think of anything else to add.
Lilly takes advantage of the silence to pour a cup of tea for both herself and I.
“So, Hisao, how are you enjoying your time at Yamaku?” she asks before raising the teacup to her lips.
Depressing? Confusing? Disorienting? Foreign? Different?
Maybe I could call it enlightening; it's thanks to my time here that I've come to realize how stuck I am. I can barely manage to meet new people, I'm forbidden from doing most of the things I used to have no issue with, and I can't even climb a few flights of stairs without having to stop and calm myself down. My life has become riddled with a mess of a health complication that puts my continued existence in the hands of over a dozen pills and an oversized dose of luck.
“It's been alright. I'm finally getting into the pace of my classes.”
There's no point in nagging her with my problems. I'm here to have lunch and attempt to socialize, not whine about how out-of-place I feel -- I'll figure it out on my own.
“I'm happy for you.” she says with a smile. “I hear you and Mr. Mutou have been getting along rather well.”
“Oh, there was a chair open at a science festival he's going to and I volunteered to ride with him. Science is just my thing, I suppose.”
Lilly nods and continues sipping from the little white teacup, striking me with a bit of guilt as I realize that I haven't even touched my food or the tea she prepared for me.
“Not hungry, today?” she asks, picking up on my thoughts before I can even act on them.
“Ah, yeah. Sorry.”
“It's quite alright.” she replies. “Don't feel guilty, everyone has off days. You're welcome to come and have lunch with Hanako and I whenever you wish.”
I nod my head before mentally slapping myself for what must be the tenth time today, backing up and answering with a 'thank you.'
At the very least, I have somewhere to go for lunch. This is certainly better than the roof at any rate, since I know no one but Lilly and her companion will be here.
There's still one unanswered question, however. I know that Lilly has a 'Ms. Satou' as a sister, but I don't know if that's the same one I saw yesterday...
It's only now that I realize I've spent all day thinking about a woman I talked to for all of five minutes, at a clothing store no less. I'm not sure as to why I'm so intrigued with this mystery, but at least it's something to contemplate that isn't about how pitiful I am.
I'm sure it'll resolve on its own. It's not like my life depends on it, at any rate.Previous