Took a lot longer than I expected, but I'm finally happy enough to release it. I hope you all enjoy!
Act 2: Out of Shadows
Scene 6: Stand up to the Feet of Giants
I wince as I rub my forearm gently, groping at the bruise hidden underneath the bandage. My forearm feels as if it's throbbing whenever I focus my attention on it. I was hoping that after yesterday’s little...chaos, my wrist wouldn’t be bruised too badly. I guess I hoped for the wrong thing, because when I woke up in the morning a large purple handprint was circling around my wrist. The shade itself was so dark it almost perfectly matched my indigo bedsheets, which normally would be a good thing except that it’s my skin that has changed colour rather than a set of sleep pants.
Man, it really hurts. Isn’t the human body supposed to be some sort of great healing machine? God, I wish I had super human powers to heal; that would be awesome. No more bruises, no cuts, no cramps and no more blood loss. Hell, I could chop off an entire limb and it would grow back instantaneously. Man, that’d be cool. Well, unless it was one of those lazy healing powers where you regenerate slowly. It’d be nice to grow your hand back, but the weeks where it looks like a baby’s would be horrifying. I wonder if that’s what they would classify as a side effect...
“You alright?” a voice asks from across the bleachers, drawing my eyes up and away from my forearm and back to a slow-healing reality.
I look up and stare at Hisao, watching as he takes a swig of water from a bottle and dabs at the beads of sweat that cling to his brow. “You’ve been rubbing your arm since we came out here. What did you do to it?” he asks, a sense of childlike curiosity ringing in his voice as he slides closer to me on the bench.
Well, that’s kind of a tricky conversation starter. How am I even supposed to explain what happened? Surely I can’t just say some jerk tried to murder me yesterday, but I doubt he’d believe it was some kind of freak accident. Hmm… I guess I’ll tell the truth, just not the whole truth. Is that lying? Does omission of details count as lying? Isn’t that a crime? I guess to some people it would, others probably won’t care, still, Hisao might be the kind of guy who hates when people leave out details. Damn you societal standards about lying!
I need to word this as best as I can without causing too much suspicion.
“I ughhh… got into a little accident y-yesterday. I managed to hurt my wrist in the chaos, so I had the nurse wrap my arm up over the bruise.” I say hesitantly, doing my best to gauge his reaction and fill in as little detail as I can. It’s not really important to hide it, but I don’t exactly feel confident enough to go around and spread the word. I certainly don’t want people to see me as being even frailer than I already am. I don’t even think I could describe the situation without it sounding like it came out of some crazy news story.
“Geez. Well, I hope you’re okay.” he smiles, causing my nerves to melt into a puddle of goo. I give him an embarrassed smile before quickly looking away for fear of my face turning on like a lighter. I appreciate the sympathy, but sometimes I can’t help drowning in his warm brown eyes.
“So umm… what are your plans for tonight?” I ask, taking a delicate sip from my bottle of water, bringing one of my legs up to rest underneath my chin.
“Not really. Some of the guys in my residence asked me if I wanted to come over and hang out, but I don’t know… I think I’m probably just going to stay home and read. I don’t really feel like doing too much...”
He finishes his statement and trails off, his smile dipping down into a half frown. “I know I’m probably the least persuasive person...but.... It wouldn’t hurt to go for a little bit. Sometimes It’s just nice being with other people….ev-even if you don’t talk.”
He chuckles somewhat and returns to a more cheerful demeanour, almost as if that momentary frown was as fading as a gust of wind. “Who know, still, it’s good to know that I have someone looking out for me.” He smiles again, moving his eyes to meet mine. I feel my cheeks turn red and I begin to bite my lip nervously, trying not to seem too eager to move my eyes away. “How about you? Any plans for a Saturday night?”
“Well...Miki and Suzu invited me over to watch some movies and talk… I-I’m looking forward to it.”
“I’m glad to hear that.” he says, a confident grin spreading across his face as he leans back, balancing his weight on the palms of his hands. His mop of brown hair swaying slightly as a gust of wind passes by, forcing me to tuck a tuft of hair away from my eyes.
He takes a deep breath, letting the warm spring air fill within him as he looks up towards the bright blue sky, barely a cloud to see. The warm sun beats down on the two of us, sweat still clinging to our skin like beads of dew on grass. If one would look close enough, it almost seemed as if they shone, like individual gems. The sounds of students leaving class and talking with their friends fill our ears and keep us grounded, for fear of falling up towards the sky.
I wish moments like these would last an eternity. The halcyon days of carefree bliss that are supposed to make up our youth, not a care in the world.
Exams aren’t too far off, but they’re more than far enough to not warrant studying...not that I ever have before, but that’s changed; at least for this year. My lessons with Okazaki are becoming less of a chore and far more tolerable, thankfully. I still don’t much care for history, Japanese or global, but It’s a challenge I need to face regardless.
School and lessons aside I really am loving this new year.
I find myself staring at Hisao, my head perched atop my knees as my eyes fixate on the beautiful sight before me. I haven’t known Hisao for long and I don’t know as much as I’d like to about him, but the time I have spent with him is more pleasurable than staying huddled up in my room alone; that’s for certain. I have to say, if Hisao wasn’t sticking to these afternoon runs with Miki and Yuuto, I don’t think I would have stayed. I’d slowly stop coming until I eventually just didn’t bother to show up, and nothing would have changed with my life. I’ve never really cared much for commitment, so running would just be thrown away like most other things I’ve started; forever left unfinished.
I’m thankful to Hisao for that—Miki and Yuuto too. I’m more than thankful for other things too, like the how Hisao held me at the school festival, how he agreed to have lunch with us, even though he probably had a million better offers. I’m sincerely glad that he decided to stick around.
I just...I just wish things could stay like this forever. Days of freedom, no responsibility to drag me down, a bevvy of friends who I have grown to rely on. Just carefree days, no fretting over the future or worrying about the past. It’s just...nice.
Hisao moves forward on his palms and begins to chuckle as he looks out over the track illuminated by the sun dipping in the sky and heading towards the line of trees around the campus. Miki and Yuuto are still running, each trying to outdo the other with as much fervour and excitement. Yuuto trying to act as cool and nonchalant as possible, despite the fact that Miki keeps tripping him, causing him to fall forward with a dusty thud before he gets back up and acts like nothing ever happened and trotting off like a child.
I feel a contented grin rise to my face as I watch over the world before me, a warm loving embrace spreading throughout my body. Yeah, I really do love it here. I really do wish things could stay like this forever. One could definitely get used to this.
“I think I will go out tonight.”
“ I’m glad to hear that.”
I feel my smile deepen as I get lost in his brown eyes once again, enveloped by their warm embrace. I find myself not wanting to close my eyes, even to blink, fearful that I might miss something.
The two of us stay still, staring into each other's eyes transfixed, as if the entire world was on pause and all that mattered was what was going on in front of us. A smile is painted firmly onto our faces and a small, but noticeable blush present in our cheeks and along the tips of our ears. The sounds of people passing by no more than a dull hum like the one found on a hot summer evening. The world slows to a discriminate blur that focuses all of its attention on him, shutting my mind away from the outside world. I find myself desperately wanting to reach out and hold his hand or give him a hug, but I know I don’t have the strength to do that...just yet anyway.
He gives me a final smile before rising to his feet and holding out a hand towards me, offering to help me up from my sitting position.
I gently reach out and take it, my small hands fitting inside of his as if it were a glove perfect for my hand. I’m reminded of the walks I used to take with Dad when I was younger, walking through the city or the woods, hand in hand. It’s different from then though. Hisao’s hands aren’t nearly as rough or calloused, and he doesn’t feel like he’s holding onto me, afraid to let me go. It’s not a father’s embrace, it’s something much softer, much more gentle.
I slowly rise to my feet, coming to a stand just a hair’s breadth from his chest, my head resting just beneath his chin.The feeling of his warm breath beating down upon the top of my head, twirling hair around as if it were a comforting summer’s wind. I look up slightly and find him staring down at me, a broad smile still resting upon his lips. I leave my hand in his, revelling in the comfort of his touch, almost afraid to let go.
“ ‘Ey Romeo, Juliet, step back a little, you’re one step from morphin’ into a Super Sentai.” Miki teases as she flops down on the bleachers a few rows down.
I let out a surprised yell and flinch, sliding out of Hisao’s hand and bumping my head against the bottom of his jaw, drawing forth a groan of pain as he recoils. I grasp the top of my head and squat down, trying to stifle any curses or grumbles of pain as I grasp a newly forming bruise on the top of my head.
Well, there goes not willing to let go.
Oww...my head hurts. I grimace, closing my eyes and feeling the world almost sway beneath me. Damn it Miki, the mistress of poor timing if there ever was one.
“I’ve heard of killing two birds with one stone, but two love birds with one sentence. I suppose your words really are as witty as a stone though.”
I hear Yuuto chuckle to himself before a dull thud and a slight groan of pain takes over. Yeah that’s right. Don’t laugh at us.
I open my eyes slightly and squint at the scene around me. Hisao stands slouching over, still clenching his chin and looking over at Miki and Yuuto who both stare back at the two us, waiting for us to come to our senses.
I slowly rise to my feet, hands still holding the top of my head, doing my best to glare daggers down at Miki only to be returned by her laughing and sticking her tongue out at me. Clearly, I’m as intimidating as an angry Chihuahua.
“Well we’re going to go ahead of you guys! See you at Suzu’s Kirino. Enjoy the bruise!” Miki laughs as she walks off towards the dorm residences, her hand in her skirt’s pocket. Yuuto gives a nonchalant wave with one hand as he turns his back, quickly matching the distance with Miki in nearly no time at all. Those two are quite the pair.
“You okay?” Hisao asks, still rubbing his jaw and turning to meet my gaze. “Sorry about that. Shouldn’t have stayed like that for so long, didn’t mean to make things awkward…”
“N-No. It’s fine, really, i-it wasn’t awkward at all.”
He gives me a weak grin before turning his head towards the residence. “Care to head back?”
I give him an affirmative nod and a comforting smile as I turn and begin walking towards the residence buildings, eager to head back for a shower and change into a fresh pair of clothes.
I turn my wrist over in the shower, letting the water stream off as I examine the purple bruise. It stings a little as the water from the showerhead impacts my skin with a nearly silent splat. I had to be more than a little careful when I was lathering myself up with soap and even then it stung when I touched it. This bruise is going to last a long while. Here is another instance where I find myself wishing for superhuman healing abilities. It sucks always taking forever to heal, that and I bruise like a peach. I wish I took more after Dad, he heals so quickly, it’s insane.
I let out a soft sigh as I draw my hands away from my wrist, letting it return to my side casually. I close my eyes and tilt my head upwards, letting the warm water cascade over my face and trickle down over my body. The feeling of warm water rushing down my body and coagulating at my feet near the drain is almost intoxicating. I’m amazed my ancestors lived so long without showers, it’s pitiful. Showering is one of the most relaxing parts of my day.
Relaxation, something I’m thoroughly enjoying now, especially after the whole headbutting Hisao in the face thing.
I scrunch up my face in embarrassment, burying my face into my wet hands as I’m forced to relive the embarrassing memory over in my head. Ughhh. It’s so embarrassing. It was so romantic too! Way to go blow your own chance Kirino, you idiot. Though, I guess I wasn’t entirely to blame, as Miki did startle me leading to the whole incident.
Sometimes I wonder if my friends are the ones who are really trying to set me up for comedic embarrassments. If only I was one of those cool kids who were never teased, looked up rather than joked with. Oh who am I kidding, I don’t even have the first idea of what being a ‘cool’ kid is even about. I suppose I could ask Dad, he sounded like a pretty cool guy...that or a cocky delinquent. Is there even a difference? I suppose so, but to me, they kind of seem the same.
I guess I’m just stuck being the awkward and loser-like girl I am.
I bring my hands up from my face and run them through my wet hair,
Such is the way life I suppose, always doomed to be a looker not a… do-er? Enacter? I guess I should add ‘never knowing which word is needed’ to my list of attributes. Yeah that seems nice, maybe put that next to clumsy and borderline agoraphobic.
I turn the shower off and reach for my towel, quickly drying my body and wrapping myself up to try and keep myself warm now that the water has gone. I quickly put a towel around my hair and step out of the shower stall, making sure I gather up all my things before heading off towards my room; doing my best to avoid as many people as possible. I don’t think I’ll ever understand people who chat casually wearing nothing but a towel.
I step out into the dorm hall and scurry down it like a paranoid cat, trying to close the distance between me and my room as quickly as possible. The sound of my squeaky shower shoes echo through the hall, despite my best efforts to avoid them screaming my presence to all passersby. I quickly reach for my key and insert it into my door knob right before I hear an energetic and high pitched voice call out from behind me. A visible shiver runs up along my spine and I slowly turn my head as if my neck was a rusty set of cogs.
I make eye contact with a familiar, but personally unknown character. One of my classmates Emi stands behind me, looking oddly excited and full of energy. While I can’t say I’ve shared many words with her these past four years I still know who she is. I look from side to side frantically, wondering If I misheard her, maybe she wasn’t calling my name. Maybe I’m secretly crazy. Why would Emi want to talk to me anyway, I’m not a sporty person nor do I have anything that she would be interested in.
“H-Hi…” I mumble awkwardly, still standing in the hallway nearly naked and trying to slowly slip into the small opening between the hall and my room like a frightened octopus.
“How are you?~” she asks, now close enough that she could probably see into my room if she looked over my shoulder.
I desperately want to say Naked and Afraid, and more than slightly confused, but I settle for a “Fine…”
“Awesome! Hey, can I ask you something?” she says, her cheerful demeanour practically radiating from within her like a child with a sugar hype.
It almost feels like I’m some sort of weird goblin creature who never sees sunlight and now I’m suddenly being exposed to a puppy that oozes sunshine and rainbows—it’s unsettling. I raise one eyebrow and give her a hesitant nod, curious to know what she would even bother to ask me about.
“Do you like Hisao?”
I feel my face explode into a furious red tinge as I find myself mentally balking at her bluntness. Friggin excuse me missy, that’s quite the personal question for someone who you barely know and stands in a hallway ambushed and more or less naked, did I mention uncomfortable!?
“Err I ahh...ummm...well...I-I…” I stammer, jumbling up my words and tripping over my own tongue as I begin to take another step towards my door, this time not even bothering to make it appear subtle.
“I didn’t mean to make you embarrassed!” she says quickly, trying her best to defuse the situation “I just wanted to know, I ugh...I thought he was pretty cute when he first came here and I tried to get him to go running with you, but he kinda chose you guys instead. Not that it was a competition. I was just wondering!”
“I ughh...I-I’m not...ummm...good with words...or p-people…”
Emi takes a step closer to me and grasps my free hand with both of hers and looks at me imploringly. Her eyes look different than they did a moment ago, they’re not as round and carefree like a puppy’s anymore, they look almost as if they’re desperate for something, begging for me to answer the question. Even her hands are somewhat cold and clammy against mine. “Please.” she says, her voice much softer and quieter than it was before. I feel taken aback, suddenly I feel like the bad guy, as if I somehow offended her.
I take a deep breath and let out an audible swallow as I look at Emi and give her a shy, but clearly distinct nod. She gives me a resigned look for a moment before dropping my hands and resuming back to her normal cheerful demeanour. “I thought so.” she giggles “ I see you two looking at each other at the track after school a lot. I’m glad. I hope you two will make a cute couple.” she smiles, making me almost forget that she seemed to be less cheerful only a moment ago.
I give her an awkward smile back as I try to maintain at least some semblance of friendliness and refrain from being awkward, which is kind of hard to do when the towel around my body is slowly coming free.
“Well, I have to go. I forgot I needed to go help a friend of mine with something.” she gives me one last smile before bolting down the hall on her prosthetics, only to stop halfway down the corridor and turn back to look at me with her green eyes, this time they look more like a pair of gems hidden beneath a thin pool of water rather than an exuberant puppy’s “and thanks Kirino.”. Before I even get a chance to respond she’s gone, bolting down the stairs and out of eyeshot.
What was that about anyway?
I guess I did say I liked Hisao though. Gosh I hope she doesn’t spread that around. I guess I’ll have to tell him one day, later rather than sooner hopefully. So he looks at me too I hear, the thought brings a smile to my lips and I step into my room eager to put on some clothes.
I rap on the surface of Suzu’s room door and wait a minute before I can hear Miki’s audible voice yell for me to come in. Somewhat hesitantly I open the door and step inside, treading as carefully as a cat atop a sheet of ice.
I quietly shut the door behind me, facing forward so I can quickly analyse the new environment I’ll be spending the next few hours in. It’s hard to see as they have the main light turned off, preferring to bathe in the orange light of a desk lamp and the dull glow from Suzu’s box tv. I see a few posters hung up around the room and can vaguely make out that they’re all somewhat related...I think. I guess it would be better to say that they all prominently feature horror elements, from evil dolls to some weird eye of a goth girl? Not the kind of decor I was imagining Suzu to have, especially given the fact that I heard she was part of the literature club. To be honest, I was kind of expecting fancy traditional elements, bonsai trees and Japanese calligraphy scrolls. I guess I shouldn’t paint all literature fans with the same brush, especially when I don’t even know what they do in a literature club other than read.
Other than her posters her room seems relatively clean, all the books are on the shelves and her floor doesn’t have too many clothes on it, so pretty clean for a teenage girl. It sure beats my room for cleanliness any day.
A steel coffee maker and kettle sitting atop her dresser in plain view, easily within reach in case she ever needs to make a hot drink; which is always a good idea. I myself can vouch for the importance of hot drinks as I love to make myself a hot chocolate after school.
Miki and Suzu sit curled up in front of the TV in their sleeping clothes, well, more clothes on Suzu as Miki sports a T-shirt and a pair of panties as her sleeping clothes. Compared to Miki, both Suzu and I look incredibly overdressed for this occasion. Suzu is wearing a pair of brown flannel pyjamas with tanuki faces used as a pattern and a pair of black fuzzy socks. I’m much less fashionable sadly, favouring a pair of baggy grey sleep pants, a baggy navy blue sweater and a pair of thin white socks. While probably looking like a lazy piece of trash, I definitely feel the most comfortable; and isn’t that what matters most?
“You wearin’ your Dad’s clothes or somethin’? You look like you're about to be swallowed up by the fabric.” Miki grins before she takes a loud bite out of a potato chip, spilling the crumbs onto her legs and sweeping them off onto the carpet when Suzu isn’t looking like some sort of mess ninja.
“A-Actually...I think this sweater is my Dad’s…” I admit, fidgeting somewhat nervously with the drawstrings that hang from the collar.
“Damn, he’s a few sizes larger than you if it is his!” she whistles, causing Suzu to give out a tired, toothy smile.
“Kirino, come over here. We were just deciding what movie we should watch.” Suzu pats down next to her and drags a pile of DVDs away from Miki and closer for me to take a look.
I gently sit down next to Suzu, bringing a pillow up behind me to support my weight and begin flicking through the pile of DVDS before realising I don’t know anything about them. One of them has a picture of some old hockey mask, another of a buzz saw, and another of some angry baby. The most familiar one is that of the goth girl staring out from the DVD case and only because she has the cover as a poster on her wall.
Suzu leans over and grabs the DVD with the long-haired goth girl and smiles “This is probably one of my favourites I’ve seen. You’d definitely like it.”
Really now? I’m not exactly a fan of horror, shocking as it may seem. In fact, the scariest movie I saw was Titanic, and that was when my Dad thought it would be a nice movie to test the new VHS player on.
“Do you...ummm..have something other than horror?”
“Lame!” Miki snorts in the background, causing Suzu to giggle slightly before nodding her head ever so slightly.
“Yeah, we do. We just figured it’d be a lot more fun to watch a horror movie together. I figured since you went out on a limb to come hang out with us, I’d share something I like with you.”
Well, I kind of feel like a selfish jerk now.
Damn, she’s good. Putting all the guilt onto me should I refuse, which I don’t have the courage to do. I wonder if she knows that? If she did she’d be great in the field of politics, that’s for sure. I take a deep breath through my nose before biting my lip hesitantly and mumbling a quiet “Sure” to announce that I’ll cooperate with them.
What have I got to lose, a movie, even a horror movie is just a movie; I can’t get too scared.
Suzu gives a content smile before giving out a loud and wide yawn. “We’ll watch that later. Let’s get into the juicy part of tonight and start talking.” she grins, reminding me of Nori’s Cheshire cat grin which leaves me more than a little unsettled.
What was the point of getting me to even decide if we were going to watch a horror movie instead of a regular movie? Couldn’t we have just waited? I’m not sure I’m following Suzu’s train of thought, and by the way Miki is scarfing down that bag of chips and flipping through some manga looking as carefree as can be, I doubt she has any strong opinions.
“Feel free to have some if you want, we have more than enough.” she smiles at me, clearly noticing my gaze at Miki.
“Oh...I...ughhh...brought my own snacks.” I say, taking out a few packets of crackers and a pack of unsweetened dried fruit. “I hope you don’t mind.”
“No, no, not at all. It’s fine, I just guess Miki and I will have to eat all these snacks.” She smiles, tossing a glance over at Miki who in turn cracks open a can of soda from her lying position, clearly not caring about anything ladylike or proper. “If we order something to eat later would you be fine with that?”
“I-I should be, as long as I don’t overdo it…”
“She’s got diabetes.” Miki announces from her position, causing Suzu to blush and fidget uncomfortably. “I-I ummm...well then. I’m sorry I didn’t ask sooner Kirino.” she responds, stumbling over words and clearly taken aback by this revelation, almost as if she felt bad that tried to tackle the situation in such a roundabout manner rather than head on like Miki does. I guess I’m partly to blame too, but what am I supposed to say? ‘Hello all, I have a shitty immune system and I’m forced to be fussy eater because my Pancreas is a drama queen’?
“I-It’s fine, I should have told you before. D-Don’t worry about it…”
Suzu clears her throat and adjusts herself where she sits, moving from a cross-legged position until her legs are tucked behind her. “I guess I know something new about you then.” she smiles, trying to make the best out of the situation. “I’ve ummm...got narcolepsy.” she says, almost as if she felt obligated to reveal something of equal importance about herself “Just so you know…”
Well, this has gotten off to a nice awkward start hasn’t it?
Suzu shifts slightly, fidgeting with the front of her shirt, unsure of how to broach a continued conversation. She almost looks like a child caught off guard by a teacher, now forced to continue reading in a school book when they weren’t following along. She turns her attention towards the stack of DVDs and begins to meticulously put them in some kind of order. They’re not alphabetical, but they’re clearly organised in a manner of some sort, her favourites maybe?
I lean back further into the pillow and draw the collar of my sweatshirt up higher, hiding the bottom part of my face from the world. I take this opportunity to get another quick glance around the room, hoping to take in just a little more detail. Other than her posters she has meticulously decorated a corkboard above her desk, spruced up with many pictures and pieces of note paper dotting its surface.
I can’t make out what is written on the small pieces of paper, but I’d assume they have to do with school assignments or reminders to do certain things; that or she is a closet conspiracy theorist. I can make out the pictures slightly better, even though they almost seem to hide from the orange glow of the lamp. There are a few of Suzu with what I can only assume are her parents and younger sister, each taken at a different location.
They sure like to visit water parks don’t they? You’d never catch me in a place like that, even as a kid. I guess there are benefits to swimming with as much elegance as a drowning chimp, at least you have an excuse not to wear a bathing suit.
There are a few pictures that are pinned up, more recent than the ones taken with her family, as made apparent by the fact that she is wearing her school uniform in all or most of them. They usually feature her and Miki at various places or making goofy faces in a photo booth or near a statue. They’re not bad photos in all honesty, none of them are particularly blurry, but I don’t think they show any particular talent. Is that rude to call people’s pictures amateurish? I feel kind of bad that about it if I think about it that way.
All in all, her cork board is a lot more decorated than the one the school gave to me, I think mine has a schedule of last year’s calendar on it. I’ve never been much of a decorator. I always say I’m gonna hang up a poster or tidy my room up, but I never do. Even the posters in my room back home are only hung up because my Dad got sick of stepping on them whenever he had to put my laundry away or pick the laundry up because I left it on the floor...my bad…sorry Dad. Ah, I do miss living at home, laundry isn’t hard, but I’d just rather not do it. Suzu doesn’t seem to have that problem, as the only real piece of laundry on the floor is a few pairs of socks, something my room has in spades.
“So are we gonna do somethin’? Or are we just going to sit awkwardly and listen to me eat Suzu out of house and home.” Miki sighs, trying to bring the two of us back to reality. I glance over at Suzu expectantly and watch as she quickly snaps out of her thoughts. Good to know I’m not the only one who has a bad case of spacing out.
“Wanna talk for a bit? It’s still pretty early, we have plenty of time for a movie later”
I nod at Suzu’s suggestion, mostly due to the fact that I can’t come up with a better alternative myself, not that I’m particularly fond of talking.
Miki begins to snicker before rising up from where she lays, crumpling up a bag of chips before throwing them into the bin. Suzu gives me a questioning look, raising one eyebrow and tilting her head, wondering if I have any idea why she’s laughing to herself. I pop my head out of my collar and give her a shrug. Should we be worried?
“I am, but you losers might be a bit embarrassed when I start asking you questions.”
Wait what? Since when did this become a game of twenty questions?
“Is that so?” Suzu grins, shifting her weight slightly closer to me “I’m sure we can make you feel just as uncomfortable, eh Kirino?”
I give her a blank stare, doing my best to let her not that I will be of no use. The first rule of being friends with Miki, don’t accept any of her challenges. Come on Suzu, you’ve known her for far longer than I have, you should have known this! Miki lets out a snort in response, causing Suzu to sigh and shake her head. “I’m far too tired to deal with you Miki.”
Miki lets out another snort of laughter as she adjusts so she sits cross-legged in front of us, leaning forward as she holds onto her knees. At this point, she looks more like a mischievous ten-year-old than a high school girl. “Yer lookin’ at the undefeated champion of the game of questions.”
Questions? Is that even a game? How can you be a champion at something that isn’t even competitive? I tilt my head and look questioningly at Miki, hoping that the ‘champion’ can at least shed some light onto exactly what she is a champion of. Is that title related to inquisitors or something, because I’m half expecting Miki to start twirling a moustache and speaking in a Belgian accent.
“Questions is pretty much what it sounds like Kirino. One person asks a question and has to answer truthfully. They have three chances to back out and get a redo question, any more than that and you lose.”
“...Won’t the person lie?” I ask, not really understanding how the game stops people from cheating.
“Haha, I guess they could. The whole point of the game is for fun, lying just ruins the game.”
I should have guessed as much, still, I feel like it speaks volumes to Miki’s character that she has turned a conversation into a competitive game that you can easily lose at.
“You always want to play questions, you’re like some sort of magpie for gossip aren’t you.” Suzu chimes in, quickly getting the first jab before this ‘game’ has even begun.
“Huh? A what?”
“A Magpie, like the western belief that...you know what...never mind…”
“Alright, whatever you say bookie.” Miki shakes her head before running her hand through her hair. “Are we going to play or not.”
“I kind of want to watch the movie to be honest, besides I might even need a nap. I’m having trouble keeping my eyelids open.” Suzu chuckles before letting out another yawn.
“Jesus, make up your mind. I want to talk, I don’t want to talk.” Miki teases before giving Suzu a playful shove. “We’ll put the movie on and play after, might as well let you two losers enjoy yourselves before I have you blushin’ from ear to ear.”
“It never is just a peaceful time with you is there?”
“Nope and that’s why you damn well love me.”
Miki and Suzu give out a giggle before sorting through movies and eventually settling on the movie with the goth girl’s eye on it. Ringu eh? Both girls take my silence as acceptance, eagerly turning off the desk lamp and putting the movie into the machine. They couldn’t have just taken my silence as “Dear God no, I’d rather play questions.” could they?
The adverts begin to play and it doesn’t take long for Miki to snatch up the remote and quickly skip to the main menu. I was hoping, praying really, that the pre-movie adverts would give me at least some time to mentally prepare myself for the absolute terror I’m about to go through. Remember Kirino, it’s just a movie...just a horrifying movie...
I sit nervously, my legs held tightly to my chest, my head barely peeking over the hood of my collar and my body shaking worse than a leaf in a windstorm. That sick, frantic feeling you get when frightened is slowly building up within me as the girl crawls through the television as easily as if it were the opening of a tunnel. The tiny hairs along my body stand straight at attention, each ready to pluck themselves free and run away from the horror my eyes can’t seem to look away from.
The sounds of Suzu softly snoring eerily makes its way into my ears, penetrating them, seeming to grow louder as the girl approaches closer to the terrified man. The beating of my heart drums through my ears along to the tune of the man’s frantic attempts to escape. My blood runs like ice in my veins as the demon girl looks out from her tendrils of black hair and glares a horrifying gaze through the camera and into my soul.
I feel a violent shudder rip through my body, causing me to bury my face into my collar as my body breaks into an icy cold sweat.
I let out a slight scream and fall backwards like a turtle, flailing my limbs in panic and trying to recover from the ‘slight bump’ that just occurred.
“Ughhh….you good there...you look like a beetle I just flipped on its back…” Miki says, trailing off as she stares at me as if I were a timid deer, wondering if it was somehow her fault.
I quickly sit up, crossing my legs for greater balance and trying to act as nonchalant as possible. I give a nasty stare at Miki for scaring me like that. At least warn a person geez. I run a few fingers through my hair, making sure I didn’t accidentally attract the planet of crumbs Miki has managed to spread throughout the room. She gives me an apologetic look and refrains from talking to me for the few minutes that remain of the film.
When the movie finally ends and the credits begin to roll, I’m left with a shiver running along my spine and my brain sinking into a sea of paranoia. I kind of wished I didn’t see it, I'm going to be checking mirrors and putting a blanket over my TV for weeks now.
I sigh and roll my eyes, turning my gaze towards Miki waking up a drowsy Suzu, her eyes glazed over as if they were lenses exposed to a hot gust of air. She rubs at her eyes and wipes the pieces of hair away from her eyes and mouth. It takes her a few minutes to even register where she is, let alone what time it is. She starts off looking confused, but it quickly turns into a slight panic before settling on a small bout of worry.
I give a slight giggle as Suzu is told that she missed more of the movie than she intended when she took a nap. She lets a frown take over her face before letting out a resigned sigh and a shrug before jokingly asking if we would want to watch it again.
“Jesus Christ. The timid turtle over there just had a panic attack and flailed on her back like some drunk gerbil for ten minutes. I’d rather not have to explain that to the student council when they come barging in here after they hear screaming,”
“Man, you’re no fun. Bet you’d like to watch it again despite that eh Kirino?” Suzu grins. I return her expression with a look of abject horror and shake my head in slow, meticulous motions like a rusty robot. To be honest, that’s a pretty good reaction, especially considering I feel like I need to jump out of my skin and hide in the tiniest hole in the wall.
Miki and Suzu share a quick glance before chuckling to themselves and turning the movie and TV off.
Miki flings the remote across the room and onto Suzu’s bed, allowing the small black rectangle to bounce a few times atop the red comforter before disappearing from view. “Nice~” she whistles, acting as if she just threw a ball into a basket from half way across a gym floor. She gives me a confident thumbs up, preferring to act like some sort of big sports star despite the fact that it was like a two-metre gap between her and the bed.
“So Kirino what did you think of the movie? Probably not your thing is it?” Suzu asks, hoping to at least get a little more information rather than a panic attack about my opinion on the movie.
“O-Other than terrifying?”
She gives a single chuck before nodding her head with a tired smile.
“It was alright...I guess...I couldn’t really follow the plot…” I admit.
Suzu seems a little-taken aback, clearly she wasn’t expecting that as an answer. She holds her hand up and looks as if she was going to explain but quickly closes her mouth “Well, sometimes you need to experience something more than once to really understand what it’s really about I suppose. At least that’s what my mom always told me when I was a kid.”
“How is your mom anyway?” Miki chimes in, her voice quickly accompanied by the carbonated hiss of a soda bottle opening. She takes a deep swig of the purple liquid before tightening the cap once again and resting the bottle against the pillow resting next to her thigh.
“Same old, same old. Still teaching at the same junior high school. Why do you ask?”
“Hey. I’m just trying to be a good friend here.”
“Alright, well she’s doing good. I told you that my parents are both teachers didn’t I?” Suzu asks me, doing her best not to leave me out of the conversation. I give her a small nod and realise that she never told me where or what they taught before though. I guess this will be a little look through the window at her life.
“Yeah, my mom teaches English at a junior high school just on the other side of the city. My dad teaches Japanese Literature at one of the colleges there. I can’t even remember the name of it, God how sad is that?
“I still can’t remember my home phone number if that matters to ya’!” Miki jokes, causing the three of us to giggle amongst ourselves and shake our heads.
“But yeah. Both of my parents always encouraged me to read, and well, as you can see, I developed certain tastes.”
Yeah, that would be one word for it. An obsession with horror seems much more descriptive if you ask me.
“What are your parents like anyway? You mentioned your Dad was from America or something?” Suzu asks, rolling up the sleeves of her pyjamas as she sticks one of her hands into a bag of chips.
I quickly turn my gaze towards Miki and squint my eyes...what did she just say?
Suzu raises an eyebrow at Miki before shovelling a few chips into her mouth with a muffled crunch.
“You should have told me we were going to play questions, I got somethin’ for this!” she says before beginning to reach for a black backpack she must have brought with her.
“It wasn’t anything more than a harmless question...I was just expecting a normal conversation to be fair, but…”
“Nah,Nah,Nah,Nah. If you do something, you do it right. Seize the world by the balls am I right?”
“Is that even a saying?”
“I said it didn’t I? Anyway, drum roll please…”
Suzu looks at me again, the very same confusion I have is evident on her face. She gives a tired sigh and moves away from Miki and closer to me, dragging the small bag of chips as she scoots closer. We both face Miki like a couple of curious children staring up at their older sibling, waiting for some sort of gift that was promised. She makes an exaggerated sound and quickly brings out a few tin cans, dripping with condensation. She quickly hands off a can to each one of us, eager to gauge our reaction.
She waits a few moments, watching as I stare blankly back at her, my hand now moist and slimy with the condensation of the can. Suzu looks over at me, as if she were trying to figure out how exactly she should respond, to be fair I’m staring at her out of the corner of my eye hoping for the same thing. She slowly turns the can over and reads the label on the can before looking up and raising an eyebrow at Miki who stares over with a cocky grin. “How in the hell did you even get your hands on alcohol?”
“You’re joking right? Yamaku is still a high school, it’s not hard to get stuff like this. As they say, if there is a will there’s a way.” she chuckles to herself before popping the tab down, ushering forth a quick click from the can. She gives a quick toast before proceeding to sip from the can casually.
Well I guess Miki is no stranger to alcohol, she certainly seems right at home drinking. Suzu, on the other hand, seems a little bit more hesitant, shooting a quick glance at both Miki and myself before popping the tab and taking a sip herself, shuddering as she swallows her first sip. I look down at my can, not really excited to take a sip, in fact, I don’t have any plans to. I guess I’ll just slip this can back into Miki’s bag when she isn’t looking…
“Come on Kirino, live a little. Have a sip.” Miki winks from where she sits, trying to goad me into stepping out of my comfort zone.”You don't always have to be a goodie ya’ know?”
“I-I don’t really...ughh...like..” I say, uncomfortable with the pressure that has now been thrust upon me.
I’d really rather not Miki, I don’t like alcohol. It tastes like dirty socks and smells horrendous. Dad’s never allowed me to drink it before and makes sure that I stay well away from it. Even when I did sneak a sip when I was younger from one of his drinks, the taste was much more effective than the lecture he gave me.
“I won't force you to do something you don’t want to. Although I have heard alcohol is the world’s best social lubricator.”
I glare my eyes at her, somewhat tempted by the offer to no longer be a bumbling idiot when talking, at least for a short while. I glare down at the drink, not anticipating any good taste. Still, I might as well, even though my better judgement tells me otherwise. As Dad always says ‘Don’t wait for the world so you react, interact with it’.
“God help me.” I mumble to myself, popping the tab on the can before bringing the wet can to my lips and taking a brief sip. I quickly bring the can away and nearly spill some down the front of myself, much to everyone’s amusement I’m sure. Disgusting as usual…but what can I say, I fold easily under pressure.
“There you go! Now we can actually enjoy a game of questions.”
Suzu rolls her eyes and leans back on her arms, looking towards me with a bored expression. “I guess we start with you, I asked you about your parents didn’t I?”
Well, it’s good to know I’ve already bored somebody before I even opened my mouth.
“Well...ummm… I used to live with my Dad before he moved away for his job. He’s originally from Canada so that’s why I’m fluent in English. I never really knew my mom, she passed when I was born. My Dad..H-He’s a fun guy I guess…”
Well that sounded convincing and productive. I think that can go down in history as the first time someone has ever described their dad as a ‘fun guy I guess’. Way to go Kirino, let’s hope we can form a more coherent answer next time you’re asked.
“So Miki...since I guess we’re talking about parents… how are yours?” I end the question more as a question to myself, wondering if what I said even made sense. Is it possible I’m already drunk? Can it happen that quickly? I don’t think so, but I feel hotter than usual...although that could be due to my embarrassment. What if my face is red like one of those drunk businessmen you see wandering home late in Tokyo. Oh god please tell me I don’t look like that, my face gets red easy already!
“Starting off easy eh? My parents aren’t anything special, born and raised in Kagoshima. My family has been full of fisherman since there have been fish, so not much to say there. I do have three older brothers though, all of them taken, so too fuckin’ bad Suzu, can’t marry into my family.”
“Wait what!? Why am I being thrown to the wolves?”
“I saw you eyeing up my brothers when they came to visit me last year.” She punctuates her point with a wink and a teasing grin. It’s almost like watching a cat bat around a mouse without any intention of eating it. Miki must really love teasing people, I’m glad I’m not the only one.
“Oh shut up!~ Just ask me the friggin question already. “ Suzu giggles playfully and I catch a glimpse of a blush spread across her face as she tries to avoid the accusation. I let a small smile spread across my face and giggle as Miki continues to poke fun at her.
“If you won’t admit to perving on my brothers. Might I ask who you are perving on here”
“Pass on that one.”
“Pffft lame. Kirino, is there anyone you think is kinda cute? Other than Hisao of course?”
I feel the smile fade away from my face, quickly spreading into a blush and a series of ‘ughs’. I guess it’s my turn to be embarrassed.
“Ou.~ You like Hisao do you?” Suzu says, taking another sip from her can.
“Yeah, it’s painfully obvious too. When are you going to make a move?”
“I...umm...I’m getting to it, I’m just trying to figure out the best way to do it.”
“Just tell him. Just walk straight up and tell him, don’t be a wimp!”
Oh yeah, that’d go over well. I’d probably have a panic attack halfway through and pass out, only to relive the school festival all over again...not that reliving the last part would be particularly bad…
“Sorry to say but we don’t all have your brash personality Miki. Life isn’t ‘grab it by the balls’ you know. If we fail we have to live with the consequences, if you fail you just ignore the consequences.” Suzu balks.
“Everyone’s got their own way of doing things I suppose.” she sighs and stands up, stretching out her arms and staring down at us with a cool calm. “What can I say, I’m a woman of action!”
“So,’ woman of action’. I got a question for you. What’s going on with you and Yuuto anyway? Are you a thing or is it like a fading fling.” Suzu question causes Miki to pause, forcing her to take a deep breath and let it out into a long sigh. She shrugs her shoulders and begrudging admits “I don’t even know.”
“Yeah that.” she says pointing to Suzu her voice taking on a much more serious tone. She leans against the wall and scratches her head “It’s...frustrating…”
“Frustrating? I thought that things were going pretty well. You sure do like to tease each other after all.”
“Yeah, but...I don’t know. He just acts weird sometimes. Like different from how he usually is...does that make sense?” She tugs at her hair frustrated, scrunching up her face as she tries to figure out exactly the right words she wants to use. “It’s like one minute he can be funny and it’s awesome to be around him, but there are times when he just shuts off and acts cold...and it…it pisses me off.”
“Like yeah, it’s fun as hell being around him and I like teasing him and watch as he acts all cute, but he never talks about his feelings I just kind of have to guess and it’s so fucking hard. Sometimes I worry if he even does like me. It’s like running over hurdles and not knowing where and when to jump. It’s not like I can even guess right either, because honestly I don’t even know that much about him. Most times we just talk about random stuff or talk about me and my life, hell I don’t even know his favourite colour.”
“Oh...well..ugh have you asked him?” Suzu replies, her voice just as confused as Miki’s raving.
“That’s the thing. I can’t, when I want to I end up feeling too shy to ask him. It’s such a stupid thing to feel, but I almost feel like I’m standing in his shadow most of the time. He never seems to lose his cool and calm personality, and even when he does accomplish anything he acts like it’s not a big deal. What the hell is with that? At least give me something to go off of ya’ idiot.”
Miki looks as if she really is getting flustered. I’ve never seen her get so heated about something, especially on something I thought was locked down. I think we all know her and Yuuto like each other, but I know exactly where she’s coming from. I know that exact same feeling. The only difference is that it’s not just with Hisao that I feel that way, it’s with everyone. It’s almost like you’re a mouse standing in the shadow of an elephant, where even your accomplishments are small compared to theirs. You end up comparing yourself to them and it sucks, because your goals end up being based off of theirs and you can never live up to the bar you’ve set.
“It’s like standing at the foot of a giant…” I mumble softly to myself, feeling my hands begin to fidget with the strings on my pants. I know exactly how she feels and I wish I could help, I really do, it’s just...I don’t even know what the hell to do without failing.
If Miki is feeling that way about a boy, what hope do I have with Hisao? Miki’s got a million times more confidence than I have, and even she’s flustered with how they act. Man boys are so stupid...why can’t they do all the work? It’s almost like there waiting for everything to fall into their hands. It’s not fair, It really makes you want to give up before you’ve even started.
It’s so much easier when somebody else does something at least that way you can react, gauge their reaction.
“If he won’t allow you to figure out things about him have you thought about forcing him to tell you?” I say, more to myself than anyone else. It might seem like backwards thinking, but maybe she needs to try thinking about this backwards. Maybe she’s the one who needs to make him react.
“Force him? I appreciate the input here, but that doesn’t seem likely. I already told you, I don’t know how to.”
“Y-you said it yourself. ‘Just walk straight up and tell him.’ Force him to give out a reaction. He’s good at getting you to react right? Maybe...maybe he’s afraid of the same things you are, afraid that he might not accomplish the goal he’s set for himself...so he sets himself up for things he knows about. They say you only understand gambling when you realise that you need to set yourself up for failure so you can get an even bigger win down the road. It’s not about winning every time, but winning when it counts.” I say, shifting my glance from Suzu and Miki. They both stare at me silently, their faces blank and devoid of any expression or indication that they understand what I meant. I guess it was kind of poorly worded and stupid…”Ugh nevermind, forget it.” I say waving my hands back and forth, hoping that I have the power to erase my memories with my hands, at least then I won’t look like an idiot.
“No...that’s…actually pretty smart.” Suzu says, followed by a surprised agreement from Miki “Yeah, that’s actually a pretty good plan...here I was just thinking you were another pretty face.”
I feel a smile spread onto my face. That made sense? Hell yeah it made sense, of course it did! I knew it would! Miki gives me an exuberant thumbs up, overshadowing her former expression into one of confidence. I return her thumbs up, hoping that it doesn't look too awkward.
Suzu gives out a short laugh before sticking out her thumb as well. “So this is where you get your advice Miki? Here I was thinking that I was your rational part, little did I know I was just one of two.”
“I’m pretty lucky aren't I? I have two great friends who know exactly what to say to keep me on my feet.”
“Always.” Suzu and I both say, almost simultaneously, causing both of us to giggle before standing up to face Miki. She gives us another bright smile before wrapping the two of us in an affectionate headlock. I can feel my heart swell with happiness as the three of us laugh and stand next to each other in glee. I look over at Suzu who looks over at me, a tired expression of happiness evident on her face, her green eyes falling over me like a hug. Miki gives me a coy wink before letting the two of us go and grabbing her can from the window sill.
“I guess this is it.” She says, tipping the can to her lips and guzzling down the last few mouthfuls like a sports car eagerly fuelling up on gasoline for a race. Suzu picks up her can and raises it up as a show of encouragement before she takes a sip. I do my best to quickly follow suit, but the moment has already ended by the time I take a swig.
Miki takes her phone out of her backpack and begins to slide on a pair of sleep pants. She holds the phone to her ear as she tries to tie the strings together in a bow with her hand, after fumbling for a few minutes Suzu steps in and ties it for her, receiving a hand ruffle her hair as a show of gratitude.
“Hey Yuuto?” she opens as soon as the person on the other end answers. “I need you to meet me between the residences. There’s somethin’ I need your help with.”
She gives the two of us another smile and a nod “See ya’ in a bit.” She clicks the phone shut and takes a deep breath, trying to reassure herself. “Here we go boys.”
She quickly puts on a pair of running shoes and heads out of the room, leaving Suzu and me to quickly run after her, each of us finding it hard to keep up. We quickly run down the stairs with a large amount of noise, doing our best to avoid the bevvy of first years who are trying to head up to their rooms.
Miki throws open the front doors and walks out into the still night, stepping out into the orange glow of the school lamps that light up the pathway. The sound of Miki’s feet echo around and the shape of her back grows smaller as she walks closer to the lamp that marks the halfway point between the two residences.
Suzu goes to take another step out to follow her, but I gently grab onto her arm and shake my head “I-I think she’ll be able to keep her cool if we keep our distance.” She gives me a slow head nod and proceeds to lean on the door, each of us propping open up the residence entryway as we stare out at the two meeting figures. It’s hard to make out who the other figure is until they reach the light. Yuuto walks over, the tie around his neck is loosely hanging from his collar and he bears an expression of confusion as he walks up to Miki.
He has both of his hands in his pockets, slouching forward as he wanders over. We can only imagine what is going on his head, but for the first time in my life, I can definitely tell he’s confused. Boy will he be even more confused in a minute.
As they get closer he gives her a casual wave and a smile, before he knows it Miki has slapped her two hands on the side of his face like a vice and is kissing him. His eyes widen in surprise and even at this distance you can see him quickly process what’s going on. He recovers faster than I was expecting and closes his eyes and wraps his arm around Miki’s waist as he leans into the kiss. They barely have a minute to enjoy the embrace before a chorus of cheers breaks out from the third floor of the boy's residence.
A large group of boys are hanging out of the window, clapping and cheering as they stare over at the kissing couple. The group is making as much noise as they can, either in a show of support or in an effort to embarrass the two. Oh I can only imagine the blush that is evident on both of their faces.
While I can’t make out the faces of the crowd sticking out of the windows like a game of whack-a-mole, I can make out two figures that look vaguely familiar. The two aren’t cheering nearly as loud as the crowd, but they can be seen clapping along with them. The taller of the two figures raises his hand up and waves in large arcs while the smaller of the two figures settles for a smaller, more reserved wave. I’m surprised they can see us, especially because we’re obscured by the door frame of the girl’s residence. I’m gonna take a guess and assume that’s Nori and Hisao, who else would wave to us?
I raise my hand, eager to wave back, but quickly lower it when a loud chorus takes hold of the atmosphere. The once jubilant cheering quickly turn into rambunctious laughter, forcing the kissing couple to turn around and stare over at the boy’s residence. Miki begins to laugh, throwing her head back while holding her stomach, stepping away from Yuuto as he awkwardly rubs the back of his head. All eyes have turned to the chaos now flooding from one of the windows. A small guy is hanging from the window, being held back by his belt and pants as he flails his arms, no doubt terrified that he may impact with the ground. The figures eventually drag the guy back into the building, ushering in a quick bow to the couple as a show of apology for ruining the scene.
I roll my eyes and giggle slightly, I shake my head and look over at Suzu who is trying her best to keep her laughter under control, hoping that she won’t ruin the moment anymore than it already has been.
I’ve made up my mind. I bite my lip and look over at the figures of Hisao and Nori, fortifying my mind for the decision ahead. I’m going to confess to Hisao.