This one's written as one of the random pairings (1 of 5) issued to me anonymously. It was fun. Not sorry.
No, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
— G M Hopkins
She had not been able to find her friend for quite a while. It perturbed her. The work had gone on and on, and at the end of the school year, with so much more to do, the lack of support had been at first irritating, then annoying, then worrisome. And now, she was, she had to admit, a little frightened. Something had happened.
Something had happened to her, to her friends, to the school itself. It was like a dull ache under her ribcage, where she thought she might still have a heart. It took her a while, as she paced the courtyard between the dormitories, to realize that there was a person slinking around in the silent spaces. Then, that person wasn’t slinking anymore. Whoever it was had decided to run straight at her with things swishing around in the air.
He’s shouting at me
, was her first thought. It’s some idiot boy shouting at me. Last thing I need is for campus security to give me a citation just before graduation.
She put her hands reflexively up in a warning to stay back, only to see her target come to a stop at the edge of the courtyard.
Sighing, she dug into her skirt pockets (she’d never understood why the other girls didn’t get extra pockets engineered into their uniforms—so useful!) and pulled out a pad of sticky notes and a mini-pencil. She waited for an opening and then lunged.
Momentarily stunned, the gesticulating figure stepped into the light and dumped two bags of what looked like small milk cartons on the ground. His mouth shut slowly as he stared at her through the thick lenses of his spectacles. The yellow sticky note looked incongruous dangling loosely from the end of his garish scarf.
Oh, it’s Kenji. How could I not have known?
Shizune felt even more depressed, but she handed him the mini-pencil anyway.
He looked even more stunned, if that were possible. Then he took the pencil from her and began to write, in big, clear characters: [I SAID WHY ARE YOU MAKING EVIL SIGNS AT ME ALL THE TIME, CANT A MAN BUY MILK WITHOUT YOU FEMINIST NAZI BOSS SPYING ON HIM????]
There wasn’t much space left after all that, so she peeled off another sticky note and held out her hand for the pencil. To her surprise, he gave it back quite readily.
[Kenji, I’m not spying on you. I just want to know if you’ve seen Hisao Nakai recently. Or perhaps my friend Misha.]
He glanced down at what she’d written, still upside-down. Then, a rather peculiar thought seemed to have struck him, because his face changed completely.
She put the note into his hand. Her small, neat handwriting had not used up much of the space. He seized the pencil from her with his other hand. This time, the writing was a little smaller, but his scribbling was more intense.
[YOUVE LOST, HAVENT YOU? MY MAN HISAO HAS TAKEN OUT YOUR MAIN ASSET. I CAUGHT HER LEAVING HIS ROOM IN DISARRAY SOME NIGHTS AGO. I HAD TO SAY COMFORTING THINGS TO HIM BECAUSE HE WAS ALL BENT.]
Even if she had been able to say something, she’d have had nothing to say. What have I done to Misha? Did I accidentally break her? She’d never have… he’d never have…
Her mind was like a cloud of butterflies rising towards the moon. She could not imagine where she’d learnt that metaphor, but it was apt.
It explained a lot. They were always somewhere else. And when she communicated with them, there was always this sense of a conversation never to be completed.
He was scrawling something on the reverse side.
[ARE YOU OK? YOU DONT HAVE TO SELF-DESTRUCT, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS RENOUNCE FEMINISM AND EVERYTHING WILL WORK FINE.]
She was crying. She’d dropped the notepad.
She hardly noticed when he tore a note off the fallen pad and began to write again.
[AH SHIT IM SORRY. EVEN IF YOU ARE A FEMINIST. BETRAYAL IS THE WORST.]
He was offering her a little pack of something. Milk—cold, creamy Hokkaido dairy. It was surreal. Coldly, beautifully so. A small white carton with blue print and a two little cartoon cows. Two tiny cows, minding their own business, waiting to be milked. A mountain in the background, big and white and serene. Her tears were mingling with the condensation on the carton.
She was holding it, and slowly, her strong, slim fingers were opening the top. It tasted good. She didn’t know why. She didn’t know why she was drinking it.
[SEE? MILK IS ALWAYS GOOD. MAKES THE STUDENT BODY STRONGER HAHA.]
He was using up her entire pad, one silly message at a time.
She didn’t mind. Carefully, she put the milk down and held out her hands.
[NO, IM NOT GOING TO HANDCUFF YOU.]
She grabbed the pencil and notepad from him before he could react.
[Thank you. For the milk, and the advice.]
In February, the breeze on the dormitory roof was chilly. Her hoodie kept her warm enough. The view at night was beautiful, watching the distant lights of the city centre and its tentacles reaching into the surrounding area.
Suddenly, he was there. She stood up with a start, and spent a few seconds fumbling for the new notepad and pencil.
[How did you get up here, Kenji?]
[HAHA I CAN TELL YOU BUT YOUD HAVE TO KILL ME.]
Her confusion must have been obvious. Frowning, he looked at what he’d written and mouthed what looked like a sound of consternation. Frantic scribbling ensued.
[I MEAN, YOUD KILL ME.]
[WAIT HOW DID YOU KNOW I WAS BEHIND YOU?]
She grinned. He’d probably found the dangerous path along the back wall, where the gap between the dorms was smallest. She’d never thought anyone would risk it.
[That’s my secret. And nobody is killing anybody.]
[RIGHT, YOU FEMINIST SCUM.]
He grinned back. Clearly, he meant little of what he said.
[You know I’m not a feminist. Any more than you are Catholic mafia.]
[ITS YOUR COUSIN ISNT IT?]
[She’s in Scotland, Kenji.]
[HAVENT YOU READ THE DA VINCI CODE?]
She laughed. He’d made her read it. It sounded a bit like her cousin’s other family, but completely fantastical.
Sadness poked her in the ribs. At least she’d had family in Yamaku, even if she had never quite seen eye to eye with Cousin Lilly. And now she was gone, and things were going, and Misha had cut her hair short, and Hisao…
She was crying again.
A bottle appeared. [WHISKY?]
A carton appeared. [MILK?]
He kept writing.
[YOU CANT BE SAD ALL THE TIME. YOU GOTTA GO DO SOMETHING.]
[DONT THINK TOO HARD, A WOMAN HAS TO BE ALL ABOUT ACTION!]
The writing got smaller as he started to squeeze text into the margins. He was scribbling like a madman.
[YOU CAN THINK ALL DAY, BUT CHANGING THE SITUATION AROUND BY DOING SOMETHING IS BEST WAY. I DO LOTS OF THINGS WITHOUT THINKING. THATS WHY IN MIDDLE SCHOOL THEY CALLED ME <CAUSES-MANY-PROBLEMS>. I THOUGHT IT WAS COOL, SOUNDS LIKE TRIBAL NAME.]
She was laughing again. She didn’t know why, but it felt good. She reached for the whisky, and found herself wondering momentarily what would happen if she mixed the milk with the whisky. Mentally, she scolded herself for thinking such silly thoughts. Just act, Shizune, don’t think!
The whisky tasted interesting. It got up her nose and told her stories.
Weeks had passed. The Student Council had come to the end of the term, an ending that couldn’t have come soon enough for all of them. The new Council were strange people, but they had their hearts in the right place, mostly.
Shizune was sitting on the roof of the girls’ dormitory. She’d found that it was indeed a peaceful place at night, free of annoying little females with dangerous bladed legs or weird ones with silly expressions.
She waited till the shadow shifted, then she turned around quickly, pivoting on the firm muscles of newly-toned rear. Her pre-written note simply said [HI THERE KENJI!] in very large capitals.
He looked shocked, then grinned and held out his own pre-written note: [IT CANT BE SOUND, IT MUST BE LIGHT.]
He flipped it around. [IRISH CREAM, NOT HOKKAIDO CREAM.]
He was carrying a bottle of something, and a pair of whisky tumblers. She grinned back and made space for him on the rooftop bench.
Time passed in perfect silence for a while. Nothing stirred. They drank, watched the sky, didn’t bother to exchange notes even though they’d both brought pads and pencils. The wind in late March was still cool, up here in Sendai, and she could almost see his alcoholic breath fume into the sky. Then she felt him stamp his foot once on the ground.
She dipped her finger into her tumbler. There was still some sticky residue of this strange non-whisky alcoholic drink. It had been pleasant, and she hadn’t left much in the glass. She drew a fragrant question mark on the table.
He lifted his hands, as if about to frame a view. Then, he signed: [Okay, no more crap. No more wasting paper. Let’s just do it this way.]
She punched him—a good, short, sharp thump to the chest, right where the trailing portion of his scarf dangled over his buttons.
[You could do this all along? You misled me!]
He had a smug expression on his face. [I can read sign. Of course. Otherwise female spy will use code you cannot crack and you might think they are casting magic spells on you.]
She could feel an angry blush coming on. She’d never liked being the target of humour.
[But I could only read it. Did not have persons to talk to with it. Now I can sign. For you.]
There was something touching about that. A sudden sense of giddiness, of loss and outrage, struck her deep within. Why now? We’re about to graduate, there aren’t many days left, and I have a new friend.
He was waiting for a reply. He looked anxious. His hands were frozen in mid-air, like two ungainly crabs.
She’d already seen his strangely tidy room, full of little boxes, files, charts and gadgets. Everything had its place, even though it almost crowded the living area out. She could live with that, perhaps. Heck, she’d even eaten pizza with him, an experience, given his choice of blueberry/yellowfin/salami, that should probably not be repeated much.
She noticed one of her hands was tapping on the table, uncertain about what to do next. The other one, having just delivered a punch, felt satisfied with not doing anything.
His breath was warm and gentle, despite his temporary paralysis. She reached up and pulled his hands down. Now neither of them could communicate. But, as they say, love always finds a way.