I arrived at school without any incidents or events on the way.
Sighing in front of the back door to the class, I gently slid the door open, entered the room, and tried to sit down as quietly as possible.
Despite my best effort to escape any notice, I felt two sets of eyes on me the moment I entered the classroom.
Keita and Keiko were staring at me.
I briefly glanced at Keita. His face showed signs of worry and displeasure. I turned to look at Keiko instead.
I couldn’t read her expression. If she had one, it wasn’t obvious and didn’t betray her thoughts or emotions. I held her gaze for a while before looking outside.
Our first class was…was that important? I didn’t give a damn and I focused on the cherry blossom tree outside. I noticed a lone petal.
It was lingering on the tree despite the fact the wind was plucking at it, trying to get it to dance to its rhythm.
Like a reluctant wallflower at a party, it held on to its branch and refused to let go. It was like a cowering eaglet, too afraid to jump and take flight as its mother tried her best to shove it out of the nest. Yet, as it struggled, a sense of longing emanated from its indecisive motions. It wavered between leaving and staying. It went from standing up to standing down, from standing up to standing down…
Like extending an invitation, the wind reached out with its hands to the petal, which shivered with excitement and delight. Yet, it held on to its safe place and watched. The wind was slowly breaking down its will, mesmerizing it by embracing other petals that followed its tapping fingers without missing a beat.
The other petals twirled and spun, seemingly loving every moment of the party, not realizing their ultimate fate was to be trampled by careless people after falling and withering on the ground…
The bell rang and the first period was over.
My thought was relatively uninterrupted and undisturbed by the bell and the people walking out, chatting about clothes, boys and so on. But I braced myself as Keiko and Keita came toward me.
Sighing, I turned to apologize.
“What happened to you?” Keita demanded before I could utter a word. His voice was full of irritation. “You just left like that, with tears…” He swallowed the rest of his words and then continued after a short pause. “The movie was getting good.”
I shook my head. “I’m sorry.”
All I could muster was a simple apology. I was tired. So tired. I think my mind was stuck in second gear. I kept my gaze on the top of my desk instead of on him.
Keiko sighed. “You know, I was worried…we were worried. I mean, did you think I didn’t notice…” She bit her lower lip. “Anything happened when you went to the bathroom? Did someone bother you?”
I quickly looked up to deny but before I could speak, Keita spoke harshly. “If anyone bothers you, let me know, I’ll show him a thing or two.”
I smiled; coming from him, the words sounded rather unconvincing. He was not the type who’d get into fights or even a scuffle.
“What?” He protested. “I’m serious!”
“Keita…Could you just leave us for a while?” Keiko quickly turned to him and said.
“Just go. Why don’t you go talk to Jun or something?”
Jun was Keita’s best friend. He was in the next classroom.
Keita wanted to protest but one stern look from his sister was enough. He nodded like a 3-year-old kid. “OK, I’m gone for now.”
He took off with an unhappy look on his face.
Keiko turned to me. I found her eyes boring into my.
I took a deep breath. Whatever she’s going to say wasn’t easy for me to hear and I knew she had something more than mere questions for me.
“Let’s go up to the roof.” She said. “I don’t care much for the next class anyway.”
“Are you sure?” I said. “I don’t want you to miss anything…”
“We could skip the entire morning for all I care.” She quickly replied with a tone that was a little bit too harsh. “Please, let’s just go.”
I nodded. “OK. Let’s get out of here.”
We left the class and went to the top of the building.
We went to the roof. It was cold and crisp on that day. I went ahead of Keiko and walked to the railing of the roof. I decided to put my hands on it. The sensation from the cold steel stung my skin.
The town itself was covered with cherry blossom petals, or so it seemed. The buildings were mostly unremarkable, especially compared with the flowers. Our town was at the edge of the city. Though I could see the skyscrapers from where I stood, I paid no attention to them. As fast as time was going inside the city, the time in the town was crawling slowly toward whatever destination it was headed.
I preferred that pace, knowing that I was not in a hurry to go anywhere, for that moment in time.
I froze. I blinked. I shook my head.
“You have changed.” Keiko said.
I turned to study her. She was wearing a little bit of make up and had earrings on. Her skin was smooth with a shade of red, probably due to the make up. She was cute and her short stature helped to reinforce the “moe” factor, as some boys discussed in class. I then searched her eyes; they weren’t telling me anything.
“Changed, huh?” I said. “So you think that happened after one day?”
She stood next to me while putting her hands on a spot on the rail, next to my hands. The ends of her short hair were fluttering in the wind gently and her large eyes were looking into the distance, toward the tall buildings in the city.
“That’s not it. It’s been going on for sometime now.”
I guess I tried to laugh. My awkward vocal chord turned it into a hybrid of chortle and chuckle. I nearly coughed.
“I don’t understand what you’re talking about.” I played with my braids nervously by twisting them.
“I guess you don’t.” She took in a deep breath. “I get the feeling you don’t understand yourself well.”
I turned and shot a look at her direction, she met my challenging eyes with hers. “Maybe we haven’t been friends for long and maybe I’m not as smart as you are; maybe I’m too much like the girls in our class, but…” She swallowed and didn’t continue.
I held her gaze for about another second before turning away. I survey the town buildings. They were mostly made of grayish concrete.
“If I know what’s going on, I’d talk about it.” I heard myself say. “But as of now, I have no clue what’s going on.”
The air around us became chillier and some clouds flew over to hide the sun from our faces.
“I’m…I guess I’m sorry.”
Keiko shook her head. “You know it’s OK to not know what’s going on. But you really shouldn’t have ran off like that.” She frowned and her eyes narrowed a little. “I was worried. I was confused.” She put her hands on mine. “I was scared.”
Scared? Why? Scared of what?
I was enjoying the surprising warmth from her hands given the chilliness of the air. For a cold day on April, she dressed rather lightly compared with the rest of the girls. She did wear her skirt short like those girls to look cute but she didn’t put on her uniform jacket.
When I realized part of me was wishing I had firm and supple thigh flesh like she did, I blushed and turned. What kind of friend was I? Yet, I couldn’t ignore the fact that she probably had been working out, and that I was still thin and frail. Nobody would notice my legs, at any rate.
Unrelated thoughts kept racing through my mind, as we stayed silent. I could feel her feelings or a sense coming from her trying to probe my feelings.
I didn’t open any door for her though.
After a moment of silence, she let go of my hands and took a step back.
“It’s Miss Sannomiya, isn’t it?” She said.
I peered at her unreadable face and sighed. We’ve been friends for a good while after all.
“Yeah, I guess that’s a big part of it,” I said. “I guess it’s that obvious, huh?”
She held her hands behind her and spun on her heels. Taking a few steps toward the door to the roof, she stopped.
“If you like her you should just tell her.” She said with her back toward me. “She seems like a honest and outgoing person.”
Keiko took in a deep breath and then slumped her shoulders. “It doesn’t help if you don’t say anything at all.” Her voice dropped a pitch.
I took a long and deep breath, wondering if I should tell her about the encounter in the woman’s bathroom at the theater. “I…”
“No, that’s OK.” Keiko said. “But I do wish you would talk to me about these things more often.” She started walking toward the exit.
I folded my hands in front of me. “I’m sorry.”
She waved behind her back and left through the exit, leaving me there.
I closed my eyes and just sat down, covering my knees and most of my shins with my skirt (I didn’t care to wear it short). I placed my head in my lap.
Could someone tell me what the hell had been going on in less than 72 hours?