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Balk - Chapter 2 Part 2Balk - Chapter 2 Part 2 by KisakaToriama
I left school early but I didn’t care. I even stepped in during the middle of class to grab my backpack and left without a word. I’m sure people would talk but so be it. I had a brother to take care of. Once I had all my belongings, I marched out the front door and across the street to the auto shop. I didn’t really like it but… sometimes, I guess I have to rely on others after all. Cursing as the cold air hit my skin, I squinted against the air and continued my trek over. I hadn’t bothered putting on my hat, nor my coat, them both in my arms along with my backpack, only my scarf remaining on my body because I’d never removed it from earlier in class. I’m sure I looked like a crazy guy, just walking out of the school when everyone else was inside in class while not even wearing my coat. But honestly, as the seconds ticked by I cared less and less what others thought of me. After all, they weren’t going to help my brothe
Balk - Chapter 2 Part 1Balk - Chapter 2 Part 1 by KisakaToriama
“Ah shit, Omochi I meant to write down strawberry instead of cherry for the shortcake, is there any chance you could remake that for me?” One of the waitresses cursed, holding her hands together in a begging motion. It’s not like I really had much of a choice though, it’s not like we could send out an item that the customer didn’t want. Things would not end well, most especially if they had an allergy of some sort. I had to make another. Blinking once, I nodded at her with my blank expression and turned back to my work station. It was a little busy, everyone having gotten out of school and all the adults calling an end to their work day, but it wasn’t busy enough for me to sweat making another shortcake for a customer. It is what it is. Whipping up the newly modified order, I put it
Balk - Chapter 1Balk - Chapter 1 by KisakaToriama
Watching and Listening
It was raining again. It always seemed to be doing that. Raining, that is. If it wasn’t raining, it was just plain cold out. It was really unpleasant. What made it more unpleasant though, was the fact I wasn’t the only one in this wretched weather. My younger brother, Riduna, was also out in this. Holding my right hand tightly, he shivered as the raindrops fell upon his cheeks, looking up at me pitifully as I held his gaze.
“Kishuka, I’m really cold!” He complained, shutting his left eye as a drip had splashed near it. His free hand went up rub the eye, it dropping back down to his side shortly afterwards.
“I know… but we’re almost home.” I spoke back to him in my regular flat tone, looking from him to back in front of me. At the time, we were waiting at the crosswalk. I sta
“Can I help you sir? Do you have an appointment with a mechanic?” She asked with a bit of a sassy tone to it. Augh what do I say? I don’t… I don’t even know the blue guy’s name and… I slumped a little and felt a bit defeated already. What if he is in the middle of doing something in the back and I couldn’t…? My eyes dropped down to the floor and I gripped my belongings in my hand harshly in frustration.
“N...no.. I don’t have a… I need to see someone. He… he has…” I wasn’t really thinking straight. What do I say? How do I phrase things? Do I sound like an idiot? I started to think about just turning around and leaving. I could just walk or run…. I could figure something else out and.
“Sir? Can you speak up please? I can’t make out what you’re saying…” The receptionist spoke in a lower tone and I found myself looking back up to her, my mouth pressed together tightly. Do I ask for a man with blue hair? Is that how I do it if I don’t know his name? He should be pretty easy to point out in a crowd right? They ought to know…Taking a deep breath, I opened my lips once more.
“Yeah, uh…” Stop stammering, Kishuka, c’mon. “I need to speak with the man. I actually… don’t know his name. But he has blue hair?” The woman seemed to look both relieved I’d finally said it but also kinda annoyed.
“Oh yeah, Runaka.” She nodded, standing up and pushing some of her brown hair behind her ear. I was relieved that she knew who I was talking about, and as if on cue the blue haired man has approached the glass door, entering the small room. He was yawning up until the point he saw me, looking both shocked and confused. He hadn’t expected me to take him up on his offer, I guess. I mean if I were in his shoes, I probably would’ve thought the same thing though.
“Hey!” He greeted, offering a small smile, but it faded a bit as he looked me over. Turning to the woman, he waved at her to let her know that he had it handled. “I’m going to actually go take my lunch break now.” He told her before coming up to me and motioning me to come outside. Wordlessly, I did and we both exited the building. Instantly, he spun around and gave me a confused look.
“Are you okay? You look… kind of bad. Hell, you should probably put on your coat before you get sick or something…” He laughed a little but you could tell it was forced. Why was this guy showing so much concern for me and was it really that obvious that I was at my wit’s end? “Anyway, what’s with the change of heart, huh?” I decided to take his advice and put my coat on, leaving my backpack and hat in my hands before responding.
“My brother is sick.” I said somewhat quietly, eyes looking down at the ground again. This was kind of… embarrassing. I was completely relying on him now, huh? “He’s really sick and I need to get him from school and I… you have a car, so I thought…” I grimaced a little at the scared thought in the back of my head. What if he didn’t want to anymore? What if he was screwing with me the whole time? I don’t like relying on people I don’t know. It’s kind of… scary? However, Runaka was very quick to put his hands on me once more, holding my shoulders and leaning in closely.
“Where’s his school at? I’ll take you there and we’ll take him home, okay?” His grip was strong and he squeezed my shoulders a little. “Hey, look at me okay? You’re freakin’ out a little…” His half-hearted laugh came again and you could tell by the sound of his voice he was… kind of scared too. I don’t know why though. I was just… acting so weak. Regardless, I looked up and caught his piercing gaze, frowning more when I’d seen his worried expression.
“Sorry.” I muttered, looking away again and then back at him. I didn’t really have any words to offer to him. I just… wanted to do the right thing.
“C’mon, let’s get in my truck and we’ll go pick him up.” He let go of my shoulders and tilted his head in the direction of where he had parked. A small smile started to inch on his lips and I wasn’t sure if it was for his sake or mine. “After all, I’m sure it’s best we leave sooner rather than later, right?” I nodded back in response, and he led me over to a small parking lot off of the sidewalk, not far from the initial business. Climbing into the passenger’s side, I quickly buckled up and set my backpack down on the ground in front of me. It was fairly dirty in the truck… Well not really dirty as in dirt, but there was a lot of clutter. There were a few remnants of dirt or dried mud on the driver’s side as well as plenty of random stuff in the back. I didn’t bother taking real note of it though, looking back in front of me and then back down to my lap. Runaka started up the engine once he’d put on his seat belt, looking to me before clearing his throat.
“Alright, I need you to tell me where I’m going.” He said in his regular chipper tone, leaning forward to turn on the heat. The air hit me, still cold from the vehicle not yet having warmed up and I flinched a little, looking up at the man. Alright Kishuka, pull yourself together, you gotta help out your brother. This is no time to be acting like a child. I’m almost an adult already. I took this opportunity to sit up straight, and then to give him directions.
“Okay, once you leave out there, take a left and stay in the right lane for a little while. You’ll want to turn at the second light. I’ll let you know where to go from there…” I told him, crossing my arms over my chest to try and keep warm until the heat was actually considered warm. Runaka nodded in response, moving his vehicle forward and to my directions.
It didn’t take all that long to get to his school when we were in his vehicle, and
before I knew it I was there.
“I’ll go get him.” I told Runaka, unbuckling my seatbelt and opening the door. Jumping out, I made haste to get to the front doors, opening them and entering the well heated building. I knew right where the infirmary was, so I headed straight there, not stopping until I’d reached the room. Sure enough, there Riduna was, balled up in one of the beds with a blanket over him. He was shaking. Once I’d entered the room, the nurse inside perked up and smiled when seeing me.
“Ah Kishuka, we’re glad you’re here.” She stood up and walked over to a table in the corner of the room. It held Riduna’s belongings, like his backpack and shoes, as well as his winter gear. She held them up to me and I quickly ran over, nodding and holding them without saying a word. The nurse and I really didn’t say anything to each other and she simply walked over to Riduna and nudged his shoulder. “Riduna, your big brother is here to take you home.” At the sound of that, almost instantly Riduna perked right up and turned around to face us. Face bright red and snot running down his face, tears of joy, or so it looked like, welled up in his eyes.
“Big brother!” He sniffled, scrambling to get out of the bed in his exhaustion, and when he finally did, he came up to me, wrapping his arms around me and crying bitterly into my coat. My heart ached again I patted his back with the hand that only held his ouside shoes, trying to console him as best as I could. He was sick… but other than the crying he didn’t look like he was dying or anything.
“It’s okay Riduna… I’m here and we’re going to go home and you can rest up okay? We really need to go so I need you to take your shoes from me.” I instructed my little brother, trying to make this whole situation quick, not to mention the nurse was standing right there, awkwardly observing our little moment. It was weird. After a couple moments, Riduna dried up a little and took his shoes from me, putting them on and then taking his coat hat and scarf as well. Grabbing my hand with his own small one, we finally left the school, his backpack in my other hand. He didn’t bother questioning how I was able to come and get him and even when we got into Runaka’s truck the only thing he insisted was that I sit in the back seat with him. Runaka was quick to move things out from back there and Riduna was able to have his wish, even if the ride was only a few minutes. The ride back was silent, Runaka not sure what to say I guess, and I really didn’t want to say anything anyway. Once we’d pulled into our driveway, I gave Riduna the keys and told him to let himself in as I got the rest of our belongings, and to also say something to Runaka. Sitting in the passenger side with my things in my hands, I just looked to the blue haired man, not saying anything but staring for a few moments.
“Thank you.” I spoke earnestly, looking down to repeat it again. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what I would’ve done-”
“You’re welcome.” He cut me off with a smile, leaning a hand over to pat my shoulder before relaxing in his seat. “Let’s just say we’re pretty much even, yeah?”
“Pretty much?” I questioned, an eyebrow raising before Runaka let out a laugh.
“Yeah! Let’s exchange numbers and we’ll call it fully even okay? After all, if something worse were to happen to that boy and you don’t have a ride to the hospital… I’d hate to feel like I could’ve done something but didn’t.” Runaka continued to smile, shrugging afterwards. “That and maybe we can be friends or something you know? You seem like a pretty cool guy… I mean all in all, you did ask a complete stranger who was kind of obnoxious to you to drive you to go pick up your little brother to take him home.” He laughed again. “But really, you seem like an honest fellow. A good brother, at the very least. A very good brother.” Runaka had fished his phone out in the midst of his talking and before I had a moment to protest, he handed me his and stuck his hand out, ushering for my own.
“Oh. Sure.” I let the words slip from my mouth and I smiled a little. Sure. Why not. He had a point, at least I had someone just in case things got really bad. “Thank you.” Once we’d exchanged numbers, Runaka marveled at the contact in his phone, grinning and then folding the cellular device back into his pocket. That’s when I gathered my stuff once more and opened the door to leave the truck. Before leaving though, Runaka spoke up and grinned widely.
“Well, see you later then, Kishuka~” Whu- I couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed when he’d addressed me by my first name. Had I programmed my first name into the phone? Geez, I’d already forgotten…
“Yeah.” I replied with a nod and closed the door, heading up to our front door. Opening it, I closed it behind me and removed my shoes before dropping our bags to either side of the entry-way out of laziness. I could hear the sound of the truck’s engine revving and driving off, and that’s when I locked the door back and began my search for Riduna. I checked the kitchen first, but when I saw there was no sign of him there, I walked upstairs and tried his room. He wasn’t there either… it kind of made me worried now. Just where had he gone? I walked over in the direction of my parent’s room when I’d seen a familiar figure from inside my own room. Stopping and glancing in, I saw my brother. Laying on my bed, still in his coat, scarf and hat, and the keys still within his grasp.
“What am I going to do with you….” I smiled
I called off work for the rest of the week and while I felt terrible about it, my work was very encouraging about it and told me it was best I stay home anyway and not to feel guilty. I could not have asked for a nicer manager. Along with work, I had to call the school to let them know I wouldn’t be there the rest of the week either. They just recommended I stop by at some point to pick up homework, and that I planned to do on Saturday so that my brother would be most likely to be a bit better by then. Either way, it didn’t mean too much to me since my main concern was my brother and not my grades. As the days passed by though, he went from quite sickly and not eating much, to starting to move around a bit more and gain some energy. His fever started to go away and he indulged in my meals with excitement once more, which personally made me feel good. Luckily, when my parents had come home that day that Riduna was running a high temperature, they did pay a little attention to him, despite him being mostly resting.. Unfortunately though, they did end up coming to the conclusion that if I were to stay home, there was no point in them staying home from work as well, so a majority of the time that he was sick was spent around me. Sometimes I wonder if he feels lonely, having his own parents pretty much ignore him, even when he’s sick. Maybe I saw it differently than him because I was older, and also because I was treated with a bit more attention when I was his age since I was an only child at the time. Things had changed a lot, and I feel like if I were not here for him, he’d end up being the forgotten child they gave up. It makes me feel sad.
Today was Friday, and since his spirits were a bit up, the two of us were sitting in the living room where a television and couch was set up in, watching some tv programs for a little bit. After all, spending time with him was pretty important, even if he was feeling better than before. We’d decided on some tv he enjoyed a lot and one I certainly didn’t mind, so we were plenty entertained. That, and I was also jotting down some ideas for new holiday specials for my work place. If I was going to be off work for right now, I might as well make myself useful. As I wrote down my next idea and it’s set ingredients, I jumped a little when hearing our doorbell go off. Who could possibly be here? Maybe it was one of Riduna’s friends, but if I remembered correctly, the temperature was supposed to be scarefully low today. Twelve-year olds shouldn’t be walking in these conditions, most especially if they don’t have an important place to be like school or something. Grunting as I got up from my comfortable spot on the couch, I set my notepad down and headed to the door. At least I dressed well at home, so it’s not like I’d be embarrassed if some kid saw me anyway, or even a mailman or something. My hair was brushed (despite it’s slightly untamed look because of my curls), my teeth were brushed and I wore one of my turtlenecks paired with some comfortable black slacks. Nothing fancy but nothing out of the ordinary.
Walking up to the door, I didn’t bother to look out of the viewfinder and just opened it. Blinking when I saw who it was, my expression turned to a sort of confused one and then shortly afterwards a disturbed one from the cold air. It was Kikamura in front of me, wearing a short coat and a star patterned scarf, with a large bag in her arms.
“Hi Omochi!” She grinned widely.
“S-stalker…” My first response was, before I quickly cleared my throat and invited her in before questioning her. It was cold outside. It’d be rude if I kept her out there. She shut her eyes and grinned wider at the gesture, stepping inside my home and removing her shoes at the door after I’d shut the door behind her. Either she was good at ignoring people, or she was just bad at hearing people. I thought for sure she’d at least comment on the stalker bit, but still nothing. I mean, can you really blame me for still being creeped by it? She’s at my house for no explainable reason and…
“So what’s the occasion?” I asked as she took off her coat and seemed to quickly make herself at home, despite me not knowing why on earth she was here. Keeping up her grin, she held her coat over one arm, and her bag in the other.
“What do you think? Our teacher wanted me to go check on you and give you your homework~!” She held up her bag and shook it a little and you could tell it was pretty full by the way the inside’s didn’t jingle around a lot. “Why else would I be here?” True, why else would she be here… Well you know, unless she really was a stalker and this was her excuse to come see me. I really don’t know what to think or believe.
“I see… I was going to go get it tomorrow though…” I told her, taking her coat to go put it in the coat closet which was on the other side of the staircase. Once hung up, I turned around and jumped when I found her right in front of me again. “....Why are you following me?” I grumbled, frowning a bit bitterly before closing the coat closet. The girl looked a bit embarassed and she shrugged, taking a couple steps back. Strange. Because of the chattering we were doing though, Riduna had peeked his head out from the other room, looking to the new guest in our house and myself. Curiosity burned inside him, I could tell, and he stared at me long and hard.
“Who’s this, Kishuka?” He spoke up, moving a hand up to brush a couple strands behind his ear.
“This is Kikamura, my classmate at school. She’s here to give me my homework.” I told my brother, looking to the blonde whose smile dimmed a little at my words. “She probably won’t be here too long, but will you be alright by yourself until then?” I was thankful, for my brother nodded at me and went back into the living room to finish his movie without a complaint. Kikamura was pretty lucky that he wasn’t as sick as he had been, honestly. Otherwise, I would’ve pushed the fact that he was sick to get her out of my house quicker. But… I should be nice after all. I haven’t really been all that nice lately, not to her at the very least. Turning back to the girl, I shrugged one shoulder to the stairs.
“Do you want to head up?” I asked her, figuring my room would be the best place to collect my school work. That and since she was a talker, it’d be the best place to keep her chattering contained. The girl nodded with a smile and followed me as I headed up to my room, luckily not speaking too much for now. It was kind of nice to continue to have some silence for the time being, but I knew it wasn’t going to last. Opening my door for her, I let her walk into my room first as the lights were flipped on and by no surprise to me, she’d started looking around, taking in her surroundings. I don’t think my room is anything that special, but I can say for sure that is has some nice color to it. My walls are a warm brown color and my curtains compliment that with a dark burgundy that are the same shade as my bed sheets. We have hardwood flooring, so it blends well. A lot of my furniture (the little I have) are all black, including my desk, small table and dresser. I don’t really have a lot of hobbies, so my clutter is minimal.
“Omochi, you never fail to surprise me!” The blonde girl said with a nod, setting her bag down on the table in the middle of my room. Flopping down on the floor by the table, she started to unwrap her scarf and set it neatly next to her on the floor, looking up to me afterwards.
“Oh? Why is that?” I asked, humoring her even though I really didn’t have much of an interest in hearing her explanation. I sat down as well, sitting across from her at the table, looking to her bag before back to her.
“Well I mean, you’re not like a bunch of other guys I know. Your room looks nice and complementing, your mom always makes these cool lunches and…” She trailed off, obvious she’d ran out of things to point out. After all, we hadn’t known each other than long. Blushing a little, she shrugged. “You’re just really interesting.” The more she talked though, the worse I felt. This random girl I hadn’t even known all that long thought I was this big interesting guy when she really hardly knew me at all, even her words about my lunch bugged me. She really knew nothing about me. Despite my feelings though, I couldn’t just get upset at her over something so silly like that so I just let it go.
“Oh. Thanks I guess.” What I said was completely insincere, but she didn’t know what. “Anyway, you came over to give me my homework, right?” Straight to business. Kikamura perked up and nodded, opening her bag and fishing out a dark folder, in which she plopped on the table and placed her bag back on the floor. It wasn’t a huge folder, but it was stuffed with more than I would’ve liked. Audibly groaning at the sight of it, I grabbed it regardless and opened it, flipping through the pages inside. Geez, there were even a few personal notes from my teacher on these as well. I frowned even more at them.
“Yeah, we were given a lot these past few days… luck must not be on your side, huh?” She laughed a little before stopping, noting my focus on the pages of homework. It was quiet in my room for a little bit as I looked over the pages, pulling a few out from the folder to see the bottom of it. It was just a whole lot of junk. I didn’t like junk. I also had a bunch of reading to do and I was already regretting my choice to stay at home, despite my brother’s predicament. But what’s done is done, there was no going back.
“Um.” Kikamura spoke up again, and this time I looked up since I was pretty much done looking at my doom that I’d have to face this weekend. The girl looked a little more serious this time, and I knew what was going on. That’s right, I kept cutting her off every time she tried to apologize for the time during P.E. I didn’t mean to, really, it just kept happening that way. “I’m sorry for what I did during the volleyball game. I just wanted to cheer you on, you know?” She smiled a little and she looked up at me with a sort of pained expression. “I keep thinking about different ways I could’ve helped you out that wouldn’t have gotten you embarrassed like that, but I can’t think of anything other than staying quiet. You like that though right? Quiet?”
I didn’t know what to say. I mean, she was right. I did like peace and quiet. But that would be awful for me to say right?
“Kind of.” I told her, slumping a little and threading my fingers through the stack of papers. My eyes went to look at them as I spoke. “But you don’t have to be quiet. If you were quiet all the time, you wouldn’t be you.” Narrowing my eyes at the papers, I struggled finding the right words. I didn’t want to her to feel bad, but I didn’t want to lie either. I just had to be honest as I could and as kind as I could. “And it’d be kind of boring if I was friends with myself.” Softening my expression, I looked up from the papers and caught Kikamura’s gaze which had also relaxed. She smiled a little and scooted closer to the table. Once she’d waited a few moments, as if to see if I’d say any more, she decided to speak.
“If you say it like that… I guess that means I’ll have to keep being myself around you huh?” She laughed a little before getting flustered and waving her hands in front of her in a worry. “I-I don’t mean I’ll keep embarrassing you… or at least not on purpose… Like- I’ll try and be more mindful but…” She snickered at herself and then lowered her hands. “Thank you!” She gave me one of her genuine smiles and nodded. I couldn’t help but look at her in awe at her expression, the happiness set upon her face and upon her body language. I found my own hand reaching to my cheek, as if to check if I was manageable of such a happy expression, but my default monotonous expression lay there as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary, but maybe I was only realizing the difference just now because of the circumstances. “Anyway, I don’t want to overstay my welcome, so I’ll get going now!” Kikamura beamed, standing up quickly and brushing her skirt down to fold as it should. As she did, I felt a little part inside me jerk as if saying it didn’t want her to leave yet. I haven’t really ever had… friends over. I don’t want the visit to end so quickly.
“A-ah…!” I went to open my mouth to speak but when I did, I’d went to stand up and had knocked all of my paperwork out of my hands and scattered it under the table on the floor. “....” I frowned at the mess I’d made and the embarrassment I’d caused myself, only grumbling and reaching down for my papers again. The blonde though, quickly joined me in picking up my papers, giggling a little at my expense.
“Are you, by any chance, a bit of clutz, Omochi?” The girl grinned, collecting the pages in her hands and setting them on the table. At that I pouted, and stared at her with narrow eyes.
“Consider the gift I was about to offer you, void.” I spoke a bit bitterly, though not completely seriously either. Immediately, Kikamura frowned and began to whine.
“What?? A gift!? I wanted a gift! I take it back, I take it back!” her little cheeks puffed up in a pout and she grabbed the papers out of my hand to tug on my free arms now. “C’mon Omochi, don’t leave a girl hanging like this! Gimme!” I couldn’t help but crack a smile at her behaviour, letting out a snicker before slipping my arm away from her and taking a step back. I shook my head and kept on my smile.
“Fine… I’ll cook you a meal, okay?” That’s right. Other than my family and the cafe, no one else had tried my cooking before. Time to change that I guess.
Huh. There are a lot of changes happening right now, aren’t there?
“Ah shit, Omochi I meant to write down strawberry instead of cherry for the shortcake, is there any chance you could remake that for me?” One of the waitresses cursed, holding her hands together in a begging motion. It’s not like I really had much of a choice though, it’s not like we could send out an item that the customer didn’t want. Things would not end well, most especially if they had an allergy of some sort. I had to make another. Blinking once, I nodded at her with my blank expression and turned back to my work station. It was a little busy, everyone having gotten out of school and all the adults calling an end to their work day, but it wasn’t busy enough for me to sweat making another shortcake for a customer. It is what it is. Whipping up the newly modified order, I put it up in the window as usual and the waitress popped up in excitement, smiling and waving with both hands before taking the order. “Thank you, Omochi!!” Quickly, she hopped off to deliver the order and before long, a new order or three popped in and I was back to work once again. I didn’t feel too exhausted about it though, I kind of looked forward to being able to let those dishes out to the hungry customers to enjoy. With a yawn, I took out some flour and cinnamon, pouring those into a bowl and then turning to the refrigerator to pull out some eggs and milk. Just as I was mixing it all together, I felt my phone buzz in my pocket, making me jump a little. That’s weird… I hardly get any phone calls. It was probably my Mother alerting me that she wouldn’t be home for dinner or something, thinking I was at home. She didn’t really know my work schedule that well. In fact, she’s never even been to my work place before. Well, whatever it was I was sure that it could wait until orders calmed down.
Once I finished my orders, I threw my gloves off and pulled my phone out, moving to a corner of the kitchen to stay out of the way. Opening it, I looked to see who my missed call was from. My school? It probably wasn’t that important. Shaking my head, I didn’t bother to check the voicemail, I’d just check it after work. Putting my phone back in my pocket, I got back to work and put my gloves on. Honestly, if they wanted to tell me something, they could’ve said something while I was there. I don’t have time to spend on school stuff outside of class and studying, especially when I need to be focusing on my work at hand. One of my coworkers must’ve caught on to my irritance, tapping my shoulder.
“You alright, Omochi?” My male coworker asked, offering a small smile as he used his other arm to wipe sweat off of his forehead. Blinking and then smiling a little back, I nodded.
“Yeah, just getting tired of distractions is all.” I shut my eyes, sighing a little.
“Hah yeah, I understand. I just wanna work, work quickly and get out of here, you know?” At that, the man walked back to his side of the kitchen, eyeing his next order to work on which left me to stare at my empty list of orders. Well…. time to work on my side-work.
The sound of coughing filled the kitchen as Riduna covered his mouth, nose a shiny red color. He was getting sicker today. Not quite running a fever, but bogging down for sure. As much as I wanted to suggest him to stay home from school, he wasn’t sick enough for it to actually be justified. If he got any sicker though, I’d have to make sure he stayed home… but if he did I’d have to skip school as well and maybe even work to take care of him and ugh… this situation was not ideal.
“Here.” I handed my brother a small cup of medicine with a warm cup of lemon tea next to it. “You better warm up as much as you can before we head off, okay? It’s not as windy today, but it’s really cold. The news said it’s going to be -9 ºC at the lowest, but it won’t get a lot warmer than that.” I instructed him, watching him reluctantly pick up his cup of medicine. Gulping it down quickly, he stuffed some waffles in his mouth right after to drown out the taste.
“Okay Kishuka…” he pouted a little, obviously looking like he did not want to attend school today. I felt bad for him, I honestly did. No one wants to go to school, or work, or anywhere other than home when you feel sick. Picking up the mug of tea, he slowly sipped from the tea, reaching for a tissue afterwards. He looked so sad… But enough pity, we had places to be. And from the sounds of the front door, so did my parents.
“Bye boys, have a good day at school!” My mother called before shutting the door behind her. I made a clicking sound with my tongue in annoyance at her ignorance, not even paying attention to the sick one. Honestly, they aren’t even parents, are they? Just legal guardians. Turning around to the fridge, I pulled out both my brother and I’s lunchboxes and water bottles, tucking mine away in my backpack that looked a little lighter today since I didn’t have work after school that day.
“Listen, I’m going to pack a little more medicine in here, okay? Take it with your lunch and it’ll help your body pains go away for a little bit.” I told Riduna as I looped around to his side of the kitchen, putting his lunch in his bag. Riduna was slowly sipping on his tea now, not saying all that much. Walking up next to him, I ruffled his hair and smiled. “Are you going to be okay today?” I asked him, his eyes moving up to look into mine. He blinked a couple times, setting the mug down and looking away before responding.
“Yeah…” Riduna spoke with a small sigh, leaning into my hand now. I smiled a little more, pitifully more than anything, and wrapped both arms around my brother in an attempt to comfort him just a little.
“C’mon, we need to get going if we’re going to be on time.” Riduna wrapped his arms around me as well, but I had to break the embrace after a little bit. “C’mon…” Eventually he did pick himself up off the stool, suiting himself up for the great outdoors, decked from head to toe. This time around, I had my hat on so I didn’t feel as cranky when it came to leaving. We were a little slower walking today, but I didn’t mind too much since I didn’t want to push Riduna… After all, we were walking which wasn’t the safest for him. I don’t understand why my parents had not purchased me a car yet. They were so insistent on paying for college, but never once brought up a car despite it’s convenience for travel, to and from and safety… Right now a car would be ideal for me. But there was no budging on my parents once they made a decision. They were very stubborn. Once we were at Riduna’s school we made our goodbye quick and I was off to my school, however because of how long we’d taken to go to his school earlier, my leisurely walk had turned into a sprint. At least it kept me warm. When I’d arrived at my school, I was a bit early, the lockers area a little crowded with other students who had arrived not long ago. It was a little suffocating, but there was nothing much I could do about it… It was this for but a few minutes or go outside and freeze and wait while they clear out and that’s just a little much for me. Opening my locker, I stuffed my jacket and scarf in, leaving my hat on at least until class started. Squeezing through the crowd with my backpack, I entered the less crowded hallway and walked down to my homeroom, yawning a little. Okay, last night I got some decent sleep, but I was still feeling a little drowsy. I may end up crashing early tonight to catch up on all the sleep I’d missed over the last week.
Once inside the room, I slipped between people and finally into my seat. Setting my backpack straps over the back of my seat, I let myself slump and glanced outside at the cloudy white sky. I miss Autumn. It was a bit chilly, enough for a jacket or hoodie, but you could still see the blue sky and the sun. It was relaxing… But the winter wasn’t fun at all. Very cold, white skies, and when there was sun, it just bounced off of the snow and blinded you. Oh and snow, I don’t like that. I spent the next little bit spacing out until class started, and even when class did start, I still found myself looking outside and just losing myself in thought and worries. How was Riduna? Surely they’d call me if he got severely ill at school, right? And what if he did get sick? If he got so sick to where we needed to go to a hospital, my parents would have to get a day off to take him. I may be his brother, but I’m not even 18, so I’m not qualified as a guardian of any kind. What about work too? What if they wouldn’t let me have the time off… I shut my eyes, frowning at my thoughts. I don’t think he could handle another day of going to school back and forth in the cold like this, especially not if it gets any colder. With his immune system getting attacked with whatever virus is getting him down, it’d be weak against the cold.
Before I had known it, my worries had passed my class by and it was time for lunch even though my stomach was so twisted up now I was hardly hungry. After I took my lunch and water bottle out of my bag, I’d looked up to see a head of bright blonde hair. Oh right, that girl I met the other day… did I mention she was blonde? She was smiling faintly at me, a hand up to wave even though we were right in front of each other.
“Hey Omochi!” She greeted me, holding eye contact with me until I looked away. Oh, was this going to be a thing now? Eating lunch with her every day? “You look a little off today, are you alright?” Without asking permission, she’d pulled a chair up to my desk, plopping down from across the table and pulling out her lunch. Yup, I guess this is a thing now. I might as well talk to her.
“My brother is sick.” I said, keeping my lunch closed in box, but reaching for my water bottle instead. After taking a small sip, I regained eye contact with her and she frowned at me.
“Your brother is sick? That sounds kind of bad… is he really young?” The short blonde girl asked, opening her own lunch and pulling a juice box out from her skirt’s pocket. I shook my head at her, and leaned back in my seat.
“No, he’s twelve but… it’s still not good.” I didn’t know how to explain the situation all that well. I might as well and admit I’m not really good at talking to people, heh. It’s not my strong point at the very least. “Kikamura… right?”
“Mm! You can call me Puropi or Ropi too if you want! No need to be so formal!” She encouraged the nickname. She must like it a lot. “Anyway, regardless of age, being sick is no fun… is he at home right now?” I shook my head again, holding my water bottle in both hands, drumming my fingers along the base.
“No, he’s not running a fever so… we had to send him to school. My parents told me that unless he’s running high, that he should be sent to school.” I explained, feeling almost guilty after having said it. I felt so irresponsible. I was kind of worried for being scolded of it, actually. I didn’t want to hear the words that were already going through my head.
“Oh…” The blonde girl blinked and thought for a moment, taking a bite of her plain rice, chewing it and speaking once her mouth was empty once more. “Well, I think if he’s not running a fever, he’ll be fine, right? There’s no need for him to skip school if he’ll be fine anyway. It might just be a winter bug going around at his elementary school for all we know. Those things tend to melt away on their own~!” The girl spoke with so much confidence, smiling as she spoke. Was she going to be a nurse or something…?
“I guess so.” I’m not going to lie. Her words did make me feel a little better. Maybe I am just overthinking it and putting too much pressure on a silly little thing like a winter illness. He’s not dying, I know that much, so I should probably not worry so much. “I’ll try to not worry so much then.” At my words, Kikamura smiled and nodded, looking as if she’d been successful in her deed.
“That’s the spirit! Now then, we should talk about something exciting now! What do you suggest?” She beamed before stuffing her mouth full with more rice and then taking a sip from her juice box. Looks like apple. At her question though, all I could do was blink.
“Eh? Well you brought it up… I don’t have any ideas.” What a silly person this was. She must have thought I was a lot more interesting than I am. Opening my lunch box since I was feeling a bit hungry now, I took out my chopsticks and began to eat at my meal for the day. Today it was fried tofu and asparagus with sides of oranges and pecans. It was a pretty light lunch. As if on cue, Kikamura spoke up in response to my reveal of my food.
“Ooooh! Another fancy lunch!” Her eyes sparkled with excitement, suddenly lighting up with an idea. “I know! Let’s talk about food! That’s exciting, right??” She practically begged me to agree with her and I could only FEAROW my BROS a bit, inching a small smile. She was strange, but entertaining. Also, loud.
“I guess.” I tried to pick my words carefully, sticking with a neutral-ish response so as to not make her think I was way into the topic of choice, nor totally bored by it either. I kind of wanted to see where this silly topic was going to go anyway.
“Okay, what’s your favorite food? Mine has got to be eggs, pork cutlet and bacon! Hmm, well I don’t know I’m a big fan of cream puffs…” The girl almost drooled, day dreaming about her favorite foods before slurping it back into her mouth, stuffing the rest of her rice in there instead. “Wha bow you?” She asked with her mouth full, pointing her chopsticks at me with that sparkle in her eye. It’s my turn, huh?
“My favorite is probably…. hm...” Okay that’s a hard one. I like a lot of food, but to narrow it down to a category such as my ‘favorite’... Looking up, I thought hard, lifting my arm up to rest my chin on my hand. “If I had to pick, it would probably be White Chocolate Strawberry Lava Cake.” I said with a nod, sitting up straight and looking to the girl. She looked shocked at what I said, raising her eyebrows distinctly.
“Wow! You have a fancy sounding favorite…!” Kikamura then pouted a bit, crossing her arms. “You make my favorites sound so boring!” Her pout didn’t last for long though, going back to her regular grin, sipping from her juice box until it was empty of all it’s substance. “Okay then, then what’s your favorite drink? Don’t you always bring water to lunch?”
“S-stalker…” The words flew from my lips before I had time to stop it. I mean c’mon, just how long had this girl been watching me in our class? Was she super obsessed with me and that’s why she took my hat in the first place? What if she followed me home when I wasn’t looking? What if she comes in to my work place and-
“Huh? What was that?” Oh. Looks like she hadn’t heard me…
“Nothing.” I responded quickly, keeping on my pokerface. Maybe I really should watch out for this girl, after all… I cleared my throat and ate more of my food before answering her question. “I think drinks should be made to be simple. So water is my favorite.”
“Water? Really? I expected something fancy again!” The girl laughed before she was cut off from the bell, indicating that lunch was over. “Oh!” She frowned and collected her belongings from my desk, smiling at me. “Well see you later then, Omochi!” I could only blink at her, quickly shoveling the rest of my food into my mouth and downing it with my water as I watched her go to her seat. Her small body hopped between people, settling at her desk where she began putting away her lunch belongings. I still found myself curious and puzzled by the individual. Just who was this strange blonde girl?
I’m not the fittest person I know. I don’t really exercise or workout, the closest I get to that is walking to and from school as well as other places, but I don’t really feel like that does much for me anyway. Either way, I’m not a fan of P.E.. All I do is get exhausted. I don’t know how other people love it so much. Part of my class was doing volleyball today, and much to my dismay I wasn’t allowed to sit out, but I was however, able to get in the back row which left me with close to no responsibility unless the ball managed to get past everyone in front of me. And I’m pretty sure that the others are better than I am. As the whistle was blown, the opposing team served their ball straight over to us, and one of my teammates hit it back, the few behind him scurrying to his side. They certainly seemed into the game, and if they weren’t, they were good at acting like it. Slumping a little, I stood with my feet apart and my gaze in front of me. Some other students and classmates were on the sidelines, waiting for their turn in line or dribbling a basketball or something. Chattering was mild so as to not get scolded by the teachers, but still noticeable to give the room a nice white noise.
The other team hit the ball back, giving it a nice speed to it which took our team off guard, causing it to hit the ground over the net, bounce and roll to the sidelines. Some of my teammates mumbled under their breath curses, while others shrugged, and I just blinked. Welp, guess they have a point then. A whistle was blown and one of the students retrieved the ball, bringing it back and handing it to the other team. Everyone on our side readied themselves in equal positions, and I tensed a little when the ball was launched our way. It actually got a little close to me so I flinched a little, not really wanting to have to try and hit it back. Luckily, one of my teammates in front of me nabbed it pretty well, sending it up in the air which gave another teammate time to hit it an additional time, sending it flying to the opposing team’s side. Their reflexes were good though, so we started a game of back-and-forth with them. None of us were star athletes after all, so I don’t really think anyone had any “super secret plan” to score points or anything like that.
This went on for a little while until one of us scored a point or two, and so far I only needed to actually move a few times. Well, I wouldn’t have really moved at all if not for the teacher scolding me about not being a part of the team. Luckily, I’d managed to not break a sweat so I didn’t care all that much. The game was going to end here soon because of time restraints and I was feeling glad for it. This is enough exercise for a year for me, I think… We hit the ball over to the other team and then I began hearing a familiar voice calling from the crowd of students on the sidelines.
“Omochi!” It rang, loud and encouraging. I looked up, trying to find the source of the chanting, getting a little distracted along the way. “Omochiiii you can do it!” Blinking slowly, I looked back to the game in front of me. Whatever, it didn’t matter who it was after all. After a few minutes there would be no more of it. Hitting the ball back over, we scored another point, and applause could be heard before we went to serve again. “Go! Go! Omochi! Show them what you got, Omochi!” The voice began to have a sing-songy tone to it, sounding a bit louder as if they’d cupped their hands around their mouth. Lowering my eyebrows and squinting, I took another look around the room before seeing who the cheerer was. “Omochi fight! Fight fight Omochi!” Ah, it’s the blonde girl again. I opened my mouth to yell a mocking cheer back when suddenly the ball was slammed right against the side of my face, causing me to stumble and lose my balance. I fell straight on my behind, luckily catching myself from smacking my skull against the cement. “Ah! Omochi! You’re supposed to fight, not fall!”
Doesn’t she think I knew that already? I was growing annoyed now, the side of my face feeling kind of sore, stinging. I was on the floor now, hand to the side of my face. “Tch…” If she hadn’t distracted me… Several students came to my side as well as a teacher or two, asking if I was alright, concern in their voices. A couple of my teammates pouted, knowing very well that I wasn’t paying the least bit of attention to the game and that’s why it hit me in the first place. Looking away, I put my hands up and frowned. “I’m fine. Let’s continue our match.” My eyes went up to look at whatever face had sought my own eyes, in hopes of getting them all to calm down. Murmuring went on between the teams as I helped myself up, refusing any help from the others, and the team was quick to ask if I could still play. A girl from the opposing team even raised her hand and apologized.
“It was my fault! I think I hit it a little too hard!” She offered up, frowning and looking from me to my teammates. No one really objected or gave her a hard time about it though, talking among themselves before the teacher blew the whistle.
“Enough! The game is almost over so just play without Omochi!” I was almost surprised when no arguments were made as to how the other team had one more than ours, but I guess it was because I was no real asset to the team anyway. Sighing inaudibly, I walked off the court and sat down at the nearby bleachers, touching the side of my face. Ow. I touched it gently with my fingertips, inspecting my flesh to see if I had perhaps bruised anything. I didn’t really feel anything though, so that was good. Hearing a shuffling from my side, I saw Kikamura approach me, concern in her eyes.
“I didn’t mean to-” I cut her off with a glare though, standing up again. I really wasn’t in the mood for this, after all. Not only did she invite herself into my school life but now she was interfering outside of the classroom and possibly causing rumors. Maybe I should have told her to go away from the start. Well, maybe I should have enforced it. Either way, I was having no discussion with her, at least not right now, so I left the gym and excused myself to the bathroom. Walking up to one of the mirrors, I glared at my reflection, moving closer to see how pink the side of my face had gotten. A nice line from the roundness of the ball was indented on my cheek and I traced it with my forefinger. My brother was probably going to worry if it left a clear mark after a few hours. I really hope it wouldn’t. Looking back to my face, I tried to soften it a bit but it just morphed back to my usual emotionless expression, which really didn’t look a whole lot better than my glare but you know, what did it even matter anyway?
Once I’d finished helping clean our homeroom, it was time to head home and unfortunately because of the season, it was a bit dark out and was starting to snow. Surely, the temperature was going to drop and I could only frown at the thought of my brother. Hopefully he’d be okay. I hadn’t received any calls from his school yet, so I was sure he was alright at least for now. Even so, I couldn’t help but worry. When I left the school, bundled up in my weather appropriate gear, I couldn’t help but eye a gentleman near the gate. As I approached him, I noticed he had dark blue hair which was a peculiar color… oh and he and was talking to one of the students. They laughed a little and he ruffled her hair before she walked off to the left, leaving the man there. I didn’t think much of it, considering how it was none of my business and it’s not like he looked old and creepy or anything. In fact, the closer I got as I was heading to leave the gates, the more and more interested I became.
“Oh!” The man suddenly looked in my direction, grinning a big toothy smile. “It’s you! The one kid from the other night!” Slowing my pace to a stop, I couldn’t help but squint at him, looking him over. Did I know this guy? “C’mon, I cannot mistake that squint-glare for anyone else. That, and your hair is kind of a no duh.” The man winked and pointed to his own head, before lowering his arm again. I guess red hair isn’t that common but still…. “...Are you not gonna saying, dude?” Ah right, I should probably respond shouldn’t I?
“Who are you again?” I grumbled back, pulling my scarf down so I could breathe into the cold air. If I stood here long enough talking to this man, I’d start to overheat otherwise. I continued to look him over and even though his face was a bit familiar, I couldn’t quite place him. Was he a customer? Or maybe a student? Either way, he looked bummed out at my question and slumped a bit.
“Whu- are you serious? C’mon! I bumped into you, you looked hella pissed, we both nearly fell on our asses…” He trailed off and laughed a little, hands on hips. “You commented on my lack of clothing at the time, remember? I mean, I’m wearing stuff now but… that’s cause I’m not running. And it’s freaking cold as hell.” His expression was a little more lax now, his hyperactive speech keeping me a bit on edge. Oh… right so this was the guy from the night I was going home from the cafe. His hair didn’t… look so blue from there. How interesting.
“Oh, yeah. I remember you now.” I’d say something snarky but to be honest, if I hadn’t ran into him I probably would’ve fell over, landed on my face and hurt myself because of my drowsiness. If anything, I should be thanking him. But I don’t feel that that’s all that necessary, so a simple recognition will do. “Your language is very surprising. You do realize you’re in front of highschool right?”
“Yeah so? High schoolers aren’t children you know! I’d expect them to hear or say a couple swears from time to time, ya goody-two-shoes!” He teased, smirking at me in a most annoying way. After what happened during P.E. today though, I really had no patience.
“I don’t have to hear this from you...” I grumbled, glaring a little before turning to the right, down the sidewalk. First, the guy bumps into me in the middle of the night, and then he’s mocking me in front of my own high school. Honestly, I do not understand why annoying people even exist in our world.
“Woah woah woah!” He quickly sped up after me, taking a step in front of me with his hands up in surrendance. “No need to be so upset, I was just messing with you, alright?” For once, his expression seemed to look a little more serious. He lowered his hands and I didn’t bother going around him, interested at least a little in hearing what he had to say, if it was anything good. “Listen, the only reason I bothered stopping you is because it’s really freaking cold okay? I don’t understand how they expect students to get home safely in the cold like this when they aren’t allowed to drive, much less keep up a good attendance when the possibility to get sick is so high with the weather like it is…” I just stared at him blankly, taking a step to the right so as to continue moving forward since he was just babbling again.
“W-what I’m saying is…” He stopped me, his hands on my shoulders as a small laugh escaped his chapped lips. “Let me give you a ride alright? You’re going this way right?” He nodded to the direction I was heading. “Well so do I. Let me make all this crap up to you by giving you a ride back home.” His expression was practically pleading, a small smile on his lips. But I really could not care less. I mean, I hardly know him and he wants me to let him drive me home? Sounds a bit scary, actually. Brushing his hands off, I looked back to my direction home, my eyes looking past him.
“I have to go pick my brother up from school. I don’t want a ride.” I looked back to his gaze before looking in front again, moving forward and past him. Honestly, I’ve already wasted enough time as it is. The man sounded a bit defeated as he watched me go, frowning as I passed him.
“Ah… well okay…” He cleared his throat and tried to perk up again even though my back was to him now. “Well I’m working at the auto shop, just across the street from here tomorrow, so stop by if you need a ride, okay?” I didn’t bother responding and just continued to move forward, pulling my scarf back up over my mouth. Why did I attract such strange people into my life? I don’t think that’s a question I’ll ever have answered, but I can’t help but think it, especially now. Sure enough, I heard the sound of his truck start up and watched as it drove past me on the street. I didn’t look for the man’s face, looking to the sidewalk ahead of me and focusing on my destination.
I didn’t even get his name, did I?
When I had arrived at my brother’s school, his teachers were insistent on saying he wasn’t running a fever, but he was feeling ill still. So much so, Riduna didn’t even feel that up to walking home and almost started crying when asking if I could carry him. Honestly… what can I say in a situation like that? No? Of course not… So low and behold, I had Riduna up on my back and both our backpacks in my arm as I walked us home. My back was cramping a little and a few moments I felt my legs wobble, but I didn’t think much of it. It was cold… I was hungry and I was exhausted. But the way I was feeling was nothing compared to what Riduna was feeling, so I had no reason to complain. I could almost swear that Riduna had fallen asleep on my back by the way he’d gone limp several times, slipping down and causing me to readjust his position on my back which made him tense up and hold on tighter until the process repeated itself. I really felt bad for him… Luckily sooner than later, we’d returned home and I was able to set the drowsy one on his feet. He really seemed totally drained and I began to wonder if he got any sleep at all the night before.
“Do you want me to make you some soup or something?” I asked, helping him shed his coat off and hang it up. Riduna nodded slowly and followed me into the kitchen, his hand reaching up to grab my school sweater along the small trek to the other room. Frowning, I just continued to walk until he situated himself in the stool, instantly setting his arms down on the counter and planting his head atop of them. I decided to not spend a long time on the meal so I took a couple of cans of chicken broth out of the fridge and grabbed a bag of noodles from the cabinet. I set the ingredients to boil over the stove and turned to grab the remote the television to turn on something Riduna liked. Subconsciously, I ended up watching it with some interest until the soup was done. Maybe it was just to keep my mind busy, I don’t know, but either way it worked. Once I’d poured a bowl for Riduna and turned to set it in front of him, I realized he’d fallen asleep on the countertop. Snoozing soundlessly, I couldn’t bare to wake him. If he was really that tired, I should let him sleep, at least until his actual bedtime came around. Holding the warm bowl of soup in my hands, I grabbed a spoon and began to eat of it, going around on the other side of the counter to sit and watch some tv while I ate.
As the hours passed, I kind of expected my parents to come home and hopefully put some care into their son, but it seemed like they were working late or something which meant it was up to me to comfort him and put him to bed. Nudging his shoulder, I spoke to him softly, feeling guilty for waking him but knowing it had to be done.
“Riduna… it’s getting late, you need to go in your room now, okay?” I whispered, leaning forward towards him as he grunted and squirmed. “C’mere and I’ll carry you to your room okay? You really have to go to bed now.” You could tell the young boy was a bit cranky from being awoken, opening a single eye before closing it shut with a big frown. “C’mon now…” I urged him, opening my arms and scooping him up somewhat against his will. But once he was in my arms he clung to me tightly, grunting a little more in his exhaustion. Walking down the hallway and up the stairs, Riduna didn’t make much sound, obvious that he was falling back asleep. There was no point in me asking him to get changed, he’d only whine about it in his cranky stupor, so I let him be. Setting him down, practically forcing him to let me go, I pulled back the covers and tucked him in. The lights were off, so he was willing to open his eyes to blink a little before rolling over and falling asleep all over again.
“G’night Riduna.” I spoke softly, closing his door. I couldn’t help but sigh once I’d done so, regretting for whatever came tomorrow. If he was sick enough, I could get him to stay home from school and I honestly wanted to but… if he wasn’t running a fever there was nothing I could do to convince our parents that it was the right thing to do to leave him home. Thinking back on Kikamura’s words, I frowned. Maybe she was right. Parents do what is best for their children, so if he’s not sick enough to stay home maybe it’ll help build his immune system or something. I went back downstairs to put away the rest of the soup and turn off the television and take out my homework from my backpack. I hoped Riduna didn’t have any homework that was due… Just in case, I opened his backpack and looked, pulling out a couple worksheets. Filling in some of the blanks while imitating his handwriting as best as possible, I figured it was the least I could do. He could finish it tomorrow morning while he was eating breakfast after all. With that, I flipped off the lights and headed up to my room with my own homework in hand. After that, I was sure to head to bed and catch as much sleep as I could.
The next morning was another cold one and I was sure to check Riduna’s temperature shortly after I’d woken him up, which was thankfully and unfortunately still under 100 degrees Fahrenheit. He didn’t seem as tired as the night before but he was definitely still drained by the way he looked physically. Having a bowl of rice and some vegetables and eggs on the side for breakfast, he slowly ate at them and stared at his homework instead of the television this time. After all, it needed to be finished one way or another. He wasn’t in too high spirits about it but I wouldn’t be either if I were him. I prepared our lunches as per usual and one after another, my parents came down, told my brother good luck on getting his homework done and that he’d be fine at school today despite him saying he felt ill. I could go into further detail about their discussions, but there’s really no need, especially not when it kind of frustrates me thinking about it.
“Do you think you’ll be okay?” I asked him as I finished up his lunch box, putting it into his backpack. Riduna sniffled a little, coughing again in between breaths. The drained boy shrugged and wrote along his homework sheet, filling in one blank after another before stopping and furrowing his brow at one or two.
“I guess… I don’t have a choice though, right?” My brother spoke in a defeated tone, biting his bottom lip as tears started to well up in his eyes, looking up at me and away from his homework. “I’m not running a fever but it hurts and I’m hot and I don’t wanna go..” His words were shaky now, as he sniffled and tears started to drip down his face. I felt as if my insides were being grabbed by the handful and then squeezed and twisted. I really didn't want to send him to school, especially not walking all the way there and all the way back, but I had to. I had to. Setting my lunch box down, I moved around to where he was sitting and wrapped my arms around him, holding the kid tight.
“I’m sorry Riduna. I’m sorry…” The feeling kept lingering in my gut and I felt sick to my stomach to do this to him. He was so sad… so pitiful… he really wanted to stay home. Riduna hugged me back tightly, sniffling against my school sweater. “I’m sorry…” I whispered again, not expecting a response. We stayed like this for a few minutes before I had to look at the time and break it up. “C’mon, dry up. We have to go before we’re late. Wouldn’t wanna feel bad and get scolded from one of the teachers, right?” I moved my hand up to brush away some tears off his cheek and then to pat his head. He didn’t say anything back, but he did stop crying and got ready to go.
We’d managed to walk there together just fine and I’d given him more medicine for while he was there, so it was so far so good. When I’d entered my own classroom, scarf around my neck because of the chilly air this morning, I’d noticed Kikamura quickly stand up, staring straight at me with wide eyes. I’d caught her gaze for a moment before looking away and walking to my seat. Geez, she doesn’t have to make it weird. I think that, yet I know that she is in fact, very weird. Once at my desk, I slumped in my chair and hung my backpack from the back of my seat as per usual. The only thing to break my per usual routine though, was Kikamura’s appearance at my desk. She seemed a bit sheepish today, but none the less was still outgoing, seeing as we only met a couple days ago and she was still persistent on talking to me. When is she going to give up?
“Omochi…” she spoke surprisingly quiet, her hands crossed over one another in front of her. She sort of held her own hand and I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at her discomforted body language. She took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak again. “Listen, I wanted to talk to you about yesterday.” I couldn’t help but feel annoyed she was talking to me right now. As if I wasn’t going through enough stress as it was and her being annoying yesterday didn’t help the way I felt about her now. I looked to her regardless, eventually crossing my arms and looking around the room when she’d stopped talking. If she wasn’t going to come out with it, I was just going to tell her to go away. Maybe I was being a jerk, but… I really didn’t want to deal with this. Not now. If this girl honestly cared about how I felt in terms of our friendship, she’d leave me alone. But I guess that means that’d be an end to our friendship. I don’t really know how these things work after all.
“Um…” She began to twiddle her thumbs now, no longer looking to me as if she was scared or something. It’s like not I yelled at her…
“Talk to me.” I finally said, getting tired of hearing her fumble over her words again and again. It was getting awkward and not just for me. Especially since yesterday’s incident, a couple of my classmates has started to look my way more often and it was making me really nervous. I didn’t want to attract attention, especially not anything negative, which is probably what it was. Uncrossing my arms, I stopped slumping and looked to her with no change of expression. Please, just spit it out. I just wanted to move past this.
“I want to-” But of course, the teacher had come into class at that point in time, and Kikamura had lost her opportunity to talk. Ushering everyone to get in their seats, the teacher began class quickly and my thoughts of Kikamura soon floated out the window. Speaking of window, that’s where I found myself again. I stared out into the schoolyard like there was something actually interesting to see, but there wasn’t. It was just my escape to my thoughts. My worries, my fantasies. Though it probably wasn’t the best time for it, I chose to go with the flow and get lost in my thoughts again. Time seemed to pass quicker in class like that. Class after class, I did my fill of participating and then kept looking back to the window or spacing out in front of me. When lunch time had came up, I was actually a little disappointed. That meant I had to tear my mind away from my thoughts and focus on feeding my body. I didn’t really want to, but I had to. If one of us had to be strong in my household, it had to be me even if it was only somewhat physically.
Halfway through the lunch period, Kikamura had actually came over with her lunch, which she had not touched yet. While it was nice to have a quiet meal to myself for half the time, I couldn’t help but wonder why it took her so long to decide to come eat with me. I mean, it would’ve made sense if she’d already started eating and then eventually agreed with herself to join me, but her food wasn’t even touched.
“Hi.” She greeted me with a small smile, pulling her chair up and setting her lunch on my desk in front of both of us. She took, once again, a look at my lunch and grinned a little more. “The wieners look like little octopuses!” She giggled, as if she’d never seen it before, looking to her own lunch which was different from the usual. “I have hamburger today. My Dad shipped us some, so I had to include it in my lunch today. Hamburger, cheese, mayonnaise with some diced onion, lettuce and tomato. I’m used to eating it in a bun, but I wanted to try having it separate and different for once, and I’m liking it.” Looks like she’s not too broken up from before. She’s rambling like usual and grinning like a goofball. Even though she was kind of annoying, I couldn’t help but feel a bit relieved that she wasn’t avoiding me and was talking to me about stupid stuff.
“I see…” I blinked and looked back to my food which consisted of weiners, scrambled eggs and chives and green onions. A simple lunch all in all, but with some more artisticness added in. Little designs and what not. I felt inspired this morning I guess. Things went silent for a little bit as we each ate at our food and what was left was mine. I finished mine before the lunch period was over and as of such, I pulled out my phone for curiosities sake.
“So… before I was trying to talk to you about yesterday.” Kikamura spoke, sounding a little tense in her words. You could hear as another bite of hamburger was shoveled into her mouth, and shortly after she opened her mouth to speak again. “I really screwed up and-”
When I had opened my phone, I saw I had missed a call from my brother’s school and I instantly jumped, hitting my knee against the desk, jostling the blonde’s food and causing her to stop mid-sentence.
“Omochi?” She spoke my name, but I didn’t say anything in reply just quickly standing up and hitting the desk again which made Kikamura grab her food in fear of it spilling. “Listen- I didn’t-”
I’m sure she was trying to apologize or something, and I might have even been freaking her out but… I really had to focus here. “I have to go. I… I can’t…” I looked from my phone to the girl, furrowing my brows and pressing my lips together in frustration. With that, I walked out of the classroom and into the hallways, picking up speed past the students and into the men’s restroom while messing with my phone all the while. When did I miss the call? How long ago was this? What if something really serious happened? What would I do if I just messed up? My panic began to raise quickly and I fumbled around with my phone and dropped it in the empty sink a couple times in my distress before I was finally able to dial the number. My knees were shaking and I started to contemplate all the things that could’ve gone wrong. What if he has a deathly illness? What if he was in the hospital? What if- What if-
“Tatchi Elementary, this is Akune the receptionist speaking. How may I be of service?” The woman on the other end spoke, and after a pause of hesitation I spoke up.
“Yeah, this is Kishuka Omochi, Riduna Omochi’s elder brother. I… I got a call from you earlier.” I replied, taking a deep breath after speaking the words. Glancing up at my reflection in the mirror, I couldn’t help but cringe and look away. Ugh, I looked sick. Not in the same way as Riduna though…
“Ah yes. We attempted calling your parents but neither has responded” Figures… “so we contacted you since you are his brother. Riduna is very sick and running a high temperature of 106 degrees fahrenheit. We highly recommend you or another family member come pick him up because we don’t feel he is well enough to stay here. It’s also a danger to the other students if it’s something contagious.” Who cares about the other students anyway? All that matters is the sick one… “Will you be able to come get Riduna?” It was all happening so fast. If only I hadn’t made him go… he could be well… or at least not as bad and not as uncomfortable. But no… I made him go. I made him go and I made him walk there in the cold. This was probably all my fault that he was this sick, you know. If only I had… If only I had….
“Yes, I’ll be there soon.” How? I don’t know. There was nothing I could do about this before and even though I just agreed to coming to get him, how can I just leave school right now and just go get him? It’d take me at least twenty minutes to get there if I ran and then I’d have to carry him home in the cold and that’d take a while and…
“Very well. Thank you, we’ll see you soon then.” With that, the woman on the other end hung up and left me to worry and breath in the vacancy of the bathroom. What am I going to do? What other options did I have? If neither of my parents picked up the calls or even bothered to call back that means I can’t rely on them and I don’t know anyone at school who has a car, hell, I only have one friend here and every time she tries to talk to me something comes up and she might not even be my friend after this… I couldn’t help that I was overreacting. All of this was out of my control and I couldn’t stand it. Everything was in my control before. Minus my parents, Riduna did as I asked, I made our own meals so that was in my control, I balanced school, my brother and my job and… this was my hurdle? I really just didn’t know what to do…
That is… until I remembered something. I do have a solution. I can do this.
It was raining again. It always seemed to be doing that. Raining, that is. If it wasn’t raining, it was just plain cold out. It was really unpleasant. What made it more unpleasant though, was the fact I wasn’t the only one in this wretched weather. My younger brother, Riduna, was also out in this. Holding my right hand tightly, he shivered as the raindrops fell upon his cheeks, looking up at me pitifully as I held his gaze.
“Kishuka, I’m really cold!” He complained, shutting his left eye as a drip had splashed near it. His free hand went up rub the eye, it dropping back down to his side shortly afterwards.
“I know… but we’re almost home.” I spoke back to him in my regular flat tone, looking from him to back in front of me. At the time, we were waiting at the crosswalk. I stared at the red lit up hand from across the street, waiting impatiently for it to turn to the bright walking man graphic instead. We had left his school not long ago, and even though the dark sky said otherwise, it was only just now approaching the evening. I fortunately did not have work today, but the next evening I did and by all the talk at school about the weather, tomorrow was going to be a cold one. I should really invest in a car… These cold days are starting to take a toll on me. The sign changed, alerting my brother and I that we could cross, in which we complied. With my scarf pulled up to my nose and my hood pulled up over my head, I stared at the cars we passed, surely looking a bit shady as I did. Not that I cared much, I just didn’t trust any of those in their motor vehicles. You never know when someone may not be paying attention, you know? Once we were on the other side of the street, I tore my attention back to the sidewalk in front of us and then back to my brother.
“Do you think we could have Hot Chocolate or something when we get home?” He spoke, mumbling more than anything. I always knew what that meant, though. He seemed to find it embarrassing to ask me to make him things all the time despite me assuring him that it was no problem on previous occasions. But a mumbler or not, I’d happily fill his request.
“Sure. We still have some bunny rabbit marshmallows left, so we can use those too before they grow stale.” I told him, bringing my gaze back to the path in front of us since he was too shy to look me in the eyes. “I’ve actually been meaning to try out a few ideas I had, so it works out I guess.”
Riduna’s body language changed a bit, so much so I could tell he was grinning beneath his own scarf that was wrapped tightly over his mouth. Because of such, I found myself smiling a bit more but I said nothing else and just continued to walk on our way to our home. Soon enough, we were to our home and we let ourselves in, locking the door tightly behind us. We entered the silent home, only the sound of the furnace blowing to greet our ears. Removing our shoes at the door, we then made our way to the kitchen which was only to the left of us and down the hall. Riduna took a seat at one of the bar stools and sat upon our kitchen’s island, elbows propped up on it. I moved around to the other side of the island and starting pulling out ingredients. Oh yeah, have I mentioned that yet? I kind of cook. A lot. It was something I picked up when I was younger and I guess you could say I have a passion for it. It relaxes me, while at the same time makes me excited to do it, which if you see my general demeanor, you wouldn't key this sort of behavior to me at all. I guess I’m just strange or something. Either way, it’s helped me in terms of getting a job, seeing as I cook and bake at a local Café.
I started the process of cooking once I had all my ingredients, mixing all sorts of stuff together. I usually try my best to avoid using pre-made things; Firstly because they are usually not as good for you as well as expensive, and secondly because I prefer to make my own things when I can. Of course I still have to go out to buy ingredients that I can’t make from my own home easily, but that’s to be expected.
Once my ingredients were boiling on the hot stove, I started my next project which was to make some warm brownies for the two of us. I had to keep the two of us warm and happy some way, right? I kept up this double tasking for a little bit until all we were waiting for were the brownies to finish baking. Riduna took sips of his hot chocolate, smiling happily as he slurped up each little marshmallow bunny into his mouth.
“Thanks Kishuka~!” He sang happily, reaching for the television remote which sat on the counter, never breaking eye contact with me. It was more or less him asking permission to watch some TV. With a soft roll of my eyes, I nodded and took a sip of my own hot chocolate which had significantly less sugar fluffs. Riduna turned on the television that we had hanging on the wall and changed the channel to a childish cartoon show he enjoyed. As he did so, I just stood in the kitchen awaiting the timer to go off, eventually leaning over the counter to set my own elbows upon the ceramic. Ah, I was tired. I kept blaming my exhaustion on the weather, but I was pretty sure it was because of my lack of sleep and my school year coming to an end. There was a lot of planning to do in terms of furthering my education at a university and finances. I tried not to think about it too much while I was at home, but then I was forced with the voice in my head saying “If you don’t think about it while you’re home, when else will you think about it?” and it had a good point, too. I didn’t have time to think about it when I was at school, couldn’t think about it while I was at work… But oh well. I simply let out a silent sigh as I breathed out and arose in time to hear the timer go off. Flipping off the device, I turned off the oven as well and reached for an oven mitt. I took the hot delicacies out of the machine and placed them atop the stove, letting them cool.
After some time passed, only the sound of the television going through the house originally, a new sound started, and that was the sound of the door knob wiggling. That meant our Father was home from work. The brother did not do much more than blink at it, his attention on the television screen in front of him. I, however, had arose from my seat next to him and went to greet our respected adult. He worked a lot. He left early in the morning, before my mother, while Riduna and I got ready for school, so we didn’t see a lot of him then. Even when he was home though, it seemed he always had things to do. “Welcome Home.” I greeted him in my usual tone, raising a hand as I did so. The red-headed man nodded in response, slipping his shoes off at the doorway and setting his briefcase against the wall. A faint smile tinted his lips, walking over to us.
“Thanks. How are my boys doing?” Our Father walked into the kitchen, eyeing the two of us and the screen that occupied my brother’s attention. Snapping his eyes away from the television screen, Riduna turned to face his dad and smiled.
“Welcome home, Dad!” the younger one grinned, opening his arms as the older one had approached him for an embrace.
“How was school?” The typical conversations started, all pretty much the same as the day before but with different answers from the younger more creative one. There’s no point in me talking about them, actually. If you’d like an idea though, I’d suggest picking up nearly any other book and you’ll see equal to the same exchange as you would here.
While they conversed, I made myself busy by cleaning the dishes we’d dirtied earlier with our snacks. We still had some brownies left over, so I made sure to place them on a plate and cover it with the plastic wrap we had handy. Surely, they’d be gone in a day or two with how this family eats. The quiet hum of the tv echoed in the room now, no one paying much mind to it, especially once Riduna had begun to talk to our Father about homework and the works. To be honest, he was very smart. Smarter than I was at the age, I can tell you that much. Riduna was pretty empowered by his knack with grades, striving to do better and do more the next time which is pretty good I guess. Our parents loved it, after all seeing as they were working all the time and didn’t have time to worry about if one of us were failing our classes. My brother really did make them happy. The two eventually left the kitchen in the middle of my cleaning of the dishes, which left my mind to wander a bit. I think I’d let it wander a little too long though, seeing as the next sound that caught my attention was the sound of my Mother coming in through the front door. Ah… it was that late already? Turning around to confirm my disbelief, I found that it was in fact eight o’clock. My eyes drifted down to my hands in which looked all silly and wrinkly for having been in the water for so long. Blinking, I finally took them out and dried them to the best of my ability with a nearby hand towel before draining the water in the sink where the dishes used to lay before I’d set them on the dish rack. We have a dishwasher, but I usually prefer to clean them by hand. I dunno, it’s a nice chore I think. Nicer than plenty of others, that’s for sure.
My Mother walked into the kitchen, smiling when she saw me. “Hey Sweety!” she said, tucking some of her long dark locks behind her ear and setting her purse up on the counter. “How was school? I think I heard your father with Riduna upstairs?” She asked, rummaging in her bag for something.
“Nn, yeah. It was alright.” I said in response, inspecting how she looked. It must’ve stopped raining while we were inside, or so I assumed since she looked every speck of dry. “I forgot to prepare something for dinner, but there’s stuff in the fridge from the other night, so you can help yourself to that.”
“Alright, that works then. I need to go email my boss something first though… Just on my way home I remembered something kind of important… and you know me and my memory! If I don’t email it to him while I remember, I’ll forget and regret it!” A small laugh came from my Mother, who then put her hands on her hip and grinned at me. “Anyway, if you need me I’ll be in my office okay?”
And with that, she’d grabbed her purse and down the hall, into her office she went. That’s probably the last time I’d see her that night, to be honest. She shut herself in there a lot. For work or maybe just to get some alone time. I’m not sure, but I guess it didn’t concern me too much after all. I didn’t need anything of her or anything. With a deep breath, I reached into the fridge and took a container of soup I’d made a couple days ago out. It was already this late and I hadn’t worked on my homework at all. I was going to get crappy sleep again.
The next day was a bit overcast. That, and the air was chilled and thin. Nothing I couldn’t handle, but nothing that was ideal to me as I walked to work after having attended school in a blur. I didn’t actually get to sleep until about one in the morning or so, and after waking up at six to get ready, I was ready to go home and crash. However, I had a job to attend to and I couldn’t just ignore it, you know? As I arrived, the cafe was busy as usual, the customers buzzing with excitement and the waitresses walking about from table to table, whether it be greeting their customers at hand or giving them their food. It was a pleasant environment many said. I had to agree that it gave a nice happy feel, but nothing compared to how it was in the back, to be honest. Once I’d went into the break room, I’d opened my locker and threw my scarf inside, along with my wallet and keys. My backpack was too large to fit in my lockers, so it hung on the coat rack along with my coat. Next was changing into uniform, which I promptly did in the employee bathroom, making haste so that I was on time when clocking into my shift.
Upon entering the kitchen, the familiar aroma hit my senses, a faint smile appearing upon my usual blank lips. This is where I belonged. Waving at the last bakery chef there, I alerted him that he was free to go and watched him thank me and leave shortly afterwards. It was busy in the kitchen to, so it wasn’t but a few moments before I was slapped with several orders, leaving me seemingly little time to prepare them and get them out. However, I wasn’t the least bit stressed. I was used to this sort of business and when I was sure we had all the ingredients as we should, I started my work. Recipes I knew by heart came spraying into each mixer, the electric mixer doing the hard work while I took it upon myself to hand mix what I felt I could. After all, leaving the machine to do all the work truly took all the fun out of it! Whipping and tossing, I prepared a few crepes and took out the cornet, the cream cheese filling inside. When a single crepe sheet was done, I flipped it off the pan and onto the plate, pouring the next tablespoon of batter onto the warm pan before going back to the first finished one. Squeezing the cornet, I put a decent amount inside the pastry treat and then reached for the bowl of strawberries that had been soaked in sugar and strawberry syrup over night. Using a spoon, I scooped some out and let some dribble inside the treat before folding it closed with my gloved hands and then pouring more atop it. By then the next crepe batter had been finished cooking and I repeated the process again, watching my vision come to life. After sprinkling some powdered sugar on top, it was ready to go out and I placed it in it’s designated area, calling out to the waitresses to alert them of their finished pastry.
Next was a blueberry biscuit with butter and blueberry jam on the side. I took out the tub that the previous bakery chef had of the dough and plopped a plentiful amount on a coated oven tray, placing it in the preheated oven and working on the next dish as that cooked. Éclairs were the next item on the menu, leaving me to bring out a clean sauce pan and start to melt butter in it. Some of the chefs liked to talk to one another while working, but I don’t do that. I respond when I am being talked to, otherwise I receive my orders and do them as needed. The way our kitchen runs is very simplistic, I think. We have two to three chefs who cook and prepare our dishes that deal with meat and other non-sweet things, and one of which who will help prepare the special drinks that can’t be easily accessed by our waitresses, and then one pastry chef, sometimes two. We always have, at most, four waitresses on the floor at once and a manager on duty at all times. The store owner is in a majority of the time and is attentive to our needs, I find. It’s a relaxed and friendly establishment despite it being a busy one. Everyone gets along, so it works.
Time passed quickly as usual, and when it started to slow down I was able to take my time with my pastries, doing as most by hand as I could. With each flip of the wrist, my creation became something I loved and no matter how strange it may sound, it made me truly happy. Whenever I could fit in a break or a moment to take a drink of water, I’d sit against the wall of the hallway that led out to the floor just to listen to what people had to say about my pastries. A majority of the time, it was girls around my age humming in happiness at how it tasted, saying words like “delicious!” “so sweet..!” or even “this is like heaven”. Needless to say, I loved hearing it. A smile didn’t leave my face my entire shift and when it was time to close up for the night, that is when I was disappointed. It’s over for the day…
Everyone told each other good job for another successful day at work and we slowly began to take our depart into the cold winter night. As I stepped out into the cold, backpack strapped to me tightly and scarf tight around my neck, I realized I’d forgotten my hat at school. “Ah…” was all I voiced, my face forming a frown before sighing it off and taking a step in the direction of my home. There’s nothing I could do about it right now, anyway. I started to walk, hands stuffed in the pockets to my coat, my sleepiness starting to catch back up with me. Oh right, I was really tired before, wasn’t I? My feet trudged along the cold wet streets, eyes watching in front of me. Each step I took, I tried not to focus on the exhaustion that had come over me. C’mon Kishuka, you can crash when you get home. Tomorrow is a weekend and then you can do whatever homework it is after you get up and… My eyelids started feeling heavy, each blink seeming to take longer than the last one to re-open my eyes. Oh sleep sounded so good right about now… If only I could sleep right here right-
Suddenly I felt a large shove from my left side, nearly knocking me off my feet. I stumbled, hands scrambling to get out of my pockets so as to catch myself in case I fell, eyes shooting open. “W-what!?” I voiced, as I regained my footing, looking in the direction of where the push came from. Another human being stood there, approaching me with caution and worry set upon his face, spouting curses.
“Oh shit, I didn’t mean to run right into you, man!” He defended, loosely grabbing my left shoulder. “I didn’t hurt you did I? I swear, if you would’ve fell I would’ve felt terrible….” The man was mainly talking to himself now by how he kept going on, but it mattered little to me seeing as I wasn’t responding and was more preoccupied in the way he was dressed. The dark haired man looked fit, like he worked out frequently. He had a nice pair of biceps, and with his tight fitting tank top you could clearly see his lean body. Not an ounce of fat could be seen, at least not in the night lighting like this. But anyway, a tank top? In this kind of weather? I mean, he had on a pair of sweats… but even then they were only sweats. When the man didn’t hear me responding to his million questions, he too ceased talking and narrowed his eyes with his worried smile. “Hello?”
I should respond. Right. “Ow.” My right hand raised, slowly pushing his hand off my left shoulder, his arm dropping to his shoulder. “That hurt.” My eyes narrowed a bit, more so in irritance than in anger. Granted, if he hadn’t ran into me, I might’ve fallen asleep and fell all on my own but he did run into me after all.
“Yeah… sorry about that. I’m not used to seeing others on this street around this time. I wasn’t paying attention at all!” He laughed, seeming to not show too much concern for me, which made me pout a little behind my scarf. “Aaaanyway, you’re okay, right?”
I want to go home. “Yeah, I’m fine…” I held back the urge to say something snarky. “But hey…. why are you dressed like that?” I had to at least ask this. This is when my left hand raised up a bit, pointing at the way he was dressed. “You do realize it’s winter, yeah?” My expression remained the same from before as I spoke, puzzled with the strange man. I hope he didn’t steal my wallet or anything. I quickly checked my pockets afterwards. Ok. Still there.
“Good good… oh?” He stopped at my question, blinking a few times before relaxing his stance, smiling and placing his hands on his hips confidently. “Well, I get too hot if I run around this place in a sweatshirt and stuff, and it’s a bit too cold, and a bit obscene if you ask me, to walk around without a shirt at all so… I chose the next best thing!” He spoke with a big goofy grin, which only led me to stare at him even more bizarrely. People are weird, honestly.
“Right. Well I’m gonna go then.” I didn’t want to waste anymore time here, after all. I was still several minutes away from home and it certainly wasn’t getting warmer outside. “Have fun.” I mumbled the last part, taking a step around him and moving forward. The man only nodded at me and waved a bit.
“Okay! Take care, man!” The strange one yelled back at me and without a moment’s hesitation, he ran off down the street and was quickly out of sight. I suppose it was good that he bumped into me. I couldn’t get the odd situation out of my head the entire way back, and I was definitely more awake than I was before. When I got home however, both my body and mind was ready to call it quits. My Father was up when I got home, watching some television while his laptop laid in his lap. Glancing at me, he smiled briefly before bringing his attention back to his show. After that, I removed my shoes and lugged myself to my bedroom up the stairs. Once inside, door shut, I let my backpack roll off my arms and onto the floor, ripping off my scarf and jacket and let my body fall onto my bed. Home sweet home.
“Bzzzt….! Bzzzt….! Bzzzt….!” My alarm sounded, alerting me that is was late and more than time to get up. Groaning and reaching for my cellular device which voiced my alarm, I sat up and yanked it off my side table.
“Yeah yeah…” I spoke to it, as if that would silence it. Turning it off with a swipe of my finger, I yawned and laid back on my bed, arms out to either side of me. Today I had off work mercilessly enough, which meant I would be able to go to the store and get things to fix dinner tonight without having to rush. Unfortunately, that also meant that I would be without my hat for a few more days since I didn’t have school until Monday and it was now Saturday. Maybe the weather would be nice? Lifting up my phone above my face, I used my other hand to swipe across the screen and come to the weather app on it. And of course, as my luck would have it, the windchill happened to be a very unpleasant temperature. “Ughh..” I really wish I had a car.
“Riduna went to a friend’s house?”
“Yeah, they’ll drop him off sometime later tonight.” My Mother told me from inside the kitchen as I tiredly scratched the back of my neck. I hadn’t showered or done any self cleaning just yet, food being my first priority of the waking hour.
“Oh, okay then. I guess I’ll only pick up enough for the three of us for dinner tonight, then.” I replied, walking up beside her to open the refrigerator. At that, my Mother smiled slightly. I knew what that meant.
“Actually… your Father and I were going to go out tonight. We have another business meeting and we’ll be gone pretty late too.” She explained, grabbing my right shoulder and squeezing slightly. “But I’m going to leave some money here so you can make whatever you feel like, okay? We can eat together tomorrow night as long as nothing comes up!” She tried to assure me but her words weren’t very reassuring. This always happened. By that I mean, when I said they work all the time, they seriously work all the time. Even their days off, they end up needing to go out and do more work thing. I would say I’m disappointed, but in all honesty, I’m used to it.
“Oh, alright. I’ll do that then.” I told her with a nod, not bothering to smile back. I did give her some eye contact though before looking back to my goal. Grabbing the milk and eggs, I pulled them out of the refrigerator and set them on the counter. My Mother said nothing else other than an apologetic “Thank you Kishuka!” followed by a hug and then off she went, down the hall with her cup of coffee. Pulling some cinnamon, sugar and flour out, I started to fix up a sweet breakfast cake, taking out some bacon as well to fry up. I took my time making my breakfast, listening to the hum of the kitchen fan and the popping of the fatty pig meat on the stove. After having finished preparing and eating my breakfast, I returned upstairs and took a shower, brushed my teeth and my hair and put on one of my warm button ups and a jacket over top of that. Well, if I was going to be alone all day, I might as well go get my shopping done first and then I could settle the rest of the evening.
The nearest grocery store wasn’t far from my home, so I made a stroll to it, bundled up tightly in my coat and my scarf, which was wrapped around my ears and mouth. I squinted against the winds and crossed my arms over my chest in both irritance and in a desperate attempt to stay warm, moving as fast as my body would comfortably carry me. When I was inside the grocery store, I’d taken a little longer than usual to conserve body heat… and also because I was having a hard time deciding what to make that night for myself. Ultimately, I decided to go with seafood. Crab leg stew and toasted and seasoned toast was the plan. That, and some chocolate dipped bananas for a dessert. I have a sweet tooth alright? I finished paying for my food and made the trek back and found that both parents were already gone by the time I got back home so I was alone in the house again. Again, this wasn’t new. In fact, I was used to it and even liked it. If anything, it made studying easier, and I certainly needed it. I worked the next day, nearly all day, and then I go right back after school the day after that. You can’t say I’m bored.
Nothing that phenomenal happened that day. I fixed my food, studied, made my dessert, studied, went on the computer for a few hours, studied, wished my brother goodnight after he’d came home and studied before hitting the sheets. It wasn’t until I’d started settling in my sheets that I’d heard my parents return home through the front door. Judging by the time and the racket they were making, my Mother had probably gotten drunk again. But it was none of my business. She had my Father with her, and I had nothing to do with it, so as soon as the racket died down, I drifted to sleep.
“I’ll see you after school okay? But right after that, we’ll have to part ways so I can go to the cafe, alright?” I told Riduna, confirming the plan for when school was over. He was starting to catch a cold, so I wanted to make sure I was there for him in case he needed me, even if I had to go to work. Something as simple as meeting with him after school could go a long way after all. Riduna simply nodded with a beaming smile, launching his arm up to show me a bright thumbs up from inside his gloved hand. A cracked a smile, lifting up my arm to give him a thumbs up back before ruffling his hair. “Alright, now go get ready for class before you’re late.” I told him, moving my hand off his head and to my side. We were inside the entrance to his school, recovering from our chilly walk. While he could stay inside the warm facility, it was my turn to leave and brace the weather once more. After all, he was several years longer so he went to a different school than I. Unfortunately, it was in the opposite direction from my school, but such is life.
“Bye Kishukaaaa!” The boy sang, wrapping his arms around me in a tight hug before releasing, smiling, and running off down the hall.
“You shouldn’t run…” I mumbled, not really loud enough to be heard, especially with the sound of other kids and adults in the hallways drowning it out. No matter, though. He hasn’t fallen yet. Turning around, I opened the doors to the school and left through them, squinting as the cold air hit my skin and worse yet, my ears. I had tried my best to tie my scarf tight around my head to block out the cold, but honestly without my hat I was getting a bit cranky. Honestly, no one better have stolen it. Keeping my eyes squinting as I walked against the wind, my gloved hands in my pockets, I walked on forward in the direction of my high school. This is one of those times where I wished I had a good pair of headphones that would also double as ear muffs. It’s not something I can afford right now with college not that far away, after all. My parents said they'd help pay for my university but in all honesty I don't feel that comfortable with them paying my entire way in. After all, I think I'll appreciate the schooling more and take it a lot more seriously if I'm paying my own way in. Tilting my head down, I was hoping to deflect the air off of my head and not into my eyes. Maybe I’m only saying that because I’m still not sure what I’m going to school for. I don’t really want to pay a learning institution a ton of money just so I can learn how to do a bunch of stupid stuff, though…
When I was inside I slowly unraveled my scarf, which was slightly moist from my mouth on the way here, and opened my locker to throw it in. My jacket was next, and then I switched out my shoes. After a quick check in the mirror to make sure my uniform looked in order, I headed to class. The boys in school were required to follow a certain dress code, as were the girls. It allowed for some customization but not a lot. I wore my long sleeved white button up, with a dark navy tie and a sweater over top. It's actually a fairly warm sweater to be honest. Black slacks of course and our school shoes. The socks can actually be any color you want for the men which some use to their advantage, while others like myself don't care that much and use the white and black ones we normally wear anyway. My backpack was more stuffed than the other classmates, many of them, or I assume many of them not having jobs to go to afterwards. I was used to my backpack looking a bit wonky and full though, so it's not like it was any different from usual.
Entering my homeroom, the sounds of buzzing chattering entered my head, it all mushing into one. I didn't really look up at anyone, simply walking to my desk and sitting down- well, more like collapsing into my seat. My legs were tired from the walk here, and honestly, I didn’t catch that much sleep last night again so I was kind of drained as well. But it was either cram for the test today, or suffer a bad grade which was not an option. Looking at the top of my vacant desk, I looked below to see if my hat had ended up in the under compartment but much to my dismay it was not there. “Ugh…” I grumbled under my breath, sitting back up. Guess that means I will have to go purchase a new one at some point. It also means I will be without my hat on both the walk to work and to home. I was dreading the walk already. Sooner than later, our teacher had arrived, on time, and we’d taken attendance and began class.
I’ll be honest, I don’t especially pay a ton of attention in class, or at least not to the people in it. I’d like to think that I listen fairly well, but my eyes wander to the outdoors most times. My seat is right next to the window, so I can see a lot outside of it. Whether it be the track, the pool or the trees after them, I find new and old things to inspect with my eyes, despite the objects being so far away. Looks like they still haven’t fixed the cover to the pool. An edge is still up on the side and birds go in and out of it, likely wading in the melted snow puddle at the bottom of the pool, or likely getting coverage from the cold winds. The track also has a smudge on the lines and it honestly bugs me so much! My eyes turned back to the class, listening to the teacher’s lecture on some science thing. Boring, boring... Maybe I'd pay more attention in class if I was able to actually care about the things being talked about. I wrote down some notes, taking a look at the blackboard before looking outside once more. Ah… it’s starting to snow again. My eyes looked closely to see what kind of snowfall we were getting today. Big and poofy ones, several snowflakes stuck together it looked like. A small smile inched on my lips before I tore myself away when the teacher had called on me, asking me a question. Luckily, I knew the answer and stood up. “Microbial life.” The teacher nodded at me and began another question, targeting another student which let me to sit back down. Out of habit, my eyes went to look at the next one to rise, watching them answer the question with a stammer before sitting down. I don’t think we have a whole lot of ‘stupid people’ in our class, really. Most people seem to know the answers to things, and even those who don’t aren’t too bad when it comes to marks. I think we’re just a lucky class, honestly.
Eventually lunch time had came upon us, and not a moment too soon. My stomach gurgled with anticipation and I reached for my bag to grab my boxed lunch for consumption. As I fussed around getting my bag open, I noticed a figure come awfully close to me, so much so I had to stop what I was doing to look up. It was a classmate of mine, smiling down on me with her hands behind her back. I never talked to her before, so I merely blinked and looked back to my bag before speaking.
“Yes, can I help you?” I spoke to her in my flat-lined voice, finally fishing out my food and a small water bottle I’d managed to stuff in my bag as well. When those were in my hands, I set them on my desk and closed my bag. In that time, the female student had walked around to the front of my desk, beaming still.
“Can I eat my lunch with you?” She chimed, hands still behind her back which left me a bit suspicious, but not enough to say anything. Now, this girl wore the female school uniform, which was a bit similar to the men’s, but with some changes. It had a female-cut white button up, long sleeved as well, the same dark navy tie and she also wore the school’s provided sweater. Her, unlike I, wore a lighter navy skirt, going to her knees as well as some thicker dark navy tights. I blinked at her words to me, puzzled by why this classmate of mine wanted to eat lunch with me. We’d been in the same homeroom for a little while now and she had not once spoken with me, so it was a little weird.
“I… don’t know.” I said indecisively, looking back down at my lunch before speaking again. “I don’t really know who you are, so it’d be weird. Can you sit with someone else?” I didn’t know what else to say. It was true, I didn’t know her at all. Not her name, not her role in the class, not what kind of person she is or what kind of friends she has. It would be really weird for me, and sooner than later she’d find out how weird it’d be for her. She seemed pretty persistent though, leaning in a little, looking as if she was hoping I’d change my mind just by looking at me alone. If anything, it made me a little uneasy and I kind of wanted her to go away quicker. Her expression changed again, leaning back and pouting a bit, eyes looking up, thinking. My stomach was really growling now.
“So….” I cleared my throat, looking up at her and then to the right of me and back at her again, hoping she’d get the picture. Geez this was awkward now. I started to open up my boxed lunch before she spoke up again, startling me this time.
“Listen, you left your hat behind last Friday and I was trying to think of a way to bring it up without me sounding creepy but I guess I failed and sounded creepier than I wanted to-” She cut herself off mid-sentence, watching my expression morph to a confused and freaked out one, at that. “Anyway, I have your hat. I saw you left it behind and I went to chase after you but you were already gone, soooo…” At last she brought her hands out from behind her back and revealed my missing hat. I was both relieved, and yet still a bit freaked out from the girl’s behavior.
“Oh.” was all I could say in response, moving my hand out to take it.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to come off so creepy! And I’m sure you probably still think I’m creepy for taking it home with me, but it was a mistake, honest! By the time I was outside trying to find you I realized what time it was and had to rush home if I wanted to make it on time! B-but don’t worry, I washed it for you! So please… forgive me!” The girl rambled on and on, and it seemed endless to me. Honestly, she could’ve just said she took it home on accident and gave it back. Apparently it wasn’t that simple. Taking the hat from her hands, the strong aroma of a girl’s detergent hit my senses and I almost flinched. Oh great, now I’m going to smell like fruit when going from here to work. All I could do was sigh a little and stuff the hat in my backpack, turning back to the girl. Now that her deed was done, surely she’d leave me to eat. We’d already wasted so much time.
“Sure. Thanks for returning it.” I told her, looking her in the eyes before tearing it away to look at my food in which I’d finally unboxed. The fruity smells were replaced with fishy smells instead, salmon over rice with seasonings on top as well as a side of vegetables and tuna. My water bottle had little writings on it, all of which Riduna did some time back. He claimed it was a good luck charm. The girl instantly gasped in awe at my food though, leaving me to groan inwardly.
“Uwa, you always come in with such good looking food Omochi! And today is no exception! Your mom must be a really good cook, huh?” She spoke, though it baffled me. Firstly, my meal today was not anything special at all and secondly, the mom bit kind of got me. I can’t remember the last time she had actually cooked anything at all. I snickered at her slightly, which she caught on to, smiling a bit wider now. “S-so anyway, do you think I can sit with you? I mean, if you really think it’ll still be weird I can-”
“Sure.” Oh what the hell. Why not, right? She talks a lot, but I can easily tune her out and it’s not like she’ll take my food… or at least I surely hope not. Either way, I have less than a reputation at this school and I much rather not start having one as ‘that douche that wouldn’t let the girl eat with him once. That'd be kind of shitty. The girl’s smile seemed to grow even more, which I didn’t think was possible, and she nodded at me.
“Okay! Let me go grab my desk!” Since the lunch period had came, several classmates had moved their desks to join with one another’s, so when it came to picking hers up and moving it, it generally wasn’t a matter of if things were in the way or not.Oh no, in her case it was whether or not she could manage to move it without hurting herself. From my point of view, it certainly looked like she was going to hurt herself… After a few moments of struggle, she made her way over, plopping it next to mine but sitting on the other side so that she wasn’t right next to me but across from me instead. By then, I had already started to eat my food, watching her finally pull hers out. “Mine isn’t anything that good…” she smiled none the less, opening the lid to her meal. Her main dish was rice with some pepper and a roasted red tomato on top and her side dishes were carrots and celery. She wasn’t kidding. I didn’t say anything in response, looking at her food and then back to mine before taking another bite.
As she ate she remained mostly quiet and just enjoyed the food she had put into her mouth, leaving me to feel a little reassured. It left me a little time to think over all her words from before. That’s when I’d realized she’d known my last name. That’s weird. Other than the teacher, I don’t think I’d heard anyone else call me by name. Might as well make discussion since I was mostly done eating. “How you do you know my name?” I asked, her looking up with a small smile as she popped a single piece of rice into her mouth that had stuck to her lip.
“Oh! That’s because… I try to make an appoint to memorize everyone’s name in class! I don’t think you and I have ever spoke before, so I’m glad I was able to use your name in a discussion! I mean… it was kind of weird because I came off too strongly and I had a possession of yours and guh…” The girl winced, shutting her eyes and covering her face, chopsticks still in hand. “I’m sorry for being so creepy! I make terrible first impressions!” This girl was goofy, but she certainly seemed earnest. It was interesting. I’ve never met anyone like this before.
“It’s okay.” I assured her, despite lying a little. It was kind of creepy and weird, but she seemed pretty harmless. I can’t hold it against her after all. We only just met. “That’s interesting you try to memorize names. That seems too exhausting. We have a lot of classmates, you know.”
The girl dropped her hands from her face slowly, her little eyes peeking from behind them. She watched my expression and though it had not changed since we’d started eating, she didn’t ask for extra clarification on my answer and went on to respond to my next statement. “Mm! Yeah, I know but it’s not, I promise! I happen to be pretty good at memorizing things, so it’s more like a game versus a chore! Plus, if I can talk to my classmates one by one like this and know their names without having to ask , it seems more convenient?” She seemed to ask it to more so herself than me. “Speaking of which!” The girl quickly gulped down the rest of her rice before continuing. “I didn’t introduce myself yet to you!” Suddenly she stood up and outstretched her hand to me, a big grin across her face. “Puropi Kikamura! My friends call me Ropi but you can call me whatever you want!” The sudden stand and introduction caught me by surprise and I couldn’t help but just stand there, staring at her hand for a moment before taking it finally.
“Nice to meet you.” I spoke to her, the girl squeezing my hand a little before letting go, taking it back to her to salute to me. She then grinned in a goofy manner.
“The pleasure is all mine!”