The bell rang. Today was the first day of school if you didn’t count the school entrance ceremony. Today, I would meet with my first classmates. Here wasn’t the orphanage. Here they didn’t know. I covered it. If anybody asked, I’ll just say that it was an accident. Wait. There was no point in thinking about it now, I would just have to make sure that my lies won’t contradict each other. Anyway, now was about time I entered the clas—
“Hey! How long do you plan on standing there?”
That startled me. I looked behind me and there he was. A young boy the same age as me, with spiked short brown hair and big black eyes. His brows were furrowed and his mouth was clearly displaying dissatisfaction, but his face still managed to give off a feeling of arrogance. Or so I thought. Anyway, I stopped thinking about useless things and I replied to him.
I didn’t think someone other than me would come this early to school. ‘Whatever, he was too rude! …No, he wasn’t rude at all, well, maybe a little bit arrogant. Still, I’ll say he was rude…’
The sound of the rude guy’s backpack hitting the floor made me concentrate again on my objective: entering the classroom and choosing a seat. ‘Mmm… A seat… A seat… Ah! That one!’ The third seat down, right next to the window: it gave me a perfect view of the outside, of the school’s small baseball camp ‘Is camp even the right word?’ while also giving the sun almost nil access to my back!
‘Ugh…’ As I was setting up my grey, metallic pencil case along with my notebook and school book on my desk, a meddlesome guy appeared. ‘Why is he even greeting everyone? Or, maybe, he knows those boys?’ Me and the rude guy weren’t alone anymore, it seemed that while I was busy fishing up my things a group of guys entered the room and sat relatively close to the rude guy.
“Houtarou! We’re in the same class! Lucky!”
‘Great.’ Who would’ve thought that the meddlesome guy (Firefly?¹) and the rude guy (Rudeguy) knew each other. I humphed under my breath. I turned around to look at them, in front of the seated rude boy was standing a smiling guy with straight black hair and black eyes. Firefly answered to him while putting down his backpack.
“I know, right?!”
His smile grew brighter. My hand unconsciously reached for my short, soft red pants and clenched. What’s up with that. How was it that they were so happy. Was that normal? I was jealous. I was envious. I wanted to be happy too. I got up and walked up to them, then I sat on the desk to the left of Firefly’s, who had decided to sit in front of the rude guy.
“You guys friends?”
I didn’t want to be alone, I didn’t want to be excluded. Even if they were annoying, I would endure it. I wanted friends. I wanted happiness. I didn’t care about what I had to do to not make my school life the same as my life at the orphanage. The rude guy gave me a strange look, while the meddlesome boy gave me a confused look but he still smiled as they replied me.
“Yeah, same neighborhood!”
“… Same neighborhood.”
Even though they replied with different tones, they still replied at the same time… My eyes widened a little in wonder, had they planned this? ‘No, it couldn’t be, right?’
“Did you guys just… do it on purpose?”
“… I told you it was a stupid idea, Houtarou.”
Ah, so they really planned that. Firefly was flustered, he waved his arms in front of himself in denial, while the rude guy was calmly displaying an annoyed look. I giggled, to give myself time to think of a follow up and to try and not mind the furtive glances the rude guy and some other classmates were giving me.
“You guys… really are friends, uhuh…”
Was the only phrase I could come up with. After that we chatted until a girl chose to use the desk I was sitting on, I was a little peeved at first but when I took a look around I noticed that the class was full and I was sitting on the last free desk. I chose to go back to my seat before the bell rang, so I told the two I had to go and then I quickly went to sit on my chair.
The bell rang just as I sat, signaling the start of morning homeroom. With a “Bam!” a forty-years-old teacher walked in and stood behind his own desk, leaving the door open. He had brown eyes, black hair and a mole under the left eye; his expression was stern, but I wasn’t sure whether it was because he’s always like this or because he slept poorly. While gazing at the still wandering boys and girls, he spoke:
“Okay now, all of you will go sit yourselves. Good. Stand up. Bow. Sit.”
After everyone sat, he continued to speak and we followed his instructions.
“Remember to do this every time a teacher walks in the classroom, to pay respect to him or her. Now let me explain to you your schedule before we take attendance.”
Long story short, after homeroom we had two periods, recess and another two periods before lunch. After that we had the last two periods and an afternoon homeroom, then school ended. Fourth to sixth graders had to stay behind for cleaning time, apparently. Having explained that, the teacher started listing us off.
“Akaza Tooru… Adatsu Hana… A…”
It all went well, until he had to read my name, of course. ‘Annoying.’ If I wasn’t the center of the class’ attention before, now I was. I stood up and bowed my head a little, trying to hide it.
“… Mh? How do you read this one? Notsuki…?”
“Ah, h-hello everyone, uhm… sensei! It’s read Ame²...”
“Oh? Ah, okay… Then, Notsuki Ame is present… Next is…”
My classmates started whispering between themselves as I sat down once again… Or maybe I was just too tense before and hadn’t noticed them whispering. I already had that attracting attention, and those Sisters went ahead and even gave me a difficult to read name! ‘Is it bullying? It’s bullying, isn’t it?’
Sighing quietly, I started playing with my mechanical pencil. Really, attracting so much attention made me remember bad stuff. While I was in my own little gloomy world, the teacher finished calling us all and spoke while scanning the crowd of students in front of him:
“Humph, everyone is present, good. I, Godai Keichi, will be your homeroom and math teacher for the following year, don’t cause me problems. Now, since there are still some minutes before the end, why don’t you little punks talk a bit about yourselves. First is…”
His eyes stopped to look at me, and I trembled slightly. I just wanted to be inconspicuous, why did this have to happen? I saw the teacher grin slightly. ‘No. Oh no. Please don’t. Don’t do it. DO NOT PICK M—’
“… The one with a special name, Ame-kun.”
He even sneered. Why did he have to pick me? Was it just because he couldn’t read my name correctly? ‘Tsk. Guess I should stand up now, uh…’
I looked everywhere in search of inspiration, but I couldn’t find anything to talk about. Anything that wouldn’t be painful. Perhaps sensing my distress, Godai-sensei decided to do his job properly, and gave me a hint.
“Talk about what you like, or what do you usually do to have fun, or…”
Nothing. There was absolutely nothing. What I liked was the time I wasn’t at the orphanage. What I liked was the time when I wasn’t beaten or made fun of. What I usually did was doing the obligatory chores and also others’ chores. There was no fun for me. Remembering all this, my eyes began to redden and tears threatened to form. Right then, the bell rang, homeroom was over and I was saved, relief washing throughout my whole body as I sat back down.
After school ended, I was about to put my stuff inside my backpack when some girl talked to me.
“Hey, Notsuki-kun! How come you have such a name?”
Before I noticed, half of the class was surrounding me. What was I, a circus animal? ‘…wait, Notsuki-kun?’ When I opened my mouth to answer, Houtarou (Firefly) and Eichirou (Rudeguy) interrupted me.
“Yeah Ame-kun, tell us!”
“That’s right Ame-kun, tell us.”
During recess and lunch break, we became friends. At least it seemed so to me. We even started calling each other with “Hou-kun,” “Ei-kun,” and “Ame-kun,” even though I asked them not to. I tried to stall for time, I didn’t have an answer for their questions. Still, when did those two have the time to coordinate for this?
“You guys… not only are you purposely misreading my name, you even had to say it in chorus… It’s not like you won’t be friends if you don’t talk like that, you know?”
Everyone laughed while Firefly and Rudeguy blushed, Hou-kun smiled and scratched the back of his head but Ei-kun looked elsewhere and made an annoyed face. Well, it was good that this was giving me some time to think… ‘Ah!’
“Ehm, anyway, my parents like the rainy sky so that’s why they choose that name for me…”
Coupled with a fake, embarrassed smile, everything was quickly resolved. It all turned out okay, besides a few inquisitive questions about it, but I could manage. We all dispersed and everyone set out on their own way home, but…
“Why are you two following me?!”
“No need to be so loud, Ame-kun. It’s just that we need to go this way too.”
“Yeah, Ei-kun is right~ Ame-kun, we’re friends anyway, so what does it matter~”
“Okay, okay… but at least stop calling me ‘Ame-kun’!”
“Then, do you prefer Ki-kun~?”
“Ahahahahahah! Houtarou, you’re a genius!”
I let out a loud sigh and dismissively waved my hand at the two of them, who continued to walk ahead while I had stopped.
“… Whatever, I give up. Anyway, I have to go this way, so see you tomorrow.”
“See you, Ame-kun~”
“See ya, Ame.”
Humph, it seemed Ei-kun was not so bad, at least he used my proper name. I waved them goodbye and continued walking toward the orphanage. My steps grew heavier the more I walked. Contrary to what I felt all day, I quickly began to miss the presence of the two. Did I really already consider them my friends? Or was I just choosing the lesser of two evils? The usual scornful words broke me out of my reverie.
“Hey, look! The monster is back, ahahah!”
Endure. I have to endure. I won’t break.
“Even if you cover it, you’re still a monster! Go away! Die! Die!”
I just had to hurry to my room and all this would end. I gritted my teeth, bowed my head down and I tried to not listen to them and be as quick as possible. Past the orphanage’s garden, through the entrance, the living room, and upstairs. I bumped into someone but I didn’t stop and continued, my room was just a little ahead.
“Tsk, that damn monster..”
Finally, I was inside my room. Here there was only me. No one but me. Since there’s only me, no one will be able to hurt me! ‘…Uh? Wh-what’s this? It… It can’t be… I promised myself… that… I would never cry… again…’
Looking at the schedule on the blackboard, I still couldn’t believe so much time had already passed. The school year was almost over and now we had to do some exams on what we studied. If anyone asked if I was confident, I’d say yes.
“Notsuki-kun, in the end did you study at all for the tests?”
Tooru-kun started speaking to me all of a sudden while I was spacing out. I decided to make a gamble and lied a little.
“A little, yesterday I really wanted to clear a mission on MonHon, so I hurriedly studied and then I played the rest of the time…”
Truth was, let alone Monster Honey (or whatever), I didn’t even have a PSP. But this game was the ‘hot topic’ of the moment at the orphanage amongst the older ones; moreover, I didn’t want to say that I spent all of my free time studying because I didn’t want to stay with the other kids at the orphanage.
“Oh, so you too have a PSP? Sometimes you should bring it with you so we can play together!”
“Hou-kun… no one asked your opinion.”
“Wah! So mean, Ame-kun! …Although I’m not surprised anymore by your reactions.”
Unimpressed, I glared at him.
“D-don’t glare at me like that!”
We chatted a bit more and along the way Tooru-kun was replaced by Ei-kun, then the bell rang and it was time to start the exams.
“Anyway, good luck Ei-kun, Hou-kun.”
“Yeah, good luck to you too, Ame-kun!”
“… Yes, good luck to you too, Ame-kun.”
Somehow, Hou-kun always managed to force Ei-kun to coordinate with him to speak simultaneously for the strangest things.
“You guys are at it again…”
Hou-kun laughed happily while Ei-kun just sighed tiredly…
After the week-long exams were over, the school days were both light and tense. Light, because we were finally done with the tests and since it was the end of the school year we didn’t have much to do; tense, because the day our report cards and the results of our exams would be handed to us neared with each passing day.
It was already the 22nd of december and there were only three days before school would end, we all received our results and thus, us three decided to compare our scores during lunch break. Hou-kun was the first to speak as he snatched the bundle of papers Ei-kun carried in one hand
“So, how did you guys do? Well? Or perhaps, bad? Eheh~ let me see! Let me see! Eh?! Ei-kun, you’re amazing! … You got an even lower score than me!”
“Uwah, Hou-kun what a let down… from how you were saying it, I thought Ei-kun did really good or something… Also, didn’t you just admit that you yourself didn’t do well?”
Hou-kun averted looking at me when I said so, while Ei-kun was still stuck on the comments about himself…
“Hey! Don’t mock my hard earned results! Then, why don’t we have a look at… AME’S RESULTS!”
Ei-kun lunged toward my own bundle of papers with great passion, but I simply passed it to him, I had nothing to complain about.
“Here. They are just average, so I have nothing to be embarrassed about… Also, I won’t have to attend to the winter make-up classes like someone else here.”
“Kuh… Damn you Ame!”
Ei-kun’s face became beet red as I mentioned the fact that, because of his low score, he had to go to remedy classes and take more tests. There was an awkward silence for a few seconds before Hou-kun decided to change the subject while patting Ei-kun on the shoulders.
“Come on come on, Ei-kun, let’s talk about something else… Ah, why don’t we have a Christmas party with all our classmates? We can do it at my house, it’s spacious enough. What do you say, Ame-kun? Would you come?”
“Eh? Me too? I’d like to, but… I would have to ask my… parents… first, yeah.”
“Don’t worry, I bet your parents will surely give you an okay!”
“Yeah… I hope so too…”
After school was over, I went to the orphanage to change my clothes instead of following Hou-kun and Ei-kun and directly going to Hou-kun’s home. It was also because it was my turn to wash the dishes and I also had to take the presents for Ei-kun and Hou-kun. I got them a rare gacha³ toy each. One of the few times I had been lucky.
“Ame-kun, you’re finally here!”
The sky darkened and the snow began piling up, as I trudged toward Hou-kun’s home, I could hear him calling for me. It was so cold, my clothes barely kept me warm. I was also feeling tired from doing more chores than I thought. I felt sleepy, my eyes were half-closed, but I still continued to run and in the end I entered his house. It was warm, but I couldn’t fully appreciate it as my clothes were somewhat wet and sticky because of the snow and the sweat.
“Ei-kun and the others are already here! With you, now only Saya-chan is missing… She said her dad would bring her, so I guess the snow must be slowing them down.”
“Ahh… ahh… e-… excuse the intrusion… Ahh…”
“Uh? Ame-kun did you run your way here?”
“Yeah… because… I… was late…”
“Stupid! Do you want to catch a cold? You can take a bath if you want.”
“Mmh… Okay, I’ll go take one.”
“Good, now give me your jacket and go, you already know where the bathroom is.”
I nodded and went upstairs, to the second and bigger bathroom. The bath here was better than the one downstairs and there was also a lot of different liquid soaps and shampoos. I tried to not dwindle too much. When I got out, I saw the bathroom’s door was slightly open and my wet clothes were replaced by a set of dry clothes, probably Hou-kun’s, not that I minded. I thanked his mother (who I thought to be the one who did this) in my mind and got dressed before going downstairs, where everyone was.
“Good, now that we are all here, it’s time to start eating! Let’s dig in!”
When I finally arrived, everyone sat around a big table full of food. The most eye-catching dish for me was the pizza. It was my first time eating it and it was so delicious!
A girl’s astonished gasp brought me back to reality and I looked at her with a confused look. She replied to me while some other girls nodded in consent.
“Notsuki-kun, your smile was so beautiful! It’s the first time we’ve seen it, we were surprised!”
“She’s right, Ame! You should smile more!”
I guess this was the first time I had truly smiled in front of them. ‘Ah, Hou-kun didn’t had the ‘-kun’ this time.’ As I thought that, I decided to try and fake the same smile I had just done.
“Okay, I will try!”
“Yes! Just like that!”
‘Seems alright… but, what can I do with it?’
With dinner out of the way, we chatted and played games, from truth or dare to some tabletop game one of our classmates brought. We were interrupted when Hou-kun’s mother came to the living room and said,
“Honey, it’s almost midnight~!”
“Mom! I told you to not call me ‘honey’ when my friends are here!”
Hou-kun’s face was completely red and we all laughed at him. Ei-kun saved him by clapping his hands and announcing:
“… Anyway, let’s draw lots to decide in which order we’ll choose a random present!”
Other than the two presents for Hou-kun and Ei-kun, I brought a third. Everyone had to bring a present to put in a box, where they would get all mixed up and then everyone would line up and pick one.
“In the end, Ame got the best present: the permission to sleep in the girls’ room. Who even put such a present in there? Is that even allowed? Guys, don’t you think it’s unfair? They should let us sleep with them too!”
“Yeah that’s right!”
I didn’t think there was a need to fuss so much about it. ‘Also, aren’t they being rude?’
“Yawn… shut up, let’s go to bed… I’m sleepy.”
“If you wanted to sleep together with us then you had to get Notsuki-kun’s present. Stop talking back now.”
The girls got angry(?) at the boys and I thought we would all start fighting but Hou-kun quickly calmed down everyone and spoke about waking us up and breakfast.
“Stop it, everyone. It’s nothing to quarrel about, get over it. Tomorrow morning, we’ll come wake you all up when breakfast is ready… Goodnight then~”
We quickly bid them goodnight and went upstairs to sleep, we were all too tired to do anything more.
¹ ホタル(Hotaru) means firefly
² 野槻·愛夢 is read as Notsuki Ame. 愛夢 has many possible readings as a given name.
³ Gacha are toys inside a capsule sold by vending machines, they generally cost 100¥ (£0,54 €0,73 $0,83)