That night I slept peacefully, the warm atmosphere that had surrounded me throughout the entire day let me relax for the first time in a while. That was why I consciously tried to ignore the girly voice next to me frantically calling my name.
“-kun! …uki-kun! NOTSUKI-KUN!”
“UWAH! … Eh? Why, why are you screaming in my ears!?”
In the end, I was forcefully awoken. I tried to not show my displeasure as I asked why I had been tortured.
“Breakfast is ready!”
“Ah… Okay… I’ll go wash my face…”
I was still quite sleepy as I vaguely searched for my (Hou-kun’s) shirt. I slept with a pair of comfy pants but my torso was bare. I felt hot sleeping with both the pants and the shirt, so I took that off and went back to sleep. Found that, I went to the bathroom and took care of my business. As I washed my hands and face, someone knocked on the bathroom’s door
“Ame, are you there?”
“Just wanted to tell you to quickly go to the kitchen, or else the others will eat all the pancakes.”
I ran downstairs toward the kitchen as fast as I could. Differently from yesterday, I had actually already eaten pancakes, but Hou-kun’s mother made them so well that just thinking about them almost made me droll. She rarely made them, she says that too much of them is bad for your health, so when she made them I either made sure to be present or asked Hou-kun to save some for me!
“Ah! Ame-kun you are finally awake! Here’s your breakfast, dear.”
When I arrived to the kitchen there weren’t many of my classmates present. I figured some where in the other rooms while others were already picked up by their parents. Hou-kun’s mother saw me and after greeting me she handed me a plate with five pancakes! ‘They are so tasty~’
“What is it?”
While I was wiping my mouth after eating two pancakes so I could drink, a girl whose name I can’t quite remember, started talking to me.
“…Can I ask you something?”
“Mh, of course.”
“I’ve been wondering about it for a while, but… why do you have an eyepatch over your left eye?”
I was a little surprised. I thought that, after a year, everyone in our class knew about the lie I told to Hou-kun, Ei-kun and their parents. Perhaps they didn’t tell anything to our classmates, seeing as Hou-kun immediately shouted to her, but I interrupted him. If I told the lie now, I wouldn’t have to repeat countless times and risk telling it wrong once.
“It’s okay. It’s okay. I have this eyepatch because when I was little there was an accident and I was hurt by a big piece glass…”
I started speaking normally, but the more I spoke the lower was my tone, adding a sad touch to it while also slightly bowing my head and looking downwards to the side.
“Ah! Sorry for making you remember…”
“It’s fine. It’s nothing. Let’s continue eating.”
The girl and some others felt somewhat guilty, as I thought they would. I quickly replied while raising my head, showing a forced smile and (fake) tears that threatened to fall at any moment.
The rest of the day passed by uneventfully and after lunch I was already on my way back to the orphanage. Taking out my keys and opening the door, I entered and closed the door behind me. I silently muttered “I’m back…” not expecting a response, as I changed from my shoes into my tattered slippers. Suddenly, someone came from around the corner and yelled at me
Looking more carefully, I realized that it was Kazumo. He was one of the oldest here at the orphanage, he had black spiky hair and black eyes with a mean look permanently showing on his face. Of the ones bullying me here at the orphanage, he was the absolute worst.
Not wanting to confront him, I tried to ran past him, but he grabbed my collar from behind; I coughed violently as he had nearly choked me. After I quieted down a little, with an encouraging “Shut the hell up.” from him, he began to speak to me.
“I~ caught~ you~ …But, why the fuck did you try to run away from me, uh?”
And as he said so, he punched me in the stomach, knocking the air out of my lungs and making me gasp in pain. ‘Damn it! Damn it all!’
“Don’t you know what time is it? It’s time for your share of chores!”
“But… they’re yours…”
I spoke to him between gasps and wheezes in a quiet voice. I still hadn’t learnt that there was no use in doing so.
“Trying to talk back?!”
“Wa— wait! Stop! It hurts! Gah! O— okay! I’ll do them, so stop!”
Kazumo took my right arm and twisted it behind my back before applying enough pressure to make me wail and cry. I quickly surrendered as I felt my arm and shoulder hurt with so much pain I thought they would break.
“See what happens when you try to talk back to your elders? Now you have permission to go, you crybaby bitch.”
“… Yes… Sir…”
The holidays passed in the blink of an eye. I spent my time at the orphanage either studying or cleaning this and that; when I wasn’t at the orphanage I was at Hou-kun or Ei-kun’s house. They asked me if they could visit my house but I always said that my parents didn’t want me bringing my friends over. After a while they stopped asking. Maybe, one day, I could tell them the truth.
After winter break was over, we had the last three months of the school year before spring break, which indicated the true end of the school year. In the end, our school year was divided in two semesters: the first was after spring break (March to April) and ended in October, it also included summer break (July to August); the second semester started in October, between the two semesters there was the fall break, and ended during March; from December to January there was the winter break.
While mindlessly going forward with my life, April came and it was time to go to school again, so I met up with my two friends in front of the school to chat for a bit.
“Ei-kun, Hou-kun! Where do we have to go to know what’s our class?”
“We already checked. Us two are in class A, Hou-kun is in class C.”
“What~? We’re separated…”
While mildly how they got such information as we are still on our way to school and today was the first day (wasn’t school closed the rest of the time?), I felt disappointed that we had been separated. I was later explained (by Hou-kun’s mom) that the school changed the class arrangement every year to ensure that we kids could meet as many new friends as possible, to make us sociable. At that time I only felt more annoyed at being separated.
“Ame, Ei-kun, don’t be too depressed, we can meet up at lunch break and after school!”
Walking through the school’s ground floor, we searched for our classroom. On the second floor there were the special classrooms, like the science laboratory or the soundproof music classroom; on the first floor there were the classroom for fourth to sixth graders, while the ones for first to third graders were on the ground floor.
“Class 2-A, uh… so it’s this one.”
“Where do you want to sit Ame?”
“Mmh… I think I’ll sit in the same spot of last year.”
“Okay, don’t sit next to you.”
I nodded toward Ei-kun and opened our class’ doors. Inside, nothing was different from our previous classroom besides a few different wallpapers. I looked around and saw a girl had already entered and chosen a spot.
The girl sat on the desk behind the one I had chosen. ‘Whatever.’ I thought as me and Ei-kun each dumped some of our stuff inside a random cubby at the back of the classroom. There were no problems until we went to sit at our chosen desks.
“Hey… Why are you sitting right in front of me?”
“I sit wherever I want.”
‘I don’t like this girl.’ Her haughty tone irked me and I couldn’t help but reply in a curt tone. Her arrogance apparently didn’t permit rebellious tones, as she kicked at my chair from behind and yelled
“Hey! I asked you ‘why’ you, cyclops!”
I was already used to such insults but it seemed that Ei-kun got considerably angry, he was about to stand up and confront the annoying girl, but I told him to let it go.
“Stop Ei-kun, it’s not worth it.”
“Tsk, okay, whatever.”
The girl humphed at our exchange and she, too, decided to drop the matter and look out the window. All three of us remained in silence even after our classmates started to arrive.
“As some of you already know me, I’ll cut the presentation short. I’m Godai Keichi, I will be teaching you math. Let’s make the roll call: …”
When homeroom started, I was surprised to see Godai-sensei coming in. Since he was one of the teachers who knew how to properly read my name, I silently sighed in relief. I thought that, at least, this time I wouldn’t attract everyone’s attention right away… ‘Well not like my eyepatch is a ‘normal’ thing…’
“… Mizushima Mida…”
‘So that’s her name…’ Listening to Godai-sensei going through the list of our names, I was able to learn the annoying girl’s name. Still irked from before, I said in a not-so-quiet voice
“Humph, so loud.”
“You got a problem with me?”
I could feel her staring at my back, she was probably frustrated that simply staring at a person would not cause their death, in fact, to my silent reply she answered with a kick to my chair. Godai-sensei reprimanded us as we were starting to be too loud
“Quite you two, or I will make you stand outside the class other than giving you additional homework.”
“Humph! I’ll let it slide for this time, cyclops.”
“Shut up you, hyper-active girl.”
After I said what I wanted to say I completely ignored her. I glanced around and grimaced a little, many were whispering and looking our way… ‘Damn her… The class is already talking about me…’
“Let’s continue. Watari Anja…”
“So that’s what happened, uh, Ame…”
“Yeah. Don’t you think that she’s really annoying?”
At lunch break Ei-kun and I met up with Hou-kun to eat together, the majority of the other students stayed in class to eat, but after Hou-kun found this spot we had always spent our lunch break here. Ei-kun just concentrated on eating as I told Hou-kun about what happened before. It was the first time I met such an annoying person.
“Is that so…?”
“What’s wrong? You don’t think so too, Hou-kun?”
“I think she’s that…”
Ei-kun scowled as he listened to Hou-kun’s talk and said
“Are you referring to the type of girl I hate?”
“Exactly. She… is a tsundere!”
I remained speechless, ‘just how did it come to that?!’
I ignored Hou-kun for the rest of the day.
After school was over, on our way from our class to Hou-kun’s, we met one of our teachers, who stopped us to ask us a favor
“Ah! Ame-kun, Eichirou-kun, could you take this box to the storage room before leaving?”
The storage room was a little hut behind the school building and near the big cage for the few rabbits ket in there. Every time I saw it, I was amazed that it still hadn’t crumbled. The teacher thanked us with a smile and left. Taking the box from Ei-kun, I told him
“Ei-kun, you can go on ahead of me together with Hou-kun; I’ll take care of this.”
“Uhm… alright… see you tomorrow, then.”
“Se… see you~!”
Done with the teacher’s task, it was now time to go back to the orphanage. I removed the sweat on my forehand with the back of my hand and looked around for a few seconds, not moving from my spot.
‘It sure is quiet without those two around…’
Once again my thoughts went in that direction. Lately, when I was alone, these kind of thoughts continued to pop up in my mind. I shook my head to clear my thoughts and started walking out of the school and toward the orphanage. There weren’t that many students of my age remaining, most of them were the older ones.
‘Am I really missing them? I don’t know. I don’t know! I just… I just want to be with them… My friends…’
My heart stirred a little as I compared my time with Hou-kun and Ei-kun to my time at the orphanage, my time with Kazumo…
Soon the orphanage’s door stood before me and I had to use my keys to enter. Once again I changed my shoes and spoke to no one in particular.
“Oh, Ame-chan, welcome back!”
I didn’t expect to meet with one of the Sisters in charge of the orphanage. She wore a pair of cooking mitts and was carrying a baking tray with steam coming out of it. I briefly wondered what she had cooked before replying to her
“We are baking biscuits, so, after you take a bath, go call your brothers and sisters, please.”
“Fine… but they aren’t my siblings…”