Author's Note: Alright, this is my second story that I'm working on alongside Forlorn Mythos. But, unlike FM, I haven't outlined this story.. Nor do I intend to. So, along with FM in first-place in priority and me being prone to writer's block anyway, don't be surprised if updates take a while. But, regardless, I'll work my hardest to try to get a chapter out at least once a week. Hopefully it won't end up nearly as long as FM. That and not every chapter is going to be even close to this long. ..;


OneWeek In Heaven
Chapter One: And It Hurts So Much...

Starting a new school year had never been an easy thing for me when I was in high school. Every year, it seemed the same thing would happen. The school year would begin and I would find that those people that I once called friends had moved forward in the social hierarchy and left me behind. Given some time, I would make new friends, of course. But, as the year came to a close and those warm summer days ended, I always found myself in the same situation.

But now, I was facing a totally different challenge.

Ishinomori Secondary School was prestigious, to say the least. Founded and ran by a rich and supposedly caring millionaire, it certainly had the funds to afford the best of the teaching world and top of the line advertisements. Every year, a wide variety of hopeful applicants showed up for interviews and the next day, most returned home with heavy hearts. More often than not, it was their wallet—not their grades—that was not quite up to par.

I certainly didn't admire the way Ishinomori ran, rejecting some of the most intelligent students coldly because they couldn't afford the yearly enrollment fees as well as funds for either an on-site dormitory room or an off-campus apartment of their own. But, a job was a job and I was not one to complain with what fate threw at me.

This would be my second year teaching here, though it was quite dreaded. One would figure that the first year of teaching somewhere—especially if it happened to be your first teaching job ever at an expensive private institution—would be the hardest.

That would be most definitely incorrect.

The first year at Ishinomori, I was greeted with bright smiles from teachers and students alike. All questions were greeted with prompt and kind answers and if I had needed assistance with anything at all, someone always would be there with the help they had promised thousands of times before. Of course, it was hard learning how to schedule projects and lessons and the like, but that came easily to me after a week or two. It was possibly one of the easiest things I'd ever had to do in my life, if you asked my honest opinion on the matter.

But, while attending college to get my own teaching degree, my professors had told me many times to not let the first year fool me. They seemed to put it in the most painful terms possible, telling me over and over again that the first year would be easy and then they would suck you right into twenty or thirty more years of hard work, long hours, troublesome students, and unrelenting stress-related illnesses. Looking back, it's hard to see how I continued my education and training after being told such horrid stories…

So, with my chin held up high and my hopes already set at the minimum, I strolled right into the lavish building and set straight off for my classroom. There was at least a good fifteen minutes before classes began and I was thankful for I still had yet to prepare everything. The desk arrangement I had set up the previous year had probably been set back to standard rows and I didn't appreciate having to rearrange them all over again. But, my desk had been cleaned out the day after school had let out the previous year, so that was something to look forward to, at least.

Students were already scrambling to get to their classes as I just opened the door to my own and was greeted by the repulsive order of an unused schoolroom. I know most would call me odd for hating that clean smell, but I just couldn't stand it. I don't know why and I don't care to find out.

Sure enough, the desks had been rearranged as well as many other parts of the room. The paintings and sketches I had hung up on the walls with care were piled on my desk, one having already fell from the top of the stack to the floor to sport a huge black shoeprint.

This was not a good way to start my morning, much less my school year—my two-hundred-and-forty days worth of a school year.

I left the door open behind me, looking over my shoulder as a few students followed me inside. A few of said pupils I recognized from the year earlier, though fewer I had never seen before. I didn't much mind them, though. I could finish what I needed to get done with them lingering around, as long as they kept quiet. The desk rearranging could be saved for another day.

"Good morning, Mazaki-sensei."

While I had been brushing the dust off of my poor, neglected artworks, it had startled me that someone would make contact with me at all that morning until class started. I had assumed that everyone would be too busy contacting their close friends and enemies of the year previous to pay me any attention until it was necessary. But, of course, I existed to continually be proven wrong.

"Yoshikawa-kun?" I looked up, asking the name of the person who had addressed me. Of course, the voice of the person had been distantly recognized and the name had popped right out of my mouth before I even had time to link names with an image. But, regardless, I was fairly sure I was correct for this person in front of me sounded quite like the Yoshikawa Shinobu of last year but looked.. quite different.

"What—is something wrong, Sensei?"

While my mind groped for a logical and polite way to state that there was no possible way that this handsome student could've been the Shinobu I'd grown attached to the previous year. Shinobu had seemed a bit unorganized and his short, black hair always kept in a mess. A pair of glasses had always rested on the bridge of his nose, dangerously low to falling off of the boy's face completely. But this boy in front of him was well-groomed and quite attractive with no pair of spectacles in sight. Not only that, but he had grown at least three inches, it seemed.

"You look.. different…" I finally managed to choke out. Shinobu seemed amused.

"A lot of people have been saying that," He stated with a short laugh, "You look different too, though, Sensei. I think you got a bit taller since last year…"

Another quip about my height already. Usually, it was at least a month before anyone tried to call me short. I hated it, too. I hated for people to call me short. It wasn't my fault that I could seem to breach five-foot-four! I couldn't control how I grew, after all…

"Since it's just you, I'll let the first short joke slide," I stated as frostily as I could, though the comment didn't come out quite as mean spirited as I would've liked it to, "But you'd be advised to cease them immediately."

"Yes sir," Shinobu replied, a small smirk forming on his lips, "Wouldn't want you to get angry and take out my ankles, now would I?"

"Yoshikawa-kun!" I snapped, my own lips gaining a disgruntled pout to rival the other's smirk-turned-grin, "You're so rude to me!"

"You know I don't mean it, Sensei. We're friends, aren't we?" He asked me, making my pout disappear.

Friends?

It was odd how I'd never really considered myself friends with any of my students the previous year… But, now that it was mentioned, I really couldn't find any other word to describe the relationship I had had with the boy in front of me in any other way. After school, he had came by to chat and help with the clean up of the art room a lot and on Saturdays after school and Sundays, we had met up sometimes and hung out for a while. The other teachers didn't hang around with their students in such ways and I had known that. They had said things about me and I had heard them and not cared. Isn't that what people did when they were friends with each other?

Yet, now, settling it at 'friendship' was strangely unsatisfying.

I had opened my mouth to reply when the bell rang, cutting me off before I even had a chance to start. I knew it probably hadn't mattered to Shinobu that I hadn't answered his question, but I was compelled to answer anyway. But, what was I supposed to answer?

"N-no, we aren't, Yoshikawa-kun," I had choked out finally, my vocal chords seeming to have sprung into action before my mind had. When my brain had caught up, I honestly could've slapped myself.

Shinobu had been the only real friend I had had in a long time. My few high school friends had moved far away a long time ago. Most had taken job offers outside the city and some had went as far as to move out of the nation entirely. The same had happened with the one or two friends I had made in college. There had been no opportunities for me to meet anyone else new in the years after my school life ended, either. When I wasn't at Ishinomori, I was always at home drawing or painting or whatever seemed to hold my interest for the longest. The other teachers had been kind the previous year, but I knew very few of them cared enough to bother befriending me and that hadn't phased me in the least.

Shinobu looked nearly twice as stunned as I was. Without any further questioning, he had turned away from me with that same hurt look still on his face.

God, it hurt to see him like that. But why?

Everyone else in the classroom had taken their seats at their tables and half were looking at me, waiting for me to start the class. I wasn't quite sure what to do at that moment, but I stood anyway and walked to the front of the classroom.

It was the first day, so not having a lesson plan was fine. Nothing big ever happened on the first day besides general orientation to both the classes and the school in general. Being that this class was my first block of the day, I had been forced to go over a list of both classroom and school-wide procedures. It was a boring task and I would've much rather jumped right into painting and drawing, but protocol was meant to be followed by all in the school and that included me.

All during the long lecture, I purposefully avoided looking at Shinobu. I could just tell he was doing the same thing to me. It bothered me, though. Was he angry with me? Sad? Disappointed? I wanted to ask him, but that would've been incredibly inappropriate to just stop class and apologize. Besides, I didn't want to get the rumors started again this early in the year. There had been enough of them last year.

The hour of instruction time seemed to pass slowly. I felt like I was going to die if I stood up there any longer explaining stuff that most everyone already knew. With even less enthusiasm, I had started on the list of supplies which consisted of nothing more than a sketchpad, pencils, and erasers. The school would provide everything for the painting units, of course. With nothing else to go over, I stalled for just a moment as I pointed out several points of interest in the room.

Much to my appreciation, the bell rang during the middle of my lackadaisical 'tour' of the room. Everyone filed out quickly as I was sure they were even more unenthusiastic as I was. I'm pretty sure that a few of them had already formed adverse opinions about me and the class, but I suppose that was bound to happen when they caught me on a bad day.

The next two classes seemed to go by in the same manner. They would have been even more miserable than the first, but the boy I'd seemed to make an enemy out of so early in the year wasn't in them to make my guilt feel even worse. That and I didn't have to go over nearly as much stuff with them. I had finished early both class periods and let them do whatever they wished while I sat back at my desk, wallowing in my own self pity.

Lunch period wasn't much of a relief. Everyone had evacuated the main building to flood the cafeteria and the recreation areas outside. I, like I had many times before, sat in my classroom and picked at my lunch. But, unlike the numerous times I had spent my lunch break in my room, Shinobu wasn't there to accompany me that afternoon.

I had been half-heartedly picking at my food as I sat by the window, gazing out of the window towards the tennis courts. A few people were playing, but I wasn't concerned with them. I had found one person in particular and my gaze followed them as he put up an awesome game against whoever he'd been playing against. But I had never knew that Shinobu played any sports at all, even less that he was simply amazing at tennis.

There were a lot of thinks about Shinobu that I didn't know and now that I'd lost him, it had dawned on me and it hurt. But, there was no possible explanation why. I had lost friends before, but it had never hurt this much before.

"Mazaki-san, can I come in please?" Someone called to me from the door. It wasn't Shinobu, quite obviously, so I didn't bother to turn around to address whoever it was. I already had an idea, anyway.

"Miho-chan, you don't have to call me by my last name anymore," I stated dully, "It's weird hearing you call me by my last name, at least."

"Sorry," The female teacher replied with a slight laugh as she walked over to join me by the window. I still hadn't bothered to look up at her and I'm sure my face gave everything away. My suspicions were confirmed when she turned her eyes from me to the tennis courts as well.

"He's mad at me, I can tell," I mumbled, half to Miho and half to myself, "I lost him."

"Who did you lose, Kiyo-kun? Did you make Yoshikawa-san mad?" She asked carefully. Her tone made it obvious that she was wondering just when I would start to cry. Everyone expected me to cry when I was in one of my 'moods', it seemed. Every time I wasn't a happy, normal self, people acted like they were walking on eggshells whenever they came within ten feet of me.

"I told him we weren't friends," I mumbled again, finally tearing my eyes away from the courts to look at the other teacher, "I don't know why I did it… He asked me and I didn't even mean to say it…"

"If you are friends, then why don't you tell him? It can't be that bad if it was a simple slip of the tongue," She suggested. I let a small sigh escape me, pushing the almost completely untouched meal away from me. I wasn't hungry any more.

"That's the problem," I stated, "We're not friends."

"What do you mean!?" Miho asked me, the disbelief in her voice close to palpable, "You have to be friends with Shinobu-kun! You two were inseparable last year! Don't tell me that you left those rumors get to you, Kiyoshi!"

I knew I was in trouble when Miho, of all people, forgot to add an honorific onto my name when she addressed me. That was a clear warning sign and, properly warned, I would've normally knew how to evade getting myself injured. But, for once, I couldn't come up with a straight answer to steer directly off the path of utmost pain.

"It's not that… I mean, I could care less about the rumors people spread around. That doesn't bother me in the least bit. But… It's just, my mind is insisting that I don't want to be friends with Shinobu-kun…" I mumbled, now feeling incredibly miserable. Miho looked shocked.

"Why, Kiyo-kun?" She asked, unsure how to handle the situation. I gave her a shrug.

"It's not what you think… It's not that I don't like Shinobu-kun. I like him a lot, really. He's very special to me. But, I don't want to be friends with him… Something… more…" I stated, the bluntness of my own words causing my cheeks to flare up in a slight blush, "I mean…"

"Oh, so you like Shinobu-kun?" Miho asked, her tone going from worried to playful. She laughed quietly, giving me a teasing poke in the arm, "Well, he is eighteen, so I can't call you a pedophile. You might want to wait until he's graduated, though."

"I do not! I couldn't possibly…!" I trailed off into silence, hushed by Miho's unbelieving look.

Did I really like Shinobu? I hadn't even been 'interested' in anyone romantically and I was twenty-three. I had a bad track record when it came to love and dating as the only romantic interests had been short-lived and never missed. During my freshman year in high school I'd had one girlfriend for a little more than two days. She'd left when she'd found someone better, though, and I couldn't have been more thankful. I had tried again in my second year of college when one of my fellow classmates had asked me on a date. He'd looked kind enough, but I had ended up abandoning him after a week when I'd found out his true intentions for the relationship.

So, why was I interested in Shinobu all of a sudden? Last year, I hadn't felt this way… Or had I? I can remember getting just a bit jealous every time I spotted him with someone else. Many times I had went out of my way for him because he had done the same thing. I had loved to spend time with him. These feelings had always been there, hadn't they? Maybe it was just my inexperience keeping me from realization.

But it didn't matter now. Shinobu thought that I hated him when in reality, I was far from disliking him.

"I do…" I sighed, "But it's too late now, isn't it? Shinobu thinks I hate him and even if I apologized, he wouldn't believe me."

"Possibly, but.. there are other ways that you could prove to him that you really do like him," Miho replied, making me wonder just what she had up her sleeve. She had that sly look over her face that I had seen quite a few times before and whenever she had that look about her, it always meant mischief.

"What are you planning to do?" I asked cautiously. But, before I even got a reply, she grabbed my arm and dragged me out of my chair. We were halfway out of the classroom before she even started to reply.

"You'll see, Kiyo-kun! It's my turn to play match-maker!"

I honestly couldn't remember a time when I'd been more worried for my well-being…

- : : -

"Hello. You've reached Ishinomori Secondary School, can I help you?"

"Yes, this is Mazaki Kiyoshi. Could I speak with the headmaster, please?" I was nervous as I made my request, swinging my feet gently as I sat in a tall, barstool-like chair in Miho's kitchen. The silence that followed the secretaries confirmation made me near sick to my stomach.

"This is Masaharu Hatori—can I help you?" The headmaster had finally picked up his phone after what had seemed like an eternity. I gathered my courage and continued.

"Hello, Masaharu-san. This is Mazaki Kiyoshi, the art teacher… Er, I'm sorry, but I would like to request two weeks off from work," I had no idea why I was so nervous, but I just had to pause to catch my breath, "My grandmother just passed away. My family members are all in America and the funeral's supposed to be in a week to give everyone enough time to fly there and prepare. Is that alright, Masaharu-san?"

There was a small silence, other than a brief rustling of papers. I was incredibly nervous. What if he said no? What if he told me that I was fired for even attempting to pull something like this off? None of my family members had died, even.

God, this was a stupid idea. Why did I even let Miho talk me into this?

"It should be fine, Mazaki-san. I think we have a substitute that will be able to take over your position for that long. Just leave your lesson plans before you leave, please," He didn't sound all that pleased with me, but I was just relieved that the plan was working thus far, "I'm sorry to hear of your loss, Mazaki-san. I hope you'll be okay."

"Thank you, Masaharu-san," I mumbled, trying my best to feign sadness still even though I was filled with elation, "I'll be back as soon as possible. Good bye."

I clicked the call end button on my cell phone and leaned back against the counter with a sigh as Miho walked out of the living room to inquire about my efforts.

"He said I could have the two weeks off…" I sighed happily. Miho laughed and gave me a thumbs up, holding up the outfit she'd found for me—an Ishinomori school uniform. More specifically, a girl's school uniform.

"Good! I called in the interview for tomorrow since school will be out early," Miho grinned, handing me the black outfit. I looked it over and sighed. It would be degrading, but it was something I had to do.. wasn't it? I would make myself do this.

"So, I'll have an interview after school tomorrow? Great. You're going to have a lot to teach me about being female, you know," I stated, sliding out of my chair. I turned my head to look at Miho, whose devilish grin seemed to grow by the minute. I didn't want to know what she was going to do to me, honestly.

- : : -

The night had passed and I had stayed at Miho's apartment, sleeping on the couch while worrying myself to death all night. When the morning rolled around, Miho was up bright and early to help me get dressed after a quick call in to the school to claim she was ill. She donned me in the uniform she had picked out the night previous and I found out first hand that women's underwear was not at all comfortable. It was downright annoying. But, Miho did seem to find the fact that I was already familiar with shaving my legs while helping me into the skirt. I did not find the humor in it.

Even more annoying than having to hassle with a bra, of all things, was the fact that she wanted to cut my hair. She pleaded and begged to just remove four or five inches and multiple times I had denied her. But finally, her persistence won and I watched in despair as masses of dark navy hair hit the floor behind me.

She pulled out a curling iron and set about the daunting task of giving me curls. I know it had to have took at least an hour and a half for her to finish, but her handiwork was admirable. As she worked, she instructed me on how to fix my hair myself but it just went in one ear and right out the other.

Makeup came last and I swear, I have never had to endure something so trivial and annoying. Even the bra was preferable to Miho having to keep me still while she applied that terrible junk to my face. It felt terrible and I wanted it off. But, Miho insisted and whenever that woman wanted something, she got it.

By the end of the process, I had acquired a red ribbon in my hair, a suitcase filled with a few papers that Miho said I would need, and an entirely new identity.

"You're so cute!" Miho cooed, teasingly pinching my cheek. I gave her a small glare, "I'll name you.. Arisa… Yamagawa.."

"This is terrible…" I mumbled, "They're going to figure this out."

"No they won't. They couldn't possibly tell that you are Kiyoshi after all that work I put into this! It's ingenious!" Miho complimented herself. I had nothing in the way of compliments to give her, though. How had she tricked me into this again? Before I had time to resist, she was pushing me out the door, "The bus will get here soon and take you to the school! Hurry, you have an interview soon!

And thus, I was out on my own. With a reluctant sigh and a painful first step, I made my way down the stairs and to the bus stop where I waited, nervously glancing at every person who gave me an odd look.

The bus came shortly after I had arrived at the bus stop. I paid my fare and found my seat, thankful that the bus wasn't crowded enough to merit someone sharing a seat with me. The dragged out the suit case that Miho had prepared and pulled out the papers. I would have to remember to thank her later, for she must've stayed up all night to complete them all. There were some fake documents and an application she'd filled out herself. There was a hand written excuse detailing exactly why 'my' parents couldn't accompany 'me' to the interview and a host of other things. She'd obviously put a lot of effort into it.

I slid all the documents into the suitcase as the bus rolled to a stop just a block away from the school. I left the bus and continued on my way to the school, wary of the departing students. A few of them gave me looks, but so far, it appeared that no one had suspected my real identity.

I approached the building, let myself in, and walked straight to the office. The secretary greeted me with a distant kindness and surveyed me with a look in her eyes that could be described as nothing but judgmental. Thankfully, I already knew the ways of Ishinomori. One wrong answer and they would toss you out. But I had the unfair advantage. I knew all the answers.

After a moment of handing to her my papers and the like, she verified them and let me in to see the headmaster. Oh, it was nerve-wracking to parade in front of Hatori when he fully believed that I was on my way to America. Instead of backing out, I again rounded up my courage and gave him a kind smile.

"Go ahead and sit down, please," He addressed me and I did as instructed. I walked to the seat in front of his desk and sat, crossing my ankles for good measure. He looked me over, making me entirely nervous, before he launched into the interview.

The standard questions followed… 'Where are your parents?', 'What were your grades like in your previous schools?', 'What do you think you can contribute to Ishinomori Secondary?'… I answered correctly every time, I was sure of it. I could see the interest growing in his eyes as he became more and more impressed. Finally, though, the interview came to an end. I rose, we shook hands, and he reviewed the notes he had taken.

After a painstaking long moment, he looked up and smiled at me.

"Welcome to Ishinomori Secondary, Yamagawa Arisa-san. You'll start Monday morning."