So let me tell you about this crap situation that I'm in. It's the beginning of the school year, and all my buddies are slapping each other high-fives in the hallway, talking about how they spent their summer hanging out with friends, on vacation, lazing around, etc. And here I stand, dreading someone asking me about my break, because it's really rather embarrassing.
After all, I spent the better half of the summer learning how to be a girl.
Now, I've known for a while (specifically, since birth) that I am actually a girl. Whether I act like it or not doesn't matter. I have, um, "girl parts". But I also hang out with all guys, wearing baggy clothes and not really caring about make-up and stuff. I hate shopping and girly gossip and other girls in general. They are irritating and puzzling. And they give me too many weird looks when I talk about sex or cuss really loudly. Which is, when a widowed dad and four older brothers bring you up, not something to be particularly stressed about.
Anyway, one of those older brothers is the reason behind all this madness. Cobalt. In June, he started going out with some girl named Jasmine, whom I disliked from the beginning because she was the I'm-obsessed-with-a-guy type. And to make matters worse, she had a sister named Lily who I met later. She was even more obsessed with a guy, enough to marry him. Yuck. Especially since she forced me to join her wedding party as a junior bridesmaid because I am, and I quote, so cute it's adorable.
Double yuck. How do girls talk like that? My first reaction to this was a very loud "eff that, no way!" which unfortunately didn't go over very well. I managed to get in, "I am not being a mother-flippin' bridesmaid" before I got dragged off by my dad and criticized. Apparently ticking off brother's girlfriend's family is a no-no, for future reference. Besides being told off, my dad went ahead and accepted the task for me, forcing me to behave. Next thing I knew, I was plopped into the hands of a Japanese male model who was told to "make me a princess".
Yeah. Objection! Unfortunately, said Japanese model took the job very seriously. For the past two months, I've been learning how to walk straight and properly, to talk formally, to eat in an orderly fashion, and to know all the rules of etiquette. Why that blasted guy chose to follow through with his assignment beats me. I reluctantly suffered through it all because he seemed to enjoy it, and I figured that after the summer, I would never have to see him again and that would be the end of that.
Wrong. But I didn't figure that out until this moment, standing here in the middle of the lower hallway of the high school, trying not to attract attention. I didn't want to be singled out as the lost and confused freshman, nor did I want anyone, especially an upperclassman, to ask me about my summer. I just wanted to forget that shit even happened.
"Adore! I had no idea you attend this school. You must be part of the new freshman class!"
Yeah, my plan…not working so well. How was I supposed to know that my model-slash-teacher is a sophomore at my school?
"What are you doing here, Daijiro?" I demanded to the guy who had just spoken to me. I could feel the eager whispers of girls all around me, proving with finality why I didn't belong with them. Like I mentioned before, Daijiro is a Japanese model, or something along those lines. He moved here with his older model brother and family so that he could get away from the fame. But he didn't get away from the females that swooned over his "luscious" black hair and his "flawlessly smooth" fair skin and his "deep" brown eyes. Give me a break. He wasn't that attractive. Especially when he gave me one of his lessons, as he started to now.
"It's Takahashi-sensei," he corrected me, holding up a finger matter-of-factly with a huge grin. Girls giggled around me.
"I'm not your student right now," I retorted. Daijiro hummed sweetly.
"Then, as a sophomore, I'm still Takahashi-senpai," he insisted. What crap was he spouting?
"Daijiro," I said firmly. "I'm only calling you that. And if you want to instruct me on some other nonsense, do it outside of school. I'm not standing here and taking this shit, freshman or not."
Tension whipped through the crowd and everyone fell silent. Daijiro blinked in confusion. I expected him to retaliate or at least get angry because I cussed at him. After all, princesses don't do that sort of thing. But he simply laughed in that aggravating way and flapped, yes flapped, his hand at me.
"Oh, Ado-hime, don't be so ridiculous," he said. I stood there and tried to work out what he had called me. Ado-hime? I know I've heard that before during the summer. Was it an insult?
Daijiro had turned and walked all the way down the hallway before I figured it out.
"I'm not a freaking princess!" I shouted at him, but he simply waved a hand and continued on his way. Everyone around me gave me a wide berth as they went to class. After all, I, the usually withdrawn-from-strangers-and-attention girl, stood there, fuming, my hands clenched at my sides. In my head, I had counted down the days till the wedding. Twenty-five days were left before I never had to see Daijiro again. Unfortunately, I think that number just got bigger.
"I can't! I have homework!"
Wow, I never thought I'd be using that as an excuse on a Saturday afternoon. Especially since I only had a few chapters of English reading and a section of math homework to do. But Daijiro was insisting we continue our etiquette lessons on the weekends, and I was effing tired of trying to be a girl.
"Ado-hime, the wedding is a little more than three weeks away. We have to do this now. Ado-hime?"
I shook my head, gripping both sides of the doorframe with my feet spread out. Daijiro stood on the doormat outside my apartment, looking hopefully at me. But there was no way in hell I was letting him inside.
"I don't want to do this anymore," I hissed angrily. Daijiro chuckled. I growled. He raised his eyebrows. Neither of us moved. Finally, my "teacher" pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.
"Adore, seriously?" With one swift movement, he ducked down and picked me up, slung me over his shoulder, and walked into the apartment. I screamed and beat on his back, but he had already dropped me on the floor before I managed to hurt him enough. With a satisfied smirk, Daijiro surveyed the interior of the apartment. We were in the living room. From here, one hall branched off into the kitchen and dining area while another led to three interior bedrooms. It was a rather large apartment, but with Daijiro in it, it felt like way too small a space.
"That's not cool, man," I muttered. Daijiro shrugged.
"You asked for it, Ado-hime!" he said, too cheerfully for my taste. I looked up and gave him a distrusting glare. Daijiro paid no attention to that and happily resumed looking around my place. I felt a little embarrassed at first, because compared to his uber-mansion where all my previous lesson had been, this was tiny. But why did that bother me? I shook the feeling off.
"If you're going to be so rude, we should go ahead and get this crap over with," I suggested, hopping to my feet and dusting off my palms on my torn-up jeans. Daijiro noticed the movement and gave my outfit a disapproving glance.
"Don't you have anything else to wear?" he asked. I crossed my arms and scoffed.
"Tch! If you haven't noticed, we're not exactly living in the 'lap of luxury' over here, Mr. Model Millionaire. All my clothes are hand-me-downs from my brothers. Except for my underwear, I guess. So it's going to look like crap no matter what I wear."
Daijiro looked confused, which didn't surprise me. He probably didn't have to wear a single passed-down thing in his entire life. I kinda wondered whether he wore anything more than once before he tossed it away. Spoiled brat.
"That's not possible; show me your closet," Daijiro finally demanded. I sighed and rolled my eyes, grabbing his arm and dragging him to the smallest room in the apartment. The other two bedrooms were split between my dad and my three brothers who still lived here (the oldest had left a while ago). Since I didn't have to share a room, I got stuck with the smallest one. I didn't really mind much since I never spend much time in it. I was always at school or outside playing sports with my friends.
"Here we are!" I announced as I threw open the door of my room. Like I said, it was small, with just enough room for a twin-sized bed, a dresser, and a desk and chair. Daijiro walked inside, looked around, and just sniffed. The bed was unmade. My books were sprawled across the surface of the desk, and there were clothes all over the floor. I wasn't really one to be very clean, and I didn't really see the point, since I didn't have any decorative items that would be worth cleaning up for. If I put everything away, my room would be just plain boring.
Daijiro stepped carefully around the big piles of clothes while I trudged right through them, almost tripping as the cloth got tangled with my shoes. Daijiro opened the closet door and inspected the contents. Old clothes, all my brothers', hung on mismatched hangers. There was a small set of drawers for my underwear, and the shelf on top was crammed with old toys, also hand-me-downs. Hardly a sight to admire, and Daijiro didn't waste time in examining everything.
"Now do you understand?" I asked. "Now, stop wasting my time and just finish the damn lesson off."
"As you wish, Adore." I followed him out of the room. It seemed that the state of things here might have finally hit him or something, because he only used my actual name when he was being completely serious. Well, I could care less. That guy needed a bonk on the head to set him straight. We didn't all live in heaven.
"Today, we're going to practice having a polite conversation. Do you know what I'm talking about, Ado-hime?"
"Yeah. I have to learn how to spout crap that doesn't piss people off. Got it."
"What an excellent way to put it, Ado-hime!"
I sighed and slouched down in my seat. It was the weekend before the wedding, and I was trying my hardest to put Daijiro in a bad mood. But apparently, Lily knew what she was doing when she suggested Daijiro to my dad. No matter what I did, the jerk didn't get a clue. He insisted on giving me a big grin and cheerful replies every time. Guess the only option was to move on.
"Fine, start already," I mumbled. Daijiro patted his hand on the table between us. I rolled my eyes and sat up straighter. I've learned that the faster I pretend to obey him, the faster the lessons go.
"Okay, why don't we act like distant friends? You are likely to see those at the wedding, and they won't be the punks you hang around with all day at school," Daijiro said. I frowned.
"My friends are not punks," I retorted, but Daijiro held up a calm hand. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, his face lit up as if he was seeing me for the first time.
"Ms. Bloom, I haven't seen you in ages! How have you been?" he gushed, leaning forward on the table. I blinked in surprise.
"You must be awfully surprised to see me. My goodness, I must have shocked you after suddenly appearing after all this time! Right?" He leaned forward again, raising his eyebrows with enthusiasm. Ironically, he was acting like such a girl. His excitement was one of things that I would call cute, a word I rarely used because it made me gag just to say it.
"Well, Mr. Takahashi, you are absolutely correct. I am quite surprised. What have you been doing all this time?" I asked formally. See, I could talk normally if I wanted to. Not that I gave a crap to most of the time.
"Oh, there is so much to tell you. After all, it's been six years since I've last been in the States." Daijiro accompanied his answer with much hand flapping. I almost wanted to laugh, but I didn't want to seem cheerful. Even though I had to admit that Daijiro was a more entertaining person that I originally gave him credit for.
"Where have you been all this time?" I continued with my standard questioning.
"In Japan. My older brother and I have been doing various modeling jobs, thanks to our mother's enthusiasm. We came back to take a break from all that attention."
Hmph. It's nothing he hasn't told me before. "Isn't that nice?" I asked as sweetly as possible. Daijiro smiled sweetly back. He opened his mouth to say more, and I almost wanted to bang my head on the table. Luckily, I was spared by the very older brother Daijiro had just mentioned walking into the dining area. I was more surprised than I should have been. After all, we were currently in the Takahashi residence, so it was natural to see other family members. But the house was so big it just seemed like we were the only two in there for most of the time.
"Nii-san, what are doing here?" Daijiro asked. I assumed Nii-san meant older brother.
The elder Takahashi stretched and nodded his head in the direction of the door.
"I have a question request from Umeko. She wants to see you, but she doesn't want to disturb you."
"Oh, I'm coming!" Daijiro replied. The older boy nodded and walked off. Daijiro turned to me. "Do you mind?"
"Whatever," I said, and then after receiving a long glance, "I mean, please, go right ahead." Daijiro nodded and got up, walking towards the door. I clasped my hands together and stared at the design on the table. After he and his brother left the room, the area seemed even emptier and bigger. It was rather awkward…or something. There was a nagging feeling in my head that wouldn't shut up. Umeko? Who was that anyway?
I debated staying where I was, but in the end, curiosity won. I got up and sneaked towards the door, pressing my ear to the wood to see if I could hear anything on the other side.
"Hey, Umeko-chan!" exclaimed Daijiro's voice, with a soft inflection on the name to hint that he was talking to someone important in a "cute" way. A girl's voice followed, really high-pitched and in Japanese. It was annoying that I couldn't understand any of it, but I did catch the word Nii-san, meaning that the girl was Daijiro's younger sister. I didn't understand the reason for the relief that flooded through me. Oh, what the eff. I'll just keep listening.
Daijiro replied back in a string of Japanese. Just when I was about to accept that the whole eavesdropping thing was pointless, the older brother cut-in with a, "Yeah, right." The talking stopped for a moment. Then Daijiro responded,
"I'm serious. I don't think of her that way."
The older brother continued by saying, "Then why are you so patient with her?"
"Because she's so ridiculous. Come on, Nii-san, she's the complete opposite of a princess. Why would I like a girl like her?" He continued on in Japanese, probably talking to Umeko, but I was no longer interested. I should have felt embarrassed for spying on that conversation. It was obvious they were talking about me. But for some reason, I felt a weird, heavy sensation in my chest. It felt kinda like when I failed a math test once. A crapload of disappointment. For what, though? Just because Daijiro said he didn't like me. That was a shitty reason to feel down about.
I walked back to my seat and sat down, pretending like I never left. Daijiro came back in and sat down as well, resuming the eager posture he had used earlier. He said something to further the conversation, but for some reason, I didn't hear him. I was too busy studying his face. Okay, maybe he was more attractive than I originally thought.
"Ado-hime, are you okay?"
"I want to go home!" I got up and slammed my palms down on the table. "No more lessons for today." Before Daijiro had a chance to say anything, I bolted out the door.
How could I have been so stupid? This was so dumb. I should have seen that crush from a mile away and smushed it down before it started. Crap. Crap. Crap! Oh well. Several days away from him and maybe that weird feeling in my chest would go away. Enough lessons. If I wasn't a princess by now (which, according to him, I wasn't), then I was never going to be one. That meant Daijiro was never going to be interested in me. That meant everything that was in my mind right now was dangerous.
Shit. How was I going to handle this?
Sunday afternoon, the twentieth of September. The day of the wedding. Jasmine had come over earlier in the morning to drop off my altered dress, shoes, and hair ribbon. Those three items were the first things I had ever owned, besides underwear or consumable school supplies of course, that didn't come directly from my brothers. And even though I despised the blue-green frills and high heels, there was something special about them, I had to admit.
The whole early afternoon passed by in a blur. My three brothers, being "strong, capable men", were put to the task of helping with set-up, while I went earlier to chat with Lily and the other girls and relieve her of her pre-wedding jitters. Funny thing was, I felt more like crap than she did at the moment. After all, in a few hours, I would be walking down the aisle with the other junior bridesmaids and our junior dates. That meant Daijiro. I had avoided him all week at school, but now, there was no way out.
I really considered dropping this shit and running.
But I think what really stopped me though was Rose, Lily's other little sister. For a nine-year-old, she was pretty perceptive. She came right up to me and told me that I looked really nervous, and that it was okay, since I wasn't the one getting married. Thanks for the reassurance, kiddo.
"Actually, I'm kinda worried about this guy. I like him, but he doesn't like me, and so I don't want to see him. Actually, I don't even want to go to the wedding anymore because he's my date," I told her. Wow, I think that's the first time I managed not to insult or cuss in a sentence to someone. Maybe I learned something from Daijiro after all. Not that I would ever admit it to him.
"But you're a bridesmaid. You have to go to the wedding," Rose replied. I nodded sadly.
"You have to be a big girl. If he doesn't like you, then you should ignore him. You shouldn't let him get you down!" she encouraged. I blinked and looked at her closely. She smiled and nodded, proud of her advice. I smiled.
"You're adorable," I said earnestly and without gagging. Rose beamed.
"And you're Adore!" she stated. Hmm…she was right. I was. All right, Rose.
Let's do this thing!
The confidence I got from Rose pretty much vanished when I actually stepped up behind the doors that led to the aisle. The décor was blue and green, and the rows of seats sloped down towards the altar. There was light, flowing music playing in the background as all of us assembled in the back. That was where Daijiro caught up to me at last.
"There you are. I haven't seen much of you this week," he greeted in a whisper. I noticed he was wearing a powder blue suit with a deep green tie to coordinate with my dress.
"Yeah, busy week," I said quickly, looking straight down the aisle and away from him.
"Is that why you skipped rehearsal?" he asked. I nodded, swallowing. Actually, on the day of the rehearsal, I had chickened out from seeing him and went to bed, complaining of an upset stomach.
"You look nice, by the way," he said. I clenched my teeth. I could feel him touching my hair, probably surprised that it wasn't hanging in tangled brown waves like it usually is. Lily's friend Renee had put it up in a French braid for me, using the green ribbon. Daijiro's hand didn't leave my hair until it was our turn to walk, and by then, I was so shaky it was easily noticeable in the crowd. But luckily Daijiro didn't say anything about it.
The rest of the ceremony went by without a glitch. I tuned out most of it. Just because Daijiro's lessons had sort of worked and I was starting to appreciate girly things didn't mean that I was completely sold. Wedding ceremonies mostly bored me, and after the hard part of walking down the aisle with Daijiro was over, I just stood idly by and stared off into space until I heard the priest pronounce the couple Mr. and Mrs. Felix Spencer. And then I numbly applauded and melted into the crowd that formed around the newlywed couple. I had done my part. I had been a girl for the wedding. I hadn't upset anyone that I had talked to thus far. I had even let a woman I didn't know touch my hair. It was time to go home.
Oh shit! Not now!
I turned and winced. "Daijiro, I have to-,"
"I just finished talking to Rose." The breath left my lungs as soon as he spoke those words. Daijiro came to a stop in front of me, fixing his hair because it had been swept to the side as he ran. He finished and placed his hands on his hips, staring at me. I gaped.
"Where did you get the impression that I didn't like you?"
"Um…uh…" Eff. Eff. Mind is blank.
"Because it's not true."
"You told your brother that the other day," I finally replied. When Daijiro narrowed his eyes in thought, I took the chance to rush past him. I got all the way to the church doors before he caught up with me again.
"Oh, silly! I just told him that so he wouldn't nag on me," he said. I kept moving, shooting fleeting smiles at people who walked by so they wouldn't see my distress. I didn't get much further than the door. Daijiro physically yanked me back by my shoulders.
"I like you, Adore." Huh? I turned around. Daijiro had his hands in his pockets, giving me his usual cheerful grin. He looked aloof, but he had used my real name. He was being serious.
I still had to ask. "For serious?"
Daijiro laughed. "Yeah, for serious." His words had some mysterious effect on me. All of a sudden, I felt lighter than I had for weeks. Still, I didn't smile yet.
"But I'm not really much of a girl, much less a princess like you want. That's what you said."
It was Daijiro's turn to roll his eyes at me, for once. "That's because I don't want any old princess, Ado-hime. I want this princess." At the word this, he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me closer. The warm feeling that had been growing in my chest flared up and spread down my back, and I felt tingly all over. Maybe I shouldn't blame the girls who got all starry-eyed for moments like these. It actually felt kinda nice.
"So I'm actually okay at being a princess?" I asked. Daijiro nodded.
"You're totally okay at being you," he replied.
And then, he kissed me.