-Chapter Two-

"I am so sorry!"

"It's fine."

"But-"

"I said it's fine. Don't worry about it."

We were sitting in the cafeteria for dinner and once again, the two schools were sitting at opposite ends of the room. The four of us had monopolised the far table, one of the ones closest to the high windows. Chiharu had run over to the other side of the room to apologise to the boy she fell on top of. She was still over there even as dessert was passed around.

"My wrist is fine. Leave me alone already."

His voice floated above everyone else's and all heads turned to stare at the pair of them. They didn't seem daunted by the numerous pairs of eyes that were focused on them. I doubted even the prospect of dessert had penetrated the mind of the sugar hungry Chiharu. She always had a stick of gum in her mouth or was constantly sucking on a lollipop. She claimed she was diabetic but I knew she just liked sugar. It would explain her hyperactive personality.

"Please let me make it up to you. I'm usually a really good climber."

"What were you doing, climbing a tree anyway?"

"Eh, ah well I like to climb things."

"Why?"

"Huh? Why? Well, I like to be tall. I'm not afraid of heights."

"Hmm."

It looked as if they were bonding and by the pleased looks on the teachers' faces, it was step in the right direction.

"So, does that mean you forgive me?"

"I've told you before, my wrist is fine. I'm not gonna hold it against you."

"Eh? Really? Thank you so much." Then she did something to make all the girls blush and the boys divert their eyes. She hugged him.

Now, I'm not much of a prude. At least I don't think I am and I didn't have much trouble dealing with the fact that Chiharu had just hugged a random boy. Granted, they had met before then and Chiharu was the type of person to hug just about anything with a pulse. It would've been disturbing had I not known Chiharu and all her quirkiness.

"There she goes again," Mei mumbled as she raised her fudge covered spoon to her mouth.

By this point, everyone had turned back to their desserts and the spectacle that was Chiharu Osakada was forgotten. I watched as she walked back to our table, a noticeable bounce in her step. Without a word she sat, picked up her spoon and eagerly dug into her hot fudge sundae. Sora acted as if nothing out of the extraordinary happened and, since we were used to Chiharu's odd behaviour, nothing really did happen.

"Did you even manage to catch his name before you hugged him?" I asked, smirking in a way that reminded me way too much of Mei.

"Oh, yeah. I think it was Nori Kazuhito."

"Good to know. At least now you know what to shout out when you fall from a tree again."

"Haha, very funny," she said around a mouthful of hot fudge and ice cream.

"Ah, that was good," Chiharu said as she patted her stomach. "I missed the school's food."

We retired to our dorms for the night; Mei, Sora and Chiharu and I all squashed together in my cramped room. This really was home.

"You love all food. It's a wonder you've managed to stay so thin."

That came from Mei who, despite mourning the loss of her most beloved pudding, was sitting across from me at my study table. It seemed the two had called a momentary truce to celebrate the start of a new semester. That peace was broken however when one of my pillows came flying towards Mei. It made contact with her face then plopped lifelessly into her lap. Chiharu looked proud of her achievement until Mei recovered and threw it right back at her.

Sora, the ever wise one, chose to stay out of the pillow throwing contest. She sat at the foot of my bed, her back against the wall and was reading through my worn out copy of 'Pride and Prejudice'. I was lying at the head, saving my one remaining pillow from the mini war happening in my room.

"Guys, stop it already. You're messing everything up."

At least they both had the decency to look sheepish. Grabbing my now flattened pillows from Chiharu's clutches I re-arranged them around my head, all the while giving the two trouble makers my most threatening death stare. Mei simply shrugged off my attempt to be scary and Chiharu seemed to be distracted with my iPod. Damn. I guess they had built up their immunity to my glares.

Silence reigned as each of us found something to do. Chiharu was now listening to my entire playlist, Mei was leaning out the window, enjoying the cool night breeze and Sora was still reading through my book. I was content to simply lie on my bed and before I could stop it, my eye lids began to droop and darkness overcame me.

When I came to, I was staring up at my white ceiling, illuminated by the bright morning light. My friends were nowhere to be seen. Looking over towards my desk, I saw my iPod lying on top of my books. At least Chiharu hadn't taken it with her this time. Rolling over, I made myself comfy and rearranged the blanket around me. I had planned on going back to sleep, to rest my still tired body when my alarm clock chose that exact moment to yell at me from across the room.

I had purposefully placed the stupid thing on the opposite side of the room, on one of the higher shelves of my bookcase. Ever since I was small, I've had the tendency to go back to hit the snooze button on my alarm clocks. My mother was so fed up with my tardiness that, when I was asleep, she'd move my alarm clock over to me dresser, thus forcing me out of bed to turn the darn thing off. My mother was a genius.

Grumbling and thinking of agreeable ways to destroy the stupid invention, I made my way over to the bookcase and all but slammed my hand against the clock. Suffice it to say, I wasn't much of a morning person.

Once the unpleasantness of getting up was done with, I looked through my suitcases to find my uniform. I had planned on unpacking properly once the others decided it was time to retire to their own rooms, but the commotion of the previous day got to my tired body and it was all I could do to keep my eyes open. I didn't realise how tired I actually was until my body decided to shut itself down.

Our uniform was pretty standard for a private all-girls school; blue pleated skirt, crisp white blouse, tartan tie and a navy blue blazer. Black shoes and white knee socks completed the look. Tying my shoulder length russet hair into a high ponytail, I opened my door to be met with a flurry of activity.

Our dorm in the mornings is pure pandemonium. Everyone is racing against everyone else for a chance to use the bathroom. I've seen girls queuing up, the line travelling through the hallways, blocking the way for other people. I could hear people's voices float up from the first floor, asking to use their friend's hairspray or their brush. One girl was hopping past my door, attempting to put on her socks and shoes. Others were putting makeup on, checking their reflections in the mirror before making their way to the exit.

Deciding that the noise was too much for my delicate ears to handle, I grabbed my bag on the way out and joined the group of girls leaving the dorm.

"Kaede!"

Turning around, I waved gingerly as Sora came ambling towards me, her bag casually thrown over one shoulder. I had to admire the way she always managed to weave herself in-between other students, avoiding hitting anyone in the process. I suppose the lack of a book in her hands helped somewhat but even if she were immersed in the worlds of Austen, Montgomery or Dickens she would still be able to dodge people traffic. It was a gift and the graceful and seamless way she made it look could only ever be accomplished by her. Now, if only Chiharu possessed that level of grace. She'd probably have far fewer bruises on her arms and legs. She called it character. Mai told her she was just a clumsy dork who needed to learn to walk properly.

I tended to lean towards Mai's perspective.

"Good morning," Sora said. I despised her unnaturally chipper tone. Who in their right mind would be happy so early in the morning anyway?

"Morning," I replied. At least that's what I was trying to say. It sounded more like a growl than an actual word.

"Still not a morning person huh?"

I scoffed. "I have never been nor will I ever be a morning person." At least that came out clearly.

"Well, brighten up. There's gossip to be heard."

This was one of Sora's very few bad points. She liked to listen to gossip and since we lived at a girl's boarding school for most of the year, she always got her fill of the latest news. However, this more often than not annoying trait was easily overshadowed by the fact that she was a live gossip filter. That's right, a gossip filter. She could hear a number of juicy stories on any given day but only spread the ones that were remarkably true. I don't know how she does it but I know I shouldn't be messing with strange paranormal things that no one understands.

"Oh? What gossip?"

"I heard that the classes were gonna be mixed. You know, boys and girls in the same class."

"Huh, really? It seems like too much of a hassle to split the class groups up now. Why would they even bother?"

Sora shrugged. "I don't know, but it would make sense," at my confused look – it was too damn early to be thinking – she continued. "The teachers want us all to get along right? This would be the perfect way to make sure that happens."

I pondered this for a moment, probably longer than I should have since my brain was still fast asleep before agreeing. That would make sense. What better way to make people get along than to force them into a small room together? On second thought, it may not have been the best idea in the world.

"It sounds stupid to me."

She shrugged. "Maybe, but we won't know until we get to the main building."

Unfortunately, to actually get to the main building was a chore. It was a good distance from the dormitories and there was very little shade and wasn't provided with any sort of cover. In the summer, we were all drenched in sweat and slightly tanned whenever we reached the main building. I still had a slight tan mark on my arm from the previous year. During winter, if we weren't soaked wet with rain, we were either pelted by hailstones or lightly covered by falling snow. The rain was easily dealt with if anyone had the bright idea of bringing an umbrella but there was little to be done about the hail and snow.

The teachers simply told us to suck it up, as it were, whenever we complained to them. It was easy for them to say that since their rooms were located in a small brick building beside the main one. All we ever asked for was some sort of cover. We were always denied the request though. They said it was because they had a limited budget. I figured they just wanted to make us suffer.

I did find it odd that they were able to afford a new building and yet couldn't pay for a sheltered walkway. To make matters worse, the classrooms were situated atop a hill which made the journey even more wearisome.

Ugh, it was way too early for this.

I didn't see Mai or Chiharu around. I was thankful. When those two got together, most of the things they talked about usually ended in an argument. Their fighting was always entertaining to watch and I usually enjoyed listening to them go at it over the stupidest things. I just couldn't deal with them, or anything else for that matter, so early in the morning. Have I mentioned I hate mornings?

Sora always knew how to read any situation and noticing my reluctance for early morning chit chat stayed silent through the rest of the journey. She pulled a worn out looking book from her bag, the pages earmarked in numerous places and began reading.

Damn, I forgot to bring my iPod.