It was a hot, blistering day. One of the days where your tongue would normally go thick, and lazy with the pleasant warmth, and the ice-cream in your hand would melt rapidly, drops of sweet, melted cream raining down rapidly, drizzling down onto your already sticky fingers.
The flies would buzz with a renewed ferociousness, and all you would want to do is to strip down to your bare camisole and panties, and fall back onto your soft, cool bed in front of the open window, that invites the cool breeze to drift in as it pleases, teasing your hair and kissing your skin in a way that makes you feel oh-so-fresh.
"…No, to say it in past tense would be 'I thought that necessary. 'Thought'. Do you not, agree, Takanashi-san..? Or don't tell me the only thing you've been paying attention to is your brand-new hand phone and texting to Aoki-san."
A well-practiced hand swooped forward and expertly plucked a slightly battered metallic pink phone from the dancing hands of Takanashi, from under the metal-wrought desk. She gasped along with the class in shock, some of her classmates with awe. She gaped at him for a second, before recovering her senses.
"H-hey, sensei." She snapped nervously, her eyes narrowed and squeezed into tiny slits. "T-that's my phone. Givvit' back." She drummed her fingers on the surface of the desk; a hollow sound produced that echoed throughout the classroom. Around her, her classmates sniggered; boys chortled like teenage, hormonal boys always would, and girls tossed their carefully styled hair over their shoulders, smirking bright and hard with their glossed lips. Takanashi Omika was the snobbiest girl in Sukadan Preparatory Academy, taking digs at others who weren't always as well to do as her family. Now, seeing her get snubbed wouldn't hurt one bit. At all. "Sensei, come on now. Givvit' back"
Even Aoki, the dreamy-looking and sleepy boy, the class president with prestigious grades and remarkable athletic ability (Even with his habit of falling asleep in the Boy's Locker) who was somehow attracted to the atrocious, snarling she-beast herself, Omika and was now going steady with her, looked up from his own hand phone and chuckled sleepily.
The sensei smiled. He was of a lanky and slender frame, and leaning against the blackboard often definitely outlined that. His glasses glinted in the light of the late afternoon sun, lazily streaming into the room in long, slanting shafts of light, blocking out his gorgeous deep-brown cesspools of eyes. His face was so smooth and pale, and his straight carefully sculpted nose drew attention away from the tired, slight purple bruises ringing his eyes. And his lips… they always looked so soft to her. And she thought that they always reminded her of falling rose petals. He folded his arms, an annoying but cute habit.
Alright, enough, enough. Who is she?
Tanaka Shiraka stared at him, as if in a trance, from faraway, at the back of the room, her back facing the bookshelves that stocked all the extra textbooks and binders, files, notebooks and worksheets for students.
She was quiet, tucked away amongst all the rest of her classmates, but she was noticeable in her academic ability, and her athletic ability was a little better than that of her lazy classmates. Her school uniform was always neat and straight. Her dark, mousy hair tied in two clumsy pigtails tumbled over her shoulders, and she chewed on empty air as she watched her sensei asking Takanashi-san something. Probably an English question, because Takanashi-san was stammering rather uncomfortably. Takanashi-san had always been horrible in English, Shiraka remembered.
Everyone else other than sensei and her was showing a little delight and glee at Takanashi-san's discomfort. Hmm? Oh yes, he'd snatched her hand phone away a few seconds ago… Yes, that was it.
She shifted quietly in her seat until she was comfortable, and she focused her eyes on him again. In a breath, everything else in the room that surrounded them faded away to be blurred shapes of colours that moved around every few minutes or so. He was so, so, so beautiful. She caught her breath every time he glanced at her, or turned his head to look at her.
She found herself blushing heavily and madly then. Thinking of him in that way just because he was taller and slinkier than the rest with those gorgeous eyes…Just who was she kidding? It was wrong… You don't judge people for their looks! For all you know, Sensei might have a fetish for weird things, or that he's addicted to drugs! She scolded herself.
Was it because she had a crush on the big brother that sold ice-creams down the road every Saturday when she was a kid? Maybe not. Maybe.
She felt a buzzing in her ears. Suddenly, everything sharpened into focus again. She whipped her head round. Hitari-chan that sat next to her was peering at her curiously and rather intently. "Shiraka-chan! Did you hear me?"
The words left her mouth. "Eh?" Confusion clouded her mind as she noticed her classmates all staring expectantly at her, and a scowling Takanashi-san. "Hmm?"
Staring at her… They're all looking at me. I've never been noticed… Always forgotten.
Some curious surprise was plastered onto some of her classmates' faces, like they were saying, "Who is this? Is she in our class? Never seen her before."
Heck, yeah… Always forgotten.
Sensei's voice cut in pleasantly and it turned her heart into melted, gooey, sticky strings of honeyed butter. "Ne,Tanaka-san. Since our poor Takanashi-san here-" he gestured dismissively at Takanashi-san."-Couldn't answer that English question that would get her hand phone back, she needs someone's help. Would you mind, please..?"
She turned with a start. "M-me, Tanaka-sensei?" She pointed at herself. Then she looked at him. Shit. Crap. Its over. Why did I have to look at him..?
Her heart pounded wildly as he smiled at her kindly, his eyes blazing. "Of course. You're the best at English." Stupid! Stupid! Stop looking at me!
She nodded wildly as her classmates sniggered. She heard a snatch of a sentence, "Takanashi is so going to get pwned."
It made her feel better. Confidence filled her. Tanaka-sensei coughed politely. "Please translate, 'I would like to have my handphone back.'" Despite a glowering Takanashi-san.
"I would like my hand phone back please." Shiraka whispered. The only reaction to her answer was, a metallic pink phone with a few slight scratches landing in her hands. She looked up, and it was rudely snatched out of her hands by a fuming Takanshi who stomped back to her seat.
Sensei had turned back to the blackboard, hollering," All right then, class, turn to page 86. And I'm going to have to meet your parents today, Takanashi-san. This is about today, as it is the third time you've been caught using your hand phone in class, and your English grades are not up to par. Read up. It is essential."
The class seemed to have started up in motion again. The cogs of everyday life were already dragged, slowly into motion. Students started up their chattering, conversations and words drifting into the air. Shadows in the sun shifted, moved. The occasional squeal of shock or surprise from a gossiping girl could be heard among the hubbub.
The question just now had been already forgotten. She was forgotten, once again. Invisible. Blended into the surroundings, like she had always been. A camouflage, all except for Hitari-chan, who smiled encouragingly at her, and turned back to her books. Hitari-chan had just been sitting next to her, and they rarely spoke. But she was nice, yes…
Sensei turned, and all Shiraka could catch was a fleeting smile, flitting across his lips, like a wisp of smoke. Good job,Tanaka-san, he mouthed, That was good.The heels of his black shoes that she always admired for being so well-oiled squeaked ominously against the lacquered wood floor as he turned for his seat.
It was so cute.
"I'm home…" Shiraka promptly announced in a self-conscious mumble, as she stepped into the cool, marble floor of the apartment. It gave her feet that had been out in the hot sun all day long, a sudden chill, but she relished the pleasantness of it against her skin.
The curtains had been drawn, so that only a faint shaft of light pooled into the apartment. It was rather dim, and dark. The sofa pushed to one side of the living room was perfectly firm. None of the pillows had been touched. The carpet looked deliciously soft, and it threatened to tickle her feet if she took one step closer. A thin layer of dust coated the television and several hanging ornaments, that tinkled gently as soon as fresh air rushed in.
Silence blanketed the entire apartment. It made Shiraka uncomfortable.
"I'm home-" She called out again, dropping her bag to her floor. Before it could even brush the tips of the ground, a lone voice, weak and relieved, pierced the silence, calling, "Shiraka?" It came from inside the corridor that stretched out from the dining table connected to the living room. Shiraka caught a glimpse of soft, yellowed light, emitted from a fancy hanging light bulb ornament. The master bedroom.
"Ah, okaa-san." Shiraka strode in hurriedly, dragging her bag after her. She ran into the master bedroom. She planted a soft kiss on the forehead of the person who lay in bed with a soft, 'chuu'. "How are you, okaa-san..? Did you feel lonely while I was gone?"
The person was a frail middle-aged lady with graying hair and a weary smile in a long woolen dress. She had slender limbs and wrists, and they were shockingly pale. No trace of the sun on her at all. Tired, purple rings rimmed her eyes, that held a sort of clutching desperation that slowly melted into heaving relief. "I did. I did, Shiraka. And I'm fine."
She was Shiraka's mother, the one and only Tanaka Ritsuka.
Shiraka smiled. "Good! Its great…"
The room was a lot different from the rest of the apartment, meaning to say it contrasted a lot in feature and detail. The window was flung open, sending a tiny breeze spiraling in. The gauzy curtains fluttered in the wind, caressing the whitewashed walls, which was covered with many pictures. No, not of different people. Only one.
Just Shiraka's. Alone.
It had her when she was just newly-born, cooing at the camera in her cute glory, bundled in many layers of cloth. It had her as a chubby toddler, laughing as she waved some weeds she had wrung out from the ground. It had her as a quiet child, looking down at her feet. She was eight then
Aa. I see.
Her eyes softened as her eyes traveled along the many pictures depicting her. She still remembered what had gradually, kneaded and pressed her into a quiet, obeying, sad and lonely child. All the miserable works.
It's all because of- her chest tightened with a hollow melancholy. Her gaze was insistently tugged to that spot. And she surveyed it, as she had, a million times before.
It was marred with a huge, ugly char mark. It smeared like charcoal. No picture was ever hung there. It stayed. Blank, ugly… And lonely. A terrible, striking contrast of black against white. As far as Shiraka could remember, it was there. Burnt, etched permanently.
"Don't look at it. That… thing." A hiss slipped through Ritsuka's lips. Her voice had tightened, and was dripping with so much disgust, it was scary and ugly. Her thin, small hand that had crept onto Shiraka's tightened into a grip. It hurt. "Don't. It reminds me of him."
Shiraka dropped her gaze abruptly. "Ne! Sorry, okaa-san." A tremor crept into her voice. A lump that hadn't even been there was now pressing against Shiraka's throat painfully.
Ritsuka relaxed. Her muscles untensed. "Good girl," she sighed, using a free hand to muss Shiraka's hair affectionately.
A handful of hair fell through the thinly parted gaps in her fingers, glinting in the warm afternoon sun. "Good girl, my darling Shiraka. Stay with me. Promise."
"I always do," muttered Shiraka. Her fingers laced comfortably into Ritsuka's. "Okaa-san."
And she snuck a glance at the spot once more.