MINUS • PLUS
A few weeks later
Yukio was getting used to living alone. And in his own way, he had also made peace with the fact that his desire for a normal school life would never be fulfilled. On the first day of school, when he was leaving, a few boys from a different class had come to him. They wanted to know which club he would like to join. Yukio had shoved them off, as it wasn’t mandatory in this school to be part of a club. He had only a few years of school life left, and he wanted to be done with them as swiftly as possible. He always did his homework, took care of the cleaning when asked, and kept his head low. He was used to that life, and he wanted to carry on like that.
He never had the chance to talk to “Amy-chan”. It was clear to him the very first day that she was a mini-celebrity in this school; all the boys loved her, and all the girls worshipped her. It’s not like he never tried. He wanted to know about her, where she was from, whether she also had a Japanese parent. But whenever a class was over, at least 5 other people always reached her side before him. So, in the end, his interactions with her were limited to sudden eye contacts. And the occasional ogling at her, like every other boy in the class. Ahem.
Anyway, the only people who ever talked to him were Hirata, some of her friends, and those boys of other classes. He guessed that there was something in his demeanor that put people off. And most of the people in St. Martin’s were from rich households, with an air of dignity around them. They had no reason to care for a weird transfer student who wasn’t even completely Japanese. Even if he was adopted by THE Sawada Kenji.
It was just another day, as Yukio was strolling towards the school, with earphones in his ears and eyes on the road. Other students were passing by him, talking among themselves, teasing each other, laughing.
Ever since that first day, he had never paid any attention to his surroundings. He had no reason to do that today either, if the song he was listening to didn’t get interrupted by a message. It was from Onee-san.
She was coming back to Japan for a week, and wanted him to come back to Fujimi next weekend.
Yukio sighed. They hadn’t talked for a long time, and he wasn’t sure whether his uncle would like him back in their house. He remembered how furious he was that night, when he forced him to pack up his things.
But then again, he really wanted to meet Onee-san. She was in a boarding school most of the time, but the times he spent with her were some of his best memories. Other than the time he remembered with his parents, of course.
He was conflicted.
His vacant eyes suddenly fixated on something. A girl was peeking at him from behind a roadside tree. It wasn’t nearly wide enough to hide all of her, so he could see that she was a student of their school.
It was for a moment though. The next moment, there was nothing. He wasn’t even sure how tall she was, or how she looked. Only that her hair was giving off a white sheen.
He walked all around the tree, and looked around as far as possible. There was no one.
Are my eyes playing tricks on me? Yukio thought, as he resumed walking towards the school.
The entrance of his school was filled with people, bursting with energy. Yukio realized he was a bit late today, as on other days he’s inside the class by now.
As he was entering the school, he saw Hirata.
“Good morning, Hirata-san,” he said as politely as possible.
She glanced at him. “Morning,” was all she could say before a group of girls surrounded her.
Yukio was irritated, but he kept that emotion to himself. Hirata had borrowed a book from him, and he just wanted to ask whether she brought it today or not. But the other girls were looking at him like he had some ulterior motive.
“Hey, Taka-san! I was looking for you!” someone called him from behind.
It was one of the members of the manga club. Yukio didn’t remember his name. He once came to him with the proposal to join their club, but Yukio had to decline since his drawing was terrible. That wasn’t the only reason, but that’s all he told him. What business does he have with me now, Yukio thought.
“Come with me, Taka-san,” he practically dragged Yukio with him. When they were at a corner with no one around, the boy whispered, “Taka-san, can you please introduce me to Amy-chan?”
Yukio was dumbfounded. He had never talked to her, and stopped trying to reach her after the very first week. He knew by now that almost all the boys in his class were mad for her, and it won’t do him any good to approach a girl like that. And even if he did, she will likely just brush him off.
“Please, can you? Just tell her I am your friend, and I’ll take it from there. Actually, I’ve tried before, but-”
“What are you talking about?” Yukio stopped him. “I don’t know her. I’ve never even talked to her.”
“Why are you lying,” the boy said in a hurt voice, “I’ve seen you two walking together many times. Even today she was walking right behind you when we passed each other. Do you two know each other from before? Don’t tell me, you two are childhood friends?!”
Is he serious, Yukio thought. This is what happens when someone reads too many romcom mangas. But, if what he’s saying is true…
“Are you sure you saw me walking with her? Because I don’t remember ever walking with her. Are you sure she wasn’t just going her own way?”
“That’s not it,” the boy protested, “She was a bit behind you, but she followed you all the time. If she was going her own way, why would she stick with you?”
Yukio couldn’t describe how he felt. Amy-chan, the sweetheart of their class, and possibly many other classes, was following him? Him, of all people?
Wait, did that mean the girl he saw today was…
Yukio stopped thinking. It was clearly not helping him. The boy didn’t appear to be lying, as he was genuinely disheartened that Yukio didn’t know her. There had to be some kind of misunderstanding, and he needed to resolve it as soon as possible.
He assured the boy that nothing was going on between him and Amy-chan, and hurried towards his class. By the time he reached it, it was almost time for the class to start.
Amy-chan was sitting at her bench, as usual, surrounded by people. As Yukio entered the class, her eyes darted towards him. The moment he caught that, she was back talking to other people.
Yukio slowly sat down at his desk, feeling slightly sad. He wasn’t sure how he felt about her following him, but he was sure when the misunderstanding was clear, everything would go back to normal. His normal, which translates to ‘bad’ for other people.
He checked Onee-san’s message again. Maybe I should go to Fujimi, he thought.
After school was over, Yukio waited until the crowd around Amy-chan was clear, and there was just one girl talking to her. As he stood beside them, the girl with glasses gave him a confused look, then pretended that he wasn’t there. He cleared his throat once, twice. Now both of them were looking at him with curious eyes.
Yukio had no idea how he appeared to them, as he blurted out, “Can we talk?”
It was directed towards Amy-chan, but the girl with glasses acted like he had just proposed to her. “Amy-chan, let's go,” she said as she tugged at her hand. But Amy-chan didn’t move.
She just said, “Sure.”
Yukio wasn’t sure about her feelings. Whenever he looked at her (and although he doesn’t like to admit it, he did that a lot), under that smiling face, he sensed a calm, nonchalant person; much like Hirata. Even when she said ‘sure’, she didn’t look interested, or disgusted, or showed any other emotions a girl her age would show. She was just… formal.
As the girl with glasses looked at them with wide eyes, she politely told her to go ahead. Before doing that, the girl said something in her ears, something Yukio heard clearly.
“Just reject him, okay? Don’t waste your time on the likes of him.”
Yukio wondered how the other girls felt about him. Although he had never been impolite with them, some of them openly gave him disgusted looks and avoided him. The rest, like the friends of Hirata, just avoided him without being impolite.
Am I anti-girl or something? Yukio thought as he got out of the class. Then he remembered that Amy-chan, arguably the most popular girl of this school, was apparently stalking him.
So? Which one is it?
“Shall we go to the roof?” she suggested to him with a polite smile.
“Sure… why not.”
As they reached the rooftop, Yukio quickly checked their surroundings. There was no one else. Good, he thought. He didn’t want any more misunderstandings.
“So… what I want to say is…” Yukio stammered, as the blonde girl looked at him amusingly. It wasn’t easy for him to focus, to think clearly. All this while, he had thought of her as the “pretty blonde girl”, but this was the first time he was looking at her upfront. And she was so much more than that. Their school’s white-with-red-stripes uniform complimented her slim, supple figure, and although her… chest wasn’t as big as some other girls, it was just the perfect size for him. And her face… he now knew why all the other boys were so mad for her. It wasn’t just because of her hair, which flowed till her shoulders and held a flower-shaped pin at one side. Along with that, her sharp nose, thin lips, and big, blue eyes made a lasting impression on people.
“So?” Amy-chan looked like she was enjoying the attention. “What is it?”
Yukio composed himself. For a moment he felt like asking her point-blank, “Why are you following me?”
But in all likelihood, it will end badly for him. She can just say, “I didn’t,” and then Yukio won’t have any other arguments. No, he needed to take a different way, one where he could save his skin.
“Some of the students,” He was purposefully vague, “They have seen you following me. I mean walking behind me. Now I’m sure you didn’t do it on purpose, but it would be better for you to keep some distance from me. Just so no one has any misunderstandings…”
She was carefully listening to him, and after his words trailed away, she was silent for a bit. Then she smiled, and said, “You’re wrong.”
Yukio expected it, but still felt disheartened. Anyway, now was the time to save his skin.
“Look, someone told me that he saw both of us walking together. I never… I didn’t mean that-”
Amy-chan raised her hand, and he stopped talking. “I don’t mean that I didn’t follow you,” she said.
“Huh?” Yukio had no idea what she meant by that.
“I mean,” she said with a mischievous smile, “I did do it on purpose.”
He kept looking at her. After a few moments, he exclaimed again.