Blooming Love at Summer Falls
SLAM! Kano nearly fell off his seat as his teacher dropped the papers onto the table.
“Tamaki-san are you listening to me?” his teacher asked, frowning.
“Yes, Haga-sensei, I hear you.” Kano quietly replied, lowering his head.
For the third time this year, Kano found himself in the teachers’ office. Although his second year had only just started, his teachers had already found reasons to punish him. On the first day of school, he was sent to the office for being a few minutes late. Even though it was due to the trains being delayed, his teachers would not listen. Two weeks later, he was scolded for mumbling. Now he was being disciplined for his performance on the recent exam.
“Tamaki-san, this is not a joke! You scored a twenty-three on the last exam! If this happens again, you are going to be expelled!”
Kano could tell that, with each passing minute, his teacher was becoming angrier.
“I understand”, Kano mumbled.
Although Kano’s eyes were glued to the floor, he could picture the rage on his teacher’s face. He knew that it was his own fault for being in this situation. He did not have the motivation nor natural talent to be a successful student. Now, he was paying the price.
Kano jumped as he felt his teacher’s hand suddenly grab his chin, forcing him to lift his head. Making eye contact with his teacher, he could see the overwhelming fury in his teacher’s piercing green eyes.
“Listen, son, I honestly do not care about what happens to you after you graduate. For now, however, you are my problem. Either get a grip or get out!” his teacher shouted, pushing Kano away from him.
Pain shot up Kano’s back as he fell to the ground. Gasping for air, he took a few deep breaths, trying to recover from having the wind knocked out of him.
Slowly looking up, Kano’s eyes opened wide as he saw a short, brown-haired woman get up from her seat. It was his teacher from the previous year. His heart began to race, waiting for the moment when she would save him from his present teacher’s wrath.
His heart dropped, however, as she walked past them, not bothering to even glance at him.
Oh, I forgot. She does not like me either. Kano thought to himself.
Things had been like this since he had started his first year. Ever since his teachers had found out that he had narrowly passed the entrance exams with a score of sixty-one, all his teachers had hated him. They made it their mission to make his life a living hell. Not that he could blame them. Matsubara Senior High School, after all, was a well-known and respected school. It was not a school meant for people like him.
His teacher’s stern look turned into a sneer.
“See? What did I tell you? No one cares what happens to you.”
Kano lowered his head once again.
“Anyways, that is enough for now. I better not have to talk to you again.” the teacher said, carelessly tossing the exam results to Kano.
Grabbing the papers and his schoolbag, Kano quickly made his way out of the office, not daring to look back.
He continued running, not stopping until he had made it to his classroom door. He fell to his knees, taking a few moments to catch his breath. As his heart rate returned to normal, the morning events replayed in Kano’s mind.
He let out a sigh of relief, happy to be out of the teacher’s office. Kano knew, however, that his bad day had only just begun. Like the teachers at the school, most of the students in his class hated him too.
While his classmates were rich and intelligent, he was poor, and his intelligence was subpar. Instead of being charming and outgoing, he was quiet and awkward. Overall, he was an outsider. To his classmates, he was a parasite that needed to be removed.
After finally catching his breath, Kano stood up, wincing as pain once again shot through his back. With no choice but to fight through it, he trudged through the doorway and began to make his way toward his seat.
Sitting in the back of the classroom had its advantages. Firstly, teachers rarely picked on students in the back row. Not only did he not have to interact with his teachers, but he also rarely had to speak in front of the class.
Sitting in the back corner also gave him access to one of the classroom windows. Instead of listening to his teacher’s tedious lectures, he usually spent hours looking out the window, gazing at the deciduous trees and plentiful flowers.
There was, however, a major disadvantage to sitting in the back of the classroom. Every day, for each class, he would have to walk through the numerous rows of desks to get to his seat. This gave him unwanted attention and was the perfect opportunity for his classmates to pick on him.
“Look, Kano is all alone again. That’s not a surprise.”
“What a loser.”
“Did you see him in P.E. yesterday? He can’t even dribble a ball.”
“What a waste of space.”
“How did he even get in this school?”
As a result, Kano had gotten accustomed to keeping his eyes glued to the floor. From the front of the classroom to the back of the classroom, he was an expert on every crack and stain that was etched onto the floor.
Even with his head lowered, however, he could still feel the invasive glares of his classmates as he walked past their desks.
Like most school days, today was the same. As Kano made his way past the first row of desks, the negative remarks began.
“Is that Kano? I heard he was getting expelled.”
“I hope so.”
“Yeah, me too.”
Kano frowned. No matter how hard he tried to ignore them, he could not ignore the cruel comments from his classmates. He could trick his eyes but fooling his ears was impossible.
After making his way through the verbal battlefield, Kano finally reached his desk. Throwing his schoolbag on the floor, he collapsed into his seat.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Whoever thought of that phrase clearly never went to high school. Kano thought to himself, shaking his head.
Looking up from the floor, Kano was surprised to see some of his classmates still glaring at him. Even on a normal day, this was unusual. Not wanting to make eye contact with them, his gaze instinctively fell back to the floor.
They must have overheard Haga-senpai talking about expelling me.
After staring at the floor for a few moments, Kano slowly lifted his head again. To his surprise, the students had maintained their intense stares. Although he could no longer hear their insults, Kano could see the disapproval and hostility in their eyes.
Kano once again turned his attention to the floor.
On most days, he would be able to tolerate their stares and insults. Today, however, was different. He had already had a terrible morning, and he was not looking forward to any more suffering.
Please, stop looking at me.
But they did not stop. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see their continuous and relentless gazes fixed on him.
P-Please, stop looking at me.
“Tamaki-san, would you be able to…” His teacher started, as he walked into the classroom.
Before he could give it another thought, Kano jumped out of his seat. He watched as all the students and his teacher turned their attention toward him. Their once spiteful faces turned into puzzlement. If he did not already, he now had everyone’s attention.
Kano could feel his face tense up as it became red in embarrassment. His cheeks began to burn, and beads of sweat began to fall down his neck. His once relaxed hands had now been clenched into fists.
Still, he did not say anything.
Before he could embarrass himself any further, Kano grabbed his schoolbag and darted out of the classroom. Making his way out of the school, he ran as fast as his feeble legs could take him.
Even so, Kano knew that there was no escape from the hardship that awaited him in the future.
The familiar smell of lemon enveloped Kano as he walked into his family home.
Unlike most people, however, the smell of his own home did not comfort him from the problems he faced at school. It did not ease the tension in his muscle, it did not reduce his stress, and it certainly did not put a smile on his face.
Instead, the artificial smell of the air freshener made him feel further unsettled. To Kano, its seemingly sole purpose was to mask the overwhelming stench of the serious issues occurring in the house.
Dropping his schoolbag on the ground, he began to take his shoes off.
Well, I’m home a few hours early. What should I do now? Kano thought to himself.
His stomach growled, seemingly answering his question.
Oh, that’s right. With everything going on this morning, I forgot to eat breakfast.
Making his way toward the kitchen, Kano walked through the hallway, gazing at the blank white walls surrounding him. Once covered in framed photographs, the walls were now bare.
Maybe it is better this way.
After taking a few moments to study the barren walls, Kano continued to make his way to the kitchen. He froze, however, when he suddenly heard a muffled voice.
“Why… Why her?”
Turning around, he looked back down the hallway. Except for the kitchen and the bathroom, there was only one other room on the first floor.
His heart beating out of his chest, Kano cautiously made his way back down the hall. Stopping at a small wooden door located in the center of the hallway, he began to reach for the door handle. Before his hand could make contact with the handle, however, he paused.
How long has it been? Should I even be here?
Kano’s heart dropped as he heard more noises come from the other side of the door.
No, I have to go in.
Carefully wrapping his fingers around the handle, Kano took a deep breath. After building up the courage, he slowly cracked the door open.
Kano peered into the dark room, which was only lit by the small amount of light coming through the thin opening of the doorway. Not daring to turn the lights on, he squinted his eyes, trying to figure out who was in the room.
It took Kano a few minutes before his eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room. He began to examine the room, looking for any abnormalities.
Kano’s chest tightened as he looked through the room. The familiar sights of the yellow walls, the white dresser, the small desk, and the shelf full of stuffed animals tugged at his heart.
Shaking his head, he forced himself to turn his attention back to finding the source of the noise. Silence filled the air as he slowly scanned the room. Eventually, his gaze found its way to the back corner of the room, where he could make out a small silhouette of a figure.
Lying on the tiny pink bed was his mother.
With his fears of an intruder being in the room extinguished, Kano let out a sigh of relief. He had forgotten that his mother did not have to work today.
Kano frowned, however, as he stared at his mother. Although he could no longer hear her sobs, he could make out the tears falling down her cheeks. This made his chest further tighten. He closed his eyes, not wanting to see the sad sight anymore.
Distracted by his own emotions, Kano did not realize that his mother had stopped crying. Opening his eyes again, he saw that his mother had sat up and turned her head towards him. Startled, Kano jumped away from the door, running toward the kitchen.
After a few minutes of silence, Kano’s mother entered the kitchen. She had changed out of her sweatshirt and sweatpants, now wearing a white collared shirt with black dress pants. Her long, messy grey hair had been pulled into a ponytail.
Although she had changed her clothes, Kano could see that her eyes were still red and puffy from crying. Before he can say anything, however, his mother interrupted him.
“Kano, why aren’t you in school? Why are you home so early?”
Kano was not surprised that she had not mentioned anything about her crying. This was just like her, to avoid any discussion regarding her emotions.
“I wasn’t feeling well today.”
“Do you have a fever? Does your stomach hurt?”
“No, I just do not feel well.”
Kano knew better than to bring up his troubles at school. His mother would probably only scoff at him, telling him that he was the problem, not his teachers or classmates.
“Is that it? Kano, you cannot just skip school because you feel like it. You have to go to school.”
“I told you, mom, I wasn’t feeling well. There is no point in going if I cannot do my best.”
“Is that so? I think your recent exam scores say otherwise.” Kano paused.
Oh no. Haga-sensei must have called her.
“I cannot believe you scored a twenty-three on the last test. That is a failing grade!”
“I’m sorry, mom,” Kano mumbled, looking down at the floor.
“You could be expelled!”
What is wrong with you? Is your only goal to make my life difficult? Do you hate me that much?” Kano’s mom said, her voice becoming louder.
I have finally done it. I have broken her.
“Of course not, mom. I promise I will do better next time.” Kano lied, knowing that he would not do better.
“You always say that! You have been saying that for the past year!” she shouted, her face becoming red.
“I’m sorry, mom. I will…”
“Why couldn’t you be more like your sister?”
Kano froze. The glass cup fell out of his hand, shattering into pieces as it fell to the ground.
For the first time that day, tears began to well up in his eyes.
His body now trembling, Kano jumped out of his seat and bolted out of the kitchen. Without looking back, he opened the front door and ran out of the house. He shivered as his bare feet made contact with the cold, wet grass. Even though he was running, he knew that his mom would not try to stop him.
Once he was out of the house, Kano continued running, making his way through the backyard. He suddenly paused, realizing that he did not know what to do.
What now? Where should I go?
After giving it some thought, Kano realized that there was only one place that he could go to. Accelerating back into a sprint, he headed towards the tree line.
Although his situation at school and home were grim, not everything in Kano’s life was terrible. He was fortunate enough to live next to Carver Woods, a small forest that laid on the border between two towns. His neighbors called it a nuisance, due to the wild animals that would eat and destroy their gardens. Kano, however, considered it a blessing.
While no one else seemed to accept him, Carver Woods did. The large, overgrown ginkgo trees provided a shield from the outside world. Not only did they protect him from rain and snow, but they protected him from his classmates and teachers. While the trees defended him, the wild inhabitants of the forest, including the squirrels and woodpeckers, were his friends. They kept him company, listening to everything he had to say.
Most important of all, however, were the red tulips. While the trees provided protection and the animals provided companionship, the tulips provided love. As a young child, Kano’s father had always emphasized the importance of red tulips. According to his father, as long as red tulips continued to flourish, true love would continue to exist.
Kano shook his head, trying to clear the thoughts forming in his mind. This was not the time to be caught up in his emotions.
Deciding to take a quick break, he slowed to a stop. Heavy sheets of rain continued to fall on him, each raindrop rushing to find his exposed skin. His once dry school uniform was now drenched, tightly clinging to his skin. The cold was almost unbearable, with the rain beginning to feel like glass cutting his skin. He could see the thin, white clouds of vapor formed by his rapid and shallow breaths.
Suddenly, his legs began to buckle underneath him, aching as the initial adrenaline rush began to wear off. A deep burning sensation began to cover his arms and legs. Confused, Kano lifted his arms. Although he had not realized it until now, his body was covered in dozens of scratches.
It must have happened when I first ran through the forest. The tree line is full of thorn bushes.
He looked down at his feet, which were completely covered in mud and grass. The freezing temperatures had made them completely numb. Although he could not see them, he knew that his feet were in worse condition than his arms and legs. Kano clenched his fists in frustration.
“Damn it,” Kano muttered.
I should have grabbed my jacket. Or at least my shoes.
After failing to warm up his arms and legs, Kano began to look at his surroundings, trying to figure out where he was. With the sunlight gone and the sky filled with storm clouds, however, Kano could not see much. Rain poured down his face, hindering his vision. He could barely make out the thick trunks of the towering trees surrounding him.
He had been so absorbed in his thoughts that he had not even been thinking about where he was going. His legs had instinctively taken over. He looked around, trying to find a familiar landmark or tree. After hopelessly slowly spinning in circles for a few minutes, Kano took off into a sprint. He did not know where he was, but he knew that he had to keep going.
With tree branches crashing into his face and thorns scratching his limbs, Kano continued to fight his way through the trees. After minutes of aimlessly running, Kano finally made a discovery. In his narrow field of vision, Kano could make out a small opening in the trees. With a smile spreading across his face, he instantly knew what it was.
So that’s where my legs were taking me.
Pushing his long, wet bangs out of his face, Kano ran towards the opening in desperation.
I’ve finally made it. I’ve finally made it to my true home.
Kano’s smile widened as he dashed through the opening in the trees. His once aching legs were now fueled by the excitement of his discovery.
I’ve made it to Summer Falls.
Suddenly, Kano felt his right foot slip on the wet grass. His heart dropped as he lost his balance. He began to fall backwards, his vision shifting from the ground to the sky. His eyes widened, and thoughts began to race through his mind. At that moment, time seemed to slow down. Even so, there was nothing he could do.
“What the…” Kano let out, as his body helplessly fell back towards the ground.
His vision plunged into darkness.
“Hey, are you okay? Can you hear me?”
What a soothing voice. Has an angel come for me already?
“Can you hear me?” the voice repeated. Kano slowly nodded his head.
Kano moaned in pleasure as a hand began to gently massage his head, making its way through his way through his hair.
“Mom?” Kano whispered, pain shooting through his head from the movement.
Wait a second. My mom’s still at home.
Kano slowly opened his eyes, the moonlight temporarily blinding him. Lifting his hand in front of his face, he fully opened his eyes.
Looking up, he was surprised to see that the daytime sky had become pitch-black, littered with bright, starry speckles. In contrast to the weather earlier, it was no longer pouring down rain. In fact, not a single cloud remained in the sky.
The hand continued to tenderly rub his head. Closing his eyes, Kano took a deep breath, enjoying the pleasurable sensations running through his body. He moved his head back down, sinking himself back into the softness of his pillow.
Wait, what am I resting my head on? Kano thought to himself, his eyes shooting open.
Quickly turning his head, his jaw dropped as he saw the source of his pillow.
Sitting next to him was a young girl in a white dress.