Chapter 1:

The beginning of something new

Growing Pains

The bell rung out loud and signaled the start of summer. Finally, it was time for summer vacation. Watanabe threw away his chair and ran out into the corridors making the other students giggle. The sound of chairs screeching on the floor tickled my ear. Chattering filled the room as the teacher yelled out towards us, but there was no getting through. I said my goodbyes to my classmates and walked out. The hot summer air flung into my face and filled me with warmth. I wish I had cut my hair. Even the top knot was not enough to keep the hot air from making me sweat. The gate was filled with students chattering, making their way home, me included.

June 26th, Saturday.

“Hanako! Did you pack enough t-shirts? Remember that aunty doesn´t have air conditioner and it´ll get hot over there!” my mom screams from the kitchen. I had packed enough, more than enough. I was going to spend a month at my aunt’s house in Noto, Ishikawa. The summer air in Tokyo was nice, but there was nothing keeping me here. The loneliness I had felt during winter had in fact not been just seasonal as it turns out, I was still pretty friggin lonely. “Yes” I scream back at my mom whilst combing my hair. My brown hair had grown long enough for it to warrant a cut. I grabbed my scissors and got to work, just a small trim. The locks of hair hit the ground, flying all over the floor. A little more on the right side maybe? The scissors snipped away and some of the hair flew out the window. My lips gasped at the sight of it but I couldn´t be bothered to close the window. If the gods want my hair to be spread all over Tokyo, then so be it! Cutting my bangs, however, was a stupid choice. I´d like to think of myself as a connoisseur of cutting my own bangs, but my regret says otherwise. I see my mom’s face peek through as the door opens, and I take my final snip. “Hanako! What the actual…”

June 28th, Monday.

The flight was excruciating. The hot summer air was gently caressing my face as I walked out of the airport. I strolled for a while, making my way past the small booths. My suitcase banged at the ground while I walked around the tiny airport. With my new look, I strutted around confidently…not. My new hair was definitely interesting, and didn´t give me a whole lot of confidence either. The bangs were so short one might think I was trying to imitate one of those haute cotoure models, but alas I was no model, just an unlucky girl with a pair of scissors.

“beep beep” I hear as my aunt drives past. The schreeching noise of her wheels drifting as she parked, rung in my head. It was a sight to be seen. I perk my mouth into a huge smile as I walked up to her. “Welcome welcome! I´ve been waiting for ya” aunty says as she rolls down her window. The tiny car was filled to the brim with oranges, but she somehow managed to fit my suitcase in there. “Miyamura´s mikans” was written all over the bright blue boxes. The road up to her house was quiet. She told me all about the neighbors and how they had a kid around my age. Kyosuke she said his name was. I heard her babble on about them as I watched the waves in the ocean. The cooling water looked tempting as I sat there in the car. Aunty’s house was right by the water in a small village. I had been there once before, but it was a long time ago. The village was about two kilometers away from the beach, shrouded by trees. I remember her house well. The tatami floors were my favorite to lay on. The warm air on the cold tatami gave for a perfect place for a nap.

When we arrived, the clock was already five. My stomach was growling so much aunty had to laugh. I´d say I was embarrassed but I was too hungry. The cicadas were crying out and filled the air with white noise. After I carried my suitcase in, I helped her with the oranges. They smelled amazing and at that moment, I would offer anything for a bite. As if she had read my mind, aunty peeled one and handed me half. We sat down in the backyard and ate the orange together.

The sun had begun to set, and I had begun packing out. Aunty had selected one of her three bedrooms for me. The walls were wrapped in a white wallpaper with tiny indents in it, making me nauseous if I looked too much. From my room I could see the entire backyard. The green grass stretched from the entrance of the house all the way to the end on the right side of the house. There was a door at the end of my room leading into the tatami room. The sliding doors were as thin as paper, and it was just a stroke of luck that I managed not to make a hole in them. Aunty had set up a small bench right by a small hibachi grill on the right side of the yard. The outer edge of the yard was covered in sunflowers as yellow as the sun itself. I drew the curtains and covered the view in an attempt to keep the light from entering. My body felt heavy, and the bed looked as soft as ever. The tiny room was filled with a dresser and a comfy bed, courtesy of IKEA of course. When my thousandth t-shirt made its way to the dresser, I was beat. Eye-contact with the bed was all it took for me to fall into a deep slumber.

June 29th, Tuesday.

As bad as my sleep usually was, that was the best night I had ever had, for a while at least. The cicadas woke me up with their gentle screaming and I was reminded of where I was. I had finally escaped the lonely and busy Tokyo life. School life was hard, as any angsty teenager would tell you. Getting good grades was an issue in and of itself, but being alone makes it all worse. After my friend Momo decided to move to the other friggin side of the world, my tiny world here in Tokyo grew a lot tinier. You know, I´m going to admit it! I´m scared of growing up. It scares that tiny little brain of mine into an obsolete state of oblivion. In other words, it makes me want to hurdle up into a little ball and cry. I´m scared that my life will amount to nothing, and scared that it already has. I´m especially scared of that gray feeling. That gray feeling that rushes in like the tidal waves of the Noto ocean. That horrid feeling that makes everything completely silent, no matter how hard and loud I yell. Loneliness screams in your face without making a sound and decides that it´s in your best interest that it stays that way. Escaping Tokyo for the summer will be superb. It has to be. I can´t just keep waiting for friends to magically appear out of thin air. Even I have enough self-awareness to realize that at some point, it´s not just “them”, it´s me. As if sent by God, my thoughts come to an abrupt end by the sweet scent of oranges. I stretch my arms and back and stand up from the bed. I stand a bit too swift as the little room suddenly fills up with blinking stars. I make my way too the tiny wooden dresser and pull out my favorite shirt. It was a tight, collared shirt in lemon yellow. I pair the shirt with my trusty denim shorts and make my way out of the room. The hallways had already made themselves familiar with my eyes and lead straight into the kitchen. Aunty greeted me with a bright smile and a yellow glass, filled to the brim with orange juice. The summer had started, and I was ready for my new beginning too.
Joe Gold
Taylor Victoria

Growing Pains