My Crazy American Father
Tobias `April 16th 0743
I head up to my room and get dressed. I pull my uniform off the hanger and put it on—a simple white dress shirt with a black vest and tie. The Japanese Academy of international students and studies, you’d think with all the cultures of the world, they’d be able to come up with a more inspired uniform. The only features that would identify it from any other plain set of dress clothes are the light blue emblem of the UN on the left side and the American flag on the right. If I understand correctly, the UN symbol is standard on the uniforms. The school is part of an overarching initiative by the UN to make the children of diplomats more at home when they travel with their parents while still getting the best education possible. At the same time, the American flag on my right side designates me as an American student. All the students have a similar-looking uniform as you can know where a person is from just by looking at them. I think I saw that some variations make way for traditional headwear like hijabs and Yamakas in the brochure. Still, I didn’t pay too much attention. I still have no idea how my father managed to get me into this school despite being a doctor, not a diplomate.
Each diplomat has several slots to place their children in. Still, since not all the diplomats have children and the school is considered elite by any standard, it wasn’t long before those with money and influence started to bid and bargain for them. Infrastructure development, board seats for relatives, favorable deals on lucrative business partnerships, you name it, some powerful Japanese family has done it to secure a seat. Given that, I’m dubious about how my father managed to get not only me and my sister slots but also my best friends Sora and Sara in. The story I was told was that the American Diplomat Joe Adems was a close friend of my uncle, Nathaniel. Who works at the UN as a translator. Because of that, my father was able to sweet-talk him into giving his slots to us. It sounds fishy to me, but there seemed to be a genuine connection when the four of us went to meet him before our enrolment. He was shorter and skinnier than my father and spoke in an unfamiliar accent; I think he said he was from somewhere west. Truth be told, as much as my father tries to teach me about the US, it’s hard to keep it all straight when you’ve never been there. I can only name a handful of the more famous states like California, Texas, New York, Chicago, Louisiana, and my father’s home states of Michigan. I think Mr. Adems said he was from Utah or Colorado; I can’t remember. But somehow, my father was able to secure the slots.
I finish combing my hair and then hear a ding from my phone. I take a look, and it’s a text from Sara. “We’re almost ready. Sora says he has a new way to catch you off guard, so keep an eye out.” He thinks he can get the drop on me today, does he? We’ll see about that. I grab my school bag and head to the front door. As I put my shoes on, Pearl comes for her daily head pats. She’s a friendly dog that Yukie brought home as a puppy one day, saying it had followed her home. Mother wasn’t too keen on the idea as she isn’t much of a fan of animals in the house, but my father was all for it since he’s always loved dogs. “I know, girl,” I say in a baby voice as I rub her semi-floppy ears. “I don’t want me to go either, but I have to.” I finish putting my shoes on and open the door. “I’m heading out!” I call as I step through the door. The April sun shines as the last of the cherry blossoms blow in the wind. I walk down and outside the front gate and see Sara standing across the street. Her long brown hair tied up in a ponytail swaying in the wind, in time with her skirt that falls about halfway down her calf. Her dress had the same UN logo on the left side but proudly stood the flag of Japan on her right. “Good morning Sara-chan” I call as I cross the street.
“Goodmorning, Tobias-kun,” she says in reply. “Are you nervous?” she asks.
“A little,” I say back. “This is a big jump from our old school.”
“Yeah. I don’t know what strings your father pulled to get me, and Sora enrolled as well, but our parents were drilling us all night to make sure we don’t blow it. Sora more than me, but you’d think they found us putting random traffic cones up again.”
I’ve known Sara and her twin brother Sora for as long as I can remember. Our fathers both served in the war together, and her family is a big reason my father came to settle down in Japan. It seemed to be fate that we were born only six months apart. With how close our families are and living just across the street, the three of us were practically inseparable for as long as we could walk—always going out on adventures in the woods and running around town. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t realize Sara was a girl until we started middle school. She had never grown out her hair and wore the same clothes as Sora, so it wasn’t until the show showed up for our first day of middle school that I realized that she was a girl. “So, where is Sora? I can’t wait to see this great new plan of his?”
“Oh, he’s still inside getting ready. Not sure what h-” before she could finish her sentence, the gate flew open, and another Sara jumped out and looks at me frantically and pointed to the two of us.
“Tobias-kun, don’t that’s Sora, not me. He stole one of my uniforms and got a wig made. Quick grab him” I stood shocked for a moment. Though most people would struggle to tell the two apart aside from their hair, I had always been able to do so almost as if by instinct. How could Sora have put on such a convincing act? Maybe I was nervous about the new school. Then a thought hit me. I reached down and pulled up the skirt of the Sara standing next to me. I had barely gotten it above her knee before the other one tackled me.
“What do you think you’re doing? You can’t just pull up her skirt like that!” she said as she hammer fisted me only half-jokingly.
“Her? I thought you said she was Sora dressed up as you”. The Sara on top of me stopped and pondered her mistake, giving me just enough time to snatch the wig from Sora’s head, revealing his much shorter brown hair. “Knew it,” I say as I get my legs up and push him onto his back. He falls on his butt, quickly jumps to his feet, and looks at his sister.
“I knew I shouldn't have told you about my plan.” He then points at me. “You won this round, but I’ll get you next time,” I smirk.
“Go change before my dad comes out here and makes you go to the first day in a dress.” His face quickly sinks before he dashes back into his house, leaving Sara and me outside as before. I turn to her and begin to speak, “How does he come up wi-” I’m cut off mid-word as she smacks me hard across the left cheek, a red outline of her hand quickly making an appearance.
“JUST BECAUSE YOU KNOW I WEAR SHORTS UNDER DOESN'T MEAN YOU CAN JUST PULL UP MY SKIRT LIKE THAT! IDIOT! PERVERT!” she screams, looking at me, her bright red face. “Oh, thank God I thought she was actually mad,” I think. It’s a well-established relationship with us. Sara will often get upset with Sora and me. Still, the pattern is that if she ends her rant with either idiots or perverts, then she isn’t really that mad and will get over it soon enough. When she doesn't say them or when she says nothing at all, we know that we’ve really done it.
“Ok, ok, I’m sorry. If Sora tries crossdressing as you to confuse me again, I’ll find another way to determine which of you is the real one...Then I’ll pull your skirt up” I attempt a duck, but she still gets me across my right cheek this time. Luckily, it has less power and doesn't leave a noticeable mark. I laugh at my joke to mask the pain of the slap.
“Hrmph” She turns her face and sticks up her nose, making her snobby “I’m not amused face” to signal that the joke was funny, but her pride simply won’t allow her to admit it. “You’re lucky it’s the first day; otherwise, you’d have gotten a black eye.”
“You should’ve given one to Sora, make it look like he had eyeliner to match his dress.” She scoffs and giggles for a moment before stopping herself and going back to her smug face.
“I’m still mad at you, so I’m not gonna laugh at your jokes yet.” She says in a stern, almost motherly voice.
“OhH NooO!” I say overly sarcastically. “What EVer ShaLL I do? If SArA won’T LaugH At me thEn How wILl I kNow iF I’m beIng FUnny?” “You aren’t funny, though,” she says, still her stern, no-nonsense voice. “Ahh!? How cOuld YOU Say thAt To youR Dear frIend ToBIas?” I say as I pull an arm around her shoulder to demonstrate my dramatics. She forcefully pushes me off in a way that takes me off guard. I look back, more confused than anything. To add to my confusion, she looks just as shocked as I am.
“Umm… I… Uhh… I… I don’t want you ruining my uh.. Hair, yeah my hair. I did it differently today, and you didn’t even say anything”. I stop and take a look at her hair. I can’t see anything out of the ordinary, same simple low ponytail with her yellow ribbon tie and hair clip to keep her bangs out of her eyes.
“Oh, did you?” I say, placing a hand on my chin and begin to circle around her looking for what I had missed. I go all the way around, not seeing anything new about her hair. In fact, the only thing I do notice is that her face is still red from earlier, redder even. As I’m about to come back in front of her, she stops me by pushing my head up.
“If you haven’t noticed yet, then you aren’t going to,” she says sternly.
“But how am I gonna find it if you won’t let me look?” I say as well as I can; I’m barely able to move my lips as she presses her hand into my face. “ I didn't expect you to do something extra for the first day. I always thought it set up an unrealistic expectation. And besides". I move my face to the left and manage to slip out from her palm. "You always look nice as is.” She keeps her head turned away from me as she speaks.
“W-well, it’s different for girls, ya know. We always have to appear prim and proper; otherwise, we’ll be judged. Especially so here since we’re supposed to represent not only ourselves and family but also our nation.`` Her tone is more hush and meek than usual.
“Isn’t half the school Japanese at this point? You stress yourself out too much. If anything, you care too much, and I don’t care enough. I mean, I’m gonna be the only American at this school, and you know everyone's gonna expect me to fulfill all of their fantasies, haha I bet someone will call compass security expecting me to have a gun hidden somewhere.'' She looks up and smiles.
“Don’t worry, I’ll tell them you only bring it to complete your cowboy outfits, so they know to run if they see a sombrero.” We both laughed.
“Yeah, and I bet the Ru-” I’m suddenly cut off by Sora grabbing me from behind.
“You let your guard down, and I take the opening.” he leans back and gets me in a mild chokehold. I struggle for a moment, then tap his hand.
“Ok, ok, you can have this one since I got you so well earlier.” He quickly lets go and punches a fist up in the air.
“Not even eight in the morning, and I already have a win,” he cheers. “Yeah, you need it after how well that deva main was beating you last night.”
“I didn't get that much sleep, so I don’t even remember what you're talking about,'' he says with the pride that can only be found in one with a true room temperature IQ.
“So you were lying to mom and dad this morning,” Sara says as she jabs him in the ribs.
“Ow- hey,” he says as he jumps back. “I didn’t lie. I said I got enough sleep, not how much I got.”
“You were still up playing when I got up for a glass of water at two AM. No wonder I had to drag you out of bed this morning.”
“Yeah, it reminded me of when you’d crawl into my bed during thunderstorms cause ‘ahh big brother, the lightning is scary.’” He says with a smug face.
“Oh shut up, I haven’t done that since I was eight,” she shoots back while still jabbing at his side.” Oh yeah, well then what ab-” The sound of a car horn suddenly cuts off Sora. We look back and see my father sitting in the car rolling down the window.
“It’s great that you’re all three getting your goofing off out of the way for the day we have to go.” We all three quickly grab our bags and pile into the car, me taking shotgun and Sora and Sara climbing into the back. Once we’re all buckled in, Father sets off towards the school.