Chapter 26:

Trek

Having Trouble Coming up With a Decent Story


“I don’t remember much of the ones one day I called mom and dad, but I remember some of their words about me.”Bookmark here

A younger Umiko was peeping through an ajar door. She could hear what they were saying, but she didn’t really understand it.Bookmark here

“Wasn’t she supposed to be a bit higher by now?” the woman whispered to the man, “None of us was that small, and neither are the kids in her classroom.”Bookmark here

“Yes, yes she was.” the man held his chin, “And those eyes…”Bookmark here

“Maybe we’ve been cursed… I told you that we shouldn’t have a child.”Bookmark here

“Well, we can still have a life without one.” he stared at the woman.Bookmark here

“Huh?” Umiko tilted her head with puzzlement.Bookmark here

“I didn’t spend much time at the orphanage either. In the beginning, I went there from time to time when my new parents realized they were fooled.”Bookmark here

“I don’t want that girl!” a weird man was yelling with one of the ladies from the orphanage, “She’s too old! She’s no good anymore!” he wiped his mouth, “Do you understand me?”Bookmark here

“Of course.” the lady smiled, “I am sorry for the inconvenience sir. We will take care of her.”Bookmark here

The man passed Umiko scowling and murmuring: “These guys got to be kidding with me, besides old she’s useless to everything I need…” he left the place in a hurry.Bookmark here

“Umiko.” the lady called the girl.Bookmark here

“Yes, Miyake-san.” she presented herself.Bookmark here

“What do I tell you every time, Umiko?”Bookmark here

“‘Smile and close your eyes, this way your new parents can think that you are cute and very young’, Miyake-san.”Bookmark here

“And Why are you here again?” Miyake-san asked with harshness.Bookmark here

“I did as you told me, Miyake-san” Umiko looked at the woman, “But he asked me to do things I did not know how to, weird things...”Bookmark here

“I don’t want excuses!” the lady glared at the girl.Bookmark here

"Ah!" Umiko closed her eyes and shuddered, waiting for the smack.Bookmark here

“I want you to never return here! I want you to stay with your new parents!” the lady just yelled at the girl.Bookmark here

“I did as she said. After the next couple adopted me, I never returned there.”Bookmark here

“Someone stop that girl! She stole me!” the owner of a bakery shouted while Umiko ran away with a bag on hands. The girl always prioritized borrowing food from places far from her hideout, which this time, was a small house in the outskirts of town. She could always find a house abandoned by the owners on vacation to hide.Bookmark here

Since she didn’t make much noise, the neighbors rarely noticed her She just needed to be careful. Sadly, it didn’t last long, she always got expelled when the residents arrived.Bookmark here

It took her some time, but she managed to learn how to use the television of that place, although the only thing she could watch was an anime called Hideko Nishikawa’s confidential information.Bookmark here

“Woow!” Umiko’s eyes glinted with joy while watching the show, the thing impressing her the most being the huge castle in which Hideko lived, and the elegancy of the place. “Woow!” she repeated, again and again, she was simply fascinated by the show. Bookmark here

“Aaaaah!” but the fascination didn’t come only because of the elegancy, or the castle. “Huh?” the girl tilted her head. The anime had started to show other... "interesting" things after a while.Bookmark here

But she couldn’t stay there forever.Bookmark here

The girl usually made her way to the house in different routes, so that no one could follow her. But one day, an accident involving a biker forced her to take the same route twice.Bookmark here

“Shit!” Umiko almost bumped into an escaping black kitten while she was running. She stopped for a moment in front of a local library and looked at what had happened: a bicycle was completely destroyed, and a boy was lying on the ground with blood coming from his head.Bookmark here

“He needs an ambulance now!” a woman accompanied by a little girl was shouting on the phone.Bookmark here

“Huh?” the little girl glanced at Umiko, she had short black hair tied in a ponytail.Bookmark here

“I don’t have time for this.” Umiko turned around and resumed her sprint. She turned a corner but ended up facing the owner of the bakery she had just stolen from.Bookmark here

“Here you are!” the man quickly grasped the girl, “You little thief! Now you’ll have what you deserve.” he started to drag Umiko with him while the girl struggled:Bookmark here

“No! Leave me alone!” she screamed, but it seemed that it would be to no avail until a man in a suit stopped the two.Bookmark here

“Oh! Look at what we have here!” he stared at Umiko, “Some weird eyes you got there girl!” he crouched and stared at them.Bookmark here

“Hum!” Umiko sulked at him.Bookmark here

“Let me take this one.” the suit told the baker.Bookmark here

“What? No! This girl stole from me multiple times already! She’ll get what she deserves n…” he was interrupted by a sudden movement from the other man.Bookmark here

“Leave her to me and you can have all this!” the suit showed the baker dozens and dozens of bills.Bookmark here

“O-Okay, you can do whatever you want with her.” the baker accepted the cash, quickly forgetting about the girl and the bag she was holding.Bookmark here

“Now, come with me!” the suit grabbed Umiko’s hands, who was staring at him with caution, and started walking, “You can call me Katayama-Sensei by the way!”Bookmark here

“Even though he held my hand that time, he soon let it go, leaving me in the care of acquaintances of his, in a place without Hideko Nishikawa, and where they tried to educate me. But he didn’t forget, after some time he returned to enroll me in his school: Obaka high, a place, he said, which would fit me perfectly.”Bookmark here

“Well, I won’t stay there much longer, but I hope you can learn to love that place!” Katayama smiled, he then turned around and scoffed lowly. “If that’s even possible!” he muffled his laugh.Bookmark here

“From there it didn’t take long for his acquaintances to get tired of me, and once again I had to find an abandoned house to live in… but not everything was gloomy, in my new school, I managed to make friends after a while.”Bookmark here

“Huh?” Umiko was walking through the deserted corridors of Obaka high when she noticed something unfamiliar for her: a scent that she had never smelled before. The girl followed the sweet scent until she could hear a muffled voice coming from a room on the fourth floor:Bookmark here

“What do you think of the tea, Kuma-chan?”Bookmark here

“...”Bookmark here

“I’d say it’s deliciously sweet, with just the right amount of bitter in the end!”Bookmark here

“Hmm…” Umiko peeped into the room. There, she could see a girl wearing glasses, sipping tea, and talking to the school mascot Kuma-chan. The girl sniffed the air as if to etch that smell into her mind, and then thought of a way to get her hands on the liquid. “Maybe if I use this?” she grabbed a baseball ball that was lying on the ground, it probably had arrived there by one of the many broken windows of the place.Bookmark here

Umiko started to slowly open the door, making sure to not alert the girl in the room, but, as she prepared herself to throw the ball, something came whooshing from a window at the other side of the room.Bookmark here

“Kuma-chan!” the girl in the room exclaimed, but it wasn’t necessary, Kuma-chan quickly got out of the way, leaving a free route to Umiko’s face.Bookmark here

“Aaah!” Umiko yelled before the ball hit her and she went to the ground.Bookmark here

“Hey!” a voice was calling her from afar, “Hey!” it was closing the distance, “Hey, girl!” the female voice was right in front of Umiko.Bookmark here

“Hmm?” Bookmark here

“Hey, take this!”Bookmark here

“Hmm?” Umiko started to feel a hot and sweet taste in her mouth, “What…?” when she recovered her senses she was sitting on a chair, a bear was beside her, and a girl was giving her something to drink.Bookmark here

“This is THE BEST MEDICINE!” the girl said while pouring some more tea in a cup, “You’ll be fine RIGHT AWAY.”Bookmark here

"Grr." Umiko looked at the girl with caution.Bookmark here

"What?" she tilted her head, "You can drink it."Bookmark here

“Hmm…" still gazing at the girl, Umiko started to sip the tea by herself, "Oh! It’s delicious…” Bookmark here

“I’m glad you enjoyed it, I DID IT!” the girl gave a terrifying smile.Bookmark here

“Gargh…” Umiko almost choked with the liquid, “Hahahahahahahaaha!” she started to laugh.Bookmark here

“Huh?” the girl straightened her glasses and tilted her head, “WHY ARE YOU LAUGHING?Bookmark here

“Hehehe!” Umiko looked at the other girl, “You talk… and smile… funny!” she kept laughing.Bookmark here

“Funny...?” the girl was completely puzzled, “Don’t you find me frightening?”Bookmark here

“Huh?” Umiko touched her chin with her finger and started to wonder, “No..."Bookmark here

"REALLY?!"Bookmark here

"Yes... you seem... gentle. You helped me..."Bookmark here

“Well, it’s only natural to help people in these situations...” the girl straightened her glasses.Bookmark here

“No, it’s not.”Bookmark here

“...but what were you doing standing still in front of the door?”Bookmark here

“Hmm…” Umiko looked away and sipped some of the tea.Bookmark here

“Did you come here BECAUSE OF THE TEA?Bookmark here

“Hmm…” Umiko kept ignoring her.Bookmark here

“If that’s the case…” the girl held Umiko’s shoulders and looked into her eyes.Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“Please let me know! That was the outcome I was hoping for!”Bookmark here

“You were… luring people with your tea?” Umiko tilted her headBookmark here

“Precisely!” the girl smiled, “I wanted someone to give us company!”Bookmark here

“Hmm…” Umiko gazed at the girl’s eyes and, for some reason, felt a strange cold... it was like the times she was alone in the orphanage...“What… is your name?” Bookmark here

MY NAME?! Of course!” the girl smacked her head and murmured: “When you’re making new friends you have to say your name first you idiot!” she then let go of Umiko and bowed: “N-Nice to meet you! M-My name is Aika Murakami!”Bookmark here

“Huh?” “She’s bowing… to me?” Umiko widened her eyes, “Then…” she stood up from the chair and started to bow, but stopped midway when she remembered something… the tea, the inflatable animal, a funny lady, everything was there... “Nice to meet you…” Umiko lifted the sides of her skirt, “...my name is Umiko Sawada.”Bookmark here

“U-Umiko-chan…?!” Aika was flushing and fiddling with her fingers.Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

CAN I CALL YOU UMIKO-CHAN?”Bookmark here

“Aah!” Bookmark here

“D-Don’t worry, don’t worry!” Aika waved her arms, “I won’t call you that!”Bookmark here

“No!” Umiko rubbed her eyes, “I’m happy! No one has ever called me that…”Bookmark here

“Oh!” Aika straightened her glasses, “Is that so…?”Bookmark here

“Uhum…” Umiko looked down, “C-Can I call you Aika-chan…?”Bookmark here

“Yes! Yes, you can!” Aika held Umiko’s hands, “Let’s be friends, Umiko-chan!”Bookmark here

"Friends...?"Bookmark here

"YES, friends!"Bookmark here

“Hmm... okay." Umiko nodded.Bookmark here

“Thanks!” Aika looked around her as if looking for something to give her new friend, “Do you want more tea, U-Umiko-chan?!”Bookmark here

“Yes!” Umiko’s eyes shined.Bookmark here

“Great!” Aika started to pour tea for Umiko, “I’ll give you as many as you want!”Bookmark here

“Oh!” Umiko looked at the hot liquid, pondering about what to do with it until she decided to lift her finger and drink it in the way she had always wanted to do.Bookmark here

"That's the beginning, Umiko-san."Bookmark here

"What? Did you say something?" Umiko looked at Aika.Bookmark here

"Me? I didn't say anything." Aika took her eyes off of her cellphone to answer. She was searching for "How to be a good girl friend".Bookmark here

"Hmm... okay."Bookmark here

"Things will get better, Umiko-san. I promise."Bookmark here

"Huh?" Umiko looked around her but couldn't find the source of the sound, unless... "Kuma-chan?"Bookmark here

"..."Bookmark here

"Oh... okay!"Bookmark here

“And I started going to school… to drink tea at least. Aika-chan was always good to me. And I? I always lied to her… trying to hide my life outside our tea parties.”Bookmark here

“If you don’t want to tell me…” Aika sipped some tea, “...then I have no choice but to join the student council.”Bookmark here

“B-But you’re still in the first year!” Umiko complained.Bookmark here

“It doesn’t matter here. No one wants to be a part of it, so it’ll be easy for me to get in.”Bookmark here

“B-But…”Bookmark here

“There are no 'but's, as your friend it’s only natural to do what I can to help you, and to do so I need more information.”Bookmark here

“Hmm… okay.” Umiko stared at the tea in her cup with a crestfallen face.Bookmark here

“There were limits to what she could do as the student council president, but she never stopped caring about me, even on days she didn’t have to.”Bookmark here

The girl was about to change from her school uniform when they arrived and expelled her from there. The residents had arrived earlier than expected, so Umiko had to run again. It reminded her of the day she met Katayama-Sensei.Bookmark here

“Aaah!” Umiko tripped and fell onto a puddle.Bookmark here

“She’s right there!” a man pointed at Umiko.Bookmark here

“No!” Umiko got up and resumed running, “No, no, no, no! Just because it was the place I stayed the most time!” she turned a corner. It was the place where that bike accident had happened years ago. From there, she knew a bunch of shortcuts to Obaka High, the only place she could think of going now.Bookmark here

“Come back here, girl!” the man kept running towards her, being followed by other two men.Bookmark here

“Aaahahahaa.” Umiko was almost exhausted, she glanced to the side, where a familiar girl holding books was in front of the library, tilting her head while looking at the entire situation. “Just a bit more!” Umiko strained herself to get to a shortcut only fit for a person of her size, she was almost caught by one of the three men but managed to run away.Bookmark here

Arriving at the school Umiko was lucky that the one person she wanted to see was still there: Aika Murakami. Umiko tried to convince her it was no big deal, but the president wouldn’t budge:Bookmark here

“If it’s not a big deal…” she arranged her glasses, “...you can just come to my house.”Bookmark here

“No! I’ll cause you problems that way!”Bookmark here

“Helping a friend is no problem at all!” Aika started to drag Umiko with her.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry Aika-chan, but I can’t do this to you.” on their way to Aika’s house, Umiko managed to escape the girl’s sight, going back to Obaka high. She couldn’t bear to go through what had happened the last time she went to the Murakami’s again. Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Umiko was sleeping with Kuma-chan in the gym storage room when a voice called her: “Are you here, Umiko-chan?” Bookmark here

Umiko instantly hid and peeped to see who it was: “Oh, it’s you Aika-chan! Don’t wake me up like that!”Bookmark here

“How couldn’t you find a better place to sleep on?” Aika observed the room, “I’m sure there are some mats somewhere...”Bookmark here

“Hmm…” Umiko pouted, “That’s the best I could do!”Bookmark here

“Hmm…” Aika stared at Umiko, “Are you sure you don’t want to spend the next night at my house? I can h…”Bookmark here

“No! I loved sleeping here with Kuma-chan...” Umiko looked to the side, “...and the two rats… and the one cockroach…”Bookmark here

Aika Murakami sighed, “Can you let me at least give you some mats to lay on? And some blankets? And a lot of insecticides?”Bookmark here

“Hmm… okay, okay, and please!”Bookmark here

“Okay, then I’ll pick them after school.”Bookmark here

“But that day, everything changed. Suto-Sensei took me to Koshiro-idiot’s house… and on the next day... she… just said words that I didn’t know I wanted to hear that much, hear from an adult at least…Bookmark here

‘I’ll hold you right here for as long as it’s necessary.’ she told me that, when my body was shuddering, when I was sure I was going to be expelled again, when I was sure I’d have to change schools, when I was sure... to go back, go back to the orphanage...… be lonely yet again..., Bookmark here

‘I’m sorry that you had to walk all this alone, but now everything will be alright, Umiko.’ it was as if she was reading my mind, and just for those words and hug alone… I’ll be always grateful to her.”Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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