Are You Happy?
*Disclaimer and TW: this story contains content relating to eating disorders. If you have a tendency of feeling triggered by such content, please do not proceed. Otherwise, please enjoy the story.
“Then I guess we’ll see each other around on campus!” Yuuto says, excitedly, “Wow, I think you’ve got to be the most hardworking first-year student in uni. I mean, you’ll be ahead of everyone.”
“Well, I’m sure anyone would hate to fall behind in university.” Makaira says.
The two had sat down and talked a little bit before realizing that they are both going to Tokyo U. Makaira explained that she has been self-studying to stay ahead in classes before uni started.
As night falls, Makaira decides to head home and the 18-year-olds say their goodbyes.
The next week.
Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep!
Makaira wakes up to her alarm at 5:30 AM sharp, yet again. She goes for her morning run and takes a shower, then checks to make sure she’s got everything packed in her bag. University starts today.
Makaira fixes her hair one last time in the mirror before heading out. “Today will be a fresh start to another year of A grades.” Makaira says to herself.
Or so she thought.
Makaira freaks out internally as she flips through the baseline assessment which was handed out to her whole class by the professor just 15 minutes ago.
“As expected, most of you have achieved grades as low as E and some of you, D’s. But, to my surprise, we have one student who’s reached a grade C and who was actually not far from a B grade. Miss Koyanagi, you did exceptionally well among your peers, and the rest of the students in this university during their first year, for that matter. Only one person has ever gotten a C in this baseline test but he only barely reached it. Well done.”
The students and professor clap for Makaira as she sits there, dumbfounded and unsatisfied. Some may think that she’s utterly ungrateful and too much of an overachiever, but she was genuinely devastated she couldn’t do better.
“Now, for the rest of you. Don’t worry. This baseline assessment counts nothing towards your final grade and is a mere test to see where you’re at in the subject. It is completely normal to be getting a D and E, so don’t beat yourself up for it.”
He says that… But I’ve never gotten a grade this low.
One more class goes by and it’s time for lunch, but Makaira doesn’t feel too hungry, so she decides to go to the café to grab coffee.
“Koyanagi-chan! I was wondering where you were this morning.” Hasegawa-san smiles. “Would you like the usual?”
“Yes, please,” Makaira answers, smiling, “And university started today.”
“Oh, yes! My son’s, too. Which university are you attending?”
“I actually met Hasegawa-kun here several days ago. We go to the same-“
“Ugh! I forgot my umbrella. Mom? Can you pl- Ow! What did you do that for?”
In a blink of an eye, Hasegawa-san had walked out from the counter and towards Hasegawa-kun to hit him in the head with an umbrella. Makaira giggles softly.
“I specifically told you to check your bag before leaving this morning!”
“Mom, sorry!” the boy pleads, grabbing the umbrella to stop it from hitting him again. He peers over her shoulder and spots Makaira. “Hey! I was wondering where you were when I was eating. Did you come here to eat?”
“Oh, gosh. I’ll make your drink as soon as possible, dear.” The mother hurries back to the counter.
“It’s no rush, I have a free period before my next class.” Makaira says.
“You do? Me, too! What’s your next class?”
“Me, too! I have Professor Yamaguchi, what about you?”
“We’re in the same class.” Makaira smiles softly.
“Great. Please watch my son and make sure he listens in class!”
“Mom, I’m not a kid anymore!” Yuuto whines.
Makaira laughs and Yuuto smiles.
“Her smile is beautiful.” He thinks.
After a while, Makaira and Yuuto had sat down in the corner table at which she always sits.
“How were your morning classes?” Yuuto asks.
“They were okay. What about yours?”
“The new content’s kind of difficult, but nothing too bad yet. The professors are nice,” Yuuto says, smiling. “By the way, I forgot to ask. What’s your major?”
“Law with a minor in business.”
“I’m an economics major,” he pauses before continuing, “My dad was a lawyer.”
“Yea, he died 8 years ago,” Makaira tries to read Yuuto’s expression, “In a car crash. He was a great man.” He finishes, smiling.
“I’m sorry,” Makaira answers, not knowing what to say, “Are you comfortable talking about him?
Yuuto looks at Makaira intently with a stern expression before softening to a smile and says, “To be honest, no. Not usually. But I’m comfortable around you and you make me want to open up.”
Makaira smiles at the boy and the two sit quietly, watching raindrops hit the windows.
Makaira turns to Yuuto, wondering what he meant.
“I don’t believe my father was that great of a man.” He elaborated, showing that familiar smile of his once again. “Sure, he was a fantastic lawyer, but… He wasn’t all that good of a person.”
“Well, he did his job well, without a doubt. But I understand that attorneys are hired to defend their clients without questioning them, and my father… He never did. He was excellent at his job, even if it meant going against morals.”
Makaira contemplates for a while after hearing what Yuuto said.
“His morals? Or yours?”
Yuuto turns to look straight at Makaira in the eye.
“You’re studying law. Do you want to become a lawyer?”
“Because I have the personality of a lawyer.”
“And what is that exactly?”
Makaira bites her lip, she’s unsure of where this conversation is going.
“You know exactly what that is.” She says.
Yuuto chuckles sarcastically, looking down and burying his face into his palms, “Yea, no, you’re right. I do.” He looks up grinning. “Is that the only reason why you want to become a lawyer?”
Makaira looks at Yuuto in silence for a few seconds, then looks down at her hands sitting on her lap.
“I have the personality of a lawyer and I think it’d be a total waste if I didn’t try.”
She glances up to see Yuuto staring at her, only now is she beginning to be slightly afraid that they have dove too deep into a sensitive topic. But instead, Yuuto flashes the same warm smile he did when they first met at the counter.
“Koyanagi-chan, I’ve only just met you, but from the first few days of observing you, I could already tell that you’re smart, hardworking, and definitely, definitely, an overachiever. How is it that you think doing anything other than law would be a waste? Tell me what you’re good at.”
Makaira smiles softly, “Do you really want to get me out of being a lawyer so badly?” she half-jokes, but replies Yuuto, ”I’m not really exceptionally good at anything. People think I’m smart, but the truth is, I’m just book-smart. Anyone can gain the knowledge I have by reading all the books I’ve read.”
“Are you sure?”
“Well… I used to draw a lot, but that was just a hobby. Nothing serious. Every kid’s drawn.”
Yuuto smiles. “Do you have any artworks which you’ve kept?”
Makaira shakes her head, “I always threw my artwork away after a month of so because they all end up looking too… Imperfect, eventually.”
“Imperfect? But art isn’t supposed to be perfect. In fact art can never be perfect. And nothing in this world can ever be perfect.”
“Well,” Makaira pouts, ”Things can be perfect according to my definition of perfection.”
Yuuto looks at the girl, confused.
Makaira doesn’t know why, but she feels like Yuuto is easy to talk to, “When I say things have to be perfect, I mean I expect them to meet a certain standard which I’ve set for myself.”
“I see. That’s an interesting way of looking at perfection.”
“Is that why you stopped drawing? Because the art could never be perfect?”
“No, not really. I just didn’t see a purpose in drawing anymore. Art is like a childhood dream, an unrealistic one. My parents are both successful businesspeople and they expect me to follow their paths similarly. I eventually did, hence why I’m here now.”
Yuuto sighs and scratches his neck. “Is that also why you’re always studying, too? To be as perfect as you expect yourself to be?”
“Do you have standards in terms of… Physical ‘perfection’?”
Makaira looks at Yuuto, wondering what he was implying by that.
Yuuto looks anxious and stays quiet for a moment.
“Do you have a standard for physical appearance as well?”
A distorted filter fades and reveals Makaira to be an awfully skinny girl and who has apparent dark circles under her eyes. Yuuto glances at the clock and gasps.
“Our class! We’re going to be late for our class!”
Makaira’s eyes widen and she immediately springs up, grabbing her bag, ready to go. But to Yuuto’s horror, right as Makaira turns, she collapses without warning, almost hitting her head on the table before the boy shielded her head with his arm and using his other to keep her from falling to the ground completely.