Chapter 4:

That Inescapable Past

One Wish They Never Wanted

As he explained it all to Amelie, he could only stare at the floor with his shoulders shivering and fists balled. He had to rearticulate his words as the associated memories came back, stronger than ever...

A few years ago, life was going swimmingly for Takuma - he was excelling in all the subjects he liked, he had enough friends who wouldn't give him crazy looks when he started gushing over his favourite anime characters and it seemed like he was all set for the future. It didn't matter that he had a voracious appetite or that his body mass index was so grossly over the limit even loose-fitting shirts didn't hide various rolls of stomach fat, it just mattered that he was happy with his life.

Unfortunately, all his effort from the years prior came crashing down in the years afterwards.

First, all his friends suddenly found it cool to hide at the back of the school's territory, haranguing anyone who passed and acting out mock battles from famous shonen anime when they were bored. Takuma believed this to be childish, but got dragged back because he never ran very far. He could never escape them and their demands.

The teachers noticed this sudden change and pressured him after class. He didn't admit anything outright, didn't name names - but they knew who was responsible from his hints.

One year ago, some of the older boys, the faces of which were now hazed up in his memories, used some of their final moments of high school to use some of the "equipment" from the school kitchens - cooking grease and oil - to "decorate" Takuma's locker in retaliation.

When Takuma faced it, it wasn't that part that hurt the most though - it was all the doodles of pigs, drawn in permanent marker underneath. As the boy struggled to open the lock, his fingers coating themselves in white fat as he did, he couldn't hold back tears...

...and yet, no one decided or even expressed a wish to help. The teachers backed off when they realised they'd made the situation worse, blindly hoping the group would be able to resolve the issue amongst themselves.

That kept happening for one half year afterwards, since the students incriminating him were not only from the year level above - there were some in his year level too.

Every day facing his tormentors was pain itself.

However, come June of this current year, he was already too far gone. He quit school and holed himself up in his room, only occupying himself with the occasional chore. As his father was already a workaholic who'd only ever stopped his job under doctor's orders, his mother, fearing Takuma would be the same, never asked about it.

"I thought those guys were treating you like an idiot because you were smart! They had no reason to pick on you otherwise," Amelie huffed, snapping Takuma back to the present by reaching out with both hands and squashing them against his cheeks. Her palms were colder than his face, so there was an oddly soothing calmness from this action.

"I still have no idea what it was that turned them against me," the boy finally concluded, removing Amelie's hands from his reddened face by grabbing her wrists with a surprising amount of force, "and I guess I'll never know."

Wordlessly, the boy snatched up his hexagonal glasses from the edge of the table where Amelie had left them. He then stepped out the door, Amelie watching his back as he left.
During the next shift, the air seemed frigid. Even the customers could feel it at the service desk.

"Did you two break up or something?" one of the customers, one with an oddly recognisable voice, joked as Amelie worked the register. Takuma unloaded a cardboard box next to her to create a makeshift barrier between them.

As the girl glanced up with a glare, she scowled momentarily then her face morphed into a silent gasp.

Takuma looked up at the same time to spy her gaping at the redheaded man in front of her. He wasn't that much older than them, but the loosely-done plait over his left shoulder, dark leather jacket and neon blue shirt were idiosyncratic yet still somehow complied to normal standards of "beautiful". (He didn't get what exactly about this man appealed to Amelie, considering she'd never shown any appreciation of his bishonen appearance, even when he'd tried to pull his own hair back.)

"'Scuse me, 'Takuma' now is it?" the redhead interrupted his stream of consciousness by noting the worker's badge the boy wore, then he leant in to whisper over the counter. "I was hoping you'd grant a wish of mine..."