Chapter 1:

CHAPTER 1: Starting youth

To the Girl who Loved Lemons

          RUSHING MY WAY out of the bathroom, I made my way to my room and prepared for the new chapter of my life. I was supposed to be prepared 15 minutes ago. It seemed that daydreaming and nervousness filled those minutes. I am about to start a new day as a high school student. I have never been around here ever since I was 3 years old so everything is almost basically new to me. 

I looked at myself in the mirror as I wore my fully-ironed school uniform. Smiling at myself I quietly whispered “I'm a high school student now, huh?” I lifted the tip of my skirt while looking at the mirror and did a little bow. Feeling silly, I smirked at myself and shook my head a couple of times. 

Before leaving the room, the crafty photo album on my nightstand caught my attention. It belonged to my older sister and it's full of her wonderful memories from her high school days. She's made the photo album by herself and she used to tell me and mum fun stories whenever she gets home. She's not around now though. 

My sister just started working on her new job a few weeks ago and decided to stay with father as she builds a future for herself. My sister and I were both very close and I do look up to her. Watching her have fun at high school encourages me that I can actually enjoy school on my own ways just as she did. That is why, I'd like to create my own album as well. 

An album for starting  my own adventures. 

I grabbed my instax camera and stood in front of the mirror once again. Smiling with excitement, I snapped a photo and immediately  shook it to reveal an image of mine on my very first day of school. 

“Angea! Your food will get cold!” Not having any time to even brush my hair, I grabbed my bag, tucked in my instax camera inside and rushed downstairs. Mom greeted me 'good morning' with a frown for taking my sweet time and game me 5 minutes to finish my breakfast. 

"Can't eat breakfast, I'll miss the entrance ceremony." I said, rushing between my breaths as I took a toasted bread to bite and gulped down the glass of milk she also prepared. 

“Your hair is a mess. Hang on, I'll get a brush.” She said paving her way to the nearest drawer. Waving my hand aggressively, I also shook my head. 

“Mom, I'm good. I’ll fix it up on my way. It’s not that long anyway.” Mom grabbed my hair from behind and combed it with her hands instead. She placed a palm on her cheek and looked at my hair as if it's such a waste. 

“I really wish you hadn’t cut it yourself. Oh, look at that uneven cut. Let’s get this fixed in the salon sometime soon, okay?” Grabbing the lunchbox my mom left in the table beside me, I stood up and carelessly flipped my hair and turned to her.

“You know we could have done that before the school started, right? It’s a bit too late now, mom. Plus, my hair grows pretty fast.” I reminded her as I packed my lunchbox in a separate bag. My mother simply sighed in defeat and smiled at me.

“Still though, this is not how a lady should look like…”

“Maybe next Saturday I’ll go to the salon.” I said as I made my way to the door and putting on my shoes. And I can’t help but feel the excitement in my chest, smiling as I left the house and wondering what new things could happen today. 

I wonder how many interesting people will I meet? What kind of adventures will they bring along?

“I’ll be off now, Mom. See you later.” Passing through the gates and leaving the house left an overwhelming feeling within me, because other than getting to do a lot of things with new people, my sis also often told me about discovering new parts of myself. That's also an adventure I would like to know. 

I arrived at the campus breathless, tired and with sweating palms. I never thought that starting high school can be so nerve-racking. Even so, it did not overwhelm the excitement I was feeling. I saw a lot of new faces as I trekked my way up the stairs to reach my classroom. And just as I stepped inside to find a vacant seat, the bell rang, calling all the students at the gym and to start the opening ceremony. 

Are you serious? I can’t even say hello to anyone? What a rush. 

With no time to even say hello or even drop my bag, everybody in the room rushed to get to the door. I just went along and carried my bag with me. I looked around and was overwhelmed by this much people rushing to the gym. 

It was hard to keep up with everyone’s pace and this many people so I quickly walked to the open area outside the building to get away from the confusing crowd. I decided to wait it out and took out my instax camera to take a picture of the rushing students, taking an image to remind me how stressful it was to swim along with the crowd. 

As I shake the polaroid photo to reveal the image, I felt a rather curious pair of eyes looking at me. She looked so interested to what I was doing as she approached me with her eyes fixed on the photo. 

“What are you trying to capture?” I turned to her as her curious eyes are still fixed on the photo. Charmed by her curiosity, I handed her the photo just as the image cleared and revealed the busy halls of the school. 

“For memories, I suppose?” I simply said, hesitating as I felt the nervousness creep into my back. The girl giggled and for some reason I raised my camera and focused it on her. She seemed to take notice so she smiled as a strong wind passed by us, my polaroid camera taking a pic of the lovely motion.

A scent of lemon wafted through the air as her hair flowed and glistened as the sun's rays made contact with her golden hair. 

What a lovely lemony scent. 

“Students, please enter the gym. The opening ceremony is now about to start.” A teacher walked on us and gave us a look, meaning that we shouldn't be loitering around. I turned to the girl as she simply smiled and waved goodbye before walking towards the gym. The teacher raised an eyebrow at me and crossed her arms on her chest. 

"Opening ceremony is starting, missy.” With that, I bowed my head as I grabbed the polaroid photo and placed it in my pocket.  Apologized to the teacher and quietly made my way to the gym and into my class line. 

The opening ceremony actually did not take that long. The principal gave us a warm welcome and introduced the teachers one by one along with the current student council. The principal introduced the clubs and I was disappointed to not even hear any 'photography clubs' at all. I'm not a very sporty or smart kid so these clubs will not be much of interest to me. They've also introduced the events and celebrations of the school and a little more about the year's schedule prior to new students like me. 

As students made their way back to their classrooms, I found myself looking around  in search of the lemon-scented girl earlier. She seemed nice and she’s the only one I have a reason to talk to so far. Aside the fact that I took her picture, I would love to get to know her more. 

Entering my classroom, I found a few students grouped together in a corner possibly gossiping about something. I have no intention of any involving myself just yet but seeing who they were fawning over made me pause. 

It's that girl earlier.

I took a deep breath and decided to approach the group but I soon stopped when I saw the expression on her face. Completely different from what I saw. She's smiling from ear to ear, her face is firm and oozing with confident. It made me wonder a bit if I just met a twin of hers, but that would have been insane. Come to think of it, I didn't see her in the line. I wonder where did she wander? 

Despite contemplating whether to approach her or not, I couldn't. The homeroom teacher came in just in time as I was making my way towards the group of people around her. Everyone took their seats and continued their chatter. I also picked a seat and looked back at her to see if there's any chance I might be able to at least wave hello, but her attention is on the person beside her. She seems to socialize well and get to hit it off with people pretty easy. 

“Hello everyone, good morning." The room immediately went quiet as the teacher spoke at the front. Without seeing any opportunity to even wave hello, I turned to the front to listen to the teacher's introduction and announcements. "My name is Taniguchi, Youko. I will be here to teach and guide you as your homeroom teacher all throughout until your graduation...” His introduction went on for quit a while explaining school rules, classroom rules and other stuff that needs to be addressed for the whole class to set. 

“... and to end, welcome to  Yokosuka High School. Finally, to start on the class, everyone here will introduce themselves, transferees or not. High School is a fresh new start and I hope you all make it worth it.” The whole class didn't seem thrilled of the introduction, but it is necessary and to be honest, I am quite nervous. Talking to one person is simply one thing, but talking to a whole class is indeed nerve-wrecking no matter how many times you do it. 

Despite the students groaning at the thought of introducing themselves, everybody stood up to introduce themselves. Some students were keeping close attention to the introductions. Probably looking for people that they could easily get along with. The introductions were pretty fun and interesting. Some made jokes, some made tricks and some were so energetic until finally, it was my turn to introduce myself. 

“Young miss? It’s your turn.” I simply nodded and took a deep breath as I made my way in front of the class, clenching on my fists to keep my nervousness in check. 

Smiling at everyone, I said “Hello, My name is Suzuki, Ajisai but you can call me Angea. I live not far from here in an apartment building with my mother Suzuki, Kaede. I love the outdoors and I want to go on countless unforgettable adventures. I hope we can all be friends and take pictures that we’ll be able to keep in the future.” After the introduction that felt like a chant for me, I quietly wrote my name in the board to show them how it is written and pronounced. Some few classmates of mine took an interest in my name and asked a few questions regarding it as 'Ajisai' means 'Hydrangea' in Japanese. 

A few people came after me as the whole room was filled with chatter, students here and there finding people they could be friends with. Until a particular student walking to the front silenced the whole class. To my surprise, it was her. As I looked at everyone, all of them were so keen to know her and I can't really deny I'm any less. I paused a bit as I was reminded of her photo that I took. 

Maybe I should give it to her? I didn't really get any permission to take her photo. 

“Good morning to everyone here. My name is Watanabe, Natsuki but you can all call me Su. It’s short and easy to remember. I live in Kurihama not far from here. My hobbies would be for you to personally ask. I hope we can all get along.” I felt appalled after her introduction. The voice I heard was completely different from when I met her earlier. She seems a lot more arrogant and so full of confidence that it did not sit with me that well.  It felt like I did not meet that sweet girl at all. Everybody seemed to admire her display of attitude as people on the class clapped as Watanabe took her time to get back to her seat. 

I shook my head and grinned at myself for how I was thinking. This is our second meeting after all, it isn't right to make a conclusion straight away. Either way, it does not concern me so I shouldn't be overthinking anything. 

“She’s a beauty, huh? You find her amusing?” The question startled me quite a bit as I shifted my gaze to the person sitting in front of me. Her eyes pierced at me as if she was reading and analyzing something. It filled me with uneasiness so I immediately looked away, hoping for her not to read anymore of my thoughts. 

“What do I know? I’m not interested in her.” Pausing at my own choice of words, I realized what came out of my mouth. 

Why would I even be interested?

A small panic rose inside of me and I meant to explain but I had a feeling whatever I say will be misunderstood either way, so I just uttered nothing. I simply glanced at her and boy, did she look so entertained. With a grin on her face, she stretched out her hand and offered me a handshake. 

“The name’s Sugawara, Naoko. Nao for short.” I pouted, showing her my discomfort of how she's assuming and concluding stuff about me. Despite the effort to push her back from her know-it-all smirk, she seemed to enjoy my response a lot more. 

“You’re a bit of tsundere, aren’t you Suzuki?” She chuckled. 

“Wanna join me and my friend for lunch later? There’s a nice place to hang out near the field.” With the mention of lunch, I immediately thought of Watanabe and glanced her way. I hoped I could invite her as well, but to no avail, three other girls were already fawning over her as a couple of guys were leering in. Maybe also hoping to invite her for lunch. 

No way I'd get a spot over that many reservations. 

I sighed and looked back at Nao and meekly smiled at her. “Sure. I’ll join you for lunch and also, please call me Angea.” The girl smiled and gave me a wink. 

“I can share you some fresh lemonade juice I made earlier.” She said in a teasing manner till finally turning to face the homeroom teacher as the whole class started talking about seating arrangements. 

After the teacher has decided, I ended up with Nao as my seatmate. She took my former spot near the hallway. Seating in front of her was Miyamoto, Sayuri, a very close friend of hers. The girl looked like a kindergarten, but talked maturely, telling me to call her 'Sayu' instead. I'm a bit surprised that they were friends as they totally are polar opposites. 

Nao is a bit mischievous and looks like she knows everything even if she was bluffing. Sayu on the other hand had a much more cheering personality to the point of adorableness.

After long hours of waiting, the bell rang, signifying that it was now lunchtime and Sayu is more than excited as she grabs me by my sleeve to pull me outside the classroom. “Come on, Angea! Our territory will soon be invaded.” Her sudden playfulness was a shock, but, it made me feel like an older sister so I smiled and just went along with her. 

“Yes, yes. I am but your humble knight that shall defend your territory.” I responded with a playful tone in my voice. And I swear Nao did not seem to like that because I felt her cold palm on my shoulder even between the fabric of my uniform. .

“She’s my daughter. Find your own missing lemon child.” I had a feeling Nao is a bit obsessive. So instead of stepping back, I held Sayu's small hands and smiled mockingly at her. 

“Let’s go.” Hearing Nao’s grunt and cold stare, I just laughed at myself for acting so silly despite my age. But I don't really want to mind that much as well. Being silly and being yourself is a part of the adventure I am seeking. 

After all, this is where the adventure starts...creating bonds with new people.