School For The Mediums
“You know, your father sent me an email,” Mom said, pulling her seat out to sit down at the table. In her free hand was a small drink pitcher filled with some reddish-pink juice.
“Yeah?” I raised my fork, looking down to my plate; one perfectly cooked steaming yellow omelet with a side of chopped melons, and strawberry drizzle on top---plated and arraigned just like a professional would.
“He said by Friday he should be close enough in orbit for proper video chat.”
“Yeah?” I nodded, digging my fork into the omelet which was now revealed to be filled with rice. Or more accurately a secret omurice.
“So,” Mom continued, grabbing my cup. “I was thinking we could sit down Friday and have a little family get-together. Like the old times. Sound good?” Looking at me, she poured the pitcher of juice into my cup.
“---And don’t you dare say yeah again,” she firmly said with a smile whilst offering my cup back.
I met her eyes, taking the cup. “…Sure.” I looked away, taking a sip of the mystery pink juice.
The moment I did, I was hit with the sweet, tangy, tongue tantalizing delicious taste of blended dragon fruit, strawberry, and kiwi. The ratio was flavorful and every refreshing sip built on the other. Everything Mom makes is like this.
I glanced back at the omurice on my plate. The color, texture, and smell of the eggs were just right. Perfect, that really was the word to describe everything she made.
Mom was meant to be a chef. That was her talent. A talent she choose to give up, all because of me.
“We never did finish unpacking those boxes that the board games and cards,” Mom said, interrupting my thoughts. “But I can go find them so we have something to play together with on Friday.”
“Yea---Sure.” I drank the last of my drink, setting the cup down.
“I think it will be fun.” She widened her soft smile.
“Mmhm.” I bobbed my head, giving her a nod.
After that, we fell into silence. Just eating the rest of our breakfast in cold stiff silence.
“I’m gonna head off to school now.” I finished my plate and stood up.
“Okay.” Mom stood up too, trailing behind me as I paced to the front doors. “You look nice today.” She leaned by the shoe wall as I put on my shoes.
“Thanks.” I focused on tapping the heel of my shoes.
“And I see you’ve been ironing your school uniform without me.” She looked me up and down from my navy-blue pleated skirt to my uniform blouse and blazer.
“Yeah, kind of.” I picked up my school handbag, the weight of it, swaying in my hold.
“You did a good job.”
“Thanks.” I was already to the doors, ready to leave.
“Hadiza,” Mom called me as I opened the doors, outside sunlight running inside.
I had to turn my head to face her. “Yeah?”
Without warning, she came over and wrapped me in a hug. “You know I love you?” She squeezed me tight.
For a moment, I remained still in her warm gentle embrace. Of course, I knew she loved me. And Dad too. I knew that both of them loved me.
But I also know they loved Aoko, and I know they loved Aoko more.
“…I do.” I pulled away, seeing Mom’s tender smile.
“Have a good day at school, then.”
I nodded my head and went out the doors.
Almost immediately, I had to squint. The daylight was much brighter and the row of brightly painted houses along the street only increased the light by refracting it.
At least the weather was nice, not too hot, and not too chilly. It was just mild with a gentle breeze blowing by. The skies too, were a bright ocean blue, only a few cotton clouds floating by. In a sky so clear like that Aoko would have told me to look for the stars you can see with the naked eye.
She was good at that. She could probably point out a hundred constellations in just a few minutes.
Just like this, her head was always facing the skies. She always knew where to look, and to her, the blue world above was full of potential.
As for me?
The sky still looked like just a sky.
I quickly looked down and clutched my bag.
“Hadi-chan!” I heard a loud high-pitched girlish voice echoing behind me. “Hadi-chan!” Shizuko was running toward me so I slowed down my walking speed.
“Shizuko,” I said, as she stopped in front of me, panting.
She looked a mess. Her peach pink hair was spiked and going in every direction. Her white shirt blouse was buttoned incorrectly, and her skirt was a little crooked. Even her hot pink knee-high bunny socks were put on inside out.
“Whew.” She wiped the sweat off her forehead. “You should have texted me that you were leaving for school!” Her pink eyes expanded as she breathed. “You have to stop forgetting to text me!”
I adjusted my grip on the handbag handles. “Sorry.”
“Hadi….” She made a little pout. “We’re supposed to walk to school together!” she softly said, staring dewy-eyed at me. “I’m gonna feel lonely if I can’t walk to school with my best friend. With enough time of you forgetting, I’m gonna develop….” She placed a hand over her mouth. “…Friendship neglect,” she dramatically shuddered.
I drew a long blink. “Sorry.”
“Are you really?” she sniffled, moping.
“I am. We’ll walk to school together more often.”
A big smile took over her face. “And you won’t forget to text me again?”
“I’ll try.” I turned, starting to walk.
“You really will?” She bounced to my side, walking with peppy strides.
“Said I’ll try,” I confirmed, looking ahead to the distance.
“Alright.” I heard her sigh. “You better text me.”
“Sure.” I kept my walking pace steady. Shizuko was just a foot shorter than me, so her strides always fell a few steps behind.
“I’m gonna check my phone every single hour of the day looking for your text! And-and! If you don’t text me, I will spam your phone until it breaks! You hear me, Hadi-chan?”
“I do, yeah.”
“Okay.” Her smile grew even wider. “Now, guess what I heard yesterday?” She raised her voice high.
“What did you hear?” Out of the cut of my eye, I could see her shuffling through her bag. She was eagerly looking for what I’m certain could be sugary and sweet.
“New transfer student! He’s gonna be---Aha~!” she sang, pulling out a candy bar as if she found gold. The candy packaging was colored metallic black, the only color coming from the sparkly rainbow title that spelled; Mystery Bites.
“That again?” I watched as her fingers worked quickly to tear the plastic wrapper.
“You know it is!” She showed me a full set of white teeth at me. “I’m not gonna stop until we can figure out all of the Mystery Bite flavors, and win the grand ‘mysterious prize.’” She theatrically gestured with the bar in hand, eyes sparkling with a hopeful gleam.
Mystery Bites. They were running a really good marketing scheme. Buy one of our ‘mystery bites’ and if you can find out what’s inside you can win a ‘mysterious prize’. Figure out what’s inside all of them, and you win the ‘grand’ and ‘majestic mysterious prize’. You can just hear the ominous music from that one. That, or the blaring alarms that it was a rigged scam.
I quietly sighed as Shizuko took a big chunk out of the candy bar.
The moment she bit it; her look of determined joy sunk into a scrunched-up face of disgust.
It was the type of response I expected.
“EW!” she shrieked, spitting it out.
“What? It doesn’t taste good, again?” I eyed her as she tried to wipe her tongue off with her free hand. She looked like a cat violently grooming herself.
“It’s so gross! What the heck is in here?” She whipped the wrapper around back and forth. She did a lot of staring but the black wrapper wasn’t going to give her any hints. There wasn’t even an ingredient or nutrition label. Which I’m nearly sure is illegal.
“Blegh!” She stuck out her tongue. “So nasty.”
“What did you expect?”
At this rate, she should’ve known. Besides being possibly rigged, one of the reasons why no one had ever won the so-called grand and majestic ‘Mysterious Prize’ was because smart people avoided the Mystery Bites like the plague. Nearly all of the Mystery Bites candies were disgusting, or inedible, and there was no in-between.
“I don’t know,” she whimpered. Sniffing up the air, she gave me a stare. “Heyyy, friend?” She looked at me with pleading big puppy eyes.
I already knew that look. “No,” I curtly replied with a slight shake of my head.
“Oh, come on Hadi-chan! Pleaseee?” she begged, dragging out her voice. “You’re the one with the really cool Michelin Star Chef Mom, the Spaceman Dad, and you know, I wouldn’t ask you for help if I had tastebuds like yours, or was half as awesome and cool as you are---.”
“---Fine.” I held out my hand.
With a little happy stomp of her feet, she squealed. “Yay! Here you go.” She proudly offered me the candy.
Taking it with a little exhale, I took a small nibble from the strange colored candy bar.
“So?” She was burning holes into me as I chewed slowly. “You have any idea what’s in it?”
I pruned my lips. The candy had an acidic sting to it, and the longer it stayed on my tongue, my mouth tingled. “…I don’t know.” I chewed even more slowly, trying to pick up just a hint of something normal. But it was sour and yet also bitter with no distinguished taste. Even the texture was odd, it was crunchy like sand but was melting like chocolate.
I scrunched up my nose. It was actually starting to burn a little now. “I can’t tell. Pencil shavings maybe?” Wincing, I handed her back the bar.
“Pencil shavings? Is that what’s really in there?”
“I don’t know.” My nose was getting itchy.
“But your tongue never lies. We wouldn’t have won 6 mystery prizes if your palate weren’t so amazing.”
6 mystery prizes was a stretch. Maybe the whole mystery prize thing was. One of the ‘prizes’ was a pencil eraser. Another was the plastic wrapper of the candy bar itself. Collector’s edition they said.
A tickle was starting in my nose so I briefly rubbed it with the back of my hand. “I don’t know what’s in there but it’s gross.”
“They wouldn’t put pencil shavings into their candy. They’re toxic, aren’t they? They can’t put that inside of a candy.” She peered at the wrapper.
“Last one was birthday cake infused with ‘sweet fish oil’,” I dryly replied, my mouth still tingling.
“Okay, maybe they would.” She frowned. “But still, it’s Mystery Bites! We can’t give up now! We’ll only stop when we’re dead---.”
We both froze, a blood-curdling scream so loud I’m sure both our hearts skipped a beat.