Chapter 1:

A Stranger


Every night I had the same dream. Since I took up residence in Tokyo, I kept having the same dream. Sometimes the setting would change, but what happened in it was inherently the same. I saw the same girl. She was always kneeling on all fours beyond the threshold of a door. She had worn clothes on, looked like jeans and a T-shirt. She must have had them on for several days, because the shirt was noticeably a darker color and stained. My eyes would always fight to focus as I saw this girl look up at me, then, in earnest, she would reach for me. This girl clearly needed help. My eyes would always clear right when the door closed, keeping the two of us from connecting. It happened every night now. I’d awake the same way, my body sweaty and my sheets wet. I’d roll over on my back, close my eyes, and try to focus. Maybe the girl was someone I knew. Every night, though, I’d forget her face. I’d never be able to recall her clearly.
My name was Tamaki Jones, I am a foreign exchange student from America. My mom was Japanese, hence the Japanese first name. Dad met Mom on a business trip and took her home to New York. Dad taught me the business ways while Mom taught me Japanese growing up. So I’m a bilingual business major, studying at the most prestigious business school in Tokyo, Hokkaido Academy. You’d think somewhere like Harvard or an Ivy League school would be more impressive, but apparently Hokkaido surpassed those by far. There were likely American instructors at the campus, so anyone attending had a multi-cultural perspective on how to plant business ideas in what market in order to have investments grow.
For me, I honestly was just going with the flow. I loved working with numbers and doing speeches about investments, but I was more creatively minded. While I saw the benefit of having a high-paying job, that was never my passion. Not as much as art, which I was pursuing as secondary to my business classes. I had part of my studio apartment, which I paid for, converted into an arts studio. My work varied from more serious, well-thought-out paintings of still life and portraits to smears and splatter works. I just set up the canvas and let my imagination flow. That, at least, was what I liked to do in my spare time. In the meantime, I worked very hard on my classes, making almost top grades. This was my first semester, and I’d already completed four paintings, and was working on two more. Needless to say, I was using my time in Tokyo wisely. Then, like most stories of life, things changed. Mine happened all at once after one night where I had the same dream as I had for the two months that I had been in Tokyo.

I looked up, my eyes trying to focus as I started to make out the speaker. It was a girl, kneeling on all fours just beyond a door. I don’t know where we were, but I could tell the girl needed help. She turned towards me and I could see her face clearly. She had a fair completion, large green eyes, and short pink hair done up in curls. She reached for me with her closest hand, wanting help, but as soon as I walked towards her, we were separated by something that shut the door between us. Then I woke up, my dream fading into black.
I was breathing heatedly. I couldn’t believe this; this dream was going on for far too long. Lying awake, I could only think of one thing to do when I had something running my mind for this long. Clicking on a couple lights, I leapt up from my bed and walked quickly over to my canvases. Casting a covering over a blank one aside, I blinked to focus my eyes as I looked for some charcoal. I closed my eyes for a moment, thinking about the dream. Trying to remember, remember anything, even a facial shape. Surely, if I could bring to life at least one detail, I could remember the rest. Maybe it would take some time, but I would soon bring this girl life. It was the only way I knew to come to peace with this dream.
I started to sketch, hoping to jog my memory as a basic facial structure came into focus. I thought I remembered curls, and made some wispy marks to indicate the presence of the curly hair as I focused on the eyes. The eyes were big and beautiful, the color though was escaping me. Blue? Maybe green; had to be one or the other. I made some etch marks alongside the eyes of both blue and green so I could recall those later. The eyes only took a couple seconds to sketch out, then I finished the facial shape and moved towards the mouth. She was troubled, I wrote that on the edge of the canvas to go by later, and drew a simple frown. After a few more minutes, I paused, looking the sketch over.
I looked down, taking a deep breath, and looked back up, ready to add more to the painting. I nearly dropped my charcoal with what I saw. I saw a hand, a little smaller than mine, with its fingers extended, pressed against the canvas. My eyes followed the hand to the arm and on to the face that it was connected to. A girl stood there, right beside me, I hadn’t even heard her enter. She was exactly identical to the girl I’d seen in my dreams. I gasped, my eyes growing wide. The girl was standing right there, wordlessly, she turned and looked at me, her pink curls cascading aside to reveal her large green eyes. I had at least remembered the color, I thought in the back of my mind. She looked at me, then smiled. She had a very nice smile. For some reason, I didn’t want to speak. This felt like a dream, a beautiful closure to the unexplained events that had transpired since I came to Tokyo. If this was a dream, I didn’t want to disturb it. Then the girl spoke. She had a soft voice that was very pleasant to hear.
“This looks just like me,” she said, “but why am I so distressed?” She looked at the portrait quizzically, as though trying to decipher it.
“I don’t know,” I said, looking at it myself, “but it’s what I see every night since I’ve arrived here. You were in trouble, and you needed help.”
I looked back at her, and the girl, who must have been close to my age, looked at me.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“My name is Meeshee.” The woman said with a smile. Then her face grew a bit more serious as she took her hand off the canvas, which had been there the whole time we spoke.
“Come find me!” She said, then she ran away from the art studio.
“Wait! Meeshee!” I hollered, standing up.