Chapter 22:

A Lump Of Clay

We Are ☆ Star Club!

Why did Erica sign us all up for the pottery workshop? She even fought with the president so we didn't have to pay for it. While I was glad for that, I still couldn't wrap my head around the whole thing. The question followed me throughout the day, until we actually arrived at the art classroom's door. I still wasn't sure how I felt about it, but the others seemed not to mind it, even though it was an after-school activity. Maybe I was just doing it for Erica. The girl seemed excited at the prospect of learning how to do pottery. I personally didn't think I could make anything out of a wet lump of clay. I mean, I've never even touched the stuff before. But that won't stop me from trying, I guess.Bookmark here

Outside, it rained, so there also wasn't anything else we could really do. But seeing the excitement in my friends' eyes, I couldn't help but be happy, too. It couldn't be too bad, right?Bookmark here

Suddenly, a woman who must be our workshop teacher came towards us, waving her hand.Bookmark here

"Ah, welcome, girls!"Bookmark here

I was overwhelmed. She didn't look like any other woman I've met before. She was clothed in layers upon layers of fabric, all of them thin and colorfully dyed. Her style somehow reminded me of Arisu, even though it still was more muted than what our friend wore. Her arms were bare, aside from a few bracelets on her wrists. The paint of her nails was chipped, and I could see clay under them. Her messy, dark hair was up in a bun, and she wore thick glasses with a dark, wooden frame.Bookmark here

She looked very out of place, and at the same time, I couldn't think of a person that looked more suited to teaching pottery. She had a big, sweet smile on her face, and radiated excitement. It just convinced me more that this was going to be fun, even if I was horrible at it.Bookmark here

"Ah, Erica. I'm glad to see you again."Bookmark here

"Hi, Barbara."Bookmark here

Erica gave her a small nod, but didn't say anything more. Now, her energy had changed, and it almost seemed like she was nervous. No, that couldn't be right - our calm, collected Erica just couldn't be nervous. I was probably projecting. Pudding was leaning against her, almost dozing off.Bookmark here

"Come on in, don't be shy. I've already prepared everything."Bookmark here

The woman opened the door, and we sat down at the table. Thankfully, I took a seat between Arisu and Maria, making myself as small as I could. Yes, I was definitely nervous.Bookmark here

"We're going to start with getting to know the clay. Knead it, squish it, feel it. See what it wants to tell you."Bookmark here

Oh no. I looked at the bit of clay in front of me. This stuff is supposed to tell me something? Not literally, I guess. Still, that seems... weird. Hesitantly, I grabbed it, feeling it under my hand. It was harder than I would have guessed. As if it still was part of the soil, and not some wet, soft, squishy thing. For whatever reason, that realization made it easier for me.Bookmark here

The teacher, Barbara, strolled around, looking at our work with the clay. She even offered advice. She came closer and closer to our table, and finally stopped next to Arisu.Bookmark here

"I don't think I've ever seen someone with such colorful hair! How do you dye it?," she asked.Bookmark here

"Oh, it's natural," Arisu answered absent-mindedly.Bookmark here

"Really? You must have some interesting genetics."Bookmark here

"Uh-huh."Bookmark here

Arisu was still kneading her clay, clearly not satisfied with it. Barbara noticed that, and after watching her for a moment, pointed at the table.Bookmark here

"Try throwing it on here. It will get rid of the air bubbles."Bookmark here

Arisu didn't seem really convinced. Still, she raised her clay-covered hand in the air, and smacked the ball of clay down with force. With a heavy thunk it landed on the flat surface.Bookmark here

"Great! And again. You don't want any air bubbles left in it."Bookmark here

"I can do that."Bookmark here

She threw down the clay again and again, the sound echoing through the room. The others followed, and a strange rhythm started to occur. I was the only one still unsure, with my bit of clay in my hands. Wait, why did Barbara comment on Arisu's hair? She shouldn't be able to tell something is off, right?Bookmark here

I glanced at our teacher. Her glasses made her eyes look gigantic, but even then, they had a warm, approving glint in them. I couldn't help but smile when I looked at her. But I wouldn't be distracted. What if she's an alien, too? Arisu couldn't be the only one. She wanted to come to Earth, so she knew about our planet. And others probably did, as well.Bookmark here

But why would an alien teach pottery?Bookmark here

Suddenly, I heard her behind me.Bookmark here

"Come on, don't be shy. Just throw it on the table. It won't break."Bookmark here

She gave me an encouraging smile, and I saw her big earrings dangle with every movement. I breathed in, gathering courage. This is stupid. I should just do it, really. I exhaled, and threw it.Bookmark here

During the entire class I felt a bit behind the others. My first bowl was lop-sided, the edges uneven, and I had no idea if the glaze was evenly applied or spotty. Still, it was fun. But I had even more fun watching my friends. Erica attempted to make a vase, but with its enormous proportions, I could only imagine giant flowers in it. It hung a bit to the side, but she seemed proud of it nonetheless. Pudding wasn't quite as excited as the rest of us, and she made a... plate, I guessed. But while the shape wasn't super impressive, she carved some small doodles on it, which was really cute. The real stars of the workshop were Arisu and Maria. Apparently, Maria had a real talent for sculpting small animals. She made a mouse, a dog, a turtle, and even a great miniature of Lulu for me. Arisu made something like a PURIRIN out of clay, together with a tiny bed for it to sit on. The whole thing looked great and very smooth. I didn't dare touch it, even though I really, really wanted to.Bookmark here

At the end of the workshop, we loaded our clay into the furnace, and were told to collect it in a few days. While Barbara stayed behind to clean the last of our mess, we went outside. It had stopped to rain, but I couldn't enjoy the weather. My thoughts were still with the teacher. So, while we made our way back home, I turned to Arisu.Bookmark here

"Hey, was she an alien?"Bookmark here

I just had to ask. But Arisu seemed genuinely surprised.Bookmark here

"Huh?"Bookmark here

I shrugged, trying to explain my thought.Bookmark here

"Maybe like a, uh, long-stay tourist? She could see your hair, after all."Bookmark here

"Oooh." She thought about it for a moment. "Good question. Let me see."Bookmark here

She pulled out PURIRIN from her hair, which made a small, disgruntled noise. Arisu held it close to her face, looking into the small UFO.Bookmark here

"Did you notice anything? Hm?"Bookmark here

PURIRIN made some more noise. I didn't understand, but Arisu nodded at the melody. After it stopped, she put PURIRIN away again.Bookmark here

"No. She's just a regular human," she explained to me.Bookmark here

"Huh. Weird."Bookmark here

I looked up at the sky. There were still some clouds, light gray, and I doubted that we would see the stars tonight. But I was honestly so tired from the workshop that I probably wouldn't even stay up anyways. That made me remember the wonderful day we just had. I grinned at Arisu.Bookmark here

"You were really good."Bookmark here

"Thank you!"Bookmark here

Her hair did an excited little wiggle.Bookmark here

"Did you ever do this stuff back home? Or, something similar to it?"Bookmark here

I couldn't imagine that this was the first time she had worked with clay, or something clay-like. But she shook her head.Bookmark here

"No. There wasn't much to do at home. Well, besides learning."Bookmark here

I nodded. It really sounded like this was an escape for her. I couldn't imagine how bleak it would be, spending all my days learning, without my friends.Bookmark here

"I'm just glad I have PURIRIN with me."Bookmark here

At that, she took out the small thing again, softly petting it. While I didn't quite understand it, the creature-thing was somewhere between a phone and a pet for her. And sometimes, it really had a mind of its own. It wriggled free from her affection, and flew through the air around her, making some more sounds. Finally, it landed on her shoulder, where the little bulb on top blinked happily.Bookmark here

"Well, then, you're just a natural." I giggled. "And you can even take your little clay PURIRIN home with you!"Bookmark here

The words were out quicker than my thoughts. I instantly froze. No. Arisu wouldn't go home anytime soon. Right?Bookmark here

She seemed to understand what I was thinking, and lay a hand on my shoulder.Bookmark here

"I'm not going anywhere."Bookmark here

I smiled, feeling relieved.Bookmark here

"Yeah, well, we're not letting you."Bookmark here

An awkward laugh escaped me.Bookmark here

"There's still so much to do, and sweets to eat, and..."Bookmark here

Arisu nodded.Bookmark here

"That's right. And I'm so glad that I met you girls, out of all the humans."Bookmark here

I leaned against her, as her hair wrapped us in a big, warm hug against the cool air.Bookmark here

"Same goes for you. I couldn't imagine our lives without you."Bookmark here

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