Chapter 10:

Still Not Right

Life Eats Us Now

After a seemingly endless day of classes, I trudged my way to the one place that had become as unfamiliar as a hidden realm – the teacher's office. As I approached, there was Mr. Clair, standing there, waiting. He leaned casually against the doorframe, but the small wrinkle on his forehead hinted at his thoughts. It was the kind of look you have when you're expecting someone but not entirely sure if they'll show up.

"Oh, Reol, you're here." His eyes shifted to me as I appeared before him, and he didn't waste any time getting to the point. "I probably should've asked this earlier, but do you still want to be part of the literature club?"

I'd been wrestling with that very question myself. It felt like standing at a crossroads, but I didn't need a second to think about my answer. "Yes."

Mr. Clair's expression remained somewhat doubtful, as if he wasn't entirely convinced of my determination. "You don't have to push yourself, you know. You can choose whichever club you want to be a part of." But I had already made my decision, and I genuinely wanted to give it a chance. 

"N-no, I want to give it a try... who knows, maybe I'll end up liking it."

The uncertainty still flickered in Mr. Clair's eyes. Nonetheless, he conceded, and a nod of acknowledgment passed between us. "Alright, Reol, I admire your enthusiasm. Let me show you to the club room."

As we left the teacher's office, we began our journey through the maze-like school corridors. The halls were nearly empty, with only faint voices and distant footsteps breaking the silence.

Finally, we reached the club room—a cozy, snug space filled with a long table in the middle, along with towering bookshelves pushed against the walls, each one bursting with an impressive collection of books. I couldn't help but feel a flutter of excitement as I glanced around the room. However, to my surprise, it was deserted, devoid of any other club members.

"Mr. Clair, didn't you say there were two other students in the club besides me?"

Mr. Clair responded with a resigned shrug. "They have a habit of wandering off, to be honest. Even when they're supposed to be in the club room, you won't find them here."

With no sign of the two missing members, Mr. Clair motioned for me to follow him. We carried on, navigating deeper into the school's intricate corridors. As we walked, there was an extended silence. It wasn't until we passed several more closed classroom doors that I couldn't help but ask, "Mr. Clair, where are we heading?"

It was only when we continued past several more closed classroom doors that he decided to offer some clarity. "I maybe have a clue where the other two are."

Just then, the faint, delicate strains of a piano, much like the day before, began to waft through the air. The notes were gentle, calming, and utterly entrancing, weaving a melody that felt like it belonged to another world. The sound drew me in, pulling me closer as if it were a bewitching charm. It couldn't be a mere coincidence that we were also headed in the direction of this alluring melody, like moths drawn to a flame.

If my hunch is correct, it was Adica playing the piano once again today. I couldn't be entirely sure, but it seemed like she was playing the same tunes from yesterday. Enchanting in a way like yesterday, that stirred something beyond the ordinary.

Finally, we halted in front of the music room. For a moment, it appeared as though Mr. Clair had stopped as well, captivated by the music. As his hand reached for the door handle, I turned to him, not understanding what he's even thinking. "W-what are we doing here, Mr. Clair?"

Mr. Clair, still keeping his words to himself, silently slid the door open, revealing a sight that left me utterly perplexed.

Inside, my eyes met the gaze of two girls, Emma and Adica. They were seated in the center of the room, surrounded by an odd collection of musical instruments. All of us seemed equally puzzled by what was unfolding. Finally, Mr. Clair decided to give some clarity. "Do you two even plan on staying in the club? You're always just fooling around in here."

Emma stared into space for a moment before stepping in the conversation, "But, Mr. Clair, there's not much to do in the club... really."

At that moment, I finally understood the reason for Mr. Clair's unexpected diversion. All along, I had been wondering about who might be missing from the literature club, and to my surprise, it turned out to be Emma and Adica.

"Well, if that's your choice, go ahead. But please, don't leave the club room deserted, or I might have to dissolve the club."

Emma leaned forward on her chair. "So, why are you here, and why is he with you?"

"Oh, you both know Reol?"

"Well, Mr. Neighbor over there is in the same class as us."

Adica's response was quieter, but her gaze finally turned towards me. It felt like our eyes were meeting for the first time, despite having sat beside her in class all this while.

"Then that saves me a lot of unnecessary explanation. I'm just here to let you both know that starting today, Reol is joining the literature club as well."

With the curtains drawn, the room was bathed in a soft, muted light, letting in a seeping darkness that played over the floors and walls. Adica's eyes, like sparkling gems, resembled stars plucked from the night sky and set within her gaze. They held a welcoming warmth.

However, Emma's reaction was starkly different. "Huh!?" She didn't vocalize it, but her expression gave away her surprise. Though it's hardly even my fault... Mr. Clair kept me in the dark up until now, and thus I'm caught in this mess of a weird surprise.

Mr. Clair's departure left the three of us in a room brimming with unspoken tension. Adica's gaze remained locked on the piano's keys, her fingers lightly caressing the notes placed on top of it. The melody of the notes her fingers had played were still lingering in my ear, like a farfetched echo that still reverberated within the room. Meanwhile, Emma's eyes darted back and forth between Adica and me, intense and probing, making me feel increasingly uneasy.

I could feel those black scribbles tightening their loose on me. I kept my eyes towards the floor, trying to ease up a bit. The silence pressed upon me, as heavy as a suffocating blanket, threatening to stifle any conversation. I strained to come up with something to say, to dispel this oppressive atmosphere. But before I could find the words, Adica's voice cut through the stillness like a warm breeze on a chilly day. "Welcome to the literature club, Reol. We're glad to have you."

Her words held a serenity that contrasted with the tension in the room. I found myself taken aback, stumbling over my response. "Oh... yeah... um, thanks..." Was this the first time she had spoken to me? I couldn't be sure, but her voice had an inexplicable calming effect, much like the melody from her piano. It felt like I could listen to her all day without ever growing weary.

She followed up with a small smile, a touch of warmth in her otherwise composed demeanor. "You can just call me Adica. And she's Emma, in case you didn't catch her name. We are the only two members of the literature club."

I tried to bring my eyes up towards Adica. Her gaze just gently remained right on mine, yet stroked by those black lines. "Yeah, Mr. Clair mentioned that." 

I had spent a significant amount of time wondering about what she might have thought of me. In my own thoughts, I'd been underestimating myself. But maybe... she never saw me the way I assumed. Perhaps it's just me...

But now, it feels a bit less suffocating... my thoughts, my words...

Emma, leaning casually against a nearby desk with her arms crossed, couldn't seem to contain her curiosity any longer. "So... did he twist your arm into joining this club too?"

I let out a nervous chuckle, feeling a bit like the new kid in school. "Well, he did suggest it, but I decided to give it a try. Were you two coerced into joining as well?"

"Isn't it obvious? Why else would we be idling here?"

A sigh of relief slipped past my lips. It felt as though the tension was gradually dissipating, and an unspoken understanding settled among us. "I understand," I murmured softly.

Emma gave a teasing smirk. "Well, welcome to the club of the reluctantly willing."

I couldn't stifle a laugh at her words, a genuine smile forming on my face. It might have been a small gesture, but it carried a significant weight in thawing the frost that had gripped our interactions. In that moment, a flicker of hope ignited within me, suggesting that perhaps, just perhaps, this literature club wouldn't be as daunting as my initial apprehensions had led me to believe.

"So, Mr. Neighbor, if you've got nothing else to ask or say, you should probably get going."

", yeah," I reluctantly agreed, my instincts urging me towards the exit. I was ready to make my escape. But something inside me pulled at my conscience. Near the door, my head tilted slightly, my eyes finding Adica seated at the piano.

"Adica, your piano playing... it's really beautiful. I didn't get to hear much, but what I did hear was truly amazing and soothing."

I'd been holding onto that thought almost the entire day before, and I couldn't keep it in any longer. It was out of character for me, I knew that. But for some inexplicable reason, I was ready for whatever Adica's response might be, or whatever Emma might do... and finally, I had the chance to share it with her.

As soon as my words reached Emma's ears, a peculiar smile stretched across her face, casting an eerie aura about her. She nodded in response, her agreement carrying an unsettling undertone. It was then that I learned that Emma held an unusual fascination with anything related to Adica, a curiosity that appeared to teeter on the edge of obsession.

"Adica has always possessed remarkable talent," Emma proclaimed with pride. "In fact, she even clinched a few regional prizes during her younger years."

Emma drew closer to Adica, enfolding her in a protective embrace that held a motherly tenderness. It was as if Adica were her very own, cherished child. "Listening to her play the piano is like heaven to me," Emma confessed with a sigh of contentment. "You have no idea."

My words sprang from me without much thought. "Your parents must be really proud of you too."

It felt like stacking blocks, one upon the other, painstakingly building upward. The higher they rose, the more precarious it became, edging on the brink, susceptible to crumbling with even the slightest nudge. And when that inevitable moment arrived, no amount of strength could prevent their inevitable descent.

Before I could elaborate further, Emma interjected abruptly, her words crashing into the room like an unexpected thunderbolt. "Reol!"

Then, in a startling turn of events, Adica's hands descended upon the piano keys in a chaotic frenzy of discordant notes. She surged abruptly to her feet, the chair's legs grating harshly against the floor, while the piano bench crashed to the ground in her sudden ascent.

Her unanticipated and swift movement sent a shockwave of surprise rippling through me. I remained frozen, unable to react in time, as she snatched up her bag and flung it over her shoulder. Her wide eyes avoided mine, as well as Emma's, for a fleeting moment, as if she were afraid... afraid that we might glimpse something she wished to conceal. Though not entirely certain, that sensation bore an oddly familiar quality, leaving me rooted to the spot.

I couldn't decide whether to follow her or not, but before my legs could make a definitive choice, Emma turned to me. Her eyes narrowed, a mixture of frustration and an unsettling undercurrent dancing within them. "Don't chase after her."