Rubber bottoms squeaking across the floor as kids funneled in through the back entrance. Bundling up on top of one another as they speedily yearned for their respective shoe boxes. Stumbling as they tried to squeeze into shoes that were already too small for their growing feet. As they all pattered off one after the other to their classrooms, one student casually stepped up from the recessed entrance and onto the hallway floor. A red backpack over her shoulders that glistened with its unscathed finish, she trotted off behind the rest; only focused on her own little world. As she passed the first set of double doors, she glanced over at the wall beside her. Photographs of the school’s recent bunkasai; a culture day festival held by most Japanese schools, were pinned up in the main lobby of the school. She couldn’t join the rest of her classmates that day due to a sudden health emergency that flared up that morning, and therefore found little enjoyment in gushing over it like the rest of the students were. Nearly trampling over one another with their eyes a glow as they chattered back and forth about the day’s events.
Making her way up to the third floor she was greeted by the cheery face of Minami. An energetic and rather obnoxious classmate that was usually welcoming to most people she met; but having known her for almost a year now, her true intentions were clear. Band together a group of “friends” so that she herself could feel important. Desperate? Maybe. Did it truly matter in the end? Not really.
“Atarashii ryukku katta jan! I could tell it was new from waaay over here!” Minami blurted out with her eyes rounder than two Krispy Kreme donuts staring down at the girl’s backpack. “Se yanna,” the girl replied with confirmation, “My father bought it for me before he left for Kyoto.”
“Ehhh, really?” Minami stated as she eyed the bag up and down. Was she gonna make this a reason to be jealous? The girl thought to herself in the moment.
“Why does your father travel so much?”
“It’s for work. He does something with computers.”
“My dad said computers are a waste of time.”
The girl then languidly shrugged her shoulders, clearly indicating that she lacked any real interest in where the conversation was leaning towards. Besides, neither one of them really knew much about computers to begin with.
Suddenly a stampede of kids came flooding up the stairs, funneling into different directions down the hall like wild animals dispersing from the clutches of a predator. And just in that same moment, Mr. Kurumi appeared at the top of the staircase, watching as all the students scattered into their classrooms. One last straggler, Mitsuki, breezed past, shoving Minami out of the way.
“Nee! Sensei… Mitsuki!” she cried out to Mr. Kurumi who nonchalantly walked towards the doorway and asked the two girls to hurry up and take a seat.
As class commenced, Mr. Kurumi went down the attendance list, calling out each student one by one with each replying on tune like a classroom choir.
“Ichi. Ryuusuke. Minami. Yoshika. Toki. Fuyu… Fuyu!”
Having lost focus, she promptly looked over to the front of the room. “Class is starting, time to wake up,” he chanted before continuing down the list.
The rest of the day went on as usual, but as time passed on Fuyu found herself increasingly distracted by the outside world. Her mind was almost adrift whenever she let her thoughts simmer away in the content of the daily mundane activities that the world outside the window projected at her. It was cathartic.
One pedal after the other. She watched them fall one by one from up above as she sat beneath the cherry blossom trees at the back of the playground. Why cherry blossoms had to be such a temporary occurrence always seemed like an anomaly, but at the same time why give it much thought when admiring it was so much more worth the time, she conversed with herself in her own little head.
“I wonder how much pedals a tree has.” A small voice spoke out to her. It came from a girl dressed in black leggings, blue denim shorts, and a yellow t-shirt. She stood over Fuyu gazing up at the cherry blossoms, completely captivated by their momentary beauty. Oh yeah… you’re in my class also, Fuyu confirmed in her own head. Toki Haruhi, the one classmate that Fuyu barely ever spoke with. She sat down beside Fuyu with her back against the trunk of the tree and watched the pedals sway back and forth as they floated off to the sandy playground field.
“Think we can count them all?” Toki asked Fuyu with an odd determination written across her face. “No,” Fuyu bluntly replied, but somehow in the end the two of them found themselves counting away at the tiny pedals while the rest of school carried on with their pandemonium and excitement.
“It’s truly strange to see these things blooming so early in the year.” The two girls looked over to their right to find the school nurse standing over them. “It’s practically a month too soon. I guess it could be this unexpected warm weather we’ve been experiencing, but who knows. It could all be a glitch.” she ranted with her mouth turned sideways. The two looked up at her as if they were in the presence of a deity. Completely oblivious to what she was referring to. “My mom has a jacket just like that,” Toki then stated with joy in her eyes. “I’m sure she does, the nurse replied before following with, “The bell rang already. Everyone else is already on their way back to class and you two should get going as well.” “Cleaning is boring,” Toki complained as she popped up and sprinted off towards the entrance. The nurse then lifted Fuyu by her arm and hurried her along as well. “Go on now, I don’t want Mr. Kurumi talking to me again about how you’re always late to class after lunch.”
“Hai!” Fuyu confirmed as she too scampered off behind the rest of kids, gripping a single cherry blossom pedal in her hand.
Lugging her bag from her classroom locker, Fuyu was startled when Minami dragged her over by her bag strap to embroil her in her bickering with Mitsuki. Fuyu never caught the details but it seemed like two overly zealous egos colliding with one another for a seat at the top of a frailly built pedestal. Why she had to become a part of it was anyone’s guess, yet regardless, here she was. “Fuyu, doesn’t being better at computers mean you're smarter?” Minami excoriatingly asked. Fuyu glanced at her with utter puzzlement as Minami’s fickle behavior never ceased to make her mind stutter. Isn’t this the exact opposite of what you were saying this morning? Fuyu thought to herself, but ultimately chose not to respond. Mitsuki shoved his way in between the two of them as he ranted, “The game was designed to make it easier for people like you, so you’re actually cheating.” Minami then wrapped her fingers around Fuyu’s bag strap and tugged her forward, raising her voice as she yelled into Mitsuki’s face, “her dad is a computer guy, so she knows that’s not true. I beat you which means you’re stupider than me.” Mitsuki, in a rage, shoved his forearm across Fuyu’s chest as he fixed himself to bark down Minami. Fuyu lost her footing and tumbled backwards, Minami’s hand still yanking on the bag in the opposing direction. Fuyu hit the floor with a thud and her bag slipped from her arm, hitting the floor moments later. The room swiftly fell quiet as all the students gathered around the chaos. Her eyes began to shimmer as the urge to break into tears crept up on her.
“Ah… gomen…” Minami timidly whispered out her apology. For once, true sincerity could be heard in her voice.
“Your mom is gonna be upset,” Toki chimed in as she stared down at Fuyu’s backpack. The red leather fabric had pulled apart from the rest of the shoulder strap. As everyone watched in awe, Fuyu found herself falling victim to her own emotions as the only sounds she could speak were those of her weeping.
Everyone in the class then immediately turned towards the door as Mr. Kurumi stormed in as infuriated as ever.
“What’s going on in here!”
She held the needle in her hand firmly as she ran her other hand down the line of thread. Making sure to keep it from tangling unto itself as she stuffed the needle into the bag strap. “It’s a pretty thick strap so I don’t know if it’ll work but we can give it a try.” Fuyu watched diligently as her mother slowly applied force down onto the needle, struggling to get it through the material’s dense build. “Dammit!” she cried as it failed to fully penetrate the bag’s surface. She lifted her hand from the strap to reveal a slightly bent needle. “That was the only one I had on me,” she informed as she placed it back down on the table. “I’ll ask your father to take it back to the store and get it fixed. It shouldn’t be a big deal,” she mentioned as she placed it back down onto Fuyu’s lap. The grief in her eyes had failed to subside despite her attempts at masking her feeble exterior. Much like any child’s mother would, the nurse could read her own child clearly.
Gently grabbing Fuyu’s tiny cheeks, her mother leaned in and whispered something in her ear.
Fuyu’s eyes blossomed as she dropped backwards into her chair. The feet screeched against the old floorboards and Fuyu jolted forward. Staring off at the same old chalkboard in front of her, in the same old classroom that she’d awaken in numerous times before. The same classroom from her elementary school days. But this time… She could remember it all.
She clutched a lone cherry blossom pedal in her hand as she thought back to herself,
It could all be a glitch.