Kareshi Kanojo No Jijou - But I Stood In The Background

A KareKano Fanfiction By Cheshire Grin

Disclaimer: [ insert appropriate "I don't own Kare Kano" comment here]

A speech for defence: This Fic is all about Izawa Maho. Yes... Maho. I happen to like Maho. I feel she is perhaps one of the most interesting characters in the series. Don't agree? Then read this and watch the show again. Do agree? Good. Now you can use the force. So if you like Maho, keep reading and even if you don't like her, keep reading anyways. Most importantly, let me know what you think.

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Chapter 1 - At the Devil's Invitation

Life is often a strange and uncomfortable experience for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to go jump off the nearest tall building because of it. I'm not like that but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy my life. It seems so unfair sometimes. Well, scratch that.... It seems unfair all the time.

I was always a bright girl. My early school records were exemplary. I did well in practically all of my subjects, didn't cause any trouble and harboured no ill feeling toward anybody. I got on well with my teachers and parents and did what I was told.

Looking back on it now, it's hard to realise how much I've changed and even harder to pinpoint the places and reasons for these changes. I think that a big part of it all is that I am naturally a very shy and quiet person. I always find it difficult to confront people, and even now, when I know how, it's still not any easier. I feel an almost unbearable urge to back down in the face of pressure, convinced that I could, just could possibly be wrong, however unlikely it may sometimes seem.

Despite this, I found early school relatively easy. I simply did what I was told and seeing that I did well, I became focused on staying that way and becoming better. And I did. I was the best.

The problem with that was that I got used to it. I was spoiled by it. I took it for granted that despite the fact that life was often lonely and uncomfortable, I was good at it. I had the cushion of my ability to keep me from becoming lost. It kept me afloat in an uneasy classroom world of pressure and intimidation.

I've never found people easy to deal with. They always get too close to me. They often in their ignorance intrude in places where I keep fragile thoughts and feelings, to easily and unwittingly broken by a blunt, unthinking criticism or a disapproving sneer. These things are usually very difficult to replace and even if they aren't, it always hurts in the worst possible way. So I always kept my distance from people, raised an invisible but very real barrier around my heart that let people as close to it as I could deal with and no further. Even the people that I would eventually come to think of as friends were blocked by this wall, because by that time I had forgetten how to lower it.

It's sad how early we learn to block each other out. I learnt to do so very early in life, sometime in the first few years of school. I still remember how it happened.

There was a boy I was friends with. His name was Yuri. During lunchtime we used to eat together. One particular day we were sharing an ice-cream he had bought. I remember thinking how kind he was and mentally comparing him to a hero in my favourite cartoon.

At that moment a group of girls ran past us giggling. When they saw us they stopped and pointed. As one they sang a nasty little rhyme that was quite popular back then.

"Yuri and Maho sitting in a tree. K. I. S. S. I. N. G. First comes love, then comes marriage, Then comes a baby in a baby-carriage!"

They all laughed and collapsed in hysterics while Yuri and I sat there, red- faced and miserable with shame until they finally ran off. That was when a change seemed to come over Yuri. The grimace on his reddened, shamed countenance slowly became anger and he suddenly shoved me back and stood up, making the half-melted ice cream drop into my lap and thoroughly coat the front of my dress.

"Stupid Girl!" He shouted at me, tears streaking his cheeks. "Go away! I HATE you!"

Seconds later he ran off. I remeber crying miserably for the rest of lunchtime, thinking of what my mother would say when she saw my dress. I was so upset that I was late for class and scolded by the teacher.

We never ate lunch together again. In fact, we never even spoke again. He avoided me like the plague.

Of all the people in the world, children can be the cruelest. They can also be the most vulnerable.

After that incident, I started spending more time alone. I had never had that many friends, I was too shy, and I was terrified that if I tried to be friendly with anyone else, they would hurt me like Yuri and the sing-song girls did. I concentrated on my work and kept to the background of any social groups, trying deperately to keep myself from attracting any unfavourable attention.

It worked for a while. I achieved a kind remoteness, like an unattainable superiority. I found myself detached from my classmates. That was when a strange thing happened. My indifference to them seemed to work in my favour. The sly comments I had been ignoring for years started to taper off. They started to ask me questions about their schoolwork. The stares changed from distrust to awe. I had surpassed them all, I was better than them all and now it seemed that they realized this and they needed me.

I finally found myself treated with respect. My classmates came to me for help, heads bowed as if ashamed of their own stupidity. They started to do things for me. I was suspicious of this at first until I realized they wanted my help in return. Before long I found that by helping them, I could get all sorts of things in return.

I never let down my wall of indifference however. My newfound popularity was still too full of the unknown for me to do that. On top of this I found that if I was too nice, then my classmates asked for too much. So I kept up cold demeanor. I knew they didn't really like me. They only needed my help. There was a big difference.

I think the biggest mistake of my life was that I forgot that somewhere along the line.

I soon found how lonely it could be at the top. I had been feeling this all my life, but only now with so many people trying to get on my good side did the loneliness reach an unbearable level. Before this, there had always been little I could do about it and I never really realized how lonely I was. It had been a universal constant, something that had always been there, but now I began to realize I could change it. There was only one little problem. I was terrified.

My intelligence and the other student's need for it had provided me with a cushion from the bullying of the children but they had never really accepted me into their circles. I found myself pushed into the background of social life. I had wanted to keep others at a distance and now they wanted the same. I made them uncomfortable. I was terrifying to them, I think. Too clever for them ever to feel comfortable, and by now I knew that I could not drop my shield because didn't know how to survive without it. There were no other places for me. If I was no longer the clever one, then what was I? Who was I? I had no friends to go to. No one needed me if I couldn't help them with their schoolwork.

So I found myself in limbo. I was far too terrified to drop my defenses, but miserable and lonely because of them.

A weird space seemed to open inside me. It started to suck me in. It was like I was being compressed into myself, shriveling away and becoming smaller and smaller until one day I would just disappear completely. I couldn't stop it. It only seemed to be banished be the proximity of other people.

The last year of elementary school was hell. I felt myself disappearing bit by bit. The loneliness was all-consuming. I would come home from school and cry into my pillow. I was angry at something but I wasn't sure what. I felt like a bomb, full of anger and pain but none of it going anywhere or directed at anything, just seemingly going round and round inside me, growing bigger and bigger until I felt my head would explode. Sometimes it got so bad that I hit my head against my bedroom wall until the pain was replaced by another more understandable kind of pain. A pain I could deal with, one that could be explained, one that didn't hurt as much.

In many ways, starting junior high school was a blessing. Depite all the demons in the back of my mind, I had kept up with my work, shown aptitude and despite all the odds, retained the model student persona I had created. It earned me a path that few of my fellow elementary school students could follow. I was accepted into a far more prestigious high school than most of the others could hope for.

A new start. Escape. Salvation.

Or so I thought at the time.

That was the period of my life when things really kicked into overdrive. The onset of adolesence added a strange surreality to life at my new school. The sudden change from child to something not quite adult brought a new level of acceptance and even respect. A new uniform, new responsibilities, the beginings of a new body. The chance for a new beginning.

Everyone was so proud of me! My mother, my father, my brothers and sisters. "You're in high school now. You're all grown up now, honey. I'm so pround of you!" said my parents. 'That's right,' I thought. 'I've grown up now. I'm older now, so I've got to be stonger.'

Sometime during my first year of junior high that thought became an obsession.

My first few weeks were simply overwhelming. I can't really remember a great deal of what happened then, only that it seemed the world had turned upside down. It was so strange. Everyone was so different after a long summer holiday. Even I was different. I had grown taller, stronger, and more womanly almost overnight.

Yet, it wasn't just my body that had grown but my views and interests too. Certain things became far more important than they had ever seemed before. Like having friends.

The summer seemed to have changed almost everybody else too. I wasn't going to school with children now. They were teenagers. They suddenly weren't interested in toys and nursery rhymes anymore. They were interested in music, movies and gossip. They were interested in fashion idols, their friends and clothes. And boys.

I was never exactly sure whether I became interested in exactly the same things at my insistance or theirs.

But I was interested.

Finding my place was a lot harder this time. I was relearning what I knew about life and I had never had the chance to build up my small reserve of confidence that I suspected they had had. I felt even more lost than ever for a time. I watched my classmates constantly. They way they acted together. They ways they laughed and teased and giggled like fools. The way they enjoyed being together.

I wanted to be with them. I wanted to laugh and giggle with them. Gods, I wanted to be them. But I stood in the background because I didn't know how, simply watching and wanting and feeling angrier at myself each day.

Before too long it all came to a catalyst as everything seems to do when you are a teenager. It's as if our bodies are a strange mix of unfamiliar chemicals just waiting for an accidental element to be thrown in and cause an explosive reaction.

It was during lunch break. I was sitting on a bench in the courtyard, not too far from a group of girls whom I admired. They were strong and confident and outspoken, in short they were everything that I was not and wanted to be. I had heard the teachers mutter to each other that these girls were troublemakers. "Delinquents" they had called them. I didn't care. I thought they were great. I wanted to be just like them.

I was absently watching them while I ate my lunch. I noticed one of the boys in our class walk casually up to them. I think he was one of the more popular guys but I couldn't be sure. My memory of this moment has always seemed somewhat less than real.

They talked for a while and then the girls suddenly laughed. The boy turned bright red and shouted at them. That made them laugh even harder. Angrily the boy stalked away in my direction. I must have been gaping at him because he turned to me and growled "What are you looking at? You're even dumber than they are!" With a sneer he pushed me back off the bench. "That ought to teach you stupid girls some manners!" he laughed and turned away.

For a moment I just lay there, with my back on the ground and my legs still dangling over the bench, my underwear on view to half the world. I almost cried. I think if I had cried then everything that came later on in my life may have been different. But I didn't cry. I was too angry to cry.

I scrambled to my feet, nearly tripping over my bento that was now strewn all over the ground beside me. I don't recall being aware of the cuts that the wooden bench had left on the insides of my knees or the girls I had been watching suddenly standing up. I was angrier than I had ever been before or have since. I didn't know what to do. So I ran after him and swung a wild fist at the back of his neck.

I connected with a dull thud and an explosion of pain in my knuckles. The boy wheeled around in shock. I couldn't punch him again because my hand had gone numb and almost useless, so I did something else that I had never done before nor since. I kicked him squarely between the legs.

I remember him collapsing with a shriek that died gradually to a low groan. I remember screaming something at him hysterically but I don't remember what it was. I remember the group of girls I had admired earlier approach me.

"Wow, that was really something!" said one.

"Yeah but he totally deserved it. What an asshole!" continued another.

I nodded dumbly, impressed. I had never heard another girl say that word.

"You're name's Maho, right?" queried the first girl. I nodded again.

"Way to go, Maho-san"

I remember feeling suddenly very tired and replying "I think I'll go home now." I remember walking out the school gate toward my home.

I don't remember anything else about that day.

I noticed the girls standing outside the gate as I walked into school the next day. I was worrying about what was going to happen to me. I just knew that I would have to be punished for kicking the boy. I had never been punished before in school. "Maybe I'll be expelled?" I thought.

As I walked near the gate, the girls called me over.

"Hey Maho!"

"Um... y-yeah" I stammered, still quaking with fear inside at the thought of being expelled.

"Whats wrong? You look kinda down."

"Well I uh.. I was just w-wondering how the schools going to p-punish me about uhh..... well about yesterday." I squeaked.

"Oh.. don't worry about that, silly! We talked to the principal yesterday afternoon and explained it all to him. He was pretty angry at first but after we explained what that baka Hiro did first, He said that 'extenuating circumstances might be made.' " She quoted in a bad imitation of the Headmaster.

Her friends chuckled.

"Really" I blurted out.

"Really! Don't worry about it Maho-chan. Besides, it was sooo cool the way you hit him. The whole school's talking about it"

"Yeah, you are so cool Maho!" Said a second girl.

"Does your hand hurt much?" asked a third.

"Hey", Interupted the first girl, "Why don't you have lunch with us today?"

"Yeah, yeah, come on Maho" they chorused, pushing me ahead of them toward school as the bell rang.

"Ok, Ok... I'm coming" I said as walked to class. They followed me all the way. I felt wonderful. I felt strong.

I think that was the moment when I began the mistake that got me where I am now. Because at that moment I felt better than I ever had before... I felt strong, powerful and in control... and I didn't want to let it go.

End Chapter One.

Wow... This will be longer than I originally intended. C & C Please!!! Thanks for reading this far.

Cheshire Grin