In the Mind of a Child Chapter 15
With nothing better to do, no one to come home to, I woefully conclude, to take it out on you. I'm bored to the extreme, this world of foolish dreams, disillusion. But I'm not who I seem to be. Yeah sure I might do harm and bear my right to arm, retribution. If only someone would listen to me.
-A poem by Asuka Langley Sohryu
"I hate cats." Rei said to herself as she slowly walked down the damp cement steps leading to her apartment's entrance way. Small puddles were still visible in the street and water dripped slowly from the overhang above her head. All was quiet, save for the rustling of small decorative bushes lining the stairwell. It was almost serene, tranquil even, no one was out this early, there were no cars crowding the streets, no noisy children bullying their mothers into buying them toys. To add to the aesthetic quality of the scene displayed before her, a faint rainbow streaked its way across the cloudless sky. Rei could care less for the beauty of Tokyo after a fall rain; it was too early in the morning for rainbows.
"Morning" Shinji said sleepily after placing a cute, if somewhat juvenile kiss on Rei's forehead. "Um, nice shirt." He commented, as he eyed the oversized long sleeve that flamboyantly advertised Yebisu beer.
"Clever" Rei responded less than enthusiastically. "I was trying to do laundry last night but that cat somehow found a way to spill my entire bottle of laundry detergent on itself. To make matters worse, it sulked around my apartment leaving a trail of slime on everything it touched."
"So is the cat alright?" Shinji asked with concern evident in his voice. "Rei, you didn't just leave him like that did you?"
"Of course I didn't leave him like that." Rei retorted, aggravated by his anxiety over the animal's condition. "I chased it around my apartment for an hour before I cornered it in the bathroom and forced it in the shower. By the time I was done with the little mongrel his hair was all puffed out and smelled like fresh linen. He has no doubts as to who the master is now." Rei explained triumphantly.
"I'm glad you take pride in animal cruelty Rei." Shinji said with disdain.
She simply snorted a reply. Hers was a victory hard fought and well won and she refused to let him steal her thunder. As she reached down to take his hand she noticed his palm had been badly wrapped in a white medical bandage and secured with a safety pin. Obviously Shinji had done the treatment himself. "What happened?" Rei asked, genuinely concerned. As she unwrapped the cloth and inspected the wound she saw that it was a burn of some kind, a rather small burn compared to the amount of bandage Shinji had used to treat himself
"Well…" Shinji started but paused, most likely in order to change his story so as to not be as embarrassing. He stared at his flexing palm for a moment before finding a version he found acceptable. "Remember how you told me yesterday to try and disable the security system to the window of my room? Well it didn't go as well as expected."
"Shinji!" Rei exclaimed. "I can't believe you got hurt over something I jokingly told you to do!" She said half scolding him and half apologizing for placing the idea in his head to begin with.
"Well, I really wanted you to be able to sneak into my room tonight." Shinji explained still flexing his injured hand.
Rei couldn't help but laugh; Shinji was proving to be more of an average guy than even he knew. Stereotypical or not, she still thought it was cute, and decided to pamper him a bit. Taking his hand, she gently rewrapped the injury and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek. "Oh Shinji, you're so sweet." Rei cooed. Noticing the smile on his face, she continued to feed his ego a bit more. "So you hacked into the security system and disabled the electricity to your window and tested it on yourself to save me from any injury I might sustain. That's very admirable."
Shinji nodded his agreement and said, "Well the security is off now so there is absolutely no danger in climbing to my window now."
Smiling the best smile she could muster this early in the morning she said, "I assure you that your efforts won't be wasted."
Rei would later find out that Shinji had in fact failed to hack into the security system. Undeterred by this fault, he decided to try his hand at electrically rewiring the cabling box outside of his house. When he tested his changes, he found that he had indeed grounded out the window. Satisfied that he had completed his mission he marched up to his room only to be electrified and knocked to the floor by his own doorknob. Shinji's father, who had seen the entire event, thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen. After recovering from his fit of laughter Mr. Ikari then proceeded to scold Shinji, complaining in length about how high the utility bill was going to be now that Shinji had wasted all that electricity.
Finally, Rei thought as she gathered her belongings. She even allowed herself a moment of joy at being done with school before remembering she had a whole hour of after school cleanup left.
"I guess I'll be walking to work alone for a while." Shinji said with an apologetic grin as he zipped up his book bag.
"It appears so." Rei responded before she wrapped her arms around him and placed a kiss on his cheek. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Asuka staring at them angrily.
"Are you still planning on coming over tonight?" Shinji asked expectedly.
"Yes, for the sixth time," Rei exasperatedly answered. "Just make sure you have the security disabled and I'll be over after I change out of this ridiculous shirt." Rei added as she tugged on the garment.
"Classy Ayanami, real classy," Asuka chided as she approached from across the classroom. "Yebisu beer huh? I knew you had fashion problems but this is just sad. I wouldn't put that shirt on even if you paid me."
"Of course you wouldn't, you're more accustomed to removing your clothing for money."
"Funny." Asuka replied unperturbed by Rei's insult. "Shinji, I don't understand why you're with such a vulgar girl." She said as she wrapped her arms around him lovingly.
Rei clenched her fists and said through gritted teeth, "Vulgar or not, he's still with me and you're still alone." Rei couldn't tell what was more infuriating, that Asuka was sexually harassing Shinji or that he was sitting there like an idiot and letting her. He'll pay later.
Asuka sighed dramatically before putting her head on Shinji's shoulder. "You know Shinji, she's right. I'm alone, all alone, and I can tell you're unhappy because regardless of how smart Ayanami is, there are just certain things a book can't teach a girl how to do." Asuka said before nibbling lightly on Shinji's ear.
"Bitch!" Rei exclaimed as she reared back to deliver a haymaker to Asuka's jaw.
"Bring it!" Asuka roared as she shoved Shinji out of the way so violently he toppled over his own feet and fell to the floor.
"Perhaps I should have made it a semester of clean up."
Both girls stopped in mid swing and turned to see Doctor Akagi standing in the doorway of the classroom. She was clad in her trademark white lab coat and thin-framed black eye glasses, which she pushed up the bridge of her nose with her index finger.
"Girls, girls, girls" Doctor Akagi smiled threateningly as she picked up a metallic meter stick and practiced a series of sword-like chopping motions. "Do you remember the drugs I asked you two about yesterday? I'm sure you do, anyway, that turned out to be a rumor. Evidently there are no drugs at this school." She explained still displaying a grin that promised nothing but the foulest intentions. "There are no drugs here, but I assure you, if I catch you two fighting again, there will be something illegal found in your lockers the next time I do a random inspection. Understand?"
"You can't do that!" Shinji exclaimed after he had gotten to his feet.
"I'm the principal, there's nothing I can't do. Now be gone worm."
Suitably defeated Shinji waved his goodbyes and left the room without another word.
"Now, are we quite clear as to the repercussions of more squabbling?"
"Ye…yes ma'am." Rei and Asuka answered in unison.
"Good. Hikari, they will now be mopping the main hallway as well as raking the front lawn." Doctor Akagi said as she stalked out of the classroom still carrying the meter stick like a lethal weapon.
"Ayanami, Sohryu, will you come up here please?" Hikari the class representative called from the front of the classroom. She had wrapped a green waitress's apron around herself and was in the process of changing shoes. Rei and Asuka did as they were told and approached her with a defeated look on their faces. This would be the first time either one of them had ever participated in the cleanup, each for their respective reasons. Rei never helped with cleanup because normally she would have left class already, having deemed it unnecessary to stay until the droning lecture was over. Asuka on the other hand had her status as captain of the cheerleading squad to keep her from the more menial aspects of high school. "Okay guys, its really not that bad of a job, I've been doing the cleanup ever since I became class rep. Aside from the hallway and the front lawn all that's required is that you move all the desks out of the classroom, sweep, then mop, then move the desks back in. After that you have to clean the chalkboard, dust off the erasers, water the plants, and finally make sure you have the coffee maker ready for Ms. Misato in the morning. Normally three other students and I are assigned with these tasks but for some reason, Doctor Akagi has instructed me to make sure that you two are the only ones helping."
"Outstanding." Rei grunted.
"You guys getting in trouble like this really helps me out a lot." Hikari absentmindedly noted as she swiped at a loose strand of hair. "Now I can work an extra hour or so and have enough money to buy that calculator I wanted," she giggled to herself.
"I am so glad that we could help you out." Asuka explained in an overly obvious display of mock beneficence.
"Really? Wow you guys are so sweet!" Hikari exclaimed as she placed a hand over her heart and assumed an absolutely dopey expression.
"You're an idiot." Asuka said monotonously before she walked away.
Hikari's jaw dropped and looked as if she had never been so surprised in her entire life. She glanced at Rei, supposedly in hopes of finding some explanation for Asuka's outlandish behavior. Hikari was even more astonished when Rei shrugged her shoulders and walked away.
"That was a bit harsh." Rei commented as she helped Asuka lift a desk into the main hallway.
"Harsh? I'm still deciding whether to steal her calculator or break it right in front of her." Asuka replied. "Besides, I don't know why you're defending her, I heard you laugh."
The pair continued in silence while they hefted the desks out of the room and dusted off the erasers. As they walked to the janitorial closet at the end of the hallway to fetch the broom and mop bucket Asuka stopped short and said, "Ayanami, are you bored?"
"Not at all, I'm having the time of my life. What kind of idiotic question is that? Of course I'm bored." Rei responded as she began filling the yellow bucket with warm water from the rusted sink.
"I have an idea." Asuka teasingly said.
"An idea? Well congratulations on your ascension from the ranks of the completely retarded." Rei was in absolutely no mood to be conversational. She was still fuming from Asuka's earlier sexual harassment of Shinji.
"Yes an idea, you flat-chested little boy. I want to play a game." Asuka placed her hands on her hips and smirked idiotically
"Asuka would you quit pretending you have intellect to be dramatic and just tell me what you're trying to say."
"Fine! I think we should race. We could divide the hallway, the front lawn, and even the classroom and see who gets finished first. The winner is the first one to clean the chalkboard on her side of the room after everything else is done. The loser has to bring all the desks back inside by themselves. Well what do you think?"
Rei could only stare at her for the longest time. "That has got to be the single most stupidest thing I've ever heard."
"Ha! I knew you'd say that. How about if we raise the stakes?"
"No, this is stupid just get back to wo…" Rei began.
"If you win I'll do all your chores for the entire month. You won't even have to show up."
Asuka was obviously baiting her, but Rei had to admit it was a tempting offer. Still it was childish. Rei figured she could make Asuka back down by considerably increasing the penalty for losing. "Interesting, how about we increase the stakes a bit more though? If you lose you have to do all my chores and wear nothing but sweats for the whole month."
"Done." Asuka said without hesitation.
"And if I lose?" Rei tentatively asked.
"Hmm" Asuka rubbed her chin and grinned nastily, "If you lose you have to permanently join the cheerleading squad."
"You can't be serious. Why out of all things you could make me do would you want me to join the cheerleading squad?" Rei asked, noticeably disgusted.
"Well one of the girls just quit the squad so a position has opened up. That and the fact that it'll embarrass you beyond belief of course."
"I'm horribly uncoordinated and I have nev…"
"Yes or no?" Asuka asked offering hand in order to seal the deal.
"Fine." Rei answered as she shook Asuka's offered hand.
"One more thing."
"What now?" Rei asked angrily.
"You have to tell me what Shinji's answer was. You have to tell me whether or not he said he loved me." Asuka said biting her lower lip.
Rei paused for a moment and finally nodded her head in agreement.
"We'll start the race from here, ready?" Asuka asked taking the pose of a trained runner.
"As I'll ever be."
"3…2…oh yeah, one last thing" Asuka said standing erect again. "No rules!" She yelled as she pushed Rei to the ground.
Rei let out a cry of surprise and tumbled clumsily to the ground but not before she grabbed a handful of Asuka's auburn hair and pulling her to the floor as well. Both girls lay prostrate on the ground tangled in each other's limbs, each refusing to let the other up. Finally Asuka gained the upper hand and squirmed her way out of the huddle, before she could take a step out of the closet Rei grabbed her ankle and tripped her. Rei laughed to herself victoriously as she jumped up and made a dash for the classroom dragging the half filled mop bucket behind her. Once she arrived in the room she immediately started to wash the floor, and spilled large amounts of water on herself.
Only after Rei had finished her side of the room did she notice that Asuka still hadn't followed her in. She nervously took a step outside into the main hallway just in time to see a flash of red hair outside the windowed door leading to the main courtyard. "Damn" Rei said aloud as she realized that Asuka's side of the hallway had already been finished. Fearing that she had fallen behind, Rei hoisted the mop bucket in her hands and emptied the water onto the floor. The soapy liquid splashed on the walls and ran under the doors of closed classrooms, but Rei didn't care and figured it would be dry by the time she was finished raking the lawn. Leaving the pooling water and the mop bucket behind Rei ran to the nearest exit and found that it had been locked from the outside. Upon closer inspection it could be seen that someone had connected a garden hose from the push-handle of the door to a large cylinder shaped support beam. Asuka. It appeared the red head was playing dirty.
Instead of wasting time trying to open the door, Rei ran back into her classroom and clambered out of the back window. She landed in a batch of thorny shrubbery and after struggling desperately to free herself from its entangling grasp, sprinted across the lawn to the tool shed. She was dismayed to find that the only remaining rake had been broken in half. Rei cursed and grabbed the half-rake and set off toward the front lawn.
Asuka was still laughing to herself, giddy with the certainty of her triumph when Rei pelted her in the back of the head with a pinecone. Before Asuka had a chance to see what had hit her, Rei had already thrown herself into Asuka's neatly raked pile of leaves.
"No!" The irate red head screamed as she swiped at her tormentor with the rake. Rei easily dodged the attack and scampered over to her side of the lawn leaving Asuka to her mess.
After finally finishing with the lawn Asuka decided a little revenge was in order and ran to Rei's pile of leaves but stopped short when the normally submissive looking girl assumed the stance of a warrior and spun the broken haft of her rake above her head like a trained martial artist. "You're gonna lose Ayanami!" Asuka yelled from her side of the lawn, making all sorts of obscene gestures before Rei shrieked like a crazed lunatic and chased her all the way around to the back of the school before she gave up and returned to her work.
That's the last of it, Rei thought as she stood up and stretched out her throbbing back. She had been working hunched over, compensating for the shortened size of her rake and it had inflicted its toll on her body. Rei had no time to spare, it had taken her much longer to finish the lawn and Asuka had already been back inside the school for quite a while.
Rei ditched her tools and made a mad dash for the entrance she had seen Asuka previously enter, but not before stomping in every mud hole along the way. As she entered the door on Asuka's side of the hall she made sure to forcefully stomp her feet. She looked behind her and saw a horrid tail of dirt and grass in her wake.
"I'm almost finished Ayanami!" Asuka yelled from inside the classroom.
"I don't think so." Rei said smugly as she walked casually in the room holding her shoes out in front of her for Asuka to see. "Go take a look at your floor."
"Of course I did." Rei responded and snickered to herself as Asuka groaned in disgust. Her happiness was short lived when she remembered that her side of the hallway was still soaking wet. She desperately began to search for the second mop, her victory would be guaranteed if she could only soak up the standing water.
"You wont find that mop Ayanami, I guarantee you that much. No one will." Asuka said with a crazed look in her eye as she toiled over her ruined floor.
"The second floor closet!" Rei announced and bounded the steps two at a time. When she arrived at her destination she found that the door was wedged shut. After trying several times to open the door in a civilized manner, Rei gave up and charged the door at full speed. She crashed into the janitor's room and stopped only long enough to grab one of the several mops that had been hung on drying nails. When she descended to the second floor she noted with an acute sense of dread that Asuka was no longer there, and neither was the dirt she had so maliciously placed on her floor. "No." Rei said aloud as she ran in the classroom to find that Asuka had just finished washing the blackboard.
"I win." She said through gasping breaths.
"Ah…I…" Rei stammered, unable to believe that she had lost.
"You…you will finish putting the desks back and meet me at the gym for practice in one hour."
Rei walked slowly into the gymnasium and immediately cringed at the sight of Asuka and her groupies flailing themselves around like idiots. There were girls there that Rei didn't recognize. Twelve all together, dressed in their scarlet and blue outfits. Some of the girls even wore multicolored streamers in their hair and had painted designs on their faces that looked like an epileptic with clubbed hands had drawn them. When the girls noticed Rei they eyed her like she was a walking communicable disease. The fact that the girls were displeased with her presence in their domain granted her a small comfort.
"Asuka this is stupid." Kaname, the girl with her hair in a billowing ponytail exclaimed. "I don't care about your personal vendetta with Ayanami, you're jeopardizing the whole team."
"I have to agree with Kaname, she's completely untrained." Shinobu, the youngest girl in the group added.
"Look, I don't care if you all hate me, you have good reason to. However when we're here training you will do as I say or you can leave." Asuka paused, after there were no more objections she turned to Rei and said, "Go change"
"Change, change into what?" Rei asked, fearful of the answer she would receive.
"Into your uniform." Asuka said with a smile as she produced one of the revealing garments from a box at her feet.
"You can't be serious. I can feel my IQ slipping by just being in that things presence, it's like its tainted or something." Rei said as she accepted the box and held it at arms length.
"You have five minutes to change over."
After Rei had slipped into the uniform she was almost scared to look at herself in the mirror for fear of what it would do to her already diminishing self-esteem. She looked down at her exposed legs and sighed, trying in vain to tug the skirt down to a more respectable level. When she finally worked up the courage to gaze at her own reflection she realized that her fears had been well founded. She looked like a complete and total moron. The top was sleeveless and sectioned diagonally in to two colors with the word 'Raptors' written in red print across the chest. The skirt was vertically striped and was barely long enough to cover her upper thighs. The outfit even came with a pair of socks that had tiny fluffy balls attached to them.
As Rei walked out, the girls all stopped and again stared at her. She instinctively wanted to cover herself up but couldn't decide whether to wrap her arms around her chest or tug at the skirt some more.
"Well at least she's pretty." Kaname offered. "Look, her hair even matches the school colors, just like mine!"
"Well since you're so impressed with her you help her stretch." Asuka spat as she practiced jumping in the air for apparently no reason whatsoever.
The 'stretching' as Asuka called it was the most painful thing Rei had ever experienced in her life. She had no idea she could be bent in so many awful and unnatural directions. Rei swore to herself that she would rather be tortured to death rather than spend another ten minutes stretching with Kaname.
After the warm up exercises were completed, Asuka had everyone form into a human pyramid. Predictably Rei had been assigned the bottom row in the pyramid and was now on her hands and knees supporting three other girls' weight. Asuka stood at the front of the pyramid with her arms crossed occasionally glancing at her watch.
"Three more minutes." Asuka called out and began inspecting the girls' hand and feet placement, making certain everyone was evenly balanced. Eventually she made her way over to where Rei had been positioned and noted with considerable humor how much she was perspiring. "Not quite as easy as it looks huh?"
"I never said it was easy." Rei exhaled. "Simply that it required no intelligence."
Asuka chuckled to herself and then kneeled down right next to Rei's head and whispered, "Tell me what Shinji said"
Rei dropped her head and whispered the words Shinji had never said, but she knew he felt nonetheless, "He loves you"
Asuka smiled to herself and placed her hand under Rei's chin lifting her head so the two were eye to eye. "He loves me. I didn't need you to tell me that, I already knew, Ayanami. How does it feel? Tell me, how does it feel to know the person you love is thinking about another girl when he kisses you?"
Its not true, Rei mentally reinforced herself. The last thing she could do was show Asuka that she was weak. Shinji may love her but he's with you, he chose you and that's enough.
"Look at you Ayanami, you're pathetic, I told you Shinji would be mine and you've delivered him, calmly…coolly…entirely without incident."
Rei began to quiver, began to shake with a mixture of rage and sorrow, and the vibration was felt throughout the entire pyramid. Shinobu, who was at the top felt it the most and gasped, "Oh…shi"
"No…not without incident." Rei said as she used all her strength to thrust herself at Asuka, allowing the entire mountain of cheerleaders to topple to the ground on top of them.