It wasn't that they were incapable of concentration, or even that, through the overstimulation of life in a fast paced survival-of-the-fittest environment, they had developed difficult high standards in regards to their level of attention criterion - a condition that would surely develop a specific desire to ignore anything of considerably meagre importance. Not at all. It was simply that there was rarely an occasion where they had felt it necessary to earnestly observe the circumstance to the best of their ability.
In fact, the few times their attention had been held collectively with such force as this could be counted on the thumbs of a pair of hands.
With more to spare than raise.
But here they were, despite the odds, staring at him; their concern mixed with curiosity and a particularly strong desire to take advantage of the situation.
"Do you think he hit his head?"
"He's just sitting there. Staring."
"Maybe he's changed his sleeping routine."
"You mean, to sleep with his eyes open? During the day? At school?"
A simultaneous furrowing of brows and squinting of eyes rippled through the class.
"Has he even blinked in the last ten minutes?"
One brave friend, deciding that perhaps medical attention was required, and that all this watching and debating was a little out of order when a classmate was clearly in need of help, got up and moved towards him.
The boys, as one, moved to the edge of their seats.
"Um, are you ok?"
The boy placed a nervous hand on his shoulder.
"No don't! If he's having a seizure, you'll give him brain damage – it'll make him froth at the mouth."
The temptation of curiosity was eventually deemed inappropriate.
They resumed assessing the situation.
The brave friend twitched his mouth. Concern can mess with perception.
"I think he's ok. He's just sort of day dreaming."
"I wonder what he's thinking about?"
"Must be intense."
There are few things a member of a dangerous family would find surprising. Your fourth generation's student on the doorstep - in the middle of the night - was one of them.
But that is exactly what they had found.
Sawada Shin was an accepted guest at this particular household, but a guest of caution. And there was very little possibility that, at this time of night, he was here with a homework question. This made his business at the residence personal.
Never a secure reason for visitation rights.
At first the family had been guarded against the late intrusion. But it was a Friday night and private, business related celebrations had been taking place, relaxing the atmosphere and the tongue.
"You are a good looking kid, you know that? You must, you must just have SO many girlfriends."
Shin wrinkled his nose and tried graciously to remove the man he had never met from his shoulder.
Clearly the alcohol was in no short supply, and what they had was flowing freely.
"Ojou….. er, yeah, will be here shortly. I think."
Shin thanked another rosy cheeked gentleman and eyed the door with a calculative glance.
Perhaps his decision had been too hasty. There was a good chance he could leave and nobody would notice.
He rose stealthily from his spot in the corner.
The door to his right swung open and caught him off guard. A beautiful woman wearing a loosely tied kimono robe burst into the room.
The men in the room began to applaud.
Shin, wondering what kind of classless gathering he had stepped into, began to regroup and again make his way for the exit.
"All hail Ojou!"
"Thankyou, thankyou," the woman replied. "It was a difficult deal, but we did it!"
"It was brilliant Ojou! You were brilliant."
"You worked them over alright – never thought it possible."
(The faux-par was left unacknowledged.)
"You truly are our fourth generation!"
Shin, with a big breathe looked up at the woman and knew, without doubt.
He noticed the pattern of the her clothing; the kind of intricate details that excited the illusion of power and influence. He saw the makeup – none of which she would bother with for school. He noticed her long hair, a little crinkled from the remnants of a fancy hair-do, fanning out over her shoulders. Not a pigtail in sight.
Around the same time he noticed how good she looked, she noticed him.
The atmosphere paused to enjoy their humiliation.
Yankumi pulled the material as subtly as she could across as much of her leg as it would cover.
"I'm sorry for the lack of decorum, Sawada. Parties, you know. "
She reached up in an attempt to neaten her hair, but missed and instead began to pat her shoulder.
Shin pretended not to notice.
"Shall we take this to another room?"
Shin didn't speak, but managed to execute a small nod.
Yankumi glanced down at her almost outfit.
"I'll just… I'll meet you in the dining room."
Shin nodded once more and shuffled away from the bustling room and into the peace and quiet of the dining room.
He sat on the floor and wondered momentarily if hunger could cause a heart attack. If not the flutter in his chest would have to be related to what he had just been exposed to. And that was not an option.
He waited quietly and concentrated on regaining composure
As he sat, he tried to justify his reason for his late night visit. It wasn't like he was taking advantage of their open invitation and hospitality. He was just borrowing some food and a place to rest while his home was invaded by a pack of hormone crazed youths. And he hadn't been lying to himself entirely. He had felt kind of bad that she had found the poster that way. Kind of.
He certainly hadn't intended to ditch one party and intrude on another.
The door opened.
Shin looked up anxiously.
It was Yankumi's grandfather.
"Oh hello, I didn't realise we had company!"
Shin's polite smile wrestled with the dumbfounded expression desperate to write itself across his face.
Smiling, the old man sat down across from Shin and offered him a drink.
"Outside the regulars."
Shin declined the drink and tried to speak. Neither worked the way he intended and he found himself tongue tied and within the moment downing a shot of the burning liquid.
He hadn't needed that.
"So what brings you to our humble abode?"
Shin tried to remember his reasons, but for the life of him couldn't get the vision of Yankumi out of his head.
He remembered how to speak.
"I'm sorry to intrude. Perhaps I should leave?"
The old man smiled.
"You don't seem like the sort to act without reason. What brought you here then?"
Shin allowed a brief explanation to escape his silence.
"And so, your first choice for escape was to come to my granddaughter for help, is that it?"
That didn't sound right.
"No, I mean, it's just, she's …"
"She's a very good teacher. Very good to her students."
That was better.
The old man watched as Shin fidgeted awkwardly and glanced at the door.
"You know," he began. "It is commonly acknowledged that the hardest thing to do is admit you were wrong."
The noise of the gathering in the other room grew louder.
"Sometimes however, if one is particularly ill-fated, the hardest thing to do is admit that a part of you was right all along; even if you have tried mercilessly to convince yourself otherwise."
He rose to leave, reaching the door and turning back once more.
"You are too young to be that unfortunate soul."
Shin sat alone.
His contemplation was interrupted by the arrival of Yankumi who had changed into more suitable attire, but left her makeup and hair as was. She sat down in place of her grandfather.
Her eyes sparkled against her thickened lashes.
"So, Sawada, what brings you to our humble abode?"
Shin snapped out of his daze with a snort of laughter.
"You are too young to sound that old, Yankumi."
She raised an eyebrow in confusion.
Remembering his intrusion, Shin hastened to once again make with a small explanation of the circumstances back at his house.
"..and then there was talk about Love… those idiots and their "Love". I knew was it would be easier for me to leave, than to try and hurl all those morons out of my apartment, but then…."
She was definitely still a little woozy. Her eyes had lost focus and her face had found a silly little smile to wear.
"You have very nice hair Sawada. It's so… bouncy."
"Sorry. Celebrations have gone to my head. You were saying you were in love with some moron at your apartment?"
She squinted at him.
"You want some food?"
"And you need a place to stay?"
Humiliation set in.
"If you wouldn't mind, I just need some floor space."
She smiled; glad to be on the same page.
"Take this room. No-one will be looking to use it in the morning anyway…"
A loud, drunken smash came from the front room, demonstrating her point. It's was followed by laughter.
Shin looked at Yankumi quizzically.
"Business deal. Went well."
She got up to leave.
"You did say something about love… didn't you?"
Shin surprised himself. He was blushing.
She leaned over and ruffled his hair with a slack smile.
She reached the door.
"The ability to love is far more important than the desire, Sawada. Unless you admit to love, it is everything you doubt in it."
For the enth time that night, Shin found him self alone and overwhelmed by confusion.
And he was the smart one.
He spent the rest of his night wide awake, his thoughts fighting off any sleep that tried to approach.
When Yankumi finally stumbled into the dining room the next afternoon, hung over and exhausted, she found in place of Shin three small notes.
One thanking the family for their hospitality, despite his intrusion.
Another asking if there was any way he could ever repay Yankumi for her help.
And the third apologising for the poster she was never meant to see.
"Ok, so all those in favour of a face slap, say "I""
"Those against, "Nay"
"The I's have it."
The hand poised for action was stopped mere inches from the point of contact. The owner of the unfortunate limb winced as his fingers were compressed.
"What do you think you're doing?"
"Shin, we thought you were in a coma. I would never hit you without reason!"
Shin blinked and shook the hair from his eyes, assessing the situation. It took only a moment.
"You thought I was in a coma, so took a vote on whether or not to hit me?"
"And the conclusion you all reached, was to go for it?"
"That" would be… correct."
He fought to contain his laughter. And his anger.
"You're all a lot more stupid than you look."
He rose from his desk. He had too much to think about and this was not the place to try.
"Where are you going? We have English in a minute. Don't you want to see some legs?"
"I can see some legs whenever I want."
He glanced to the floor.
"Oh look, there they are."
He picked up his bag and without another word, left the room.
"Does Shin have a secret twin?"
"Maybe he's into the drugs now – it would explain the coma."
"Did Shin just make a joke?!"
The class stared at one another.
What's with Shin these days?