Disclaimer: All recognizable characters from Gakuen Alice belong to Tachibana Higuchi. I do not own the inspired song: Not Ready to Go by The Trews
Special Thanks to: Rae for lending the great title.
The Bookworm and the Beast
-.- sarahpatrick -.-
Under the books and the dreamy smile,
I'm still just a girl, under a love spell for a while.
Chapter 1. Not Ready To Go
There were beautiful trees and fields filled with a wonderful variety of wildflowers from where I came from. There were forests of trees that were filled with a canopy of leaves and a whole bunch of beautiful colors that flourished wherever I went.
Our home had been a nice, medium sized cottage that sat on a hill that overlooked our humble village. There were no gigantic malls, or sports cars or richly furnished schools here, but oddly enough, I was fine with that. Just the fresh, clear oxygen in the air, the faint glowing lights of the village at night and the sprinkle of stars in the dark, night sky was all I needed, all I've ever needed.
Too bad I was leaving all of that behind.
The city was very… different to my previous lifestyle. I could tell it would take me a lot of time getting used to. As we left our village behind and crept closer towards the city, I could already see the tinge of grey in the sky, the tell tale sign of pollution in the air. The burst of wind passing past my face through the open window was tainted with the city gas.
It disgusted me.
"You're mad at me, aren't you?" my mom accused from the driver's seat. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand on end at her gaze but she already knew the answer.
I didn't understand why she thought I deserved this since I've never really been the rebellious kind of child. Needless to say, my routines at home were fairly simple. I didn't do much outside of home except for the roundtrip to and from school and the occasional trip to the local market. Usually, at home, I'd do homework, or go to that weird forest behind my house, read on the porch and daydream between everything.
It was a simple lifestyle for a simple girl.
I liked it like that.
You could say I was somewhat of a lonely girl. Then again, it wasn't as if I didn't have any school friends, because I did. They just weren't the type that stuck around for long though and if I was being totally honest, none of them really struck my fancy. I was rather… eccentric, if you will. I liked things that other people didn't really enjoy as much as I did.
Like my books.
What started out as a tiny collection of books about alien invasions and zombies and gore, morphed into a medium-sized collection of superheroes and fantasy and crime and ended in a large mixture of both with a rather large helping of romantic comedies and fairytale romances.
My parents thought it was just a phase, the whole romance thing like my vampire phase (that lasted for a good two years) but my romance 'phase' has been going strong for the better part of four years. I didn't think it was so much of a big deal. It wasn't like I swooned at every boy I came across and hoped that one day, I'd turn into that fairytale princess that escaped from the evil family and lived the life of luxury with the perfect, blonde prince.
Well… not really.
Truth is, I like fantasizing. It wasn't a crime.
"Mikan, please," my mom begged, a tinge of guilt in her voice. Her voice had always been soft, almost melancholy. It always reminded me of the kind of voice a girl would have if she lived a tough life and managed to pull through it all. She had a voice that was patient with a hint of exasperation. It was a voice that was difficult to refuse.
"I'm not mad, mom," I offered her softly, pushing a small smile her way. She didn't see it though. She didn't see a lot of things these days. Sometimes, it was a wonder she even realized I was alive with how bad she's been taking dad's death. Izumi Sakura. That was my dad and the love of mom's life. He died just a few months ago.
Mom shifted her hands on the steering wheel, concentrating on the road. "I just want you to see what it's like here. There's this really beautiful school that I discovered when I was in town a few weeks ago and I just knew you'd love it," she crooned. "It's not like the thirty students in each grade kind of school back home, Mikan. It's huge, with plenty of new people, dozens of new opportunities and well, there's just a lot here for you."
She'd been squealing all morning about this new school of mine and the more she did, the less excited I became.
I kept my sullen expression directed out the window. "I'm fine. There's just this part of me that wishes it wasn't a boarding school you were taking me to and that I'd see you more than once a year."
That was right. She was driving me to a school where I would stay in a dorm with a stranger. And since I'd be sharing this dorm with the same stranger for a school year, it would probably be expected that I interact with this stranger on a regular basis. The problem that I probably haven't been making clear is the fact that interacting and Mikan Sakura just didn't click. At all. Truthfully, whenever I opened my mouth, I ended up either making a fool of myself or making everything awkward.
But there was no use in telling my mom that I thought this was a bad idea. She was stubborn, just like me and when she had her mind set on something, it was difficult to sway her decision. That and I didn't want to be difficult with her, especially since she was having a rather hard time with everything that's happened so far. Dad and all…
I turned away from the window to look at Mom. Her hands were firm on the wheel, her eyes gazing intently on the road before her. I looked like her. Or so I've heard. In my opinion, I couldn't see the resemblance at all.
She had dark brown hair, almost black, slightly wavy curls that cascaded down past her shoulders blades. Her eyes were a sparkly hazel color that was more emerald than brown and well…. She was beautiful, to put it simply.
The puny girl at her side, her daughter… wasn't. Well, it was safe to say I wasn't horrendously ugly. Then again, you could say I had a certain appeal, too. I might've been prettier than the average, since I've been told that several times in my life. In my opinion, sometimes I couldn't quite see it. Unlike my mother, I had brown, straight hair that curled at the tips. It was a shade lighter than chestnut and it fell past my shoulders down to the halfway mark of my back. My eyes were brown, nothing more and nothing less.
There were days when I'd look in the mirror and wonder who the girl in the mirror was.
"Mikan," my mom sighed dejectedly. "It'll only be for a year…"
"Yeah, I know."
She smiled my way, taking her eyes off of the road and I jumped, steadying the wheel with my own hands. "Mom! How many times have I told you to keep your eyes on the road?"
She was a hazard to society, that much was for sure.
She chuckled at my expense and I sighed with relief when she complied. "You know I love you and that will never change, don't you?"
"I know," I replied evenly.
"And you know, when I finish my tour for "You Can Do Better", we can take a trip, just the two of us, okay?"
I restrained a sigh and kept my eyes on the roadside. "Sure."
My mom was a writer and you could say she was kind of famous. I don't know what happened to her when she was younger but she had this insane imagination and feminist view on things. She wrote a lot of books for adults and teens. I've read a few of them but it got a little… repetitive. Besides, I didn't like the idea of sneaky conniving guys and all that. I was the romantic, right?
My mom and I were miles apart. She wrote about woman and dating. How we ladies had to increase our standards for the men that we should date and how we could do better than the lying/cheating/using/abusive exes of our past. I found it strange that she wrote about stuff like that when she was married to my dad. But I digress, she had humor and sass to her writing. It was probably why she had so many readers around the world.
Most of her books were either romantic comedies, beauty tips, how to get the man of your dreams or something to make women feel better about themselves. I thought it was all a little pathetic but then again, that's just me. I didn't believe in the internet dating, phone dating, blind dating scene. All of it just screamed pathetic.
It can be imagined how I'd reacted when she tried setting me up with the members of the opposite sex. Nothing ever worked out to my liking. It used to entertain me, how funny it was how boys acted back then, so unlike what I've ever read. Mom used to say it was because they were nervous around me. But I'd laughed that one off fairly easily.
Not that I cared much about boys. It was rather sad, really. I loved reading about the stuff but the idea of having a boyfriend in real life just didn't have the same charm. Some could say I was playing hard to get. Others would laugh that it was because I probably couldn't get one. It might've been a little bit of both (yeah, mature, I know) but one past experience turned me off rather drastically.
That was with Kioshi something or other and the mistake I had of kissing him. Before I get the mocking stares, I'd like to point out the fact that I was young and naïve and curious. He seemed a little more confident than the other set-up dates my mom put together and well, bad jokes and little talk aside, he wasn't all that bad-
Until he'd puckered up his lips and scrunched up his cheeks to kiss me.
What a mistake that was.
It kind of disappointed me, having my first kiss with him and all. The few girl friends I'd had used to go on and on about how important the first kiss was. It was supposed to be one you didn't forget. Well, needless to say, I probably wouldn't forget how… wet it'd been.
I've never really understood how couples enjoyed the act of kissing after that. It was gross, wet and strangely animalistic. They must be forced to kiss. Later, I had an epiphany. Kissing was something you had to do – were forced to do. Perhaps it was in the unwritten book of 'couple-hood' that my mother had to write.
Needless to say, I never kissed ever since and the idea of having a boyfriend with anybody in town seemed like a really bad idea.
It might've been ironic, how I found the greatest comfort in books where all of the fictional characters were most attractive. Don't try to point out the patheticalness in that. I'm well aware of it.
All of the boys in reality seemed just so…pig-headed, conceited, selfish, insensitive, inconsiderate, the list could go on and on.
Don't get me wrong. I like boys as friends. But something other than that? I don't think so. At this rate, I'll never have a boyfriend, husband or children. I'd probably have to adopt, which isn't a bad thing, I always thought there were too many orphans and not enough parents.
"Remember, Mikan. I'm just going to go into your room for a bit to see what it's like. I'd hate to have you boarding in a cramped up spot for a year. Also," she was digging into her purse with one hand, "I have a card for you to buy whatever you need to make your room more livable. I'd hate to see you sitting on your bed, lonely when at least you can be lonely and comfortable at the same time."
That thought kind of made me smile. "You know all I need is food, right? I'm not going to take advantage of my own mom just because she's going on tour."
She shot me a pointed look, taking her eyes off the road again.
"Mom," I warned in a growl.
Ignoring me, she growled, "Buy an alarm clock. If you're late to class everyday because you can't wake up on time, I'll actually consider killing you."
She placed a warm hand on my thigh and gave it a light squeeze. "You're my only daughter - child - and I want to do everything I can for you. I'm not going to have another child after your dad died away, so just… let me do this, okay?"
Resignedly, I turned around to face the slim piece of plastic in her hands. With a prod from her, I took it.
"There's enough to last you through the year and–" she paused and I could feel her looking at me from the corner of her eyes, "Well, it can last you the year and then some."
I fought a groan and I figured protesting would get me nowhere. "Thanks, Mom."
We sat in an awkward silence for a while, looking out at the city flashing past our car windows until we stopped at a pair of large iron gates that were open and inviting.
I gulped at the view. "Mom, you weren't kidding! This place is gigantic!"
I was horrified to hear the twinge of anxiety in my voice. It was horrible! This place was so big, I would get lost the second I stepped foot in the school. Everything was ten times bigger than my small town school and I hated it. This was just one more thing to hate about the city; they made small towns look puny.
"Amazing, isn't it?" she chirped, driving past the gates and up to a large brick building with a sign that read Alice B.
"I think this is your dorm building. Let me check," she muttered. She rummaged in her huge purse, another strange fetish of hers, and dug up a crumpled up, large and yellow envelope that I recognized to contain all of my school information.
"Yup, it's this one, let's go," my mom called, excited. She was practically bouncing in her seat. "I made sure they brought all of your stuff late yesterday night so you could settle in today!"
I yanked open the car door and stepped out into the afternoon sun, the light bouncing off of the windows of my dorm building flashed before my eyes. "I know, Mom, you told me this morning and twice in the car," I reminded her.
She smiled sheepishly in return.
I started walking with my mother at my side towards the dorm building and I couldn't help but notice that boys and girls alike turned to admire my mother. She was beautiful… and I could hear the whispers around us like bees buzzing around my head.
"Hey, there's a new girl in town and I can't wait to get to know her..."
"Oh God. Look how much make-up she has on… how else do you get that perfect tint of pale but not pale…?"
It would be a lie to say that I wasn't bothered by this. I mean, this was my mother they were talking about! The two earlier comments made me shudder, but the last one was dead on. She was beautiful. No doubt about it.
My mother was a person that made you feel insignificant walking beside her. She had a graceful stride that made her look like she floated and this almost… haunting expression on her face. At times like these, I felt so small compared to her.
My mom looked my way, throwing me a reassuring smile before squeezing my hand. "Aren't you excited?" she whispered conspiratorially, like what she was saying was a secret to my ears and only my ears. I wanted to tell her I wasn't four anymore but this was the happiest I've ever seen her for a long time.
I smiled back, catching her ecstatic mood. "Yeah," I whispered back, another smile gracing my lips, "I think I am."
We stopped at the check-in counter somewhere near my dorm and my mom checked me in while I waited at the side, looking over the huge campus. I was appalled at the vastness of everything. In the distance, I could hear laughter and there were already groups of friends, talking and hanging out nearby.
The start of the semester would be next week and I felt so small and lonely in this vast campus. Everyone had friends of their own … why would they want to make room for someone like me? Plus, I've heard things about these kinds of city schools. There were rabid people here. I could only shudder at the thought of starting classes next week. Maybe if I sat at the back of the class near the window, I'd attract less attention.
I smiled at the thought.
A few boys stopped curiously before me and I could only flush with embarrassment and slink to a different corner. What did they want from me? Was I smiling at nothing again?
I put a hand to my cheek and was horrified to feel the definite heat on my cheeks. God, that's kind of embarrassing.
"Mikan, let's go. I have your key card," my mother called and before I could scan the interested faces that were looking for the famous author's daughter, I rushed in a step in front of her, still hoping to stay out of the public eye.
"Slow down, honey. I have the key card, remember?"
I slowed down. "Mom, could you not speak so loud in public! I'm trying to keep a low profile, okay? And so far, the more you yell around, the more people keep looking my way!"
She smiled smugly. "Maybe, Mikan, it's because you're beautiful."
I snorted and turned to see if she was serious. "Mom, that's the last thing I am."
"Are you saying that your father and I didn't produce a beautiful child?" she asked, her voice hard with sadness when my dad was brought into the situation.
I sighed softly, walking in step behind her. "That's not what I mean."
She shot me a wary look and stopped in front of a closed door, directly at the end of the hall. "Okay, number 584. This is it, Mikan. Now close your eyes and don't open them until I tell you to."
My mom probably had the camera in her hands. She loved to document every moment of my life. A major milestone. Like my first step, when I graduated from potty-training and my first missing tooth… and now this.
I heard the click of the camera's shutters and the swish of the key card in its assigned slot and finally, the slow turn of the knob before she whispered, "Alright… open!"
I did and chocked back a scream.
In front of me stood a girl with sparkling green eyes, green permed hair and a frown on her lips. Her arms were folded and her right hip jutted out in an odd angle. Under her eyes were dark black circles and her left foot was tapping, annoyingly on the floor. But even then, she was very pretty…
"Hi there, I'm M-Mikan Sakura," I stammered, my eyes shot to the floor with embarrassment as my mother continued to snicker and take pictures of me.
The smooth voice that replied had a hint of annoyance as she said, "Sumire Shouda. And I can't say that I'm happy to meet you."