Eiji slammed his gym locker closed and angrily pounded his fist against it.
"Ne Eiji, what's the matter with you?" Momo asked, still wearing his gym uniform.
"I sucked!" He retorted. "I looked like an idiot on the bars today!"
"So what else is new?" Momo shrugged. "At least you didn't twist your ankle. He winced as he rubbed his ankle which looked red and swollen.
"Cya, nya." Eiji mumbled with a sickened tone. He tossed his wet towel over the dry cleaners and left the room, irritated. He just had the worst practice this year, maybe his whole life! And he knew why.
It was the new girl.
Eiji has been trying to find her the past 3 days. He hadn't seen her since that quick moment at the hall before his 5th period on Monday. But he can't forget her. No matter how much he tried to. She was just too beautiful!
He had a dream of her that night.
In the dream, he was at the cafeteria, eating his lunch. Then he saw how she seemed to glide across the room. She went towards his table, her brown eyes shining beautifully. She leaned down as her short hair fell over his face, soft and aromatic.
She started to kiss his face, his forehead, both of his cheeks one by one, soft kisses…so soft he couldn't really feel it.
He wanted to feel her kisses. He tried to feel it. But he couldn't feel anything. He reached up to touch her delicate face but it looked like his hand went through her.
Then he woke up.
The dream had stuck in his mind. His dream should've been exciting, but there was something that didn't make him feel that way. There was something unnaturally cold about it…Why couldn't he feel his kisses or touch her face?
For another set of days, Eiji tried to look for her. He tried looking for her in the cafeteria, in the halls between classes. And even after school he waited outside hoping he could get a glimpse of her. But she never appeared. His friends and teammates in the gymnastics varsity also had no idea of the girl when he asked them.
As he trudged through the empty halls, he kept wondering why his timing was off during his practice but her face kept on drifting in his head. Once again, he imagined her floating on the halls.
"Are you real?" He loudly asked as his voice echoed through the whole corridor.
"Yes I am real. But what are you?" A girl's voice replied, which almost made him jump.
"Eh?" He spun around to find Miharu behind him.
"Talking to yourself these days huh, Eiji?"
He felt his face growing hot from embarrassment. "W-what are you doing here? It's nearly 5:00pm."
"Oi…it's my school too. I can stay as long as I like. You jocks think you own the place or something…" She replied.
He shrugged. He didn't feel like joking around today.
"I was working on Judges. We're going to paste it tomorrow morning." Miharu was the assistant-editor the Seishuun Gakuen School paper."I suspect you were doing flip-flops down the gym?"
"It's not flip-flops," He replied with an annoyed look. "We're going to have a match against Hyotei this Friday night."
"Good luck." She said, punching his shoulder. "They're pretty good, right?"
"They're not that good, nya."
They walked down the corridor, their footsteps echoing rhythmically. They soon were at their .lockers as the stopped to get their books and jackets.
"You going home?" Miharu asked. "Want company?"
"Sure." He replied, though he really didn't.
They walked out the back doorway, out through the teachers' parking lot. They passed by the Seishuun's Tennis courts and right behind it was the Seishuun Park, a wide grassy park filled with different kinds of trees which sloped down to a thin stream that led to Yakarusa River.
Because the park was near the school, it was considered a hangout for most of the students back at Seishuun. A great place for meeting friends, going out for picnics, study dates, taking long comfortable naps under the large trees, looking for squirrels, or just staring at the calm flow of the river.
But not tonight. The park was cold and stale. The fallen leaves made random circles at the teachers' parking lot due to the cold wind along with the sky which was heavy and dark.
"Let's go to the front way," He said as he walked with her. They headed to the front part of the school. She leaned against him as they walked. He figured that she was trying to get warm.
"Guess it's really winter…" She murmured.
They continued on walking passed Park Drive, a walk they have done a thousand times. It felt different with him. He assumed that he was just in a bad mood.
They had been silent the whole time. The wind was the only one making the noise as it blew hard on their faces. Soon, they both spoke at once.
" Have you seen a girl with short brown hair—"
"Are you doing anything this weekend? Saturday night?"
But they also stopped at the same time as soon as they said those.
She pushed him. "You go first."
He pushed her back, but not as hard. "No. You."
"I asked if you were doing anything Saturday night…"She asked as she leaned on his shoulder again.
"No, I don't think so,"
"I'm not either…" She told him. Her voice seemed funny, a little tense. He assumed it was just the wind.
"Have you seen a girl with brown hair and eyes, nya?" He asked.
"A very pretty girl but strange-looking…sorta old-fashioned, very pale, nya."
She let go of his arm. "You mean Ann?" She asked. He didn't see the disheartened look on her face.
A bright look flashed from his face. "Ann? That's her name? Do you know her, nya?" The streetlights flickered on like the expression he had at the same time. Terror Avenue
"She's a new girl. Very pale. A brunette. Has her hair brushed straight back with a small clip on the right side? Wears dresses all the time?"
"Yeah! That's her, nya. Ann. W-well, what's her last name?"
"I don't know," Miharu snapped, then regretted for revealing who she was. "Tachibana, I think. Ann Tachibana. She's in my fourth-period arithmetic class."
"Wow, nya…" He mumbled, still not moving, the trees casting its shadow across his face. "You know her. What's she like?"
"No Eiji. I don't know her. Like I said, she's a new girl. I don't know anything about her. She never says a word in class. Sits in the back row, pale as a ghost. She's absent a lot. W-wait--! Why are you so zealous of knowing her?"
"What else do you know?" Eiji asked, ignoring her question. "Come on, nya."
"That's it." She said impatiently. She started walking ahead of him, taking long strides.
He ran to catch up with her. "I thought I made her up." He said.
"No. She's real." Miharu replied. "She doesn't look real. But she's real. You in love with her or something? Oh. I know. You and Momo made a bet to see who could get a date with her first. She shoved him again, nearly knowing him off the sidewalk. "I'm right, aren't I? You two always pick on the new girls."
Again he didn't seem to hear her. "Don't you know anything else about her? What classroom is she in? Where does she live?"
"Oh. Yeah. I did hear about that. She transferred here from Kanagawa. Her family moved into a house on Kyofu Gairo.
"Kyofu Gairo?" Eiji stopped short, feeling a chill down his spine.
Kyofu Gairo, a narrow part of the town that would past the cemetery and through the thick woods until it reached the South edge of the town. That part of the town was said to be cursed.
The blackened remains of a burned-out mansion—Kyofu Toeba's mansion, stood high on the hill on centered part of Kyofu Gairo, overlooking the cemetery, creating heavy shadows that stretched through the dark, dead woods. Terrifying howls, dreadful screams, unrevealed secrets, curses…were said to lurk within the mansion.
People from Seishuun Gakuen grew up hearing different kinds of stories about Kyofu Gairo—about people who wandered within the woods and never came back, about accidents that couldn't be explained, fiends that prowled around the mansion, ruthless spirits that were never put to rest and about mysterious murders and unsolved mysteries.
When Eiji and Miharu were kids, their friends would always like to dare each other to walk on Kyofu Gairo at night. It was a contest for the bravest of kids to take part. And those who wouldn't be seen for long! But even until now, the words Kyofu Gairo still brought a chill to him.
"I think Ann belongs to Kyofu Gairo. She could haunt as well as any ghost in the old houses there." Miharu said, giving Eiji a half-smile.
"I think she's the most beautiful girl I've ever seen, nya." Eiji replied, feeling like he needed to defend her from attacks.
"So do you have a bet with Momoshiro or what?" She asked.
"No." He snapped, lost in thought.
They reached their houses, dark and shingled ranch houses, almost identical, set back far from the street behind the tall hedges, on wide manicured lawns like all the other houses on the north hills, the nicest section of the town.
"About Saturday night—"She tried again.
"Yeah. Right. See you tomorrow, nya." He replied and began to jog on the paved drive to his house.
Ann. Ann Tachibana. What a nice name. What a nice, old-fashioned name. The name continued on his mind repeatedly.
"That's right, Operator. The Family's name is Tachibana. It's a new number. On Kyofu Gairo."
"I'm looking for it, sir." The Information Operator said. There was a long silence.
"Why am I so nervous for just calling Information?" Eiji asked himself.
He had thought of Ann throughout dinner. Now he's upstairs in his room with the phone on his hands waiting for an answer. He decided to get her phone number. "I know I'm going to be too nervous to call her." He thought. But I just want to get her number, incase I would want to call her someday…" He finished off.
There was a long silence. He leaned on his desk, drawing random doodles on the yellow pad, thinking of ways on how to get through this properly.
"Yes, here's the number. It's a new listing." The operator read it aloud and Eiji scribbled away the number.
"And what is their address, Operator?" He anxiously asked.
"We are not supposed to give that out, sir." The Operator replied.
"C'mon! I promise not to tell anybody, nya." Eiji laughed.
Surprisingly, the operator laughed too. "I guess its okay. It's my last shift anyway. It's 37 Kyofu Gairo."
"Thank you so much, Operator! You're a really nice person, nya!"
"You're nice too," She said and quickly clicked off.
Eiji stood up from his desk and stared at the yellow page that had Ann's telephone number. "Should I call it? If I did, what would I say?"
Do it Eiji. You can do it. After all she's just a girl. Sure, she the most beautiful girl, but she's still a girl. Don't be a chicken. Be a cat. Fast. Quick. Nimble.
He picked up the receiver. His hands trembled in anxiety though he felt like he could really do it. Eiji stared at the yellow page until it became a blur to his eyes.
Even if I called her, what would I say? I would just stammer and sound like a total jerk. Maybe even worse! She probably had thought of me as an idiot when she saw me standing on my head at the cafeteria before.
He put down the receiver.
I can't! I can't, nya!
Sure why not?
He picked up the receiver.
This is stupid. I'm just going to make an idiot of myself, nya!
He punched in the numbers.
Put the phone down, Eiji! Don't be a fool!
It rang once. Twice.
Maybe she won't even remember who I am anymore!
It rang again and again.
Nobody's home then! Safe!
He let it ring again for at least another four times. He was about to hang up until he heard a 'click' from the other end and a young man's voice answered, "Yeah?"
"Oh. Hello." Eiji replied. His voice sounded so dry that he really hoped that it would be Ann who would answer it.
"Is Ann there?"
Who was this guy? Why did he sound so annoyed? Maybe he woke him up.
"I'm sorry. Is this the Tachibana residence?"
"Yeah. It is." The young man rasped in his ear.
"Could I speak to
There was a very long silence.
"I'm sorry. This is the Tachibanas but there is no Ann here."
The phone clicked off.