"ETSUKO HIZURI! WAKE UP!" A shrill voice pierced through my peaceful slumber, shrieking my name and shattering a few glass panes in the process. "Have you been paying any attention for the past hour?"
"Itsuki sensei, how many times do you want me to tell you, the reciprocal of x is 10. May I go back to sleep now?" I drawled without glancing at the whiteboard or textbook, knowing full well that my answer was sufficient to keep him from disturbing me for the next hour.
"Who IS she?"
"Some genius student sent here to make our lives miserable!"
I chuckled silently as my exasperated teacher turned his back on me and returned to the front of the class, as the rest of the students whispered behind his back. It was amusing being the new "genius" transfer student, the mysterious one that had come all the way from America but was well versed in Japanese anyway. Nobody here knew about me, but if they did, they would have stopped wondering about my golden hair that was swept into a lazily tied ponytail. The only one in this new school that had an inkling about my identity was currently down the hall in one of the classrooms for seniors, probably sleeping through algebra, or getting berated for doing so.
Before I could return constructing my extravagant castle in the sky that I had been building for the past week, there was one comment that took me aback, as I realised my cover could be blown any minute. I peeked through my heavy eyelids and caught sight of a boy with jet black hair, sporting a smirk that was eerily familiar, and I tried to place a finger on it as I recalled what he had just said.
"She looks a lot like Mogami Kyoko when she was a starlet, doesn't she?"
My name is Etsuko Hizuri, and I'm 16 years old. My past 15 odd years were spent in America, and back then I was taken care of by my grandparents, who have been happily giving the press a run for their money by frequently sneaking in and out of retirement. My parents are like two teenagers that can't keep their hands off each other, despite them both being in their forties, and I have two elder brothers who are responsible for half the swooning female fans at any major film event. That's a brief summary of my family tree in under a hundred words. And let me tell you, that tree is full of nuts.
Thanks to my parents' much hyped wedding, my brothers had been automatically thrust into the blinding limelight when they were born two years apart from each other. Right now, Kaitou and Kichirou are 22 and 20 respectively. Father always liked the sea, and Mother always had a penchant for liking names that suggested flying, although she never told me why. They chose Kaitou for my eldest brother, with 'Kai' meaning the sea or ocean, and 'tou' that meant 'to soar'. Though he can swim rather well, Kaitou abhors heights, and this has always led Kichirou and I to tease him about his inability to board roller coasters that go above two metres. Kichirou (lucky star) (cue gags) should have been named 'Nagareboshi' (shooting star) instead, thanks to his thrill seeking side that takes him bungee jumping around the world at least twice a year. How he managed to convince Mother to let him do so is still an unsolved mystery.
You must be wondering then, what I am doing in Japan. Unlike my brothers, my parents decided to give me a say about the limelight business. They let me live with my grandparents in America, and did well in shielding me from the press for a decade and a half. Father kept his stage name, and Mother, Kaitou and Kichirou adopted it. They were international stars by the time, but always found a way to see me each month. Mother even made me dolls of everyone else in Japan. They were scarily detailed, and till this day I have a feeling that the five year old me did not need to know how many moles Father had on his butt.
However, though my schoolmates had no clue about my parents' fame, the very reason that I was both well off and living with my grandparents made them suspicious of me, and I was unable to make friends. My brothers warned me about the hassle fame would bring once I returned to Japan, but I knew that I wanted to be with my parents and see even my brothers in action for once, instead of being hidden away. Mom and Dad were afraid I was feeling left out, and they were right, even though I didn't like to admit it, after all they had done for me.
So here I was, a week into my life in Japan, and on the verge of being discovered.
"Tadaima, Okasan," I heaved my school bag and put in near the door of my room, that was yet to be repainted from the baby pink it was for the past 15 years.
"Etsuko! Okairi!" Mother chirped.
I could tell Mom was glad I was back. She always called me her little princess, and insisted she take some days off for the next two weeks to welcome me back and settle me in. Father was voluntarily drowning himself in work as usual, and Yashiro-san was glad that his daughter's return was enough to get him to eat proper dinners at least. Grandma had taught me a thing or two about the kitchen, which Grandpa corrected in a flash, so as to preserve the lives of both current and future Hizuris. I helped Mom with the rest of dinner, and when my ridiculously tall father stepped into the house, I decided to practice a little give and take – take a bath, and give them privacy for whatever they wanted to do. My brothers frequently warned me about this, and this was a great time to take their advice. I had barely entered the bathroom when Dad had already skilfully turned Mom into jelly, and was going in for some more.
Fifteen minutes later, I stepped out of the steaming bathroom, drying my hair with one of my mother's old towels. My parents were still at it, and though I couldn't see them, Kichirou's voice warned me from coming into the living room unprepared.
"Come on Dad! Aren't you a little old for that? Get a room at least!"
I grinned. Kichirou had been away for filming, and it would be the first time I would be seeing him since last year.
"Tadaima, Okasan, Otousan, I will now go wash my eyes with the strongest detergent we have at home."
Kaitou was back too! I felt like a little girl, hearing each member of my family all at once. It was a treat, and I could not remember the last time since their conflicting schedules had allowed them all to be together. They've...they've probably been able to spend years like this. Thoughts crept into my head, reminding me of the stark differences between us. I glanced around at the walls of the house, adorned with Oscars, certificates, professional photographs taken of my alluring family.
"Now boys, go play with your sister. Okasan and I will...set up the table," Father stated mischievously.
"Etsuko's back already? ETTTSUUUUUU!" Kichirou's footsteps pounded on the wooden floorboards moments before I was greeted with a giant bear hug.
I swear Kichirou grows ten centimetres every time I see him after a long while. He was nearly as tall as Father, and was able to crush every bone in my body while lifting me off the ground in the process.
"Kichirou, don't kill our only sister. She's the only sane one in this family," Kaitou flashed a blinding smile, "plus, I want a hug too."
Squirming my way out of Kichirou's embrace, I launched myself into Kaitou's arms. It was safe to say that most women would kill to be in my shoes at that moment, as I tightened my arms around Kaitou, burying my face in his soft black hair, and then stuck my tongue out at Kichirou.
"I'd choose Japan's most desirable man over Japan's second most desirable man anytime!" I grinned cheekily, trying my best to aggravate my blond haired brother by quoting the latest statistics.
"But he's taken isn't he," Kichirou skilfully brushed aside my insult, seemed deep in thought, and then raised an eyebrow at Kaitou, "what's this I hear about you and Megumi Kotone?"
"Kaitou's in love with that new talent from his latest drama?" I remembered the outstanding performance she gave, and commended my brother for his good taste, "so when's the wedding?"
"She's just a year older than you, Etsuko," he sighed and looked forlornly into the distance, "and I'm not a paedophile. Megumi's way too young for me."
"That's what Otousan thought too, and our existence is living proof that that statement is unfounded. The very fact our father is out in the living room attacking our mother shows that age doesn't matter. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not, because at this rate we'll get another sibling instead of dinner," Kichirou glanced worriedly at the dining room.
Kaitou looked disdainfully at Kichirou, while pulling me back into a hug and sticking his tongue out at my second brother for good measure. They were quick to ask me questions about school and how I was finding Japan, and I answered them cheerfully. I realised Kaitou was almost an exact replica of Father, save his eyes which were golden, and his hair which was black. Like me, Kichirou had inherited Father's blond locks and dark eyes, but his face was shaped more like Mother's, giving him a pretty boy look. Unfortunately, they were both dazzling in their own right, and I felt inferior in comparison. Maybe that's why I'm not in showbiz; I'd just ruin their image of a perfect family.
"Dinner's ready!" We heard Mother's eternally bubbly voice call us to the dining room, and we rushed to the table, hungry for a rare meal of home-cooked food.
Just as we were about to sit down at the mahogany table for our dinner, the phone rang out in shrill, equally separated rings, and my mother made her way to the electronic device, and then answered it.
"Yes, this is the Tsuruga household, and you are looking for..." Mother's golden eyes widened in absolute shock, and the entire household seemed to be frozen in time.
"There is no such person here. I'm sorry."
Mother's terse voice lingered in the air as she put down the receiver, then glanced at us across the room, before they settled on me and pierced through my very heart and soul.
"Etsuko, who did you tell?"