To Stand Among the Stars
Fuji S. x OC
As I walk through the empty halls my footsteps echo off of the barren walls. It's the day before I finally begin my second year in high school and my first time back in public school. Being homeschooled has its ups and downs, but I want the real experience. Sure, I'm afraid of what everyone will think of me.
I'm going to be an entirely different person. Still, the prospect of actually having friends, doing things that I want to do, and actually starting my life gives me the push I need to go through with this.
I look into the empty classrooms of Kuraka Gakuen, or Kuragaku for short, as I walk by. This academy is one of the best for students to study in and to become professional sport players.
A soft sigh escapes my lips. It's almost comical to think about everything I'm going to get myself into. Though, as long as no one figures out my secret, then it all should be fine.
Testing the light, which is why I'm walking the school in the first place before school, I open my eyes slowly. Wincing slightly, my piercing dark grey eyes adjust to the light.
'Not too bad.' I think. 'As long as the blinds are closed next to where I'm sitting and no one calls me out on it, then I should be fine.'
I close my eyes again, continuing to memorize the school with my eyes closed. As I do so, my mind begins to drift back to the days where I still lived with my parents. When I still was a normal child, loving every aspect of being young. What I missed most about those days though was the fact that I could truly be myself.
That day and those thereafter still invade my thoughts and dreams at night. The day of the "accident" that changed my life forever.
*Back eleven years ago*
I was five years old and my parents thought it was best to give me something to do with all my energy, so they put me in a summer sport camp; a tennis camp, to be exact. The programs were arranged by age, but with the ability to move anyone up or down based on progress. The age ranges were 5-7 years, 8-12 years, and 13-17 years. Both boys and girls were together, so everyone trained at the same pace.
I was so excited to begin my first day. Mom had picked me out a special outfit: a purple tank top and skort to match my hair. Dad thought that it was just a little too girly for his only daughter, so he put a slightly too big white hat on my head, letting it tip slighting down into my vision and tied up my hair to hold it up.
I loved my new racket most of all. The way the new grip tape squeaked in my hands, how the strings were taut, and the way it fit my size perfectly. I remember protesting childishly when Mom wanted to take pictures, but she got them anyway with help from Dad. I had squealed when he picked me upside down and spun me around before Mom scolded him.
They both dropped me off that day at camp. It was a tennis club with many courts, so it was perfect for the camp. I walked nervously around, taking in the scenery, while my parents talked to the lady in charge.
After exchanging a few words they both took me to where my group would be. When we arrived I hugged them both before running to meet my instructor. I remember his name being Sato-sensei. He was young at the time, being probably around 20. He introduced me to the rest of the group, which only consisted of four other boys. All of them were older than me, but it didn't really matter.
Soon, we began our training to become "awesome tennis players," as Sato-sensei liked to say. We worked on stamina (running around the courts), core strength (push-ups and sit-ups), our swings, and accurately hitting the ball. I wasn't the fastest or strongest, but I was the most accurate, only missing two out of twenty tosses.
Two weeks of training later Sato-sensei moved me up to the next group. I waved good-bye to my teammates, but not all of them looked as happy for me as Sato-sensei. I finished out the last two weeks of camp with the older players. There, I learned the basics of the game, serving, and the different spins. It was certainly a lot to take in, so I had some trouble, but with some of the older players watching out for me I learned it all in no time.
At the end of the month of summer camp the instructors held a ceremony to celebrate everyone's progress. Near the end of it I spotted two of my old teammates. Excitedly, I ran over to them in my tennis attire to talk with them. I failed to notice their jealous and angry looks. We ended up walking a little ways away from the party before I realized that something was off.
"You think you're better than us?" One of the twelve-year olds asked.
"You're just trash." The other boy said. He pushed me down into the dirt, getting my outfit scratched and muddy. Tears form in my eyes, but I don't let them out.
"What do you want from me?" I choke out.
They both laughed. "A pathetic girl, that's what you are." The one who pushed me said.
"You'll never be strong enough or good enough to beat us." He continues.
"Ne, shouldn't we teach her a lesson?" The first boy asks the other.
The second one grins. "Great idea!" They both turn and that's when I realize that I was lured here on purpose.
The boys had grabbed their rackets and some balls.
"Take this!" They used their rackets to pound the tennis balls into my small body. I raise my arms trying to fend the balls away.
"I have a better idea." The other boy says. He walks behind me, forces me to stand on my feet, and holds my arms tightly behind my back.
"Hey! Let me go!" I struggle to get free, but he's stronger than I am.
"Use her for target practice." He laughs sadistically. "Make sure that she'll never want to see another tennis ball ever again!"
He keeps laughing as the other boy pelts my face with the rest of the tennis balls. He aims for my eyes specifically; hitting them mercilessly until I only see bright colors and feel the tears, as I presumed from crying so much, run down my cheeks, chin, and drench my clothes.
After the last ball had been hit the boy releases me and shoves me into the fence surrounding one of the courts.
"Hope you learned your lesson." One boy said as he high-fived the other. I can't see who said it, but I hear them leave.
I just sink down to the ground and continue crying. I only hoped that someone would find me. I tried to open my eyes, but the shooting pain that accompanied the bright lights only made me close them just as fast.
It wasn't long before I heard footsteps coming near me. I had stopped crying, but tears still slipped down my face.
"Oh Kami." A voice I recognized as Sato-sensei's said. "Kita." He brushes some hair back from my face.
"Kita, can you hear me?" He asks me. I only nod slightly in recognition.
"Okay, can you look at me?" He takes my hands and removes them from covering my eyes. "Kami." He says softly.
"Can you open your eyes?" I shake my head vigorously no.
"Alright, I'm going to pick you up. We have to go see your parents okay?" He says softly, reaching around to pick me up under my arms. He walks soundlessly towards, what I assumed, was the rest of the party.
No noise could be heard, so I assumed that it had long ended. How long I had sat there against the fence I couldn't fathom.
"Kita!" I heard my mother cry.
"Oh, Kita." Dad said from beside me. I could feel Sato-sensei handing me over to him.
"Nataki-san, I'm deeply worried about Kita-chan. I think we should take her to the hospital." Sato-sensei says urgently. I feel Dad nod and I'm once again in motion.
"You can ride with us, Sato-san."
As we're riding in the car to the hospital Dad asks Sato-sensei what happened.
"I don't know," he answers truthfully. "I found her on the ground near some of the farther courts. Tennis balls were all around her and I saw a racket nearby."
"Do you know, Kita-chan?" Dad asks me.
I can't bear to reply. I don't know their names, but I don't want to be weak either by saying who. I just shake my head no again.
Dad sighs and the car stops. Car doors open, so I guess we're here.
Dad picks me up from the back seat and the four of us enter the hospital. I can hear a few gasps from around me and footsteps running towards us.
"Sir, right this way please." A lady says urgently and we all quickly follow after her. After entering a room I'm placed on a bed lying down.
"The doctor will be right in." She says before the door closes with a soft click.
Just as the nurse said the doctor arrived about two minutes later.
"Hi, I'm Shiho-sensei. What happened here?" A kind, womanly voice rings out into the room.
"We believe that it was a tennis accident." Dad says calmly.
"Believe?" The doctor asks unsurely.
"We were all attending a celebratory party for the end of our tennis camp. I think some students lured her out of it and attacked her." Sato-sensei chimed in as Dad's grip on my shoulder grew tighter.
"I see. Is she allergic to anything?"
"No." Mom answers.
"Good. Now, I'm going to need to take her to get cleaned up first, check for any other wounds, run some tests, and then we'll be back with any results. Is that alright?"
Both of my parents must have nodded, because the room was silent.
"Thank you. Kita?" The voice was closer to me, so I turned my head to where I thought she was. "Do you understand?"
I nod my head yes and she picks me up under my arms, just like Sato-sensei had done before. She walked with me for a small distance before she opened a door and set me down.
"Now, I'm going to need your clothes while I get the bath ready. Do you think you can try to help me?" Shiho-sensei asks softly.
"Hai." I manage to squeak out. I start to take off my sneakers and socks while I hear water running. Soon, another set of hands join mine.
"If you like, you can call me Yukari-san."
I smile "Hai, Yukari-san."
She helps me into the warm bath after helping me remove my tennis outfit. My hat came off, but she left my hair in its messy ponytail. Yukari-san begins to wash me, since I can't do it myself.
"You're a brave girl Kita-chan. Do you know what happened?" She asks softly as the water wipes away all the grime.
"Hai." I say shyly, not wanting to lie to the kind doctor.
"Do you want to tell me?"
"Iie." I say softly, embarrassed.
"That's okay. Can you at least tell me where they hurt you?"
"Hai, my eyes."
"What did they use?"
"A tennis racket to hit tennis balls."
"Arigatou, Kita-chan. Now, this may sting a little. I have to wash all the blood and dirt off."
'Blood?' I thought. I didn't know I was bleeding; I only thought I was crying. It scared me a little. 'How bad am I hurt?'
Yukari-san was very gently, so I only flinched every now and then.
"Alright, now I don't see any other wounds except for a few scratches and bruises, so I'll bandage them up now and then we'll do a few painless tests, alright?"
I nod my head to say yes and she lifted me out of the tub to dry me off. The scratches burned a bit when she went over them, but soon she bandaged them up and they felt better.
"Okay, now that you're dressed in a hospital gown we're going to go to those tests."
Just like before, she picked me up and we left the room. Soon, a different door opened and I was sat down in a chair with many things making noises around me.
"Okay, Kita-chan, I need you to try to open your eyes for me."
I was a bit nervous to feel the pain again, but I tried again. I lifted my lids a little bit, but bright light filled them and it burned. Quickly, I shut them tightly.
The doctor frowned, though I couldn't see it. She looks around, before she sees the problem: the window is open, letting in sunlight. She closes the blinds to see if that is truly the problem.
"Alright, try once more Kita, because I think I found the problem." She says softly.
I hesitate a little before I open them slowly. It was still a little painful, but I could keep them open in the medium-lamp light in the room. I looked around for the first time, able to see the scratches on my knees, legs, and arms as well as Yukari-san.
"How do you feel?" She asks, peering into my eyes.
"In both or one?"
"Can you look different directions slowly?"
I do so as she looks at them.
"I'm to shine a light in them this time, so try to not look at it, okay?"
"Hai." You say a bit more nervously.
You do so, flinching a lot when the light hits the sides of your pupils.
She sighs. "Alright. Now, lean forward and try to hold them open through the pain, okay? It'll only be a couple minutes or less."
I lean forward, resting my chin and forehead on this machine while she's on the other end.
A bright flashes and I try my hardest to keep my eyes open as the light shines in both eyes.
"Okay, Kita-chan, all done for now. I'll take you back to your parents, but keep your eyes closed, okay?"
She picks me up and we make our way back to the patient room. She sets me down in Mom's lap.
"The good news is that she doesn't have any other injuries. She seems to be able to see, but I need to make sure that she doesn't any other problems. I need your permission to do some extensive tests. It's virtually painless and only comes with one cost."
"What's that?" Dad asks concernedly, not wanting something bad to happen to his precious child.
"She'll need her head shaved."
Dad looks at me, though I can't see it. I don't want to lose my long purple hair, but it seems like I need to.
After the rest of the tests, the results came back and the doctor came in for the last time.
"Alright, so she'll be able to see, BUT," she pauses so the sigh of relief can be halted, "she won't be able to play tennis again. She can't go outside, because sunlight and other bright lights will harm her eyes. She'll need to be trained in how to live with her eyes closed as well."
Silence filled the room.
"It's like she's blind." Dad said unbelievably.
"She can't go outside." My mother said sadly.
"How will she go to school? Do other things like normal kids?" Sato-sensei asked Shiho-sensei.
"She'll need to be home-schooled for awhile and learn how to do things differently and on her own." She replied.
"Thank-you, Shiho-sensei." He shook her hand.
"Hai. Let me know if you need anything." She handed him her card before she left.
"What will we do?" Mom asks Dad.
"I don't know. We both work at the hospital more than we're home. We can't have her in school or in the day-care, so we wouldn't be able to commit to her fully." He replied sadly.
Sato-sensei is thinking deeply. He had grown attached to the young Kita. His studies have just finished and he hadn't gotten into any of the graduate schools he wanted to yet. Maybe…
"What if I could help?" Sato-sensei said suddenly.
"Kirin-san?" Mom said as I turned my head toward his voice.
"I've just finished my studies, and I haven't committed to any graduate schools yet, so I would be able to teach Kita-chan and maybe find a way to help her with tennis." He said quickly.
My parents looked at each other. "We couldn't ask you to do that Kirin-san."
"Iie," Sato-sensei replied, "I'm offering. Kita-chan is very special, I've grown quite attached, and I have no other commitments anyway. Please, would you allow me to help?" He bows low before my parents.
"What do you think, Kita?" Mom asks me.
I smile, turning my head toward them. "I like Sato-sensei!"
They smiled at me before looking back at Sato-sensei.
"It wouldn't be a lot of pay, but we can offer you room and board as well in return for everything you do." My dad offers Sato-sensei.
Sato-sensei looks at him in disbelief. "You don't have to go that far!"
Mom smiles at him. "Kirin-san, you'll be helping us out more than you know. It's the least we can do. Plus, Kita-chan adores you."
Sato-sensei rubs the back of his head in embarrassment. "Saa… so when do I move my things in?"
Dad smiles at him. "Today if you like. I'll help you out."
And so, Sato Kirin joined my family that day. Since then I've called him aniki or Kirin-nii. Since my parents are the department heads at different hospitals and on call, I never saw them much since the accident. Kirin-nii taught me at home, took me to all my doctor's appointments to check on my eyes, and even began teaching me tennis again.
The greatest challenge that we went through was perfecting the closed eyes state. Now, I can see by using the sounds around me. I rarely open my eyes, because I feel like I want to show everyone how strong I've become without my sight. Even so, Kirin-nii had the doctor create special sunglasses for me, so that I can see in the sunlight.
A little after I turned twelve years-old, Kirin-nii and his girlfriend Rei-chan got married. After that, Kirin moved out and started living with Rei in his new three bedrooms and two baths home. He still came over every day to take care of me. I even had my own room in their house.
However, when I turned sixteen my parents had both gotten a promotion offer. They were to head to Sapporo in Hokkaido (north Japan) from where we lived now in Sakai in Osaka (south Japan). The job was to run a new branch of hospitals together up there, but they were at a loss at what to do with me. I was about to be enrolled into school for the first time as a second year high school student in Tokyo.
Finally, Kirin and Rei asked if they could adopt me and be my guardians. After much debate and deciding that it was best, the papers were filled out and put into their hands. So, while Kirin, Rei, and I moved to Tokyo, my parents moved to Sapporo. I do miss them, but Kirin has always been there when they weren't. I love them, but he and Rei-chan understand me in a way that they never would.
*Back to the present*
I edge around the tennis courts, checking out where I would finally be able to begin my favorite sport. Kirin-nii had friends of his play me, but I've never played anyone my age before. Of course, he and Rei-chan took me to many of the regional and national tournaments, showing me what it was like, but it wasn't the same as actually doing it.
Turning directions, I head to check out the other outdoor areas. I pass by a few doors that say changing rooms on them. There's one for boys and one for girls. I snort a little bit at the last one. The girls aren't very strong in this area. I've seen their tournaments and practice schedule, because Kirin-nii has connections from when he went to school. He's been training me at least three times harder than these high school girls for the past two years.
Finally after seeing the whole school, I turn to walk the fifteen minutes to get home. Knowing that the girl's team sucked made me deeply depressed, because no one would be a challenge. Even the tournaments didn't seem interesting. I desperately wanted to be on the boy's team, so I begged him to do me a small favor: alter my paperwork to make me a boy. Of course, Kirin-nii did not like this one bit. Rei-chan, he, and I argued about it for weeks before I won him over with my logic. He said he knew a friend in the industry to make it official for a small price, which wasn't a problem for us.
Still, it was a brilliant plan. I would be able to study at a great school, make lots of friends, get stronger as a tennis player, and finally start living. So, there were just a few things left to do. I bought a whole new wardrobe to fit my male image, including all the things for my room. Rei-chan even found me a couple shirts that would constrict my chest. You couldn't even tell I had anything there to begin with. I was as flat as Kirin-nii, which is saying something.
Then, Rei-chan took me to get my long, deep purple hair cut. I hadn't cut it since the accident, so it was well past my waist. The hairdresser cut it so that it was shaggy to my chin. The bang that fell from the middle of my forehead and crossed the right side of my face was cut short to look more boy-ish. After looking in the mirror, I could hardly tell that I was even a girl. My face hadn't been too feminine to begin with, so it was a plus for me. I'd just have to be careful not to put my hair up or open my eyes or else I'd be recognized as a girl instantly.
I grinned as I turned my key into the front door of the house I shared with Kirin-nii and Rei-chan, remembering the last thing that I had to do to make everything official. Aniki made me pick the name that I wanted to be called. Although it should've been obvious, I surprised him by saying Kinta.