It was just a stupid skull.
A stupid skull made of molded, rubbery, grayish latex with a hard foam center. Typical. You could find it anywhere at a Halloween gathering or a gothic retail store in the bowels of the shopping district. If it had been thrown into a pile of other fake skull props, there was no point wasting the energy to start a search. It blended in.
But it never left his room.
And why would it?
It was his.
When Kyohei cradled it in his right hand, when it was tossed back and forth between his hands, it weighed nothing.
Much like him.
With his back flat to the golden-and-beige comforter of his bed, legs dangling limply off the edge, he closed his eyes. A breath trickled from between his lips. Kyohei pressed the object to his brow line.
"…What is special, Skull-san?"
His amber-brown eyes reopened, staring dazed and cross-eyed into that ambiguous, stupid smile.
"I can't even get my own mother to love me. Girls call me special for my face. I don't feel special."
"Special makes my stomach hurt. I hate special."
When the stupid skull went missing one night, Kyohei spend a majority of it frantically tearing apart the bedroom. What was supposed to be his homework sewed his patterned floor, crinkling and ripping under his hurried steps, and the blankets and pillows were scattered and lumped in different corners of the bedroom. He was about to chuck the emptied cabinet drawers against the wall in a misguided anger when the force of his stomping willed the lost item to roll out from its hiding space, unharmed.
Chest heaving, Kyohei dropped to his knees in relief, fingers splayed out in front of him. The object stared up, smiling toothily as if enjoying his moment of weakness, as if relieved itself to being missed.
Takenaga stood in his doorway, arms crossed. "You like that thing, don't you, Kyohei?" From his lounging position under the black curtained table, Kyohei shrugged calmly, one hand supporting his neck, and the other hand dangling the fake skull inches from his nose as he held its sightless gaze.
"It's stupid. I'll throw it out tomorrow," he replied, his expression unrevealing at his own cruel words. Takenaga snorted unimpressed, grinning, and Kyohei shifted, narrowing his eyes confused at him.
"No… you won't."
As Kyohei's mother was taken away by the ambulance, he finally finished picking up by hand every spilled piece of rice, dabbing every droplet of miso soup, throwing away every wasted bit of shrimp.
When Kyohei hung up the disconnected phone, he raged and slumped against the wall, sobbing, his Band-Aid hands scrambling for the skull to press comfortingly and cooling against his burning face.
"Nothing has changed… I haven't gone forward at all."
"I hate special."
The tears dripping and shining from the stupid, hollow eye sockets of the skull made it look like it was crying as well.
It was just a stupid skull.
And his housemates had the audacity to compare his "obsession" with it to the level of Sunako and Hiroshi-kun. He would have been more offended if he wasn't so wrapped up in exquisite ignorance.
It smelled funny to Kyohei. It made a terrible paperweight.
And it sat silently on the bureau near his bed each night as he slept, staring pointedly and unwavering out into the surrounding dark… as if protecting its owner.