If you'll notice, this chapter's writing will be very different than previous chapters. For one, I started this story a while ago, when I was in this creepy craze. But now I'm better. Then, I read over it, and I thought, oh my...this is so stupid. So in short, I changed my perspective on writing. For those of you who enjoyed my lovey-dovey-super-drama writing, well, *shrug*. Sorry. But I took on a new, more chill approach; tell me how it works! Read more in my other stories! Feel free to comment!
I couldn't say I didn't feel absolutely awful. Ren could've had an incident, or she could've tripped and gotten hurt, or...
My eyes teared up, and I held her tiny body closer to mine. She'd fallen asleep as soon as she'd found me and explained how she'd gotten lost. It seemed in the frantic chase of a dozen people in a private school, it was easy for a little four-year-old to get lost. I stroked her red bangs out of her eyes. Looking back on my stupid Kirihara issues, it seemed like one of those giant, melodramatic dramas my mother used to like watching on day TV.
I wiped my arm with my hands and carefully roped Ren's skinny knees over my arm and shakily got up. I managed to get to the hallway and navigated myself through the school, pausing every once in a while to take a look out the window to find my way. Every once in a while I heard footsteps, but I didn't care. Let them find me; let them see me now. Eventually, I stumbled down the steps. Auntie Chie had tears in her sparkling green eyes, and she gave me a distressed look as she gently lifted Ren from my arms. Auntie Chie buckled her in, and Ren's red hair stained the window as she leaned her head against it. Aunt Karin was already in the car, dialing numbers into her cell-phone. Isao was buckled up and wheeling his car absentmindedly over her pants. When she saw me, Aunt Karin stopped the phone call with a, "Oh, never mind. Yes. Mmhmm. Yes. Thank you. Goodbye."
I didn't look at her; just stepped over Ren and buckled myself down in the back and took to staring out the window away from the school. The sky was already orange and reddening against the blue. I felt decently bad about my whole episode. But right now, I was glad no one was giving me a lecture; it felt like I had run a marathon, swam two miles, and slept in a coma for ten years. Yes, I did feel that bad.
Soon enough, I heard the car door slide open. I turned my head and saw Yukimura, purple eyes creased hard with concern. I saw the kids behind him, and out the window, his tennis friends. And Kirihara, sweaty face and looking like I was trapped, and he was going to rip open the car to save me. Funny, how that works.
Yukimura opened his mouth to say something, but I put on my saddest face. "Ren's sleeping. Everyone's tired. I think it would be best if we just went back home." He wanted to say something; I knew it, but seemed to decide against it, helped the little ones in, and hopped in next to me, but I stared out the window. Houses down the neighborhood looked so comfy. But I was going home. Home to the hospital. Home smelled like antiseptic and blood. Home was the last place I could go to anymore for any help.
Soon enough, Doctor Kazumi arrived, her hair messy, which surprised me, but I was too tired to care. She gave me a stern look, but under that I sensed disappointment. Disappointment that I just ran off. Disappointment at how I left my kids. Well, maybe that's just good, gentle-Jun you're looking for. It felt like I melted ever since I'd changed my clothes; yes, strange as it sounds , I didn't feel so much lie perfect-little-babysitter-Jun-chan-who's-like-Snow-White-but-with-kids. I realized I didn't even like her. But I still loved my kids. They just weren't my kids, anymore. They had never been.
The car lurched, and with a strange finality, I found myself driving away, staring at the blank faces of Yukimura's teammates. And Kirihara. I wondered if this was how he felt, driving away across town. I hated this feeling. I gripped my skirt. Did he hate it so much that he didn't write back? Was he ashamed of what had happened to him? Then, almost as an afterthought, of me? My face blanched but I turned my face to the sun; it was as refreshing as cool water on my cheeks. So that's why he didn't return any of my letters. Obviously, the Junior Ace couldn't have the reputation of the ex-cancer-freak. I almost punched the window just to wake myself up. Ah, well. I was fourteen, for Pete's sake. A good (on average) sixty-five more years to find someone I liked. Still, that didn't make me feel any better about making everyone run around looking for me. Maybe it was better they didn't try to chasten me, but I kind of wished Doctor Kazumi would just turn and scream at me like mom used to. I'd feel a lot better after that. We didn't take any long detours this time through, but we stopped for dinner, and I didn't know whether to laugh or scowl. Apparently, Kawamura sushi was the regulated restaurant Doctor Kazumi wanted to take us to tonight.
In the past years, they'd gotten a bigger sign, I saw. It was much louder. I stifled a smile; Taka-san was so sweet, but I'd seen him get...excited. It was rather funny to see. The door slid open easily, and I let everyone else go ahead of me; no one commented. Rubbing my arm nervously (for some reason), I looked at how everything had changed. The furniture had been replaced. The sushi-making station had been refurbished to stretch around the next corner. Kawamura-senpai was busy in his apron and braided headband, cutting sushi and arranging them neatly onto waiting plates. Taka-san stood ready next to his father, watching closely, sometimes rearranging the sushi and fussing with ingredients. The kids all gasped and ran to watch. Kawamura-senpai looked up and smiled, and Taka-san saw me, waved, and ran out and gave me a big hug.
He smelled like raw fish and soy sauce, which was actually was pretty nice...if he were edible and wrapped up in seaweed.
"Ah, Jun-chan! I haven't seen you for so long! You look so different! Who are all these people. Is that Yukimura Seiichi?" All this was in one breath, and I couldn't even form an answer before he started a new question. Then, there it was: the question I was a little scared to answer. "What happened to you?" His brow suddenly furrowed. I had never told my former classmates where I was going when I was diagnosed. And I supposed my parents never told them anyway; why deal with something done and gone?
"I...moved." Before he could say anything else, I changed the subject. "So, the place changed! It's so much...bigger!" He smiled and his ears turned pink; apparently, this was extremely pleasing news. I punched his arm playfully. "And you're so much taller now. I'll next a stool to look at you eye-to-eye." It was true; he was a good half-head taller than me. I smiled and watched as everyone sat down. Yukimura gave me a look he didn't know I saw and sat down carefully next to Isao. "So..." I continued. "Really, how have you been?"
Taka-san ran a hand over his tan hair and shrugged. "Eh, you know. I've been going to Seigaku, the private school, and I'm actually a Regular on the boys' tennis team." He blushed, like it made him feel uncomfortable to talk about himself. "That's how I know Yukimura; he's the captain of Rikkaidai, the champions for two years running." In his voice wasn't envy or disgust; it was praise. That's why I loved Taka-san; he was so...nice. I wished there was another word I could've used, but compassionate, good-hearted, and honest could only be rolled into the loose term, nice. "So, how've you been?" His eyes swept over all the kids and lingered for a heartbeat on Yukimura. "Who are all your friends?"
"Field trip," I explained simply, like that explained everything. Before he could say anything else, I pulled him over and quickly introduced him to everyone. I could see they wondered if they should be worried, like, will she be running away like a maniac again? but they all politely smiled, and he returned back to arranging everything all nicely on the plates. It looked delicious, but only like art: not something I'd even consider eating. Plus, right now, there was a black hole where all my organs were supposed to be.
So when the giant tray was set before us, everyone dug in, spilling wasabi and soy sauce over their plates, grabbing sushi with eager fingers. Katashi almost started crying when he tried wasabi for the first time, and I fought back laughter; his face was so red. I was perfectly content with watching everyone enjoy their food. But then Taka-san came to join us, spotted my empty plate, and asked me why I wasn't eating.
His look was so disappointed, I almost took a piece just to make him feel better, but there were fresh carrots and cucumber with raw meats that were sitting in open containers since this morning. It was perfectly sanitary...but everything had bacteria, and Doctor Kazumi and I exchanged a look from across the table that said you know why you can't have this. Bacterial infections...interfering leukemia...risks of sickness...blah, blah, blah. She followed her cautionary glance with a sympathetic look, but with a rice roll in her cheek and soy sauce smudging her lipstick, I couldn't take her sympathy seriously.
"I have a procedure tomorrow," I explained kindly. However, the worried look changed from sadly disappointed to worried fright. "It's regulation," I told him. "As in, it's been done a lot of times before," I added quickly. I could see that sink in. Taka-san was tempted to ask what kind of surgery, but some uncomfortable answers could come up, so he stopped himself.
"Well, I-uh, I hope you'll be alright," he said, looking so much like a lost puppy, I wanted to pat his head. Then his look brightened. "When will you're surgery be done?" He asked tentatively. He wanted to bring me something, I could tell, which was so sweet, I almost felt bad for my future healing. So I tried to make it no big deal.
"Um, about a month," I said nonchalantly, which didn't really work, because he looked like he'd just swallowed a very large bug. "Or, like a year...plus recovery time to see, you know, if I'm going to die because of infection, or something," I added quickly, but my "comforting news" just made Taka-san's face whiter. I lowered my voice with sympathy, which was ironic, because I was the one being treated. "I'm sorry," I whispered. "I'm not used to explaining everything. It seems like I'mthe one everyone's hustling over. But they forget about my friends. And family."
I didn't mean to, but I spat that word out. It burned like wasabi on my tongue. That word stung harder than a hornet.
Taka-san nodded and offered me a little smile. "Well, I hope..." he faltered, like the words slipped away, until he swallowed. "I, uh, I hope you'll get better." He nodded to himself and pointed at the kitchen. "I should, um, I should go help Dad with inventory, so..." I smiled and waved as he left. He was so strange today. Maybe he changed more in five years than I had first thought...
I shrugged. Well, a lot could change in five years.