. . . . . . . . . .

Like any other day, I'm at home, alone, staring out my bedroom window in my apartment. I've lived in this same place for the last 20 years now by myself. Not once have I ever thought about moving. It's just that . . . . . . . there's no other place for me to go. I've lost all my hope and faith in anything in this life of mine. How did I come to this, you ask? Well, it wasn't always like this. I used to have the best life I could possibly want. I loved my family, my friends, my job. But in the blink of an eye, all of it was taken away from me. Everything, gone! Now, I rarely leave this apartment. I hate going outside, fearing of people seeing my face. I never answer the phone. However, occasionally, my one last friend, Furukawa Airi, visits me from time to time. Even though I advise her that I'm a waste of her time, she still sees me anyway. All day, every day, I just stare out my window and sob. Even though the pain in my heart is so great, after many, many years of nonstop crying, I no longer have any more to tears to cry out. The best I can do is sulk in my misery and woe. I'm an old, defeated woman with nothing else left to do, but drift away into death's unknown shadows. If only I could push that rewind button and take everything back. I lost everything, but gained something from it all. But the one, most important thing I will always remember is my dear sweetheart.

I can remember it like it was just yesterday.

FLASHBACK - 20 YEARS AGO

Today is the day! I'm soooo nervous, yet excited! It's my first day on the job as one of the new homeroom and literature teachers. Once a student myself, now I'm the top of the class, the new authority, the big dog! Ahhh, this sure does bring back the old days of when I was in high school: homework, laughing with friends, crushing on boys, that one teacher you just wanna kill! It's all coming back to me. But things seem somewhat different, since now I'm teaching at an all-girls high school. Being trapped all day, 5 days a week with a campus full of drama-prone, hormonal teenager girls…..crap, I have no idea what I've gotten myself into. But it's okay! I'm sure I'll manage.

~class bell rings~

The bell rang, time to start homeroom. Mouu, so nervous! I hope everything goes smoothly. Yosh, here it goes!

"Minna, ohayou gozaimasu." I say with such pride and friendliness as I walk into the room of unfamiliar faces. "I am Matsui Rena, your new homeroom teacher, as well as one of the new literature teachers. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu."

The class responded in a formal manner, calming me down a bit. Apparently girls are a little more courteous and organized than boys. Maybe this won't be so bad after all. Finally settling down a bit, I do roll call. Hmm, it's really different saying only girls' name, since I'm not used to being surround by so many of them. Hopefully, there will be some male teachers and staff, especially cute ones! But for now, I feel totally at ease. Lying back in my desk, as the girls catch up with old friends and make new ones, I do some mental scoping around my classroom. I instantly identify the quiet girls, the loud girls, the jocks, the bookworms, and the girls I SERIOUSLY need to keep an eye on…..god, help me now. With my mind preoccupied, the bell rang again, meaning it's time for my first literature class. Wish me luck!

A couple of hours passing by, it's now time for lunch. My first literature class was actually fun. I'm really starting to warm up to these girls. And this was exactly the feeling I was looking forward to: the excitement and growth of the students. So far, so good, I haven't gotten into any trouble, and neither have the girls. Back in my empty classroom, I open up the windows to let in the cool breeze, while I eat my lunch. I scoot closer to the window, observing the interactions of the students. Some girls are sitting under the trees, others running around. Despite being the teacher, I kinda feel like a new student too. Even though I am enjoying my new job, I do wish I was in high school again. I just wish there was a rewind button in our lives that we could use as much as we'd like. But this is life; you need to make the best of it. And I will do my best to make sure of it!

Finishing up my food, the bell for class rang again. Putting my bento away and closing the window, the girls quickly scattered inside. Once again, it was time to introduce myself to another new class. But once the door closed, all hell broke loose. Unfortunately, this class, my last class of the day, was filled with trouble makers. The girls were extremely rowdy and loud. And I certainly wasn't prepared for behavior like this. This also was one of the things I was not looking forward to about being a teacher. I had absolutely no idea how to regain control of the class. I even tried screaming at the girls, which only added more turmoil. One of the girls then came up and starting threatening me. She may have been small, but she was fierce. While the delinquents started harassing the good students, I nearly lost it, at least, until one brave student stood from her seat and stopped everything with just her glare. She walked to the front of the class and pried the girl that was threatening me away. Things finally returning to order, the girl turned to me,

"Matsui-sensei, are you alright?" she asked with a gentle voice

"Yeah, thank you." That's all the words I could pull out.

She nodded to me and returned to her seat. Placing her kindness aside for a second, I remembered I was extremely pissed at the girls.

"*Sigh, I can understand, on some level, why you girls are crazy as hell, BUT DO NOT RELEASE IT ON ME OR ANY OTHER STUDENT!" I raised my voice at the entire class, sending fear through their veins. I certainly did not have the look of a tough person, but I have my dark moments. And this was one of them.

"Now listen to me," I continued with a serious tone. "I can overlook your behavior, but next time, you better be sorry. Understand?" Still shocked by my fearfulness I didn't get an answer.

"I SAID DOES EVERYONE UNDERSTAND?!" I shouted again.

"HAI, SENSEI!" They all responded in unison.

"Good. Now, I'd like to sincerely apologize for my rough tone, but you asked for it. Just respect me, others, and yourselves, and we'll all be fine." I truly felt bad for releasing my frustration, but drastic times call for drastic measures.

For the remainder of class, I restarted everything. Of course my words did not get through every student, seeing some of them still misbehaving, but that one girl took care of them for me. While I tried to mingle with some of the students, just to bring a good vibe back into the atmosphere, the dismissal bell rang. Oh, thank god!

We all bowed and said our goodbyes for the day. Boy, this didn't go exactly as I thought. I just told the girls to go home, and that I would clean up the classroom. It took me an hour to undo all the damage those girls caused. But I'm just glad no one was hurt and that my face is still in one piece. Gathering my things together, I locked the class door and headed to my car. With everyone gone, things were finally peaceful. The sun was slowly sinking into the horizon, me watching from one of the school benches. My mind and body lastly felt at ease after today's pandemonium. Reconnecting with my inner peace, a familiar voice spoke to me,

"Matsui-sensei…" it was the girl who saved me.

"Ahh, it's you. What are you still doing here?" It was already way past dismissal.

"I…I just thought I should keep an eye on you." She replied in a friendly voice. I couldn't tell if she was being serious or if she was just teasing me.

"Well, that's very mighty for a high school student," I answered back. "But thank you for today. You really saved me."

"My pleasure, Matsui-sensei. So are you okay?"

"Yes, my girl!" I pulled her in for a bear hug. "But honestly, thank you. And are you sure that the real reason why you're still here? Sure you're not here to meet a secret boyfriend? Hmmm?" I teased her.

"Whatever! I'm not even allowed to date yet."

"Hmm, sucks for you!"

"How about you then? Have you ever dated?" she attacked me with her questions. But she cornered me, the truth being, I, too, have never dated anyone.

"This isn't about me." I tried to avoid her question. I couldn't bring myself to tell her. I'm a 21 year old woman and I've never dated; I'm so pathetic.

"Hah! So anyways, I'm gonna head home. See you tomorrow." The girl flashed me her smile.

"You need a ride?" I asked since she looked too young to drive.

"It's okay, I'm gonna catch the bus."

"You sure? I'm free and a lot more fun." Convinced by my friendliness, she complied and we drove off. She directed me to her house, only a few blocks from school.

"Thanks for the ride, Matsui-sensei."

"Anytime, see you tomorrow….." Crap, I couldn't remember her name. "Ne! Umm, sorry, but what was your name again?" I asked with embarrassment.

"Jurina. Matsui Jurina." A name like mine?! Wow, what a coincidence.

"Alright, Jurina, see you tomorrow." And I drove off.