It hurts, I thought. I had always hated this. Stopping my tears from falling only hurt my throat. It was annoying.
“I’m not in a fucking mood right now and you’re the first person I see. Heh, aren’t you lucky?” The muscle guy in his white long sleeves snipped, grabbing my hair and pinning my face to the wall. He was trying to choke me with his other hand, slapping and then smothering me again.
I can’t breathe.
“Why don’t you just push her on the stairs or something?” the lanky girl suggested, chewing gum like a horse while tapping her pastel-polished index on her phone. “That freshman should know her lessons. In the easiest way possible.” She crossed her legs as she sat on the cold table and tugged her tight dark gray sweater to cover her bloating belly. Just by looking at these made me shiver in this dry chilly weather.
“That would be a good idea!” the guy pinning me said. He pulled me by the hair, almost dropping my eyeglass. I grabbed his hand struggling to escape but he pushed my head down still clutching my hair. As we hauled towards the stairs, the other girl with finally-has-the-tan-blazer-on and folded-to-look-short black pleated skirt tittered as she kicked me to my back and to the leg, making me a cripple as I gnaw in pain. I didn’t realize she was wearing sneakers instead of her don slippers. My face was getting numb thanks to this big guy. My glasses seemed fine though; it was not broken unlike before. I needed to think about another excuse if I got myself another bruise. Cutting my hair would be a good idea too.
“Make her beg.” the other guy snorting a line pleased. He rubbed his nose and sniffing like he had a cold as he walked towards us then he bluffed fondly while yanking his gold striped tie, “Okay…say you won’t attend this school again, because we don’t want to see your face--again. It’s bugging us and that you don’t belong here.” He’s sweet tone was the most annoying one. “Or this guy will definitely push you. Or me, if you want.”
Muscle guy exploded into laughter. “You sounded like a bitch.”
“You’re too loud, someone might hear--” the other short girl was interrupted. I was looking at her, and I could tell someone came. Her eyes widened, her lips somewhat parted. She was stupefied.
“Who hears who?” Charles asked as he ascended the stairs. He had a polite expression on his face. A hand inside the pocket of skinny black trousers. Why don’t all second years look this good---and neat? He was like Justin Timberlake in a suit and tie (well he even wrote a song about it), except that Charles was in uniform. The gang bowed their heads ever so slightly and finally left me alone.
“Are you okay?” he asked. I nodded. It is him! The grandson of the founder of this school. I just could not look at him. Not with a messy hair and slapped-red cheeks. He put both his hands to his back like royalty and tilted his head. “It’s you again.” A tiny warm smile radiated from him and suddenly all I saw was his delicately shaped lips. “I see that some people just can’t stop chivvying a beauty like you.”
Oh God, help me! I nervously fixed my hair and my specs. He doesn’t mean that, does he? I just couldn’t stop my insides from squealing. I can die now. He brushed my hair softly to help me out but I instinctively waved it off. Tsk.
He pursed his lips and said, “I’m sorry…“ I shook my head lightly. Abruptly, people in their classrooms screamed with hurray. He chuckled and said, “The teachers will be having their meeting in a bit. That’s why everybody’s having the time of their lives, with ten hours of almost every day sitting in class; I don’t think I’ll argue with that.” We both let off a soft chortle. He offered me a pensive smile, “I thought you’ll ignore me again this time. You know, you’re really interesting.”
I cheeks burned. Looking directly at his electric azure blue eyes melted me. Tidy brows. Thick and long lashes. Sexy pointed nose. Pale-blonde hair. Tall, lean-built and lithe. I heard girls in school penned him ‘Prince’. Very attractive, always drawing the attention of the people around him. I could understand why every female student described him in such a detailed-manner. He really was perfect. And I knew, I was one of those girls who had helplessly fallen for him.
“Are you sure you’re okay? I mean those guys---” he sighed, “Should we go to the infirmary?”
The first time I saw him, I could say, I instantly fell for him. Just looking at him from afar was enough for me since then. It had been months since he first talked to me. He was the one who welcomed me in this school. Of course he would be the one; he’s the Student Council President after all. He showed me around, and talked to me whenever he saw me eating alone during lunch breaks. That triggered the female students to dislike me. That was the reason why I started ignoring him, but he kept approaching me.
“Charles, why you little…!” Chelsea Ryan, the vice president of student council, shrieked. Charles looked at her in discomfort. “The meeting, dammit! You’re not planning to run again, are you?”
“Okay, okay.” Charles replied, trying to calm her.
“I’m really gonna tie you if you run away again!” she reminded. Charles sighed.
“I’m not a maso---”
“Sheesh! Just go already, you goof!” Chloe Nicholas said. Not sure if she was in the council but, I knew she was known in school. Charles waved farewell. “Idiot.” She mumbled and faced me.
“So, you’re that girl.” She grinned. “What happened this time?”
“Nothing really.” I replied, removing my eyeglass and putting the ice pack the nurse gave me on my swollen cheek.
She scanned me from head to foot. “Must be the eyes…” She whispered, nodding .
“That’s what ‘he’ said.” She corrected, leaning on the table and playing with her long wavy white blonde hair. I wished I had hair like that too, but Akito dyed mine auburn instead. I didn’t even know why he kept dying my hair. Maybe because he was dying his grey hair too and it would be civil to share? I loved my coal hair.
“What do you mean?”
“Stick with us. I'm sure Charles would love that.” She said, ignoring what I said. “I’m a first year too, you know? Just like you.”
“I-I know.” I stuttered.
“Then I guess you already know my name.” She stretched a hand, “Just call me Chloe. Although they used to call me ‘Ichigo’… since I love strawberries. Either name’s fine.”
I shook her hand and she smiled. Then I remembered, it was her that my classmates had been talking about. The childhood friend of Charles. Ichigo. Like they said, she really is pretty. Thick long eyelashes. Sexy lips and a really deep tubercle. Tall and thin, but not so thin, and curvy. She’s like the girl version of Charles’ perfection! She looked like a mannequin because of her paper-white complexion. Cerulean-colored eyes. She looked more like a doll.
I frequently visit Uncle Natsume and Akira’s Grandparents back in Lebi in Region 39, the land of farming, during summers when many tourists from different regions would visit. I remembered, Uncle would usually whistle whenever he sees beautiful women. Although, grandma would argue with him, telling him that was the reason why no one wanted to marry him. He used to tell me that real beauty is not from ‘within’ nowadays, but on the ‘outside’. He always said that you could call someone pretty or handsome by looking at the cupid’s bow of the person. The deeper, the better. I didn’t understand why having a prominent, sharply raised tubercle on top lip would make a plain person look really awesome. But I guessed seeing these people made me agree with uncle this time. Except that they were not plain to begin with.
The bell ringed and the school speakers beeped, announcing that classes would resume tomorrow. “Well then, see you tomorrow.” She said and left the infirmary.
“You can go home now too”, the nurse said.
So I did what nurse just said. I looked in the mirror, and saw my cheeks still swelling. There was a little bruise beside my left eye too. I wondered if Akira would believe me if I just tell him I bumped into something while looking for my glasses. However, Akira was not stupid. He would just look at me with his usual blank face, acting like he believed me.
I walked on the way home like I always did. Playful cool breeze danced through the air yet the trees were fiery and ground carpeted with scarlet and gold. They were beautiful. With every stride I felt the sting. My spirit was pounding with every rustle and plummet from the foliage fold. The dazzling sight was rubies in my eyes yet my heart was singing a poignant and painful song.
“You’re early today.” Akira astounded. “What do you want for dinner?”
“Anything’s fine… Dad will not be home tonight.”
“I know. He told me he’ll be back in a couple of days”
“In a couple of days?! He didn’t tell me that.”
“He asked me to tell you. He called a little while ago.”
“I see.” I said and went upstairs.
“Go wash yourself! You look like a raccoon!” He yelled.
I let myself free and raw in the dark. I switched the light to the bathroom and immediately filled my cupped hands with water, I lowered my face into the cold of it. Damn, it’s really cold. Locked the door, removed my eyeglass, I dipped myself into the tub very slowly. A little groan came out of my mouth. Leaning my back on the tub, forgot I was kicked and gasped in pain, “Ouch!”
I was wondering if the bruise was big or something. I grabbed the sides of the tub pushing myself to stand up so that I could see for myself in the mirror. Accidentally, I glanced towards the door before I could really stand up. It was then, just then when my skin began to move. It was actually a frosted glass door, so you could see a little outside fuzzily. I was sure, I saw something moved there. I was stuck, staring at the door, my hands still on the sides, my back still curved.
“Aki?” I called.
I finally managed to stand up, avoiding myself to look at the door. Stepping out the tub, one foot at a time: by the moment I could step my other foot, there it was again. I instinctively looked for my eyeglass since I couldn’t really see so clearly, not losing my sight at the door, I moved my hands back and forth. Where’s my eyeglass?! My heart was beating so fast that I was starting to panic. I was shaking. I touched something and looked at it. It was my glass. Before I could wear it, my eyes widened by the sight of something unexplainable. Blood. The water in the tub was red. All red, even the water running from the faucet. Before I could scream in shock Akira knocked on the door.
“Hey, there’s a phone call for you.”
I couldn’t speak. Unsure of what happened, no words came out of my mouth. I was dumbfounded. Dripping, I pulled a towel from the rack. I could hear myself breathing wildly. Shaking as I wore my eyeglass, I scanned the tub. There was nothing.
“Y-yeah” I said still catching my breath. I tried calming myself and took a very deep breath. “Who was it?”
“Someone from school, I guess. She didn’t hang up, said she’ll wait. She did not say her name, though.”