It hurts, I thought. I’ve always hated this. Stopping my tears from falling only hurts my throat. It’s annoying.
“Heh…So you’re not really going to cry, huh?” the guy I don’t know said, grabbing my hair and pinning my face on the wall. He was trying to choke me with his other hand, slapping and then smothering me again.
I couldn’t breathe.
“So aggravating! You’re just a first year! You should know your place,” the girl with him said to me before turning to him. “Why don’t you just push her on the stairs or something?”
“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, trying to escape. He pushed my head down, still clutching my hair. The girls with him pushed and kicked me as were walking towards the stairs.
My face was getting numb. My glasses seemed fine, not broken like before. I needed to think about another excuse if I got myself another bruise. I’d cut my hair next time too.
“Now beg!” the other guy yelled, and then started laughing as we reached the stairs. “Say you won’t attend this school again. I don’t want to see your face again. It’s bugging me! You don’t belong here!”
“You’re too loud, someone might hear--” the other short girl began, but was interrupted. I was looking at her, and I could tell someone had come. Her eyes widened, her lips parted slightly. She might be stupefied.
“Who hears who?” Charles Ethelstan asked while climbing the stairs. The three others ran, leaving the guy still grabbing my head.
“P-Pres!” he cried, and then he let me go and followed his gang.
“Are you okay?” Charles asked me. I nodded. It was him, the grandson of the founder of this school. I looked at him, and he smiled. “So, it’s you again. Do you have class?”
“N-none,” I replied nervously, fixing my hair and my specs.
“I see,” he remarked. “I guess that’s because the teachers will be having their meeting in a bit.” He paused. “I thought you’d ignore me again this time. You know, you’re really interesting.” Then he smiled again.
I could feel my cheeks burning. Looking directly at his electric azure blue eyes melted me. Tidy brows. Thick and long lashes. Sexy pointed nose. Sexy lips. Pale-blonde hair. Tall, lean-built and lithe. I heard girls in school call him a 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 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. “Let’s 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 four 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 I started ignoring him, but he kept approaching me.
“Charles, why you…!” Chelsea Ryan, the vice president of student council, shrieked. Charles looked at her in discomfort. “The meeting, dammit!”
“Okay, okay,” Charles replied, trying to calm her.
“I’m really gonna tie you if you run away again!” she reminded him. Charles sighed.
“I’m not a maso---”
“Sheesh! Just go already!” Chloe Nicholas said. I wasn’t if she was on the council, but I knew she was well-known in school. “Idiot.” And then she looked at me.
They keep popping in, I thought. Chelsea pulled Charles as he waved farewell to me, and in a sec they were gone.
“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.
“Must be the eyes…” She shook her head.
“That’s what ‘he’ said,” she corrected, leaning on the table and playing with her wavy hair.
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, just talking to myself. Why don’t you just stick with us? I'm sure Charles would love that,” she said, ignoring what I had said. “I’m a first year too, you know? Just like you.”
“I-I know.” Why did I keep stuttering?
“Then I guess you already know my name,” she said, stretching her hand to me. “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 my classmates had been talking about. The childhood friend of Charles. Ichigo. She really was pretty, I realized. She had a long wavy white blonde hair. I wished I had hair like that. Thick long eyelashes. Sexy lips and a really deep tubercle. Tall and thin, but not so thin, and curvy. She was 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 visited 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 that Uncle would usually whistle whenever he saw a very beautiful woman. 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. I didn’t understand him about having a prominent, sharply raised tubercle on the upper lip would make a plain person look really awesome. But I guess seeing these people made me agree with uncle this time. Except that they’re not plain.
“Why don’t you go home now?” she suggested. “They’ll be taking the classes off anyway…”
The bell rang and the school speakers beeped, announcing that classes would resume tomorrow. “See? Well, then, see you some other time,” 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 wonder if Akira would believe me if I told him I just bumped into something while looking for my glasses. No, he wasn’t stupid. He would just look at me with a boring look like he always did. I wondered.
“You’re early today,” Akira said. “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.
Filling my cupped hands with water, I lowered my face into the cold of it. Damn, it was really cold. I locked the door, removed my eyeglasses, and dipped myself into the tub very slowly. A little groan came out of my mouth. Leaning back against the tub on a spot I’d forgotten had been kicked, I 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. Glancing toward the door before I was fully standing, I caught sight of something moving. It was a frosted glass door, which blurred the image, but I was sure I’d seen movement. 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, keeping the door in sight. Stepping out of the tub, one foot at a time: by the moment I could life my second foot, there it was again. I instinctively looked for my eyeglass since I couldn’t really see so clearly. Not taking my eyes off the door, I moved my hands back and forth across the countertop. Where were my eyeglass?! My heart was beating fast; I was starting to panic. I was shaking. I touched something and looked at it. It was my glasses. Before I even put them on, my eyes widened at 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. I fumbled with my eyeglasses, shaking, and then 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.”