The other line was dead when I picked up the phone. I could still hear the busy tone playing around my ear. Akira had mentioned ‘she.’ It was the only thing I knew. It was the first time someone (not a relative) called me.
The next morning, Akira knocked and then slowly opened the door, peering through it as I fixed my hair. “You’re up early,” he teased.
“Yeah…” I said. Truth was, I couldn’t sleep thinking about the weird ‘thing’ I saw last night. But I decided not to tell him that. “I want to cut my hair.”
“Why? I like-- I mean, that length suits you. You know, not too long, not short,” he said, tilting his head. I guess he was trying to take a good look—to make sure he was right. I was not convinced. Then he nodded. “Why?”
“Just…for a change,” I said.
He shook his head lightly and said, “No. That’s better.”
It was still early when I came to school. I heard the clattering from the school speaker, it seemed like there was an announcement. “…The classes will stop after the first period.” That was the only thing I was able to hear.
Sir Philippe, our history teacher, started his lecture with a joke as usual. No one even bothered to laugh or simper. Although I always find his caprice funny, I could only laugh to myself. I was having this feeling that there were sharp stares and glances coming from my classmates towards me. Then it occurred to me-- Charles talked to me yesterday. I kept my head down, trying my best not to look at them. Ignore them, I told myself.
“Okay class listen now… We all know that there’s a total of 214 regions in the world. A country should have a maximum of twelve regions and a minimum of ten. Each region represents any of the five sectors of industry. Meaning the regions in a country are uhhm…the source… of… the prosperity of the country? Something like that. The number given to each region in each country is actually not in order. For example, the region we are in now is Region 209. Region 210 is not in this country, but on the other... Do I have to explain this? No.---“
Someone threw a piece of paper to me. I looked around, but it appeared everybody was listening to the lecture.
“---The first sector includes farming, mining and logging. Those regions are designated with numbers from 150 to 199. The second include factories which refine metals, produce furniture, or pack farm products such as meat.---“
A piece of paper again. But this time, it felt like there was something inside. It was soft; I thought it was gum inside.
“---Those are Regions 100 to 149. The third on the other hand, include teachers like me, managers and other service providers for Regions 50 to 99. I was born in Region 92 for your information. While the fourth have the scientists, doctors, and lawyers on 1 to 49. And lastly is the fifth, being the most important. The highest levels of decision making in a society or economy is there, the top executives, the government, universities, and elite schools like ours, nonprofit, healthcare, culture, and the media on 200 to 214. ---”
Someone blipped my back. When I looked behind, the girl raised her left brow, grinning. What was her name again? I couldn’t remember. Someone laughed almost soundlessly.
“---But you know guys, there are many political activists who attempted to bring back the political stability and the way the countries were supposed to be… we are in the 22nd century now… scarcity is still being controlled. That’s why the nineteen powerful presidents were selected to control everything. Meaning, there are now only nineteen elected presidents in the world, to be specific. Of course, everybody knows about the assassination of the two most powerful presidents almost 21 years ago. Oh well...Anyways… this is History class, so don’t take it to heart? Alright?”
After class, I felt someone tapping me from behind. “Hi Sammy!” Chloe greeted. I was stunned. She called me ‘Sammy.’ I looked at her as we walked. I could feel those who saw us raging now. “What’s wrong Sam?” She looked worried. I kept my head down. She puffed, “So, your name is Sam. Mind if I call you Sammy?” I didn’t answer. “I called you last night. I remember,” she said. “Here—” she handed me a small piece of yellow, sticky paper— “someone gave you a gift early in the morning.”
“So it was you who called me… How did you know my number?” I asked, reading what was written on the paper--- LEECH! I just realized, this was the reason why ‘that’ girl spanked me during History class.
“I asked Chelsea. I passed out last night... I was drunk,” she said, laughing.
“Drunk? You’re allowed to drink? I mean… you’re not even eighteen.”
“Yeah… It's easy… really. It’s not a big deal. You should come with us next time—“
“I don’t think that’d be a good idea, though…” I said as we ascended the stairs. “Why did you call anyway?”
“Well, next week will be the school’s thirtieth anniversary. There will be a lot of activities for the whole week. It will be my first time to attend too. But I’m not into that kind of stuff. I’d prefer to stay home,” she said, grabbing my arm. “Our seniors will be busy … but we can help them with the preparations. They announced it earlier, just in case you didn’t hear it.” She paused. “Let’s go the council.” She smiled, pulling me and leading the way.
It seemed like the entire school had just realized that the celebration would be next week. They announced the preparations pretty late. Was it always like that? I wondered.
“The school organizers are not into celebrations,” she clarified. “They’re more focused on competing with other elite schools. Celebrations, festivals… Charles’ grandfather does not like them.” She blinked twice, her posture suddenly perfect.
The council office was empty when we got there. Chloe pouted her lips, and rumpled her brows. It looked like a large living room: sofas with leather upholstery and a glass table at the center; a large abstract painting that entirely covered the wall on the right; a couple of bookshelves and PCs on the opposite corner; and a long wooden table with eight chairs before the overlooking window-- with neatly arranged curtains. Between the bookshelves hung a portrait of a man who looked almost exactly like Charles. There were lots of figurines too. The other things I saw were a coffee maker and a white board with PARTY! and a doodle I couldn’t understand written in marker on it.
“It doesn’t look like the typical student council office I have in mind,” I said. “I should go now…”
“Let’s stay here,” she said, sitting on the sofa comfortably, and then brushing her hair to the side.
“I’ll help with the preparations…” I said. She just looked at me. When I was about to reach the door, someone opened it. It was Charles. I suddenly felt embarrassed. I could feel my cheeks burning up. Our eyes met, it was just a moment but it seemed like an hour.
“Hi Sammy,” he said, walking towards me. I couldn’t move. I was actually blocking his way! He leaned his face forward, still looking at me-- so close that it jolted me into focus. “Are you all right?”
“I’m sorry!” I stuttered, taken aback. “Yes, I am all right.”
Chloe heaved a sigh, and said “You’re scaring her, Charles.”
He patted my head lightly. I couldn’t look at him in the eyes, but I could see from his chest (where I was looking) that he was smiling. He was smiling, wasn’t he? He walked towards a small refrigerator in the corner that I hadn't seen earlier. My eyes were following him. He opened it and took out a bottle shaped like a chess piece with 'Fillico' written on it.
“Hello,” said Chelsea, who had just come in. “Leaving already?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“She wants to help with the preparations,” Chloe explained. “Do something about it Chels… I mean, we know how they treat her.” She paused briefly, and looking from Chelsea to Charles added, “How about that thing you told me?”
“The list of players.” Charles cleared his throat and took another sip.
“Yeah, why not help us here instead?” Chelsea asked. “Other members of the council are not here, and I doubt if they will even help.”
It was the first time I was able to spend the whole day with them. It was the first time I laughed openly too. I didn’t know they were fun to be with. I found out that Charles is actually outspoken, funny, and easy to tease. He’s always smiling, sometimes clumsy too, cool, and very intelligent.
Is this really okay? I asked myself. They were so carefree. They looked happy. It seemed like they had no troubles in anything they do. I didn’t think I fit here. After all, they’re rich; they shouldn’t be spending time with a commoner like me. I was not saying I am not happy being part of the Mizuki family. Honestly, I’m very glad they found me. I am grateful I met Akito and Akira. But ever since I got into this school, I couldn’t stop comparing myself to these people. I’m terrible… how could I think this way? The Mizukis are elite too! They are considered one of the best in the police force. I kept reminding myself that.
If these people were to find out I was just adopted, it would only make everything worse, I think. Taking advantage of the Mizukis’ influence, I’m the lowest… Despicable. And what’s more, I don’t even know who my real parents are and why they are not here with me. I don’t know my identity. I don’t have memories. I have no past.
I was as good as dead. Was. If the orphanage had not found me, if Father Emmanuel had not given me a name (which is my name now--Sam), if Akito had not taken me in…what and who would I have become? Would I live the life I have now? Or would it be different?
Whatever my past was, I do not want to know. I do not need to know. I would rather remain a fool. I am what I am now. What I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me. Or so I thought, at least.
I am happy. I should be happy.
I was about to leave when Charles said, “My best friend’s father died last week…” He bounced on the balls of his feet, hands in the pocket, poker-faced. “He’d be glad if we visit him. Do you want to come with us?”
I remembered what I told Akira this morning when he asked why I wanted to have a haircut-- For a change. I should move on, I decided. A new beginning awaited me. So I looked at Charles directly into his eyes, he looked right back at me, and then I nodded. “Yes.” That made him smile.