Monday, 20 April 2015

Chapter two (segment five), twenty four years earlier, May, Christina

“Ageruman-san, you have a visitor.”

You could as well have said yet another visitor if you're thinking it so clearly. Christina rose and looked for the face that was about to appear.

A second year this time. She walked to the entrance. The convoluted dating game here required her to follow him somewhere less crowded, where he could make a verbal pass at her, and she could decline without too much of an audience. Stupid rules! But those were the rules, so she tagged along after him, down the stairs, across the school yard to the bike stand where they could share a modicum of privacy.

A bike stand by a shabby, concrete school building from the 60:s or 70:s as a refuge for lovestruck youths. Yikes! This is where they want to hide their feelings from others.

An illusion of course. By now dozens of eyes were following them through windows on all three floors, and she felt just like the prize her suitor most likely wanted to win.

I really didn't need to risk missing class for this crap.

A second year. Last time it had been a third year, and he had yelled an insult after her when she returned after turning him down. At least the freshmen only gulped silently and studied their shoes. Older students were more comfortable with the school, and they were also a year or two more experienced when it came to the confession game.

“What do you want?” Christina deliberately made her voice as haughty as possible. With a bit of luck he would understand that he wasn't wanted before she was forced to explicitly tell him so.

No such luck. He stared directly into her eyes.

Good looking. A player most likely. He probably thinks I should feel happy to catch his attention.

“I like you. I want you to be my girlfriend.”

About as subtle as a rhino.

“I'm sorry, but I don't want a boyfriend.”

“I'm a lot better than that Wakayama guy. Please reconsider!”

Some guys just didn't understand a 'no'. But this was a new development. It was the first time anyone had made a direct reference to Ryu.

“I'm not going out with him. I said I don't want a boyfriend. That includes him.”

She wasn't surprised to see her suitor's face turn disappointed, but there was an ugly glint to his expression.

“You sure spend a lot of time with someone you're not seeing.”

“Still not my boyfriend,” Christina answered. She knew her voice had gone defensive and hated it. Ryu was a fun friend, along with his sister and the combined forces of their respective admirers. It was just a large gang of freshmen who silently agreed not to show their affections too clearly.

Even though things would have been simpler if Ryu and she did pair up. She knew that would have been accepted.

“Bitch! You think your foreign looks make you special, don't you?”

“Whatever.” She didn't have to accept any more insults.

Christina turned and walked back towards the school building.

She heard his parting words from behind: “I won't forget this, you know.”

She threw her hands into the air in a gesture of raw irritation. Then she turned. “Queen Victoria called and wanted her gender values back.” Idiot!

On her way back across the school yard she met Kyoko. A worried Kyoko. Something was definitely amiss. Christina studied her friend's somewhat stocky frame before accepting her hands.

Kyoko pulled her aside and pretended not to look at the windows. “You're in trouble. We can handle the freshmen, but some second years are targeting you now.”

“Second years? Why?” Christina asked, pretending to have forgotten what had just happened.

“Are you an idiot?” Anger passed Kyoko's face, but Christina could see something else as well.

Fear? Is she afraid? Of what? “I don't understand.” I really don't understand, and I wish Ko-chan was better at English. Or that my Japanese had improved more.

“Moron, did you have to replace all of your brains with that beautiful face!”

Christina thought frantically, but nothing came to her mind. “I don't understand.”

Kyoko led them in the direction of the entrance. She was kicking up sand with every few steps. “Look,” she said. “You were confessed to the same week you came here. Several times.”

Confessions. It still felt like elementary school. They did everything backwards here in Japan. A hug and a kiss should come before anything as embarrassing as being dragged away and listening to someone expressing their feelings in words. But not here. Here you were supposed to play the confession game before finding out if you really shared any mutual feelings.

But targeted?

“Are you listening?”

Christina shrugged. She hadn't.

“If you're called out by upper-class men you become a direct rival to the older girls.”

“Not my fault,” Christina said. Yes, she was being stubborn now, and Kyoko didn't deserve being treated that way. “I'm sorry.”

“It doesn't work that way. I can't protect you if you're ganged up on.”

Kyoko, in difference from that idiot second year, really was adorable. Protected by a child. With most of the teaching staff here being substantially younger than herself, Christina found it more than a little amusing that Kyoko felt a need to protect her.

And Kyoko knew. Kyoko alone knew that the reason Christina lived alone was that she had done so for over thirty years. In a world almost like this one. Not this world, where Christina Agerman had never been born fifty years earlier.

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