“Aren't you going dating on Christmas?”
“As in going out? Why?”
Yukio stared at him. “Lover's
day, you know?”
“Christmas eve. One of the
number one dating days in the year.”
He received yet another stare.
“Well, unless you've been
living under a rock you'd have known that.”
“Now when you mention it. No, I
haven't been living under a rock. Christmas is family in Sweden. You
don't go out.” Ulf thought about it for a moment. “OK, I don't
know about youngsters these days, but for me Christmas is a day you
spend at home with those most important to you. You can ask
Christina. I think she'll say the same thing.”
Ulf thought about it. Japan
wasn't a nation with a Christian background. Christmas and Easter
came with traditions back home. If they were celebrated here at all
they had to be purely commercial events. Kind of like Halloween in
Sweden. Besides he'd spent last Christmas cooped up in that juvenile
delinquent institution they sent him to after he got expelled from
Red Rose Hell.
And no, he didn't intend to spend
Christmas out. Christina had already agreed to spend it with him and
Amaya. First she said something about staying home, but Christmas
alone was just too sad a thought for him to accept. So he nagged
until she caved in.
Yukio looked back at him from
across the table. Soon they'd leave their soon to be former club room
and walk down the stairs and to the gym for the year's end ceremony,
and after that two weeks of winter break.
Former? By now most of
what they needed had been moved to Stockholm Haven café, and the
room looked pretty much like any other classroom in the school. Apart
from the table and the sofa that didn't make the move. Ulf guessed
someone would clean those out during the break.
“What about you?” he asked in
“Kyoko,” Yukio said as if
that explained everything.
Ulf rose from his seat and
beckoned to his friend to do the same. “I guess this is it,” he
said and left for the door.
“We made a lot of memories in
here,” Yukio said.
The sound of the door sliding
shut behind them signalled the end of something. And a new
beginning? Well, they certainly had experienced a lot in the room
they left. “Yeah,” Ulf said at a lack of words. “The best
hangout for second term.”
“Man, what's with that
Depressed. I guess it shows,
but it's not about the club. Ulf forced a smile to his lips. Not
going to burden you with my problems. Have a great holiday!
“Nothing. Just gonna miss the
old place,” Ulf said and hoped he sounded sincere enough for Yukio
to buy the lie.
They walked down the stairs to
the entrance floor and were joined by second and third years heading
for the gym. A stiff thousand students inside the gym was cramming
it, but it was doable. Ulf wondered how they planned to solve that
problem come April, but they must have done so many years ago when
all thirty six classrooms were in use.
Three more months until I've
done my second stunt as a first year high school student. He
shrugged and slapped Yukio's back to remove those kinds of thoughts.
Real first years didn't think about April just prior to winter break.
Real first years only thought of the break ahead of them.
“Hurry up kiddo. We're running
“Yeah yeah, whatever, baldy,”
Yukio said, but his grin belied the insult.
Soon they were hugging the school
building and freezing now when the unseasonal rain finally had abated
and the temperature dropped to more proper and miserable levels.
More or less any other day he'd
change in the boys' locker room and walk out the other side of it
before going to the gym, which cut the distance to almost nothing.
Now the entire school was heading there, and both locker rooms were
Ulf wrapped his arms around
himself when a sudden gust of wind told him they'd rounded the left
wing and were heading towards the football field.
“Man,” Yukio began, “did
you ever find out why the Red Rose bastards jumped you?”
“No,” Ulf answered. Because
there probably wasn't an easy answer. By now he was certain it really
had nothing to do with Red Rose, or at least nothing to do with the
corporate part of Red Rose. “Friends of friends I guess,” he
Both boys walked almost sideways
to avoid the worst of the wind, but it did little to prevent Ulf from
freezing his arse off.
“Friends of friends?”
“Yeah, even bastards have
friends you know.”
“I don't get you, man,” Yukio
said. The words came out a bit whiny, but Ulf chose to attribute that
to the bone-chilling wind rather than any dissatisfaction with his
“We put the guys who attacked
Noriko through hell, remember?”
You'd better. You helped carry
two of them away. And as far as those people are concerned I'm
responsible for that suicide. “I believe it was as simple as
revenge. They just wanted to beat the crap out of me.”
Anything else didn't make any
sense. Ganging up on an arrival was inviting disaster. Ulf couldn't
see anyone creating a covert organisation for handling the likes of
him and Christina and then just accept when their investment was sent
there sure are people who hate us now. I'm afraid we haven't seen all
the crap hitting the fan yet. Which
was the bad thing. He could handle crap, and if he was honest with
himself, so could Christina. It was just that he wanted to protect
her. Her needing protection or not just didn't come into the picture.
I guess that makes me a chauvinist pig. Then so be it. I love her, I
want to see her happy. If that's old
fashioned then I'll refuse to become modern.