Noriko let go of Urufu at Tomasu-kun’s surprising outburst. A little reluctantly, she admitted to herself. Despite her being in love with Nao there were still some lingering feelings for Urufu.
“That’s not Jennifer Cooper. Doesn’t matter if she’s fifteen, my Jennifer looks totally different.”
What’s going on? Noriko wondered silently.
At her side Noriko felt Urufu stiffen.
“My name is Jennifer Cooper. I never said I knew you. They did,” Coperu-san said and pointed at her and Urufu. Coperu-san until she joined the club. After that she’d become Jeniferu-chan despite being a stranger. Those were club rules.
“What?” Urufu said. “You’re Jennifer but she’s not Jennifer?” He continued. Noriko saw him looking from one face to the another.
“She’s not Jennifer.”
“Wait, please be silent,” Noriko tried. Then she saw the entire door to 3:1 filled with apprehensive faces. “Let’s continue this somewhere else,” she added.
Her last words had both Coperu-san and Tomasu-kun look at the door to 3:1, and they fell silent. One after another they nodded.
He shifted his attention from the freshmen to her. “No space left, but maybe under the sails?”
While Noriko doubted they’d have any better luck there, it should be enough to convince the two newcomers to follow them downstairs. With Kareyoshi disrupting the lives of the Himekaizen students, Noriko wanted to stay away from any commotions on the school grounds.
“Sure,” she said, making it sound like she agreed with Urufu’s idea. “We buy some grub and take it outdoors.”
As they walked downstairs Coperu-san asked the question Noriko waited for. “Under the sails?”
“That’s what we call the sunshades between the wings outside the cafeteria,” Noriko explained.
“Won’t that be cold during winter?”
Huh? Only a few sat there after the cultural festival early October, but it was still a strange reflection to make. “Yes, why?” Noriko asked, fishing for more information.
Coperu-san smiled. “I was thinking of all the snow and that.”
Snow? Then an idea struck Noriko. “Do you have a lot of snow where you come from?” she tried.
They were almost at the cafeteria entrance before Coperu-san answered that question. Amidst the low thunder of conversations among the tables came the tell-tale question. “It snows less here than in New England?”
Noriko didn’t know much about New England, but the question in itself suggested Coperu-san had moved here recently rather than having spent one year in middle school like Urufu and Kuri, or Tomasu-kun for that matter. Is she even from the same world as Urufu and Kuri, and Tomasu-kun for that matter. “How old are you?” Noriko asked, just to test her suspicion.
There was just a little hesitation, just a little, but there should have been none, or a very long one.
“Subjective or objective?” Noriko asked. She didn’t understand herself from where that question came.
A few steps below her she saw Urufu stiffen and turn to stare at her. So you heard, didn’t you? Don’t you know it’s impolite to eavesdrop? Noriko shot him her best smile, hoping it didn’t come out too much like a smirk. While she wasn’t oblivious enough to fail understanding she was seen as cute, Noriko also knew she had nothing on Kuri. The only times anyone had called her smile beautiful was when she was taken by surprise. Only Kuri could deliver a devastating smile on demand.
“What do you mean?” Coperu-san said as they landed on the entrance floor.
Noriko pulled her aside and stared into the eyes of the girl, because by now she was dead certain it was really just a girl. “If you can’t answer that question you shouldn’t even be here.”
In return she only got a hostile glare. “I’m fifteen. Not fifteen and forty, or whatever. So what? Don’t you think you should try to make friends with me now when I know about you?”
Is she threatening me? Noriko was on the verge of retorting when she thought the better of it, and instead she just dragged the freshman foreigner to the cafeteria queue. She had just caught up with Urufu, who flashed her a naughty grin and shook his head when two things happened at the same time.
Her idiot brother sailed into view with Kuri on his arms, and Urufu’s grin was gone in an instant.
Noriko’s phone came alive, and she took it out of her blazer pocket and clicked open Nao’s line message.
Hours later she still couldn’t believe it, hours she spent with Kuri and Kyoko who rushed to join them. But that was hours later.
Noriko just had time to see how the joyful flare went out in Urufu’s eyes before she saw what Nao had written.
“Slept with one of the models. Maybe we should break up.”
A brittle sound of metal and glass echoed from her feet and spread out in the cafeteria until it died, soaked up by juniors and seniors who didn’t even notice how her new school year shattered in a moment. Only a few noticed that something had happened, but they stared at her feet, just like she did.
Nao cheated on me?
Faint gusts of wind reached her whenever someone opened the doors to the back of the cafeteria.
Nao cheated on me?
The sound of running feet reached her ears. Maybe someone had noticed that something was wrong with her.
But I love him
“Noriko, what’s wrong? Is there anything...” Urufu’s voice.
“Not you. I’ll handle this. Ryu, Ulf needs your help.” Kuri’s voice. “Pick up her phone!”
It hurts. It hurts so much!
Suddenly slender arms wrapped around her, and Noriko felt how she was dragged out of the cafeteria to the shoe lockers.
How can it hurt this much? He phone was gone. Maybe she had forgotten it back home, but then how could she hurt like this? Come on Noriko. There has to be a sensible reason to this. You just need to figure it out. Because that was what she did. Figure out sensible reasons.
“I don’t feel too well. I’m going home,” Noriko said as she pulled her loafers from her locker.
She was halfway across the school yard before she noticed how wet her face was, as if it rained. A salty rain.