Noriko glared at her phone when it rang.
Since Urufu’s suspension she refused to enter the school and spent her days at the Stockholm Haven café instead. Usually an insanely stupid thing to do, but with the vice principal of Irishima High giving interviews where he described Principal Kareyoshi as the second coming of Adolf Hitler the fallout was certain to be minimal, if any at all.
Irishima High had a stellar reputation, but Red Rose Hell less so, especially now when it had all but gone belly up.
Vice Principal Noguchi never lost an opportunity to insinuate that Kareyoshi was tied to Red Rose’s darker pasts.
Then there was the thing with her phone ringing.
What are you thinking?
While she could afford playing the truant, her brother definitely couldn’t, and he just rang her during school hours.
“Noriko here.” It had better be good.
“I’m on a date with Kuri,” came the moronic response.
Noriko rose from her chair and went inside the inner room.
“She wants to know Urufu’s midterm results. She says it’s important.”
What? Damn you! “Why don’t she ask him herself?”
On the verge of biting his face off Noriko realised why Kuri avoided contacting Urufu directly. Both of them danced around each other in a futile attempt not to hurt the other more than necessary.
“I’ll ask him,” Noriko said and nodded as if her brother was present and not at the other end of a phone call. “I’ll call you back.”
Noriko looked across the table. A dozen club members, all of them among those who made it into the top fifty in their respective year, sat around it, mesmerised by Urufu as he ran a lesson in English, in English to boot.
That was his idea of teaching a foreign language. Speaking it and demanding that the rest of them did likewise. She hadn’t believed him when he told them it was the superior method, but that was a year ago. Now she knew he was right.
“Urufu, you’re going to fast for them,” Noriko said and looked at Ai-chan and a Himekaizen freshman whose name Noriko couldn’t remember.
A dozen club members, and three of them belonged to Irishima High. Their vice principal sitting in the café proper meant their presence was sanctioned by their school. He probably considered this an advanced class, which it was.
“Tomasu-kun, could you take over?” Noriko said. The former Stockholm university professor in classic Japanese should be a massive overkill for the purpose of teaching high school English in Japan, but she couldn’t tell the rest of them why she knew that.
He turned. “Sure, but why?”
“I need to speak with Urufu.”
Tomasu-kun gave her a knowing look and grinned. By his side Jeniferu-chan did likewise.
I wish, but it’s not really that way. Yet.
She listened to his voice. During the last months his Japanese had audibly improved, but that wasn’t why she clung to his words. Crap, I have it bad this time.
She did so the last time, and the time before that. Noriko knew that, but those were memories, and this was now.
She looked at his hands when he made his way to the door she headed for. Large hands, larger than her brothers, the way all of Urufu was larger than her brother. Only when it came to effortlessly socialise with others did Ryu shine brighter. Or? Well, that was why she asked Urufu to follow her now.
Noriko heard his walk behind her through the door to the inner room, under the bell as it jingled when she entered the pavement outside the café and into the noise of cars and people. Daytime this was the world of adults, and more than a few of them glanced at them, or rather their school uniforms.
I really should have worn casual clothes, but Urufu said skipping school wasn’t a reason to skip school. Sometimes what he said just didn’t make any sense, but in the end everyone at the cafe wore their uniforms despite being absent from their respective schools. Well, the Irishima High students kind of didn’t count as they had their vice principal present.
“It’s not about that,” she said without thinking.
“About what?” Urufu responded. A teasing note played in his voice.
“About me confessing to you,” Noriko admitted. “I already did that, so get over it!” To her embarrassment she could feel her cheeks heating up. That definitely took some of the edge away from her response.
They walked a little down the street, and she suppressed an urge to take his hand when he came up beside her. Because it’s not like that between us.
Unable to bear his silence, but grateful that he didn’t push her, Noriko took a left turn at an intersection and walked into a ramen shop. The very ramen shop they ended up in after Urufu’s disastrous midsummer’s dinner last year.
He remained silent while she ordered for them both, and it wasn’t until they were both seated by a table that his eyes showed his impatience.
“Your midterm results,” Noriko said when their noodles arrived. I need to know. Kuri needs to know, but I think I can guess why.
She stared at her bowl, grabbed a pair of chopsticks and went to work on her food. Her request must have sounded insane.
From across the table she heard Urufu eating his meal. They’d finish it in silence. Noodles weren’t the kind of food you could spend time chatting over. They’d get soggy in no time at all.
From time to time Noriko stole glance at the man she had fallen in love with for the third time, or probably had never fallen out of love with, which meant she cheated on Nao during their entire relationship. Or had she loved Nao honestly? She wasn’t sure, but she thought so. There were mostly fond memories of him from the half a year they spent as a couple.
Then Urufu downed his broth and grinned. “What about yours?”
Noriko had expected him to do this. “You saw. Second.”
He nodded back at her. “As a matter of fact I didn’t. Suspended, remember.”
There was that. “Your midterm results,” Noriko persisted. She couldn’t let herself be led astray by him.