So here’s the daily schedule on a normal school day: have breakfast, head to the train station, and take it to somewhere south-west in an another town 1-2 hours away. There is also the chance of meeting up with friends and classmates.
Even though there are several high school in the same town as where my current house is, they seem to be like a place full of students staying in this town and the neighbouring harbour town. The school rules seems so relaxed as compared to those of elsewhere that it’s quite obvious in their “fashion” to the point it made both me and my brother uneasy and the question of how serious the students of the school are in studying. My brother’s friends from the middle school before transferring to another have forewarned us about this. As the middle and high schools around here uses only the gakuran (for boys) or sailor uniform (for girls) as part of their uniform, anyone in town who is seen wearing any other kinds (like mine) would be quite obvious. It’s also a clear sign that they are either visitors or one of the few townspeople who attends school elsewhere.
Between my town and the nearest city has a large amount of vegetation, enough to not have people seeing the reason to leave town.
My school is within the city quite some distance away, but the closest to where I live. The name of it is Kobayagawa High School. To get to it, I would take the single carriage diesel train all the way to the station end of the line, where there is a subway line that goes directly to the station closest to the school. The route from the station of my town to my house is far enough to go by bike (me and my brother ride separate ones), designed in such a way that I could go directly to my favourite beach without going anywhere near home. The almost empty train and infrequent schedule is a strong reminder of how remote my town is, as compared to ones in the city with many carriages and more frequent trains, but yet filled to the maximum capacity for each. Well, for the capital at least: my city’s not that crowded, but crowded enough to not find a place to seat during peak period.
The city is also home to the headquarters my mum works for. She told me that her big boss is also the founder of the company and met her herself, who has the appearance of a girl that seems to never grow a year older than 16. The only time she shows herself is in a meeting where her presence is required or in times where staff doing important time-critical things are seriously stumped on what to do. People employed through her directly can skip the tedious education qualifications and nerve-wrecking job interviews. They are also immune from being dismissed by anyone except the founder herself.
Being from a rural area and commuting to an urban area is somewhat of a mixed feeling, though we did grow up in an urban place.
Voice from behind: “Hey there! Good morning! The first time in a while I’ve seen you in the morning before reaching the school… and with a girl too. Who is she? Your girlfriend?”
This guy is one of my brother’s friends that he knows from the middle school after the transfer, but I think this is the first time he saw me. I only know him through my brother who always shows me pictures of them hanging out together.
Brother: “That’s not my girlfriend! She’s my sister. She’s a first year student and her name is…”
Brother’s friend: “You had a younger sister?! Really? You never told me about her! I could see some resemblance to you, but only if I stop and look at the both of you side-by-side. If people don’t know that, she could be easily be mistaken for a girlfriend. Not much people have siblings that are only a year apart. Well, like I said, if you want a real girlfriend to come to you, you better make sure that you’re all by yourself, not even with your sister, or the potential girlfriend-to-be won’t even approach you because she may think that your sister is your girlfriend because of how close you talk to each other. Well, see you in class later!”
He ran ahead. My brother turned to look at me.
Brother: “He was the one I have been talking to you a lot about. Now do you know why I’m kind of reluctant to go together with you these days? It’s because of things like this. Our parents were never siblings or blood related to each other, and we are in the same situation as our parents experienced before they met each other. I can’t find a wife if you keep clinging on to me, and, for the same reason, you won’t be able to find a husband too. Senior High is the last stage in our lives where we can be together and not have secrets to hide. The working world, or even in college, people you haven’t met prior to it might hide a secret, or even be a backstabber, and hide it behind a friendly face.”
Me being in the same situation as my mother when she was about my age? I don’t know what she’s like before I was born… But liking a guy…? Yeah… It wouldn’t create a good opportunity for other guys to be my boyfriend if I’m seen together with only a guy, including my own brother, as they would assume that I’m taken. What was I thinking?!
I have let down my hair so that that’s more manageable and don’t need those troublesome hair accessories, except maybe for a clip at the front, which wasn’t part of the old hairstyle. Sometimes I wonder how much time I have wasted while doing the old hairstyle: the new one is much simpler. I wore contact lenses in place of glasses that was ready only yesterday afternoon. My parents had already left for work, my brother was staying over somewhere the night before. He usually does that when his unknown activities, ends late enough to fall straight asleep on reaching home, only having to go to school the next day and therefore not being able to do his homework. I’ve heard rumors that a prestigious academy on the outskirts of the city is allowing anyone to live at their posh-looking accommodation there for as long as they want, paying absolutely nothing, not even utility bills. In fact, they pay you for staying there. There must be some kind of condition behind it.
My brother is officially in the chess club: one of the few clubs that has less than 10 members. From time to time, they would attend chess practice or tournaments against others. Practice sessions among themselves is in their clubroom, and, due to its small size and nearby places with better facilities, no one visits our school. All matches with other schools or circles are usually held in public places, or, if large enough, at their place. Priority is to the latter due to the problems associated with the former. I have a feeling that there was a tournament yesterday, and that mysterious girl outside his circle of friends I see him hanging out a lot with might be one of the club members.
From what my brother told me yesterday, I’ve started to be positive and be open to others lately. A girl can look different from the hair alone, and my classmates having never seen me without my glasses. As that reason was not on my mind back then, I was wondering why my classmates were looking at me as if there was a news report about me or my family that I don’t know about. The two friends who normally greeted me first as I entered ignored me for some reason and whispered among each other.
Male classmate: “She looks so pretty~.”
Friend 1: “Who’s that girl? A transfer student? I’ve never seen her before.”
Friend 2: “But she’s sitting in Yumiko-chan’s place, and the Yumiko I know should be here by this time already: the first bell has already rung.”
It then came across my mind that they didn’t recognize me. Before I could talk to them, the homeroom teacher came in to take the class attendance without any warning of his arrival, as if the sliding doors he’s used to opening needs more strength to open. Applying that same force to a lighter door that opens smoothly means that he slammed the door hard, making a loud bang that could be heard in the corridor. Everyone’s attention is now on the teacher.
Homeroom teacher: “Er, I see that they fixed the door. I’m more used to doors that swing outwards, and the sliding doors I’m used to are either already open or can’t be opened without force.”
The class representative stood up to call the teacher before the teacher finished talking.
Class representative: “Sensei! There’s an unknown female student sitting in Isaka’s place.”
What are you talking about? I’m sitting in my own place! Although, him pointing me out did make everyone look at me again. Come to think of it, I’ve never said a word since coming here, nor was I given the chance to speak since the teacher entered.
Homeroom teacher: “If there was a transfer student to this school, I would have known about it yesterday at latest, but yes, who is that girl sitting there?”
Everybody staring at me has become unbearable. It became clear that everyone was talking about me, but think I’m someone else.
Me: “Hey! Why is everyone looking at me like I’m a transfer student?! It’s me! Just as I thought I wanted to get rid of my glasses and my middle school hairstyle too.”
I wanted to speak in a new way, but for identification’s sake among those that know the old me, I didn’t do that.
Now knowing who I was, the teacher quickly look between me and my photo in there as if trying to look past the hair change and the lack of glasses. Everyone else seems to recognize me through my voice, which made them have the look of being surprised on them.
Homeroom teacher: “Ah! She is Isaka-san, all of you should have looked at her face more carefully before you mistake her for a transfer student. Isaka-san, you should have voiced out, though I did notice that you are starting to open up to others.”
That last part what what my brother said to me the day before too. I guess I really am opening up to people. There was physical education lesson later on, and we would be running around the running tracks. Noriko, the friend who earlier ignored me, started to talk to me as we head to the changing room. We both went to the same middle school together.
Noriko: “You’re Yumiko-chan, right? You look completely different by changing your style from what everyone is used to… Well then, I’m going to ask something only the real Yumiko could answer instantly. Who is the computer club president of Kamisugi High 2 years ago?”
This caught me off-guard: asking the name of someone of a school I never studied at who is likely to have already graduated. Kamisugi High is the name of an another school in the same city. We went to their school festival there last year and the year before.
Me: “Hisakawa Saeko? The girl who was trying to talk to us, but her fans pushed us aside and couldn’t get back to her as the club room was very crowded. We never saw her after that.”
I could remember that name only because she had the same name as the founder of mom’s workplace.
Noriko: “Wow, you even know how chaotic it was back then. By the way, what’s with your sudden new look? Nobody seems to recognize you, not even me who has known you for a while.”
Me: “Well, for one thing, I was trying out some new hairstyles at home and found this one making me look better and simpler to do. For the glasses, I never liked wearing them since day one, but I’m short-sighted and was, until recently, scared of putting on contact lenses.”
Noriko: “That explains why you could do it so easily. Your brother made you do it, didn’t he?”
Me: “Not really, though he did tell me that being too close to him has made it difficult for him to find a girlfriend, and I was behaving too much like one. Except, I’m his younger sister.”
The surprise among my classmates has been reduced by lunchtime. I would like to say this was spread to everyone else, but no one else in school but my brother and his classmates knows me.
Speaking of my brother, I went to his classroom during lunch to eat together. Noriko chose to stay in class as she brought her own lunch box, and advised me to leave the classroom before my other classmates bomb me with questions I would have trouble answering. I never wanted to, but the look on their faces, especially the other girls, tells me that I should. The 2nd and 3rd year classrooms are at a separate wing. I’ve located his classroom, only to be told that he is already headed towards the cafeteria.
My brother was sitting by himself at a table by the window, but facing away from me. He seemed to be staring at what seem like our school’s student ID, but with a girl’s picture on it, while eating his meal. I couldn’t see the name, but she doesn’t look like any of the girls I have seen him with, not even the girl I’ve secretly been seeing him going out with a lot. A card he picked up? Unless he just found it, why isn’t it sent to the lost & found counter?
My brother facing away from me means that I could sneak up to him and seat at the empty chair opposite him to start a conversation. This would be a good way to use my brother as practice talking to a guy without him knowing it. Okay, here it goes! Remember to speak to him in a different tone, and avoid doing habits that he knows that only I would do.
Me: “Hello! I need to seat with someone so that my friends would not find me as easily than if I were to sit by myself.”
My brother quickly put aside the student card he was staring at a while ago. My presence alone seemed to have made him nervous, which usually doesn’t happen when I am in my usual self. Still to early to say if he recognizes me as his sister though: might be simply be shocked from my appearance.
Brother: “Um, sure! G-Go on.”
An awkward silence soon followed as we ate our meal What’s with this atmosphere? The silence is killing me.
Brother: “Er… I’m with the chess club. You seem to be a first year and our club is kind of small in the number of members. Do you know how to play chess?”
The last two lines he said strongly suggests he sees me as a girl he never met before instead as his own younger sister at all. I decided to play along until he ask for my name or meeting up later, whichever comes first.
Me: “I only know the western chess, but I get defeated very quickly when I play. No one pointed out where I did wrong. I don’t intend to join a club because traveling time to head back home and doing homework alone is taking too much of my time outside lesson time. I intend to score good grades.
Why are we talking about chess? I’m not interested, but I have to get along with him.
Another awkward silence follows. This time, I could see him hesitating about something. By this time, we had both finished our meals.
Me: “Well, it looks like my friends might have given up searching for me by now. I had fun talking to…”
Brother: “Will you go out with me? Tell me you name, or at least where I can find you.”
My own brother talking to me as if I’m his girlfriend-to-be: he really doesn’t know that he has been talking to his own sister. Looks like I should tell him that it was me since he already asked for my name.
Me: “Oh? I didn’t? Well, I’m usually in my classroom for about 15 minutes after the last bell to prepare for my long way home… maybe we should give our email address while we figure everything out. By the way, I’m Inami. Inami Yumiko. Your younger sister.”
I held up my hair in a way that resembles my old hairstyle as I said my name, and my usual tone of voice for the part after that. My brother was at a loss of words at the revelation.
Brother: “Having me to think of making her as my girlfriend… She really fooled me, including my sense of having found the perfect girlfriend for me… by my own sister.”
He had once told me that, not only is it socially taboo, marrying a sibling of the opposite gender is like marrying yourself.
Me: “Sorry, I was trying to see if you could recognize me with my new look, but since you didn’t, I might as well give you a taste of what it’s like when a girl walks up to you on her own, something that won’t be like the real thing if you knew who I was. If I hadn’t been brought up together with you, I wouldn’t have known that you were having trouble coming up with a topic to talk about.”
Hate to admit it, but finding someone to fall in love with as a girl is easier than as a guy since I just need to be impressed instead of impressing the other.
Brother: “Couldn’t you at least that it was you?! You made me actually feel like falling in love with you! Now I’m feeling worse than before you showed up. Now leave me alone if you don’t want me to jump off from the roof.”
Looks like something happened to him. It sounded serious, but not serious enough for him to actually do it as if he’s just mentally confused. Probably something that happened yesterday or earlier today. I wonder if the student ID of a female student he was staring at has anything to do with it. What I’m more puzzled about how did I make him so angry? Weren’t we like-minded when we were younger? At least tell me what his problems were right away. I don’t get it, but I’ve a feeling that I’m partly to blame for making him angry.