Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1973071-Haruki
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Personal · #1973071
A foreign girl at High School in Japan falls in love with a boy named Haruki
"Ooph," I grunt. I'm sprawled on the training mat. Haruki's looking down at me, his smooth round face filling my vision. He's not quite smiling, but definitely amused. I know what he's thinking. Gaijin. Foreigner. I'm doomed to suck at karate.

Get up, I think. Don't let him win.

I'm back on my feet. The school gym is a blur as I lunge at him, but he moves too quickly. Suddenly, he's not there. I tumble forward, head over heels, only remembering to slam my hands against the ground at the last minute.

Absorb the impact. Get up.

He's ready for me.

Duck! Kick, now. Take advantage of his weak left leg. He hurt that yesterday in that bout with Sono. Great, now close. No, dodge, he was faking.

I'm on my back again. Our Sensei blows the whistle. Class is over. Haruki walks off without a backward glance.

Idiot, I think. Pay more attention in future. Get your bag. Hide in one of the toilet stalls.

Out in the changing room, I can hear the other girls. I catch one word in every five. Their Japanese is flawless. Of course it is. They were born here.

The stall is pristine. I doubt the kids in this school have even seen graffiti, let alone done it. I'm tempted. There's a marker in my backpack. I nicked it from art class. But what would I write? Can I think of anything worth getting expelled over? I wish I knew more rude words. Japanese characters are so hard to remember.

Breathe. Put the pen away. Get dressed and go home.

I'm part of an undulating mass of human meat, squashed into a steel tube hurtling through the dark at twenty-five miles per hour. The music pulsating in my ears is the only thing keeping me from freaking out, even after two years in Kyoto.

Just don't think about earthquakes, or tsunamis.

Haruki is just over there. I didn't notice him before. If I reached out, I could brush his perfectly straight black hair with my fingertips. Is that his little brother next to him? I can't tell. Now we're spilling out onto the platform, but he's swept away before I get a good look. Probably just as well. I wouldn't have anything to say to him anyway.

It's dark outside. Wednesdays are the worst. After karate and then the train, I'm always walking home in the dark.

Hum under your breath — it keeps the devils away.

I've always done that. Learned it back when we were in Africa. Basi taught me all the songs. She was our house-keeper, but I loved her.

Haruki and his brother are just up ahead. Yoshi's gotten tall in the last few months. He used to be shorter than me, but now he's only a few inches off giving Haruki a run for his money.

Slow down, they might turn around.

Would that really be so bad? Maybe he'd smile and say 'konbanwa' - good evening. Maybe we'd hang out by the wall full of letterboxes in the lobby, me talking in my childish Japanese while he looked me up and down, wondering if he could get me into bed. Boys are all the same, right?

Yoshi spots me as they get into the lift. He holds the door and grins. I have to run to keep them from waiting too long.


I'm sorry.

Bow your head. Don't look him in the eye. Ignore how much you still ache from that beating he gave you.

Why does the lift take so god-damned long? Should have taken the stairs. Haruki usually does. Without thinking, I ask in Japanese, "Why lift? You usually climb stair."

That smirk again. I only understand part of his reply. Something about me and bruises. He sees I'm confused and says in his best, broken English, "You follow me, gaijin. Have a lot to prove. Take the night off."

The doors finally open. I go one way. He and Yoshi go the other. I overhear Yoshi's taunt. Suki desu ne? You like her, don't you? He gets a brotherly kick in the rear.

My cheeks are burning. I flee down the hallway before Haruki realizes I was listening.

Remember to feed the neighbors' cat. The old bat is coming home in the morning.

Why did I agree to this? The flee-ridden tom turns his nose up at perfectly good food and I have to shove disgusting smelling pellets down his throat to treat this latest stomach ulcer. I sigh. If Basi were here, she'd say, "Chin up, little Annie. Don't let the black clouds stay for supper."

I miss her.

Don't think about it. This is home now, make the best of it.

Step-mother isn't home from work yet. If she misses the last train she'll sleep in one of those coffin-sized holes in the wall at what passes for a hotel in these parts. Then she'll go straight back to work. I'll have to get up early tomorrow and do the shopping before school. She left cash in an envelope by the phone, next to the photo of her and Dad's wedding day. My gaze slides over the picture.

Don't think about it.

I lie in bed, staring at the ceiling. The rain's hammering against the window. I count the apartments between me and Haruki. Four? A mad impulse takes me to the window. The fire escape is narrow and wet. What the hell am I doing?

Go back. He'll laugh at you. You're soaked to the bone.

God, I hope I got the right window.

"Annie-san?" His desk-lamp is on. Good, he wasn't asleep. "What are you doing?"

"I. . ." Oh shit, I'm going to cry.

How did I end up on his bed? I've got a towel around my shoulders and he's sitting on his desk chair, examining me without a trace of that trademark arrogance I'm so used to seeing.

"I should go," I say at last. "Your parents..."

"Otousan not come home. He still work."

"My step-mum's the same."

"You're. . . dad. . . where?"

"Dead." My voice is flat. Haruki lowers his eyes. He won't shame me by watching me cry.

"My Okaasan - mother - gone. I was seven. Yoshi little baby."

I wipe my eyes with my fingers, swallowing the lump in my throat. "I'm sorry."

"Why?" He's genuinely confused. "You not kill her."

I rub my forehead. It's too hard to explain. I shouldn't even be here. It was a stupid impulse. I'm making him uncomfortable.

I stand.

He stands.

"Gomen nasai." I bow low. "I shouldn't have intruded."

He says something in Japanese. I catch the word 'ame' - rain. I shrug. "It's only water."

Haruki laughs. "You be good fighter one day. Maybe beat me. Practice."

Did he just give me a compliment? I want to turn, to see if his smirk is back in place, but I'm scared I'll do something unwise. I might throw myself at him like they do in those stupid dramas, hiding from my pain in the arms of a strong, handsome boy with a tragic past. I don't want to be a cliche. The real world doesn't work like that.

Climb out the window. Go home. Get some sleep.

I wake up with the sun and go through my kata before breakfast. I may be a beginner, but I've got stubbornness on my side. I'll master this thing if it kills me.

Look for your center. Balance. Do it again.

Haruki's at the store. He's lined up at the checkout next to mine. The girl behind the counter is totally flirting with him. I can't blame her. He's devilishly handsome, tall, strong, and his hair is all artistically dishevelled like the Japanese movie stars I see on posters at the train station—only I know Haruki doesn't do it on purpose. He's way too practical to waste money on things like that.

"Excuse me, Miss?" The girl working my checkout says in heavily accented English.

Crap. I'm holding up the queue. I unload my basket. Rice, seaweed sheets, carrot, cucumber, avocado—vegetarian sushi. I still haven't wrapped my head around raw-fish and chicken sushi would make me even more of a gaijin than I already am.

"Sumimasen," I apologise.

Haruki looks over, hearing my voice. Our eyes meet. I brave a small smile. He nods.

We walk back to our building in companionable silence. On the train to school, there's only a couple of bodies between us.

Don't look. It'll be awkward.

Yoshi's over by the window. He's grinning. He's too young to be serious, but it'll come. I don't know that I've ever seen an adult Japanese man smile, except on television.

Haruki stops outside Yoshi's school and ruffles the kid's hair.

"Be good," he says in Japanese. "Work hard. Listen to your teacher."

I wait for him. A few more blocks and we've arrived.

"Annie-san?" he says, touching my arm for the briefest moment. I turn. "Friends say you trouble. Think you're..." he uses a Japanese word I don't know. I get the point.

Hold it in. Walk away. Don't let him see you cry, not again.

"Matte!" Wait. He grabs my wrist. "You not listen. You lost in black world in your head."

I turn to face him, my vision blurring with tears. "You don't know what it's like. I'm stuck here, a million miles from home, dumped on my dad's new wife after he got himself killed on that bloody construction site. I don't understand a word anyone says. You all treat me like I'm an idiot. I'm failing every class."

He silences me with a kiss.

We're in public. I've got tears streaming down my cheeks and I don't give a damn.

When we part, Haruki says, "You talk too much. Breathe more."

We sit together at lunch.

Ignore them staring.

We walk home together in the dark. Yoshi's being a pest, teasing us like mad, but Haruki's hand is warm.

My Japanese is improving. He still kicks my butt in karate. Step-mother approves, but isn't sure I can hold onto such a catch. I must work harder. Pass my exams. Get into University. Get a good job. Then maybe Haruki will marry me.

It's only been a month.

Take life as it comes. Don't let the black clouds stay for supper.
© Copyright 2014 Anistasya (anistasya88 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1973071-Haruki