No one talked to the new kid. It wasn’t an official rule, but it was common practice among the students. Nezumi was one of those gypsies. They had rolled into town one day and never left. Behind his back girls fawned over him but none had the guts to approach him.
“I fail to see what everyone’s talking about; he’s not that pretty.” Taking a bite of her sandwich, Safu grumbled.
Shion couldn’t disagree more. Never had he met anyone more interesting and beautiful than Nezumi. He was taller than Shion, but not by much. His body looked firm underneath his casual tee shirt. His skin was so pale, and from certain angles his delicate features made it hard to tell if he was a boy or a girl. Nezumi’s long hair reminded Shion of twilight with its soft, dark tone. It looked so silky. He normally used its length to tie it up into a ponytail.
Nezumi always sat by himself near the stage with several tables between him and where everyone else ate lunch.
Nose never leaving his book, his fork periodically dug into a nearby Tupperware container. Shion wondered what kind of food he ate. From this distance, it resembled chicken and cabbage in broth. He’d never been close enough to know exactly what it could be. To Shion, all foreign dishes tasted spicy so he assumed Nezumi’s food was too. Nezumi always had yellow cake with his meal. The first time Nezumi dipped it into the broth though, Shion had to rethink his first observation, and reclassified it to some kind of corn bread. Nezumi ate everything with a fork, probably not wanting to dirty his book. He never drank anything but water.
Shion glanced back to look at Nezumi. At that moment, Nezumi’s book lowered and their eyes met. Nezumi studied him for a moment. His mesmerizing gray both absorbed and reflected light. What lay behind those eyes? Who was behind that mask of indifference? What made him laugh, caused him to cry? What were his dreams; how did he view the world around him?
Nezumi’s eyes lingered for a second longer, then he dug his fork into his Tupperware and went back to reading his book.
Shion pushed aside his Bento lunch. His fried pork always tasted better with sauce. “I’m gonna go and grab more soy sauce. Want any?” Shion swiveled in his stool and stood up, making sure not to bang his knee on the place where it attached to the table.
Not many of their friends were at lunch today. Aiko was sick, Akihiko had detention—one too many tardies because he and mornings didn’t get along—and Shanelle was helping out with the Chorus class’ bake sale. Only Safu and Shawn were present, and Shawn hadn’t even arrived at the table yet.
Safu shook her head, swishing her short-cropped, black hair. “I doubt soy sauce would taste good on my sandwich. Shion, are you even paying attention?”
“Oh, yeah, right.” Warmth heated his cheeks.
“Seriously, what am I going to do with you, Shion?”
Shion headed for the cafeteria's kitchen where he found the condiments at the end of the serving line. He grabbed a few packets of soy sauce, hoping it would be enough.
Shion looked up. “Hey Shawn.”
“So, um, it’s just you, me and Safu today, right?”
Shawn’s blue eyes lit up. Glancing at Safu, Shawn's smile widened, the tips of his protruding ears becoming red. Shawn loved to be around Safu. But Safu only tolerated him because they had mutual friends. She always reassured him that she wasn’t interested in Shawn. But he didn’t see why; Shawn was a nice enough guy.
He followed after Shawn to their seats, and had just put the sauce packs on the table when an idea hit him. An idea? Feeling? Desire, maybe? Shion didn’t have any topic of conversation in mind. All he knew was that he wanted to talk to Nezumi.
Shion stood up quickly, leaving the red plastic stool swirling on its axis, and headed over to where Nezumi sat.
“Shion?” Safu called after him.
Shion glanced over his shoulder briefly. “Just give me a sec.”
“Um, hi,” He said to Nezumi whose nose was still in a book.
Nezumi lowered his book. Mesmerizing gray eyes studied Shion, and any words he wanted to say vanished from his mind.
“Can I do something for you?” Nezumi asked in a standoffish, but not cruel tone.
“Um, well, not really no. I mean, I just thought I’d come and say hi.”
Nezumi smiled. “You sound nervous. Don’t worry, I don’t bite.”
Shion found his voice. “I’m not afraid of you if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“I just noticed that you sit by yourself all the time, and I thought maybe you’d want to join us?” Shion directed his head towards his table. Safu and Shawn stared at them with wide eyes. Their expressions various decrees of curiosity, shock and fear.
“You sure?” Nezumi smirked. “Doesn’t look like your friends are in on your plan.”
“My friends? Oh, Safu and Shawn won’t mind. You’ll find Safu’s really easy to talk to.”
“So all rich kids are this unguarded and straightforward? You don’t even know me. Shouldn’t you at least be weary? You have to of heard the rumors going around about me?”
“Yeah, I have. But I’m not one to judge a person by what I hear. I’d much rather get to know him for myself.”
“Isn’t that noble of you?” Nezumi’s mocking laugh shouldn’t have made Shion’s pulse race.
“I’m not doing this to be noble—”
“Aren’t you though? Outcast, sitting by himself, unwelcomed and feared by the school. So you’ve taken it upon yourself to include me.” Nezumi scoffed. “Don’t kid yourself, this is a classic case of nobility. And why do it? To make yourself feel better about the situation? Or is that you feel pity?”
“I don’t feel any of those things. Please don’t talk about me like you know me when you clearly don’t. I don’t have any hidden agenda, and I’m certainly not doing this because I feel sorry for you.”
“Then why are you? And don’t tell me you just wanted a new friend. Please, I may not be elite like you, highness, but even us lowly plebs aren’t stupid.”
“Why are you so insistent that I have a reason for coming over here other than I just wanted to be nice?”
“Hmph, nice? Ah, right. If you’re nice everyone will think what a good, little boy you are.” Nezumi snorted dismissively. “That’s just another way of making yourself feel better. You’re not doing any of this for me.” He went back to reading his book. “People who can’t see themselves don’t interest me.”
Shion stood there gaping. “Fine. Geez, I just wanted to invite you over. But you apparently don’t want to join us, and that’s fine, but don’t go thinking I’ve some sort of agenda or am doing this to fill my own ego, because I’m not. I just thought you were interesting—” He hadn’t meant to say that to Nezumi, especially not after his attitude.
“Interesting, huh?” Nezumi hadn’t looked up from his book. He sighed. “You really are a textbook case, you know that?”
“How am I?”
“Little, rich kid suffocated by his privileged life comes across a gypsy who’s so different, so interesting…” Nezumi’s voice morphed into an orator, his hands acting out the role of the boy in his story. Shion’s attention drew to Nezumi’s fingers. Slender and graceful, they made the gestures look elegant. It wasn’t something Nezumi did purposefully, rather it was how his fingers moved, like a nimble dance. “...And so different than your stuffy life. So you go to befriend this new, shiny toy. And as a bonus, your soft, little ego gets boosted for how generous and caring you are.”
Shion fumed with anger. “I don’t think that at all.” But Nezumi’s words hit home. He was a suffocated, little rich boy. Nezumi had seen right through him, seen an image Shion hadn’t thought about before. Perhaps he’d come over to Nezumi because a gypsy was completely opposite from his own life. Shion had been drawn to him the moment he saw him. Nezumi was a myriad of colors in Shion’s grayscale world.
“Just spaced out there, didn’t you?” Playfulness hid behind Nezumi’s smile.
“Uh…yeah.” Shion looked at his feet before he met Nezumi’s eyes. “Guess you’re right. Guess I am a suffocated, little rich kid.”
“Obviously.” Nezumi’s dismissive tone perked up Shion’s fighting spirit.
“But I wasn’t talking to you to make myself feel better.”
“So it was for the excitement then?”
“I don’t know, maybe. But that isn’t what I thought about when I came over.”
“Hah?” Nezumi drew out the word. “And what were you thinking? Wanted me to read your fortune?” Nezumi laughed at his own joke. “If you give me your palm I’ll do it, but it won’t be free.”
Thinking of Nezumi holding his hand made Shion’s cheeks heat up. “Okay.”
“If you wanted to read my fortune, I’ll let you.”
Nezumi looked shocked before he burst out laughing. “You serious? What an airhead! You actually believed that? I was obviously joking.”
Shion’s face burned; he was lobster red for sure.
“Idiot,” Nezumi said. “And well, looks like our time’s cut short, your majesty.”
Shion looked at him confused.
“Lunch is over, and you just missed it. Think of this as a learning opportunity. Next time, don’t befriend someone for self-centered reasons.” Nezumi stood up, closed his Tupperware box and headed off.
Shion stared at him confused, and feeling a little like a fool. But he didn’t want to give up. He had no idea why he was going to pursue a guy who obviously thought terrible about him, but maybe that was the reason. He felt misunderstood. Nezumi had gotten some things right about him, but not everything. Shion knew that Nezumi wasn’t just some shiny, new toy—something that would hold his interest for a while until it was no longer new. No, that was not it. He was intrigued by Nezumi, drawn to him. He wanted to know Nezumi himself, not the gypsy. Where did he come from? What was his past like? Shion wanted to get inside Nezumi’s head, see what made him tick. He wanted to laugh with him, hear his dreams, be there for him when he was sad. Shion wasn’t wanting to just play with him and leave. He wanted to know Nezumi more. From this point on, Shion wanted Nezumi in his life.
“Nezumi, wait!” he chased after Nezumi.
Nezumi looked back, exasperated. “Milord?”
“Don’t call me that. My name is Shion.”
“Yeah, I know. Like the flower, right?”
“That’s right. My mom was really into gardening when she had me.”
Nezumi smirked. “I bet.”
There was a sexual meaning behind those words but Shion didn’t know what. Sexual jokes always went over his head.
“What are you reading?”
“Your book? You must know its title since you’ve been reading it nonstop all lunch.”
Nezumi smirked. “Was that a comeback, milord?”
Shion smirked. “Yeah, I guess. And it’s Shion.”
“All right, I’m reading A Midsummer Night's Dream.”
“I’d hope a pampered boy like you knew his classics.”
“You’re surprised to find me reading Shakespeare? What? Too literate? Thought it’d be a picture book? Or maybe something like The Gypsy Guide to Thieving and Looting, second Ed? Sorry to not fulfill your gypsy fantasies, milord.”
“No, I didn’t mean to imply that. Sorry if it came out that way. I just wouldn’t have taken you for a Shakespeare guy.”
“And how is that not generalizing or stereotyping me? A gypsy that reads classics? Yeah, right.”
“It isn’t because you’re a gypsy. You’re really caught up on that, and it makes you blind to the fact that someone might just want to be your friend.”
Nezumi's smirk faded, his eyes became more skeptical.
“And I didn’t think you weren’t into Shakespeare because you’re a gypsy. I thought…?”
Now that Shion questioned his motive, what was it he thought? Perhaps Nezumi was right? Perhaps it was because Nezumi was a gypsy that Shion had been shocked to see Shakespeare in his hand.
Nezumi’s smirked. “Spaced out again, didn’t you? You sure are scatterbrained.”
Shion blushed again. “Sorry. I just. Sorry, I guess you’re right. Forgive me, I didn’t mean to generalize.”
Nezumi’s smile faded. “Apologizing? Why?”
“Well, because I clearly hurt you with my preconceptions, and what’s worst was I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. I really didn’t think I thought it was because you’re a gypsy. Honestly, I don’t mind that you’re a gypsy. I think people are too quick to judge. But I’m sure you’re about to judge me and say I am hypocritical or self-centered, right?”
“More or less.”
“Can’t I just want to be your friend?”
“Why? I’m really not all that interesting of a person? Why go out of your way just to make a friend?”
Shion blinked. “Why? Friendship is one of the things that makes life worthwhile. Friendships are more enriching than money that’s for sure.”
“Says the rich kid. Must be nice to live in a world where you have the luxury to be so dismissive of money.”
“I didn’t mean that.” Shion met Nezumi’s eyes. “I know how lucky I am, how fortunate. I didn’t mean to sound unappreciative. I was just answering your question. You asked me why go out of my way, what’s so important? Well, I like you. I want to be your friend.”
“Wow, don’t you feel embarrassed saying awkward things like that?”
“What’s embarrassing about saying that I want to be your friend?”
Nezumi shook his head. “If you don’t notice it, then I’m not even gonna bother. But I’m about to be late for class, so if you don’t mind?”
“Oh, yeah, sorry, let’s go.”
Nezumi smirked at him. “You really are absentminded, aren’t you, Shion?”
Shion’s heart skipped a beat and a smile broke out on his face.
“You said my name.”
“Yeah? Wasn’t it you that wanted me to call you by that?”
“No, yeah, I do. I mean, it sounded nice.”
Nezumi shook his head. “Idiot. Now before you got us distracted by stating the obvious, I was going to say, aren’t you forgetting your things?”
“Oh…” Shion looked down at his empty arms. “That’s right, my things!”
Nezumi was laughing his head off. “You’re too funny. Such an airhead!” Shion smirked with him, and then they were both laughing. “Go and grab your things, professor, I’ll wait for you.”
Shion smiled brightly. “Right!” A thrill of excitement rushed through him. It was like he hit a milestone; a changing point in his life. He wasn’t sure how he knew this, he only knew that after this moment his life would never be the same.
Shion walked into his Probability class right before the bell sounded. He had had to part ways with Nezumi, and was surprised to learn Nezumi’s next class was Drama. It was yet another piece in the puzzle that was Nezumi. He had also learned that they shared Literature together. How had he never noticed that Nezumi was in his class? Although given the size of the auditorium perhaps it wasn’t that surprising. Besides, Shion had never been the most perceptive guy in the world.
There was one more class today after Probability, but unfortunately, he didn’t have any other classes with Nezumi. So unless he was lucky enough to see Nezumi by the lockers, Shion would have to wait until tomorrow.
Today he planned to go over to Safu’s house. Her last class was Biology, and they were dissecting a fetal pig. Knowing Safu, she would not be done with cleanup by the time he arrived and he would end up waiting for her. Safu found dissections fascinating and liked to take her time. He could understand since he was the same way, but this delay meant that Nezumi would be long gone by the time Shion finally made it to his locker.
“Shion!” Safu had her hands on her hips. Normally they sat towards the back so they could whisper to each other during class. “You’re almost late.”
“Yeah, sorry, got caught up talking.”
“Right. To Nezumi? Oh, thanks by the way.”
“For leaving me with blabbermouth Shawn. He kept talking and talking all through lunch, while you just stayed over there, doing—I don’t even know what?—over by Nezumi. Were you expecting him to come and sit by us?”
“Would that have been a problem if he did?”
Safu dragged out a sigh. “Of course not. But Shion, Nezumi doesn’t sit with anyone. Doesn’t talk to anyone, and from the looks of your conversation, he didn’t want to talk to you either.”
“Yeah,” Shion nodded. “No, he tried to get me to go away.”
“Then why didn’t you?”
Shion shrugged. “I want to get to know him.”
“I want to be his friend.”
Safu gave him an incredulous look. “Shion, what are you trying to do? If he doesn’t want to be your friend, why keep pushing it? I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“Hurt? Nezumi’s not going to hurt me. People are wrong about that. Nezumi may be a gypsy, but he’s not a killer.”
“I didn’t mean about him being Romani. Honestly, people need to stop being stupid. So what if that’s his ethnicity. Why should that matter?”
“But if he doesn’t want to be your friend, he is just going to hurt you.”
Shion considered what Safu was saying. He loved her for her compassion and caring nature, but in this case he felt like she had them wrong. He couldn’t explain it, but in his heart he knew that pursuing a relationship with Nezumi was not a mistake.
“Thanks Safu. You are always looking out for me, aren’t you?” Shion smiled, scratching the back of his head. “Even if it is embarrassing... but you don’t have to worry about me this time. I just have this feeling like Nezumi is someone I will be able to trust. I can’t explain it any other way.”
Safu rolled her eyes, shaking her head. “Geez, Shion you really are an idiot, and one of these days it’s gonna get you seriously hurt. You got that! You need to take better care of yourself, and stop trying to take care of everyone else.”
“I don’t try to take care of everyone else?”
Safu raised an eyebrow.
“If I can have everyone’s attention onto the white board. That goes for you, Safu and Shion.”
“Sorry, Mrs. Whitemarsh,” Safu said, Shion following with a similar apology.
The rest of the class was filled with information that heavily required their attention, so Shion’s mind had to pause from thinking about Nezumi, at least for now.
They were sprawled out on Safu's bed finishing up the Literature assignment, when Safu said, “You’re smiling again.”
“Hm?” Shion looked at her from over his copy of a Brave New World.
“This book isn't what I would call funny, and here you are smiling every five seconds." Safu’s voice teetered between chastising and amusement. "You were smiling all through Probability too. Seriously, you’re on a loop. Just what are you thinking about?”
Shion looked at her confused. Sometimes Safu read more into it then what was there. “I haven’t been thinking anything. I’m feeling happy, that’s all?”
“That’s my point, when are you this happy? I mean, you smile, sure, but not like this."
“Is it a problem that I’m smiling?”
“Not a problem. Not at all. It’s just…”
Safu sucked her bottom lip, brow wrinkling. Her eyes became distant. She was thinking something upsetting, Shion was sure of it.
“Safu, tell me what’s bothering you?”
“Safu? I’ve known you way too long for it to be nothing.”
“It’s just, Shion, you’ve never been passionate about anything.”
“I mean, you normally just go with the flow; you’re not really into anything. But you were today.”
“Yeah, you went right over to Nezumi, and you stayed talking, even forgetting about your lunch. And then you were late for Probability.”
“I was just on time, not late.”
“That’s not the point. The point is that you’re never that driven when it comes to anything, and now... Well, I’ve never seen you like this.”
Shion smiled at her. “I think you’re making too big of a deal of it, Safu. I just wanted to talk to him. And well, I kind of lost track of time. But I wasn’t all that hungry anyways. So it’s all good.” Shion's stomach growled. He had forgotten he'd skipped lunch until he mentioned it, but now that he had, he was starving.
Safu gave him a scolding look. “Let's hurry this up, granny's making curry tonight. You did ask your mom if you could stay for dinner, right?”
Shion nodded. "Yeah, mom was okay with it.”
“Good!” Safu smiled, before her tone turned serious. “Just be careful, Shion. Ok?”
“Uh, ok.” Shion still didn’t understand the reason he needed to be careful, but he had to finish this book. He was pretty sure there would be a pop quiz tomorrow. Plus the sooner he finished it, the sooner he could eat.
The next morning Shion was by his locker when out of the corner of his eye he saw Nezumi. The comfortable looking yellow tee he wore made his shoulders look broader and his back more defined. The color also contrasted nicely to Nezumi’s twilight colored hair, which as usual was worn up in a ponytail. There was something warm, and dare he say, cuddly about Nezumi’s appearance. Shion wanted to wrap his arms around Nezumi from behind and hide his face in the valley between Nezumi’s shoulders.
“Shion!” Safu called over to him before she was at his side. “So guess what granny just did?”
“Oh?” Shion asked.
“She finally went out and got—”
“Hey Safu, Shion!” Shawn came over, scratching the sleep out of his eye. “Man, I’m tired!”
“Excuse me,” Safu puffed up indignantly. “I was in the middle of a conversation with Shion. So if you don’t mind?”
“Geez, snap my head off, will yah?” Shawn grumbled, before he perked up. “Well, good timing on my part ‘cause now you don’t gotta tell the story twice.”
Safu rolled her eyes.
Shion turned to look for Nezumi again. He could see a sliver of Nezumi’s yellow tee shirt behind a thick crowd of students traversing the hall, some were just standing around talking. “Hang on, guys, I’ll be right back.”
“Shion?” Safu called after him.
Shion maneuvered his way through the crowd, trying to get to Nezumi’s locker. This section of the hall was always the most crowded in the mornings. Shion passed a gaggle of freshmen girls laughing and swatting at each other—Shion taking one of the blows to the arm, followed by a chorus of sorry’s from the girls. But Shion was determined. He had been waiting all night to talk to Nezumi and now was his chance. Otherwise, he would have to wait until Literature.
Finally making it to Nezumi’s locker, Shion wasn’t too surprised to find Nezumi no longer there but he felt downhearted anyway. Thankfully, he would be able to see him in Literature.
Making his way back through the stream of people, Shion found Shawn and Safu again.
Shawn had been in the midst of saying something. “You know, it might be fun. How about we go—?”
Safu cut him off. “Finally! Shion, where the heck did you run off too?” Safu grabbed Shion’s elbow when he was close enough, pointedly turning her back on Shawn.
“Um, sorry. I thought I saw Nezumi by his locker, and wanted to say hi.”
“Nezumi?” Safu’s confusion turned into a frustrated sigh. “And that’s why you beelined across the hall? Jeez, leaving me with Blabbermouth again too.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to just run off.”
Safu’s voice turned from angry to thoughtful. “Seriously, Shion, I’ve never seen you like this.”
“So he wanted to talk to someone else.” Shawn cut it, pouting. “I don’t see what the big deal is.”
“I didn’t ask you.” Safu glared at him before she turned back to Shion, looping her arm through his. All three of them were in the same homeroom class and so they walked there together. Shion in the middle, with Shawn and Safu on either side. Shawn started to talk about the new dirt bike his brother had gotten. It was his number one choice topic. Safu rolled her eyes, and every so often she tried to steal the conversation and start a new one with just Shion.
Coming into their Literature class was an experience in and of itself. Their school had a prestigious reputation so they got a lot of students. As a result, some classes were held in large auditoriums with stadium seating. Literature was one of those classes.
The moment he came in, Shion looked for Nezumi.
Nezumi had chosen a seat near the back row on the left side of the auditorium. Nezumi never brought in electronics, instead he carried a notebook binder and a pen. Now that he thought of it, Shion wasn’t even sure Nezumi had a cell phone. If he did, Shion had yet to see him use it.
“Hey, let’s sit in the back this time.”
Safu looked over to where Shion was directing them.
“Near Nezumi again? Shion?”
Shion didn’t understand Safu’s resistance when it came to Nezumi. She had said that Nezumi’s background wasn’t a problem, but given the way she was acting, Shion wondered if she was being truthful.
“Yeah, well, like I said, I really want to get to know him.”
“Why Shion? Why are you so persistent in being this guy’s friend? Jesus, what do people see in him anyways?”
Safu let out a sigh and turned away from him. “Never mind. Let’s just find a seat.” Before she murmured under her breath. “Next to wonder boy.”
Shion heard her, and now was even more confused. Safu was acting strangely. Maybe she was still mad at being left this morning with Shawn, who probably kept asking her out on a date. That always upset Safu. Maybe that was it? Shion decided to let Safu be, thinking that in time she would forgive him and all would go back to normal.
Nezumi looked up from A Midsummer Night’s Dream when Shion and Safu entered his row.
“Mind if we sit next to you?”
“You were serious about the whole friend thing, huh?”
“Of course I was serious.”
“Who’s serious? What are we talking about?” Safu cut in.
“Apologies, my lady,” Nezumi said. At first Shion thought Nezumi was mocking her, but the smile he gave her was sweet, not the sarcastic one from before. “Very rude of me to not introduce myself.”
“You’re Nezumi, right?”
Nezumi smiled again. “So you’ve already heard of me, huh?”
“Well duh. It’s not like this school is that big. I mean it is big, but not to the point where the new kid wouldn’t be talked about.”
Nezumi offered her his hand. “Well then, pleasure meeting your acquaintance, Safu.”
Safu faltered—perhaps curious how he knew her by name—before she returned the handshake.
“Um, likewise.” It was a brief handshake. The entire time, Safu scrutinized him; her large, black eyes filled with suspicion.
Nezumi nodded, and went back to reading his book. Shion was even more curious about Nezumi. He had thought for sure that Nezumi was playing around with Safu, but his genuine smile and soft tone weren’t those of mockery. He wasn’t ridiculing her or trying to chase her away. And despite his weird, gentlemanly way of talking to Safu, he wasn’t pursuing her either. It was yet another clue to the mystery that was Nezumi.
Shion sat down next to him—right next to him—not leaving any space. Safu took her seat on the other side of Shion.
“Hm?” Nezumi didn’t look up.
“Is Nezumi* your real name?”
Nezumi lowered his book and looked Shion in the eye. Shion’s insides turned to mush and he felt self-conscious. Nezumi’s gray, beautiful orbs were taking all of him in.
“Why? Is there something wrong with that?”
Shion blushed and looked away. “Um, no, not exactly. It’s just. It doesn’t suit you.”
Nezumi smirked at that.
Shion felt his ears burning, to change the subject he burst out another question. “Where did you move from?”
“Pretty far away, that’s all you need to know.” He had gone back to reading his book.
“How long are you planning on staying?”
“You ask a lot of questions.”
“Well, of course, I’m trying to get to know you.”
Nezumi scoffed. Spinning around so fast Shion hadn’t time to do anything before he was grabbed by the collar. “You’re not trying to get to know me, you’re gathering data. You are trying to figure me out, like I am a math problem for you to solve.” The ferocity in Nezumi’s gray eyes held Shion captive. “You’re just trying to cure your own curiosity, you don’t care to know me at all.”
“That’s not—that’s not…true,” Nezumi’s hand on his collar had pulled them closer together and Shion’s heart was beating overtime. Shion’s eyes took in Nezumi’s straight nose, smooth jaw, and flawless, alabaster skin. From this close, Nezumi smelled nice, like spring flowers hinted with cinnamon. Maybe it was his hair—which looked soft and shiny—cologne? Body wash?
“Just what’s your problem?” Safu’s voice jarred Shion back to reality. She had stood up and was pointing a finger at Nezumi. Thankfully class hadn’t started yet. “Shion is just asking basic questions. It’s what normal people call a conversation. You know, what people do when they are trying to get to know one another? And here you are criticizing him? And now you are being cruel to him!” Safu grabbed Nezumi’s shirt, her mouth upturned in that angry smile she got whenever she wanted to punch someone. Nezumi blinked at her, and released Shion’s shirt.
Shion wondered what Nezumi would do now. He was a bit afraid for Safu. She was his friend, and he couldn’t allow a guy to hurt her. Even if that guy was Nezumi.
Nezumi gave her a soft smile. “Forgive me, milady. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Safu blinked. Nezumi hadn’t thrown her hand off. So she was still grabbing his shirt.
“I’m not the one you should be apologizing to.”
Nezumi smiled at her again. “Of course.”
“Safu, it’s okay.”
“No, it’s not okay, Shion. He just assaulted you.”
Shion snorted. “He didn’t assault me, Safu.”
“The lady is right. I was short tempered with you, Shion.”
“Um, okay,” Shion said. Safu had let go of Nezumi’s collar and now looked like she didn’t know what to do with herself, before she returned to her seat. “So, are you going to answer my questions then?”
Nezumi laughed. “You really aren’t very self-aware, are you?”
“Why because I want to know you? And don’t say that I don’t want to know you, because you don’t know what is going on inside my heart, only I do. And I say that I want to know you.”
Nezumi gave a mocking smile. “Seriously how can you say such embarrassing things? Have you no shame?”
“You’re doing it again! You’re being rude to Shion!”
“Rude, milady? Yes, truth can be raw, and blunt, but it is never rude.”
“So what, you’re saying that all I want with you is to solve your riddle and then I won’t have any interest, is that it?”
“Why do you keep thinking these things about me? I don’t have any agenda, and I’m not playing with a new toy. You’re the one pushing me away.”
“Then why won’t you take a hint?”
Safu stood up, grabbing her things, “Come on, Shion, we’re leaving.”
“Safu, it’s okay.”
“No, it’s not, Shion. I’m not sitting next to a rude guy like Nezumi. So let’s go.”
“It’s okay, Safu. It’s all right if you want to take another seat. But I’m not finished with Nezumi yet.”
Nezumi raised his eye brow. “Really?”
Shion met his eyes. “Yeah. You keep thinking of me as an enemy. And I’m telling you I’m not. I don’t know what grudge you have against me, but I only want to get to know you.”
“Even now? When I have been cruelly pushing you away?”
Shion nodded. “You’re right, you are a mystery to me. But you’re not just a problem I am trying to solve. Not at all. Like I said before, I want to be your friend.”
Nezumi sighed and put his head in his hand. “Man, you’re persistent. Fine, sit down and I’ll answer your questions.”
Shion smiled. And took a seat. Safu looked so upset, Shion wanted to calm her down. She gave him one hurt look, as if he had betrayed her, and then went off to sit closer to the front of class.
“Safu. Safu! Wait!”
But she didn’t turn around.
“You should go after your girlfriend, Shion.”
“Oh, Safu is my friend, not my girlfriend.”
“Yeah? Could’ve fooled me. I’m betting she's thinking the same thing. Seriously Shion, are you really that blind?”
Nezumi shook his head. “‘Course you are.”
“Now, I’m really lost.”
“Never mind, geez, you really are an airhead, aren’t you?”
“And you said you’d answer my questions.”
“Fine. Fire away.”
“You’re real name? It’s not really Nezumi, is it?”
“It doesn’t suit me? Is that it?”
Shion suddenly was very embarrassed. Looking down at his chest, Shion muttered. “Something like that.”
“Nezumi is the name I go by, but yes, it’s not my real name. But it might as well be. I go by Nezumi to all who know me, my family included.”
“Oh. Why? Why not use your real name?”
Nezumi stared at him, those gray eyes seemed to be asking a question. Shion wished he could understand what it was. “Another time, Shion. Maybe I’ll tell you another time.”
Shion thought about it. Nezumi had answered his question. And he was right, Shion had just met Nezumi and already he was playing twenty questions. That probably did look like he was just trying to have his curiosity sated.
“Ok, fair enough.”
Nezumi returned to his book. “You really should go after your girlfriend.”
“Safu isn’t my girlfriend. And yes, I should probably go and apologize to her.”
“Apologize? For what?”
“That I’m not sure, but she sure was angry with me.”
Nezumi laughed. “You really have no idea about women, do you Shion?”
Shion shrugged. “Guess not.”
Nezumi shook his head and chuckled at that.
“So, you said you’d answer my questions. I won’t ask any more than the ones I have already. Is that fair?”
“How generous of you milord.”
“My name is Shion, and I’m not trying to be rude. I didn’t mean to come off as only interested in satisfying my own curiosity.”
“Fine, fine. I get it.”
“So, where did you guys move from?”
“I’m not blind Nezumi, I know that you came in a large group, of which I am assuming at least some of them are family.”
“Brilliant deduction, genius. Ten out of ten.”
“Are you going to mock me, or answer me?”
“We came from Canada.”
“Yeah. We’re not Canadians, but my uncle lives there and one thing led to another and we ended up staying in Canada for a while, but now we came here.”
“Needed a change, I guess.” Nezumi closed his book and tucked it back into his book bag. “Sorry, I can’t give you an answer that you will understand, let alone accept. We don’t need a reason to move, nor do we need a direction, we just go. That is who we are.”
Shion watched Nezumi unable to tear his eyes away from the beautiful person in front of him. Nezumi was right, they were so very different than each other. Obviously Shion was intrigued, and interested, and in many ways it was because it was so different to his life—to his stuffy life, in which he felt trapped, Nezumi seemed like the ultimate symbol of freedom. To just move wherever the wind blew you, for no reason at all? Have no destination, no plan, no preparation? Shion wouldn’t have even thought that kind of life existed.
Nezumi looked at him confused.
“I know you didn’t want to tell me any of that, but thanks for answering my questions anyway.” Shion gave him a big smile. “Sorry, if I prodded. But I mean what I said. I really want to be your friend.”
Nezumi shrugged. “You will probably lose your girlfriend if you keep spending time with a jerk like me.”
Shion smiled even wider. “Then the solution is simple: just don’t be a jerk.”