Chapter 1: A Day in the Life
I placed the papers back on the table and rubbed my sore eyes.
‘No matter how many times I run the numbers, the board simply hasn’t given me the funds I need to pull this off…’
Lifting my face from my hands I gave a tentative glance to the clock.
‘Five thirty already? I’ve been at this for hours, but there is still so much to be done.’ I drew in a deep breath ‘I hate to complain to the school board. They have lent a great deal of trust to me. Trusting me to be able to budget and plan this year’s up-coming student festival for the school. I just wish they had given me a little more to work with here…’
I grouped my scattered papers together, stacked them nicely and placed them neatly back in my bag. ‘I guess I’m just going to have to come back in again this Sunday to try to figure this out. Though I still don’t know what use it would be. I’ve been working on this every day for the past two weeks. I’m afraid I may end disappointing principal Kobayakawa and the whole school at this rate.’
My bag in hand, I stood and slid the chair back in its place. ‘I simply can’t let that happen. I knew, going in, becoming school president wasn’t going to be an easy task. I’ll just have to double my efforts tomorrow morning.’
I shut and locked the door to the student council office behind me. The school hallway was barren. Not a student or teacher in sight. Most of the hall lights were off and the only source of illumination was coming from the dwindling sun through the large bay windows overlooking the courtyard. It’s not like I was unaccustomed to being the only one left in the school. It was just part of the routine at this point. Get to school early, hold meetings, go to class, check in on clubs, have a meeting with principal Kobayakawa, continue planning for the festival, and now, go home to get my studying done. I won’t say it’s been particularly easy since I became a third year here at Shujin Academy, but it’s all a part of ‘growing up’ as Sae told me.
How could I complain about my workload when my sister has not only come up against all expectations of her as an unmarried woman in the male-dominated work environment that is the SUI office but has blazed a path for me. Not only did she graduate at the top of her class in law school, but she was even invited to be a prosecutor for the special investigations department. Becoming the first woman to do so. I’ve learned so much from her and would be privileged to live up to being even a fraction of what she is.
“Well hey there miss school president!” A man’s voice called to me. I looked towards the source and found the school’s volleyball coach, Mr. Kamoshida, was walking in my direction from further down the hallway. Probably fresh from the team practice considering the time of day.
“What has you at the school this late hour Niijima? Classes ended a few hours ago.” He grinned and rubbed the back of his head “Probably up to some student council business eh?”
I gave a smile back and a slight bow “Good evening Mr. Kamoshida. Yes, sir, the council has needed me to stay a little later after school to help organize the student festival that is coming up in a couple of months.”
“You are already working on that thing?” he let out a slight chuckle “You big brained students never cease to amaze me! Showing such initiative and dedication will surely be in your favor when it comes to college applications.”
“Thank you, sir. We are certainly trying our best to provide the best experience for our fellow students here at Shujin!”
“Well, I’m sure it will show when the time comes” He shifted his weight to the opposite leg and crossed his arms “You know Makoto, we could really use someone with your talents on the girls’ volleyball team.” Mr. Kamoshida suggested “Now I know you have a lot on your plate at the moment, but we are holding tryouts for next semester’s team soon”
I clutched my bag “Thank you for the offer sir, but I’m not really the athletic type-”
“Nonsense! Volleyball is more than just raw physical skill. It’s all about strategy. Having the ability to out-think as well as outmaneuver your opponent.” He mimed serving a volleyball “Strength means nothing without the ability to read the opponents weaknesses” Kamoshida spiked his imaginary ball “then exploiting that weakness to gain victory!” He dusted off his hands and smiled widely “And I think you’re just the girl to give us that much-needed edge! Besides, I can tell from just looking at you. You have quite the physic. I’m sure your body is capable of more than you give it credit for!”
My shoulders tightened “That’s very kind of you to say, sir. But as you did point out earlier, I do have quite a lot on my plate at the moment-”
He crossed his arms once again “Oh! No need to make a decision now! Just promise me you’ll think about it. I can assure you, you’ll be one of my first picks if you try out! I know you wouldn’t need another letter of recommendation from a teacher, but one more certainly couldn’t hurt.”
I nodded “It’s a very tempting and generous offer sir. I will certainly give it a great deal of thought when the time comes.”
He shot me a knowing grin “Now, we talked about this, no need for the sir stuff ok? Just call me Suguru. And hopefully soon, coach!”
“Yes si-, sorry, Suguru. I will do well to remember in the future” I faced the door that left the hallway “Well, I should be going or I’ll miss my train.”
He gestured to the door “Oh of course! Sorry for keeping you! Have a good rest of your day Makoto. See you tomorrow.”
I nodded in return “You as well!” and pulled open the door and hastily walked through. I watched the door slowly close behind me and took a breath. I could feel my palms moist with sweat. ‘Now now Makoto. You’re being ridiculous.’ I assured myself ‘You know they are all just rumors. We were simply having a friendly conversation, nothing more.’ I gave myself a moment to recompose. Once I had my legs back underneath myself, I made my way out of the front hall and towards the subway station.
The apartment looked the same as I left it that morning when I left for school. I examined the clock on the wall ‘Hmm. Sis should have been home by now.’ Locking the door behind me I placed my bag and jacket on the sofa and headed to the kitchen. ‘She must be pulling another all-nighter at the office’
I pulled out a Tupperware of leftover homemade ramen I made earlier in the week. Being sure to make plenty and to portion out some for Sae as well. She works so hard and she’s kind enough to house me at her apartment after all. The least I could do is make her a meal. However, when I opened up the fridge I saw her container of ramen still full and untouched after sitting there for days.
‘Come to think of it’ I silently considered to myself ‘when was the last time I saw her home?’ I poured the last of my soup into a pot and let it heat back up on the stove top. ‘Maybe I should just shoot her a text and make sure she’s fine…’
I tapped my phone's screen back to life and opened up the messenger app. ‘Evening Sis. Sorry to bother you. I know you must be hard at work at the office. Just haven’t heard from you in a while and wanted to make sure you were well. Please let me know if I can do anything to help!’
The ramen had already started to steam, so I took a bowl from a nearby cupboard and set my place at the table. I pulled my seat up and let the aroma of the warm soup fill my lungs. It still smelt delicious. In this batch, I played with the ratio of chili sauce to broth. It absolutely paid off.
After a few spoonfuls, I noticed just how quiet it was in the house. I wasn’t particularly sure why it stood out to me just then of all times. Ever since Sae let me move in with her, it’s always kind of been like this. The apartment was beautiful. Matching cream-colored sofas in the living room. Lovely gray and black colored curtains. Even a couple of potted ferns and lilies to brighten the room a little. And under a stunningly hand carved coffee table laid a gorgeous ornate rug.
Sae’s apartment certainly didn’t lack a sense of taste. When she moved in she even hired an interior decorator to give the place its distinct style and character. It gave off a sort of beautiful minimalistic feel.
Still, I had to admit, it lacked warmth. Can’t say I’ve ever complete felt comfortable in it. Though it was a near art piece, it still felt hollow somehow.
The stillness was putting me on edge so I clicked on the tv in the living room a listened while I ate. The large screen popped to life and the SNN breaking news logo streaked across the screen.
‘-Experts are still baffled as to what caused the trains to crash earlier this April. The subway’s conductor had cleared all tests for narcotics, or any substances of any kind, in his system. Even after extensive interrogation, he still cannot recall why he would have sent his train speeding down the track, far over recommended speeds, causing the massive crash into Shibuya station, killing dozens and injuring even more.-’ A reporter announced
‘Oh right, that train crash that happened earlier in the school year. It was fortunate it was on a Sunday or Shujin students very easily could have been on that train or at the station.’ I stirred the noodles while listening to the broadcaster continue.
‘The conductor is still awaiting his court date to face a judge over whether the matter is to be considered criminal neglect or manslaughter.’ Another reporter chimed in ‘Now why isn’t he just being thrown in jail for murder? He wasn’t under any sort drug as you said, then he had to have been in a clear state of mind when he killed all those people’
‘Many have asked the same.’ The first reporter retorted ‘However, after the incident, it was confirmed by a doctor at the scene that the conductor had had a seizure of some sort behind the wheel. He was said to be foaming at the mouth and his eyes rolled to the back of his head. He was said to be lucky to recover from such an accident-’
I clicked the tv back off and sighed “I really don’t feel like hearing about train accidents right now” I murmured to myself while getting up. I grabbed my school bag and sat back down at the dinner table. Undid the latch and brought out my notes from the day. Segregating the binders and papers into separate piles by classes, I cracked open the first.
Before starting I grouped a few noodles together and chomped down on a mouth full. My stomach growled with desire for more. “Hmm. Forgot how long ago lunch was. Guess my stomach didn’t.” I rubbed my tired eyes and got to work on my homework ‘Ok. Question one: according to the philosopher Plato, the soul is composed of appetite, spirit and what else?’