A Broken Dream
Part VI: Memento
The fights continued, Nalar the alien and Luke the cryokinetic were the closest to doing well, although they didn’t win.
Kioshi seemed to be calming down a little.
“Class is almost over, we’ll be out in a few minute tops.” I told him. It was just a few minutes before lunch.
“Is this what… all classes- all schools, are like?” He asked, looking at the current fight.
“No, not at all. I trained in boxing for a few months and the instructor didn’t do this. This Rook guy’s just a jerk.” I thought it’d help me be a better hero, but it had mostly taught me how weak and pain sensitive I was… But I wasn’t going to give up, I had to continue.
“Oh. Well I hope there are less jerks like him here and more nice people like you.”
“Thank you.” I blushed a little at the compliment.
Rook gave us a quick run down; we sucked was the verdict, and he dismissed us seconds before the bell announcing the end of class rang.
“Guess it’s lunch time now. Want to go to the cafeteria?” I proposed.
“What’s a cafeteria?”
I blinked. I wasn’t sure what to chalk it up to; Kioshi not being american or him being a chimera? “It’s a place where you get and eat food.” I said and he nodded. “Have you never been to a school?”
He shook his head. “Not since I was a very small child. And that was in Japan.”
“Oh wow… I’m sorry.” There was a moment of silence as we followed the others walking out. His words only confirmed the human trafficking victim theory… “So, are you hungry?” I asked.
He frowned and it took him a moment to answer. “Yes.”
Most of the class went into the cafeteria. It was a rectangular building at the back of the central administration building. The place was pretty crowded and more people were coming in.
One side had rows upon rows of cafeteria tables while the other had seven food counters with signs and menus above them. One for italian food, one for fast food, a custom order sandwich place, a lebanese counter, a mexican one, a chinese one, and lastly there was one of those Japanese flat top grill.
“So, what do you like eating?” I asked Kioshi.
“Like? I just eat what I’m given…”
“Well, you have choices here.” I listed him all the options available.
“Japanese? I haven’t… it’s been so long…” He trailed off, chewing his lip.
As we took place in line, I was a little anxious. I’d never tried Japanese food before so I had no idea what I was in for. Well, I kind of had, mom would sometime get sushi and I’d tried it once but the wasabi hidden between salmon and rice had been one of the worst experience of my life…
Not far ahead of us in line, I saw an Itharii was talking to the chefs. They were these small amphibian aliens that had arrived on earth as refugees fourteen years before. I’d seen some before, but his one was different. In addition to the orange skin and the black spots, they had these odd glowing blue lines coursing through their body. Clearly they were just as confused about the menu as I was.
There were a few things but the names were japanese without explanations. “Anything that interest you?” I asked Kioshi.
He was looking at the board and squinting, like he was focused. Could he even read english? I leaned toward him, whispering, “can you read the menu? I can tell you what’s on it if you need.”
The was a little frustrated frown on his brow. “I can’t read it sorry, too many words I don’t know.”
I read the few options available outloud to him, a sign announced tomorrow’s dishes meaning they rotated options. “Are yakisoba noodles spicy?” I asked when I was done.
“No, or at least I don’t think… yakisoba, it’s good, I think.” He looked down. “My mother used to make it, I think.” These last words barely came out of his throat.
The Itharii ahead of us was served and the cook turned to us for our orders.
“Two yakisoba for us.”
“Would you like any miso soup, or gyoza, or both?” The cook asked.
“Eh…” I looked at Kioshi. “Do you want some?”
He just sort of looked at me then at the cook and then back at me, looking like he didn’t know what to say.
“Yes, both please.” I answered for both of us.
We got served and walked away from the counter. I looked around at the seats and they were pretty crowded. “So… Want to eat here or outside?” I asked Kioshi.
“W-Wherever you want!” The anxiety in the stutter was clear as day. Clearly he was a little overwhelmed…
“Well, it’s kind of crowded, so outside seems nice.” Avoiding crowds seemed for the better.
We left the building and came into a park at the back of the school ground, furthest away from the entrance gate. I looked around a little and found a bench a little way from the main path. I sat down and put my platter on my lap only to see Kioshi was standing, looking at the bench like he was silently asking permission to sit next to me.
“Aren’t you going to sit?” A little nervous laugh left my mouth. This was kind of awkward and sad, Kioshi was clearly walking on eggshells like he was expecting to make a mistake and be punished for it…
He nodded and sat down. I turned my attention to the food, sniffing the plate, moving it around to make sure there wouldn’t be any surprise. There was cabbage, which I didn’t like, but apart from that the noodles looked and smelled okay. The soup and dumpling I was more afraid off. I grabbed a few noodles with my fork and put them in my mouth.
It was a little on the salty side, had a sweet note, and there was a little vinegary taste to it, but it wasn’t overwhelming.
“Not bad.” I declared.
“Itadakimasu.” Kioshi muttered. He took a bite and when he was done chewing there was this smile on his lips. “It’s good.”
I had to smile back. For a moment, he seemed happy and not scared. “Yeah, I could get used to it.”
There was a quiet moment as we both ate. Kioshi was surprisingly voracious for his small size.
“Y’know, it’s nice making a friend here. I don’t really have any back home…” I said.
“But you’re nice? Don’t nice people have a lot of friends?”
A little bitter snicker made it out. How I wished he was right and it was that simple… I mechanically moved food around my bowl for a moment. “I get bullied a lot back home, well not as much since I got my power… But I guess people don’t want to associate with me in case it’d extend to them.”
Kioshi looked at me, frowning and head tilted. “Bullied? A-associate?”
“Right…” I sighed. I couldn’t expect him to know complicated words in English. “People are really mean to me and others are scared to be my friend because the others might be mean to them too.”
“I’m sorry… there are a lot of mean people.” He said, the cat-like ears at the side of his head folded back.
“It’s alright, I’m here now. And not everyone was bad…”
“Gabe was nice? Like you? I hope he gets better, the world needs to keep as many nice people as it can.”
I felt a little tightness around my heart at the mention of his name. “Yeah, he was the kindest, sweetest guy I’ve ever met.” I answered after a moment.
We went quiet, filling the silence by eating some more. I dissected a gyoza, it was filled with cabbage, meat and smelled a little like ginger. I offered them to Kioshi, saying how I wasn’t going to eat them. He took them and ate them too.
“So, we have homeroom after lunch, maybe that’ll be more normal, it’s apparently English and maths combined into one.” I said after a moment, breaking the silence.
“There is so much to school, all I remember is coloring, and serving food and writing kana.”
“Yeah, it can get a bit overwhelming, but if you need any help, you can always ask.” I gave him a smile. “Unless it’s geography, I cannot for the life of me remember countries’ name and location.” I laughed at my own half-joke.
“Thank you. I’m happy you’re my roommate.”
“And I’m happy you’re mine and not someone like Gloria… Or Kayla, she seems nice but she’s kind of a lot to take in.”
He nodded firmly. We’d both noticed how they could be overwhelming or downright terrifying.
“So, do you like music?”
“I like Koto, my mother used to play it…”
“It’s a…” He paused trying to find his words but failing.
I took out my phone and looked it up. It was a Japanese stringed instrument. “This?” I asked, showing him the picture.
I put on a koto video and when the musician first stroked the strings I saw his eyes light up with wonder.
“It’s beautiful.” I said.
Kioshi seemed a little too emotional to answer. I smiled and put my phone on his lap. For a moment we just stayed there, listening to the sound of a beautiful melody.