Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chapter Fourteen: Moriko at School

Moriko found a seat in the front row of her biology class. The seat at the lab station next to her remained empty. The teacher, Mr. Sanders, introduced himself and made everyone in the class do so, as well. When Moriko’s turn came, she stood and faced the teacher, ignoring the other students. A boy across the room made a face with bulging eyes and his mouth pinched in an ‘O’ like a suffocating fish. It was the boy she’d hit with the soccer ball.

“I am Moriko Hatsunaka,” she said her name quickly. Petulantly, she wanted them to struggle with it. “I was born in Tokyo, Japan. My papa is the new teacher of Japanese here…” A titter of laughter lit the room when she said the work ‘papa.’ Moriko blushed. “I like to play soccer,” she finished lamely and sat down, thinking, And I like to fight. I like to hunt monsters and kill them. I hate all of you.

RIght then, she did. Moriko had taken out one of six spiral notebooks from her bag, and a pen. Being a student was actually a simple matter of focus and note-taking. Moriko was an unenthusiastic expert at succeeding in school. But so much of what Mr. Sanders was covering was old news to Moriko. She kept an ear on the class, but doodled on the second page of the notebook. She remembered a boy from last year named Timmy. He’d been a really good artist and a great kisser. She still had his art book at home, one of her treasures.

Moriko drew a girl with a long, pointed tail sitting down and looking back over her shoulder. Moriko was not a great artist. The lines were simple, but the eyes of the demon-girl were sad.

* * *

Second period was better for seeing Diana, but worse for being under the eye of her father. It wasn’t so bad. Yet.

He spoke with her in English, where everyone could hear about her first class and whether or not there was homework.

“Just some reading, papa.” She replied. There were no snickers from her peers this time.

“Very good. See that you do it after soccer practice right away.” He ordered. Moriko nodded.

The bell rang and Mr. Hatsunaka began his class. He took roll. Moriko sat at his desk and started another spiral notebook for this class, outlining her father’s lecture almost subconsciously.

“This is first year Japanese,” he continued. “So I will assume you know nothing. This is not going to be one of your easier classes, I must be up front with you, but learning Japanese will open up a new world for you, one I think you will find rewarding. It’s structure is elegant and very different. In addition to providing many job opportunities and preparing you for an international career, it will challenge you to think differently and approach life with a different point of view.”

Her father’s English was immaculate. People had a hard time placing his accent, but Moriko knew he’d spend many years in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. A Seattle accent.

“And you can understand anime!” chimed a girl with chemically-induced orange hair and big black-rimmed glasses. The class laughed nervously and Mr. Hatsunaka smiled.

“Indeed, he said. And the films of Kurosawa and the novels of Soseki. Japan has a rich culture. Understanding it’s language is the key to unlocking that culture. But first, I must make sure you know how to learn. My job is to teach you, not to fail you. I will make you work, but first give you good tools.”

“Your books are on your desks. Tomorrow, please bring a spiral notebook, like the one Moriko has there,” he nodded toward her and Moriko held the notebook up in front of her face. She saw Diana smiling at her in the instant before she raised the book. “And a pen,” her father went on, “Some materials will be available for the forgetful and the underfunded. Moriko and I will show you how to succeed at this class and any other. Then, we can begin properly studying Japanese.”

“For today, let’s talk about what you know of Japanese. Language, culture, anything?”

Moriko tried to pay attention as her father chatted and took questions about everything from Pearl Harbor to samurai. He drew japanese words on the white board and provided some paper and pens for the students to follow along. He wrote some Hiragana out as well, to introduce them to the phonetics of the language. Moriko watched Diana’s reactions and it seemed like she was interested in what he was saying.

After class, Diana showed her where the next one was. Calculus. Moriko was cool with that. At least one class she’d only have to do the homework in one language. Again she sat in the front of the class and made a great first impression on the teacher, but her thoughts were mainly on soccer and what a bad idea it was to make a new friend.

When lunch time rolled around, Moriko waited by the lockers with her shades down. She saw Diana talking with a tall boy. He was pretty handsome, in Moriko’s estimation and she predicted sullenly that Diana would cancel their lunch to hang out with this hunk. Is that what Moriko would have done if the situation were reversed. She like to think not.

To her surprise, Diana’s conversation did eventually end with an exchange of cell numbers and a hug. The taller girl came to her locker, smiling. “Hi, Moriko. Ready to get out of here for a little while?”

“Yes.” Said Moriko.

Diana put some books into the locker and stood up. Moriko noticed Diana dressed in long sleeves and long skirts. She wore patent leather shoes. To Moriko she looked more like a college student—older and more mature—than a school girl. There was a pain in those puppy-dog eyes that Moriko found compelling. She smiled up at Diana. “Let’s blow this taco stand.”

Moriko’s delivery was deadpan. But Diana laughed. “You’re silly. I like that.”

They headed for the parking lot, chatting about their classes.
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