[Listen, Kanata. Don’t you ever…talk to me again.]
I remember the words my mother said to me that day when I was still a little. My mother, who had just finished her mother-in-law’s funeral and divorce settlement with my father and was exhausted both physically and mentally, told me this with a blank expression on her face. I was still too young to understand the reason, and even now that I have grown up, I still don’t really understand it.
[I don’t want to see your face. You look just like him.]
[Why can’t I look like him?]
[Shut up ! Don’t ever try to show me your face again. It’s disgusting.]
I haven’t had a proper conversation with my mother since that day. I have told her the bare minimum necessary information such as enrollment procedures for elementary and middle school and the purchase of textbooks via memo, but other than that, I have not had any other interaction with her. Although we are occasionally home at the same time, the house is basically silent.
The last connection we have is a single 100-yen coin that she leaves on the table every morning. But even that is becoming irregular.
[……It’s kind of strange.]
Even as a child, I thought so.
“Kanata kun, is it true that you come from a family of criminals?”
When he asked me this question, I did not feel any particular emotional turmoil. However, when I was searching for the answer to that question, I suddenly remembered something my grandmother had taught me.
A lie is the most detestable thing. My grandmother had taught me that. There are gentle lies in the world, but in the end, they are nothing more than hypocrisy and an escape from reality that does not solve anything. That is why the world is always full of unreasonableness.
Listening to my grandmother’s self-description, for some reason, I felt it fall straight to my heart. It was partly because I was too young to make good judgments, but I felt that the troublesome real world was more appealing to me than the fantasy dream world. I don’t know why. But I’m sure that my grandmother did not try to brainwash me. Perhaps I’m more like my grandmother than any of my family members.
So the answer to my question to them in front of me is……
No hesitation, just one word affirmation. I don’t get upset or feel self-loathing when I tell the truth. Because, for me, it is normal.
However, it seems that the people around me are different.
“Eh, so it’s true after all !?”
The classmates around me, who must have been listening, suddenly began to make noise. One pointed at me and whispered to his friend, glaring at me with an even sterner face than usual. Others left the classroom at once, perhaps to visit their friends in other classes.
(Eh…..what is this situation?)
As you can imagine, even I couldn’t understand it. My classmates, who had been my friends until just a few days ago, were observing me from afar as if they were looking at a pest. It was probably the first time in my life that I felt such pain from their stares. This was the first time in my life that I had ever known discomfort.
I went to look for Shinya kun, who was sitting next to me, but he seemed to have already gone to his club activities and was nowhere to be seen. At any rate, I left the classroom as if to escape. I couldn’t bear the stares, but my intuition was telling me that it would be dangerous to stay here.
(I have to find out what’s going on tomorrow.)
With this in mind, I ran home. I did not run away because I was weak-minded. Never….
Then I went to school as usual. What was different from usual was my mindset. What on earth is going on at school? I’m sure that it’s centered on me, but I don’t know anything about it. That’s why I went to school later than usual…
“Kanata, can I talk to you for a minute?”
I was about to change my shoes and head to the classroom when I was stopped by a teacher. He was the teacher in charge of the physical education class and had talked with me several times. But I don’t think he had such a cold expression on his face.
“I’m sorry to bother you this morning, but I need you to go to the teacher’s office. Your homeroom teacher wants to see you.”
With that, the P.E. teacher walked out the front door and headed toward the school gate. He stands in front of the school gate every morning to greet the students coming to school, and I guessed that he would do it again today. However, I felt a little uncomfortable with his attitude.
“But I had to go because I was called.”
Anyway, as he said, I headed for my homeroom teacher in the staff room. My homeroom teacher had been replaced after the second grade class change, and she was now a stately female teacher. She looked a little scary, but I heard she had a reputation as a student-oriented teacher.
I then entered the staff room and went to my homeroom teacher who was sitting in the back of the room. Then, the homeroom teacher turned her face as if she had expected me to come at last and beckoned me to come.
I obeyed and went to her. Then the teacher glanced at the papers in her hand for a moment and looked at me grimly.
“Tachibana. Do you have any idea why you were called?”
“Um, I don’t know.”
The homeroom teacher then tosses the papers on the desk, puts her hand on her cheek and asks me for confirmation.
“The school complained that you were working illegally.”
“I was skeptical, but this morning I checked with the distributor of the newspaper where the allegations were made, and the boss over there admitted it was true. I think he is being questioned by the police right now, you know?”
It was at this point that I realized the thoughtlessness of my actions. I thought no one was watching me, but they were. Someone who knows I’m a middle school student.
My homeroom teacher looked at me as if she was taken aback.
“You may know this, but there is actually a part-time job that middle school students are exceptionally allowed to do. Do you know?”
“Um, something related to the entertainment industry.”
“There is that, too. The rest is milk delivery in the early morning and…..newspaper delivery.”
Yes, in fact, newspaper delivery can be done by middle school students as an exception. The Labor Standards Act basically states that middle school students cannot work part-time, but if they meet some conditions, they can earn money as an exception.
“But you didn’t get permission from your school, did you? And you’re supposed to have parental consent as well.”
Yes, I did not have permission from my school. Among the conditions for middle school students to do exceptional labor is that they need a certificate from the school and permission from the government office. In addition, parental consent forms are also required at various places.
I could not talk to my parents, so I had no choice but to work without permission.
“I understand Tachibana’s family situation. But, that will not make up for this. Do you understand?”
Then I patiently waited for the teacher’s next words. Probably, my punishment will be decided here and now. I’m sure it was not decided by her alone, but something like a staff meeting must have been held around yesterday. The punishment would be, at best, a suspension of attendance for a few days.
“Normally, I would have suspended you from school. However, in light of your daily behavior and your special family situation, we have decided to let the matter drop this time.”
“It means that there is someone among the teachers who trusts you.”
Apparently, there were a few teachers who were protective of me because of my usual conduct. Just knowing that is a big win. At any rate, it seems that I don’t have to fool around any more.
“I’ll say it again, this time it’s a no-question-asked. If you want to work, you’ll have to go through the formalities this time. Understood?”
I nodded my head in agreement, but I knew at this moment that the proposal would not come to fruition. It would be a struggle just to get permission from my mother, and I didn’t know how the newsstand where I had been working would be affected by this incident. At the very least, I would never be able to work at that place again.
“……Well, I’ll make it work.”
I told myself that and headed to class, albeit a little late. At this point, I had already let yesterday’s incident slip from my mind and was only thinking about how I was going to maintain my lifestyle tomorrow.
As soon as I stepped into the classroom, I finally remembered yesterday when I was confronted with the gazes of my classmates who were spending the morning talking with their friends or reading books. My classmates look at me for a moment, but the next moment they ignore me and resume their conversations with their friends or drop their eyes once more on the book they were reading. But it was clear that they were glancing at me.
(……Seriously, what’s going on?)
The classroom I knew was not such an uncomfortable place. So I sat down as usual and looked at Shinya kun, who was doing the homework assigned yesterday next to me. Maybe I had forgotten about it until this morning. At any rate, I decided to ask him in a whisper.
“H-hey Shinya kun……”
But he didn’t look at me at all and was quietly going on with his homework. I was wondering if he was intentionally ignoring me, or if my voice was too quiet for him to hear me. I wanted to know the answer to that question, but was afraid to ask him about it. I felt that if I asked him, something would fall apart.
“Hey, I’m going to take your attendance, so take your seat.”
The homeroom teacher who had just been teaching me came to the classroom and started taking attendance as usual. It was a normal morning, at least up to this point. But just as the morning assembly was about to end, someone in the class asked the teacher.
“Sensei, is this school permite part-time job?”
“……What’s the matter, Kishimoto?”
Kishimoto kun, usually a good-natured guy and a mood-maker of the class, was grinning as he asked the teacher that. I don’t know what his intention was in asking the question, but it was a very timely topic for me and the teacher.
“Well, there’s a rumor going around that someone in our class has been earning money by doing bad part-time jobs. I heard that the school seems to approve of it.”
“What is this nonsense? There’s no way that’s true.”
“But I heard that someone in this class witnessed it…….”
Kishimoto kun glanced at me. The story of that part-time job should be known only to the teacher and me at least at this school. For some reason, as of this morning, this class…,,no, is it a rumor in the school?
(N-no, wait. That’s strange to begin with.)
Why have rumors about me been spreading in this school in the past few days? And all of these rumors are groundless and hard to deny. It’s the same with my family, and for some reason, my own story is being propagated with a tail attached to it in a strange way.
(Who in the world starts these rumors…..)
I rarely talk about myself, and I can only assume that someone has done their research and told them. But I had no idea who would do such a thing.
(My mother, Sakura, sensei…..but there’s no point in pulling a prank like this.)
Questions swirled in my head, floating in and out of my mind. The pieces that lead to the truth of this senseless racket are overwhelmingly missing. But still, what I do know is where to go from here.
I know. I know that students at this school are used to hurting people. Just a year ago, Sakura was their prime target. And I know that they are hungry for the pleasure of disrespecting and hurting someone.
And it came sooner than I expected.
“What in the world are you……”
“Well, I’ve already said it, but it’s about Tachibana ! I’ve heard that he repeatedly shoplifts and molests people, and then admits it without any apology !”
I was the one who raised a surprised voice. I didn’t think he would say that to me by name. I mean, what is shoplifting and molestation? I don’t remember any such acts and I don’t remember admitting to them !
(No way, that thing yesterday?)
Yes, I was asked yesterday. Yesterday, I was asked if Tachibana Kanata belonged to a family of criminals. Since I could not deny it, I affirmed the question, but I did not think it was exaggerated to that extent. I tried to calm down and refute the question.
“I’ve never done such a thing.”
“You’re lying ! You said so in front of everyone yesterday !”
“That’s right ! It was crazy if you think about it. You get a perfect score on every test, you must be cheating for sure !”
“Speaking of which, Tachibana kun, you’re really good at sports.”
“Eh, doping or something?”
“You mean drugs?”
Even though I tried to deny it in a loud voice, my classmates were making a fuss about something or other and would not listen to me at all. Even the normally intimidating teacher was stunned at this point, unable to grasp the situation. But I knew that I could not let things continue as they were, so I immediately took action. Looking back, this may have been a mistake as well.
Bang ! !
I stood up and slammed my desk as hard as I could, sending a dry sound through the classroom. The class, which had been noisy earlier, suddenly became quiet, and everyone, including the teacher, turned their attention to me. When the class finally quieted down, I started talking again.
“You’ve been saying a lot of things about me since a while ago, but why don’t you give some concrete evidence first? You’ll be sued for libel or something someday if you keep talking like that, you know?”
“Wha, no evidence, yesterday, you were…”
“That was about my parents. I’m not talking about myself. Is the child of a criminal a criminal? Can the son of a genius be a genius? Can the daughter of an Olympic athlete be as athletic?”
When I said this, the classroom suddenly quieted down. But the one thing in common was that everyone looked at me with something akin to hostility when I said what I just said. But even if they look at me that way, it doesn’t hurt me because I’m not being stabbed with a needle……
“There was a guy in another class who said he was forced by you !”
Words I hadn’t expected were thrown at me, and I froze in my tracks. I did indeed ask for proof. But I had never done anything like that. But those words sparked a new fire, and everyone heated up again.
“I knew he was doing something wrong…….”
“I heard something about him making a girl cry !”
“It’s not always what it seems, is it?”
“I wonder if Tachibana kun will do something weird to me?”
They were saying whatever they wanted to say. I was so taken aback that I couldn’t formulate any words and was stunned. Then, the teacher finally got up the nerve and immediately yelled at everyone to shut up. The teacher’s angry voice made everyone fall silent and quiet.
“Tachibana, come to the staff room one more time. I’m going to ask you a lot of questions.”
The teacher told me that she thought that if I stayed in the classroom as it was, the hellish example I mentioned earlier would only be waiting for me. After that, I left the classroom as the teacher urged me to, and after talking for a while, I wasted time in the infirmary.
On that day, I learned for the first time the fear of malice or hostility from someone.
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