Chapter Three: "Sora"
HALL "D". It was fitting. "D" was for detention. And it wasn't too far from where her Algebra II class was. Asahara sighed and rested her head on her folded arms lying across the desk.
Sixteen years of schooling and she had never been late once. She was a straight-laced student. And it crushed her that the one moment when she could have actually taken action with Haruko ended up costing her one hour of her precious after school time.
Why me? What did I do to deserve this life?
Even in detention, Asahara followed the rules. She reported to the room immediately after her last class was over and she waited patiently for the instructor to arrive. In the meanwhile, she mulled over the events of her lousy morning.
What are my parents going to say to me when I come home? It was the last thing Asahara wanted to think about. She hadn't had the time to explain to her brother the situation at hand, so that he could relay the message to their parents. But she could just imagine the heart attack her father would suffer upon hearing the devastating news.
Asahara was a motivated student and although she was nowhere near number one of her class, she placed in the top twelve percent. Her parents acknowledged that enough and encouraged her to continue her education. They had sown their hopes in Asahara, their firstborn daughter.
Only her father had graduated high school. He was now taking night classes at a university to earn the rights to a raise at the corporation he worked for: ILAF. He worked under Azami's father as a clerk and accountant. The pay was more than decent, but if it was one thing her father hated, it was not being his own boss.
Asahara's mother hadn't even attended high school; she failed the entrance exams, even though she aspired to succeed. Her mother's parents, Asahara's grandparents, were not even disappointed; they hadn't even cared. Their apathy and lack of encouragement only made Asahara's mother's decision to join the work force easier. But now she regretted her decision and could only hope that Asahara would go on to high school, even college, and become someone who truly mattered in the world.
That was why wallowing in self-pity in the detention room at Hall D was wretched and disheartening.
When the instructor came in, she knew she would be forced to do homework and study. Detention at Akabashi Middle School was no laughing matter, but Asahara had no complaints about that, seeing that she misplaced her humor sometime between her conversation with Azami and her run-in with Haruko.
The voice sounded familiar. For just a glimmer of a second, Asahara thought it might have been Haruko. Her head perked up and she turned to her left, where she indeed discovered a familiar face sitting across from her.
Sorai Gakusha. Or, "Sora," as he was affectionately called by his closest friends. A passerby couldn't tell now because he was sitting down, but Sorai was as tall as Haruko—if not taller—and just as well-built, long and lean, but broad and wide in the shoulders, where it mattered the most.
It was effortless to become bewitched by Sorai's undeniably handsome beauty. His hands, which were nearly twice the size of Asahara's, radiated strength, warmth, and gentleness.
In a way, Sorai almost reminded Asahara of Haruko, but they were as different as yin and yang. Sorai's paleness contrasted starkly with Haruko's perfectly-tanned complexion. And whereas Haruko preferred his hair dark brown, Sorai kept his naturally black, a black that almost paralleled the lightlessness of Asahara's.
Sorai certainly was, however, a study in devilish and dark beauty. And he was also certainly taken: he had been dating Azami for nearly a year.
"Fancy finding you here," Sorai noted, the vertical strands of his hair shading his pure honey brown eyes in the form of short, jagged bangs. "You must've sinned to have earned a seat in Hall D."
Asahara wished she could laugh, but the best reply she could muster was, "If you only knew." Did I mention that I still feel like an idiot? Oh god, I wonder what Haruko thinks of me now. She wanted to die from the embarrassment.
"Are you all right?" he questioned, upon realizing that Asahara continued to slip in and out of awareness. "You seem a little . . . distracted."
That's such an understatement, Asahara knew. "I guess . . ." she stammered. It was too much to think about. "What are you doing here?" She hoped she could divert the subject away from the morning's disastrous events.
Sorai drawled in his seat, a profound contemplation flooding his bright brown eyes. "My math teacher didn't like that I was writing instead of solving equations," he replied simply, seeming to shrug off any negativity he might have incurred from being slapped the detention sentence.
"My math teacher was upset because I was five seconds late," Asahara offered bitterly. "What is it with those people?"
Sorai chuckled under his breath. "They're absolutely insane, you know," he added.
Together, they could laugh at themselves.
"What were you writing?"
The answer should have been obvious to Asahara, who knew that Sorai was the lead singer and a guitarist for his quartet alternative/rock band. They called themselves, Devolution Syth, a title that never failed to invoke intrigue from Asahara.
Sorai was not only the man behind the voice; he was the muse behind Devolution Syth's songs. Asahara had sampled their music only on brief occasions. Even Azami wasn't a fan of the type of edgy chords Devolution Syth tuned out; she leaned more towards the classical notes of Mozart and Bach, a trait her parents had instilled in her.
From what Asahara understood, however, Devolution Syth's popularity at Akabashi Middle School rivaled the notoriety that Haruko endowed upon his recently-formed band, The Ace of Spades. She had caught some auditory glimpses of The Ace of Spades' tunes; they specialized in writing melodies about school, being men, hitting on "chicks," and having fun and partying all day.
Although their lyrics were not up to par with Sorai's, Asahara had to admit that the Spades had infectious harmonies.
Sorai's low, deep voice yanked Asahara back to the man on her left. "A new song," he answered her utterly simply. "It kinda came out of nowhere, the words, I mean. So, of course, I had to write it down before it disappeared."
"Of course," Asahara agreed beyond a doubt. She pretended to understand the rock star lifestyle. "You gonna let me read it or do I have to wait till the live version?"
"Either way," Sorai returned coolly, not at all bothered by allowing a fellow intellectual such as Asahara to glimpse his yet-to-be-animated poetry. "It might not make it that far, though. Depends on what the rest of the band thinks."
"Has Azami seen it yet?"
Azami could not only harmonize fluently with the ivory keys of a grand piano, but she could also write music of her own. She chose not to, but on certain occasions, she offered her classical training to lend Devolution Syth an even more unique sound to both their ballad- and hardcore-driven melodies.
Sorai shrugged his shoulders curtly. "Nah," he said. More often than not, he preferred to remain uninfluenced by Azami. Devolution Syth was his and Kinji Ito, his best friend's, creation, their "love child," they often joked. "I don't need her opinion on everything I do, you know."
Sorai's words stung Asahara, somehow, as if she had offended him in some unclear manner. Sorai hadn't intended to make his voice sound so sharp and harsh, but it did regardless of what he wanted.
"I just mean that we artists need to be free of outside influences," Sorai commented slyly. "We're like music notes that don't want to be confined to a certain stanza."
Asahara feigned disgust at him. Sorai was such a smooth talker; it didn't take a psychologist to figure out why Sorai and Azami made such a perfect match.
"So do I get to read it or not?" she shot back at him.
Finding that no other words needed to be exchanged, Sorai reached into his back pocket and forced a wrinkled sheet of lined paper to abandon the warm nest of jean cloth. He handed the potential song to Asahara, undaunted by any possible criticism from her. He realized then that Asahara had heard perhaps three of their songs—And probably not the good ones, he mused.
Attempting to constrain her excitement that she was privileged enough to peek at the astonishing writer's lyrics, she unfolded the paper steadily, as if it didn't matter to her that she had Sorai's poetry in her hands.
On the sheet itself were the words "Last Time" unmistakably scribbled in the flowing, yet rushed, cursive of a true poetic genius at work.
Though apprehensive at what she might find in the content, Asahara's eagerness to read "Last Time" overrode everything.
Standing upon this bridge we built,
The bridge to be destroyed,
I studied your face in immeasurable guilt
You used to fill this void
But the black space between us
Spreads into the blacker oceans
I wish I still had your trust
But that's a dying notion
For the last time,
I hold your face
For the last time,
I touch your lips
For the last time,
"I love you"
Never to be said again
The stars have covered up all their traces
But I still remember when we first met
We held each other in tight embraces
And spoke wordless secrets meant to be kept
But the chasm in our hearts
Has devoured us whole
We vowed we'd never be apart
But such wishes are void and null
Upon finishing the killer last sentence before the repetition of the chorus, Asahara was stunned that she had not examined his lyrics closer before now. How could she have not possibly ever read or listened to his music?
"What do you think?" Sorai prodded, baffled that he suddenly felt dread sink into his stomach.
Asahara absorbed the depth of the lyrics before she could answer to him: "Wow."
Sorai's unexpected anxiety eased and he let out a relieved chuckle.
"I mean, wow," she repeated, even more loudly than she did the last. "My favorite line has got to be, 'But such wishes are void and null.' Talk about . . ." She searched for the right word. She gave up within a second and settled for, ". . . wow," once more. Asahara was not a words-man, the stark inverse of Sorai.
"Glad you like it," Sorai chirped and he meant it. "If you come to the Closet the night after tomorrow night, you'll get to hear my band play five songs, which may very well include this one."
The Closet, a dance/night club, otherwise reputed to be the local hangout for the teens of Akabashi Middle School. They played live music, recorded tracks, and held karaoke nights in the earlier part of the week.
If Devolution Syth wasn't plucking out their harmonies, the Spades were.
"I'd love to," Asahara considered and then automatically chided herself. What am I saying I have two three-paged essays due in tomorrow. I swore I'd spend all day today getting them done and now I'm an hour behind. "Actually, I just remembered—"
"—You have homework?" Sorai raised his brows, as if daring her to contradict him, which would result in a cruel, heartless lie.
Asahara grinned sheepishly, off-beat. "You read my mind," she murmured. Or maybe that's just how predictable I am.
Sorai chuckled. "No hard feelings. It's just that Azami's always telling me how studious you are. Makes me wish that I wasn't such a damned slacker."