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Cruel Summer

Chapter One: Low Life:

-Summer, 1993-

My name is Inaba Chika and my life sucks.

Today is the last day of my years in junior high. I won’t miss it. My classmates talked about going to high school. I don’t really care. I haven’t even thought about my future. Ha! What future? People like me have no future.

I shoved my hands into my pockets as I began my walk home. I didn’t feel like going anywhere else today. I lived out in the middle of nowhere and the charms of the country lost their appeals a long time ago. Had no money and everyone was off doing their own thing. Not like I was friends with them anyway. We barely even spoke to each other. I never tried to get to know them either. I doubt that we would have much in common anyway.

I looked up at the dull clouds in the sky. It’s going to rain. I can’t remember a day that it wasn’t raining. I didn’t even bring an umbrella today. Who cares?

“Hey Inaba!” I heard one of my former classmates shout. I waved and kept walking. I do not stop and be socialable. I don’t even know their name. Didn’t even bother to learn it. They probably are going to go to the city. What’s so great about Tokyo anyway? It’s just like any other city in this country. What do I want? I haven’t thought about that. I just want to be left alone.

Once my feet made it past the gate, I am free from that school. I never liked that place. There was one teacher that was a creep. We girls saw the way he was looking at our skirts and legs. How that man still has a job is beyond me. Was the school that broke that they couldn’t hire better teachers? I feel sorry for the newer students that have to deal with his shit. I shook my head and walked further down the dirt road.

I don’t usually do much during the summer. There isn’t much to do in this town anyway. Almost everyone went away to the city already. I haven’t left my hometown for a few reasons. I walked into town with the heavy clouds overhead.

“Good morning, Chika!” the lady at the beard shop shouted at me. I turned and waved back at her with my lips pressed together.

“How’s your mom doing?” she asked.

“Fine,” I lied. The old lady walked into her store. I stood on my tip-toes to peek inside. She returned with a bag of warm bread.

“Take this for your mother and Maya,” the old lady said.

“Thank you,” I said. “But I don’t have any money on me.”

“No, no, it’s fine,” she said. “It’s on me.” I don’t know why she does this for me. It can’t be good for her shop. But, that old lady’s always giving us free bread. I bowed and took the bag. It would be best not to make any more eye contact with anyone else this morning. I don’t want to go home yet either. I don’t know what happened to this town. Three little boys came running towards me. One step aside and they ran best me. They have no idea how life really is. I didn’t know how life would be when I was their age. Maya still sees this town as magical. I don’t know whether to shake my head or feel sorry for her.

I stretched my arms above my head. I finished up my classes to get caught up to graduate this summer. Now what? I don’t feel like fishing today and it looks like it’s going to rain. This town doesn’t really have any fancy entertainment like the cities do. We never really needed them anyway. The only modern things in this town are the TVs in the houses, the power lines, and the antennas on some of the roofs. We had a TV in our house, but we don’t get that many channels. I don’t watch much TV anyway. I had a radio, but it’s broken and stays in my desk drawer. I’m surprised Ma hasn’t found it and tried to sell it off.

I shook my head and tried to think about something else.

I could’ve sworn that a drop landed on my cheek. When I slowly lifted my head, another drop landed on the tip of my nose. Oh shit. It didn’t take me long to break into run. I don’t know why; it didn’t look like a heavy rain today. Still, I didn’t want my shoes to get stuck in the forming mud on the road. These were the only nice part that I owned too?  These were really bad. If the bottom got soaked, my socks were ruined and my feet would be cold. It would be like if I didn’t wear shoes or socks at all. But, I couldn’t get better shoes because most of my money went towards food and Maya. (Ma never liked me working, but I still managed that to do it in secret.) I counted down in my head how long it would take to get home before my shoes were muddy and ruined again. I’m half-way there. If I’m lucky, Ma’s still asleep on the couch from last night and Maya’s probably still in bed. Those two… I don’t know how I deal with them. It’s almost numb to me at this point. Almost like I am going through the motions just to humor them.

I made it to the front door just as the rain started coming down. I reached into my pocket and unlocked the door.

“Hello?” I whispered as I looked around inside. It’s dark in the house. Ma’s still sleeping, thank goodness for small wonders. I slipped inside and slid off my shoes. They’re still dry. This day might not be so bad after all. I set my shoes into the corner and slipped on my worn out light pink slippers. My big right toe stuck out. I wriggled it around like I always did.

“I’m home,” I whispered in the dark. I turned my head to my left. Just as I predicted, Ma was sound asleep on the couch. The TV was on and she held an empty bottle of sake in her loose hand. I shook my head and walked over to her. Just by looking at her, I could tell that she had a long night last night.

“Come on, Ma, get it together,” I muttered. I pulled the brown blanket over her shoulder and took the bottle out of her hand. After throwing it away and turning off the TV, I set the bread down on the counter. I’ll deal with it later. That old lady at the shop sure loves to feed us for some reason. Do Maya and I look like were starving that badly? I can never figure it out. Once I finished up I the kitchen, I quietly backed out of the living room to the hall.

“Maya. Maya,” I whispered. “I’m home.” I listened around me. Knowing her, she probably hiding in her room, waiting for me to find her. I don’t feel like playing her game this morning. She’ll come out and harass me when she’s bored anyway. I just need to sleep. I wondered back to my room and collapsed on the bed. I hadn’t expected much to happen this summer as I closed my eyes.

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