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Chapter Twenty-One: A Girls’ Story:

Miki pressed her hands together.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll cut out the boring part and cut to the fun part. I came to Hiroshima after my aunt’s death. She left me her house.” Miki sat back with a smile on her face. “I loved that crazy woman, got me into doing art,” she said. “It broke my heart when she died. Anyway, I inherited this house, but as you can see it was too big for me to live in alone. I don’t enjoy being alone too often.”

“She wanted some roommates to live with,” Isaac added.

“Thank you,” she said. “But I’m telling the story here.”

“My bad,” he said. “Continue.”

“I thank you for understand,” Miki told him. “So, I decided to look for some roommates. However, just anyone couldn’t live with me. I needed to feed off of art around me.” She put her hand on Isaac’s art.

“He was the first one I was drawn to,” Miki admitted.

“I just have that charm,” Isaac said.

“Don’t kid yourself, buddy,” Akemi told him.

“You know you want some of this,” he said. My sister stuck out her tongue at him.

“Anyway,” Yumi cut in. “I came along when my mother and I weren’t getting along so well. I ran away from home and met Miki and Isaac in a book store.”

“She looked so cute that I had to take her in,” Miki said. I gave her a puzzled look.

“Did she ask you to…?” I began to ask. Both girls broke into laughter.

“No, no, no,” Miki said. “I only do that for dudes.”

“I figured as much,” I mumbled to myself.

“I still talk to my mother,” Yumi said. “She’s come to accept that I am no longer a child and can make my own decisions.”

“She still has to see her from time to time,” Yusuke chimed in. She glared at him with eyes of poison.

“Shut up,” she murmured.

“Now, now,” Cassius said. “Less fighting, more talking.” Yumi and Yusuke snorted as they looked away from each other.

“Then, I came along next,” Romi said. “To be honest with you, I didn’t have much of a plan for my life. I was just going to college in Hiroshima at the same time Sunao here was.”

“We were in the same class together,” Sunao spoke up. “How crazy was that?”

“Very crazy…” I mumbled as my eyes trailed away from them.

“In fact, Sunao here was the one who told me about this place,” Romi continued. “I needed a place to stay and Miki and Isaac let me be part of their family.”

“I think I’m starting to see a pattern here,” I mumbled to myself.

“You better,” Akemi told me. I forced myself to smile at her statement. My mood changed as I looked at my sister.

“How did you come to live here?” I asked. Akemi sat back with a smile on her face.

“Well, I have been spending most of my time in the south of Japan, couch-surfing,” she answered. “I came here and couch-surfed with these guys and ended up staying here to this day.” I frowned at her answer. Why am I not surprised?

“I just stayed here because I could,” Sakura-hime said. “I just drifted around Hiroshima myself and ended up here.” That doesn’t surprise me either, I thought.

“Finally, I brought you here to live with us,” Akemi said to me. I gave her a blank look.

“Me?” I asked. “But I don’t really live here.”

“None of us really did,” Cassius replied. “We just ended up that way.”

“But… I’m trying to get into college,” I said.

“So are Yumi, Romi, and I,” Sunao pointed out. “We still are.” I looked at all of them with their eyes locked on me.

“Face it, kid,” Akemi told me. “You’re pretty much one of us now.” I didn’t know how to take all of this. I didn’t feel like any of them, but could I go back to my life in Tokyo. What was waiting for me there? My parents and Hitomi were dead. I already graduated from high school. Heck, I doubt that I still have my apartment anymore. Did I still want to go Todai around all of that time I tried to study for the exam? If not, what could I do? Where could I go? I have no money or means to get back to Tokyo.

I lowered my head. “I…” I said. “I just need a moment.” I stood up and quietly walked out of the living room.

“I think we might have scared him,” I heard Yumi say behind me.

“Nah, he’s a tough old boy,” Akemi said. “He can adjust just fine. Just give him some time.” I shook my head to myself. Oh, nee-san, I thought. Why do you and Hitomi think so highly of me? I am not as strong as you love to think I am. I closed my bedroom door behind me.

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