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A Private Lunch/Transcript

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A Private Lunch
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The classroom closest to ours are designated belonging to classes 3-1 and 3-2 on the right side, and 3-4 on the left side, each door looking exactly the same.

Further down the corridor still with identical doors, are rooms that I didn't think were used for classes.

I guess the art room is not a classroom as such.

I carefully push open the furthest door, and peek in.

It's a classroom, but it seems rather badly kept or not in use. Am I in the right place?

Desks and chairs are all around the room, a thin layer of dust settled on them. There are some easels in the corner so at least this looks like the right place.

The room is flushed in sunlight from the big windows, shadows creeping all over the desks.

Specks of dust are dancing in the stagnant air, making the beams of light almost visible.

Jokingly, I call into the empty room.

Hisao "Anybody ho--"

Something catches my eye and I stop mid-sentence.

Sitting on a desk is a short-haired girl; curiously wearing a boy's uniform, with a fork between her toes, a morsel of food stuck firmly on the end.

This odd way of dining seems to be caused by her apparent lack of hands, but her presence here is what takes me aback even more.

How did I miss her before? She's sitting in a corner very still, but I still somehow took her as a part of the furnishing or a statue at first glance.

I'm not being too observant today, as a whole.

The girl seems to be frozen in place, staring at me with her huge eyes like a rabbit in headlights.

She's staring at me, her mouth wide open, ready to accept the fork.

I'm staring at her, my mouth wide open, suddenly remembering I didn't finish my sentence and trying to think if I should.

This weird stalemate keeps us both stunned into silence, punctuated only by the wall clock ticking rhythmically.

Strange girl "Hello."

The girl stuffs the forkful in her mouth, and is now staring at me expectantly while chewing. This is a bit awkward.

Hisao "Umm... hello. I was told to pick up some supplies from here. For some festival stalls I think. I didn't think there would be someone here."

Strange girl "There isn't. That's why I came here, too."

She picks up another forkful.

Hisao "Doesn't that mean you're here, then?"

She raises her eyebrows as if she was suspecting my observation was false.

Strange girl "You are pretty observant. I guess it does. But who are you?"

This girl is pretty straightforward, isn't she?

Hisao "I'm Nakai, Hisao Nakai. I just transferred in on Monday."

Strange girl "I'm Rin. Tezuka Rin. Rin Tezuka."

Rin "I won't shake hands with you, but at least we know who we are now."

Rin "That's very nice."

Her deadpan manner of talking makes it hard to determine whether she's joking about shaking hands or not.

It kinda bothers me, joking about these matters doesn't feel appropriate at all.

While I'm trying to figure what's appropriate and whether this girl is, she seems to have lost interest in me and is now gazing yearningly back at her food.

Rin "Can I continue my lunch? If you don't mind me, I won't mind you."

Rin "If you need to get your stuff, the supplies are at the back."

Hisao "Go right ahead. But... lunch? School's already over for the day."

Rin "What word would you use then? There is no word for a meal you eat after lunch but before dinner, right? It bothers me very much too, but I don't really know what I should say."

Hisao "I don't think you are supposed to eat a meal between lunch and dinner to begin with."

Rin "But I'm hungry and my delicious boxed lunch would go to waste otherwise."

Rin "I have curry. It's very delicious."

With much decisiveness, Rin once again picks up the fork between her toes and with at least as much impoliteness, she points it straight at me.

Rin "So, Nakai, what brings you to this place?"

Hisao "Like I said, I was told to look for these things."

Rin "No, the school. From outside, you look fine. Is your problem inside?"

I come to a full stop, opening my mouth but not getting a word out.

Hisao "I..."

Rin "I can guess. I am good at guessing. Better than most people."

Rin cuts me off before I can answer her question, or skirt around it somehow. I don't know which I would've done.

I froze in front of this issue again. I haven't even told anyone here about my condition, or maybe it's only because it hasn't really come up.

I do get the feeling that not making issues of this is a part of the social code here, as the teacher said.

I wonder if the people here could relate? Probably not any better than any normal person could.

I can't relate to Shizune's circumstances, or Lilly's, either.

Naturally, while I go through this in my head, Rin keeps considering what my condition could be, with an overtly contemplative look on her face.

She puts her fork between her lips and leans back, looking at the ceiling as if the answer was written up there.

A beam of light illumintes her face from the window side, creating a mask of dark shadow on the other side.

Rin "I don't think it's anything in your head, and something in your guts would be boringly ordinary, like this lunch of mine. And less delicious."

Rin "The problem must be in your pants!"

This messed-up Sherlock Holmes kind of statement and the sheer lack of tact it was delivered with catches me completely off guard.

I think I might've reeled back even physically as Rin's eyes widen in revelation and astonishment.

Rin "So I was right! There's something wrong with your tackle, isn't there?"

Still partially in shock but recognizing the need to reply something, I spit out the first thing that I can think of.

Hisao "No! Nothing like that. I have a heart problem. Arrhythmia."

...

I said it. More like blurted it out, but I said it.

The girl in front of me purses her lips together and glowers at me, looking very disappointed.

Rin "How boring. Trouble in the pants would have been much more scandalous."

What's with this reaction?

Hisao "I'm sorry to let you down."

Rin "I forgive you. Just, I collect people and a person with, you know, that kind of problem would've been really great."

Hisao "Collect people?"

Rin "People with different problems."

Hisao "Huh, so you just... like, go around asking people what's wrong with them?"

Rin "Pretty much."

Hisao "I see."

...

With little left to say, Rin resumes her lunch and the conversation dies away, but I keep thinking about what she said.

It's the first time I told anyone else about my condition. All the other people have either known about it already, or heard about it from someone else.

Or didn't need to know about it, like every other student here, so far.

Should I have told it as a natural part of introductions? Is it expected of me?

"Hi, I'm Hisao. I have a very serious heart condition."

Is that how I'm supposed to go around introducing myself from now on?

As if our disabilites would define us. What a disgusting thought.

Or maybe this Tezuka girl just has an unnatural interest in such things.

As I walk to the back of the room to pick up the items on Misha's list, a chance opens to study Rin from the corner of my eye.

Her hair is a burnt auburn, almost orange, and cropped short. Long hair would probably be impossible with no arms.

The boy's uniform and the lack of arms makes her look very thin, almost scrawny.

She is not particularly pretty except for her murky green eyes which flicker restlessly from below her short bangs, even when she eats.

The distance and the shadows make it seem like they don't reflect sunlight at all, but instead absorb all of it within them like deep wells.

She moves her feet almost as deftly as a normal person would use their arms.

However, I can see how this sight could discomfort people, especially while eating. It makes me feel a bit uncomfortable at least.

I hesitate to think about the word "unnatural" but it's too late now, isn't it?

I keep searching the cabins and shelves for Misha's things, but after enough time passes the silence grows too uncomfortable, so I try to force some conversation out of this strange girl.

Hisao "So, do you always eat alone and this late? Or do you get the occasional visitor?"

Rin "Visitors... maybe you are my first occasional visitor. But I don't always eat alone either."

Rin "Sometimes I eat with a certain person on the roof, if she's not horsing around."

Hisao "Horsing?"

Rin "She likes to do sports."

Hisao "Oh."

And that's all I can think of to say.

Both of us fall silent again as Rin forks the last bits of her meal to her mouth.

I look down at my haul and double check it with Misha's list. It seems like I have everything except plywood.

Hisao "Umm... so, I think I have all the things now."

Rin "That's very nice for you. Don't feel obliged to stay. I was about to take a nap anyway."

Rin "You need to do whatever you are going to do with that stuff anyway, right?"

Rin "Or perhaps you like to watch girls sleeping?"

Hisao "Ehh..."

I'm not sure what to make of this, but Rin looks serious.

Hisao "Even if I did, I think I have to be going."

Hisao "I... I'll catch you around, Tezuka."

Rin "You can call me Rin."

Rin "I feel that our relationship is at this point good enough to warrant this much."

I was already turning to make my exit, but she draws me back in.

Hisao "Fine, then I'm Hisao."

Rin "Then you are."

...

Rin looks at me hard in the eyes but that intimidating feeling you get when someone stares at you isn't there.

It's like she's actually not looking at me at all.

She blinks a couple of times, and I can't figure out why a pause like this just popped between us out of nowhere.

Rin "See you later, Hisao."

There is something like a tiny smile there in her face, maybe.

I quietly back out of the room. As I shut the door in front of my face, I whisper to myself.

Hisao "What an intriguing person..."

From inside, I hear a muffled, sing-song voice:

Rin "I heard tha~t!"

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