Ren Inoue. Fifteen years old. There is not much to say about him; he is un-extraordinary, but that is not the reason why he is to be avoided. The actual reason is something unspeakable, something that is never to be discussed.
Ren, sitting in his desk, gazes lucidly out the window as his teacher drones on and on. His black eyes are sharp, his face thin, yet somehow he regains a sort of dignity that few people are known to possess. He sighs quietly, jots a few notes down on the notebook laid out in front of him. Outside the fall afternoon is crisp and clear, red and yellow leaves drifting down to lie on the concrete. The sky, disrupted by bulky school buildings, shows no signs of clouds. In front of him, a bleached blond head that goes against school policy droops and bobs with sleepiness.
Kai Warren. Also fifteen years old.
Outside, a few of the elementary school students are playing soccer. The mud-splattered ball bounces from boy to boy until a practiced foot shoots it between the goal posts. It is two fifty-five PM. In the front of the classroom Mr. Bauer, a thin, balding man of around forty, finishes assigning homework and dismisses the class. Ren, unlike the other students, does not immediately rush out of the room still shoving notebooks and pencils into his backpack, but instead takes his time carefully placing the notebooks in their proper places. His pale hands work with a steady rhythm, the fingertips frayed from years of nail-biting and eventual cuticle-picking. Mr. Bauer, who communicates with Ren just about as much as his pupils do, ignores him and instead proceeds to wipe the chalkboard clear. Kai Warren had lost somewhere in his battle to stay awake during the lesson, and had stayed behind with Ren to drool all over his desk.
Ren finishes his organization and stands, taking care to push in his chair. He glances over at Kai, then at Mr. Bauer, who is now slouching over a pile of ungraded quizzes with a red pen in his hand. Deciding it isn’t his problem, Ren strides out of the room. Behind him, a pair of black and very lucid eyes open and follow him as the door closes. Kai sits up in his seat and massages his head. Mr. Bauer glances up.
“You should go home now.”
Kai brushes his nearly colorless hair out of his eyes and sighs.
As he packs up, Mr Bauer looks at him suspiciously. The red pen clenched in his knobby fingers taps out an unidentifiable rhythm.
“Is something wrong, Kai?”
The strangely cheerful transfer student looks over his shoulder and smiles reassuringly as he pushes open the door.
“I’m fine. My ears are just ringing.”
Hello. How have you been?
That’s what I want to say. I thought you’d know immediately, even when I went to such lengths to make sure you wouldn’t. It’s strange, and I would have thought you’d understand because of every time you looked into a lake on a clear day, or fixed your hair in a mirror. Your ignorance is the very thing that makes me want to break that protective barrier that shields you from the truth. I want to shatter it. Very much so. However, your face is so solemn and unforgiving that it would be hard to approach you, even if I could. You don’t even look like you would be able to forgive yourself, which obviously you haven’t.
You have been repenting over a child’s crime for a long time, a longer time than I know. I’ve been watching you, and you’re separated from the others. A drop of oil in a vast expanse of ocean. I’ve been away for so long that I hardly understand what makes you different in the eyes of others. Is it just an expansion of your repentance? Is it them judging you for a totally unrelated subject?
Do they know?
If they do, it is okay. Because you will have no reason to be your own hindrance after this.
You just have to wait.