[identity profile] lexie-b.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] lexiewrites
Title: Elephant (Part 4/?)
Author: Lexie
Feedback: If you feel so moved.
Characters: Haruka, Michiru
Word Count: 2703
Rating: PG
Genre: AU, Young Adult, Drama
Summary: “You'd think, after harassing me for not making friends for years, that you'd be happy I finally have. But of course not. This school isn't happy unless you're making the right friends.”
Notes: I guess I should make it clear right now that this fic is primarily about Haruka, so at this point, I'm trying to develop her character and her world within this universe. Don't worry, Michiru will play pretty strongly in up-coming chapters – it's just this chapter that's Michiru-lite.
Also, I was so stuck with this chapter that I've gone and finished it off just so I can move on. I'll see how Chapter 5 goes before I edit it; I just really wanted to get it done.
Disclaimer: Naoko Takeuchi owns the characters and scenarios of Sailor Moon. I am a humble fan and thus make no profit from this venture.

Four.
By Thursday, school had become a welcome retreat from home. My sisters’ fashion frenzy had culminated Tuesday night, when my father bundled nine parts of their combined wardrobe and all their cosmetics into the bathroom cupboard, locking it away, before declaring he would personally pick out their school clothes if they tried to leave the house in miniskirts again.

Rafu and I had been watching TV at the time, and had been thoroughly amused by the whole thing, especially when Tani began shrieking about how ‘unfair life was’. To round the whole incident off, Tani had smuggled one of my old skirts from my wardrobe and tried to wear it; a skirt that I had had since I was 12, and ended up very tight and very short on fourteen-year old Tani, who was shorter and curvier than I had ever been.

Now, sitting in the seat in front of me on the bus, clad in a floral shirt and jeans, Tani was red-faced and sulking. Akina was sitting beside her, trying to cheer her up. I had my nose buried in my chemistry book, trying not to laugh.

“It’s going to be okay, Tani,” Akina said, tugging at her shirt.

Akina glared at Tani; Tani had obeyed Dad’s rules and was wearing a dress. “Shut up. What would you know anyway?”

I couldn’t help myself. “Probably enough to check the label for a size.”

“Shut up, Haruka, this is all your fault,” Tani snapped.

“My fault? That you stole a five year old skirt from my room, one that made you look like you should be working the streets, and tried to leave the house in it? If Dad hadn’t caught you, the school would have called Mom,” I replied cheerfully.

Tani span around, her face murderous. “I am wearing running shoes, Haruka.”

I rolled my eyes. “You’re wearing two-hundred dollar suede sneakers. I know it must be hard not wearing something with a heel, but you really need to come back down to Earth.”

“Just because you aspire to look like a dyke, Haruka, doesn’t mean the rest of us do,” Tani hissed.

Akina froze, her mouth in a perfect ‘o’ shape, as she stared at me. Tani had an ugly expression on her face as she glowered at me and I admit it took most of my self-control not to smack her across the face with my book.

“Get up Tani.”

I turned around to see Rafu behind us, his face serious.

“Go away, Rafu,” she retorted, turning to face the front.

“Stop behaving like a spoiled brat, get up and go and sit with Dai. He’s probably the only one who wants to see your face right now.”

Tani snatched up her bag and climbed over Akina, who wasn’t sure where to look.

“And before you start making deals with Dai, I’ll be telling Dad when we get home,” Rafu said over his shoulder and motioning for me to budge up.

“Screw you, Rafu Tenoh,” Tani spat and stormed up to the back of the bus.

“She’s becoming an interesting individual,” Rafu commented wryly as he sat beside me.

“She’s being a bitch,” Akina said matter-of-factly. I chuckled at my little sister, kneeling on her seat to face us, her blond pigtails bobbing as she looked at my homework.

“Don’t cuss,” Rafu said, before leaning back. For the rest of the ride, we sat quietly; me penciling in my homework at warp-speed with little regard to the accuracy of my answers; Rafu and Akina playing multiple rounds of rock-paper-scissors.

As I got off the bus, I saw Michiru sitting at one of the picnic benches not far from the school gates, her books stacked around her, her headphones fixed over her ears. I smiled and waved good bye to Akina and Rafu.

Michiru smiled as I approached the table, sliding her headphones off her ears. “Good morning,” she said, as I took a seat.

“Morning.” I dropped my chemistry book on the table. “I don’t suppose you finished the chemistry homework?”

She rolled her eyes and pushed her own book towards me. “Do you ever do your homework?” she asked disapprovingly.

“Only when I haven’t got anything better to do,” I replied cheerily, flipping through the book and finding my pen. “Do you ever not do your homework?”

“I’m not exactly weighed down with social engagements or alternatives to homework,” Michiru said wryly, her hand resting on her stomach.

I shrugged. “Then we’ll go out on a school night just to make sure that you come to school with a whole pile of incomplete homework. In fact, one of the stipulations will be that you leave your books in your locker overnight.” I looked up with a grin on my face.

She was almost beaming at me. “That sounds like fun,” she nodded and I realized something; we were both outsiders at school, but at home, I was surrounded by family members – a constant stream of conversation and activity that I could choose to join in with or retreat from. Michiru went home to what she implied was an oft-empty house. She was even more alone than I first assumed.

“Next week,” I said, looking back down at my homework. “I’m broke.”

“HARUKA!”

We both turned at the cry of my name to see Akina running – well, tripping – over to us, Rafu following from a safe distance. Akina reached the table, a lollipop between her lips and a smile on her face.

“Haruka, Rafu wants to know if you wanna come out this afternoon to the mall; he has to pick up some stuff for soccer and he said he’ll shout us ice cream,” she said in a rush, pulling her partially-mangled lolly from her mouth. “He said your friend can come too if she’s not busy; he’s going home last period to borrow the car and come back for us.”

Rafu came up behind her. “Akina, don’t run with sticks in your mouth. You’ll fall over and they’ll puncture your brain. You can’t afford to lose any more brain cells,” he said as he tugged one of her pigtails, before looking up at Michiru and myself.

Michiru was looking at them as if they were from a different planet; Akina’s candy-stained lips and beribboned pigtails; Rafu carrying her pink bunny backpack in one hand.

“You want to come?” I asked. “We have to hang around and wait for Tani to finish her ballet class, but that finishes after five.”

“I’d love to,” Michiru said, “but I can’t. My father gets back from his business trip tonight, and Haley’s planned a dinner.”

“Next time, then,” Rafu said. “Time to get your ass to class, Akina. And take your damn bag.”

“I think you looked fetching with the pink bunny bag,” I said sweetly. “Very manly.” Rafu gave me the finger as Akina rifled through her bag and pulled out a paper bag.

“Want one?” she asked. The paper bag was brimming with lollipops of all conceivable colours and shapes.

“Thank you,” Michiru smiled, taking a blue star-shaped one. I plucked out a yellow-orange swirly moon one, unwrapped it and popped it in my mouth as the bell rang.

“Gotta go Haruka, see you this afternoon!” Akina slung her backpack over her shoulder and tore across the school yard.

“See ya,” Rafu said, moving towards the main building, leaving Michiru and I to gather our books.

“Your little sister is cute,” Michiru said, as she tucked her books into her shoulder bag; as had become the habit in the last three days, I picked up her bag and she carried her violin. “She looks just like you.”

I made a face, but it was true. If Akina’s hair was shorter and she wore jeans and sweatshirts instead of dresses, she would have been a near-clone of me at eleven.

“Your brother seems nice, as well,” she said as we reached her locker.

“Rafu’s okay,” I replied grudgingly, passing over her bag.

“I think any older brother willing to carry a fuzzy pink rabbit backpack across the school yard is a pretty decent person,” Michiru said.

“Probably. I just seem to remember all the crappy things he used to do to me when we were kids,” I leaned against the lockers as she rifled around for books.

“Like what?”

I shrugged. “He and Dai loosened the seat on my bike when I was a kid. Came off halfway down the gravel driveway, ended up in the ER. And they filled my sneakers with jelly.”

Michiru was laughing. “I’m sure you got them back.”

I did – but I wasn't admitting to anything.

I looked at my watch. “I have to go. I have... something.”

“English?” Michiru offered, seeming to have memorized my entire timetable without actually seeing it.

“Yes. English. See you in History,” I said, and moved down the hallway, into the crowd of students.

I ignored the people who were looking at me, who nudged each other as I passed, my bag slung over one shoulder, my old jeans and thin old t shirt that had once been Rafu's. If people were going to talk about me and Michiru, then at least I could provoke the criticism onto myself; from my experience, nothing scandalized over-privileged teenage girls quite like dressing like a bum on purpose.

I sauntered into English – early, for once – and sat down, blinking slowly at my notes.

“Haruka Tenoh!” Startled at the jovial voice at such an early hour, I looked up to see the school counselor standing in the doorway, beaming at me; a squat, round Japanese woman called Junko Lee, Dai had once commented that Mrs Lee reminded him of a fat, smiling Buddha (and had promptly been whacked across the back of the head by our mother, for 'being disrespectful). She wore her black hair in a bun at the back of her head, and it was easy to see that when she was younger, she had been pretty. Now, she was best summed up as 'jolly' and much preferred to the other school shrink.

“Haruka, I need to speak with you in my office. I've already given Miss Celine your pass,” Mrs Lee said. I blinked. “Unless you'd rather come next period?”

I had History with Michiru next period.

“No, I can come now,” I said, shoving my things into my backpack. “What's going on?” I was rapidly going over my latest transgressions in my head – I wasn't failing any of my classes (though, that was more good luck than anything else); I hadn't picked any fights and I hadn't skipped any classes I didn't have passes for.

“Come to my office, Haruka and we'll have a chat,” Mrs Lee said, smiling at me.

Mrs Lee's office was cramped, for lack of a better word. She had her desk, and two chairs on either side, two brand new filing cabinets, and two towering bookcases, loaded with more books, photo frames and thank you cards than the designer of the bookcases had ever intended. Somehow, she had also managed to fit in a bright purple couch and easy chair, a mini fridge and a wall-sized white board.

You knew how serious the conversation was going to be from where you sat – the desk meant Trouble: fighting or failing, generally. The couch meant it was a Sensitive Adolescent Issue; you were usually padded with Kleenex, candy and soda from the overworked fridge that doubled as a coffee table.

I was always escorted to the desk, except for one time when I first started. My sisters were intimate with the couch – Tani loved an audience, any audience – and my brothers, too, had spent a lot of time at the desk, trying their hardest to look apologetic.

So when I saw my student file balanced on top of the mini-fridge, I was startled.

“Take a seat, Haruka.” Mrs Lee was still smiling. “Can I get you a drink?”

I shook my head. “Why did you need to see me?” I asked carefully. I sat gingerly on the couch, dumping by backpack next to me.

“Well, Haruka, some of your teachers have spoken to me. First of all, your grades this semester are good, but that doesn't mean you should slack off. You have amazing potential, if you'd just dedicate yourself to your studies, I'm sure you could be one of the brightest in the grade” Mrs Lee began, opening my file. “However, your teachers are concerned about your recent friendship with Michiru Kaioh.”

I tensed up. “What?”

“As you're probably aware, Miss Kaioh is going through a difficult time; one she brought upon herself due to poor decision making. We really feel, considering your history of self-imposed isolation from your peers, that Miss Kaioh...” Mrs Lee trailed off. I think she'd seen the expression on my face. “Haruka?”

“What, you think just because I'm friends with Michiru that I'm going to run off and get pregnant just so I can be just like her?” My voice was low. “You think the way to deal with the fact Michiru is having a baby is to make sure she's completely and utterly alone, make sure any friends she makes ditch her?” I got a sick sense of pleasure watching the way Mrs Lee flinched at the word 'baby'. I grabbed my backpack from the couch and stood up.

“You'd think, after harassing me for not making friends for years, that you'd be happy I finally have. But of course not. This school isn't happy unless you're making the right friends.” I had to resist the urge to kick the mini fridge.

“Haruka, sit down. You obviously have unresolved feelings that you should talk about,” Mrs Lee said in a voice designed to calm down rabid animals and psychotic teenagers.

“Talk?” I shook my. “I am so sick of talk. Every day, I have to pretend about not to notice people talking about Michiru and I being friends.” I slung my backpack over my shoulder.

“Haruka, you need to sit down,” Mrs Lee said.

“No.” I turned and left the office, pulling the door shut hard behind me, turning on my heel and heading down the hallway as fast I could; partly to escape before Mrs Lee came after me, and partly to resist kicking one of the lockers lining the wall.

I was so angry. All my life, I had listened to adults – my parents, my aunts and grandmothers, teachers, counselors, everyone – tell me how I had to get out of my shell, had to make an effort to befriend someone. They seemed to think I was shy or embarrassed instead of realizing that people bored the hell out of me and that something about me made them uneasy.

And now, I had finally found someone I not only found interesting, but someone I wanted to know and be friends with, and no one was happy. Not the school, not my mother, not my classmates. I didn't really give a flying fuck what they thought of me and my friendship with Michiru; it was the fact that Michiru was expected to stand alone, to be completely isolated because of one stupid mistake – which couldn't have been all her fault.

I reached the middle school's courtyard and sat down against a brick wall, resting my head in my hands. I knew what would happen next. Mrs Lee would check if I'd gone back to class, if I was in the Tenth Grade common room (you couldn't pay me to sit on that couch) and then return to her office to Call My Parents. And that always lead to Mom hitting the roof. Cause and effect, meet the Chaos Theory.

I stayed there until I heard the bell go. I had to get to History, with Michiru. I wasn't going to skip the class we shared, and even Dad got pissed when we were caught skipping classes.

Shouldering my bag, I made my way back to the high school and tried to put the meeting out of my mind.

It didn't work.
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