Another week and a half went by without much of note happening. I hung out with Hayden once, read some books by English authors to give me a break from the ludicrous amount of manga I'd consumed over the summer, and tried to avoid pissing Vickie off (which was easy, because for the bulk of the week she did her best to avoid me completely and when we did cross paths she studiously ignored me).
And just like that, the start of the school year arrived.
I slouched against a nearby fence at the bus stop, Rachel bouncing slightly on the balls of her feet nearby. I hadn't talked to her much aside from standard pleasantries since the trip to the shopping mall, so I was having a hard time thinking of something I could say to distract her from her evident nervousness. Oh well. Probably better for me if I kept my distance a bit, anyway, and from what little I'd seen I didn't imagine she'd have trouble fitting into whatever group of friends she tried to join.
Evidently she got sick of jumping in place, though, because she turned my way. "What's your schedule, Xavier?"
"Mm, let me check." I pulled out the sheet of paper I'd received in the mail the week prior. "I've got Japanese 1 first period, Classic Literature with Mr., uh, Kaczkowski? I have no idea how to pronounce that. Then P.E.—ugh, right after lunch—and finally Pre-Calculus 1."
My school—Alburn High School—uses a block schedule, which means I only have four classes to worry about each semester, but each class lasts about an hour and a half.
"Oh, I'm in that Classic Literature class, too! Who's your teacher for Pre-Calculus?"
"Looks like we're sharing two classes, then!"
Thanks, Manga Gods, didn't see that one coming.
Before I had to formulate any sort of response, the bus coughed, grumbled, and choked its way up, and we dutifully trooped up the steps.
You know those teen rom-coms where the protagonist gets on the bus with a beautiful girl in tow and every passenger spears him with their eyes? Yeah, I don't know what universe those people are living in, because as was only right and proper for a bus full of high schoolers we were greeted with complete apathy and the sight of the top of a bunch of teenagers' heads as they hunched over their phones.
I found an empty seat midway back, and Rachel slid in along with me. I quirked an eyebrow at her.
"Mind if I sit with you?" she said in response.
"Not really, but I'm not exactly Mr. Popular if you're looking to find a good way to make friends."
Rachel smiled slightly. "I'm not used to riding a bus. I think I'll wait until we get to school before I go hunting down any wild high schoolers."
I shrugged and settled back.
"Mind telling me how to get to these classes?" she asked after a couple blocks.
I spent the rest of the trip trying to remember approximately where each classroom on her schedule was located and describing the general layout of the high school to her.
Alburn High is a three-story brick building located a few blocks away from downtown Alburn. The buses pull into a loop at the west side of the building while those kids who drive park in a big lot at the northeast. The school takes up an entire block north to south, and thanks to the performing arts center (which everyone just calls the PAC), gym, and indoor swimming pool attached to the north-east corner the building is shaped sort of like a fat letter "P" lying on the ground. The grounds take up the rest of the block stretching to the east and are filled with the track surrounding a soccer field, tennis courts, and a baseball field.
My first class—Japanese 1–was in room 203, which meant it was on the second floor pretty far toward the north end of the school. I parted ways with Rachel at the front doors, and while she headed right toward the science classrooms to the south I turned left.
The Japanese classroom had desks arranged around three sides of the room two desks deep, leaving the front and middle of the room clear. I got there with several minutes to spare and picked out a seat near the far corner in the front row. The class slowly filled up until almost all the seats were taken, but I didn't see anyone I knew. That didn't surprise me; Hayden was planning to take Spanish for his foreign language credits, and so far as I knew none of my other friends or acquaintances were taking foreign language courses this year.
About thirty seconds before the bell rang, a vaguely familiar girl rushed into the classroom, took one look around, and planted herself in the seat immediately next to mine.
"Hello, Xavier," she said breathlessly.
I stared at her. Why did I recognize her anyway? And how did she know my name?
"What?" she said. "I didn't sit here because I wanted to be next to you or anything. It was just the first available seat I saw."
Oh, so that's why I recognized her. It was Samantha the tsundere, but without the twin-tails or thigh-high stockings today.
Before I could say anything, the bell rang. Before the sound had completely died away, the door flew open and a very large woman practically jumped into the room.
"Hello, hello, hello!" she called with expansive cheer. She snatched a pen and started writing at the far right side of the whiteboard. "My name is Mrs. Shimamoto, and I will be your sensei for this class."
By the time she was done speaking she had written "Mrs. Shimamoto" vertically down the whiteboard, followed by a string of simple Japanese characters vertically to the left, and then a pair of more complicated characters in a third vertical row.
"As you can see there are multiple ways to write any Japanese word; here is my name written in romaji, which is a phonetic method for romanizing Japanese words. The second column is hiragana, a set of characters that is also phonetic. Finally, we have my name in kanji, or Chinese characters. There is a third type of characters called katakana, as well, which is used to write foreign loan-words. If my name weren't Japanese, you would write it in katakana like this." Mrs. Shimamoto added a third column.
"Welcome to beginning Japanese. Now, how many of you are wishing you'd enrolled in my French course instead?"
The rest of the period we spent introducing ourselves, learning how to introduce ourselves in Japanese, running through a second round of introductions in a stumbling and embarrassed manner, and then getting some early vocabulary drilled into us by Mrs. Shimamoto.
As we were packing up our bags immediately before the bell rang, Samantha leaned over to me. "Hey, Xavier, what's your phone number?"
I raised an eyebrow at her and waited for the tsundere comment I knew was coming.
"I mean, I don't want to contact you, but your sister doesn't have a phone, right? Just give me your number already! I don't want to be late for my next class!"
Samantha really was a walking manga trope. She was also right that being late on the first day would suck if I refused and she kept badgering me, though, so I gave her my number and got out of there. Maybe she truly would only use it to allow her to get in contact with Vickie; the two admittedly had hit it off at the mall.
Oh right, silly me! You're officially welcomed to the harem, Samantha. I'll see you tomorrow.
Damn it. I know I decided I'd let things run their course initially, but did dealing with the walking tsundere stereotype have to be the way I kick off my mornings?
If she sends me some mushy emoticon-laden text or something this evening right before bed I might have to punch her tomorrow.