Author’s Note: Sorry for the late release, guys! I hope you enjoy it.
Volume 1 – Chapter 3
Miller and I made it to school about fifteen minutes after leaving Cat behind–when she’s not with us, our amount of time fooling around drastically decreases, and we cut our travel time nearly in half. It was an odd experience, walking through the gates and not encountering a wave of latecomers, with whom we’re usually included, but I’d have to say I enjoyed it. Leisurely, we headed to our homeroom.
The halls were nearly empty, and the few people who were there paid me no attention, a refreshing change from the usual routine. Cat tends to draw quite a bit of attention naturally, and so it’s often hard to avoid the curious gaze of my peers.
But that morning I was invisible, and it made me happy.
We stepped through the door to our classroom. Despite the emptiness of the hall, the room was almost full–a class of early birds, I guess. I moved towards my seat by the window, no one even glancing in my direction as Miller and I made our way through. Our teacher greeted us as we walked past, and we returned the gesture. Completely normal, completely quiet.
It was surreal.
When we got to our seats, I saw that our friend Ayame was already there, although I hadn’t expected anything different. Ayame’s a star student–top of the class, and it’s president. Of course she had come to school early. I took my seat, pulling my chair out from under the desk, and sat down.
“Good morning, guys,” Ayame said as we started getting our books out. “Why are you here so early?”
I’m sure she knew the answer, but she asked the question anyway, most likely wondering what had kept Cat from school this time. Her expression hadn’t changed, but I’d known Ayame long enough to catch the spark of curiosity in her eyes–she’s too polite to say it, but Ayame is as interested in Cat’s escapades as the rest of us.
“Cat saw a frog on the way here and ran after it. She told us to go on without her.”
“The walk’s not as long without her,” Miller chimed in. “That’s why we’re here so early.”
“Ah, I see.” She eyed the clock absentmindedly. “Well, I hope she gets here on time. Any more late days and she’s going to get in trouble.”
There wasn’t really anything to respond to that–we all knew how close Cat was to getting a disciplinary referral, although whether or not she did is questionable–and I looked out the window. On the path outside of the school gates, getting steadily closer, was a literal column of dust, a shock of red hair at its epicenter.
No surprises there.
Miller and Ayame turned to the window, but were late enough that they only caught the clearing dust. Ayame raised her eyebrows.
“Was that her?”
Her answer came in the form of an opening door and Cat walking into the room, breathing a little heavily but otherwise fine. The frog was on her head, glancing fearfully around the unfamiliar room and garnering quite a bit of attention from the members of the class, who immediately flocked around Cat and began asking questions, all while remarking how cute the animal was.
The three of us, who were some of the only students not bombarding Cat with questions about the origins of the frog, stared in awe. Thankfully, our teacher had the good sense to break up the gathering quickly, sending everyone back to their seats. Cat marched towards us proudly, and sat down in front of Ayame.
She turned wildly to face us, nearly sending the frog flying off of her head. I felt a twinge of sympathy for the creature.
“You guys notice anything different?”
None of us answered at first, expecting the question to be rhetorical, but it soon became clear that Car wanted a response. i sighed and took on teh responsibility.
‘You got the frog.”
She nodded vigorously.
“Yep. I named him Frogger!”
That wasn’t a bad name, really, but when I went to tell her that I found Cat was no longer listening. She had instead taken the frog off of her head and begun to play with him, lifting him up and down and petting his head.
Miller and Ayame reached over and ended up petting it, too, and I couldn’t blame them–the frog was pretty cute. The only thing about its presence that worried me was the possibility of other members of the class coming to look at it again and crowding around me. I don’t know if I could have handled that.
Luckily for me, though, the teacher decided to start class at that moment, ignoring the frog and absorbing us in study.
The steady rhythm of the day began: we were given notes to copy and then review, and then we switched classes. Next, a test and worksheets. Switch. Project, and then switch.
Before I knew it, lunch had come, and Cat was rushing off to introduce Frogger to everyone in class individually. Her lunch remained untouched as Miller and I played a game of tic-tac-toe and Ayame read through her notes.
Cat returned just in time to eat her lunch in one big bite, and we continued.
More classes passed similarly–Ayame and I taking all of the notes, Miller writing down only what he needed to know, and Cat playing with her frog–and then the day was over. My classmates began filing out of the room, and I packed up my things.
I went to throw my bag over my shoulder, but was stopped before I could by a vice grip on my wrist. Cat, who had jumped over her seat without me noticing, was pulling both Miller and me towards the door, Frogger hanging precariously off of her forehead.
“Come on, guys! We’ve got to show Frogger to the rest of the world!”
My resistance seemed futile, and I eventually consented to letting her drag me around the school, but as she pulled me forward my leg caught on a desk and my wrist slipped free of her grip.
I had escaped.
Miller, however, wasn’t so lucky, and Cat continued to drag him along as he staggered on the hard floor of the classroom. His shoes offered no traction on the slippery surface, and he and Cat shot through the door in a red and brown blur.
I breathed a sigh of relief, believing I had dodged a bullet, but at that moment her figure appeared again in the doorway. My body tensed up, and I was convinced she had come back for me.
Instead, she simply pointed.
“Asher, I almost forgot. You still need to ask Ayame.”
And she shot off again.
Ayame turned to me questioningly, and I let my hand drop to my side and rest on the handle of my bag.
“How about we head out. I’ll explain on the way.”
She gathered up her books quickly and, side by side, we left the room.
Once in the hall, Ayame looked at me, her eyes voicing the question I had been expecting. I wondered briefly why Cat always put me in these situations, especially when the question involved her more than it did me, but in the end I gave it up. i couldn’t keep Ayame in the dark for too long.
“Cat and her parents are taking a trip to Italy two days from now, and they invited us to come. Cat wanted me to extend the invitation to you, as well.”
Ayame looked at the ground, and I worried that she was upset I had asked so late. When she looked up, though, I was surprised to find that she was smiling.
“Thank you for asking, but I won’t be able to go. I have to study, and a trip like that would take up too much time.”
The news was a little disappointing, but it wasn’t exactly unexpected. I readjusted the strap of my bag, and continued.
“Sorry I didn’t ask you earlier. Maybe we can go somewhere together when we get back–something a little closer.”
“That sounds nice.” She smiled again. “The four of us will have to talk about it more when you get back.”
I returned her smile and we continued to walk in a comfortable silence. There were three others in the hall with us–two friends at their lockers and a boy from our class walking behind us–but it didn’t feel like it. From the lack of noise, I could have sworn we were the only two there.
Or, at least, we were the only two there for a minute, because it was at that point that Cat came running back at us through the hall.
She made it to the pair of us in a flash but, rather than stop, she was forced to keep going by her own momentum. I watched in silence, expecting her to run into a wall or locker to come to a stop.
What actually happened, however, was much worse–at least for one person.
Sneakers pounding on the ground, Cat dug her foot into the floor and launched herself into the air with ease. Like a bullet, she flew past, feet first, right into the boy behind us.
He let out a grunt of pain as the sole of her shoes dug into his stomach, and they toppled to the ground.
Ayame and I stood for a moment in shocked silence, before rushing the the scene of the crime. By the time we reached the fallen body, Cat had already gotten up, her hair disheveled and clothes twisted around her body in a perplexing way, but otherwise alright, as expected.
“Don’t worry, I’m okay.” She smiled as if she’d just one the lottery, rather than possibly ruptured every single one of a classmate’s internal organs.
“It’s not you we’re worried about.”
Cat arched her eyebrows, as if she didn’t know what I could mean, but I think she got the point when Ayame and I kneeled down to tend to the boy. She joined us on the ground while I pulled the boys shirt up to assess the damage.
Amazingly, all that was there to be seen was a light red imprint of the sole of Cat’s shoe, and even that seemed to be fading away quickly.
Simply put, he got lucky.
But still, his eyes remained closed, and Ayame had to reach out and gently shake his shoulder to get any kind of reaction out of him. He opened his eyes and looked at the three of us, a confused expression spreading across his face.
“I ran into you. Sorry.”
Cat’s answer was blunt, as was her apology, but I can’t say it didn’t come with its own brand of charm. At least with her you always know you’re going to get the truth.
I was in the middle of thinking about this–I’m sure I was positively beaming at her semi-mature act of apologizing–when Cat put her hand under the boy’s armpits and stood up, pulling him with her.
His head rolled, sending his curly hair falling over his face, and he was forced to lean on Cat to stay standing. Unfortunately for him, she didn’t offer him much in the way of support, instead sending him staggering forward with a “friendly” slap on the back. He was somehow able to catch himself, and even turned to thank us again before walking away.
“See you later!” Cat called after the boy, and he raised a hand in goodbye before turning a corner and disappearing.
Ayame and I stood in silence. I can’t tell you what she was thinking, but I know at that moment I was considering revoking my mental comments on Cat’s maturity. In the end, though, I wasn’t able to find a correlation between physical insensitivity and immaturity, and I let Cat keep my mental praise. Barely.
Cat turned to us, smiling again.
“Well, should we get going? Miller has Frogger, and I don’t want to leave them alone for too long.”
The question snapped Ayame out of her silence.
“Oh, sorry, but I have a student council meeting today. i’m not going to be able to follow you out.”
Ah, that’s right, it was Thursday, wasn’t it? I’d forgotten about her meeting, but really, she’s involved in so many after school activities, it’s hard to keep track of just when she can and can’t walk home with us.
“Ah, that’s too bad,” Cat said. “It won’t be as fun without you.”
Ayame gave Cat an apologetic smile, the fact that it wasn’t necessary only increasing the sweetness of the gesture. That smile still on her face, Ayame readjusted her books, indicating that it was time for her to go. I decided not to keep her any longer.
‘Alright, then, I guess we had better go. We’ll see you later.”
She nodded. “Yep, I’ll see you on Monday. Have fun on your trip.”
Cat and I thanked her, and waved goodbye as we walked away through the empty halls.