Searching for Nobody
Out of the old daily routines I’ve created.
Ai watched the car drive away. She felt cold from everything that had happened. A chill creeped up and down her spine as she recalled the night’s events. She wanted to go to the one place where she was sure no one could get to her – her bed. Her bed was her sacred place when things got too scary, too abnormal.
Her stomach growled with hunger but she couldn’t eat. Ever since her parents’ murder, it seemed that nothing was the same. Ai tried her best to grab a hold of anything that resembled a normal life – smiling brightly, being her happy self, but she couldn’t deny the sorrowful bubble in her heart. It swelled as she made herself a simple dinner. Tears covered her drink as she sipped from her cup.
She had to keep it together. More tears fell against her wishes as she couldn’t allow herself to be sorrowful anymore. She had supposed to leave her tears in Town Uno. Everything was so heavy for Ai. She could vaguely hear the sound of a concerned meow beneath her cries but everything hurt.
Her student is dead. Her parents are dead. Her best friend revealed his love for her. She was being targeted for being her parents’ child. She couldn’t handle it anymore. Everything that had built up that night came crashing through her as she cried over the simple dinner. Once again, concerned cries from Twitchy echoed but she couldn’t stop the torrent of tears. She cried. She cried, she bellowed, she cried. She screamed in pain as she cried. She did her best to fill the void of silence that she desperately wanted but she had so much pain.
She felt the throbs of her scrapes and shook as she felt colder as the night went on. She just wanted to be rid of this pain. Everything had gotten dirty. Her clothes had gotten dirty. Her hair had leaves which hung from her tangles. Her face still had the imprint of Akio’s kiss. Everything was disgusting and gross but worst of all, it hurt the most.
Ai didn’t know how long she cried. However, when she finally let up, she had realized her dinner had gotten soggy. Her eyes hurt and her head pounded. She could feel a small, furry body against her feet. She shook from the cold – her energy had drained not from crying, but from fear of what could happen from now on.
The message from Akio’s radio haunted her as she tried to get herself together. A shower cleaned her wounds and got rid of the dirt and leaves. Her skincare routine – which included a facemask – did its best to reduce the puffiness of her cheeks. Her pale skin retained its natural colors as she heard the pit pat of the rain. Ai wasn’t sure when it started raining but it comforted her. Twitchy, who followed her everywhere around the apartment, settled on her lap and purred gently – a comfort that Ai greatly welcomed. She pet the cat gratefully.
A smile finally spread against her face.
The alarm woke her up and it scared both Ai and Twitchy awake. She didn’t know when the two fell asleep against the window but she felt really sore. However, she didn’t have time to lament about her body – she had a class to attend to.
As locked the door, she saw the grey clouds and was surprised to find that she could reflect that in her heart. She grew frustrated. This wasn’t who she was. She shouldn’t dwell on such bad feelings. She should be happy. Happy… for what, exactly?
She put on her usual bright colors and headed towards the subway. The stern Kiyoshi looked at her expectantly but was surprised to see she hadn’t said her usual hello. However, he didn’t stagger for too long – he had a job to do. Ai stared at the conductor from where she was and tried to smile but she didn’t have the strength.
A tightened heart stole her breath at her own actions. The subway left as scheduled.
People either mumbled on their cell phones or they mumbled to something else. Ai felt naked despite being covered head to toe in her usual garb. She felt exposed. What else could happen to her since the night before? Her heart tightened once more. Everything felt slower. Everything felt tighter. Everything felt more exposed. She shook with fear – unsure who to talk to. What could she say? An urge to scream bubbled but Ai held back. She felt closed in and dizzy.
Finally, her stop had been called. Once the door opened, she stepped out and gained her bearings. She took a deep breath. Was going to work a good idea?
I have to go! I can’t stop! I have to keep smiling!
She relaxed and continued her trek.
“Miss, are you alright?” Kiyoshi’s proper voice echoed out. It was strange – Kiyoshi was always so quiet outside of work but Ai could’ve sworn his tone was worried. She turned around and smiled, though it was… off.
“Ah, Kiyoshi-san,” Ai said as she pushed herself to be cheerful. It hurt to. She tried her best to push those bad feelings away. She had to be strong. She was the only Nakano family member left, after all. “I’m fine! And please, you can address me as Nakano-san!”
“No can do.” Kiyoshi stated. He tipped his hat. “Have a nice day, ma’am.” The man turned around mechanically and resumed his duties. He didn’t pay her anymore mind.
Even though Kiyoshi was blunt, there was a kind edge to his voice. A strange sort of comfort covered those words. Perhaps Kiyoshi was much kinder than Ai thought… or at least she hoped that’s what he did. Nakano was a dangerous name now and Ai bit her lipstick covered lip. She had to be careful.
Once Ai started to walk, it wasn’t very long until she made it to Takahiro’s shop. As per usual, he had the bike ready for her but instead of his usual smile, he seemed very worried.
“Are you alright, N…Nakano-san?” He hesitated and Ai could feel the fear start to crawl her back further up. The fear, the monster, the bad feeling, slithered around her and wouldn’t let go until it reached her neck. “That was a nasty fall…” He wouldn’t give her eye contact.
Ai wanted nothing more than to go home.
But she had a duty. She slowly reached for the bike. She nodded, despite his avoidance. “I’m fine, Takahiro. I trust that you’re well too? Is Junpei okay today?” She wanted nothing more than for things to go back to normal.
Ai wanted her parents alive. Ai wanted her student back. Ai wanted her life back.
He avoided the subject and simply wished her a good day.
The fear finally crawled up to her neck. Instantly, her throat went dry. The chill wouldn’t go away.
“You should get to work before it rains,” Takahiro suddenly said. The wind blew through the both of them to accentuate the growing space between them. It was then small bits of rain fell.
“You’re… right,” Ai also hesitated. She hoped there was a way to set things back to normal but perhaps, after the night before, it was meant to be this way.
She looked behind her – Takahiro had already made it back inside his shop. The wind blew harder and she could feel more rain on her. She once again fought against herself to allow herself to cry. She couldn’t have any more bad feelings. She needed to be happy – if not for herself, but for Kiyoshi and Takahiro. She needed to be happy for her students.
She had made it to the school on time and managed to join the sea of students and faculty who entered the school. They already had their umbrellas out but Ai just wanted to go in. She wanted to go through her usual peddle in the park but she couldn’t. She wanted to be home.
“Ai,” a soft voice said behind her. “Did you forget your umbrella?”
The fear that climbed her back grabbed her throat tighter than ever. The woman turned around to see Akio behind her as he held an umbrella over the both of them. Unlike usual, his expression was solemn and regretful. He placed a hand on her shoulder, a comfort that is now soiled from the night’s confession, and Ai shuddered it off.
Ai shook her head – a lie – but she didn’t want to be close to Akio. She stepped back and ran into the bikes. Her sores throbbed in reaction. She grimaced in pain but she immediately turned around and ran inside.
The man with the umbrella seemed to be visibly hurt by the reaction of the woman but Ai really didn’t want to be close to him. Her heart pumped as hard as it could as she ran inside the building. The students must’ve found this strange as they stared at her as she ran and panted to regain her breath. Ai didn’t pay much mind as she tried to once again push the fear away from her. It clung on to her for dear life but Ai had to push through the day. She was already there and there was nothing she can do about it. She had a duty after all.
The rain outside made Ai uneasy. She had forgotten an umbrella through her drama that morning. She was annoyed with herself but pushed it aside. As long as she had her briefcase, she could make it to a convenience store to buy a cheap umbrella for the moment. She figured she could leave it in her briefcase just in case she forgot again.
Then she realized she forgot lunch. She waited with the other students to pick up lunch but she kept a watchful eye around her. Akio couldn’t come near her – Ai didn’t want anything to do with him. And he seemed to accept that. The teacher had seen him within the crowd and the man acted like the previous night didn’t occur. He smiled and laughed. Ai almost wished she didn’t avoid him. In fact, she wanted more than anything than to go sit down with him and talk to him again. She enjoyed his company – he always knew what to say to cheer her up.
She had to stay resolved. Between his love confession and the fact a hit was put out on her, she didn’t know whom to trust. Kiyoshi was strict as always; Takahiro wouldn’t look at her in the eye; Akio was working for the yakuza – the prime suspect of her parents’ murder.
And yet, she was still touched he was willing to protect her.
“Miss, what would you have?” the lunchlady asked kindly.
Ai didn’t pay attention but responded nevertheless. “I don’t know…”
The rest of the day went as slow as painful as the crumbling in her heart but Ai kept a smile on her face. She didn’t want to make her students worry.
Even when she returned the bike to Takahiro, as he still refused to look at her in the eye, she smiled. Ai needed normalcy more than anything but despite it, she wouldn’t get a smile back from Takahiro.
She managed to buy herself a cheap umbrella and walked around City A as she tried to piece together her happy emotions again. Things had been so heavy and gloomy for her – there had to be a way to break the bad feelings away. Fear still clung to her body tightly, unwilling to let her go. It clung tighter as she made her choice to eat out that night.
I need to be around people. I can’t be alone.
She made the choice to eat out for some fried chicken. Twitchy thankfully had enough food to be on his own a little longer – she just wanted something different. She wanted to break the pace. Everything hurt and being rejected by Takahiro…. and her rejecting Akio hurt too much.
Once she made inside, the restaurant was packed. Thankfully, she only needed one seat so she didn’t wait too long. The people didn’t notice her and enjoyed their dinner conversations with friends, coworkers, and everything in between. She didn’t mind going out by herself although she wished she had a friend to be with – but that didn’t matter. She just needed a break from her usual routine.
Soon, she placed her order for some chicken and some draft beer. Something normal. Something she enjoyed. Something to bring the happy feelings back from her miserable spot. The fear went away for a moment – the crowds jovial discussions, the ambiance of everything, the sound of the workers yelling orders at each other, Ai could feel herself reemerge. Sometimes she needed a change of pace. The quiet pitter patter of the rain outside soon became a backdrop for the scenario before her.
“Hey, make way for Bruce and Lizbeth!” a voice rang out. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for the boisterous men to declare such things. It was per the usual. And yet, Ai was curious. She turned around and immediately her skin grew cold.
It was obvious who the men were – yakuza. The slicked hair, the terrible postures, the tattoos and their rude manners made them stand out. Ai hoped she blended in the crowd. Did they know what the Nakano daughter looked like? Did they know she would be there?
However, they didn’t seem to pay attention to her. The man deemed Bruce came in. He was extremely handsome despite the slicked back hair. His hair still managed to flutter over his eyes. He had a cigarette that hung from his mouth – a strong angular jaw which had a small goatee on the bottom. His mustache struggled to grow but it was still styled to accentuate his good looks. His suit was way too expensive to enter an establishment like this.
The woman next to him, though, had very long, beautiful brown hair. Her blue eyes – possible cosmetic contacts – were striking while her skin was perhaps somehow paler than Ai’s own. It was clear she took very good care of her skin as it was completely clear of blemishes. She adorned pink lips although her outfit was just as inappropriate for the establishment.
She wore heels with white tights along with a jumper skirt. Her blouse was red as the red ornaments attached to her head. A broach was in the middle of her chest as her arms were covered with black gloves. Her headband had spikes along with a big red bow though Ai wondered why she had two extra red ornaments on her head – they just sat there.
She couldn’t move a muscle. If she moved, she would show her face but she didn’t know if they noticed a nobody like her. She hoped they wouldn’t.
“A toast!” yelled out one of the men which surrounded the couple. They somehow looked alike despite the light shade of brown hair and blue eyes the girl adorned. Ai wondered what they celebrated but she wanted to get out of there as soon as she could. “To Bruce and Lizbeth! The future rests on your shoulders!”
“Ah, Jiro,” the man named Bruce finally spoke. “You act like I’m already lord of this shitty city.” It was oddly quiet until he started to laugh. “Well, I might as well! The old man might be dead by the time I get home after all!”
“You’re so rude to Father,” the woman said. It was now even more clear who Lizbeth was. “You can’t keep it quiet for one minute, can you?”
“Lizbeth, don’t be so serious! Let’s toast… to our father’s health.”
“Hmph,” Lizbeth responded. Soon, a usual banter between the men kept Lizbeth quiet.
Ai couldn’t stand it anymore. She had to leave. However, as she was about to get up, her fried chicken arrived.
The waitress didn’t seem to notice how uncomfortable Ai was and resumed her work. Ai didn’t want to be rude…However, she at least needed to go to the bathroom.
She got up and headed towards there when she suddenly tripped and fell in front of the yakuza couple.
The laughter stopped as they all noticed Ai.
Ai could feel herself become sore as her scabs throbbed once more. She knew she probably reopened the wounds again and she cursed herself.
“Hey, are you okay?” Bruce asked. He walked towards her and helped her up.
Now all eyes were on her.