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Kenny and Jennifer's Story
by Amanda Fletcher
Jana stopped her bike on the lonely two lane highway. She hadn’t seen anything but corn fields for miles. She pulled Sylvia out of her pack. “Are you sure it’s this way, Sylvia?”
“As sure as I was the last five times you asked me.” The child needed to learn patience. It was almost as bad as her own daughter when she was younger with her chorus of ‘Are we there yet?’
Well this was just great. They were in the middle of nowhere, and Sylvia kept swearing it was this way. It was probably going to be some children of the corn nightmare scene. Who would wish for that anyway?
Jana rode on a few miles more, she felt like she was getting nowhere, and was just about to ask Sylvia directions again, when she felt a shimmer. Not so much felt as saw it. The world had changed around her. She was suddenly in a small town. Well at least it looked civilized if unfamiliar. She looked behind her and saw the same landscape. White walls, some with plants on top of them, and gates leading to houses. “Ano?” She uttered.
Ano? What was Ano? She’d never said Ano in her entire life. Other things felt weird too. Her animal skins had been replaced by…. a grey sweater and a red ribbon tied into a bow over a white blouse, with a short black mini-skirt and black knee high stockings and brown slip on shoes? What the? What was going on here? She reached around for her pack, and found it had turned into a school bag. Complete with books. Japanese, Math, English? What was this? Searching through it she couldn’t find Sylvia’s box anywhere. Jana began to panic.
“Sylvia!” She yelled. “Sylvia where are you!” She’d almost lost Sylvia once already. She couldn’t stand to do it again.
“I’m right here.” Sylvia’s motherly voice chided her. “What is wrong with you today? You’re going to be late for school.” It was almost nostalgic saying that to Jana.
School? Jana didn’t go to school. But she was wearing a school uniform. She turned to look in the direction of the voice, and there was a floating skull. It grinned at her. Skulls didn’t grin. “S-Sylvia?” She stuttered?
The skull bobbed in the air in the form of a nod. “Yes, Jana. And you left your friend behind. Weren’t you supposed to give him a ride to school? You are a transfer student after all and need him to show you around.”
Ok now Sylvia was just screwing with her. “Quit messing around, Sylvia. It’s not funny!” Jana yelled at the skull.
A boy with spiky red hair ran up puffing, behind her puffing as Jana was waving her arms and yelling at the air, which she seemed to call Sylvia a lot. Americans were weird. “Jana-san! You were supposed to wait on me! ” A boy named Haru Oshiro ran up behind her. Spiky hair, this guy was really weird.
Something was wrong. How did she know these things about Jana? This place was doing some strange and had given her knowledge. Sylvia ignored Jana’s screaming and started to try to reason this out. This world had its own rules and the ability to enforce them. That was why she was a floating skull now. That part wasn’t so bad. It was the first time she had self mobility since her ‘death’.
“Stop screwing with me, Sylvia!” Jana yelled at her again.
Haru looked at Jana oddly. “Umm.. Jana-san. We’re going to be late.” He wasn’t quite sure he wanted to know who or what the transfer was yelling at. She had been really weird since she got here anyway. He opened the back compartment of her moped and got out a helmet. “I’m glad you have a moped Jana-san. It’ll make the ride to school much faster.”
Wait, moped, Jana drove a motorcycle, why did she have a moped? Where the hell was she? “Ok Sylvia. I want answers. Where are we, why am I dressed like this and what happened to my bike?”
Sylvia sighed at the girl’s incessant nattering.. “We’re obviously in someone’s wished world. Though on a guess, I’d say we’re somewhere in Nebraska. The world seems to enforce its rules, and you’re going to make the child of the family nice enough to take you in, late for school if you don’t hurry.”
Jana sighed and started her moped. This was so uncool. Haru gave her directions to the school. The confused former barbarian girl parked her moped just as the school bell began to ring. How did Sylvia know all that stuff anyway? “Ahhh, we’re going to be late Jana-san!” He grabbed her hand and began to drag her along.
Jana turned red. No boy had ever taken her hand before. Boys had always been icky. She stumbled along before managing to keep pace with Haru. Why were Japanese guys so short anyway? She was easily a head taller than him. As they ran down the hallway she felt like everyone’s eyes were on her. The girls turned to whisper among themselves, and the boys just stared. This was so weird.
Just inside the door Haru stopped her. “We have to put on our indoor shoes, Jana-san”
“Our what?” Jana looked at him as if he had just spoken a foreign language, never mind that he was speaking Japanese and she understood him perfectly.
“We can’t wear our outside shoes in here. There’s a cubbyhole, with your name on it. Put on the shoes in there, and put your outdoor shoes inside.” Haru explained.
Ok, now this was just getting stupid. But she wasn’t going to get anywhere if she didn’t play along. She switched to the much softer white shoes, and put her brown ones in the cubbyhole. Haru took her hand again and sprinted down the hallways as the bell began to announce it was time for home room.
The school rooms looked weird too. The doors were made of wood and paper, and they slid open. What sort of insane place was she in now? Haru drug her to a classroom. All the boys and girls inside were around her age. They had been previously laughing and chattering turned to look at Haru and her. Haru was bent over panting his hands on his knees to hold himself up. Jana, who was much more athletic, didn’t really feel winded. Not that long ago she’d walked twenty-three miles to another town and fought an ogre easily as big as a house. Running down a school hallway was nothing. Haru turned to Jana “You’ll have to wait outside Jana-san. The teacher will call you in.”
One of the boys, she learned was named Kentaro walked up and put an arm around Haru’s shoulder. “Hey, Haru-san why didn’t you tell me she was so good looking? Maybe you could introduce us after school?” Haru protested and pushed Kentaro off him.
Jana wasn’t sure what to make of this, but all the girls staring in jealous awe of her. One turned with a huff away from Jana, and two of her friends turned away with her. Another girl ran up to Haru. Jana learned she was named Kieko. Jana wasn’t certain what the look Kieko gave her was about, before the girl turned to Haru. “Haru-kun” She said in a soft voice “I thought, maybe, after school… there’s a new café that has really good desserts and…”
Jana looked Kieko up and down. She was a short, nerdy looking girl. She wore her green hair in a ponytail. Wait, green hair? Jana looked around, everyone had oddly colored hair. Ok this was just weird. Kieko was very thin. Jana thought a breeze could knock her over. She wore glasses adding to her librarian look.
Haru shook his head. “Not today, Kie-chan. I’m really sorry. I have club after school today, and after I have to show Jana-san the way home. She doesn’t know it yet.”
This earned Jana another dirty look, that Jana wasn’t real sure what it was about. And what was with all this –san and -chan nonsense? Her name was Jana, not Jana-san. She greatly disliked this world already. Before she could ask about why everyone kept adding san to the end of everyone’s name the three walked into the classroom and closed the door behind them. Now she was standing alone in an empty hallway. Oh this was just great. “What did you get me into now, Sylvia?” She hissed. Sylvia floated around Jana’s “You got yourself into this, Jana. I just led you here because it’s part of your job.”
Jana stuck out her tongue at Sylvia, just as an older man in a cheap looking brown suit, tie, glasses came around the corner. He approached Jana with an unamused look on his face. At least his short colored hair was black instead of purple or something. “Anderson-san?” He asked sternly.
What now? He’d used her last name. What was wrong with these people? “Umm.. yeah?”
The man nodded at her. “I’m Mr. Takayashi. You should address me as Takayashi-sensei. I’ll introduce you to the class if you’ll come in with me. I’m not going to ask what that gesture was about, but I recommend you do not repeat it.”
Jana quickly glared at Sylvia before she followed the teacher into class. Now Sylvia was getting her into trouble, and she hadn’t even made it into class yet. “See what you did? You got me in trouble already.” Jana whispered angrily. Sylvia didn’t even dignify the accusation with a response.
As the teacher walked into the class, everyone darted to their seats. Whispers and giggling ceased, and everyone looked up front, and acted like they were well mannered children. Jana shuddered. Maybe they were children of the corn. “Class, we have a new transfer. Her name is Anderson Jana. Anderson-San please come in and introduce yourself,”
The first thing she did after she walked into the room was correct him. “Umm, it’s Jana Anderson.” This got the class giggling. What was so funny?
Takayashi-sensei shot a look at Jana before addressing the class “Alright, calm down.” He looked back to Jana. “In Japan, we use the surname before the given name. So here you are Anderson Jana.”
Great more nonsense she had to learn. Jana really wanted to get the wish stone and get out of this place as quickly as possible. When she’d been with Allisandra she’d at least understood the world. This place was making things up as it went along it seemed.
The teacher looked around and his eyes fell on Kieko “Fawa-san. I know she is Oshiro-san’s transfer, but he cannot take her to gym, among other things. Since you are class chairman, I put her into your care. Anderson-san, Fawa-san will be your guide. Please treat her with respect.”
Jana was really getting sick and tired of being referred to by her last name. “Takayashi-sensei or whatever it is. My NAME is Jana. Not Anderson-san. And quit calling me –san! It sounds like a bad Godzilla movie.” There were collective gasps from the class. Haru put his head into his hands and shook his head
The teacher looked unphased. In a flat unimpressed voice he spoke down to Jana. “Anderson-san, I do not know what they teach you in American schools, but you will not disrupt my classroom. –san is a proper term of respect. Now take your seat, and if there is another outburst out of you, you’ll be in the hallway holding buckets.” Several of the girls started to titter, especially the trio who had snubbed her earlier. If only Jana had that dagger Allisandra had given her. She’d scare the snot out of those prissy little twits.
Jana was given a desk next to Kieko. Kieko looked like steam might come out of the top of her head she was so irritated. However it was her duty as class chairman. “Hai sensei, I’ll take care of her.” Takayashi-sensei nodded and lessons began. Kieko was clearly less than amused with her new task.
Hours passed and it was time for gym. “Anderson-san did you bring your gym uniform?” Jana blinked. Gym uniform, ok that was new. She looked in her school bag. There was a sweat shirt and some red bikini bottom. “Well I found the top, but I don’t see the shorts anywhere.”
Kieko pointed at the red thing. “That is it. Come on. We’re going to be late if you don’t hurry up.” She sounded annoyed.
Jana looked at Kieko like she was insane. “I can’t go outside in this! It barely covers my butt!”
Sylvia wasn’t sure if she should die with laughter, or yell at Jana for being a absolute pain. “Jana you have to follow the school rules.” Jana turned bright red at the thought of her showing off her body. “I am not wearing these things, Sylvia!” She yelled at the air next to her
A sweat drop formed on Kieko’s head “Ano… Anderson-san, who are you talking to?” Kieko looked from the blank spot to Jana.
No one could see Sylvia. Why should they be able to? Great now Jana looked even more insane. “Nevermind, Let’s just go.”
Jana stared at the so called gym shorts for several minutes. Kieko had already dressed “Just put them on and let’s go, Anderson-san.”
“I really wish you’d stop calling me that, Kieko.” Jana muttered grumpily.
As she looked up she thought Kieko was going to flip. She had that look of steam coming out of her head again. “Don’t be so informal with me Anderson-san. And how dare you not address me properly? You will call me Fawa-san.”
Jana was getting sick and tired of this. “That’s it. I’m out of here.” She walked out of the locker room, and back into the hallway.
Jana ran smack into what was for a Japanese man, a quite large man. He was easily as tall as her, and wore a jogging suit. “You must be the new girl. The locker room is that way.” He pointed to an area behind Jana.
Kieko came running out. “Sorry Hanomi-sensei. It’s her first day.” She grabbed Jana by the arm. “Come on Anderson-san. You need to change.”
This was too much Jana was putting her foot down. “I am not wearing that thing. It’s undignified.” Jana wondered when she’d ever cared about looking dignified before. Well at least when she wore skins she covered herself. The tiny skirt, those so called gym shorts everything about this stupid school threatened to expose her body at any given opportunity.
“Andreson-san is there a problem?” Hanomi-sensei asked.
Jana held up the gym shorts. “These things aren’t shorts. They’re a bikini bottom! I’m not going swimming!” She yelled.
Kieko looked like she wanted to keel over and die. Jana was her responsibility after all, and she’d been doing nothing but causing scenes all day. She tugged at Jana’s arm. Jana just shrugged the smaller girl off like an annoying insect. “It’s the uniform Anderson-san, please put it on.” Much like her homeroom teacher the gym teacher was not impressed with Jana’s behavior.
After a look of warning from Hanomi-sensei, Jana conceded. “Hai, Hai.” She said defeated. Jana tried to ignore the fact she looked and felt stupid. At least all the other girls looked just as stupid, though they didn’t seem to mind so much. Wait.. had she said Hai? Why was she saying all these funny words?
Kieko closed her eyes and tried to stay calm. Anderson-san was from America. Things were a lot different over there and she was having a hard time adjusting. Maybe if she gave a little, even if it wasn’t proper. “Would it make you feel better if I called you Jana-san?”
It was a start anyway. “I could do without the san, but, I suppose it’s better than calling me Anderson-san all the time.” Jana sighed. She was going to have to play by this world’s rules if she was going to get anywhere. “I’m… sorry for causing a fuss, Kie… eer Fawa-san.”
“We’re running track today Jana-san.” Kieko informed her.
It was a nice warm spring day, and a good run would make Jana feel better. She took her place on the track, and when the start was called, she was off like a bullet. The snobby girl seemed the only one who could even keep pace with Jana. All the other girls were oooing and ahhhing at Jana.
Seiko, aka the snobby girl, was not about to let that rude gaijin beat her. She poured on the speed, only to find Jana easily keeping pace with her. The other girls were cheering though it was hard to say who it was for. Seiko pushed herself even harder. But Jana pushed herself more, and made it to the finish line first. She was a little winded, but the run had felt great. Jana turned to thank the girl for a great race, when she saw Sieko was already tromping off.
Several of Jana’s classmates had gathered around her telling Jana how impressed they were. Kieko walked over as well. “You’re an amazing runner, Jana-san.”
Just what she needed, a fan club, Jana pushed her way through the small crowd of excited girls and fell in place beside Kieko. “That other girl, the one that keeps turning her nose up at me, she didn’t seem impressed that I outran her.”
“Seiko-san? She used to be the school’s top runner.” Kieko explained.
“Used to?” Jana asked confused.
“Well you did just beat her.” Kieko giggled. Jana was a very odd girl.
“Oh right.” Jana scratched the back of her head and looked a little embarrassed. “Can I get out of this weird bikini thing now?” Kieko laughed “After gym we can.”
It was a warm day and nice out so the teachers agreed to let the students eat lunch outside instead of the classroom. Haru, Kieko and Jana sat together on the school grounds. Kieko had laid out a blanket, and then taken off her shoes to sit on it. Haru had done the same. Jana shrugged. She supposed this was another of this world’s weird traditions, may as well follow along so she didn’t get yelled at or looked at like she was stupid again. Jana pulled off her shoes and sat down. Kieko pulled a little box out of her school bag, Jana checked hers but didn’t find anything that remotely looked like food.
Haru spoke up as he saw Jana frantically searching her bag. “You were in such a rush this morning Jana-san that you forgot your bento.”
Bento? What was a bento? Haru held out a box similar to the one Kieko had. Jana opened it, she was starving. Inside was rice, some sort of round yellow thing. There was something she vaguely recognized as a vegetable, and fish with a yellow thing that was rolled up. Haru handed her some chopsticks. Now Jana was really confused. Almost in unison Kieko and Haru said “Itadakimasu” before they began eating. Jana just started at her chopsticks confusedly.
Haru blinked at Jana who was not eating, but instead fumbling with her chopsticks. “Jana-san, have you never used chopsticks before?”
Jana shook her head embarrassed. As Haru took her hand and showed her how to hold them, Jana’s face flushed. Kieko glared at Jana jealously. “Umm… thanks.” She mumbled. Noticing Kieko and Haru were holding their boxes close to their face, she assumed she could do the same thing. Jana clumsily got the food into her mouth. She really didn’t like these stupid sticks either. Who ate with sticks? Why didn’t they use a fork like normal people? The food wasn’t bad, but the crunchy yellow thing on top of her rice was weird.
“Kie-chan? Do you have club this afternoon?” Haru asked. Kieko shook her head. “I have computer club. Would you mind seeing Jana-san home? I don’t want her to wait on me. She’ll be bored. She can give you a ride on her moped. I’ll be ok to walk.”
Kieko didn’t look like she particularly liked the idea, but she agreed to it, at least Jana wouldn’t be walking home with Haru. She was probably planning to seduce him with her toned American body and long blonde hair. Kieko had lived next to Haru for years and never once had he asked her out. Now that Jana was around Haru probably wouldn’t notice that Kieko existed.
Jana wasn’t real sure what was wrong with Kieko. She kept alternating looks, with some sort of lovey-dovey look at Haru, and an evil look at Jana. If she knew the way back, Jana would just as assume go alone.
The final school bell rang. Jana and Kieko had been given clean-up duty for the day. Jana looked at Kieko oddly again. “Don’t they have janitors for this?”
Kieko shook her head. “Since we don’t have club today, it’s our turn to clean. It’s really easy. Just pick up the trash and straighten the desks. It won’t take long.” As Kieko promised, it didn’t take long at all. The two walked outside and Kieko looked at Jana “So umm… What is American High School like?”
Jana blinked. She’d never been to an American high school. She looked helplessly at Sylvia.
“Just tell her you were home schooled. Your parents were very rich, and hired private tutors.” Sylvia responded in a bored tone.
Jana repeated what Sylvia told her to say.
Kieko’s eyes seemed to get starts in them “Really? Wow. I bet Haru’s sister really loves it there. Why did you come to Japan anyway?”
Jana was wondering the same thing herself. She certainly couldn’t tell Kieko that she was hunting a wish stone. “My… umm… parents wanted me to umm… experience the world. And since.. umm the Japanese market is really big for them, they wanted me to experience… Japan.” Kieko nodded excitedly and seemed to accept this answer. Jana was relieved she bought it. At least Kieko didn’t hate her anymore. Jana wondered why everyone hated her. Especially when she didn’t do anything to them.
“Jana-san, do you think we could make a stop on the way home?” Kieko wanted to learn as much about her new rival as she could. She may as well enjoy a parfait while she was at it.
Jana shrugged “I guess so. Where did you want to go?” Kieko told her it was a secret. Jana wasn’t real sure how to drive to somewhere specific when she didn’t know where she was going. Kieko told her the turns to make Jana parked her moped at a designated spot near a dessert shop. “Umm… is this that café you wanted Haru to go to with you?”
Kieko nodded “Haru-kun couldn’t come, fault so I’m making you treat me. It is your fault after all” She chided.
“Hey wait! I didn’t agree to that!” Jana yelled but Kieko had already gone inside. Jana sighed exasperatedly. She didn’t even have any money to pay for this. She had gold pieces not… whatever they use here. She reached for her belt pouch, which wasn’t there. Jane twisted her mouth into a grimace. Finally in one of the pouches of her backpack she found a small coin purse. Inside she found instead of the gold she was carrying, a few paper bills and some silver coins she didn’t recognize. “10,000… umm things?” She cried as she looked at one of the bills “I must be rich, here. I guess I can afford it.”
Jana wasn’t real sure what to order, or even could she really make heads or tails of most of the menu items. It wasn’t that she couldn’t understand the strange writing. It was that none of the food sounded like anything she recognized. “Ano...” She mumbled as wondered why anyone would want to eat red beans for dessert.
Kieko giggled. “I’ll order for you.” As the waitress came by Kieko ordered two parfaits. Jana had seen parfaits at the fast food place with the clown she liked to eat at when she was in the real world. The glass that was set in front of her looked more like a sundae, complete with whipped cream and some wafer cookies sticking out of the side. Of course there was a cherry on top, which she ate immediately. At least it came with a little spoon instead of chopsticks. Jana wondered how you would even eat ice cream with chopsticks, but she was thankful for food she recognized.
“Itadakimasu” Kieko called out before she began to eat.
“Why do you keep saying that?” Jana asked confused.
“Hmm? Saying what?” Kieko asked between bites.
“That icky tacky mess.. or whatever.” Jana wasn’t even quite certain how it was pronounced.
Kieko giggled at her horrible mispronunciation. “It’s Ita-Daki-Ma-Su.” Kieko tapped her spoon on her lower lip a moment “I think in English it would be something like “Let’s eat.” But it means we will gratefully take the food given to us. It’s traditional and polite to say it.” Kieko looked down “I guess… you don’t know a lot about polite things here. I’m sorry for yelling at you earlier. It’s normal in America to just use first names isn’t it?”
Jana nodded “Well if they’re much older that you, then you call them Mr. or Ms. and use their last name.” as she took a hesitant bite of the parfait. Nothing else here made sense, why should the food be any safer? It probably just looked like something she knew to trick her. This world seemed to enjoy tormenting her, so why not sabotage the food? She was pleasantly surprised to be rewarded with something she actually recognized, real ice cream. “It’s just like back home.”
Kieko nodded. “Well it is a western dessert. I got the vanilla because I wasn’t certain if you’d like red bean or green tea.” Jana made a strange face at the thought of bean flavored ice cream. The only red bean she knew of was red beans and rice. She couldn’t imagine someone making a ice cream out of that. “Why would you want red bean ice cream? That would taste nasty. Spicy ice cream? Eeew.”
“It’s a sweet bean, not spicy. It comes from China” Kieko giggled as she watched Jana’s expression. “They didn’t teach you much about Japan did they?”
They, what they? Oh right, she was supposed to be a transfer student. “Umm… no, not so much. I think they wanted me to learn on my own.” She smiled weakly. She didn’t like lying to Kieko so much. “Umm… could you excuse me a second?” Without waiting for an answer Jana ran off to the bathroom.
Once she was inside and alone Jana turned to Sylvia. In a quiet but angry hiss “Who is the wish stone holder? I want out of this stupid world five minutes ago.”
Sylvia floated around lazily. “I don’t know. I kind of like it. I don’t get to move around much on my own anymore.”
“Stop screwing with me, Sylvia!” Jana was boiling mad now. “This place is a nightmare and I want out.”
“Nightmares are good for you. They might teach you some manners, young lady.” Sylvia wasn’t in the mood for any more of Jana’s nonsense.
“You know something don’t you, Sylvia? Tell me what it is! I know you’ve been enjoying this.” She had gone from everyone making her feel stupid to constant humiliation. And Sylvia was the top of the humiliation pyramid today.
Sylvia had had enough. “I have not been enjoying anything, Jana. You have been a complete pain all day. I think you’re even worse than you were with Allisandra. It’s time for you to stop acting like an 8 yr old.”
Jana was losing her patience. Not that she had much to begin with. “Just tell me who has the wish stone, Sylvia!”
“Well that’s quite complicated… you see…” Sylvia began.
“I don’t want the history. I want to know who has the stone so I can get it and get out of here..” Jana interrupted, quite irritated sounding.
Sylvia glared at her. “I’ve had enough, Jana. You’re on your own for a while.” Sylvia flew through the wall.
“Fine! See if I need you!” Jana yelled at the wall Sylvia had just flown through.
Jana stormed out of the bathroom, and sat across from Kieko. She began gulping down her dessert.
Kieko blinked and stared at Jana. Did Americans usually get angry in the bathroom? “Ano…. Jana-san?”
“What?” Jana glared at Kieko.
Kieko lowered her head “Nothing.” She poked at her ice cream with the spoon. She didn’t know what Jana’s problem was now, but at least with her acting like this Haru would probably ignore her.
As she finished her ice cream Jana kept glancing annoyed at the waitresses. “When is she going to bring the check?”
“Oh… umm… we pay up front Jana-san.” Kieko said softly. She hoped she didn’t draw any more of Jana’s current rage towards herself.
More stupid customs of this place, Jana sighed and looked at Kieko, who was still poking at her half-eaten dessert. “Are you ready?”
Kieko nodded quickly. Her dessert didn’t taste so good anyway with Jana all huffed up. She just wanted to be out of here and away from Jana as soon as possible. She would have walked home except she promised Haru she’d show Jana the way home. Maybe if she asked what was wrong. “Jana-san, are you ok?”
“I’m fine.” Jana snapped. She got up and headed to the front.
“Ok that’ll be 5780 yen” The cashier said cheerfully.
So much for being rich, Jana pulled out one of the 10,000 yen bills, and got a few bills and of the silver coins back. Kieko followed a short distance behind Jana. Whatever, Jana just had to figure who had the wish stone and how to get it out of them. Stupid Sylvia running off at a time like this, what was she thinking? Jana liked it better when the skull had been in the box instead of running around on her own.
The drive home was short and Kieko was thrilled to be away from Jana. She felt bad for poor Haru. He had to live with that insane girl. Kieko ran inside her house and into her room. The house was empty as always. Her parents were always away on business trips. She planned to call his cell later this evening. She sighed. This was going so terribly wrong. There wasn’t supposed to be a crazy but super attractive gaijin.
Haru was just supposed to notice her, and notice how much she loved him. In anime girls could chase boys, but she’d been too shy to even do that. Now with that hothead Jana around he’d never pay attention to the girl next door who had loved him since they were kids. Kieko leaned against a wall of her room and cried.
Jana kicked off her shoes as she entered the house, and walked through without a word. Haru’s mother called out “Jana-san?” But there was no answer “Honestly, that girl, no wonder her parents sent her over here. She’s unmannered and undisciplined.” The older lady straightened Jana’s shoes and turned them around to face the door before heading back into the kitchen to prepare dinner.
As Jana headed down the hallway she realized she had no idea which room was hers. Great now she would have to ask Ms. Oshiro. Jana could smell something cooking in the kitchen. That’s probably where Haru’s mom was. “Ms. Oshiro?” Jana called out.
Kita Oshiro tried to maintain a level of calmness. The girl was an American. Americans had no sense of proper behavior. But why did she have to come here? Couldn’t another family have taken her? She thought it was an honor at first when her daughter was chosen to go to America as a transfer. What she’d gotten in her daughter’s place was a living nightmare. “Oshiro-sama” she corrected, Jana gently trying to maintain some level of patience with her “What is it Jana-san?”
Jana felt like an idiot again. “I umm… well where’s my room?”
Kita sighed. The girl was forgetful too. “It’s the third door on the right. And please Jana-san, don’t drain the tub when you get out this time. I’m sorry but if you keep doing that, you’re going to have to start going to the public baths.”
Yeah great, public baths, whatever, Jana had bigger problems “Umm sure. I’ll try to remember.” She mumbled as she walked to her room.
“And please do your homework Jana-san. You’re never going to make it into college if you don’t. Schools aren’t like the ones where you come from” Kita called behind her. “You have to pass entrance exams and they are very hard.”
Jana wasn’t really concerned with getting into college. But she yelled back “Hai” just to keep Haru’s mom off her back. She’s just met the woman and already she didn’t like her. Jana was eighteen after all. She was old enough to take care of herself. At least the house was normal. She had a door instead of those sliding things. Inside was a blanket on the floor with a pillow. Sleep on the floor? They had to be kidding. This was a house not a tent in the middle of the woods. She’d go complain to Haru’s mom but she suspected she’d get another earful.
Haru came in a little while later, and slipped off his shoes. “Okaasan I’m home!” Haru’s mother came out of the kitchen. “Haru, could I talk to you for a moment.” At home with close family was the only place one could get away without using the standard honorifics. Even with friends it was considered most rude not to use at least –chan or –kun.
“Hai, Okaasan.” Haru went into the kitchen with his mother. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s Jana-san, Haru. She’s still not learned. They told us we’d be getting a girl who was new to Japanese culture and everything, but she… she’s infuriating, Haru, could you talk to her? I think she might listen to you. She’s closer to your age.” Kita tried to keep her feelings under control. Jana was a guest in her home after all.
Haru nodded. “Is she home? I’ll talk to her.” He suddenly hoped Jana hadn’t given Kieko too hard of a time. Jana was very, blunt and tactless. He always just assumed it was an American thing. Haru’s mother nodded and said she was in her room.
Haru walked back and tapped gently on her door. “Jana-san?” he called softly.
Jana sighed. Now what? “Yeah come in.” She said grumpily.
Haru looked at Jana oddly. “Jana-san, why is your futon out? It’s too early for bed.”
“Nani?” What was a futon? Jana was confused again. Lovely, now she was saying weird things again.
Haru pointed at the blanket and pillow. “I’m sorry we don’t have a more American bed for you Jana-san. My father is a little old school. He had to compromise with Okaasan on the house. She got a modern house, but the furniture had to be more traditional. But you should have it rolled up, when you aren’t using it. Here, I’ll show you.”
Watching as he rolled up her futon, Jana just added it to the list of things she really didn’t like about this world. She looked around to ask Sylvia something. Where was Sylvia anyway? Oh right she’d floated off all mad instead of telling Jana about this wish. “Haru-san? Could I ask you something?”
“Hmm? Sure. What did you want to know Jana-san?” Haru finished rolling up the futon. “See it goes like this. And you put it into the closet when you don’t need it” he explained.
“Right.” She was overjoyed to know this. “Haru, I’m here for a reason.”
Haru nodded. “You told me.”
“I did?” She was fairly certain that she hadn’t mentioned anything about a wish to Haru.
Haru nodded. “You told me yesterday. Your father sent you here because he wanted you to learn about Japan before you took over the business. You also said he wanted a son, but when your mother passed away he was determined to make you into the owner his business. It does sound like something a Japanese father would do. Anyway, could you be nicer to Okaasan? She really misses Onee-chan and…. What’s wrong Jana-san?”
Jana was looking at Haru like he was speaking gibberish. How could she have told him anything yesterday? She just got here today. “How… long have I been here Haru?”
Haru laughed “You’re so weird Jana-san. You know you came here on Sunday. That’s why today was your first day at school.”
Uh-huh. Yesterday, right, yeah this made sense. Where was Sylvia when Jana needed her? Sheesh, That stupid inconsiderate skull was always doing something to be annoying. The last time Jana tried to do this without Sylvia it had been disastrous. Well she was going to prove this time she didn’t need that stupid skull. “That’s not what I wanted to tell you Haru. There’s another reason I’m here.”
Haru blinked at Jana. “Umm… ok.”
“Haru do you remember making a wish, in a diner in San Antonio?” Jana asked directly.
It was Haru’s turn to look at Jana as if she were insane. To be fair, she did do and say a lot of strange things. But this was by far the oddest thing she’d said or done yet. “Jana-san, are you feeling ok?”
Yeah this was going well, stupid Sylvia running off instead of helping her. This was all her fault. Maybe she’d have better luck with Kieko tomorrow. “I think it’s just umm… hard adjusting.” She mumbled. It wasn’t entirely untrue. This place was strange, completely foreign, and scary.
Haru nodded. “If there’s anything I can do, Jana-san.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Jana leaned back in the chair at her desk. “I umm… should do my homework, like your mom said.”
“Ok. Dinner will be ready soon.” Haru stood and headed out of the room. He paused at the door and looked back at Jana. She was cute and older. She was also in a foreign land where everything was backwards to her. He bit his lip and resisted the urge to say what was on his mind. That he really wanted to help her adjust. She looked so sad and helpless.
Haru went into the kitchen to help his mother set out dinner. “I think Jana-san is just scared, Okaasan. She’s just frustrated with being here. Her father forced her to come after all.”
Kita nodded. “It has to be tough on her. I’ll try to be more patient.” She sighed. It was hard on her too. Her precious daughter was thousands miles away. In her quiet daughter’s place she had a loud, arrogant, rude American girl in her home. If only her husband were here. “Could you get Jana-san for dinner?”
Jana buried her head in her hands. This place was horrible. Jana could understand the rest of the world. It had been a fantasy world with swords and magic. She could swing at things with the magic dagger Allisandra had made for her. She wasn’t even certain where that was.
Sylvia had abandoned her. Well that was partially her own fault. She had yelled at Sylvia and taken her for granted and not let the skull tell her something important about the wish. Now she was going to be stuck in this stupid world until she could figure out how to get the stone Jana did the only thing she knew to do. She buried her head in her hands and began to cry.
Haru started to knock on Jana’s door to call her for dinner when he heard the sounds of sobbing. “Jana-san?” He called softly.
Jana tried to hide the fact she was crying. “Go away.”
“Jana-san, dinner is ready.” Haru called to her. He didn’t know how to approach her. Maybe Kieko would know. Girls understood other girls. He would have to call and ask her after dinner.
Jana came out of her room a moment later. She smiled weakly at Haru. Haru wasn’t real sure what to say “Okaasan thought she might make something that was a little closer to home for you. Hamburger.” That sounded nice. She could go for a nice burger with ketchup.
When Jana got to the table it wasn’t exactly what she expected. She was expecting a piece of meat, in a bun, with maybe some fries. What was there was a hamburger patty, on a plate, with rice to the side. “Umm thank you.” She forced a smile. Her mom had always to eat what she was offered for dinner in a stranger’s house. It wasn’t that bad. At least it wasn’t asparagus. Jana was still fumbling with her chopsticks. After the usual intro to eating, which Jana slaughtered brutally again, everyone began to eat.
Kita looked at the child, fighting with her chopsticks and clumsily trying to eat her food. “Jana-san, if you hold them like this, it will be a little easier.”
Jana thanked Ms. Oshiro. It was a little easier once she got the hand of it but why couldn’t she just use a fork? She kept dropping her food and it was frustrating. The food was pretty good even if it wasn’t what she expected. At least they were trying for her. Jana sighed. She hadn’t been particularly nice to either of them today. “I’m sorry. It’s just, adjusting, and I miss someone close to me. I’m really sorry I’ve been rude.” With that Jana stood and went back to her room
Kita looked at Haru. “What did you say to her?”
Haru shrugged “I just told her you were upset. And you missed Onee-chan. Then she said something weird.” Kita didn’t know what to make of Jana, but if she started calming down, then it would be ok.
The barbarian girl looked around for Sylvia and sighed dejectedly. “I wish you’d come back Sylvia. I’m sorry I yelled.” She plopped down in her chair. “I really need to know who has the wish.”
Sylvia smiled. She wasn’t a bad kid. She just needed to be reigned in and taught some lessons. “I wondered when you’d come around, Jana.”
“Sylvia! Oh thank the heavens. I’m so sorry. I need you to tell how to fix things here..” Jana was overjoyed to see her skull shaped friend.
“Well… I suppose it’s a start. The problem with the wish is that the wish maker passed the wish to his best friend.” Sylvia explained.
Jana looked perplexed. “They can do that?”
“Apparently so.” Sylvia floated around the room.
“So… who do I have to convince to give up the wish?” Jana asked confused.
If Sylvia had shoulders she would shrug them “I don’t actually know, Jana.”
But Sylvia knew everything. How could she not know this? “I guess… if it works like all the others. The original wish maker has to be convinced. I think. But how did he bounce the wish? What did he wish for?”
Well Jana wasn’t getting any better at grasping the obvious. Jana had done that exact thing to start this whole mess. She had given forty-two other people what they wanted most. Baby steps Sylvia supposed at least she was learning, slowly that yelling at people wasn’t the way to get them to tell her things. “How would you give someone else a wish, Jana?”
“I guess… If I wished for them to get what they wanted….” Jana closed her eyes. She was being so stupid. “Just like I did right?”
“Yes, Jana. Just like you did. Which means we still have to find the original wish maker.” Sylvia stated matter-of-factly.
What had the person wanted? Knowing that, that would make this make sense. Of course knowing who it was would help. Though there were obvious suspects. Kieko and Haru. A knock at her door broke her chain of thought. “Jana-san?” It was Haru.
“Umm yeah… come in Haru.” Jana said nervously. Had he heard her talking to Sylvia again? He was going to think she was insane soon if he didn’t already.
Haru looked at Jana, she looked a little better than before. And she looked really good in her school uniform. “I umm… well I thought I heard you talking to someone. Is everything ok?”
Jana grasped at straws. “Umm… My cell phone. I was talking on my cell phone. To a friend, back home.”
Except there was no cell phone on her desk or anywhere else he could see. Haru nodded. “Sure. Umm, you know if you wanted some help, learning how to do things here. I could help.”
Jana nodded. “I’d like that.” Why did she feel so weird around this boy? He was being so nice to her and she liked it. Even if boys were… well they weren’t anything she understood.
The two of them spent the rest of the night together, as Haru taught Jana how to do little things. Sylvia smiled. It was sort of cute. Jana might be falling in love for the first time. Except, something was wrong, she could feel it in her bones. Bone maybe? Well it didn’t matter. Something wasn’t right and the wish world didn’t like it.
Jana had tossed and turned all night. She wasn’t used to sleeping on the floor. When the alarm buzzed to wake her for school she stared at it bleary eyed. “Why do you hate me so much, you stupid clock?” She grumbled at it.
After yawning and stretching, Jana stumbled into the bathroom. As she looked into the mirror she screamed. “My HAIR! What happened to my hair?” Instead of the long blonde hair she had yesterday, it was now purple and short. “I swear I will kill whoever did this to me!”
Haru awoke to the sounds of Jana yelling about something. She’d probably woken up the entire neighborhood as loud as she was. He got up and rapped on the bathroom door. “Jana, quiet down. You’re going to wake the neighbors.”
Jana seemed to almost rip the door off the hinges as she started at Haru. “Is this your idea of a joke?” She grabbed a lock of hair and showed it to him “Look at this!”
Haru blinked sleepily. “What? It looks the same as yesterday. What are you so upset about?”
“Don’t screw with me, Haru! Who cut my hair? It was blonde and a lot longer yesterday!” Jana yelled at him.
Haru tried to keep his patience with her. Why had they sent an insane American over here? “Look, Jana, I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about. Why don’t you ask whatever it is you’re always talking to?” His sister was annoying and his mom doted on her, but right now, he really wanted her back.
Even if Jana was cute, she was obnoxious most of the time. Maybe she would calm down. He heard rich girls could be obnoxious. Haru also remembered something else he heard about rich girls that acted like bad girls that made him blush. Though he wasn’t quite sure where he’d heard any of those things.
Jana shook her head. Haru was screwing with her. Wasn’t he? Her hair had been blonde yesterday. She knew it had. She walked back into her room and plopped down on the chair in front of the desk. “Sylvia? I’m not crazy am I? My hair was blond yesterday right?”
Sylvia nodded. “Yes, Jana it was. And no one came in here last night.” One of the benefits? Of being dead was that she didn’t have to sleep. Which was probably a good thing since she didn’t have eyelids to close anyway.
Jana pulled one of her bangs down so she could look at it. “Then why is my hair purple now, Sylvia?” Jana felt warm tears start to roll down her cheeks “Why is this world doing this to me, Sylvia. Why? I didn’t do anything to it.”
“Actually, you did. I’m not quite certain how, but you’re disrupting the wish. And I don’t mean because you’re trying to take it away.” Sylvia explained. She didn’t normally tell Jana this much, but her younger friend wasn’t going to figure this out on her own. There’s no way she could. Sylvia could feel the feelings of this world. It had replaced her power to see into the future. When she had tried things had become all blurry and hazy.
“Imagine if this world were a rubber band, which was stretched between two fingers. If you push it, it always snaps back into shape once the person releases the pressure. I think you’ve pushed the wish world and now it wants to snap back into shape.” Sylvia shook her head “I’d suspected something was wrong ever since the time warp. You supposedly arriving a day before you actually did, now this. The wish world is adjusting to your presence, and to something else. It’s forcing its rules on you. The longer you stay here the worse it’s going to get.”
“Once I leave, will everything go back?” Jana asked worriedly.
Sylvia shook her head or what there was of it. “I don’t know, Jana. This world has a mind of its own it seems. I suspect it can only affect things within its borders, and once they leave they should return to normal. Assuming they even remember they were supposed to leave at all. If my guess is right, the world is trying to turn you into a resident.”
Jana nodded. “I guess I should apologize to Haru-san. It’s not his fault.” She stood without a further word, and put on her school uniform, then headed into the kitchen. “Haru-san, I didn’t mean to yell. I had a bad dream last night.” She smiled weakly at him. “You’ll forgive me won’t you?”
Haru almost dropped the plates he was carrying to the table. Jana looked so cute when she was apologizing. He mumbled “Yeah… it’s umm… ok.” His parents were out of town again, they always seemed to be out of town. It was kind of nice to have Jana’s company, even if she was weird sometimes.
Jana picked up her chopsticks like she’d been born with them in her hand. “Itadakimasu!” She cried cheerfully before she began eating the standard Japanese breakfast of fish, rice, and miso soup. Wait… when had she learned how to use chopsticks? And why had that word come so naturally to her? And weren’t you supposed to have cereal, or eggs and sausage, or something like that for breakfast? But somehow all of this felt familiar, and right.
If Sylvia’s eyes could widen, they would have. It was getting worse, and fast. Not ten minutes ago Jana had been yelling about her hair. Now she was acting like she’d lived in Japan for most of her life. “Jana, we need to talk, soon.”
Jana didn’t respond to Sylvia. “Haru-san. Would you mind walking with just Kieko-san to school today? I need to umm, make a stop.”
Haru looked at Jana oddly. What could she need before school? “Umm sure Jana-san.” Maybe she wanted to make him a bento. He hadn’t had a homemade bento in months. He loved that cute smile she had. She was trying to look so innocent. He would certainly eat Jana-san’s bento. He bet it would be delicious.
Sylvia floated back and forth as if she were pacing. Haru was staring at Jana like he was infatuated with her. Jana was almost, but not quite flirting. She didn’t even seem to realize she was doing it. It had to be Kieko that bounced the wish. But Kieko didn’t remembering having a wish. Other than Haru, Kieko was the only person standing out prominently in this world. Even Haru’s mother had disappeared. The world was compensating for Jana’s appearance, and forcing Jana into a role. “Stay here a few minutes. You’ll ride your moped to school anyway so you won’t be late.” She instructed Jana.
Jana nodded and began to clear the dishes. Haru put a hand on her arm and Jana’s heart skipped a beat. “You… umm… don’t have to do that Jana-san.” He realized he was touching her and immediately pulled his hand away, blushing. Her skin was soft and warm. “I can umm… clean up. You’re the guest.”
Jana shook her head “I insist. Besides I can ride my moped to school.” A knock at the door drew Haru’s attention away from Jana a moment.
“That’s umm… probably Kieko. I should go get it.” Haru stood nervously and then ran off.
“Jana, doesn’t anything seem odd to you?” Sylvia asked.
“Mmm… no. I feel fine. Why?” Jana didn’t know what Sylvia was getting at. But she was acting strangely. Sylvia almost never talked to Jana without being directly asked something. “Are you sure you’re ok, Sylvia?” Jana began washing the dishes.
Now chores? Jana didn’t exactly seem like the most responsible girl on the planet. Her mother probably had to fight with her over washing the dishes. “So you didn’t notice the way Haru was looking at you?” Sylvia asked calmly.
“Mmm.. he did have a funny look now that you mention it.” Jana looked at Sylvia conspiratorially. “Do you think he likes me?”
Something clicked in Sylvia’s thought process. “I’ll be right back.”
Jana nodded and began humming as she washed the breakfast dishes.
Outside Kieko and Haru walked together. Kieko sighed. Haru was in another world. He didn’t even notice her. “Where’s Jana-san?” She asked dejectedly.
“Hmm? Oh… she said she had somewhere to stop.” He leaned in towards Kieko.
Keiko’s heart began pounding. Was he going to kiss her? Here, in front of anyone walking by? She didn’t want it to be like this. “H-Haru?” She looked at him wide eyed.
“I think she’s making me a bento.” Haru whispered excitedly
Kieko turned red with anger. She stormed ahead of Haru. Stupid Jana, she was stealing her Haru. She’d tried so long to get him to notice her. And now some curvy rich girl from America shows up, and he’s drooling all over her. She felt her legs moving faster. She was running. She just wanted to be away from Haru. Kieko didn’t want him to see her cry.
Sylvia watched the scene. Kieko was trying desperately to get Kenny to notice her That didn’t really explain why when Jana came in, the world reacted violently. It was transforming Jana, but why? It seemed making Jana and Haru fall in love was completely against the wish world’s function, and now the world was trying to make Jana conform. She needed to learn more.
Sylvia followed Kieko to the little alley she had run into and slumped against a wall. She was crying her eyes out, the poor kid. Kieko looked up suddenly and screamed. Sylvia turned around quickly behind her, but there was nothing there. Keiko was backing up in a crab walk. “I-I don’t know what you are, but please don’t hurt me!”
“Ok. You can see me. That’s unexpected, but useful. Kieko, I know this will sound strange to you. But Jana and I are on a quest. Someone made a wish, I need to know what that wish is and who made it. The wish world is reacting violently to Jana, it’s changing her. You’re trying desperately to get Haru to notice you. I suspect you and this world are linked.” The girl backed into a wall as Sylvia spoke to her, calmly and reassuringly.
“I… I… I’m not Kieko. I’m Jennifer.” She uttered finally. “K-kenny. He’s my neighbor, has been for years. I finally got the nerve to ask him out, but I think he just meant as friends. I made him wait. I’m a terrible person because I was too shy to tell him how I really felt.”
She began to cry again. “I don’t know what’s going on. I wanted him to notice me. I knew he likes Anime. He showed me some, and in them the girls were always chasing after guys. So I thought, maybe, if we were in an anime world, he might notice me. Then this happened, and even here it’s all going wrong. He’s staring at Jana, she’s prettier than me… and… older… and makes herself seen” She shook her head. “I’m telling a floating skull about my crush. I’m going crazy aren’t I?”
“No child, but I understand what’s happening now. The world isn’t reacting, you are. The world is just mirroring your thoughts, your feelings. You think Kenny will like Jana more than you. So the world is making it happen that way. Jana is turning into a girl Kenny would be infatuated with. And here I thought she was calming down a little. So much for wishes.” Sylvia had to laugh despite herself.
“Now the question remains, how you got the wish, if you weren’t at the diner.” Sylvia pondered this. “Only Kenny knows. I’m going to assume Kenny is Haru?” Jennifer nodded. “You, young lady, need to have some confidence in yourself. This world is reacting to you. You control it. You could force Kenny to fall in love with you, but I don’t think you’d enjoy that. If you want him to notice you, then do something to get noticed. I have to get back to Jana before this world makes her forget why she even came.”
Jennifer sat in the alley. If what that floating skull said was true… she was listening to floating skulls now. That’s great, she had officially gone crazy. Jennifer sighed. Still if what the skull said is true, them all she had to do, was to get Kenny to notice her. She could be come a voluptuous anime girl with blue hair… and then what? He’d love her for an image. Something she couldn’t be anywhere but, this place. That wasn’t what she wanted.
Jennifer sighed and picked herself up. How was she going to get Kenny to notice her? She’d been in love with him so long. She was so deep in thought she didn’t even see the two men until they grabbed her. One put a knife to her throat. “Scream, girly and you won’t live to see the day’s end. Come along nice and quiet.” The two men dressed in black threw her into a van. A third shoved a gag over her mouth and tied her arms behind her back at the wrists, then her ankles together. She was being kidnapped! But why? She wasn’t anyone special.
Haru arrived at school and looked around. Kieko wasn’t anywhere to be seen. He wondered what she’d been so upset about, then it hit him. He had told Kie-chan about the bento and it had upset her for some reason. He heard the putter of Jana’s moped, and ran up to her. “Jana-san, have you seen Kie-chan?”
Who was Kie-chan? Oh, that’s what he called Kieko. Jana shook her head “Wasn’t she with you?”
Haru looked at the ground. “She was, but I upset her. I think she thinks I’m in love with you.”
Jana’s felt a creepy feeling run up her spine. Ugh, a boy, in love with her? “Ano…” She mumbled. “Yeah well that’s umm… why would she think that?”
Haru sighed. “I’ve been paying so much attention to you lately. I mean you are my guest from America.”
“Kieko-san, wasn’t she that kinda nerdy looking girl that lived next door to you?” Jana still wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, but at least Haru wasn’t making googly eyes at her anymore. Why had she even thought that was cute this morning?
Haru nodded. “Jana-san we have to look for her. I should have seen her on the way to school. Or you should have.”
Sylvia, she had mentioned following Kieko around. Jana was sure Sylvia knew where she was. As if she’d known Jana was looking for her Sylvia popped up. Jana whispered. “There you are? Where’s Kieko-san?”
“She didn’t make it to school?” Sylvia asked.
Jana shook her head. “Do you know where she was?”
“If I knew that I wouldn’t be asking you Jana-san.” Haru replied confused.
Sylvia nodded “Hop on Haru-san.” Jana told him.
“Do you know where she is Jana-san?” Haru asked worriedly
Jana twitched a little when he wrapped his arms around her waist. She knew it was just to hold on, but it made her uncomfortable. She might get cooties or something. Wait, weren’t girls her age supposed to like that? Well it didn’t matter right now. “Umm well I thought we might go back the way you came… you know see if maybe she stopped in a store or something.”
That didn’t sound much like Kieko. Usually she liked to get to school a little ahead of time. But she was upset and acting weird this morning. Then again, after what he said to her, he supposed weird might be normal. What if Kieko had made him a bento and he said that to her? He felt like such a heel.
Nothing had changed except Haru was concerned about Kieko, not Jana now. Sylvia considered maybe she should have been a little more specific when she told the girl to do something to get Haru’s attention.
They stopped at the alley Sylvia indicated. “There are a lot of shops here.” Jana pointed out. Maybe one of the shop keeps saw her.” She had to lead this in rationally. If she just drove to the alley, Haru would get suspicious. “I’ll ask down this way” She pointed to the right of the alley, where Kieko would have come from. “You go the other way, check the shops around the corner.”
Sylvia was impressed. Jana was thinking. If she just ran right into the alley, Haru would wonder what exactly was going on and why Jana knew so much about it. Doing it this way made him think he was helping search. Jana stopped at the first shop which happened to be a fish vendor and making sure Haru was out of earshot asked about some of the fish. She nodded as he told her something she wasn’t even paying attention to. “Thank you” She said to the vendor before running off to find Haru.
Haru nodded at vegetable vendor who told him he hadn’t seen Kieko. They knew her around here. It was where she did her shopping. Haru saw Jana and ran up to her. “They haven’t seen her Jana-san.”
Jana pointed behind her. “The fish vendor back there said he had. I saw an alley not far from here. Maybe she’s down there.”
Kieko being in an alley made no sense. It wasn’t like her. But if the fish vendor had seen her and the vendors around the corner hadn’t so it was the only thing that made sense.
Sylvia smiled, as much as skulls could. “Nicely done, Jana.”
Jana smiled at the floating skull before running down the alley after Haru. It was so rare to get a complement from Sylvia. It felt nice. He was kneeling down holding something. “Jana-san, these are Kie-chan’s glasses. But she’s not here. Do you think something happened to her?”
Sylvia frowned. What had that foolish girl done?
She looked down at the glasses. Where was Kieko? This didn’t make any sense. Sylvia said the world was reacting to things. Now what was it doing? “I don’t know. If the vendors didn’t call the police then they probably didn’t see anything happen to her. Besides from where they are it would be hard to for them to see anything in this narrow alley.”
Jana looked at Haru and then grabbed his shoulders. She looked him straight in the eyes. Why were his eyes huge? And why hadn’t she noticed this before? It didn’t matter now. “Haru, this is important. You have to remember for me. Were you in a diner in San Antonio before you came here?”
Initially he wanted to yell no and tell Jana she was crazy. She was crazy. She talked to the air, yelled about her hair being long yesterday, but he’d had a weird dream last night. It was just like Jana said. He’d felt like he was wishing for something, but he didn’t want anything for himself. He was worried about Jennifer. She was thirty minutes late and she had asked him to meet her there. She sounded really nervous when she had asked him to come in the first place. It was odd, she’d never been shy about going there before with him.
“I… yes, I sort of remember. Jennifer. She’d asked me to meet her at the diner, and she was really late. I was worried about her, and I wished that she was ok. Then I was here.” Haru looked at Jana confused. “My name, it’s not Haru. It’s Kenny. Haru is the name of a character in that anime I was watching with Jennifer the other day. Kieko was this girl… who… lived next door.” It all started to click.
“I know what’s happening, Jana! We’re in that anime episode. The main character, he starts getting attracted to a girl from America who transferred to his school and was living with him. Haru liked her because she was really cute and older, but she was kinda obnoxious.” Kenny looked at Jana and paused. He was going to say ‘just like you’ but that seemed very, very unwise.
Jana saw where this was going. “Say it and you’re a dead man.” she threatened. “Anyway, what happens next?”
“Well some people were mad at the transfer’s dad.” Kenny explained. “So they were going to kidnap you her, eer you, since the saw she was going to school alone. Except, you weren’t kidnapped. She was.” Wonderful, now Jennifer had been kidnapped. What else could go wrong? “Well you did see all of this anime right?”
Kenny turned red “Well actually Jennifer had to go home about then, so I stopped it there so we could watch it together the next day. Only that was when she asked me to meet her tomorrow at the diner, so… umm… I actually don’t know.”
Jana put her face into her hand. This was just great. She had no way of knowing were… wait. “You can find her, right Sylvia? You can see into the future and find out where she is?” Jana asked hopefully.
“Unfortunately since this world isn’t static in it’s reality it’s impossible to see the future. However, since Kieko created this world, she has the stone. So I can at least move us in the right direction.” Sylvia explained.
Ok she was talking to the air again, and now she had named it Sylvia. “Jana, who is Sylvia?”
“It would take too long to explain. Get on. Sylvia can lead us to Kieko.” Jana put her helmet back on.
Sure, why not. The crazy girl would follow the air to wherever Jennifer was. Why not? They were in an anime world it seemed. Maybe Jana had some mystic power he didn’t know about. Girls did that in anime. They talked to inanimate objects that only looked inanimate to everyone else. “Ok, sure.”
Jennifer felt herself being lifted up. She tried to see where she was, but without her glasses everything was a blur. Why hadn’t she fixed that when she made this world? She tried to concentrate. Maybe the floating skull was right. Maybe she could fix things, and get herself out of here. Nothing happened no matter how hard she willed it. Great, now she was out in the middle of nowhere, was going to be killed and Kenny would never find her. She whimpered softly. Had this been what the world to get her noticed? This wasn’t what she meant!
“We got her, boss.” The goon carrying her announced, before practically dropping her on the ground like a sack of potatoes. Jennifer made a slight oof sound.
“That’s not her you, idiot. You grabbed the wrong girl.” The boss picked Jennifer up violently by the collar of her shirt and shook her around as he yelled at the goon “Does this look like Jenison’s brat to you?”
“Well, kinda…” The goon started.
“Shut up, you moron. She looks nothing like her.” The boss snapped. “Take her in the other room. I’ll decide what to do with her later.”
Jennifer had never been so scared in her entire life. It was her world. They couldn’t kill her, right? Jennifer tried to reassure herself with that thought, but deep down she was afraid they could. She felt herself being thrown onto a bed. At least it wasn’t the metal floor of a van this time. She pulled at the ropes she was bound with, but they were too tight to even move her hands or feet. She really wished Kenny was here. She didn’t want to die. For the third time today, Jennifer cried.
After a few turns that had lead them into blank alleys, Jana and Kenny finally found themselves on an older road that lead into the woods. “I should probably leave my moped here. They’ll hear us coming from a mile away with that noisy thing.”
Kenny nodded. He was too worried about Jennifer to care about noisy mopeds right now. “So what now? These guys are probably armed. We should call the police shouldn’t we?”
Jana looked at Kenny. “And tell them what? You were watching an Anime, except you’re living it now, and we know our friend was kidnapped because well we don’t know why they kidnapped her instead of me. But I was supposed to be kidnapped and now we’re following an invisible talking skull who led us to the hideout?”
Kenny looked at the ground “Well… we could leave some of that out.” Wait did she say invisible talking skull? He didn’t even want to know anymore. He just wanted Jennifer safe.
Yeah, great, captain bravery here was getting them nowhere. “Ok what would Haru have done?” Jana asked. Maybe if she appealed to this anime logic, because if this world was any indication nothing here had to make sense.
“Well Haru was impulsive and would have gone after her. But he didn’t know anything about martial arts or how to fight.” Kenny started.
“Nevermind, you’re the anime expert. You tell me how we’re going to do this.” Jana said disgustedly.
Kenny looked a little dejected. “You don’t know how to fight?”
“Of course I do, it’s just I’ve not seen my dagger since I got here.” Jana grumbled.
“Did you check your book bag?” Kenny started running through all the places she’d already checked, much to Jana’s annoyance. “Well what about that compartment on your moped?”
Jana sighed “It’s not in the helmet compartment.”
Kenny shook his head. “The one on the left side.” He pointed to it.
There was no compartment on the left side of her moped. But to humor Kenny she looked anyway. Sure enough there was a little hatch she was sure she’d never seen before. But that was where the engine was. How could there be any storage there? She opened it and sure enough a familiar purple glow greeted her. “Ok. It’s your anime thing. I’m not going to question it. I’m just happy it’s here.”
Kenny shrugged. “Purple haired school girls with magic weapons, it happens more often than you’d think.”
Jana checked her hair. It was still purple. She really wanted this to be over so her hair would be a color that hair was supposed to be. Preferably her nice long braided blonde hair. “And you can’t fight at all can you?” Kenny shook his head. Some hero this guy was.
The pair crept up the road, trying to stay just to the side of it. “Do teenagers often attack adults in these things?” Jana asked curiously.
“Mmm sometimes… but usually its other teenagers with crazy weapons if it’s going to be something like that.” Kenny motioned at her dagger. “But the anime I was watching, they were adults and it was two teenagers.”
Jana decided she still hated this stupid world.
The older gentleman who was simply referred to as ‘the boss’ rubbed his temples. He was working with morons, fucking morons. How do you botch a simple kidnapping? Grab the American girl drag her back, hold her for ransom. Now he had to kill some innocent local girl because his stooges were morons. He may as well get it done. It was dirty business, but sometimes it happened that way. “Get the girl.” He ordered one of the stooges. “She knows too much. I ought to off you idiots with her.”
The door opened to Jennifer’s room and she could hear the sounds of a 9mm chambering a bullet. She had no idea how she knew that, but she was terrified now. She was going to die. She tried to whimper ‘please help me, Kenny’ but with the gag it came out as just garbled words. A blur in the shape of a man picked her up. She tried to struggle but being tied up made it hard. She begged for her life, but the gag made her muffled words into frantic grunts.
She was dropped into a chair. “Kid, I don’t want to have to do this. But you’ve seen our faces.” Jennifer shook her head frantically.
“Umm boss. She was wearing glasses when we grabbed her. Maybe she didn’t see nothin’.” One of the goons offered.
The boss looked at him. “You wanna take that chance? That she hasn’t seen our faces?” Jennifer nodded her head frantically. She couldn’t cry anymore. She had long since cried herself out of tears. If she could, she’d be bawling right now.
“I think she’s tryin’ to tell us she can’t see nothin’ boss.” Jennifer nodded frantically again at the goon’s words.
“Of course she’s saying that.” The boss sighed. His goons were stupid and soft-hearted. Where had he gotten this guy? “She doesn’t want to die. Hell, I don’t blame her. If I was her I’d tell someone about to kill me I’d sleep with them if it would keep me alive.”
“It’s just… I got a daughter, round her age. Ya know. She kinda reminds me of her. I don’t want nothin’ to happen to the kid. It ain’t right.” The goon complained.
The boss sat down at the table and set his gun down. “No. It isn’t right. You botched the job.” He slid the gun across the table. “You’re gonna kill her, and when you do, think about your daughter. Think how this girl, who reminds you of her, her life could have been spared, if you hadn’t screwed up!” He yelled the last few words, before getting up and walking out of the little cabin
Jennifer looked at the goon pleadingly. She didn’t want to die. She tried to beg for her life again but the gag kept her from saying anything intelligible.
“Kid don’t look at me like that. This is hard enough ya know. I ain’t got nothin’ against killin’ someone who deserves it, ya know. But you, you ain’t done nothin’. You got unlucky. But it’s you or me kid. And thems the brakes ya know?” As the goon raised the gun to shoot Jennifer he heard a gurgled cry outside, as something slammed up against the wall outside. He looked at Jennifer and then back at the door to the outside. “Maybe you got a guardian angel, kid.”
Jana kicked down the door. Now this she understood. Barbarian princess, yeah that was her thing, even if she had been made to wear a short skirt. She was so ready to be out of this school uniform. It had struck her as odd all the kidnappers looked like American gangsters from some mafia organization, must be one of those anime things Kenny kept talking about.
The goon blinked as another pair of teenagers entered, one wielding a rather nasty looking glowing purple dagger. He dropped the gun. “Look, the boss was makin’ me. I didn’t want to hurt the girl.” Jennifer nodded at the goon’s words.
Jana shrugged. “It’s your call, Kenny.”
“He’s giving up Jana. Let him go.” Kenny didn’t see a need to kill the guy. He kind of wished Jana hadn’t killed the ones outside. It made his stomach turn just seeing her do it.
She stepped away from the door. “Just leave. Don’t come back. And we both come out of this alive. Sound good?”
The goon nodded and ran out. He’s dealt with a lot of things in his days. A psycho kid in a school uniform with a purple glowing dagger, that was too much. As a rule he didn’t trust anyone who wore school uniforms and carried weapons. The boss had hired one once. She was psychotic, killed one of the guys because he looked at her some way she didn’t like.
Jana walked over and quickly sliced the ropes holding Jennifer, and took the gag out of her mouth. She saw the girl’s eyes were on Kenny. A whispered thank you, and then she was running to him, whimpering about how terrified she was. Jana sighed. It was going to be a few minutes more.
Jennifer and Kenny held the embrace a few minutes longer, and Jennifer spilled the whole story to Kenny about how she was in love with him, and all she had wanted was for him to notice her. She’d seen him with so many bad girlfriends and it tore her apart.
Jana stopped listening after a while. It was a bunch of mushy stuff. Finally they got to something she cared about, how to repay her. “It’s simple. All you need to do is give up your wish. You wanted him to notice you. I don’t know a lot about this stuff, but, he’s going to notice you, with or without a wish, at least I think so.”
“What’s going to happen when I do?” Jennifer asked.
Jana shook her head. “You both have to give it up for it to work. Well if it’s like the others, the place will remain. At least until I finish. And well it’s been two weeks and I have… three with yours. I don’t know if you’ll remember or not when it’s over. But until then, you’ll have… this” Jana looked around disgustedly at the place. She certainly wouldn’t miss it.
Kenny nodded. “My wish was just that you were ok. I was worried about you and wanted you to be happy. I guess I know what you wished for. Other than well, this, nothing happened to you. So I wished for probably didn’t make much difference.”
“I just wanted you to notice me. I thought maybe, if we were in one of your anime shows, where the girls chase the guys, I might have the courage to tell you how I felt.” Jennifer explained. “I don’t need a wish for that either. And your wish did make a difference, Kenny. It brought us together” She kissed him softly. Jana looked away. Ugh her parents did that stuff. It was creepy.
The two nodded. “I think we’re ready to give it up, Jana.” Jennifer’s eyes glazed over for a moment as she yelped in pain. A white oval shaped pearl floated out of her chest with a sudden bright glowing light and tumbled to the ground.
Jana kneeled down to pick it up. “That’s another down and so many to go.”
Jennifer nodded. “Thank you, Jana. I don’t know how all of this happened. But, you helped us come together.”
More mushy stuff, but it was kind of nice mushy stuff. “Are you two going to be ok to get back?”
The pair nodded and Jana headed for the door. “Then this is sayonara.”
“Good luck, Jana.” Jennifer said as she waved to the departing girl.
“Why can’t they all be that easy to get the gems out of, Sylvia?” Jana asked rhetorically.
Sylvia knew Jana didn’t expect an answer. She didn’t give one either. It would be time to go back in the box once they left this world. Being able to move around on her own had been nice for a while. She suspected soon Jana would want to be told where the next stone was. She liked Jana, but the girl got tiresome sometimes. Kids were like that she supposed. Sylvia wondered, if anyone would remember what happened. Or would it just seem like a bad or maybe good dream? She also wished Jana would release her from this accursed existence. Jana was starting to think for herself. Hopefully soon, Sylvia would miss Jana, but she wanted to be released from this fate almost as much as she wanted to find her daughter.
Jana put her helmet on and hopped on her moped. She rode to the edge of town and as she did she felt the strange ripple again. Her motorcycle and clothes were back. Her dagger was at her side where it was supposed to be, and the long braided in places, blonde hair was back. She pulled Sylvia’s box out and opened it so Sylvia could see. “Look Sylvia, I’m back to normal!” Jana chirped excitedly.
“So you are. And so am I.” Sylvia mumbled in a melancholy tone. “It’s like before, Jana. Pick a direction. The stones are all over the place. There’s too many to single any one out.” There were still thirty-eight to go not counting hers. How much longer would Jana need her? She cared very much for Jana, but like Jana was all too often, Sylvia needed to be a little selfish too. She wished she could see that far into the future so she would have something to look forward to. The day of her release.