The Cruelty and Fairness of Fate
~ Chapter 9 ~
~ Makoto’s Incredibly Awful, Completely Terrible, Really Bad Day ~
There was excited chatter all around her in the classroom. Ami put away one textbook and pulled out another as her classmates milled around during the break between classes. Conversations were hectic and varied as everyone caught up after winter vacation. The only common thread among it all was the complaint that vacation was too short. Ami expected she was the only one actually glad to be back in school. There was only one thing she would change, and then everything would be perfect.
That wanted change made itself known as a bark of laughter made it’s way to her from across the room. Ami frowned out of reflex at the sound. Yuu was leaning against the windowsill flirting with another of their classmates. The girl smiled at whatever he said to her.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you that if you frown too hard for too long your face will stay that way?”
Ami looked up at the boy standing beside her desk. “Excuse me?”
“You’re looking way too serious, Mizuno,” said the boy, Sato Hideki, she remembered. “Your friend was looking about the same when I ran into her. Here,” he said, handing her a tightly folded piece of paper. “She asked me to give you this.”
Ami was too busy unfolding the note to notice the grin Sato threw her as he walked away. She could tell by the handwriting and the little heart over the I that it was from Minako.
I saw Mako-chan in the guidance office when I went by. She is NOT happy.
Ami’s frown changed from one of annoyance to one of concern. So far she had avoided checking up on her friend. Makoto was showing too much to hide it anymore. As a result, when they got to school this morning there had been a few stares as well as some whispers. But Makoto had said she would be okay, that she was a big girl and she could handle it. Ami had held back so she wouldn’t appear to be hovering and thus get on Makoto’s nerves. Now she wasn’t so sure that was the right thing to do.
Ami glanced up at the clock. Five minutes left before the second bell. If she hurried maybe she could see Makoto and judge for herself just how bad the situation was.
Before she could make a move, a call from the doorway and some wild gesturing caught her attention. Several of the students, Yuu included, looked to the boy standing there.
Yuu excused himself from the girl he was talking to and went over to his friend, an annoyed look on his face. Another boy joined them as the first boy pulled Yuu out into the hall.
The others all went back to their conversations, but Ami was concentrated on the voices in the hall. From her seat in the front row near the door she could hear them clearly.
“What is it, Taro?” asked Yuu sharply. “I’m in the middle of something.”
“You have no idea just what you’re in the middle of, do you?” asked the one Ami thought was Taro.
There was silence for a moment as Ami assumed Taro was waiting for Yuu to answer. She was sure she knew what was coming next.
“Have you seen Kino yet?” asked Taro when Yuu stayed silent.
“No,” answered Yuu. “Why would I?”
Taro let out a mirthless laugh. “You’ve got a problem, Satoshi. A really big one.”
* * *
The bell rang signaling the start of lunch period. Makoto gathered her things quickly to leave the classroom. She was going to meet the others and hopefully convince them to eat somewhere other than the cafeteria. After the morning she’d had, she was in no mood to be around any of her fellow schoolmates.
As she hurried through the hall, Makoto glanced out the windows. It was too cold to eat outside, and the sky had gotten grayer as the morning had progressed. It would likely start to snow soon. Maybe the four of them could hide out in the auditorium until the period was over. It was usually empty at this time of day.
“Hey, Kino, wait up!” called Yuu as he came around the corner and spotted her.
Makoto stopped out of habit at hearing her name, then cursed herself for it. This was the last thing she wanted to deal with right now. Refusing to turn and acknowledge him, Makoto stood where she was with one fist flexing at her side.
Yuu came around and stood in front of her. Catching his breath, he said, “I wouldn’t have expected you to be able to move so fast.”
Makoto glared at him. “What do you want?”
“What do you think I want?” asked Yuu. “I want to know what you’ve been telling people. And if you were ever planning on telling me.”
“What I tell people is my own business,” said Makoto sharply. “None of this is any of your concern.”
“Is it mine?” returned Yuu. “Because if you’re telling everyone that then it does concern me.”
“I haven’t told anybody anything,” said Makoto, hoping this answer would make him go away. “And I don’t plan on saying anything about you ever.”
Yuu stood for a moment. Then he crossed his arms over his chest as a smug look appeared on his face. “It wasn’t me, was it? I bet you don’t even know who it belongs to. You may try to hide it, but that’s what you’re really like, Ma-ko-chan.” He chuckled as he drew out the nickname. “I’ve heard your friends call you that. I bet all the boys call you that, too, the whole lot of them. Cause I know damn well I wasn’t the first, and I’d guess I wasn’t the last, either. You’ve probably got a whole string…”
Yuu’s words were cut off in a cry of pain as his arm was jerked roughly and twisted behind his back. A second later he was on his knees, teeth gritted and tears forming in his eyes.
“Go ahead, Satoshi,” said Makoto, spitting out his name as if it were something foul. “Say a little more. Because I’ve had a real bad morning, and I’m just looking for an excuse to take it out on someone.”
* * *
Minako and Usagi were standing outside Makoto’s classroom when Ami got there. Minako waved to the girl she was talking to as they parted.
Ami smiled at her friends. “I guess we all had the same idea,” she said with a smile. “I take it she isn’t here.”
Minako shook her head. “She’s probably waiting for us in the cafeteria. You know, that place we said we were all going to meet at.”
“Come on,” said Usagi as she grabbed Minako’s arm and started pulling her down the hall. “I’m starving, and Mako-chan always makes something special for the first day back at school.”
Ami grinned. Today’s ‘something special’ had been made specifically with Usagi in mind. She and Makoto had spent several hours in the kitchen last night cooking and cleaning up. It was done mainly to take Makoto’s mind off of what she feared she’d be facing when she came back to school today. But regardless of that, the treats had turned out wonderfully.
The girls turned a corner and stopped dead. Makoto stood there tense as a board as the boy with her went on and on loud enough for anyone walking by to hear.
If Usagi hadn’t been holding on to her arm, Minako would likely have charged Yuu right that moment. She was saved from having to try and pummel him, however, by Makoto’s actions. Before they could even blink, Makoto had him on the ground and whimpering.
Usagi stood looking more confused by it all than anything else. Minako wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do. It was Ami who made the decision for them. She was already three steps ahead of them when Minako and Usagi started moving forward after her.
“Mako-chan, don’t,” said Ami quietly. Her hand rested on Makoto’s shoulder. “It won’t solve anything and will only make things worse for you.”
Makoto stared ahead, seeming to ignore Ami’s words. Her grip on the boy in front of her never wavered.
Minako came around to Makoto’s other side and placed a hand on her free shoulder. “She’s right, Mako-chan. He isn’t worth it.”
Makoto let out a tense breath. With a shove, she released Yuu from her grip.
Yuu clutched his arm to his chest. He was muttering curses and various other things as he scrambled away from Makoto and got back on his feet. With several feet of distance between himself and the girls, Yuu stood and glowered at them. He was just about to say something when Ami stepped forward.
“I suggest,” said the blue haired girl calmly, “that you leave while you can still walk away on your own.”
Yuu looked back at Makoto. The look on her face apparently made him rethink whatever he was going to say. Without another word, he turned and walked away.
Makoto shrugged out from under Minako’s hold and stepped up next to Ami. Both hands clenched tight, she said, “Just one hit. That’s all it would have taken.”
Ami turned to her friend, her voice sympathetic. “Mako-chan, it wouldn’t have helped anything.”
“Yes, it would have,” stated Makoto, her eyes staying on the path which Yuu had retreated down.
Ami reached out to lay a hand on Makoto’s arm, but the taller girl pushed her away.
“I need some air,” said Makoto. “I’m going for a walk. By myself,” she added when the others moved to join her. “I don’t want to be around anyone right now.”
“You shouldn’t be alone, Mako-chan,” protested Ami. “Not after all that.”
“I’m never alone anymore, remember?” replied Makoto as she put a hand to her stomach. She sighed as Ami’s frown deepened. “Look, I know what you’re worried about, and I promise not to. I won’t run, jog, or so much as break a sweat. And if I see him coming I’ll turn around and go in the opposite direction. All right?”
Ami nodded reluctantly. Without further words, Makoto walked away from them.
When she was out of sight, Minako asked, “Is that a good idea? Letting her go off by herself like that? What if she tries to find him? Mako-chan shouldn’t be fighting right now.”
Ami shook her head. “She promised she wouldn’t. Mako-chan always keeps her word. Besides, if we try to stop her or follow her it will only aggravate her more.”
“He’s the baby’s father, isn’t he?” asked Usagi.
“Yes,” answered Ami quietly.
“How could he say those things to her?” said Usagi, truly not understanding why anyone would do such a thing. “That was such a mean thing to do. Not play mean like Rei does, but really mean. How could anyone be so cruel to someone they cared about?”
“Because he’s a low-life jerk,” answered Minako. “And don’t believe any of what you heard, Usagi. None of it’s true.”
“No, it isn’t,” reiterated Ami. “That aside, he never cared for her, not the way he should have. To him it was all a game,” she said sadly. “It was just something to make him and his friends feel like bigger men. No matter that someone might get hurt along the way.”
* * *
Around a small table in the teacher’s lounge, three women sat enjoying their lunches and the rest it gave them from their students. Hideo Keiko, a young woman with soft brown eyes and freckles that made her appear more student than teacher, smiled as her coworkers went on about the incident in the guidance office this morning.
“I’ve never seen such insolence in a student before,” went on Tanaka-sensei. Her mouth was turned down in a frown that emphasized the wrinkles around its edges. “The girl has absolutely no respect for authority.”
Keiko’s smile widened. “She did raise something of a fuss, didn’t she?”
“You sound almost proud of her,” replied the third in the group, Kume Yukiko. Her smirk was more playful than disapproving, the amusement she felt towards her fellow teachers and their gossip showing in her green eyes.
“I am, a bit,” admitted Keiko. “She stood up for herself, and against Itoh-san, no less. He’s a hard man to go up against. But I suppose that’s why he was given her file,” she snickered. “Kino-san isn’t one to be easily intimidated.”
“It’s not a matter of trying to intimidate her,” returned Tanaka-sensei. “It’s about doing what’s best for the school, its students, and ultimately the girl herself. In this case, that is sending her somewhere that is equipped to deal with her particular needs.”
“What needs are those?” asked Keiko. “So far, I’ve found letting her sit in the back of the room by the door so she could leave quietly when she needed to is the only consideration I’ve had to give her. That, and leaving her alone when she obviously doesn’t feel well.” Keiko leaned back in her chair and frowned slightly as a new thought came to her. “Though I expect the desks aren’t going to be too comfortable for her in a short while. They weren’t made with pregnancy in mind.”
“How long have you known?” asked Kume-sensei, curious at how long the younger woman had kept this to herself.
“I’ve suspected for a while,” answered Keiko. “But I never really expected it from Kino-san. Not that I’d ever expect it from any of my students.”
“These days you never know what to expect from any of them,” interjected Tanaka-sensei. “Fifteen years ago, Kino wouldn’t have been given a choice. She would have simply been dismissed for her conduct. Five years ago this wouldn’t even have been an argument. We would have just transferred the girl to keep her from causing any further disruptions. Now it’s all about hand-holding and making sure we don’t bruise her feelings. Heaven forbid we try and impress that there are consequences for every action.”
“I think she’s aware of the consequences without us having to emphasize it this time,” said Kume-sensei.
“I was thinking more of the other students and what kind of message this is sending to them,” answered Tanaka-sensei.
“That’s just the problem,” replied Keiko. “We need to be thinking of this girl, not everyone else. Her friends and routine are here. She doesn’t need any more disruptions to her life.”
Tanaka-sensei shook her head. “I still think a transfer is the best solution for everyone.”
“Who are we trying to get rid of now?” asked Watashi-sensei as he passed by the table and took a seat at another beside it.
“We were discussing Kino Makoto and her situation,” answered Kume-sensei.
“Why am I not surprised?” said Watashi-sensei. “We don’t need those types around here. I’ve been saying that right from the start of the school year, and this just proves it. The first day back from vacation, and she’s already causing problems. So, who did she beat up this time?”
All three women stared at him as if he’d grown a second head. Finally with a laugh, Kume-sensei said, “You must be the only one who hasn’t heard yet. She didn’t beat anyone up, Kato. She’s pregnant.”
* * *
Keiko kept her eyes only half focused on the novel in her hands as one of her students read aloud. The rest of her attention was on the teenagers in the classroom. They seemed to be paying attention for the most part, but it was the end of the day and they were getting restless.
Hideki finished reading, and Keiko smiled at him. “Thank you, Sato-san,” she said.
Hideki nodded once in response and took his seat.
“All right,” said Keiko, addressing the class. “I think we’ve done enough for today. Finish up this chapter and the next, and we’ll go over them tomorrow.” She closed the book, then looked over at the door as a rapid knock interrupted.
The door opened, and a woman with graying hair and wire rimmed glasses stuck her head in the doorway. “Sorry to interrupt, Hideo-sensei,” said the woman.
“That’s all right,” Keiko answered the woman she recognized as one of the secretaries in the main office. “What can I do for you?”
“I need to borrow one of your students for a moment.”
Keiko nodded and asked which one. When the woman indicated Ami, all eyes in the room turned to her.
Surprised, Ami looked up from the novel she had continued to read after her classmates finished for the afternoon. She stood to go to the woman, an uncomfortable feeling settling in her stomach.
“Mizuno-san,” said Keiko, “there’s only ten minutes left. Go ahead and take your things with you. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yes, sensei,” replied Ami with a slight bow. “Have a pleasant evening.” With that, Ami gathered her belongings and followed the woman into the hall.
The secretary smiled warmly at Ami, used to students being nervous about being pulled from class and wanting to assure the girl she hadn’t done anything wrong. “I was asked to give you a message. A friend of yours, Kino Makoto, had to leave early. She wanted you to know so you wouldn’t worry.”
The look that crossed Ami’s face made it plain that she was worried nonetheless. She frowned as she was handed a hastily written letter.
“Don’t look so concerned, dear,” said the secretary kindly. “I heard she had a bit of a rough morning. The stress probably just tired her out. I can remember how easily that happens, especially the first time around when you aren’t really prepared for it.”
Ami offered the woman a smile of thanks. After they parted, Ami opened the note Makoto had written her.
I need to get out of here. I’m just going home, so don’t worry. I’ll tell you about it tonight if you want.
Stop by on the way to Rei’s. I still want to go to the meeting. Or we can have it here. Whatever you guys want.
Ami refolded the paper and put it in the pocket on the front of her bag. Two notes in one day. She was almost beginning to feel popular, thought Ami with a grin.
The grin was short lived, however, as she thought about Makoto. Ami worried about just how rough the morning had been on the other girl. She wanted to get home quickly and find out what was going on.
Ami met Minako and Usagi after the last bell. As they walked to their lockers, she explained as much as she could about what was going on. The look of concern on her friends’ faces mirrored the one she had worn earlier.
The three girls gathered their things and left the school to meet Rei. As they walked through the crowd of students exiting the school grounds, Ami heard someone call her name. She stopped, as did Usagi and Minako. Ami knew the voice, and it sent an icy chill down her spine to be hearing it now.
Ami turned to face Setsuna. She didn’t even need to ask why the older Senshi was here and looking for her. That tight feeling of fear that had been building clenched even tighter when Setsuna spoke.
“Haruka’s taken her to the hospital. She wants us to meet her there.”