Our little school library had become something of a sanctuary to me. There was always a regular group of students that would study after school. Half the time usually to gossip in hushed whispers with friends, but not many past that. Especially since so many books these days are only being published digitally, there just hasn’t been too much of a demand for old dusty tombs.
Kind of a shame really. I’ve found nothing that really compares to the excitement of finding a long-hunted book in an expansive library. But seems most don’t share feelings.
I can’t complain too much though. With the lack of students I always get to sit at my favorite desk. It faces a window but not directly, so I don’t get distracted when I work. If I need a break from looking at a page of hastily written notes, however, I can still gaze outside till I regain my stamina to dig back in. It’s also under the only ‘good’ light in the library. I don’t like to flex my power as student body president too much, but I may have gotten the maintenance man to install an especially bright lamp over my desk.
The day was fairly ordinary. In fact, I was knee-deep in researching for my history paper covering the Meiji Restoration. When my focus was broken by a terse tone coming from the student managing the library’s front desk, Hana. I glanced over my shoulder and saw her speaking to a student I didn’t immediately recognize. It was pretty unlike her to get frustrated with a student. She was typically a pretty carefree girl.
“M-maybe you should just go.” More fear showing in her voice this time then anger “You’re making the other students uncomfortable.”
The boy she was talking to seemed unperturbed by her statement. Like he was some how expecting this sort of reaction from her. He honestly just looked tired.
It was hard to place why Hana seemed so unnerved by this guy. He was pretty stocky and thin. Didn’t really seem to have an aggressive demeanor. Shaggy black hair and wore a regulation Shujin uniform. Looked like any other student.
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to worry anyone.” He sounded genuinely apologetic. “I just want to grab something to read on the subway home.”
She crossed her arms “Fine, but please, make it quick. No one here wants any trouble and I won’t hesitate to call the librarian.”
The boy nodded his head in acknowledgment. Hands in his pockets he walked to the other side of the library.
He walked by my table and I got a glance at his face. Big glasses and frizzy hair covered most of it, but I caught a glimpse of his eyes. They didn’t belong to some sort of trouble maker or thug. They were kind. He looked more lonely than anything.
Once he disappeared behind a bookshelf I heard some girls speaking in hushed tones at another desk “That’s him? The transfer? He doesn’t look like much…” said one girl in a ponytail
“Don’t let his looks fool you. It’s always the unassuming ones you have to look out for.” her friend responded
“I don’t know. He actually looks kind of cute…”
“Stop!” The friend protested in a louder, but still hushed, tone “You know why he transferred right?”
Ponytail shook her head
“Assault.” The friend stated flatly. Answering her own question. “Rumor has it he attacked a grown man. Completely out of nowhere. From what I heard, he was high on some drug and went crazy.”
“Yeah. He’s bad news.”
“But why would someone like that end up here?”
The friend shrugged “I don’t know.” Both glanced at the bookshelf the transfer disappeared behind “All I know is I’m not walking anywhere by myself anymore.”
“It’s not like we had enough on our plates. With all these crazy hard classes and homework.” Ponytail exasperated “NOW we have to worry about getting killed?!”
‘Oh right, the new transfer’ I thought ‘I did hear something about him. That was the rumor. He supposedly attacked someone. Apparently from out of nowhere. No one from his home town thought him capable of it. His old school was so appalled they expelled him, and Shujin was the only place that would take him.’
I returned my attention to my work ‘Just as long as he keeps to himself, we won’t have any issues.’
Just as I was getting my focus back on my research, something big collapsed into my desk. I let out a surprised *EEEP!* Watching, helplessly, as my papers got flung into the air and flutter all around the room like confetti.
My hands clasped to my mouth out of shock when I looked at what had happened to the table. My precious desk had been crumpled and overturned to one side. The cause of all this calamity laid fallen, flush-faced, on the downed table. The transfer.
“Oh my god! I’m sorry-I’m sorry-I’m sorry!” A terrified first-year boy exclaimed at the transfer.
The transfer held his hands in front of his chest, trying to show the student he meant no harm “No no! Please, It was my fault, I wasn’t looking where I was going and I bumped into you!” His face was flush in embarrassed.
But the first year heard none of it “P-P-Please sir! Don’t beat me up! I-I-It won’t happen again!” the boy cried
“B-Beat you up? I-“ The transfer was cut off in his reply
“What is going on here!” The librarian, Miss. Okamoto blared out. “This is not the gym! This is not how we act here!”
Miss. Okamoto was a large woman. Stood taller than most teachers and was built so dense she looked like she could give the best athlete in the school a run for their money in a ring. Everyone knew not to cross Miss. Okamoto especially in her library. A student once dropped their books on a desk causing a sizable smacking sound. Miss. Okamoto chewed the student out so loudly it could be heard from the courtyard. The library was on the third floor…
She had been around longer at Shujin that most of the teachers and she was not afraid to use a meter stick for more than measuring.
She turned her laser-like stare first the crying first year, then to the transfer student still on the floor. “You! What is your name?”
“Ren- Ren Kurusu ma’am!” his voice shook
“You’re that transfer student we’ve been warned about aren’t you? Hardly a week into your first semester here and you’ve already started a fight huh?” She tapped a meter stick menacingly in one hand
“F-Fight? No! Nothing like that! I simply wasn’t looking where I was going, bumped into that guy and lost my balance.” Ren Kurusu explained
“That sort of backtalk may have worked wherever you came from, but you’re in my library now. You were made well aware of your conditions here. One screw up and you’re in juvy.”
She reached down and wrapped a meaty fist around his arm “Come with me you ingrate. Let’s go have a chat with principal Kobayakawa and see how he feels about your little stunt.”
I collected myself and cleared my throat “Miss Okamoto?”
She turned her hateful glare towards me. Still maintaining her grip on the transfer “What is it Niijima?”
“I saw the whole thing, ma’am.” I explained coolly “It went just as Kurusu said. He was busy looking at his book, not paying attention, and bumped into the first year. Causing him to trip and-” I gestured to my table “fall right on my desk. It could have happened to anyone.”
She narrowed her gaze on me “Are you certain? You know who this is don’t you?” Kurusu shot me a panicked look
I gave a disarming smile and replied with confidence “The only thing the transfer is guilty of is being a bit clumsy.”
Okamoto looked at Kurusu then to the first year “Is that what happened?”
The student, with a fixed gaze at me as if asking for approval, simply nodded
“Fine” she blurted out and released her grip on Kurusu “You’re lucky that I trust Niijima here Kurusu.” She leaned in towards him “But rest assured, you screw up in my library one more time, accident or not, you’re out of here. I don’t know why principal Kobayakawa let someone like you in here in the first place but if you are going to vandalize something, do it somewhere else.”
She stood back up and gave all the assembled students who had been watching the scene unfold a glowering look “Either get back to work or get out! The show is over!”
The students terrified they would be her new prey, dispersed as quickly as the assembled.
I took a breath and turned my attention back to my poor destroyed desk. I saw Kurusu, on hands and knees, collecting all my fallen papers off the floor. I joined him on the ground and picked up what he missed.
“Why did you step in like that?” He whispered to me under the tables “I know you didn’t see what happened.”
I examined his face again. His glasses were disheveled but I could see a stern expression behind them as he scanned the floor for anything he may have missed.
I shook my head “I don’t know anything about you Kurusu, but one thing I do know is that everyone deserves a second chance.” I paused “A fair second chance”
We both stood up and he handed me my papers. Our eyes met and he flashed me a smile. The first smile I’ve seen him wear during this whole encounter “Thank you. Niijima right?”
“Makoto Niijima. I’m the student body president.” I wagged a finger at him “Screw up again and I’ll be the first to hear about it” I said. Only half-jokingly.
He chucked “I’ll be on my best behavior than” His laugh was warm and wholesome.
I examined his book that I found while scouring the floor “Les Miserables huh?” I handed it back to him
“Yeah. Been meaning to read it for a while” the took the book and placed it in his bag.
“Well be careful with it. It’s one of my favorites.” I warned him “Let me know what you think”
He nodded and grinned “I’ll do that!” He bent down again and placed my desk right way up.
“Well,” He jiggled the, now, loose leg “other than that, looks like it will still stand for another day. Sorry about all that”
“Just try not to destroy any more school property okay?” I stated. Crossing my arms disapprovingly while looking over the damage
He stood up straight “Yes ma’am” with that he swung his bag to his shoulder and made his way towards the exit “I’ll see you around Niijima!”
I gave a small wave back “Behave yourself Kurusu!”
The door closed behind him and I placed a single finger to my cheek in thought ‘This guy may still be trouble, but I have a hard time thinking he’s going to be attacking anyone anytime soon.’
**Photo Credit: Khytal (tumblr: https://khytal.tumblr.com/)**