Sighing he straightened up.
The clock on the wall caught his eye.
‘Where did the time go?’ He scrambled to snatch up the correct notes for the next class and launched out of the chair. The door slammed in his wake. ‘Why didn’t I hear the bell?’
Hikaru took the stairs down two at a time and leapt to the bottom, hitting the door to the outside world with his shoulder.
It was a pain having his classes on the other side of the campus while they renovated the classrooms in the literature building. It meant he couldn’t slip from his office just as the bell sang out and make it to his classroom in time.
Most days, he didn’t step outside.
The sun was bright and filtered through the pink mass overhead. It made him squint. Hikaru didn’t pay attention to the beauty of the cherry blossoms in full bloom. The trees reached high above him, creating soft clouds of pink around the court yard. Beneath their blooms, the grass was immaculate and empty of students.
Hikaru stumbled a little.
‘I have to get to class,’ he ordered his body.
But it slowed so he could see the one other person in the courtyard better.
Any other place in the world and she would’ve been ordinary, not a person who caught the eye of strangers, or made others double take. But she was a foreigner in Japan.
Everything was different. Not just her physical appearance but the way she held herself, the way she smiled at the cherry blossoms, the way she spun round and round with her arms out wide.
‘Unusual,’ he watched for a second longer, his steps almost crawling now.
The dress she wore was bright blue, skimming over the breasts, nipping in at the waist and flaring out into a loose skirt. It was bell shaped as she spun. Her brown boots reached half-way up her knee high socks.
Like a blurred after image, her hair trailed around.
Sitting astride her head were bulky headphones.
As she spun, her eyes flicked down and landed on him. She stilled, the hem of her skirt flicking around her legs in a blur before slipping into place over her knees.
Hikaru gasped. ‘Caught.’
She smiled and waved her hand.
Hikaru bowed his hand respectfully and hurried away.
‘Baka! Why were you staring at her?’ His face burned.
Quickly he entered the building and moved to his classroom. Inside he could hear the dull murmur of his students chatting.
‘Pull yourself together. You’re not a teenager, you’re not affected by humiliation or hormones. Don’t worry about it. Just do your job.’
He took a deep breath to steady himself.
‘Just do your job.’
His face cooled as he entered the classroom. “Good afternoon.” He dove head first into the curriculum.
The only sounds in the room was his voice filling the space and the click clack of keys on computers under it.
‘There you go, back into the rhythm,’ he thought as he scrawled a note across the board.
She flashed into his mind. With that smile.
His hand jerked to the left and destroyed the perfect kanji.
‘What was that?’
There was a snicker behind him.
‘Get a hold of yourself!’ He swiped the scribble out and re-wrote it the way it should’ve been. Without a trace of worry, he faced his students and carried on like nothing had happened.
Inside, however, he was annoyed. ‘What the hell is going on? Since when do I screw up like that? Or randomly think of a woman I’ve never met? I only saw her from afar?’
The university had its fair share of international students, many who were in exchange programs with sister schools all over the world, but she was older than the normal 19-21 year olds who raced around the courtyard. She was also less self-conscious. Nothing about her said she was fearful that someone would notice her being silly and judge her for it.
As he spoke to his students he felt his lips curl at the corners. ‘She’s fine. She’s not my concern, in fact she seems to have everything sorted out.’
“Email your assignments to me before midnight this Saturday. Any late submissions will not be accepted. If you need to speak to me about the assignment or need an extension come and see me in my office as soon as possible.” The bell sang out. “That’s all,” he moved to his desk and shuffled through his notes.
The students streamed out, dropping their attendance slip on the desk and saying goodbye. No-one stayed behind to ask questions.
Hikaru sighed. The exhaustion was catching up to him, his eyes feeling heavy, the yawn building in his throat before stretching his mouth wide and causing tears to bloom. “Stay awake,” clamping his lips together he wandered over to the window. “Still have marking to do.”
Across the courtyard, students hurried to their next class.
And she was still there.
But her headphones were wrapped around her neck and she was laughing with someone.
Hikaru squinted. “Is that Takashi?”
The old man with the pot belly and thick glasses laughed along with the woman.
Hikaru felt strange all of a sudden. ‘What’s Takashi doing with her? His wife won’t be happy if he’s flirting with another woman.’ He watched as the woman touched Takashi’s arm.
They were familiar.
Hikaru spun sharply on his heel. “Not my concern.” He checked the clock on the wall and grumbled. “Time for marking.” Gathering up his notes, he vacated the room without another glance out the window. Not one.
When he made it to the courtyard the woman was gone and Takashi was a head of him heading to the literature offices.