In the distance could be heard car horns sounding off at each other. At this time of day, it was to be expected, but it didn’t occur to Matt that he would hear it within the train station, with the huge dome interior being completely enclosed, and with a large accompaniment of people bustling through to get into a train or leaving from one. Matt didn’t necessarily need to take a train to reach the airport, but for some reason, just today alone, it would have been better to take the train this one time. Why? Because this would be his last train ride in this country.
After a few years had gone by, Matt finished university studies and got a teaching degree and credentials, and planned to go back to Japan in the following year; which is where he landed a job thanks to his fluent Japanese as well as his taking course in an American college. He didn’t really care that he did land the job, however, as he did know there was more than just this that awaited him…
“Crap… I need to hurry.”
The time that he had planned to get on the train was only a few minutes from now, and he still needed to get through the entrance gate.
Why is this country’s train system so inconvenient…? Such thoughts came to Matt only when he was irritated; though it was true that America did not particularly care about the train system outside of the subway.
Matt patiently waited in line as it diminished, everyone getting through the gate after giving their ticket and taking off. There was only one girl in front of him when it happened.
“Ah… Where did I put my ticket…” The girl in front of him muttered to herself this, revealing the entire situation in a flash to Matt, to which he just sighed.
A few seconds went by after she briskly patted herself down and checked her purse before she got even more flustered, no, it’d have been better to say she was beginning to panic.
It’s not that Matt is a cruel person. He helps others when it may benefit him in the future, or maybe he is just having a good day; however, neither of those criterias fit this situation…
“Where are you headed?” Matt asked.
“Ah… The airport…”
At this, Matt raised an eyebrow, surprised at the destination coinciding with him. He closed his eyes, expelling a deep breath as he reached into his pocket for his wallet, found it, and pulled it out to inspect its contents. Fortunately, or rather, somehow, there were still a few American dollars leftover from his exchanging his entire savings to the Japanese Yen.
Matt turned to the old lady in the ticket booth and showed his few American dollars, “Will this be enough to cover the expenses?”
Even Matt knew that a train ticket being available in such a ridiculously last moment scenario was, without a doubt extremely low…
“You seem to be a good fellow. I’ll pay for the rest of the expenses, it’s only a few more dollars, so don’t worry too much over it.”
Matt widened his eyes, surprised that a ticket was even available, much less being able to buy it for the girl to his left. He turned over to her for the first time since coming up to the booth, only to see her tear up.
“O-oi, ochitsuku… (Hey, calm down)” Matt said unconsciously in Japanese, to which the girl looked up in a bout of shock, like she had witness Santa coming down from the chimney.
Oh great… Matt thought to himself in his lament, recalling the numerous times he’s dealt with those certain Japanese worshippers.
“You speak Japanese? Gomenasai... Watashi wa Julie Friess, (I’m sorry… I am Julie Friess)” said the girl, apparently named Julie, with gleaming eyes.
After a few seconds of them looking at each other, Matt unintentionally noticed she had brown hair falling down onto her shoulders, with brown chestnut eyes that had been probably been gleaming because she was shedding some tears not too long ago. He also noticed her attire seemed much heavier than it needed to be for winter in this particular city, wearing a red jacket with a magenta scarf, as well as long black pants.
Matt closed his eyes, bringing a hand up to his face in clear distress. Why’d this have to happen…
“Listen… We’re not in Japan, so cut that out, I muttered it out because you surprised me.”
“I-I see… Sorry about my ticket by the way.”
“Nah, don’t mention it. I’m headed to Japan to live there anyways, so a few American Dollars lost here won’t matter to me much.”
“To… live there?”
All of sudden, the girl gave a somewhat complicated look at Matt, with his features clearly being that of a Caucasian. Suggesting she now held him in contempt.
Oi, oi, don’t tell me she thinks I’m what I thought she was?!
Matt held up his hands to stop her thinking, which partially succeeded in only causing her to flinch, and tried to deny what she was thinking, “No, no, my family traveled a lot, but I was born in Japan, and despite traveling to so many other places, I liked it there the most.”
The girl narrowed her eyes towards Matt with suspicion then folded her arms, “I suppose I have to accept that explanation.”
“Hey, you’re not exactly off the hook either. Why are you going to Japan?”
Julie nonchalantly flipped her hair in a superior manner, “What else? Of course I’m just a student going abroad to learn about Japan.”
“Ah, which reminds me, how old are you…?”
“... I see,” at this Matt, whom is 24 at this point, sighed once again, and by happenstance, the lady brought the ticket for the train to the front, offering it to Julie, who of course took it with much appreciation.
As the two made their way to the train, Matt realized time had slipped past him, and quickly observed how much time he had left. Only a few more minutes.
“Crap! We gotta hurry!”
As Matt ran, of course, Julie got flustered and ran after him, “Hey! Wait for me!”
For some reason, it never occurred to Matt that the two would have the same flight. But it certainly crossed his mind when he found that she was sitting right next to him on the flight.
Are you serious right now?
As Matt put his carry on bag in the overhead, Julie noticed him, and smiled, “Oh! This is such a coincidence isn’t it?”
“It’s just one thing after another…” Matt muttered to himself as he got into his seat and tried to make himself comfortable, which for some reason just didn’t work.
“What’d you say?”
“It was nothing.”
The plane went on with its pre-flight procedures, and Matt did everything he could to appear as though he was getting ready to sleep, which was not entirely false, to prevent a conversation being stricken up between himself and a certain underage girl…
“So how many times have you gone to Japan?”
Matt sighed with a tinge of disappointment in it, and raised an eyebrow after looking at Julie in the eye, “What do you mean?”
“Well, you said that you were born in Japan, and that your family traveled a lot.”
“Ah, I said that, didn’t I?”
Julie nodded, and Matt proceeded, “Well, then I suppose it doesn’t hurt to expand on that now does it?
“I had gone to only four different countries: America, France, England, and my place of birth, Japan. If I remember correctly, I believe I went through each country at least twice before ending up in America at the age of 17 and remaining there since. So to answer your question, I’ve been to Japan three times, including when I was just born.”
“Was that your childhood? Moving around so much?”
Matt shrugged, “What can you do? If your parents have a job that takes them everywhere, it’s only natural the family would follow suit. And it wasn’t just one of my parents. They both happened to be in the same company under the same department. So there’s that to take into account.”
“I see… How many schools did you attend?”
Matt looked away, fixating his gaze on the aisle in the middle of the plane, “Too many for me to want to really think about it.”
Matt was frankly unsure as to why he was talking about his past with a girl he had just met not too long ago. Maybe it was because he knew if he made conversation a no-man zone, the 12 hour flight would be unbearable, even if he slept for 8 hours of it. Sleeping for 12 was out of the question since it wasn’t too late in the morning since he got up. Matt knew somewhere inside him that this was just an excuse for his mind to take hold of, as there was something else below the subliminal level.
“It must’ve been hard…”
At this, Matt snapped back, now more irritated than he would rather be, “Yes, I get it, for most people, it may seem to be difficult, having no friends as you grow up that you can believe to be friends for life. Or maybe I was bullied for being a new kid transferred into a new school, often from another country, is that what you’re thinking right now?”
“Why would I-?”
“Everyone thinks that, and at some point ask me that too, then try to pretend like they have empathy for me and my ‘suffering,’ as they would call it. It’s annoying to me. I just want to go to Japan and live my life with-.”
Matt stopped himself, widening his eyes as he looked over at Julie, whose chestnut brown eyes looked back at him curiously, “With what…?”
A few seconds passed, and Matt turned around suddenly, as if to substitute for closing a door, “It’s nothing.”
Expecting that to end the conversation, Matt was definitely surprised, or something along that, when Julie grabbed his shoulder and forced him to look at her; only to see her visibly upset, which caused Matt to widen his eyes again, she spoke to him, “And what makes you think I will say any of that? I just met you a few hours ago at the train station. All I know is that you are going to Japan like myself, and since I am distinctly aware of the flight’s duration, I wish to make it go by faster by possibly us talking. So I don’t take too kindly of you getting ahead of yourself.”
Under her breath, Julie said something, but Matt wasn’t too sure what it was that she said. All he knows for sure is that it was only one word.
“Attention all passengers, this is your Captain speaking, we will be beginning the flight in a few minutes, so please, put on your safety belts, and stow away all electronics before…-”
Matt droned out the Captain’s message, buckled up, and went to sleep. Like said before, it wasn’t entirely false that he was actually wanting to take a nap, and given the atmosphere after the recent conversation, Matt felt that it was perhaps the right time to just plunge into sleep, and away from that tension.
Honestly… Does it always have to be so tough for me, Myui?
Matt closed his eyes slowly, looking up at the seat in front of him, losing his consciousness as he fell into darkness behind his eyelids.
When Matt woke up, they were in the air. Being the inside seat, Matt looked over to the window to see the sky was night time, which told him that they were still a ways to go, as far as he was concerned; he also caught a glimpse at how Julie was doing, who was looking out the window as well.
Julie’s face was empty of emotions, except maybe a few complicated ones Matt couldn’t really make out. All he could really see was that her face was slightly lit by the moonlight that was barely filtering in. The moonlight was more obvious thanks to most everyone around them asleep or at least without a light on.
He couldn’t really see the ocean, so all he could really do was observe the fluffy clouds as they flew just slightly lower than the plane, a few reaching out towards space, making it eye level to Matt. For some reason, Matt liked observing clouds, even though it was an absurd thing most people do in childhood.
Then again, I never really did this with anyone…
“The night sky is really beautiful isn’t?” Julie asked, still looking out the window.
She wasn’t whispering, but it wasn’t like anyone would wake up since she had to speak normally thanks to the low wind racing by the fuselage.
All Matt could do was agree, since he did believe it was.
“Hm… I remember a long time ago, when I was still a little kid, that I would dream of traveling to the stars, reaching out and touching them. But of course, that’s a little hard to do with current technology, but what can you do with your imagination when it’s the only thing that explains anything as a kid?”
“What do you want to do now?”
“Hm? Oh, not too far from what I just said. I want to be an astronomer. If I can’t reach out and touch them, I would love to at least reach out and see them as though they’re right there.”
“Is that even a proper career?”
Julie smiled a forlorn smile, “Well, they say you should follow your dreams, but it’s rather hard to do that nowadays, isn’t it?”
Matt stayed silent. He wasn’t the one she should ask since all he really cared about was living his life with Myui, being there to support her, and to love her when all is well or when things seem amiss. However…
“I think it’s important to chase your dreams, even if they seem to be hopeless. No, especially when the dream seems to be pointless, you should grasp it in your heart, and follow it. I think it shows you’re human, wanting to follow something you believe in.”
“Even when you may suffer a lot when chasing it, financially and emotionally?”
Matt paused for a moment to think about it seriously, then replied, “Yes, even then. Life isn’t going to be one guarantee after another. For now, you may have to go and become a lawyer, or a doctor. But after a few decades, the need for lawyers may go away, or maybe even for doctors. It may seem unthinkable now, but we don’t know what may happen in the future, what new technology is unlocked. So instead of playing it safe, I think it’s better to keep going forward with your heart through those years so that you don’t have regrets for not going through with what you wanted to.”
Silence proceeded between them after Matt finished. It wasn’t that Julie had anything to say, it just felt appropriate to let what Matt said to sink in, at least that was what Matt thought was the case. They watched as clouds formed and dissipated, parting ways from a larger entity, or joining one. To Matt, the moonlight added a beautiful cast of light and atmosphere to the landscape, and even though he couldn’t see the vast ocean below him, he knew it was probably just black and not really worth of note. The clouds on the other hand became full of life, especially with a spotlight radiating on down them. Matt thought back to his time with Myui. He remembered a few occasions where she caught him looking at the clouds flying by as they were having a picnic under their favorite tree atop a hill. She would always be flustered and upset catching him doing it, especially when she was in the middle of talking about something, which would cause Matt to laugh and apologize. At the end of the day, she would always ask him why he looked at the clouds like he did, and he always replied the same way.
“It’s just something I do.”
“Huh?” Julie asked him, surprised by the random statement.
Matt shook his head slightly, “Ah, no, sorry. My mind was elsewhere, I apologize.”
“Oh, okay… Though you do owe me what you meant by that.”
Matt continued looking out the window out to the clouds, even when Julie turned to look at him.
After a few moments, he finally spoke, “I was just thinking about why I’m going to Japan.”
“You said to live there right?”
“I did, didn’t I? That’s not all though, there’s a reason I want to live there.”
Julie changed her facial expressions to that of mockery, “So was I right to assume you actually are one of those people?”
Matt rejected it immediately, “Absolutely not.”
“So then what’s the reason?”
“To be with ‘her’.”
We still have another few hours don’t we…? Thinking this to himself, he finally sighed and gave in to the fate of having to tell Julie about Myui.
“Her name is Myui. And when I went to Japan for the second time, I had transferred from a city to another in the middle of a school year, which meant losing the friends I made for the upmteenth time. However, she was the class representative, I’m sure you know what that is, and so she took it upon herself to welcome me with a warm smile to the class. I was still broken up from leaving my friends, in the middle of the first year of high school no less.
“It wasn’t just that she did that much for me. I think most of the times I moved, someone like her did that. But it was more along the line she was the first person to also understand that what I went through wasn’t something I could just immediately get over. All the other people left from being ‘my friend’ after I didn’t get over my past friends after a few weeks. But she stayed, and she kept smiling, keeping me cheery and relatively happy. Eventually I got new friends, and the past was the past; but it was the first time I had a friend from the early stage of my transferring, so I didn’t know what to really think of it. Then all my other guy friends started teasing me, saying ‘Hey, you should go for the Class Representative!’ or ‘Dude, you obviously like her, so go ask her out or something,’ and so on and so forth.
"I don’t think I actually liked her until after the guys were teasing me like that. Maybe I did, and all I needed was to be teased about it. Whatever the case, I ended up asking her out, and we dated for two years.”
“You said you transferred in, in the first year?”
“Doesn’t Japan have three years for high school?”
“The same as before: I moved.”
Matt turned away from the window, and closed his eyes after sitting straight, “I promised her that I would be with her again. So that’s what I planned to do once I found a job in Japan.”
“Couldn’t you have… Just shared contact info?”
“Hm? Oh, you mean those things you kids call these days, what was it… cellphones?”
“Yeah… Hey, don’t tell me you’re some really old guy who happens to look like a youngster…”
Matt chuckled to himself, and waved his hand in a denying manner, “No, no, I’m 24. Phones didn’t come around until a few years ago, when it had already been several years since I transferred away from her.”
“24… Ah, but then couldn’t she just give you her address so you could mail her, and then she would have your address then too, right?”
Matt shook his head and looked at Julie, “Do you know how expensive that would be? Besides, it’s over international borders, so why should we bother with all of that when I’ll meet her again?”
Julie looked away, “No, never mind.”
Matt looked over at the back of her head quizzically, then just shrugged it off and set himself straight again.
Even if cellphones had come sooner, I doubt my parents or hers would allow us to do even text messages over such a long distance… Isn’t it pagers over there that they have now, anyways? Whatever…
Matt felt himself getting sleepy again, and just let himself drop his consciousness away.
Has the plane already landed?
“...on’t forget your…”
Mmm, come on… Let me sleep more…
Huh, someone’s calling my name?
Let me sleep some more…
A sharp pain exploded on Matt’s left cheek, which caused him to open his eyes wide open, to look to his right, to see a very pissed off Julie.
“Oh… What the hell?!”
“You wouldn’t wake up!”
“That still doesn’t mean you can slap me!”
“Yes it does!”
“Wha-? Fine, whatever, I’m up!”
As he rubbed his cheek, Matt got up from his seat, to see that the plane was largely empty, with the last of people getting off.
“Well, aren’t you just quick to wake me up…” He muttered to himself partly, partly to Julie.
“I did. It’s your fault for sleeping so heavily.”
“What can I do? I lived in the north for a while, and sleep was a hobby of mine.”
Slightly puffing out his chest, Julie asked with a complicated facial expression, “Is that even something to take pride in…?”
“Bleh,” after Julie stuck her tongue out, Matt rolled his eyes and grabbed his carry on luggage as fast as he could carefully, and started walking down the aisle.
“Thank you for boarding this flight with us.”
As the flight attendants did their automatic message, Matt just nodded his head automatically in response, and slipped past, putting on his carry on luggage, which was a backpack.
I guess I didn’t need to use my gameboy after all…
Walking up the tunnel to the actual terminal, he just remembered about Julie, and turned back in time to see her coming up from the door.
“Boy, aren’t you slow.”
“So now you’re the one being rude…”
“‘Bleh’,” after mocking Julie by mimicking her tongue sticking out, Matt chuckled at Julie rolling her eyes, and they continued together.
In the terminal, Matt didn’t particularly feel out of place, just the fact that an underaged girl was next to him sat in the back of his mind like a hawk looking at a mice. To simply put it, it was not comfortable in any way.
Matt sighed, and asked, “So I never did ask, but why is it you went on board by yourself? If you were a student, shouldn’t there have been more students with you?”
“Well… About that…”
Matt raised an eyebrow, swearing silently to himself, If she’s one of those cliche runaway characters… After such a thought, Matt held his breath.
“I was sick, so I couldn’t get on the plane everyone else had gone on, so I was scheduled for another flight a week later, and now here I am. Though I am supposed to find the host family on my own…”
After exhaling his breath, Matt spoke, “That’s a rather rude thing to do to a minor, leaving it up to herself to find a place she has no idea might be.”
“Well, that’s the case, and you’ll just have to accept it!”
“I did! Sheesh… I’m just saying that’s odd.”
“Hmph,” Julie folded her arms and looked away in a fit.
Come on now, aren’t you 17? Stop acting like a little kid…
Matt calmed his little mind from the rising suspicion that she wasn’t supposed to be here…
“By the way…”
Matt was taken by surprise by Julie’s sudden words, “W-what?”
“If you haven’t been keeping in touch with Myui… How are you supposed to know where she lives?”
“... Ah,” was all Matt could muster in his thoughts, which scattered in all directions.
End of Part 2
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