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The Taste of Salt

By Vincent W. Tao All Rights Reserved ©

Drama / Romance

Chapter 1

December 23, 2010

Hana (9:29pm): Just getting ready for bed. You?
You (9:30pm): You sleep early! I'm having a late night snack. Tastes yummy.
Hana (9:31pm): xD lucky. I want some! My taste buds get salty sometime
You (9:33pm): Salt? Why're you eating salt -_-?
Hana (9:35pm): No silly, I don't eat salt :P I just cry a lot . . . that's all . . .
Hana (9:35pm): Ahhh, sorry, ignore that last one xD
You (9:39pm): . . . you cry a lot when you go to sleep? Are you okay?
Hana (9:40pm): xD ahahaha I said ignore what I said! Lols. But I'm going to go to sleep now. So I'll ttyl okay? :D Goodnight, Hope!
You (9:41pm) Oh . . . okay then . . . goodnight I guess. Sweet dreams . . .
Hana (1:03am): Hope . . . are you still awake?
You (1:09am): Yeah, what's up? You're still up?
Hana (1:10am): xD hehe Yeah!
Hana (1:12am): Hey . . . can I . . . call you?
You (1:15am): Call me? Sure.

That was the first time we've ever talked on the phone; the first time that I really began to click with her, and the first time we've ever had a heart-to-heart. It wasn't always like that though. In fact, when I first met her, I thought she was a little bit of an oddball. She seemed to be the most obnoxious, weird person I've ever met.

  Princess of Cottonwood Academy was what some people called her. I thought, "Wow," I transfer from home to come to a maniacal place like this? She was like a brat. A little baby brat that got everything she ever wanted. Worst part was she’d never leave me alone! How was I going to enjoy this? That's what I complained to myself about. But then when I was told about her problem . . . well . . . this is her story . . . this is also his story . . . and my story . . .

  It started as two kids just trying to capture the heart of one girl before her time was up; and how it ended . . . well this is our story.

September 13, 2010

  The pieces fit. The rebuilding process was complete. In my hand I held a glass music box. Scratches and scars everywhere on it like a broken glass. It didn't work anymore, but I wasn't rebuilding it for the music again. I was rebuilding it for something else; something that I desperately wanted. But I couldn't remember. Inside the music box was a little glass ballerina standing on one toe with her hands above her head in pirouette. It was supposed to spin slowly as music played. But it didn't.

  Anger overwhelmed me quickly and once again, I held in a cry and threw it against my bedroom wall. It shattered into many pieces, but I didn't care.

  I was entering school a week late. My flight was held back. Why? Some technical difficulties they said. Regardless, I ended up flying alone. Not only that, I will be living alone, and going to school alone. My mother moved me to this mysterious world to finish my school here—alone.

  Where on the planet is this mysterious place that I’ll be living in? That’s not important. The only thing you need to know is that the place is called Cottonwood. Cottonwood isn’t necessarily a large city, but it isn’t small; a good twenty-five thousand civilian infested city.

I will be in my third year here, so I’m stuck living on my own for a couple years as the high school here runs a four-year system. At least mom gave me a nice place. My new home was a luxury apartment. It was forty stories high and I lived on the thirty-seventh floor. From the balcony, I was able to see nearly all of Cottonwood. The horizon was the limit. I had three bedrooms, why? No idea. I couldn’t tell if my mother was spoiling me, or the exact opposite.

  My first day of school was supposed to be eight days ago, but I hadn't gone yet. Today would be my first. Outside the door to my apartment, each level was on a catwalk that faced a giant rotunda. All I had to do was walked about five steps in front of my door, look over the four-foot ledge and I’d be staring down at a thirty-seven story fall to death. Sadly, the elevator was on the complete opposite side. Stairs weren't worth taking—especially going up.

  The bus ride took half an hour. Then I had to walk twenty minutes until the gates to Cottonwood Academy appeared. The school was supposedly one of the best Cottonwood had. Not the best, but one of. The school was five stories high and was probably about as big as a football stadium.

  "Hope, I presume," said a man said as I entered what I thought was the school's office. He was a lot taller than me and his hair was sharp and light brown. "I hear your flight was delayed."

  I nodded. "Yea, sorry about that. I just landed yesterday."

  He laughed. "No worries. I'm Terro, Professor Terro. I'm your homeroom teacher for the semester."

  "Oh," I bowed. "Nice to meet you."

  "Our class is class 11-B. Come on, I'll show you. We're just about to start."

  "Oh . . . okay."

  I followed him. Only a minute left before class and there were still kids wandering the hallway. To my right were doors of other classes. We were on the second floor. To my left were windows leading out to the track and field. Girls wore black skirts with a white dressy shirt with a black uniformed sweat along with red-white neckerchiefs as well. Guys, like me, had black slacks and . . . that was it. Everything else was the same.

  When we got to my class, class 11-B, everyone scurried to their seats. I followed Terro to the front of the class and looked about towards everyone.

  "We have a new student. His name is Hope," Terro said.

  "Nice to meet you." I forced out. That's all I said. Everyone just stared at me.

  "There's a seat next to the window in the far back if you'd like."

  The school was kind of in a large and very thick U shape. So the typical movie drama seat I got by the window lead out to the school grounds. I guess it was like a "hangout" area, a courtyard maybe. There were several large cherry blossom trees out in the yard with benches all over, grass as green as possible with marble uneven flooring trailing in random spots.

  The bottom of the U of our school was the south end—which is also where the main school gate is. I was in the middle of the west side. The top where the U split was the north. On each level, there were skywalks that connected both the east and west side of the school. Each skywalk also connected to each other, giving easy access to each level. Each skywalk had a roof, but the sides were nothing but heavy glass railings preventing falls.

  It must be cold crossing those during the winter.

  When I took my seat, the next thing I noticed was the kid in front of me; probably my height—maybe a bit smaller. He had round and thick glasses and what I like to call a nerd-cut. He was not as attentive as other students. All he did was dig into some sort of textbook and wrote things down.

  The rest of class before lunch wasn't much to talk about. I'd probably bore you to death the way I was. But in the hallways, I had my first incident. Already huh? Yes, already.

  Right as I got out of the door from my class, someone ran into me and fell to the ground. Papers scattered everywhere. I almost took a tumble, but I managed to keep my footing. The person who fell was the person who sat in front of me. In front of him were two other boys in my grade, snickering and laughing at him. Then I realized that he, the boy on the floor, was actually pushed into me.

  Harsh. We only just got out of class too.

  "Aww, my bad Norman, I didn't see you," one of the guys said to the person on the floor—sarcastically.

  "I—it's okay," said the boy on the ground—Norman.

  Did he just really answer that? I thought. No wonder the poor kid was being picked on.

  "Look at this," said the other boy. He held up a paper he picked off from the ground. "It's only a week into the new year and he's already trying so hard. Two full double-sided pages of notes . . . lame." He then ripped the paper. The two boys snickered again.

  There was a small crowd. But some people didn't really bother as if this was a typical thing that happened often.

  "Hey, come on guys!" Another voice yelled. A girl, maybe my height if not shorter, squeezed through the two boys and knelt next to Norman. "Norman, are you okay?"

  "Y—yes, Hana."

  The girl, Hana, had light brown pigtailed hair. What got me the most about her was that she had green eyes, amazing green eyes. I’ve heard of rare people who’ve had them, but never really seem one in my life.

  "You two have to stop picking on Norman so much," Hana said as she turned to the two boys. "It's rude, y'know!"

  One of the boys chuckled and said, "Aww come one Hana, we're just—" His partner elbowed him quite hard in the side. "—I mean . . . we're sorry."

  Just like that? A girl comes in that they throw in the towel? That’s weak if I say so myself.

  "Catch ya next time, Norman," said the one who elbowed the other and then gave a wink to him. They turned to leave and that was that. Everyone else began to disperse and Hana helped Norman pick up his papers.

  I was out too. Ignoring the two on the floor, I walked past them in hopes of getting some fresh air for the lunch break. I managed a few steps past them before I heard a,

  "Hey!"

  I grunted. It sounded like it was directed at me. I turned and saw that girl, Hana, walk up to me. She picked up a sheet of paper from my feet and examined it. It was a little dirty, a footprint, but nothing too bad.

  "Apologize!" she demanded.

  I instantly shook my head. Not in a sense of saying, 'no' but more like, "Wait what?"

  "You heard me," she said. "Apologize to Norman for stepping on his paper! Wait . . . you're new aren't you? Anyways, apologize!"

  This girl was ridiculous I thought. "No!" I said. "I'm not going to!"

  "You have to!"

  "No way, you didn't make those other two apologize!"

  "Do it!"

  "You’re kidding me, aren’t you.”

  "Do it!"

  I finally got irritated. First day of school and my lunch break is being hindered by asinine situations. I inched a bit closer, pretty mad that she wouldn't leave me alone, and said,

  "Drop dead, girl. I ain't apologizing."

  Hana didn't say anything back. Just the way I wanted it to be. Instead, she stared at me like she was searching into my soul or something. After a hmph, I turned to leave. After just two more steps—literally—I hear another, "Hey!" I was screaming in my head. Can't they just leave me alone?

  I turned. "What now—" as I finished my rotation, the boy, Norman, was nearly nose-to-nose with me. I flinched back a step, surprised at this action.

  "Don't say that to Hana! Take that back! Apologize!" he demanded. He even swung his arms across his body.

  I slapped my head. This was getting really ridiculous. "Hey kid," I started after a sigh, "you already have two guys pushing you around . . . let's not make it three, alright?"

  Norman hesitated for some reason . . . it was like he was scared. "You . . . you . . . you idiot! Go rot in—"

  "No!" Hana screamed. Norman turned around. This time, Hana was with a smile instead of her seeing into my soul look.

  Norman cupped his mouth. "Oh . . . no, I'm sorry—"

  "No, no. It's okay." She giggled. "Come on, let's just finish picking up your paper and go eat."

  "Oh . . . okay." Norman didn't say anything else to me, but he gave me a leer before going back to picking up his paper.

  Just like that, it was as if they've never even talked to me. I left them to their cleaning and turned and finally left.

  I didn't care for lunch. I lost my appetite. Instead, I went to the courtyard where it was surprisingly quiet and slept on a bench under a cherry blossom tree. My sleep was quiet . . . it was nice. The wind blew very soft and cool.

  Just as I was about to fall asleep—or maybe I did—I saw a flash in my mind. Blood ran down my hands. A girl and a face that I vaguely remember kept fading in and out. I could see her scream, but I couldn’t hear it . . .

  A shadow covered me. I woke to see a girl in the school's uniform looking over me. She had long black hair and very innocent eyes.

  "Umm . . . Hope, right? You're the new transfer student," she said.

  I got up to a seating position. "Yeah?"

  "Oh." She fiddled with her thumbs.

  Why would a girl approach me all of a sudden? Did she like me? This would've been awkward if she did. Everything’s just happening too fast, I thought to myself.

  "I'm Eevie," she quietly said.

  I nodded. "Okay, that's nice to know. Can I do something for you?"

  She fumbled looking for words. Then after a deep breath said, "Please be nice to Hana!"

  I flinched back. "Haaah? This again? What is with you people here?"

  I wasn't going to have any of this. I got up and immediately turned around. But like before, I was halted at the sound of a voice,

  "Wait, please," said Eevie. I turned with a sigh. "The truth is . . . since you're new; I might as well tell you the truth."

  The truth got my attention. "What truth?"

  "It's something that everyone in the school knows. Since you're new, I just thought I'd fill you in so that you know as well. Hana has . . . this illness."

  "And I should care, why?"

  "It’s a bad one; and . . . she . . . only has until her last year of high school to live."

 

  I remembered that day perfectly. After Eevie told me that, I laughed hysterically; just another perk to boost up the fame of this Princess title that Hana held. I didn't believe a single word of it. But as I looked at Eevie, she didn't seem to enjoy the laugh that I did. In fact, she seemed almost hurt . . . hurt that I was laughing at this person who was supposed to die sometime next year.

  Suddenly after my laughter I felt my heart start to ache. I didn't make any sudden movement, but it hurt. I got quiet. An image of blood and that same girl in my short dream I had on the bench flashed in my head again. Death . . .

  Whether or not Eevie was telling the truth . . . laughing at death . . . it panged me. That night, after I got home from school, I went straight to my bed. I still had broken glass on the floor, but I didn't care. I left it the way it was. I didn't want to rebuild it again, not this time. I lied in my bed and closed my eyes.

  Death . . .

  Death . . .

  It wasn't funny. Before I knew it, tears crawled down my face and to the side of my ears. The girl with blood kept flashing back and forwards over and over again like a never-ending replay. The sudden emotional pain was so unbearable that I started twitching in my own spot. After about a minute of moping around, I got up, pushed together all the glass shards, grabbed my superglue and started to rebuild.


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