Just As You Are

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Chapter Four

KIKI

I’m positive it’s perfectly normal to have a sunny day in October, but it’s too hot I’ll probably melt. It doesn’t hafta be this hot, does it? Maybe because I’m wearing an extra layer today. No, you stupid girl, that was yesterday. Or maybe because I’m holding all these forms and walking close to the windows where the sun is coming through. I mean, it’s so blinding, and my face is burning hot you can easily fry your morning eggs and bacon without facing any problems. I can guarantee this. I squint at the sun and curse under my breath, which is rare of me because my parents raised me well.

Back to the sun, why does it hafta be too shiny this early in the morning? Ah, I wish I could see it some other time of the day. Maybe by sunset.

They say sunset colors are marvelous, but I’ve never seen it so I can’t tell for sure, and I actually like the sky the way it is, clear blue and infinitely vast. But just for now, I hope it gets all cloudy and rainy so I can chill a bit.

Ah, I’ve gotta hurry up and get these forms back to the teachers’ office.

“Dude, sorry about earlier.”

“You’re so lucky I’m not blind, otherwise our manager would’ve gauged your eyes out.”

Waah! It’s Ian and Roy, the stars of our school soccer team. Waah! They’re so pretty. Oh, it’s the entire team!

Swoon

I can’t believe they’re passing by me. I can’t believe that Ian himself is in my class! Well, not that we talk or anything. Waah! I would be so lucky if he talked to a person like me!

“Right, Mika?” Ian looks at his twin sister.

Wow, she’s so beautiful! I’m sure they looked more alike when they were younger.

She stares ahead blankly and doesn’t reply.

“Hey, you okay?” He nudges her.

“I’m fine,” Mika replies.

“You look pale.”

He’s right. Her face is actually more ashen than pale. She’s ghostly white.

She smiles. “Don’t be stupid, I’m always pale.”

I wonder if I should move on and deliver these papers, or try to help them out. But they don’t know me, do they? And, it’s not like I can help them with anything in particular.

“Do you need water? Does anyone have water?” Ian asks his friends.

Wait a minute, maybe this is my chance. Maybe I can run back to the vending machine and grab them a bottle. I turn around and walk back when a blond girl with gigantic earrings tosses a soda bottle to the front. Ian catches it without looking back. Awesome!

“Here, I think this is good too, it will calm your stomach.” He extends the bottle to his sister.

“My stomach is fine. How would an acidic drink calm an acidic medium?” Mika mutters between clenched teeth.

Oh. I think she’s more than fine now. Come on, useless me, let’s take a leave.

“Well, mine isn’t!”

I watch Ian shaking the soda bottle madly.

“Hey! Hey wait! Isn’t that carbonated?”

He opens it and . . .

. . . I’m not hot anymore.

“Ahh!”

“Oh no . . .”

I may have prayed for a drizzle to cool off this heat, but now I’m drenched in sweat, and also in lemon soda. I’m sorry for passing by your way! Ah, The forms! The forms are scattered on the ground, all wet too! I’mma get scolded by the teacher. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry!

“Hah! What have you done, Ian!” Mika says.

“It’s because you were so annoying!” Ian replies.

I’m sorry for walking by right at the moment!

“Hey, you okay?” Mika kneels down next to me, concern clear on her face.

She-she talked to me!

“Does anyone have a towel?” she asks.

“No one does.”

“And I thought you guys would come in handy someday.”

Oh God! She’s worried about me! She clearly hasn’t recovered from the earlier daze yet, but here she is, worried about me. W-W-W-What do I do?

“Hey, Ian!” She grabs her brother’s arm, a bit too harshly. “Apologize to her.”

. . . Huh?

“Sorry.”

Ian Roselie is talking to me. I think it’s getting hot again. For a different reason.

Mika smacks him on the back of his head. “You don’t sound sorry at all. You’re not even looking at her.” Then she looks at me softly. “Sorry about my brother. He is always like that. Now, apologize properly,” she says to her brother.

Oh no. Th-There’s no need. I wanna tell her this but I’m too weirded out to speak. This is the first time someone acknowledges my existence, despite the fact that I’m not in a good situation, and I’m really very happy.

Ian sighs loudly. “I can’t do that. I can’t look at her,” he whispers to his sister.

“Why?”

Like yeah, why? Oh no! Did I piss him off? Of course the likes of me will piss him off.

“I can’t tell you,” he mumbles, covering his mouth with the back of his hand.

“You have to.” Mika doesn’t say anymore.

Obviously reluctantly, Ian leans closer to his sister and whispers, “I can’t look at her. Her shirt is see-through.”

Wha-What!

It’s like someone had suddenly turned on an internal heater inside me, and I’m sure my pale skin had turned to the shade of a ripe strawberry. Warmth blooms into a sweltering heat wave, bursting through my pores and triggering the waterfalls in my eyes. I wrap my arms protectively over my chest, holding back my tears.

This is the most humiliating incident that happened to me in my entire life. It’s worse than all the things I passed through in middle school. I want to leave, but my legs had lost strength, and I can’t even stand.

“Ah, I-I’m sorry,” he says in a soft voice, “I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

Don’t look at me. Don’t look at me! I might cry right now. I don’t want you to see me crying. I’m already a nuisance the way I am, I can’t bother you more!

“Here, take this.”

I glance up. Ian is carrying a jacket and handing it to me without looking. Pink fuses my cheeks; what a kind person.

“Put it on. It’s clean. I-I’ve only used it once,” he says.

At first, I hesitate, considering that it’ll get sticky with soda, but then I take it and put it on because I can’t cause troubles more than I did anyway and because, well, it’s Ian’s! It’s so warm, and smells of fresh lemons. Mmm . . .

“You okay now?” His voice sounds closer and deeper, and when I glance up, I meet a pair of grey eyes.

My heart flutters.

S-So close! I look away.

Oh, his eyes . . . large and grey, shining like the stars. I force myself to look up again, and that’s when I clearly see him. He’s a mixture of fire and ice, all sharp edges, and gorgeous, messy red hair that extends a bit below his neck, the ends of which are tied into a short side ponytail. He is looking at me as if looking inside my heart, so deep and attaching.

“I’m deeply sorry. I didn’t intend to splash you.” He hadn’t meant to do it; I can tell by the look of mild shock on his face and his flushed cheeks.

Ian Roselie is staring at me. Waah . . . my insides are so warm. My chest is light and my heart is beating really fast. Ian talked to me today and helped me. He’s looking at me with his beautiful eyes. My little wish came true.

“I’m sorry!”

Suddenly, I find strength in my legs, and run away.

Up till now, I haven’t had many good memories when it comes to school life. I’m a girl of the shy type, and I’m not good when it comes to direct interaction with people. In middle school, students used to call me Stone because I used to freeze up every time I was in front of someone.

Ahh, take a breath, Kiki.

I lean over the sink and look at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I’m still thinking about it. I ended up running away. It ended up like this again. I open the tap. My existence upsets people.

“Ahh! Stay positive!” I give my face a splash. What was all that about? What’s with him, making such an expression when he doesn’t even know me to get flustered around me? What was with those eyes? They were so attractive for a while there. A small laugh escapes me. People must think I’m crazy, mooning about a guy and laughing at my reflection in the mirror.

I change into my gym uniform and tuck his jacket in my bag. I’ll wash it and return it back to him next Monday absolutely. But, how am I going to talk to him. Mmm? Ah, I’ll worry about it later. But I’m kinda glad Ian was the one who splashed me. Weird, huh? Maybe it’s a good memory to start a pile with.

“Hehe, I hafta return the forms . . . back . . . The forms!”

Oh God, I think I’ll kiss my memory goodbye.

I run toward the teachers’ office, and as I’m about to go in, I hear that voice again.

“How can you make her do such a thing?” It’s Ian, and he’s certainly talking about me.

He’s right; I’m not that responsible to accomplish such a mission. Such a huge failure. What do teachers see in me that make them think I’m dependable?

“It’s against school rules to give teachers’ duties to students!”

That’s right. That’s why they’re called teachers’ duties. Wait. Hold it right there. He’s talking about me, right?

“You were using Ms. Baudelaire for your own benefit!”

Yes, that’s my family name! He’s talking about me! My face flares. Why does it hafta be this hot?

“I wonder how the principal would react when he knows about this.”

“No! Wait, Ian please, let’s solve this between us.”

“Excuse me.”

A slam is followed by steady footsteps, and moments later, Ian Roselie conjures before my eyes.

I swallow. “Thank you.” It’s a silent whisper, and there’s a 99.99% chance that he didn’t hear it.

He pats my head. “You’re a good girl, don’t let people use you. Ask for help when you need it, Baudelaire.” Then he walks away, and I watch his figure grow smaller until he disappears out of sight.

I can’t, Ian. I can’t be more of a trouble to the likes of you.

“Okay then, starting tomorrow, I’ll change!”

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