Cover Art: Allenes
Cicadas hummed outside the open windows as mom served us dinner, dad was absorbed in some paperwork for the temple while my little brother rambunctiously hopped in his chair. It was the end of the week, meaning mom made her usual chicken katsu for dinner. My mind wandered to the sound of the cicada as I closed my eyes and held my breath. One… Two… I could hear the sound of my plate rattle as a small piece of chicken and some rice was spooned onto it. Twenty… Twenty-One… My brother finally settled down, grabbing his chopsticks and diving into his food before mom had even gotten back to the table from the kitchen. Thirty-Seven… Thirty-Eight… I could hear dad set down the papers, saying something to mom in his deep rhythmic voice. Fifty-Five… Fifty-…
”Shizu! What are you doing, sleeping? Its dinner time. ” My father nearly roared, I could tell his temper was higher than normal. Sitting up properly I quietly began eating, avoiding the thick peanut sauce mom liked to cover everything with. Dad resumed his conversation with my mother, ”so until the shrine makes more in donations, we can pay Hiroshi for cleaning and maintenance. Well have to take care of things ourselves. Hopefully we can get through this, otherwise we might have to sell the shrine. ”
Mother looked solemn, she loved the shrine up on the hill behind our house, it had been in her family for seven generations. Even as a kid I would dress up in my hakama and kosode and prance around the shrine grounds as visitors admired and took pictures. But over the years, fewer and fewer visitors would stop by, tourists would rather see the temples in the city than come way out to the middle of nowhere, the whole community was disappearing as they moved towards the city.
”Well, well all just have to pitch in in whatever way we can, ” my mother was telling my father, though by the tone of her voice Hara and I knew she meant all four of us. ”Shizu and I can clean the grounds and welcome visitors, and you can do any repairs that we need done. Maybe you can teach Hara what to do so one day he could even take over maintenance. ” I looked sideways at my brother. Eleven years old, not even out of primary school yet, the thought of him swinging a hammer made me start to laugh. Not wanting to make the situation awkward, I pretended to cough on a piece of rice instead of laugh.
My dad sighed, we all knew he had a lot on his plate with work, and to add repairing the shrine to things couldn be stress-free. ”For you and Shizu to watch the shrine will mean almost her entire weekend will be spent up there. How do you expect her to keep her grades up if she is working all the time? ”
I quickly piped in, ”I also have swim meets on Saturdays. ” The look on my moms face was like I stabbed her in the heart. ”But I could always help out in the evenings after school, so Saturday won be as hard on the rest of you. ” I was too much of a people pleaser.
Mom stood up, her food barely touched as she started to put things away and clean up already. I took one last quick bite before helping her take dishes into the kitchen and running up to my room. I didn want to talk about the future of the shrine, I barely even wanted to help clean it. I still had a few hours before bed, stripping off my clothes until I was in just my bra and panties, jumping onto my bed with a textbook to study for next weeks finals for the third time this weekend. It was the best way for privacy, the combination of being undressed while studying meant that no one bothered me. After an hour, I found myself holding my breath again as I read, the sound of the cicadas still going outside.
My name is Okada Shizu, Im a second year high school student at Kurashiki High School. My family owns the not-so-famous Okada Shrine, built some thousand years ago in the hills outside of Okayama city. During the summer I usually walk to school, the shade of willow trees and a long walk along the canal being quite pleasant in the hot weather. There are a few farms near our house but there aren any other students that live out our way, so my walks are pretty quiet. I really wouldn call myself an outcast, I have a few friends at school, but I like being by myself. I often sit by myself during lunch, spend way too much time in the library, and hardly anyone even realizes Im on the swim team for the school.
Up ahead, my best friend waited by a crosswalk for me, Izuhara Echiko. Her and I first met in primary school and by good luck we have been in the same class every year since.
”Shiiizuuuu, did you end up doing the homework this weekend?
” She looked pitiful, a girl that almost every guy in school desired but she never seemed to get her homework done. I already had my notebook out, passing it to her as we crossed the street. In the few blocks we had left to the school, she juggled her own notebook and mine, trying to copy down the answers. She did decent enough on tests, even when rushing through copying my homework, so I never really pressed the matter on her to stop.
e a lifesaver, Ill love you forever Shizu. ” She surprised me from behind, wrapping her arms around me and indirectly squeezing my breasts with my notebook still in her hands.
”Eh eh, get off. Someone is going to see. ” It was one thing to act like that in primary school, but we were high schoolers now and had to be a good example to the middle schoolers that shared the same campus with us. We were still a little early and only a handful of students were about the courtyard. The doors into the building were likely still locked on such a warm morning, so I sat down at the edge of the fountain and let my hand play with the water while Echiko talked to me.
”So Friday night, I went out with Shunji, he took me to that karaoke place that opened up a couple months ago. The new booths are great, we definitely tested out the sound proofing in there. ” I didn even have to look to know that she was winking at me. She always made suggestive remarks about her relationships with boys. ”Although come to think of it, the guy at the counter was staring at me on the way out. Oh well, maybe hell give me a discount next time. ” Echiko undid the top two buttons of her blouse, barely exposing her lacy black bra underneath as she tried to cool off by the fountain with me.
”A teacher is going to see you, do you like getting detention or what? ” This was a common summer activity for her, ever since last year when we entered high school. We knew teachers were a lot more relaxed with the high schoolers, especially when it came to the dress code, but Echiko loved to push the boundaries. Her skirt would always be an inch or two higher than what was permitted, or she would open her blouse a bit too much. This year in particular she stopped wearing pink underwear, saying that boys preferred her in black underwear whenever they were alone with her.
Echiko barely even turned her head to look around, ”I don see any teachers out yet. When they unlock the doors Ill button back up. At least the school has air conditioning. ” She pulled out her phone, taking a picture of herself as she leaned back by the fountain. ”Toin is going to love this. ”
”Toin? You mean Morioka Toin? Why would you send him a picture of your undone shirt? ”
”Oh, I didn even tell you about Saturday! Well, Shunji was busy so I sent Toin a text. It was such a nice day that I wanted a guy to take me to the park. Not the nice park in town, the one out by the old orchards. It was really secluded. ” She bit her lip slightly, and if she was blushing I couldn tell in the bright sunlight and heat. ”Anyways, if Shunji gets too busy for me, he can expect me to sit around doing nothing, right? ”
There was some movement by the front door of the school, a teacher inside was unlocking the door and a few students were already lining up to get in. As we straightened up and stood, we noticed the usual flow of students coming through the main gate to the school. Passing through the now open door int
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