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Archive for the ‘Nocturne’s Reaping®’ Category

Nocturne’s Reaping® : Intermezzo

Chapter 13

Kenji was very anxious. Waiting for Friday had begun to take its toll. He had worked with his father that week, an experience which was surprisingly enjoyable. His father as a parent made for a sometimes awkward adolescence, but as a boss he was surprisingly fun. Then again, since Kenji didn’t take his temporary job as seriously as he did his own daily life that might explain the difference in his feelings. On the other hand, maybe he should care what his father did for a living. It helped his family to eat and have a place to stay. Also, his father was actually really good at running his business of “Party Favors and Doodads.” Yes, that was the name of the company.

Kenji never really appreciated his father’s unusual talent for creating and selling random stuff before that week. It was a rare talent actually — one at which his father excelled. Actually, as Kenji found out, it was the only thing that his father did at the company. The rest of the work went to the accountant, to the custodian, or to the assistant … yes, that assistant. Well, his father said it was a small business, and Kenji couldn’t have agreed more.

The assistant’s job? Well, it pretty much entailed whatever his father thought that it did at any given moment. No wonder his usual assistant needed a break! Of course, every time Kenji found himself with a new task to complete he felt relief. After all, it made his absence from class seem more excusable. True, he didn’t have permission to take the time off. He thought about getting permission in advance, but what if he was denied? No, he couldn’t risk that. And he needed to talk to Takara in person before speaking with her over the online connection. The Friday field trip seemed like the only opportunity he’d have to be able to do that. Yet, it had occurred to him that he might be kicked out of the course altogether because of his absence. Then where would he be? Perhaps, he could hang out at the arcade and get word to Takara through Erik if he couldn’t do it himself. Regardless, the most important thing was for Kenji to get through the week, and then he could talk to both Takara and Erik. That way he could make sure they wouldn’t discuss anything to do with Takara’s letter online or in front of anyone else.

“Well, good news, Kenji. Miss Adams is coming back next week, so it looks as though you can go back to school then.”

Kenji looked at his father quizzically. Apparently, his father had forgotten that this scheme had merely been a way of giving Kenji an excuse to get out of class. Or, maybe his father really did need him around. Then again, his father could just be letting Kenji know that he’d be going back to class next week just in case he had other plans. After all, taking the class in the first place had been his parents’ idea. No matter what the case might be, Kenji was determined to be as reliable a student as possible from that point forward. After all, he wouldn’t be able to guarantee seeing Takara again otherwise.

Kenji had trouble sleeping Thursday night. He kept waking up over and over again fearing that he had slept through his alarm. Eventually, it did go off on its own.

Kenji was sort of in a daze as he began his day. He still had the adrenaline in him that had kept him up for most of the night. He had kept playing out in his dreams how this upcoming day would unfold; in fact, he’d been thinking about it all week. All he wanted to do was set things right with Takara and Erik. He didn’t want Takara worried about him. He also didn’t want to be kicked out of that class.

“Kenji, are you going to eat that breakfast or just stare at it?” his mother asked him.

Kenji looked up with a blank expression on his face at his mother.

“Oh, sorry.”

He began to eat the breakfast cereal.

“Seems you’re up early today.”

“Yes.” he replied after he finished chewing.

“I wonder though. I got the impression you didn’t like this course. You know … if it’s really that bad it’s not too late to drop it.”

“Oh, no!” he exclaimed. “I love it there. There were just …”

How could he explain it?

“Oh, well, you’re like your father when he gets an idea. He just stops making sense. Actually, that happens a lot.” she laughed. “Anyway, you’d better get going to that class you love so much! You don’t want to miss the bus!”

“Yeah!” Kenji jumped up from his chair, a look of concern on his face.

“Kenji, I was kidding. You have plenty of time.”

“And a lot to make up for.” he said. “No point in taking chances.”

Kenji grabbed his bag and headed for the door. Then, he turned around and looked at his mother.

“Oh, by the way, if I need a ride later …”

“I’ll be here.” She smiled.

“All right, good-bye!”

“Good-bye, Kenji.”

 

Kenji’s nerves were frayed when he got on the bus. The first person he ran into was his teacher.

“Kenji? I thought you dropped the course.” she noted in a rather cold tone.

“Umm … I have a note from my dad.” Kenji began to get something out of his bag.

“No, don’t bother now. Later.” she said, waving him off.

It was strange to Kenji how different Miss Harrington was now in comparison to his first impression of her.

The next person Kenji saw was Erik, who gave Kenji a skeptical smile. Kenji was surprised Erik wasn’t already at the arcade. Maybe he ran out of things to do on his own, Kenji concluded.

“Hey, long time no see.” Erik mentioned.

Kenji turned a cautionary look toward the front of the bus where the teacher was seated. Sure enough, she was looking straight at him. She then turned forward again.

Kenji took the seat across from Erik. He then gave Erik a concerned look. Erik looked at Kenji quizzically for a moment; then, Erik began to fill Kenji in on the class discussions. Kenji was grateful for that.

As the bus rolled on, Kenji became aware that they were coming close to Takara’s address. At first he didn’t see her, but then she seemed to step out from behind a shrub. Her face was downcast. She barely looked up when the bus came to a stop in front of her.

Takara slowly walked toward the bus. When she stepped up onto the bus, her eyes just happened to glance up. Almost instantly, her eyes locked on to Kenji’s. At first, a look of surprise crossed her face. Then, she looked off to the side, and her brow furrowed as though she was confused. She looked at him again briefly then down. Finally, she walked forward as the bus moved on. She sat a couple of seats in front of and across from Kenji. Occasionally, she would glance back at him. Kenji was upset that she seemed hurt. Kenji sat back in his seat and sighed. He kept reminding himself that what he did was necessary. He told himself that she would understand once he had the chance to explain. Kenji wasn’t sure what to do in the meantime.

Once they arrived at the arcade, Kenji suddenly stood up from his spot. Maybe he could whisper something to Takara as he passed by her. But before he could even turn toward Takara, the teacher called out to him.

“Kenji, come here a moment.” she called forth.

Kenji glanced at Takara then headed forward.

“You can sit over there.” She directed him to the seat across from her. He did wonder whether she was going to talk with him in front of the other students while she kept them all waiting.

“All right.” The woman stood. “The rest of you can go inside and get on your computers. I’ll be up in the computer room shortly to start you on your assignments for today.”

After she finished speaking, the other students filed out one by one. Erik raised an eyebrow as he passed by Kenji. Takara looked at Kenji but said nothing.

“Well, it’s been awhile.” the teacher posed after only the bus driver remained on the bus with them.

This was what Kenji had been fearing would happen — Miss Harrington might bar him from class … and from Takara.

“Let’s see that note of yours.”

Kenji had fetched the note out of his bag during the bus ride. He handed it over to her then. The woman looked the note over.

“So, why exactly didn’t you ask for permission?” she asked Kenji pointedly.

When she stared at Kenji, he momentarily froze under her gaze.

“I was afraid you’d say no.” he muttered.

It was the first thing that came to mind. It was actually true in a lot of ways. Though the significance of why it was true wasn’t something he wanted to discuss. And he had to face the facts; it wasn’t exactly the best excuse ever. The teacher just stared at him as though she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Oh-kay.” she stammered.

She looked at the letter again and considered. She logged on to her tablet and seemed to be comparing the letter to something on the screen.

“Well, I believe this is your father’s signature.” she said aloud. “He did sign the checks after all.”

Kenji thought it was odd she would have taken that step to verify the authenticity of the note. He must be in real danger of being expelled, he thought. He bit his lip.

“All right.” she sighed. “I don’t need to deal with this. But let’s just say you are out of absences now. And you have a lot of work to do.”

“I did the work already.” Kenji offered.

He thought that would make her feel better about things. It didn’t.

“Well, under the circumstances I don’t think I can accept any work that is late. It wouldn’t be fair to the other students.”

She seemed to be waiting for a reaction. Kenji looked down and attempted to look shamefaced.

“All right. Get back with the others.”

“All right.” Kenji said.

He started to head off the bus.

“But I’m not sure what group you’ll be in …” Miss Harrington said in a parting shot.

Kenji froze. Then, he turned and looked at her.

“I mean, they might not want to accept you back.”

“Okay.” Kenji tried to sound uninterested.

The teacher sighed again. “Okay.”

She nodded toward the bus driver then waved Kenji inside. When Kenji got off the bus, he was shaken a bit. He had told himself before his encounter with Miss Harrington that despite his fears it probably wouldn’t end up being a big deal. He was glad he didn’t know how difficult it was going to be ahead of time. It wasn’t something he could have prepared for; in fact, it wasn’t something he would have wanted to prepare for. After all, it was clear Miss Harrington was watching his reaction while they spoke.

Kenji breathed out. Now he had to face Takara and Erik. At least the teacher hadn’t forbidden him to work with them. Still, he had to wonder how he was going to be received. Erik didn’t seem to be angry with him, but Takara … Would she feel as though he were playing games with her? Given that most of the people in her life seemed to be playing games with her, what if she didn’t trust him anymore?

Then, it was the moment of truth. He saw Erik and Takara in the foyer waiting for him. Erik seemed okay, but Takara was staring above Kenji’s head. Then, she slowly approached him. Right when she got to him, she whispered, “I’m glad you’re okay.”

She smiled softly. Kenji was stunned. He stood there agape. She wasn’t mad; she was only relieved that he was okay!

“Well, the teacher’s coming in. You’d better start working already, Kenji. You have a lot to catch up on!” Erik teased.

“Yes.” Kenji said. “Yes, I do.”

When they got to their computer unit on the second floor, Kenji apologized.

“I’m sorry that you guys are behind because of me.”

Takara looked at him blankly, but Erik looked at Kenji skeptically.

“Why? We haven’t met up without you.” Erik pointed out. “Any work you missed was individual work. I mean, I guess you did risk reducing our group to two people. Oh! And it seems the teacher has taken a particular interest in you now as well.”

Takara just sort of froze upon hearing those words as she was used to strange things happening, but Kenji couldn’t seem to keep himself from looking to see where the teacher was. He turned and glanced back. At that moment, he just happened to make eye contact with his teacher. Kenji then turned back right away. She did seem to be lurking around them.

“I wonder what her issue is.” Erik pondered. “I guess we’ll have to work very hard.”

“Yeah.” Kenji uttered.

“Oh, and by the way, I handled that thing you wanted me to do.” Erik added confidentially.

“Thanks.” Kenji said in a daze. Then, he realized what Erik was saying. “Oh, yeah, thanks!”

“No problem.”

Takara had no idea what they were talking about. As it turned out, it worked to Kenji’s advantage that Erik was unsure as to whether Kenji wanted Takara to know about the letter. Still, Kenji figured it was better to err on the side of caution.

“Only …” Kenji started. “There’s no point in discussing it.”

Erik, who was sitting at the monitor, looked over at Kenji with understanding.

“Of course.” Erik agreed.

“Especially online.” Kenji directed this to both Takara and Erik. “We can’t bring up anything other than school online.”

Takara got the meaning behind this last part of what Kenji was saying, but now it was Erik’s turn to be confused. Erik turned completely toward Kenji with a perplexed expression on his face. He then looked away and considered.

“Should we get to work?” Erik suggested in a suddenly serious tone.

“Yes.” Takara agreed.

Kenji was tempted to look back and see whether the teacher was still looming. Yet, if she was it might seem odd to her that he would look again. No, Erik was right. Kenji had to work, to act as normally as possible.

Erik certainly knew what he was doing; in fact, the work at that moment was far beneath his abilities. Still, he didn’t want to rush the group work too much lest his partners not know something contained in the assignment. But, as it turned out, they were all relieved when they seemed to be done early. Erik then decided to let Kenji or Takara turn in the assignment. So, he excused himself and headed for the part of the arcade that he was most interested in: the virtual reality corridor. He knew he was giving Kenji a chance to be alone with Takara. If Erik had turned the assignment in right away, he had a feeling the teacher would break Kenji and Takara apart. Then again, why wouldn’t Erik help them out when he could? It was not a big deal to him, after all. And if it were Erik who had a girl he was interested in, he’d want Kenji to do the same thing for him.

“So, are you all right?” Takara asked Kenji once they were alone.

“Sure. Oh, you mean before. Yes, I mean I got my dad to let me help him with work.”

Takara looked unsure but asked him nothing.

“You see …” Kenji looked around him nervously. “Someone was following me.” he whispered quickly. “And they broke into my home — at least I think they did. Maybe it’s nothing, but I was worried … about the letter.”

Takara pulled back slightly.

“I’m so sorry.” she stammered.

“No, no it’s fine.”

In an attempt to reassure her, he placed his hand on hers. Kenji reddened almost immediately.

“I’m sorry!” he exclaimed, removing his hand swiftly.

“No, it’s fine.” Takara insisted.

She looked down.

“So, I hate to ask this, but was the letter sent out?” she put forth.

“Yes, it was. I mean, Erik handled it. I sort of felt bad for just giving something that important over to someone else. But it seems to have worked out for the best.”

Takara nodded slowly.

“Are you angry?” Kenji wondered.

“About what?” Takara questioned. “Oh, no. I’m grateful for your help.”

Takara smiled.

“Oh, you’re welcome.” he responded.

“What is it then?” he asked her when he saw that she had grown sad again.

“It’s just that I hadn’t really thought it through until recently. I mean, I guess I didn’t allow myself to believe it would happen. I haven’t seen … her in a long time — my mother.” she whispered the last part. “I’m glad, but I’m scared. I’m probably going to lose everything I have here …”

Takara did think of Kenji at that moment, and on some level Kenji realized it, too. She had begun having mixed feelings about leaving a few days before when she realized just how much she had come to rely on and actually care about Kenji. Still, there didn’t seem to be an alternative. After all, the way things were at the Institute, she probably wouldn’t be able to see Kenji again after this course was over anyway. Not to mention, the situation seemed to be getting increasingly tense for Takara where she was staying. It just felt wrong, and it felt as though it was getting worse. Still …

And there was also someone else who mattered to her — someone whom she dearly loved despite the fact that he was gone from this world. Still, his body remained somewhere on the colony. She had never had the opportunity to say good-bye to her father before he died. The last time she remembered seeing him was the night of that New Year’s Eve party. And then she had had the realization that she might not even have the opportunity to see where he had been buried. After all, leaving the colony might still not be an easy feat even after her mother came for her. Yet, Takara had to admit it was merely the Institute she wanted to escape from, not the colony as a whole.

“What’s wrong?” he asked her.

Takara found herself explaining to Kenji in hushed tones all about her father and what had happened to him — and to her as well — at least what she could piece together. Then, she expressed her sorrow over not being able to see where he had been laid to rest. Takara started to cry despite herself.

“That’s one of the things that still troubles me …” she explained, her lip quivering. “I was never able to attend my father’s funeral or to even see his grave.”

“And do you — well, do you have any idea where his gravesite might be?”

Takara was taken aback.

“No.” Takara started. “I mean, not for sure. There is this one place my father took me sometimes. It is a local Christian church. Do you think he asked to be buried there?”

Kenji considered.

“It’s worth finding out.”

“But I don’t think calling about it would work out well for me.”

“No.” Kenji considered.

“I just don’t trust very many people.” she added.

“I understand.” he assured her.

Kenji thought for a moment.

“I’ll see what I can find out.” he offered. “Still, we can go and look around there. Maybe there’s a way we can go there after we’re done with our assignment the next time.”

Takara was surprised.

“You think so, Kenji, but how can we arrange it? Someone always seems to know where I am. And I’m only allowed to leave the Institute during these school sessions. Once the session ends, I’m taken back.”

Kenji was silent for a moment. His first reaction was that he liked how she said his name. But what really got to him was that she finally admitted to him that she was basically being held against her will. Kenji wanted to do something, say something to help her — something more than he had been able to do so far.

“Maybe there is one way. I mean, he came through before.”

“You mean Erik?”

“Yes. I think he would cover for us without needing much of an explanation. I know it seems like a risk — maybe too much of a risk considering we’re so close to getting you out of here.”

“Yes, out of here …”

“So … Takara …”

She looked up at him.

“The question is how do you feel about it? Is it something you would want to do?”

“Yes.” she said without hesitation. “Do you think you could go with me?”

“Sure.” he responded with a smile.

She smiled, too.

But then, suddenly, his eyes shot to a movement he saw down below him underneath the transparent sides of the computer cube he was in. He had been keeping an eye on one person in particular. Every once and a while, he would glance down. He’d been startled more than once when he found that the teacher had moved unexpectedly. But thankfully, he just happened to look down this time as she was making her way toward the elevator.

“I’ll think of something. Maybe Erik can help me with that.” he said as he watched the woman disappear from his field of vision.

He then quickly turned toward the computer and started to ready the assignment for submission. Occasionally, he would glance over at Takara.

“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to put you at risk when you’re so close to being with your mother again.” he mentioned.

“I understand.” Takara told him.

“Still, you give it some thought, and I’ll give it some thought. I don’t think it is safe for us to talk about it — or even allude to it anymore.”

“Yes, you’re right.”

“Still, if you need help …” Kenji could then hear someone say the teacher’s name from the main part of the computer room. “… with your assignments you’ll have to ask the teacher. I’m a bit behind I think, though I tried to catch up. I’m not even sure that I did everything right on this past week’s assignments yet.”

Kenji could see the faintest shadow of the teacher’s profile hovering past the threshold of the cube. Thankfully, without needing to be prompted, Takara followed suit.

“Oh, that’s okay. I’m actually doing quite well in this course.”

“Oh. Well then, maybe you can help me if it turns out that I need it.” Kenji laughed.

Suddenly, the teacher stepped forward. Kenji was a bit surprised when she moved toward them, despite the fact that he had observed her presence. It probably turned out for the best that he reacted with surprise since it would make her less likely to suspect the topic of conversation had been changed for her benefit. And yet, Kenji could tell that Miss Harrington was wary of him at this point — perhaps just as wary of him as she seemed to be of Takara.

“Where’s Erik?” she demanded out of nowhere.

Takara sort of turned and looked at her then looked away.

“The virtual reality corridor.” Kenji answered.

“And where’s your assignment?”

“Already submitted!” Kenji declared.

Miss Harrington just stared at them for a moment; then, she spun around and left.

Kenji breathed out. Somehow, he found he was capable of keeping his composure better this past couple of weeks than he ever had before. And the more he was tested, the stronger he seemed to become. Still, how long would he be capable of keeping this up? During one of those times he lost track of Miss Harrington she could have sneaked up  on them and heard something she shouldn’t have. Still, it was a risk he felt he had to take. After all, he couldn’t talk to Takara anywhere else.

“Kenji? Are you all right?” Takara asked.

Apparently, Kenji’s staring off into space had distressed Takara.

“Oh, yeah, I’m fine.” he stated, trying to sound reassuring.

Then again, maybe he didn’t need to reassure Takara after all. She didn’t appear too fazed by Miss Harrington’s latest behavior. In fact, Takara had become rather desensitized to people trying to shock her.

“Do you suppose we have to go to the bus?” Kenji then asked.

Takara took a look around her. Actually, her view of the other students was obstructed; still, she could hear someone typing away at the computer keys.

“I doubt it.” she responded. “We’d have probably heard an announcement telling us that we needed to go if we did need to go now.”

Takara looked back at Kenji. He seemed to be a bit anxious, as though he was unsure of what to do next.

“It’s hard, isn’t it?” Takara asked him.

He looked at her directly.

“I don’t want to leave here really, but since it is inevitable I feel unsettled. I wish I could just stay, or at least choose when to go.” Kenji explained.

Takara nodded.

“Students it’s time to log off now.” the teacher announced from somewhere nearby.

“Well, I guess it’s time after all.” Kenji concluded.

Kenji had to get off the bus before Takara. He could see her look out the window of the bus at him. Kenji looked around him as the bus pulled away. No one seemed to be following him this time; that was good. The sky was overcast. The wind seemed to pick up; he braced himself against it. He imagined Takara standing in front of those dark metal gates then slowly walking up the driveway in this chilled air. How depressing it must be for her! And yet there was still hope, he reminded himself. Erik had mailed that letter. There was every reason to believe Takara’s mother would come for her.

But then there was still one more thing to do before that happened. He had offered to find a way to get Takara to her father’s grave, and he really wanted to pull that off. Yet, he was only thirteen. How would he be capable of making it happen? And if they were caught, it could ruin everything.

Well, one thing was for certain, he would have to get Erik’s help to pull off any plan. Kenji had decided against speaking to Erik after class. He figured skipping the bus ride home might draw undue attention to him, and Erik had lingered at the arcade. Still, unlike Takara, there would be an opportunity for Kenji to talk with Erik outside of class. Kenji knew Erik hung out at the arcade often. Kenji would just need to go on one of those days and find him.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2019

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Intermezzo

Chapter 12

Being with his parents could sometimes be embarrassing for Kenji — but then that was probably true for most kids his age. The thing of it was his parents frequently teased him. And just like on this day, they also had a rather unconventional use of their free time. Assembling custom-made fishing lures wasn’t his father’s first strange hobby, nor was it the only one he tried to earn money from. But it certainly was the only one that Kenji had to actively participate in. One thing was for sure, he wouldn’t look at his father’s next hobby in the same way.

What his parents wanted Kenji to do was playact at being an interested customer during his father’s selling time. His mother would do the same — only at different times. Since it wouldn’t work to have them linger around the booth the entire time, Kenji was allowed to wander around the market eating one of his mother’s cookies as he went. As it was, he began to relax in his parents’ presence. It was almost as though the incident in which he was followed never happened … almost.

Kenji became interested in a video game display. He looked down at his watch and sighed. He still had an hour left to go before his father would leave for the day. He bit his lip. Oh well, at least he had something to look at. Why not make the best of it?

Kenji shuddered suddenly. He wondered what that was about. Then, he looked to his left. Briefly, he made eye contact with a man, who was turned toward him, from a distance. The man then swiftly turned his face away from Kenji. Kenji’s brow furrowed. He looked forward again and bit his lip.

Kenji’s breathing started to quicken. Should he look to make sure this guy was in fact watching him? No, he decided against it; he didn’t want to confirm to the man that he had made him. Instead, Kenji chose to show an interest in the game display. He decided to pick up the most interesting game guide he could find and could afford with the money he had brought with him. He thanked the vendor and turned away. All of Kenji’s muscles were tense, and he could tell his face was flushed. Yet, he tried to look as casual as possible as he headed back to where his parents were. His mother had just finished her stint as an interested customer and happened to be heading in his direction.

“Kenji, what a great idea!” His mother pointed toward the magazine Kenji was holding in his hand. “That will make you look like a real shopper.”

“Is it working?” Kenji asked lowly.

“Well, it’s hard to say. I mean, I think there is interest. People do come around to see what I’m yelling about.”

“Yelling?”

“Well, exclaiming. I thought I’d add some more drama to it. Maybe next time I should buy a lure. I mean, I could always give one to my boss. He does like to fish. Hey, that’s not such a bad idea! All his friends might see it and want one.”

Kenji turned his head toward the back of the room while she was talking. He couldn’t help it. Now he was having that same feeling he had had before — only he didn’t see the man.

“Kenji, what’s wrong? You aren’t listening.”

“Sorry.” he said, turning back around. “I have a lot on my mind.”

“Well, we could go home if you’re not feeling well.”

His mother placed her hand on his shoulder.

“No, that’s okay.” he replied.

He was pleased that his mother gave him the option to decide for himself.

“Great! I was hoping you’d say that.” She beamed. “Here. Let me give you some more money, so you can buy a lure this time. Your dad can give it to his boss.”

“Couldn’t he anyway?”

She frowned.

“Yeah, but that would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?”

“Oh — okay. I’ll do it.”

“Good.”

She handed him the money.

Kenji was surprised when he returned to find a crowd had gathered around his father’s booth. He was skeptical at first. He thought maybe his father had paid them to act interested, but it turned out they were students from the local high school heading out on a school wilderness trip. As he waited in line, Kenji cast a look around him. The only conspicuous-looking person that he saw was his mother peering out from the other side of a stack of books. She sort of waved at him then returned to reading the covers — presumably as a way to not draw attention to herself. Kenji sighed as he turned back toward his father. He was one part embarrassed and one part relieved. The relief was from seeing that his mother was all right while at the same time not seeing that strange man. It was pretty obvious where the embarrassment was coming from.

“I’m sorry, son, but we’re all out of my one-of-a-kind fishing lures.”

Kenji was deep in thought.

“Son, you’re going to have to come back next week …” his father stated. “Psst … Kenji.”

Kenji looked up. A phrase had caught his attention before the use of his name even had.

“Next week?” he stammered. “Are you serious?”

“We’re sold out. And why wouldn’t we be?” his father joined.

His father was missing his point badly. Then, his father whispered to Kenji, “The good news for you is we can leave early today.”

“Mom will be disappointed, I guess.” Kenji joked. “She wanted me to buy one for your boss.”

“Well, like I said. Next week.”

Kenji looked at his father quizzically. He was surprised to note that his father had taken him seriously.

“Let’s go get your mother and break the news to her. By the way, do you have any cookies left?”

Since his father had taken the bus to get to the flea market, it meant that the family could all ride back in the hover car together. Kenji sat in the back seat and stared out the window. He always wondered what it would be like to have a sibling, but these days he found he wished he had a dog — something to sit in the back seat with him; something that might understand him despite the language barrier; something that wouldn’t tease him just for fun.

Certainly having a pet might give him something to think on other than what his dad was talking about. His father unfortunately was giving a detailed account of his day at the flea market. Kenji guessed his father figured that since neither Kenji nor his mother had been there the entire day, there was much they had both missed out on. After all, there was bound to be some occurrence that one of them hadn’t seen.

As it turned out, it wasn’t all that difficult for Kenji’s mind to wander. And he thought about Takara, her letter, Erik taking it, and Kenji’s being possibly followed twice later. Still, as they pulled up to their apartment it all seemed rather surreal. Things like that just didn’t happen to him. That feeling of skepticism grew until the moment he and his parents reached their doorstep; then, it disappeared altogether. His mother let out a peculiar scream, and Kenji just kind of looked at her, unable to quite process what it was he was seeing.

“We’ve been robbed!” Kenji’s mother called out at the sight of the front door having been left cracked open.

“Robbed? Robbed of what?” Kenji’s dad countered.

“Well, how about Kenji’s computer?”

“Oh, yeah, right.”

“What do you mean?! We have lots of nice stuff.” Kenji’s mother retorted.

Kenji’s father scratched his head. “Well, should we go in?”

“I don’t know. Maybe we should call the local security force.” Kenji’s mom offered.

“Maybe …”

“If we had a dog, then it would know if someone was inside.” Kenji felt compelled to say.

They looked at him with accusatory expressions.

“Sorry.” he uttered self-consciously.

“Well, I guess I’ll take a look around.” Kenji’s father offered. “Maybe the apartment manager did an inspection and just forgot to shut the door.”

“Don’t try this at home …” Kenji muttered under his breath.

His father shot him a look before entering their abode. After a few surprisingly anxious moments, Kenji was glad to see his father returning.

“It’s all clear.”

“Thank goodness!” Kenji’s mom expressed.

Kenji and his mother took a step forward into the house.

“Yeah, the only room in the house that is messed up is yours, Kenji.” his father teased.

Kenji stopped short and looked at his father’s grin quizzically.

“What do you mean?” Kenji asked.

“It’s no big deal. I mean, when I was a boy it was much worse — if that could be imagined.”

Kenji headed into the house. Despite his father’s insistence, it did appear as though most of the drawers in the house had in fact been rifled through. The look on his mother’s face when he passed by her suggested that she realized the same thing.

But it was Kenji’s room that appeared as though someone had had a free-for-all. His backpack was particularly disassembled and the contents strewn about. Kenji’s mother appeared behind him. And when he looked up at her, he saw shock on her face. She had come to his door several times that day and knew his room didn’t look like this before.

“See, the computer’s still there.” his father consoled.

Kenji looked at him briefly. His father meant well, but he didn’t understand. They weren’t after the computer. That meant they were after something else of value to them — something that not everyone would even realize was valuable. All Kenji could think of was Takara’s letter, and he hoped they didn’t figure out that Erik had it — especially before it was mailed.

 

***

 

On Monday morning Kenji sat in front of his computer monitor pensively considering what course of action to take. Right before class, Kenji was stressed about Takara’s and Erik’s safety. But as much as he wanted to check on them, he decided to skip class that morning. He was afraid one or both of them would mention the letter. Someone might easily be monitoring the connection — particularly now. Kenji sighed and switched off his computer. He decided there was no point in waiting around feeling guilty about skipping class, so he ventured into the kitchen and sat down at the counter. His mother was busy baking muffins. When she saw him sitting there, she froze for a second.

“Oh, you scared me! Wait a minute, don’t you have a class?”

Kenji was staring into space.

“Kenji?”

“Yes.” He looked at her.

“Is something on your mind?”

Kenji considered for a moment.

“Just the break-in the other day.”

“But nothing was taken, was it?” she asked.

“No.”

“Kenji, I don’t mean to offend you, but you take everything so seriously.”

Kenji just looked off to the side and sighed.

“Well, since you’re being so ornery today I might as well put you to work. I have some baking to do. It’s my job to make the dessert for the brunch meeting today, and you’re going to help me.” his mother announced.

Kenji managed a smile. After all, he figured his mother was trying to be there for him. And at least this would be a way for him to keep his mind off his concern for Takara and Erik.

Kenji did try to log in right after class ended just to see whether Takara was there. She wasn’t. Afterward, he tried to convince himself it was for the best. He really couldn’t discuss anything with her online lest someone was watching, but he hated to think of her worrying about what had happened to her letter and maybe even to him. Still, how could it be avoided? He had to stay away from class until the next field trip. Kenji did breathe a sigh of relief when he saw the next field trip was scheduled for this week. Now he just had to hold out until Friday, avoiding the online class meetings until then. Fortunately, his regular school had already been dismissed for the summer.

Kenji made sure to check the assignment page. He thought the least he could do was make sure all of his online work was completed. That way, he hopefully wouldn’t be turned away from the field trip — for that at least. Still, how could he explain his absence if asked? Kenji was determined to find a verifiable excuse to miss the rest of this week’s online sessions; Kenji decided this part of the plan was something he could go to his parents with. They seemed to be really good at dealing with off-the-wall issues. So, while they were both sitting down, he asked, “I need to skip my online lectures this week, can you think of an excuse for me to do that?”

A strange look descended upon both of their faces. They appeared to be stunned silent. Kenji wasn’t really expecting this. Riotous laughter, yes — but this?

“Mom? Dad?”

“Kenji — are you serious?” his father asked him.

“Yes. It’s important.” He added the last part, hoping it would be enough information for them, so they wouldn’t feel the need to ask further questions.

“Oh, you know what?” his mother began. “I bet he just wants to skip class. Am I right? That is so rebellious of you! Of course, that you asked permission first kind of defeats the purpose!”

Kenji just looked at her blankly. Then, his parents looked at each other with confusion once again in their eyes.

“Umm … I suppose … well, my assistant is unexpectedly on vacation this week.” his father informed him. “I did try to find a temp but strangely none seemed to be available. I can have you fill in for her. It would actually be pretty helpful seeing as it’s a small business.”

“Great. I don’t even care whether I get docked points just as long as I can go to the field trip on Friday.”

His parents looked at each other again.

“Thanks, guys. You’re the best!” Kenji exclaimed before heading to his room.

At first, he just heard what seemed to be a muffled snicker. But then it quickly built until, once again, his parents had erupted into hysterical laughter. Kenji smiled to himself; it was worth it.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2019

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Intermezzo

Chapter 11

Kenji knew the letter was important; he could just tell. Therefore, it was essential for him to mail it without anyone suspecting what he was up to. He decided to involve Erik as his unwitting accomplice. It would seem less suspicious if two friends headed out on an adventure than if he wandered around the streets alone. He had to make sure this letter wasn’t retrieved right after it was deposited in the postal box; therefore, he couldn’t tip off anyone to what he was doing.

On the one hand, he thought he was being paranoid; on the other hand, he noted Miss Harrington’s bizarre reaction to Takara leaving the building. People were watching Takara and controlling her movements. He just had to make sure this letter got to where it needed to be.

“Something going on?” Erik asked him.

Kenji had been standing outside the virtual reality corridor waiting for Erik. The question was how much should he say. Maybe Erik could point him in the direction of a postal box that was less conspicuous. The closest one might not be the best choice as it turned out. In his current frame of mind, Kenji resisted looking up the information online again lest someone saw him take the letter from Takara.

“I have to mail this letter …” Kenji stated.

“Okay.” Erik sounded confused.

“It’s sort of complicated.”

“Does it have something to do with that girl?” Erik asked.

“Yes.” Kenji wondered where Erik was going with that question.

“Why don’t you just give it to her then?”

“I can’t.”

“Oh …” Erik considered. “Oh, she left. Hey, they’re all gone!”

“Yes, the bus left a little while ago. I told them we weren’t needing a ride since we came here on our own.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

Kenji considered.

“Like I said …”

“Listen, do you want me to mail it for you?”

“I … don’t know …”

“It’s not a big deal. There’s a box on the way to my house.”

Kenji found himself handing the letter over. His heart sank a little as he let it slip away from his grasp.

“You won’t forget?” Kenji asked.

“No.” Erik insisted. “I’ll do it. I know how hard it will be to work with you if I don’t.”

Erik placed the letter in his jacket pocket.

“Catch you later.” Erik said as he took off.

 

***

 

Kenji was concerned on his way home. He had decided to walk rather than call his parents for a ride, despite his home being pretty far away, in order to have some time to think through the things that were weighing on him. Had he betrayed Takara’s trust by giving the letter to Erik? It wasn’t as though he felt that Erik would purposefully let him down. But what if the letter fell out of Erik’s pocket? Kenji tried to tell himself that Takara could just write another one, but honestly her home life seemed really strange. Perhaps, it had something to do with her father’s death? Kenji had been afraid to ask about that. Not only did he not want to pry, but he felt it could also be potentially dangerous.

And to think he barely knew Takara before the course. He had liked her before; it wasn’t that. But she seemed so far away to him then. Now he was too worried about her to truly appreciate how great it was that they were actually spending time together.

Earlier that day, he had split his attention among looking for her to come into the arcade, exploring the computer programs, and talking to Erik. He had been worried what she might think when she found he wasn’t on the bus. His alarm clock hadn’t gone off in time for him to catch the bus, so his mother had offered to drive him. As his eyes drifted downward that last time, his eyes met hers. He was in awe of the brilliant smile Takara had given him; so much so that he was in a daze when he came down to the main floor.

Then, once again, it seemed as though her life had sneaked in on her. More than once before, she had alluded to being trapped at that place — that Institute. It was so bad apparently she didn’t even believe she’d be given the extra time to go to the arcade to complete her work.

Then, there was the way Miss Harrington had treated her. Kenji had never seen the teacher raise her voice before, but it was more than that. There was this venom to her words, as though she didn’t like Takara at all anymore. Kenji shook his head. What had Takara ever done to her? Nothing so far as Kenji could tell. Takara seemed to wilt like a blossom in the snow at that moment. Kenji sighed. He knew he wasn’t enough. She needed more support than he could give in the small amount of time they saw each other. And then, there was the letter. What would become of that?

Just then, Kenji noticed that the dull roar of a car engine, the awareness of which had entered into the back of his mind awhile ago, was still there. Kenji began to count the seconds of how long the sound remained. He began to wonder what its presence meant as time ticked by. As he stopped at the crosswalk, he could hear the hover car slowly approach. But instead of coming up to the line, it stopped just behind Kenji and idled there: he was being followed. Suddenly, Kenji’s concerns about Erik taking the letter from him were gone. As it turned out, Erik was the best chance that letter had of getting where it needed to go.

Kenji arrived home not long afterward. He had thought about going someplace else, so that those following him wouldn’t know where he lived. The only problem was he didn’t know where he could go nearby that would be safe. Not to mention, he was walking at such a clip by then that he was getting tired. He couldn’t seem to stop himself either. Ever since he realized he was being followed, he felt compelled to press forward and get home as quickly as possible.

Kenji ran up the stairs to his apartment, unlocked the door, and rushed inside. He’d made it! After removing his shoes and his bag, he yelled out, “I’m home!”

“Okay. No need to be so formal.” his mother returned.

Kenji sighed.

“I’m in the kitchen, by the way. I made some cookies if you’re interested.”

Kenji hesitated. It all depended on what type of cookies she was making. Some days they were great; other days his mother would try new recipes, new concoctions she created. Some of the combinations got to be bizarre.

Kenji entered the room then sat on a stool near the counter. He prepared himself for the worst.

“I made your favorite: peanut butter.”

“Is that all that’s in there?”

“Oh.” Her face fell. “Are you disappointed?”

“No, oh no! I can’t wait!”

“Good.” She smiled. “By the way, why were you out of breath? You usually say ‘I’m home’ with a lot more enthusiasm.”

Kenji looked at her skeptically.

“Some car seemed to be following me.” he admitted.

Kenji figured it was best someone else know just in case it was something. Still …

“But of course I can’t be sure.” he added.

“You know that wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

Kenji was taken aback by her reaction.

“This city has gotten strange. I mean, they never did figure out where that robot went. Next time you’ll have to call me; I’ll drive you home.”

“All right.” He nodded.

“Still, it’s unfortunate a person can’t just wander the streets anymore. I’m not sure when that happened. This colony used to seem so peaceful.”

“I don’t know.” Kenji acknowledged.

His mother sighed. Then, she went to the oven to retrieve the cookies.

“Oh, by the way, your father has started a booth at the local flea market. He wants us to go help.”

“Today?”

“Yes.”

“What would I do?”

“We’re supposed to look interested in his collection of custom-made fishing lures just in case no one else is.”

Kenji was doubtful.

“What?”

“He doesn’t want to be embarrassed. And I’ve made plenty of cookies to keep you going.”

It only then became clear to Kenji that the cookies were a bribe to get him to help with his father’s latest money-making scheme. Oh, well. At least he’d have some cookies and something else to think about.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2019

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Intermezzo

Chapter 10

Miss Harrington did announce at the next class session that a field trip would be scheduled for the coming Friday if everyone could attend. There were no complaints, so she went ahead with the scheduling. It seemed there had been a standing agreement, which Miss Harrington had been routinely canceling, with the arcade. Now, however, Miss Harrington was seemingly over whatever it was that had been troubling her before. All she mentioned that gave anyone a clue as to the reason for the reversal was that a conversation she had had recently had been very reassuring. She was now certain that she could handle things. Takara glanced at Kenji’s image briefly and noticed the same puzzled expression on his face that was likely on hers. Their conversation afterward sort of touched on their mutual confusion; but really their talk was very simple and brief. They would see each other on Friday, after all. Takara felt relief that she would see him again.

The week went by really slowly, but it was uplifting to hear before class began how excited everyone was about the forthcoming field trip. They would finally be given the opportunity to start work on an assignment of their own rather than just take a tour of the facility. Takara was relieved to find out that few students had actually gone back to the arcade on their own time. Actually, the only kid who seemed to go there a lot was the kid named Erik Lancaster. And it wasn’t as though he was trying to upstage the others, it seemed. He just had a real interest in the virtual reality corridor. Since he lived close to the facility and the course didn’t delve into that particular subject a lot, his parents bought him a membership to the arcade. Yet, it appeared there was only so much one could do on his or her own. That was why Erik was eager for the class to meet there. Then again, everyone seemed to feel the same way; just reading about the course subject didn’t seem like enough. Though the topic was interesting to read about, the real draw of the course, Takara discovered, was the work that could be done at the arcade facility.

Finally, Friday came. Takara became nervous that morning. After all, she wouldn’t put it past these people to tell her she couldn’t go at the last minute. Takara wrung her hands for a moment. She wondered whether there was a way she could guarantee she’d be able to go. Her first thought was to be especially nice to whomever she ran into. After all, she was in a good mood and was excited to begin the day. But then she thought better of it. This course was Mr. Tyler’s idea; Takara figured it was more than likely suggested to prevent her from going back to her old school for some reason. If Takara got on too well at the online school, he might bring in a private tutor instead; then, she would never have an opportunity to leave the Institute and contact her mother. Not to mention, she would lose her contact with Kenji as well.

Takara sat on her bed and considered. The way she had to live here … there was always a possibility someone would analyze her reaction. She sighed. Perhaps, she should focus on how tired she was. The fact was she hadn’t slept much the previous night. She kept dreaming that she had overslept and missed the field trip. And her restlessness only got worse the further into the night she got. Eventually, she just decided to stay up lest she really did sleep too long. It would be just like Patty to let her sleep in when she could least afford to.

Takara had made some progress in improving her strength, however. The walking was really helping to improve her endurance. The irony was the more she did and the more she pushed herself, the more she realized how weak she had become after the accident. Takara looked down sadly. At that moment, Patty entered the room. It was her job to arrange for the bus to come pick up Takara. Takara looked at the woman briefly then turned her gaze away. She held her breath. She wondered whether the woman was going to say anything about the day’s activities.

“Well, aren’t you going to get dressed?” Patty asked.

Takara stood without looking at the woman. She walked straight forward towards her dresser. She had waited to dress, so she wouldn’t appear to be desperate to go. Patty placed Takara’s tray of food on the dresser and headed out of the room. Takara could feel the woman glare at her, even though she didn’t see it firsthand.

Still, the reality was that Takara had picked out her outfit in advance. It was the prettiest outfit she could select without drawing too much attention to herself. It really felt as though she were going to a regular school again. It would be hard for her to hide her excitement, but it was imperative, nonetheless.

Takara ate every bit of her food. She figured she needed every ounce of strength she could get. Also, if everything went according to plan, she wouldn’t have the time to get food at the arcade. She’d be too busy mailing her letter! Takara even attempted not to appear to be in a hurry while she ate; still, her eyes watched the clock steadily.

Next, Takara grabbed her bag, and, as casually as possible, she headed out the door and into the hall. Takara did make eye contact with a few people she passed by. She tried to appear as pleasant as she could. She just hoped she could get out of the building without …

“Takara!” a voice called out.

Takara froze. Then, she slowly turned toward the atrium. There was Mr. Tyler with the same strange man as before.

“Come here, won’t you?” he called out from the same high-back chair her father used to occupy when he went to the atrium.

“I-I have to get …” she stammered.

“You have enough time.” he mentioned coolly, while staring straight ahead.

“Come … here …” he stated with intensity without actually shouting.

Takara made her way over to him with her eyes cast downward.

“Takara, please shake hands with Mr. Connelly. He is wanting to make your acquaintance.”

Takara eyed the man suspiciously.

“Come now, is that any way to act?”

“You don’t remember me, do you?” the strange man asked.

“No.” Takara answered skeptically.

The man sat up in his chair. He and Mr. Tyler appeared to exchange glances. Mr. Connelly seemed to be relieved.

“Well, why don’t we say that your father and I were friends.” the man continued.

“Really?” Takara asked.

“Sure.” he replied with a smile.

Takara looked between the two men. There was something going on here, but Takara couldn’t guess what it could be. The only thing she could tell was that Mr. Connelly seemed happier now that she had come over.

“You may leave now, Takara.” Mr. Tyler informed her.

“All right.” Takara started.

“It was nice to meet you.” she added. She said this towards the other man at the last minute. Only, strangely, the man seemed uninterested in her now. He merely lifted his eyes and nodded slightly. Takara was taken off guard. She turned slowly and headed for the exit. She felt deflated for some reason. But then, as she walked from the Institute and came out into the sunshine, her mood began to improve. She began to feel empowered again. There was something about just this small amount of freedom that left her feeling invigorated. She also started thinking about positive things. She may have felt low before she left, but the truth was that she had gotten out, and she was on her way. She had her letter to her mother. She even had her father’s key safeguarded in her shoe. Just having something from her father’s room was comforting, even though she had no plans to use it.

The key did, however, make it a bit harder to trek down the driveway. It would probably be even worse going back up the hill later. But still, somehow, it was worth it to have that key with her. When Takara got to the street, she was unnerved to find the bus waiting for her. Takara attempted to walk as fast as she could lest they leave her behind. It occurred to her that if she hadn’t been building up her strength these past weeks, it might have been gone already.

Upon boarding the bus, the first person whom Takara made eye contact with was the teacher. Miss Harrington kind of smiled then looked away.

“I’m sorry …” Takara acknowledged. “I’m late.”

The woman nodded slightly. Takara concluded that maybe her teacher was still upset about what had happened the last time they were on the bus. Still, instead of focusing on that, Takara decided to connect with Kenji instead. It would be nice to have someone to sit near, though it would probably be too risky for them to sit in the same seat. As Takara scanned the bus, she was horrified to note that Kenji wasn’t there. Takara froze. Where could he be?

“Takara … Takara, will you please have a seat.”

“Oh—yeah.”

Takara went for the closest seat. She barely sat down on it before the bus moved on. Takara cast a look into the back of the bus just to make sure she hadn’t missed Kenji. Maybe he had dropped something and was picking it up when she had looked before. Only she wasn’t wrong; he wasn’t there.

Takara turned back in a daze. How could this be? What could it mean? Kenji never mentioned that there was a possibility he wouldn’t be able to make it. Did something happen to him? Takara still had her hand on the top of the seat in front of her. She resisted the urge to look back a third time; instead, she let her eyes drift towards the teacher. Should she ask her where Kenji was? Takara decided against it. She breathed and then sat back in her seat. She would contact him as soon as she could and make sure he was all right.

Takara tried to refocus on her mission to send out the letter, but she found she was too deflated for that. And it wasn’t as though there was anything she could do with the letter at that moment.

The bus pulled up to the arcade. Takara filed out with the others. She breathed in the fresh air. Actually, it seemed as though it might rain. Takara did think to look around her then, though she couldn’t see any postal boxes to place her letter in. They all headed into the arcade. As Takara stepped into the main room, she felt lost. She looked down and off to the side. Students walked past her on their way inside. Takara decided to wait until the teacher announced what they were going to do before she headed all the way into the main room. Takara sighed and began looking around her again. Her eyes wandered upward towards the transparent part of the second floor that jutted into the main room.

That’s when she saw him: Kenji was there in that spot! They made eye contact. Takara beamed at him. He had found a way to be there after all. And he may have even chosen that spot, so that he could keep a lookout for her.

The teacher then decided to gather the group together. Takara looked at the teacher as she spoke. As Takara glanced back up at the cubicle, she found that Kenji was gone. She didn’t really know what to make of it, but at least he was here … somewhere. It would probably be a good idea to pay attention to the teacher in the meantime, Takara decided.

“I have an assignment sheet for you to download to your tablets. It’s a pretty simple assignment. It’s basically just to familiarize you with the computers. We’ll be working in the virtual reality corridor at a later date. And, of course, you are always welcome to come back on your own time. I have scheduled times for you to work during the week.”

Takara’s heart sank. Her face flushed. How would she be capable of keeping up with the course if she couldn’t come back here on her own? Takara looked at some of the other students. Then, at that moment, Kenji came up to Takara’s side from behind.

“I’ll get that sent out to you right now.” Miss Harrington turned and began to fetch something from her bag. She pulled out her tablet. After a few moments, she informed them that it was done.

“Since we still don’t have enough computers for all of you, I’d like you to work in groups of three or four.”

Takara and Kenji looked at each other. There was a silent understanding between them that they would work together. Suddenly things were looking up; now, Takara had an excuse to talk with Kenji. She had been somewhat worried that people might notice she had a particular interest in him otherwise. But whom else could they work with?

“Hey, Erik.” Kenji called out. “Do you want to work in our group?”

The boy with the light brown hair turned and smiled.

“Sure.” he stated. Kenji had been talking to Erik online recently about their shared interest in virtual reality. Takara also remembered that Erik was the one who had ended up asking Miss Harrington about when the next field trip would be. Takara decided she approved of the choice. After Kenji, he was the one other person Takara would feel comfortable working with. He seemed to be pretty independent-minded, and that made Takara think that he would be unlikely to tell people what she did. After all, she still had to mail out her letter.

“Is everyone ready? Good. Then, everyone can go get on a computer.”

Takara, Kenji, and Erik got the computer that jutted out into the main room. As it turned out, both of the boys Takara was to work with had been working in the lab before the start of class that day. Erik stepped to the side of Kenji’s computer and logged off his own computer. He returned shortly thereafter, pulling a chair with him. Takara sat in a second chair that had been left in the cubicle. Kenji sat in the chair in front of the computer.

“Is it okay that I start?” Kenji asked them. “We are supposed to take turns.”

“Yes, that’s fine with me.” Takara replied.

“Yes.” Erik concurred.

Takara sighed. She looked around her. This was great on so many levels; now, they could help one another get their work done. It was also nice to be able to interact with other people in a positive way again. Still, there was something she couldn’t forget about. As much as she wanted to enjoy this experience as long as possible, she had to finish this assignment as soon as she could. She needed to free up some time in order to have the opportunity to mail out her letter. She breathed. She didn’t even know where she could find a postal box to put it in.

Still, she decided the first thing to do was to focus and get her work done early; that way she would have time to consider what to do next.

“I can’t believe how simple this assignment is.” Erik remarked quietly. “I mean, it’s not exactly worth the wait.”

“Yeah, I know you really wanted to learn something you hadn’t already figured out on your own.” Kenji acknowledged.

“Yeah. But I guess we have to get this kind of thing done before we can move on; still, it sort of has me worried that we aren’t going to get to do anything interesting.”

“I’m just worried I won’t be capable of keeping up with the workload.” Takara heard herself add before she could catch herself. What if they — but especially Erik — thought to ask her questions about this statement?

The two boys looked at her.

“She isn’t here all the time like you are.” Kenji explained.

Erik nodded. Takara breathed. She found she was very grateful to Kenji at that moment.

Kenji sighed.

“Well, I think we should be capable of getting this done pretty fast, and then we can do whatever we want.” Kenji put forth.

That sounded good to Takara, and the trio did manage to finish the assignment swiftly.

“Well, I’ll just submit it to the teacher then.” Kenji announced.

“Great. I’ll be in the virtual reality corridor if you need me.”

Finding herself alone with Kenji, Takara asked him, “Do you happen to know where a postal box is?”

Takara held her breath for a moment. After Kenji pressed the submit button for the assignment, he turned and looked at her.

“Umm … let me see.”

Kenji did an online search for postal boxes. Takara was surprised it hadn’t dawned on her that she could use the computers from the arcade for this purpose. Then again, Kenji was using his own login. If Takara had been the one who had logged in, she’d be afraid her online movements would be tracked.

“Here’s … let’s see … I guess there’s one just two blocks away.”

He pointed to his left.

“That way.”

Takara beamed.

“That’s great! Thank you!”

Takara then headed for the elevator. She figured there was plenty of time to make it there and back before the bus left. It was simple really. Takara felt so relieved and enthusiastic at that moment she forgot to be cautiously aware of her surroundings. For as she left the elevator and headed decidedly for the exit, she heard a voice call out to her from behind: “Stop, Takara!”

Takara froze so suddenly that she almost tripped. As she turned, she was surprised to find Miss Harrington glaring at her.

“Just what are you up to?” the woman accused her harshly.

Takara looked off to the side in shock.

“You can’t leave this building until we’re all ready to go.” the teacher persisted.

Takara kept her eyes cast down. Her face reddened.

“Do you understand me?!”

“Yes.” Takara responded.

“Since you’re done so early, maybe the others are, too, and we can all just leave right now!” Miss Harrington spat.

Takara continued looking down in embarrassment.

“And don’t you worry; you’ll have plenty to do in the future assignments. You’re going to need all of your class time to keep up with them!”

What did she mean by that? Why would Miss Harrington want to make things more difficult for her? Miss Harrington walked past her then. As Takara looked up, she noticed that Kenji was standing in the entrance to the hallway. The look on his face said that he heard everything. He approached. Takara looked down again; she was mortified.

“You all right?” he asked her.

She nodded slightly.

“I’m not sure what that was about.” he spoke softly. “But it seemed out of line to me.”

Takara nodded again. She was still in shock.

“Can I help?” Kenji whispered to her. “Do you have something to mail?”

At first, Takara looked at him with surprise. Yet, she was careful not to overreact. She then slipped her hand into her bag. And when she saw the teacher wasn’t looking, she passed the letter to him.

“Thank you.” Takara said, glancing over at him.

Takara forced herself to smile, though her eyes were still sad. Kenji smiled and nodded. Takara felt a certain amount of exhilaration as she handed her precious letter over to Kenji. Maybe it was the fact she knew him from before that caused her to trust him. Either way, she felt she finally had someone on her side again. Kenji found he was just as happy as she seemed to be; finally, there was something he could do for her.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2019

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Intermezzo

Chapter 9

Takara was very eager to start Monday’s class, so she could find out when the next outing would be. Unfortunately, Miss Harrington logged on to the class site five minutes late. And when she did log on, she went straight to work. Takara’s heart was beating quickly. It was hard for her to calm down enough to focus on the lesson. She breathed, attempting to inhale and exhale as slowly as possible. After all, this information could turn out to be useful on the next field trip. Perhaps, she could even get her work done early during the field trip; that way she could sneak off and mail her letter.

Still, she couldn’t seem to stop herself from looking at the clock more than once as the session progressed. Time was ticking by, and the teacher’s lesson wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Takara sat back in her chair and clenched her teeth after the class time expired. A moment after that, she heard the teacher announce that class was over for the day. The teacher then made some comment about needing to be somewhere.

Takara leaned forward; she felt panic-stricken.

“What about the next field trip?” Takara wondered.

When Takara saw the images of the other students looking around, she realized that she had said that out loud. Takara froze. She was horrified when she noticed that Miss Harrington looked flustered.

“I’m sor—”

“We’ll deal with that later.” Miss Harrington said quickly before abruptly logging off. One by one the other students seemed to follow suit. Takara stared into space. She had messed up again. Why did everything have to be so complicated? She looked down and placed her hand on her forehead.

“Are you all right?” Takara heard a voice ask softly.

She looked up startled. She blinked a few times then realized that the voice was coming from one of her classmates online. It was that boy that seemed to know her.

“Yes. Thank—thank you.” Takara stammered.

She looked off to the side and tried to think of something else to say.

“No problem.” the boy noted.

Takara looked back at his picture and smiled slightly.

“Are you from Grove Academy?” Takara found herself asking.

“Oh, yeah. Right.”

“And your name is Kenji, right?”

“Yeah. And yours is Takara.”

Takara smiled again. She felt herself relax a little.

“Thank you for what you said before.” Takara told him. “It’s as though I don’t know what to say anymore.”

Takara bit her lip slightly. She worried she was admitting that she wasn’t normal like everyone else, and that he would reject her because of it.

“Yeah, I hear you. I feel that way all the time with my parents.”

Kenji grinned; then, so did Takara. Something about Kenji seemed to put her at ease.

“I didn’t mean to offend the teacher.” Takara lamented.

“Yeah, who knows what that was about. I bet everyone was thinking the same thing you were only no one but you had the nerve to ask. I mean, if all we end up doing is sitting around talking about our weekly reading assignments — that could get pretty boring.”

“Yes.” Takara admitted. “I suppose you’re right.”

She smiled again; then, she sighed. Suddenly, someone began to open her bedroom door. The person paused when the door was about an inch open. Takara heard the person’s voice and recognized it as Patty’s. Patty seemed to be talking to someone in the hall. Takara panicked as she remembered where she was and under what circumstances.

“Takara?” Kenji uttered, recalling her attention.

Takara bit her lip again as she turned from the hallway toward the computer screen.

“I have to go now.” Takara returned sullenly.

“Sure.”

“It’s not like …”

“Hey, I get it. Don’t worry.”

Kenji smiled. Takara managed to smile as well. Then, she swallowed as she reached forward and pressed the button to turn off the computer. Turning off the computer had been a hard thing to do. Kenji was so genuine; it felt as though he was a lifeline for her. She was sure he and her father would have gotten along. They had a similar sense of humor. Takara managed to smile slightly. Then, she prepared herself to handle the inevitable onslaught of negativity and disapproval.

“I thought you’d have been off by now.” Patty remarked in an accusatory tone.

Takara decided to just look at her without saying anything. After all, she couldn’t afford to tell her the truth, and yet she also didn’t want to lie. Eventually, Patty went about her business. Still, Takara could tell the precedent had been set. It was seemingly okay for the others here to be rude to her. And Takara couldn’t help but wonder how they would react if they found out about the question she had asked Miss Harrington. Chances were Takara could expect a poor response. Well, at least she had one possible friend now. She just had to find a way to maintain that connection.

 

***

 

It didn’t take all that long before the fear that Takara felt after her run-in with Mr. Tyler to begin to fade. And it was strange to think of it, but Takara found herself waiting for the sun to go down again. It was as though a tension would finally release. True, she couldn’t spend too much time walking the halls; Patty always came for her at around the same time in the early morning hours without fail. There would be too many questions if she slept in too late. Yet, these few hours free from the microscope of scrutiny were freeing. Part of her felt there could possibly be a camera installed in the halls, but Takara didn’t see one. And if there were one there, she’d just be seen wandering around. And, after all, she didn’t go toward anything with locks on it anymore. Still, there was always a chance they would tell her to stop or restrict her freedom further by possibly locking her in her room. But she couldn’t think of that. She needed these excursions to stay sane, so she took them. The consequences, should they come, were a problem for another day. But why should they come? She wasn’t harming anyone with her walks. And with every other step she took, she could feel her father’s key securely placed within her shoe.

Fortunately, no one said a thing about Takara’s question to Miss Harrington … day after day. Takara was glad. And certainly, soon enough, the class would have another field trip, and she would be able to contact her mother — only it didn’t happen.

For some reason, Miss Harrington never brought up the subject, and Takara was too afraid to ask again. She figured she’d been fortunate there had been no repercussions the last time she ventured to ask, and she didn’t want to risk a backlash now. Still, every day this sliver of panic began to grow inside of Takara. It was hard for her not to become despondent. Then, finally, someone else apparently could not stand the strain any longer and came out with the question Takara had uttered weeks earlier.

“Miss Harrington?”

“Yes, Erik?”

“When are we going to go back to the Virtual Reality Gaming Complex?”

Once again, there was silence. At least now Takara knew Miss Harrington’s negative reaction when Takara had asked about the arcade previously hadn’t been personal. And yet, Miss Harrington had seemed so excited about the virtual reality arcade in the beginning. Could it be that the large robot had scared her this much? Was she having trouble leaving her house? Actually, why would she think any one place would be safer than another? As far as Takara knew from the conversations she had heard the other students having before class, there was no new information about the cause or reason for the incident. Who knew how long it would be before there were answers?

“I guess we’ll have to do that again, won’t we?” Miss Harrington murmured.

Again there was silence. Takara got the feeling the rest of the students were in agreement with the teacher’s statement. While no one jumped in to say “yes,” no one seemed to disagree with her either. Then again, maybe Takara was the only one who felt pressure to make Miss Harrington feel better. Miss Harrington sighed.

“Okay. I have to check into something.” Miss Harrington looked down. “I’ll give you the date next time.”

When Miss Harrington logged off, Takara could hear some of the other students groan before logging off as well.

It had become part of her normal routine for Takara to linger on after the class ended for a few minutes. Kenji would as well. Takara ended up having to abruptly log off not long after when Patty would enter the room. The first time it happened, Takara worried what Kenji’s reaction would be. Would he think her odd or even mean? The next time she spoke with him, he didn’t even bring it up. And then, when it happened over and over again, he didn’t question it. If he wondered what was going on, it certainly didn’t bother him enough to ask. Takara appreciated how normal he was with her. Nothing seemed to particularly faze him. And it made Takara feel comfortable. Not to mention, it gave her something other than her nighttime walks to look forward to in her everyday routine.

“So, how are you today?” Kenji asked with a smile on his face.

At first, Takara began to smile; then, seconds later, her smile broke. She considered. She could hear him breathe into the microphone. She looked up at his image.

“Sounds as though we might get another chance to go to the arcade. Then again, it’s not as though we couldn’t go anytime we wanted to, right?” he asked.

Takara looked off to the side. Her brow furrowed slightly. Then, she thought of something. At that moment, she thought about things not as a captive at the Institute but as an ordinary school girl — anxious about not being prepared for an assignment. She let her guard down as a result.

“Do you think other people will have that advantage?” she asked him. “Do you think going in on our own time is expected as part of the course?”

Kenji considered for a moment. Something appeared to be troubling him.

“I mean, is that why we haven’t had a Friday field trip since?”

“No.” Kenji stated. “Just … can you wait a second … I have notes from the first class.”

“All right.” Takara then realized that she didn’t have much time to wait. She was concerned that she would have to log off quickly while Kenji was reviewing his notes.

“Kenji …”

“Hang on just a second, Takara.”

Takara turned an anxious glance toward the door. She could hear heels clapping in the hallway.

“And … no, there’s nothing like that!” Kenji declared.

“Thanks. I’ve got to go.”

“I know.” he acknowledged.

Takara’s screen went blank. Kenji just stared at his screen. He found his heart was beating faster. It was as though he and Takara had just pulled off some sort of life and death mission rather than simply exchanging information for a course. As Kenji’s heart rate returned to normal, a sense of foreboding overcame him. He had been concerned that something strange was happening around Takara; now, he was positive of it. There was something troubling going on with her living situation. For the first time in the string of times she’d had to log off suddenly, he was able to actually feel her fear. No, something was definitely wrong. The problem was Kenji had no clue what to do about it.

“Kenji, breakfast is ready!” his mother called out.

Kenji wished he could tell his parents his concerns, but what could they do? Somehow, he guessed it was more than they’d be capable of handling. And what was more, he felt as though they could be in danger if they tried. Kenji bit his lip. No, he’d have to give this one some thought on his own — at least until he was able to see Takara again.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2019

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Intermezzo

Chapter 8

“I’m here!” Kenji announced upon his arrival. He took off his shoes near the door and placed his bag on a hook. He did these things without being asked to. The fact was that his parents were more likely to leave their things strewn about than he was. It was kind of an odd experience growing up after he realized his parents were … unique. Other parents had rules, but his didn’t seem to have any. Kenji could have taken advantage of that, but they were his parents and he loved them — even if they did embarrass him every chance they got.

“Kenji! We’re in here!” his mother announced.

Kenji walked into the living room and saw his parents watching the news coverage of that large robot.

“Wow!” his father noted.

The news coverage went off.

“Oh, no!” Kenji’s mom exclaimed. “We forgot to make Kenji a copy!”

“No worries.” his dad responded. “It will be on again in a half hour.”

Kenji’s mom sighed in relief.

“Wait a minute! You were in that neighborhood weren’t you, Kenji?” his mom asked suddenly.

Kenji was shocked by this sudden concern.

“Yes, I was.” he answered.

“Lucky!” his dad cried out. “Good thing we allowed you to miss your other school, so you could attend that trip, huh? Not every parent would have done that! Come, sit here and tell us about it. Was it as big as it was on the TV?”

Kenji sighed then did as his parents requested. Kenji ended up having to retell the tale a couple of times. Then, Kenji asked, “Did they find out where it came from?”

“No.” his father responded slowly. “It hid somewhere it seems.”

“More likely whoever owns it called it back.” Kenji pointed out.

“I wonder whether it was controlled remotely or was programmed to do that.” his mom mentioned.

“Well, whichever it is, I doubt the person responsible will come forward. Can you imagine the fines? Then again, you’d have to have deep pockets to build something like that.” his father added.

“Well, either way, it’s time to eat.” his mother concluded. “We waited for you, Kenji.”

“Thank you.” Kenji replied with a smile.

After dinner Kenji logged on to his computer and went to the course group page. There, they were still talking about their experience on the bus with the robot. The topic held some interest for him. Yet, it was something else that seemed to be attracting most of his thoughts these days. His eyes caught sight of Takara’s name almost instantly. She seemed to be logged on, and yet she didn’t say anything. The window which should have housed her picture was also blank. Kenji leaned his face on his hand. He wondered how long it would be until he saw her again.

 

***

 

Takara hadn’t wanted to ask the question. She sat there staring at the screen hoping somebody else would, but they never did. It was disappointing that there didn’t appear to be any new information on what had happened with the robot after it passed by the bus. Still, if Takara had learned anything from her recent past it was to bide her time and to not take unnecessary risks. The information simply wasn’t important enough for her to risk her interest in it getting back to Mr. Tyler. She logged off.

As Takara lay on her bed, she heard the last of the staff shuffle around the halls. Patty came by a lot less frequently now. She mainly came just to give Takara her medication and food. Takara had to admit on difficult days she wondered whether she should even take her medication. But it always looked like the same medication she had taken at the hospital, so she took it. As the lights dimmed out in the hall, Takara knew that the employees had left the wing. Takara breathed a sigh of relief. Usually, Takara tried to sleep at this time. That night, however, Takara was too alert to sleep. Takara slid to the edge of her bed and considered.

Takara hadn’t tried to enter her father’s office since she found the door locked. Maybe it was the fact that she’d been given the opportunity to leave the Institute, but she found herself more empowered than before. She slipped her feet onto the floor and went to the door.

A pervasive silence filled the passageways. Slowly, Takara tried the knob. Then, she slipped out into the hall. Only the dim security lights were on. Takara carefully shut her door. She held her breath and listened. She walked forward, careful of each footfall. Takara paused at her father’s office door. She reached out and touched the knob; then, she hesitated. It was probably still locked, she told herself. How Takara wished she had taken all of his papers from his room when she had had the chance! She felt almost certain that some of those papers contained information about the robot. She decided she might as well try the door since she was there. She really didn’t believe anything would come of it. She told herself that, though it would be a disappointment that she couldn’t get into the office, her decision to leave her room needn’t be in vain. She could always go down to the atrium and sit for a while. Perhaps, she could even get the TV to turn on and watch some coverage of the robot.

Takara was shocked when the door slid open. She froze; her brow furrowed. How could this be? Why would Mr. Tyler leave the room unlocked? Was there some way he could be monitoring the room? Takara turned on the light switch and peered inside the room trying to see whether she could see a camera pointed at her. There was nothing obvious she could see. Still, how could this not be a trap? Unless … could Mr. Tyler have come back to the room and forgotten to lock the door? Regardless, how could Takara miss this opportunity? She released the doorknob quickly and stepped inside. She then secured the door behind her.

Everything in the room seemed just as it had the last time she was there, and yet there was a feeling in the air as though the room had somehow been violated. Then again, maybe it was just Takara’s imagination. Takara stepped toward her father’s desk. She placed her hands on the leather of his chair and felt it with her hands. She smiled to herself when she remembered the time she had first been capable of reaching the top of the chair — with a little help from her father at least. Takara’s eyes began to water, and then the tears started to flow. Takara quickly wiped them from her eyes. As she looked down, she noticed something was amiss. There was a scratch around the lock on the desk drawer. Takara placed her finger on the metal of the lock, feeling the subtle grooves as her finger passed by them. It was almost as though Takara doubted her own senses. No one had ever accused her of being out of touch with reality, but still no one around here now exactly trusted her either. It was as though she had internalized their criticism to such an extent that she could almost hear what they would say. What was she doing in her father’s office? What was she up to? What trouble was she trying to cause?

Still, what was real about this whole situation was staring her right in the face. Yes, someone may be up to something, but it wasn’t her. Someone had broken into her father’s desk and possibly that was why the door to the room had been left open. Whatever had been deemed important in here was already gone … Takara froze at that thought. Moments later, she pulled at the drawer. Takara remembered how her father used to stuff things he was working on into this drawer. Once whatever it was had been completed, it would be filed in the official files of the company. Takara could remember clearly that right before the New Year’s Eve party the drawer had been nearly overflowing with papers. At that moment, as Takara stared down in disbelief, she found there was nothing left.

Takara felt weak. She took a few steps backward then sat in her father’s chair. At least the chair was still here, she thought. She looked toward the door, the door she saw Mr. Tyler enter the last time she was here. He never did say why he came in here that day. It wasn’t to find her; that’s for sure. The look of shock on his face when he saw her here was telling. No, he never did say why he came, but now it seemed obvious what the reason had been. Takara concluded that she wouldn’t have to wonder anymore.

Takara did find something in the room that had been overlooked. Her father had left a key to his main office in one boot he had. When questioned about his choice of location for the key, he would laugh and say, “It would be the last place anyone would look since who would want to root around in a crusty old boot?” Still, despite having to do just that, Takara felt relieved when she successfully pulled out the key. Far away at that moment, farther down the hall, Takara could hear something that sounded like a door slamming shut. Takara instantly went for the lights. She hesitated as she considered whether or not to remain in the room. Seconds later, she concluded that staying here was too much of a risk. After all, it was probably Mr. Tyler, and this was the place he headed for the last time.

Takara opened the door as quickly yet carefully as possible. Still, she didn’t feel she had the time to make it down the long hallway without being seen, so she dashed straight across the hall and into the bathroom. The bathroom was like the one she used to have at school. It was built that way before the Institute decided to convert this wing into Takara’s father’s living quarters. The bathroom had more than one stall and more than one sink. There was one shower off in the corner of the room; that had been added later. Takara and her father had made plans to redesign the bathroom, but they never got around to it.

Takara decided to head for one of those stalls now. There was no window in the room, and Takara feared turning on the light. So, the room remained dark, and she had to go by memory as well as feel to find her way to the stall.

She finally found a stall then hid behind its door. Takara believed she would just need to wait it out. She could hear the door across the hall open and then close soon after. Takara could then hear the footsteps recede. Only Takara thought something seemed odd about it somehow; Takara stepped outside of the confines of the stall and closer to the door. She strained to hear something outside. She didn’t sense anyone was on the other side of the door. Yet, when she suddenly heard her name being called she shivered. It dawned on her where he was. He had gone to her room to look for her. Perhaps, he had heard her walking or seen the office light shine from underneath the door while he was still down the hall. Either way, he was now calling out to her in a taunting way.

Takara froze. If she let him find her hiding, it would be worse. Then again, she thought of where she was. A plan formed in her mind; it could work if she had the courage to pull it off. She couldn’t let Mr. Tyler think she’d been hiding; she knew that much. Slowly, Takara reached out toward where she knew the light switch was. It was a risk to turn the light on as Mr. Tyler could have noticed the light was off before; still, it was necessary to turn on the light for the illusion to work. Takara then pulled the bathroom door open without hesitation. Instantly, she came face to face with Mr. Tyler.

Takara fought the urge to shrink away; instead, she just uttered, “Yes?”

She could see Mr. Tyler appear to relax. Apparently, he hadn’t noticed the light suddenly come on from underneath the bathroom door.

Mr. Tyler just looked at her for a moment; then, he looked between her and her father’s office door. It occurred to Takara that he had some knowledge that she had breached the doorway to the office. Yet, apparently, he seemed to have no proof she had actually been in there. It was almost as though he was trying to figure out whether Takara could have triggered the alarm — or whatever it was that had alerted him — by simply going to the bathroom across the hall. Takara just waited while he considered. She was afraid if she spoke he would react negatively. Just as she had hoped, he became less and less agitated as time passed.

“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” he finally asked her.

Takara considered. What was the right way to answer that?

“Yes?” she stammered.

Mr. Tyler seemed pleased that she was taking her cue from him. Then again, seconds later he became annoyed.

“Well, get there!” he barked.

Takara was relieved and quickly headed toward her room. It seemed unlikely Mr. Tyler would suddenly find fault with her departure given he had ordered it. And then, when she got back to her room, she found she had never been more relieved than when she felt the door click and was able to lock the door behind her. As happy as she was to be temporarily out of that situation, the whole experience unnerved her. The level of animosity Mr. Tyler seemed to have towards her had become obvious. Takara’s eyes shifted.

Why did he hate her so much? She found she didn’t want to be at the Institute anymore. If she were given a decent alternative, she would take it. She didn’t want to be dependent on this person who clearly couldn’t stand her. She didn’t see how this situation could possibly be tenable for the next five years until she was able to legally leave it. She just had to get word to her mother … she just had to. Of course, she had to once again block any nagging thoughts as to why no one had mentioned contacting her mother for her. At first, she had waited for someone to bring the subject up; she had assumed someone around here eventually would. While it stood to reason that there would be custody and estate issues to work out, they would have had to have figured out she had a mother by now. However, things had changed since then. Takara no longer had any trust in anyone around the Institute and felt as though mentioning her mother now would just tip them off to the fact she was planning to make contact.

Of course, the letter to her mother wasn’t the only thing she’d have to hide now — now there was her father’s key. She found she had mixed feelings about having it. After all, this was another way she could get into trouble. Yet, if Takara found she needed her father’s key for some reason at least now she had it. Takara looked at the key in the moonlight and wondered whether it would turn out to be worth the risk. She could always destroy the letter and then rewrite it when the opportunity presented itself. That would carry its own risk, but even still it could be done. But this key … she couldn’t just rip it up. Takara decided to do what her father had done. She went to her bedside and felt for her shoes. Since her shoes were smaller than his boots, Takara decided to do more to hide the key. She pulled at the insole of one shoe and slipped the key under it. There was a chance she’d get some sort of blister from placing the key there, but Takara was determined not to let any discomfort show.

One thing was for sure; there was no going back to her father’s office again. In fact, Takara, at least for that night, was afraid to even go down to the bathroom.

When Takara awoke the next morning, she could hear construction noise in the hall. It woke her up fairly early in the morning. Takara sat up, feeling annoyed; still, she knew she wasn’t allowed to be annoyed. So, Takara carefully crept out into the hall. There, she was surprised to find maintenance workers adding locks to her father’s office door — on the weekend no less. One of the men then came forward and handed off a key to Mr. Tyler, who was standing off to the side. Mr. Tyler looked at Takara squarely from afar; he seemed to be watching for a reaction. Takara was determined not to give him one … or at least as little of one as possible. She tried to look uninterested as she returned to her room. Well, at least at this point they weren’t locking her in her room. Takara sat on her bed and waited anxiously. Maybe Mr. Tyler would, in fact, restrict her to her room. That would require her to have an escort on hand all day every day to let her out when needed. She couldn’t be forced to stay in her room forever, she told herself. Surely that would be more than Mr. Tyler was willing to do just to keep her contained. Fortunately, the sounds of the men stopped, and she heard no footsteps approaching her room either. Takara lay on her bed and sighed. Things could in fact get worse, she concluded. How far would Mr. Tyler take things?

As time passed, Takara got to wondering whether there were any announcements about the next field trip. She couldn’t wait until she got out again and had the chance to contact her mother. Unfortunately, when she reached her class page she found there were no announcements. She logged off. She had a feeling it was going to be a long day. Takara spent most of that day reading. It allowed her to look busy. She hoped anyone who came into her room would leave her alone. Fortunately, Patty was her only visitor, and she was as unfriendly as she had been. Right after Patty left the room, Takara stared at the ceiling and imagined being far away with her mother. She just had to reach her … she just had to.

It was strange, but Takara felt a certain relief when the night descended. All the noise was gone, and she could pretend the wing was hers again. She opened the door to her room and peered out. Ironically, the locked door had empowered her. It was almost a license to go anywhere other than her father’s office. That room was clearly off-limits, so anywhere that wasn’t locked was fair game; it felt like tacit permission. That night Takara decided to walk around the halls then visit the atrium again. She knew she had to get physically stronger, so when an opportunity to further her escape came she could seize upon it.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2019

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Nocturne’s Reaping®: Intermezzo is now available in print and on Kindle! Yay!

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