A lone student looked out the window onto a dark and drizzly day with tears in his eyes as he recalled this morning’s incident.
Ren Kato was a new transfer at the St. Catherine boarding school. He had been dumped here by his worthless aunt who didn’t want another mouth to feed after her sister died. He felt abandoned.
The one solace he had was in an unlikely friendship in this hell hole, Kensuke Takahashi. For some reason, Takahashi took Kato under his wings. Case in point, the aforementioned incident.
Kato heard the alarm to wake up but somehow fell back to sleep and awoke again late! Shit! He threw on his clothes and made a mad dash to the chow hall, but he was too late. It was closed, and that meant he was late to class also. He wouldn’t get fed until lunchtime now.
He walked quietly down the hallway and snuck up to the window in the classroom door. He peaked in and saw the instructor sitting at her desk which faced a class of thirty obediently oppressed pupils busily doing schoolwork, minus one—him. What could he do? Where could he go? He had no options. Being late was serious. He bit his lip and reached for the handle to open the door when another hand grabbed his. In shock, he swallowed down a yelp as he turned to see Takahashi with his finger over his lips making a Shh! sound. Kato’s heart thumped hard at seeing his friend there. Takahashi grabbed the handle of the door and with a quick turn, opened it and pulled Kato after him.
The instructor rose at the sight of two of her tardy students with a thick wooden rod in her hands and a glare that could make the devil blanch. Kato was a new transfer, so she had no opinion of him, until now—the audacity of being late to her class and, now, in league with her most-hated student, Takahashi. Pure, unmitigated anger rose in her nostrils as she barked out, “Takahashi! Kato! Heel!” treating her students like the dogs they are.
Takahashi moved forward with his head bowed and gently pulled Kato with him, protecting him from the fury that was about to be unleashed. He softly spoke with deference, “Sister Mary, we are truly sorry for sinning against you and our Lord with our inconsiderate tardiness. Please show us mercy.” Kato was bewildered as he had never heard such humble and meek words spoken by Takahashi to Sister Mary—he being the notorious troubled student who despised Sister Mary so much that he would brazenly argue and sling profanities at her.
Sister Mary, who saw through Takahashi’s façade, yelled, “About face!” Takahashi turned around and looked into Kato’s eyes with a bit of sorrow and yet a steel resolve. As Sister Mary approached from behind, Takahashi pulled Kato close and used his body to shield him from Sister Mary. She began flogging Takahashi with unbridled brutality as she poured her hate for Takahashi into every blow.
Kato could feel Takahashi’s warmth, taste his scent, causing his heart to thump. At the same time, he could feel each and every blow reverberate through Takahashi. The pain bled out from one boy and into the other. After about a dozen blows, Kato heard something he would never forget. Takahashi whimpered out one word, “Ren”—Kato’s given name, before he collapsed to his knees carrying Kato down with him. Takahashi continued the embrace despite shuddering in agony. Kato’s heart was also shuddering in agony.
After a few kicks from Sister Mary, she spoke in sing song, “Takahashi-chan, report to the infirmary.” He pulled back from Kato and let him go. He rose unsteadily, and Kato did his best to help him to his feet. Takahashi looked once more into Kato’s teary eyes before he moved him aside and walked out of the classroom.
Sister Mary, who was completely victorious, turn her gaze to Kato. With another musical note in her words, yet still laced with evil intent, she said, “Kato-chan. Takahashi took both his beating and the one meant for you.” Then, with a sneer she added: “During lunch, you are to sit here in class while everyone else is excused. You can use the time to consider whether association with Takahashi is good for your health, or not.” Another meal missed.
Kato watched the rain patter against the single-paned window, alone. He reached into his coat jacket and pulled out a small package from the inner pocket. It was wrapped up in paper napkins. He unraveled the package and saw two small biscuits that contained egg, cheese, and bacon. These were his favorite. He didn’t know how, but while Takahashi was being beaten, he slipped the package into Kato’s pockets.
Tears flowed down Kato’s cheeks, meeting at the corners of his mouth, mingling with the biscuits he was eating, adding a sad saltiness to the flavor. Kato’s heart ached as he reflected on whether association with Takahashi was good for his health or not. He concluded in his heart that it was.
In Japanese, names are presented as Family Name/Given Name. For the English readers, the common first/last convention will be use.
家兎 蓮, Kato Ren, (kah-tow ren).
高橋 健介, Takahashi Kensuke, (taw-kaw-haw-shee ken-skay)