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The problem with people, is that they think Atlantis was the only underwater kingdom! This isn't true. And, it's actually not true either that Atlantis was originally an underwater kingdom, or that it is now. You see, what happened with Atlantis, was that the continents crashed and crumbled and smashed against each other. Atlantis was caught up between mountains that rose up like spears at an incredibly rapid pace because of the compacting landmasses. Then, the mountains crumbled. Lava rose to the surface and, as Atlantis sank, poured over the city, encapsulating the classic grandeur of the metropolis into a hardened corpse.
Atlantis was not the only great metropolis of old to perish in such a style of absolute chaos either. There were many such enchanting ports and havens of thriving economy those thousands of years ago. But, sadly, those are all but forgotten. Only Atlantis is known to this day, for petrified remnants of that city have been found deep in the ocean.
But why, suddenly, did the continents shift so violently and cause such destruction? I'll tell you some other time, Hayate. You don't want me to tell all right now do you? Then there would be nothing else to tell you about. For now, go to sleep.
She ducked down a little further. "Why do you lean over the bed at me like that every time you respond to something I say?"
"Because it's more intense. And I'm a very intense person. It's for the reaction. Because it creeps you out."
She had her Crinkle reader laying on her chest, under the first of three layers of blankets, and had buried herself under the wondrous warmness of the covers so that only her eyes peeped out. Ana's eyebrows lowered, "Yeah, but, that's stupid."
Her brother had sat back straight. Upon his little sister's grumbling response, he leaned over her once again, countering with a grin, "But it's effective." He leaned closer, "effective." And closer still, repeated again, "Very effective."
Ana blinked at him. He seemed determined to be a bozo. Completely at random, her brother would be cheerful and hyper, and when he was in that kind of mood, had the tendency to roll chairs back and forth, to speak six inches from her face, to throw clothes on her, feed sandwiches to her against her will—and why? "Just because I can", "because it's fun", "because I like getting reactions from you."
She pulled the blankets over her head and tapped her Crinkle. He didn't deserve any further response.
Ana clenched her teeth at feeling something running down her lower left leg to her ankle. Holding her breath, she felt anger rising.
"James," she snapped from beneath the blankets. "Stop running your toe down my leg like a creeper!"
A gleeful giggle gurgled up from his lips.
That was just like him. Not that it mattered that she was 16 and he was 18, yet acted as though he was 12. They were as close as any brother and sister could be, argued much, ticked each other off daily. All that good stuff. Wonderful, sappy memories. Love and adoration.
Not right now. Since they had found out that laying in the full-size bed side-by-side reading every evening was a wonderful relief for daily stress, James had started doing these annoying things to her.
"You know what I heard today?" He said in a completely high-pitched school-girl tone.
"No telling," Ana responded because she should, so he'd blabber his girly gossip off and she could concentrate on her very juicy mystery romance e-book novel once more.
James ripped the blanket from her face. Ana's dark chocolate hair, which had been spilled out on the pillow around her, tangled and lashed across her face. She lay, Crinkle in her hands, wondering how annoyed she should allow herself to be.
Her brother, oblivious, leaned over her, "I heard Dillon got a girlfriend. Some hottie that works at the acupuncture spa place in that strip mall. The girl's got at least a C size chest. Amazing hips too."
"Because I care about a girl's boobs and hips," Ana quipped.
Her brother was such a moron. How many times had Ana talked to him about Dillon? She'd liked that boy since the first day of high school, but had never asked him out. Her small chest deflated with her mood. James was ensconced in some paper he was reading. He hadn't noticed her sour tone or even checked on her expression. Ana lay there, feeling overheated, sad, but more than anything, extremely put out.
How was it, that the boy she had liked, had done this? Well, no—it made sense. She had never made any steps to confront him or try to lure his attention. While the girls in her classes were primping and smearing lipstick over their artificially-enlarged lips, she was chopping her hair back to shoulder length for the mere preference of keeping it out of her way. Low maintenance. The girls were into pop music, Manga, shoes, $80 4 ounce perfume bottles. She had been running in track, buying cargo pants, and mowing the lawn.
School expectation was so frivolous. Nonchalant when it came to everything socially expected, Ana never became popular or desired by boys. Mostly, that was alright with her. The everyday drama of high school nonsense was not worth her time. She was probably seen, to some extent, as a snob, but that was not worth her inquiring into either.
She never primped or kept up with fashion or even wore heels. Practical solutions were the best. Comfort was king.
Ana knew she wasn't an ugly girl. She just didn't put up with wasting her time to be cute, pretty, sophisticated—whatever else ways that girls were described. But, even sliding past the archetypes of students that congregated into cliques, she became a "type" by not becoming a type, and that was the "loner", the "tomboy", the "misanthrope".
Many students saw her with awe, were impressed by her inner strength to be alone, and admired her sarcasm and wit.
Ana was also not the "boy girl", the gender-confused type who tried to pose one way when she was another, though she had dressed in her brother's clothes one time because the fool had forgotten to wash hers. That had instantly cast her in the "cute boy" mode in the eyes of the school body, and she had been unable to remove herself from that mirrored image after that.
Oh well. None of that had mattered until tonight, when her disconnected brother had so casually informed her that the boy she'd liked for a whole year had spontaneously drooled over some bimbo and was probably, that very minute as Ana was laying in the bed becoming depressed, screwing her.
She pulled the covers back and slipped up from the bed. Casting a look at James, Ana closed her Crinkle and walked out. Her brother did not notice.
Hey, wasn't she crushing on Dillon? Didn't she know he got a girlfriend last week? How does it make her feel?
Oh that? That's not a big deal. I'm way over that. There's more important things to think about anyway. Crushes and flirting and such immature, useless activities would take up my time and make my life unnecessarily stressful. Poo! Such little high school nonsense. Laughable. I have higher aspirations!
In mid-afternoon, just as school let out, about a dozen girls in short skirts were huddling together, clutching, well, something in their hands, and squealing in an ear-shattering manner. They somehow managed to walk down the sidewalk without tripping over each other.
Hayate put his hands in his pockets, gauged the pack of she-wolves, and swiveling the opposite direction, walked off for the end of the block to detour to safety.
He was just about to turn the corner out of their eye-range, when one of them noticed him and broke away from the pack, squeaking, "Hayate! Wait a minute! Where're you going? My friend has a question to ask you."
How do they do that? It's like how a cat just knows when the master is going to take it to the vet—even before bringing the cat carrier out!
Hayate turned, keeping his back straight, posture stiff. "Yes?" He kept his voice as pleasant as a very annoyed person possibly could.
The two approaching girls were of the typical irritable high school female stock. Like with most Manga-obsessed girls, they had been altering their physical appearance in an attempt to mimic the female characters from their favorite stories. Their nails were caked with hot pink and green polish, with a layer of glitter smeared on for good measure. One had a butterfly sticker slapped on her cheek. Both had thick eyeliner penciled around their eyes. Too much lip gloss was pressed on their lips, and they wore bracelets that clacked terribly from the slightest movement.
"Hayate," the shorter of the two, the one with the blue butterfly pasted on her face, who he hoped he was remembering correctly as Yuki, boldly stepped forward. Here it came. Yet, the girl deviated by not slapping the usual scribbled-heart, folded note that smelled like vanilla perfume against his chest. Instead, she grabbed the front of his shirt, yanking him to her face.
Hayate froze from the excited, near-panting behavior of the girl. Behind her, about a block out, her pack of giggling friends were clasping their hands and shaking each other. One of them screamed in glee from the sheer magnitude of what was happening.
His mind slowed. Fear and shock paralyzed him, but only for a second. With half a foot of space left between their mouths that was narrowly closing, Hayate grabbed her arms, pushed her away.
An uproar sounding very much like a long "ah" emanated from the watching pack.
There they stood, him clutching the girl's wrists, she looking nervously up at him, and her nearby friend not knowing what to say.
Hayate released the shattered Yuki's hands. "So sorry," he smoothly apologized, looking down and off to the side. "But I don't like you like that. Girls often confess their feelings to me, but I don't have any interest to like a girl or date a girl for a long time. It's nothing personal, so I hope you won't be too crushed by it."
With that, he turned, walked smoothly, evenly down the rest of the block, and when he had turned out of sight, broke into a run to ensure he put as much space between them and him in as minimal of time as possible. He kept up his pace for about five minutes, then dropped to a jog, and shortly after, stopped before a large, dark red building to cool off and think about the ludicrous situation.
High school girls were a sore disappointment to him. In junior high, Hayate had eagerly awaited graduating up into high school. From magazines and TV, high school girls had looked so sophisticated. They had their acts together. They had grown out of cherry lip gloss and bows in their hair and had started on an even, straight path to becoming women. Their bodies would be filled out and the childish aspects of their personalities would be mellowed out into consideration and intelligence.
When he stepped into his first class on the first day of high school, bowed to the students, and took his seat, Hayate near instantly became the romance fantasy aspirations of the girl portion of the student body. They had completely distressed him by the end of the first week, with their anonymous love letters to him, their gazes from across the hall, their shameless anger at each other for his devotions—feelings they had not even asked if he felt for any of them in return.
They quarreled, slapped each other, became mortal enemies, and most illogically of all, started proclaiming how they would be the one he'd fall for. They'd make him like them, because they'd show him how wonderful they were!
Whatever that meant.
Didn't they go to school to learn how to become an adult, not to prove to the whole building how retarded they were?
Hayate was confused at their churning emotions focused on him, a boy most of them hadn't even spoken to, until a third-year student, Soichiro, pulled him aside and explained to him about the inner workings of the high school female's mind.
A high school girl is like a china tea cup. Many of them are fascinating, wonderfully crafted as the beautiful individuals they are. They can sow and sing and write and dress really well. They're wondrous, exotic creatures. But! To them, the beautiful boy is far more exotic. Hayate is one of those boys: he is fashionable, beautiful in the face, and he must spend a lot of money at the salon having his hair done on a regular basis, therefore he is not a person, but a fantasy. Every syllable that drops from his soft lips (because someone as beautiful as him must have soft lips, of course, of course) will decide the fate of their lives.
Every time he shakes his head or runs his hand through his hair, time slows down for the girls who are blessed to look upon such a motion. They want to be near him, if only for the pleasure of knowing they are breathing the same air he is. He is like a prince from a shoujo school Manga. His every step, his clothes, his mannerisms, his attitude—all are interpreted through their maze of a brain and filtered through the lens of something that happened in a story they read.
And, as Soichiro explained that they were like china glasses, when Hayate is cruel, they fall and break into pieces. Their lives are ruined! How can he be so cruel! At the same time, though, that they are prostrated on the floor sobbing, they are taking delight in the fact that Hayate acknowledged them enough to deny them to their faces. Bitter privilege!
Didn't he know they were harboring a violent, eternal love for him? And, every single one of them is delusional enough to think their love is stronger than the girl in line behind them, though none of them has spoken one syllable to him or knows anything about him. That his skin is soft as silk, his black hair (which is dipped at the tips in bold blue hair dye) is layered and tumbles across his eyes like a tragedy, his hands are thin, that his clothes very expensive make him look like a model. So they adore and want him.
During such a novel of an explanation, Hayate felt himself growing cold. Shock and derision saturated his feelings. When Soichiro finished, grinning at the repulsed first-year student, Hayate could think of nothing else to say. He trudged off as if the world were on his shoulders.
His genuine disappointment mutated into disgust, as the girls kept trying to gain a favorable glance at him.
Hayate spent the first year of high school on the hunt for any girl that had attained his expectation of what a high school girl should be like. At the end of the year, he decided it wasn't his expectation that was too lofty; it was that girls just needed to grow up.
He became harder around the edges during his second year of high school. Completely disinterested in all the girls, he rudely, out-rightly ignored them and their advances. But, to his chagrin, his cool attitude and extreme negativity at the girls graduated him into another type of girl fantasy: the tragic, loner boy.
Nothing seemed to impact their sheer stupidity. So, after school, Hayate made every attempt to escape the campus right away.
He had managed to survive one more laughably sad love declaration. With his breath recovered, he walked casually through a sliding door and dropped his back pack on one of the hundreds of empty seats. Looking up at a stage, Hayate smiled to see several women in long, multi-colored kimonos with overly long obi's sashaying, twirling fans, turning, dipping like willow branches to the plucking of a shamisen.
He dropped into one of the seats and commenced his homework.
This was a very relaxing place for him, the hours when he could watch his mother practicing her dance and he could study in peace.
Two hours elapsed. Hayate was absorbed, felt a warm hand trailing his chin, and glancing up, smiled at his mother's completely white face.
"How was school?" She poked the end of his nose with a grin.
"I learned things," he changed his smile into a smirk.
His mother did not sit. In her elaborate costume, sitting was a task she preferred not to strain herself with. But she always scurried to the back to catch up with her son about his day. Their proximity and her resting her hand so casually on his hair testified to their comfortable love of each other.
"Have you finished your studies?" She questioned calmly.
"Yeah, sure." Taking the hint, Hayate slipped his books in his back pack and stood up. He was a few inches taller than his mother, who was slightly over average height for a Japanese woman. His slender build was very similar to hers. Only, he had inherited hazel eyes from his deceased American father, whom his mother would never talk about, while she had deep brown eyes.
Politely, Hayate took his mother's arm in his and walked beside her to her dressing room. He entered with her and closed the door. While she stepped behind a curtain to change, he dropped into a double-cushion sofa and closed his eyes, feeling tired.
"Hayate," she spoke up from behind the curtain. "We are going to America next week. I have been awarded with a prestigious opportunity."
"Huh?" His eyes popped open.
She continued without a hitch, "I'm to act as a lead role in a Geisha-based stage musical. It's a broadway-sized production, so it's obviously an honor to have been chosen!"
He felt sick. America: the land of poor grades and lazy, fat people eating chips all day. The land mass of Manga-reading pasty people who thought being Japanese was the best thing on earth. Of course, he had nothing to back up his negative reflections of such a culture except trolls on message boards and gossip.
His mother was still speaking, "I knew I had this part last week, but I didn't want to alarm you with such sudden news, so I'm telling you now since the arrangements are final. I'll be moving to Woodburn Village, but I have arranged an internship for you, and so you will be moving to a smaller town two hours away called Junction."
Hayate broke in, "Wait—we're going to America, and I won't even be living with you? You're dumping me off alone in some hick town with a bunch of dumb Americans?"
He snapped his mouth shut from her angry tone.
"Please, don't be upset. I know you aren't that challenged at school and have no interest in girls or extra curricular activities. So, I thought that presenting you with a new challenge, and business-world experience, would interest you. Also, you speak English extremely well, and I'd like you to put your skills for it to the test. The internship is with a digital technology firm called Digital Ocean Web Solutions."
He was flattered his mother had secretly been paying that much attention to his hobbies that she had discovered just how much Hayate enjoyed web coding. But, as his mother stepped out in jeans and a tunic, he crossed his arms to keep up the offended appearance. He could not let her know so easily that he was pleased—to think: she'd gone behind her son's back!
"How long will we be in America?"
"Hmm!" She sat down next to him. "For at least six months. That's the length of the rehearsals and the show. But, I don't know—we don't need to come back to Japan if you find you like America."
Licking his lips, Hayate frowned deliberately at her, "Always thinking about what I'd prefer, aren't you?"
"Because I love you," she hugged him.
They were independently well off. Hayate knew as much about his father as to know that his father had left them with a substantial fortune from his ExpressBar granola bar corporation. When his father had died from numerous side effects of being a naturally frail person, his mother had claimed only a humble 5% of the company's profits from that year. That equated to about ten million American dollars.
Obviously, that meant they could live where they pleased, how they pleased, and do what they pleased at their own whims, times, and preferences. But, his mother had insisted he grow up like a regular middle-class boy, to experience a so-called regular upbringing. She had continued being a Tokyo Geisha, so that she wouldn't become bored.
That's was her excuse at any rate. Hayate wasn't dim. He knew his mother was passionate about being a Geisha. She could never give it up.
They had lived in Tokyo most of his life. He had seen her perform, oh, countless times, in her Geisha regalia. It had always been the two of them, and that suited him just fine. His mother had nothing to prove to anyone and nothing to hide, except information about his American father.
Hayate had nearly convinced himself that didn't matter.
Except for that one thing that involved the ocean and—
His mother rose, running her hand down his arm, pulling him up at the same time. "Your internship is sponsored through the school you will be attending while we're in America. Do your best, honey."
Like he ever didn't do his best.
Your father was always a delicate person, physically. But he made up for his energy weakness by having a wonderful personality and nerves of steel. He couldn't have run such a successful company without having such a firm resolution. I loved him so much, Hayate. So much.
You know I met him at a tea party in Tokyo, don't you? He was invited by one of my best clients. When we saw each other, we fell in love right away.
Most people don't have such luck with love. I was very fortunate. No money your father left us could ever make up for losing him, but I'm not that sad that he's gone, because I know that when I die and am reborn, I will meet him again. We will fall in love again. That is how linked our souls are. We will fall in love over and over for all eternity. I hope you fall in love like that with a wonderful woman.
Twenty three years old. Finally, out of college. Her own boss, her own woman. Her own destiny. Her cargo pants pockets stuffed with candy, a phone, an MP3 player, tissue, and her keys. Purses were so overrated. Cargo pants were the way to go.
"Seriously," she mumbled in the hall, closing the door behind her.
Ana ensured the door was locked, then shut the lights off, closed the last door, and exited the office.
She had graduated yesterday. Though her silly jerk brother had tried to throw her a party, Ana had avoided going home altogether, and had instead roamed throughout a three-story book store two hours from town, in the city Woodburn Village, and returned about midnight, with three bags of books.
Sitting in her car, hands on the wheel, she broke into a grin. So many fantasies to indulge in! It was nearly sinful.
Regaining her composure, she backed out of the parking space and headed off for home.
When she was a junior in high school, Ana had decided to intern at Digital Ocean Web Solutions. She managed to stick herself under everyone's skin, and by proving her skills with a nerve of iron, had scurried up the ladder until she became a team manager at 21, when she had a couple years left of college. Now that she was a fresh, sparkling graduate, Ana allowed herself the smug satisfaction of knowing she had come out of the drama of education with no deep gashes. White as snow, educated, level-headed, and successful at such a young age, she had everything going for her.
Except a decent-sized chest.
Or curvacious hips.
Wait, those things weren't important. Physical beauty wasn't that useful for someone like her anyway. Ana hadn't troubled herself about her looks in years.
Such thoughts made her simmer with a second of self-loathing though. But quickly, she recovered. Most of the student relationships around her, even those in college, had not merely ended. They had crashed in flames, burst into violent explosions of hatred, gossip, scandal, and even domestic abuse. As the cinema of useless people drama blew up around her, Ana walked by it, happily, purposefully oblivious.
Under her breath, she chuckled. Fools. When would people get their heads screwed on straight?
She pulled up in the driveway to her apartment, locked her car, and unlocking her door, paused.
Again, she was randomly depressed. All the self-assurance and logical thinking had never saved her from an endless pit of loneliness that was in the habit of sneaking up on her. When such feelings came, they completely swallowed her up for hours.
Sighing, Ana shuffled inside, locked the door.
Someone had called her. She tapped the playback button.
"Uh, hey, Ana," a mediocre, somewhat raspy voice droned over the phone's speakers. Ana rolled her eyes. "Yeah, uh, forgot to tell ya—we selected that intern last week. And uh—"
She clenched her fist. Mikhail always spoke like he was nervous about something—or maybe it was because he was just an imbecile.
"Err, hope you aren't upset about uh, us forgetting to tell you." He paused. "Yeah, apparently the kid's Japanese. Supposed to be one of those stereotypically over-smart assho—"
Ana smashed her fist over the delete button. Like such language was necessary, especially about someone none of them had seen or knew anything about. This was one of the reasons she despised humanity.
She'd read up on the intern tomorrow. The guy wasn't going to show up until the next Monday anyway. Digital Ocean had decided to benevolently reach out across the seas (what a reach) to take a poor, green, shy student under it's arm to mold and care for. The intern was going to work right under Ana as the assistant programmer, take orders from her, all that jazz. She was team leader anyway, so taking on a third male didn't feel like a big deal to her. If he was like the other two typing apes she ordered around, she wouldn't be that bothered.
With that taken care of, Ana turned for the fridge. "Let's see what I can slap together."