I woke up with the blaring beebing noise of my alarm, that I quickly slammed quiet. Groaning, I streched myself in my duvet and gave out a sound weird enough to alert someone.
Good morning world. 6:46 pm.
First things first: shower. I stepped under the showerhead and waited for the water to hit my head. I screamed when I realised that the water was icecold and held the urge to jump outside of it.
I forgot to turn on the heater. At least now I was awake.
Drying, combing, styling my hair into two braids to the sides and leaving the rest open.
I smiled into the mirror, made a grimace and skipped on makeup. I brushed my teeth and left the bathroom. The next step was crucial. School uniform.
I was informed that the school dresscode wasn’t too strict and I was glad, still I had to wear at least the grey skirt and a white button-up. Optional was the red bow, the cream sweater vest and the black blazer.
I didn’t hate the uniform, but I really didn’t like how short the skirt was. I wore it just over my underwear for good measure and quickly climed out of it again.
“Nope, nope, never. I’m not doing this without shorts. Or-“, and idea popped into my head.
I quickly grabbed some black tights and tried the whole ordeal again. Tights, skirt, shirt.
The white shirt had a collar and was a loose fit, before i tuckked it in to see how it would look I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and stopped. Hey, I like this.
The shirt hung loosely over my skirt and after I cuffed up my sleeves a little it felt complete. One last twirl and I was happy with my look.
Good timing, because it was half past seven. I packed my schoolbag with the essentials and went into the kitchen.
On the table was a plastic bag with a note. Curious as to what it could be I read aloud: “Your fridge was empty so I helped out. I’ll see you on the weekend. Dad”. He really was the best. I remembred that he would work on weekdays and that it was outside of town so he probaly was here really early to get me this. Typical baba, I’ll have to thank him next time.
Inspecting the bag I found just what i needed for groceries. Jam, cheese, juice, soysauce, condiments and some sweets. I also saw the bag of rice next to my ricecooker on the counter. Quickly I made some for breakfast and my school lunch, while I fried some eggs. While everything sizzled in the background, I made a jam sandwich to eat now and chopped some apples as a snack. Everything was put into my bentobox and some tupperware and sealed in a mint coloured cloth. When I was done eating I grabbed my bag, my keycard and my headphones to head out.
Mild air greeted me when I stepped out of the lobby and I could already hear chatter of people outside. I put one headphone into my ear and adjusted my bag. First proper day. Let’s go.
On my way to school, which i could kind of remember now, I made sure to take in all of the scenery. Mother and fathers taking their children to daycare, a lot of other students going about and older people taking a stroll around the neighborhood. Some of them greeted me and I was happy to greet them back, realising I had already become part of this place and this world.
In the street in front of me I could see students accumulating and according to their uniforms i knew it was Karasuno High. My new school. Excitement wasn’t the right word to describe the bubbly feeling in my stomach and I quickened my pace to finally start my day. I vowed to say good morning to every person that would make eye contact with me. Some smiled back, others greeted me as well. I ran into the building and searched for my locker. “H, Ha- there it is!”, seeing my name displayed on the locker made the feeling of belonging here even more real. I was here. This is my place. I quickly threw on my slippers and put my shoes back into the locker. Closing it, I went up the stairs to my classroom. 2-4, I still remembered it from yesterday. I turned around the corner and followed the crowd into the classroom. It was now 8:10 am, and homeroom would start in twenty minutes.
Here we go.
“Good morning!”, I went in and bowed slightly.
Some students were already sitting down, others were still outside the classrom or standing about. When I said good morning, nearly every girl and some of the boys were suddenly in front of me.
“Who are you?”
“Whats your name?”
Subconciously I braced myself not to make any errors and introduced myself. Another load of questions was asked and I responded with my age, home and current situation. When everything settled down I asked where to sit and I had the choice between the last row and the third. I picked the latter and winded up next to a nice girl named Ito Yui. Yui was a great help during the first lessons. She explained to me at what stage we were in each lesson, what the homework was and introduced me to a lot of my collueges.
Yui was a little smaller than me, had long black hair and a refreshingly sweet aura to her. All of her stationary and notebooks were light pink, and I adored the matching ribbon in her hair.
“Aya-san, have you made any friends so far?”, I shook my head and she extended her hand. I took it and smiled. “I will be your first then! Don’t worry, soon you’ll be friends with everyone here!”
The bell indicating lunch break sought a cheerful atmosphere from the students.
“Aya-san!”, Yui walked towards me with her lunchbox in her hand. “Do you want to eat together?”.
“Sure! Can we stay in the classroom though? I still wanted to search for someone.”
“Of course! But who are you searching for?”.
“Ehrm I think their names were Nishinoya Yuu and Tanaka Ryunosuke, do you know them?”.
Yui sucked in a sharp breath and made a sound of disbelief: “You mean those loud guys from class 2-2?”
Loud was just the right way to describe them it seemed. I nodded and Yui sighed dramatically.
“Oh, Aya-san you really are something else. You know those guys are really weird right? I don’t want to say something mean but-“
I cut her off and shook my head to reassure her. “Don’t worry Yui-san, I met them yesterday and they were really nice to me. I just want to say hello, so you said class 2-2?”, I stood up with my lunch and started walking outside of the room. “I’ll be fine, you can go ahead and eat. I’ll join you later okay?”.
All Yui did was nod slowly and follow me with her eyes until I turned around. Lunchbag in hand I scanned the classrooms next to mine for the right tag. 2-2.
For some reason I was drawn more to hang out with Nishinoya and Tanaka, and i couldn’t quite understand why Yui tried to warn me so much. Was I weird because I thought that way? No, that can’t be. Yesterday they were very polite and maybe a little loud but I didn’t have the feeling they were weird. The opposite actually. They reminded me of my friends back in my hometown. Abrasive and loud but truly good at heart.
With newlyfound confidence and a growl in my stomach I peeked into classroom 2-2. As far as my memory serves, Nishinoya was pretty small so maybe I won’t see him from here.
Maybe I should call him? No that would be too much. I could ask a classmate!
My eyes darted around the classroom until I found a guy leaning on the wall talking to someone else. I asked very politely if he could tell me if Tanaka and Nishinoya were here and stepped out of the classroom when he told me he would call them for me. Through the murmuring and talking of the students I waited until I heard a loud “Really? Oh my-“
It felt like a gush of wind stormed out of the door and I took a step back when I suddenly had two familiar faces well, in front of my face.
“Aya-san, Aya-san what’s up!”, Nishinoya looked genuienly happy to see me and I was happy to be greeted so casually.
“Hi Nishinoya-kun, Tanaka-kun! I’m doing good thank you! What are you guys doing?”.
“Nothing much, we were about to eat lunch”.
“Oh great can I join you?”, I smiled and showed them my lunchbox and I have never seen two pairs of eyes so absolutely smitten.
“You wanna eat-“
“-with us?”, Tanaka completed Nishinoya’s sentence as if they were using telepathy.
“Ah- shouldn’t I have asked? I just thought that you guys were so nice to me yesterday we could maybe be friends? Hang out?”
Light left Tanaka’s eyes and I was thinking he might faint before he quickly composed himself again.
“Ha- Hang out?”, Nishinoya’s voice had a mild crack and I nodded fiercly.
I flinched and laughed awkwardly. Am I regretting this? No, they’re probably just nervous.
“Okay then? Where should we sit?”
They led me to the classroom to a table close to the window. We pushed two desks together and sat down. It was a nice atmosphere actually, a nice mid-spring breeze blew through the trees around the school and I sat there starting to eat my lunch. I learned that Tanaka and Nishonoya were starting players at the volleyball club and I asked about their positions.
Libero and wing-spiker respectively.
The rest was just chit-chat about school and my apparently good japanese skills.
“I mean it! You kind of look like a foreigner but also not?”, Tanaka scrunched his forehead in thought.
“Yeah she’s like more tan, and like- the curly hair!”, Nishinoya replied.
I brushed through my curls with my finger and mumbled: “I’ts not always nice to have curly hair though, sometimes it’s annoying!”
“It’s still cute!”
I was about to say something when the bell rang.
Lunch break flew by quicker than I anticipated and I was almost sad to leave them.
“Oh man, time really flies! I have to get to my next class! It was so cool hanging out with you guys! We should do this again!”
Before I could grab my lunchbag and return, I was tapped on the shoulder. Turning around i flinched when I saw both of my new friends looking at me with big eyes.
Nishinoya cleared his throught to begin what must be a very important sentence.
“Can you come by for practice later?!”.
I expected well, everything at this point. Tanaka and Nishinoya were completely unhinged when it came to their personality I guess, so I didn’t expect such a cute and small request.
“Are you sure I won’t disturb you guys? Isn’t practice really important for you?”
“Of course it is!”, Tanaka replied, “We still want you to come! We always go eat something afterwards and talk, so?”
I actually wanted to watch their practice myself. Even Hinata invited me yesterday, but for some reason I still felt I would just stand in the way.
But they’re asking so nicely…
“Fine”, I sighed out.
A roar of approval came from both of them and I laughed wholeheartedly. What idiots.
“I’ll come over later, but now I really need to go to class!”, I winked and left them squeeling like schoolgirls.
Trotting back to class, I greeted Yui with a nod while she looked like I just came out of the wolve’s den.
“Told ya I would be fine!”
She smiled back to me and I sat down next to her. Next class was japanese literature.
Speaking japanese is no problem. I could even read and write a lot of Kanji.
But there was something about the textbook answers that I was quite not getting. I was used to writing modern stuff in japanese or read manga. I could understand a lot of complex sentences, but I had no clue about japanese customs or typical sayings. Proverbs were the worst
“Saru mo ki kara ochiru? Uhm- Yui?”, I tipped her arm with my pencil.
“So this proverb? It means ‘Even monkeys fall from trees’ right?”
A light chuckle left her when she tried to explain: “Literally yes, but that’s not the answer they want from you! When you say this to someone they mean to say that everybody makes mistakes!”.
Everybody makes mistakes?
“So you mean that even monkeys that are very good at climbing trees can fall? Like not everybodys perfect?”
I nodded and looked at the next exercise.
“Okay so ‘Seiten no heki-reki’, means a thunderclap from a clear sky. So sudden bad weather? Like a surprising thing?”
Yui clapped and smiled widely: “Yes! A bolt from the blue or a complete surprise! That would give you full points!”
“Yes!”, I made a fist in the air and heard the students around me cheer. I didn’t realise that even the teacher was watching intently. I quickly wrote down my answer.
“Hamawi-san. Since you’re trying it out, why don’t you try this proverb?”.
I froze and gulped at the teacher who qrote something on the board.
I nodded again.
Oh shit. I read the sentence in my head for good measure, and then out loud.
“Nanakorobi yaoki. Literally meaning uhm-“
Blinking, I tried to tie the mental notes together as quick as possible. I knew that no one expected me to understand everything on the first school day, and I had no intention to brag about my japanese, but I sincerely hoped to appear smart right this second. Come on, at least try Aya!
“Stumbling seven times but recovering eight”.
The teacher was smiling still, and I had no idea if I was right or he was just mocking me.
“Very good Hamawi-san, now tell me what you think it means? Reading and understanding Kanji seems to be no problem for you am I right?”
“Yes sensei, the Kanji is not the problem. I just have no clue what this proverb is supposed to say.”
“Alright, then just guess. Or try to come up with something that you can relate it to?”
Oh wait. That’s actually what my English teacher used to say to me. If I didn’t know a new vocabulary, he told me to guess what it could be or relate it to another word that sounds similar. The important part was to sound smart while explaining that you have absolutely no clue whatsoever.
“Falling seven times in a row does not mean you can’t technically walk the eighth time. I would say it means that one should stay determined and not give up”.
I for sure sound like an anime character right about now. (Fourth wall ayeee >:3)
“Well, you are closer than you think Hamawi-san. In an exam, I would’ve given you half the points for that since you understood the core message. The right answer that would’ve given you full points is, well who knows this one?”, he pointed next to me,” Yes Ito-san”.
Yui stood up and I looked at her calmly say: “Perseverance is better than defeat”.
“Yes! Thank you Ito-san. Please sit down you two”.
Half ashamed, half proud I sat back down and mouthed a thank you to Yui. She just waved me off and smiled.
The lesson was over quickly after that. When I packed my bags to leave the classroom I was called back by the teacher.
“I admire the way you carry yourself Hamawi-san. At first I thought as a student from abroad you would have difficulties in japanese, but it seems that your language perception is very good. The only thing I would think about is learning about japans many customs and cultural activities. I’m sure that with your knowledge in english and other subjects you can plan a very prosperous future”.
Japanese people sure are something else.
I bowed deeply to show my appreciation and hurried out of the classroom. Most of the students already left the halls and went home or to their club activities. The words of my teacher still roamed around my head. A prosperous future, huh? A boost of motivation surged throgh me, I was eager to give my best after his encouragement. I won’t let his critique go to waste. I already made mental notes to buy some books this evening. I also haven’t chosen a club yet. Maybe I’ll just stay without and use that time for other stuff.
Other stuff? Oh my god practice!
Club activities have already begung twenty minutes ago, and I promised the guys to be there!
I grunted out of frustration and raced to my locker. I threw on my normal shoes and brought my training shoes for P.E with me. I totally forgot last time that I had to enter the gym in socks.
Jogging quickly over to the gym I held my backpack to my side and panted heavily until I was about to trip over myself. I stopped before I could fall and powerwalked to my destination.
The slamming sound of a ball hitting all kinds of surfaces could already be heard from far away, and I felt my heartrate go up. Why was i so excited?
Maybe it was the anxiety i felt of not findng friends or the fear of having to change my personality to fit in. It almost felt a little too easy, like this place is where I was supposed to be all along.
I shook my head. I’m getting a little too much into this.
Skidding around the corner, I saw the entrance of the volleyball gym. Green nets covered the open door to prevent stray balls to escape and I was glad that I made it in time.
Just before going inside, i took of my shoes and slipped into my trainers. They felt new and squeaky, and i couldn’t wait to actually fill them in.
I peeked my head between the net and felt the familiar rush of adrenaline, looking at the team practice. The managers were on the side taking notes and the coach was mingling with the boys. I realised that they weren’t training as a whole team or playing mock matches, but had station-like exercises where they trained different things I would guess according to skillset and such.
I almost quietly went to the attending teacher, Takeda-sensei, and introduced myself politely. Explaining how I wanted to watch practice from time to time he looked very surprised.
“There is no harm in watching practice, but wouldn’t you want to use this time for your own club activities? Or maybe your studies?”
“Normally I would, but I am still not sure if I even want to join a club. Since I am very new here I tend to study alot at home and I want to use my freetime at school for something I like. Some of your players have been very nice and welcoming to me, so I want to repay it by watching them!”
“Well, I won’t tell you to go anywhere Hamawi-san. Please feel welcome to watch us anytime!”.
I bowed deeply to show my gratitude and looked around for the familiar faces.
“Okay! Get a short break, drink some water!”
“Yes Sir!”, the horde of guys chimed back to the coach.
Since they are having a break, I could strike up a conversation. Right?
“Aya-san! You came!”, Noya screamed and bounced his way to me with Tanaka close behind him.
“I thought you were gonna bail!”, Tanaka shot back, almost sulking.
I waved them off: “No way, I just forgot that practice starts right after the last period. Sorry for the wait-“
I caught how the managers were giving out waterbottles and the players sitting around in the gym to catch their breaths.
“Wait let me help please!”, I said while jogging up to the older manger. I just remembered that her name was Shimizu.
“You don’t have to!”
I shook my head: “No, no please let me!”.
I took two bottles, filled them with water just like Shimizu did and poured in some kind of powder. Shaking, and done.
“Noya-san! Tanaka-san! Here you go!”
Incoherent screaming from their side, maybe I was fueling them too much.
“Thank you dear Aya-san!”
“Am I much older than you? Please just call me Aya!”, I liked the respect people expected and got in japan but I felt like an elder with all these honorifics.
“Just Aya? Are you sure?”, Tanaka asked a little too hopefully.
“Oh my god, thats so intimate!”, Noya nudged Tanaka and they both giggled uncontrollably.
Two slaps loud enough to be heard through the hall resonated off of both of Tanakas and Noyas back, where Ennoshita struck them to shut them up apparently.
“She’s being very considerate so stop fooling around!”, he laughed and bowed his head slightly, “Is it okay if I call you Aya as well? If you’re comfortable?”.
I nodded ferociously.
“Okay! Well, Aya please don’t take these rockheads too seriously! They don’t mean any harm, but they really don’t know how to act around other people”.
Oh yeah I got that.
“I don’t mind! They remind me of my friends back home! They were just as abrasive and weird sometimes, and i really don’t care for it!”
“So, are you guys training for something in particular?”, I was loaded with information about volleyball yesterday and i remembered Hinata babbling something about-
“Nationals!”, multiple players bellowed at once and I flinched before laughing.
“I get it, y’all must be training hard”.
The coach loudly called everyone out of their break and I gestured to the sidelines. Turning around, I went to the wall and leaned on it while watching. I had the urge to help again, but instead I kept watching the mock game the boys were starting. I realised that I had only focused on that crazy attack thing yesterday, and made it my mission to watch the other players now as well.
I joined the Shimizu and Yachi on the sidelines while they were tracking and taking notes. Never would I have thought that someone could take so many notes in a simple mock game. Glacing over to Shimizu’s notes, I saw statistics on hit rates and comments on certain players and what they could improve upon. When I asked her if I could read some of it she nodded and said she would show me after practice was done.
Turning back to the game, i once again tried to focus on players i haven’t seen before. Yachi was very helpful to tell me everyone of their names and a short bit of information, and I tried to keep everything in my head.
It starts with the same pattern everytime. A serve that has to be received and passed to the setter who then makes sure to set the ball to a spiker who tried to score a point by hitting it into the field of the other team. Soon I realised that it didn’t always go like that. There were very short rallies that basically just consist of a receive and a dump by the setter or very long rallies that made you hold your breath because the ball just cant decide where to drop onto the floor! It was nerveracking to say the least!
It was time for the number three, Asahi-san, to serve and I intently watched his movements. He threw the ball in the air and jumped after it which almost made me gasp in shock, and the ball propelled its way towards the opponents field and slammed to the ground before anyone could save it.
Nicely done Azumane-san!”, Yachi shouted and clapped. I joined her and laughed, that looked so smooth! My eyes rested on him for a while. Azumane looked a bit taller and sturdier than the others, and he even had facial hair. He really looked a lot more mature.
“Oh ho, Asahi-san you still could’ve aimed more to the side huh?”, Ukai bellowed and Azumane shrank to almost a third of this size, “Y-Yes coach!”.
Yachi must have seen my bewildered expression. “You see our ace is actually a lot softer than he looks!”
She nodded,” the ace of the team is like the most valuable player or a really strong spiker!”
I nodded again. So much infromation.
“Okay let’s continue!”
“Aya-san, Aya-san look here!”, Nishinoya screamed and I followed the oncoming ball that flew right where Nishinoya positioned himself.
“Rollingu-“, he hit the ball effectively with his outstreched hands and ,believe me or not, rolled himself to the side.
Roaring laughter from Tanaka and excited babbling from Hinata about this so called special move.
“It sounds like super hero move!”, and Nishinoya replied with a smug expression on his face.
“Focus guys, there’s still some time left!”, the coach ushered everyone to continue.
Practice went on for longer than I expected, after every “last” set they screamed for another until to everyone’s dismay the coach roared for everyone to stop and cool down.
Everyone formed a circle to strech they’re tired muscles while counting to three. It sounded very soothing, every one of their voices melding together as if it were one. Maybe it was the tiring day or the fact that I really needed something calming but i felt myself space out, my head processing the first two days in japan.
Dad already told me that i would fit in easily, but the amount of respect everyone has treated me with felt so natural and… good.
I’m glad I came here.
“What?!”, I realised that someone was speaking to me, so much for spacing out.
“Aya-san, are you okay?”, the silver haired player shook a hand in front of my face while some of the others stood in front of me, clearly confused.
“Ah- sorry I-“, I caught a glimpse of his face and maybe caught myself a second too long in it before I responded “I Just spaced out! You guys are really cool!”
Relief washed over the group around me and i nodded to assure them I was fine.
Dodged a bullet there Aya.
“Well, uhm it was great to see you guys, again thank you so much for welcoming me so nicely. I’ll have to take my leave now!”
Nishinoya perked up at my attempt to leave, “You’re coming back tomorrow though, right?”
A typical smack from someone else this time.
“Stop being so persistent! You’re scaring her!”, it was the same guy who waked me from my trance just now.
“Oh it’s fine, uhm-“, I took another peek at his face.
Come on man.
“You know my name, but I don’t know yours”, I laughed to play it off, hoping he wouldn’t find me too pushy.
“That’s true, haha! My name is Sugawara Koushi”.
Sugawara huh? Wait , uhm honorifics, honorifics…
“Ah, Sugawara-san? Okay, thank you!”
While we were talking, most of the team was busy cleaning the floors and running around to find all stray balls lying around.
“Ah- that’s my cue as well. I’ll see you around?”, he asked while walking backwards slowly a light smile on his features.
I nodded fiercly and did the same, spinning around and walking towards the gym.
I waved a last time to the manager girls and stepped out.
The cool breeze caught me off guard and I just realied how hot I was in that gym. I pushed ma palms on my cheeks just to feel them in searing heat.
Oh my god. I am blushing.
Quickly scrambling my street shoes together I stumbled over my own feet, gym shoes in hand, and wobbled away from the gym.
Wait! My bag.
In rising shame I sprinted back, came to an aprubt halt in front of the gym again, grabbed my bag and threw it over my shoulder.
Looking up a last time I saw another face staring at me, and I seized any movement for a second.
“Sorry, forgot my bag!”, I turned around and ran as fast as I could, my cheeks burning and my lungs aching towards the schoolyard.
I didn’t stop until I passed the school gates, gasping for air.
And that’s why you’re weird Aya.
One last gasp of air before my breathing started to normalise.
I’m going home.
Smiling as I realised that I called my two-day fresh apartment my home.