“Hey, sis! You’re home so early!” Ian, my younger brother, opened the door of our apartment. He’s already towering over me at 16, especially with his hair styled standing up. “Isn’t University supposed to have crazy hours?”
“This is only the first week, so we don’t have labs and tutorials yet. Are you hoping for me to come home late?” I put my bags on the floor while taking off my shoes. Hero, my beautiful lazy cat, came over to welcome me so he could chew on the plastic shopping bag I brought home.
“No, of course not!” Ian stared at the shopping bag with interest. “What’s that?”
“It’s my school uniform. I’ll show you in a bit.” I picked up the shopping bag to get it away from Hero before he damages my new clothes. “Could you take Hero with you to the couch?”
“Your school has a uniform? That’s awesome!” Ian picked up Hero and made his way to the couch.
“Wait till you see it! I’ll be right back.” I took my bags with me to my room and put on a set of the baby blue hoodie uniform. They were so comfy that I ended up wearing them for the rest of the evening.
“What? That’s a uniform?” Ian was incredulous.
“Yeah. It’s the sports version. We’re allowed to wear them for classes this year too. The formal version looks really beautiful and high class, but unfortunately, it’s above our budget.” I showed him the gold embroidered logo on the hoodie. “See this is our school logo. It says ‘Lux in tenebris’, which means ‘light in the darkness’ in Latin.”
“I like this version a lot more than the formal one! Could you get me a set too? I want to look like a sophisticated Felix Martin University student!” Ian was excited.
“Why don’t you come to my school in a couple of years? Then you can show off the uniform to your friends.”
“I would’ve worked so much harder in school if I had known about epic uniforms like that! But it’s too late now, there’s no way I can make up for everything I missed in two years.”
“It’s never too late to catch up, you know.”
“Nah! Sis you don’t understand, things like math and physics are completely out of my reach!” He reached for the ceiling with both hands and recoiled. “I’m not smart like you! Right Hero?” He looked at Hero for approval, who was now lazing about on his lap. Hero purred and rubbed his head against Ian’s body. He is now past his prime, and the only things that can get him excited are canned tuna and plastic bags.
“Ian, shouldn’t you be studying instead of watching TV?”
“Ummm…” He thought for a moment. “Basketball practice is going to start soon, so I thought I’d just chill for a bit until then. You know how much time it takes to take out the textbooks from my backpack, put them on the desk, flip to the right page, and…”
“Ok, I get it. You can just say that you don’t want to study right now.”
“Haha, I can never fool you!” Ian chuckled.
“When are you coming home tonight?”
“Probably around nine.” Ian’s eyes were back on the TV screen. “The practice is at five and we have a mock game at seven.”
“Just make sure you eat, ok?”
“I know, I know.” Ian was impatient. “I already had dinner. So don’t wait up for me. Mom called and said she’ll be home at 9:40.”
“Maybe you could bring some snack with you to the practice?” I’m always concerned about his weight because he plays so much basketball and doesn’t eat his meals regularly. Mom prepares meals for him every day, but she’s never around to make sure he eats them on time.
“Ok. Ok. I’ll bring something.” Ian was so absorbed in the anime that he was willing to agree with anything to get me off of his back.
“I’ll be in my room if you need anything.” I sighed. There was no use lecturing him since he no longer a kid, even though he still seems like one to me. I worry about him sometimes because of his rare genetic condition. Both him and father have unusual reactions to radio waves emitted by certain electronics. That’s why we don’t have wifi at home. And he has to wear a special headband when he goes outside. The doctors haven’t been able to treat their condition because they couldn’t figure out the problem. This is actually the reason why I decided to study bioengineering. I want to help Ian and dad find a cure. I’ll do whatever it takes.
When I started reviewing my notes, my head started to spin. I was almost certain that understood everything in class, but nothing seems to make sense now. I opened up the calculus textbook and started reading from page 1. The explanation was so difficult to understand that I had to read every paragraph several times to grasp the concept.
“I’m home!” Ian stepped into our apartment door at exactly 9:14 pm. “Sorry, I’m late.”
“No worries, Ian.” I shouted from my bedroom. I haven’t moved from my chair since I sat down. I almost panicked when I realized I was only about halfway through the calculus homework.
“Did you have dinner?” Ian must’ve looked in the fridge.
“Not yet. I’ll eat soon.” I needed a break from studying.
“You should eat before mom comes home.” Now it was his turn to lecture me. “You don’t want her to get upset after a long day of work.”
“I know. I’m coming!” I reluctantly pushed myself up by the handles of my chair. Mom gets really upset when we don’t eat our meals. One time, she got a fever because she was so angry at Ian for skipping a meal.
“Are you alright?” Ian stared my limping gait. “You look like you’re in pain.”
“Yeah, one of my legs fell asleep. That’s what happens when you sit for too long.” I took out the lunch box mom prepared for me from the fridge. “How was practice?”
“It was good.” Ian sat down in front of the TV again. “You know, the usual. Cody hurt his shin, so I had to take his place.”
“Is he alright?” Cody was the co-captain of his school team, and one of the best players.
“Sure. That kind of stuff happens all the time.”
“Is he going to be able to play soon?”
“Yeah, I think so. If not, then I’ll take his place while he recovers. Don’t worry, he’ll be fine.” Ian’s eyes were completely glued to the TV again.
“How was your day at school?”
“It was fine. Nothing new.” He went to the fridge and took out a tub of ice cream.
“How does it feel to be in grade 11?” I asked eagerly.
“Sis, I’ve been in the same grade since April.” He sat down across from me at the table. “Only your University’s schedule is different from the rest of this country.” He has a good point. All the schools in Japan begin their semesters in April. But my school goes with the international schedule, so the new school term started in September.
“Right. I guess I’m just really excited.” I dug into my food.
“How was your day at school? How does it feel like to be in a top-notch International University? Are there a lot of international students?” Ian licked his ice cream. The high school he’s going to is the same one that I went to. It’s also an international school, but most of the students are actually locals who were sent there by their parents to studying English.
“Most of the professors there are from abroad. The founder of the school is from England. He’s got this incredibly inspirational personality.” I thought for a moment. “As for students, I think about two thirds of my class are from abroad.”
“Really? Do they look different?”
“Hmmm, I’m still not sure who’s from where though. Even some of the locals look like they are from abroad. I met a couple of girls today who live in Tokyo, but I don’t think either of them is Japanese.”
“You mean like us kind of not Japanese, or not Asian at all?”
“One of them is probably like us, but the other one is definitely mixed or not Asian at all.”
“That’s so cool! You get to meet people from all over the world.” Ian looked at me with admiration. “Are they all super cool and super good looking like in the movies?”
“Haha! I don’t know, I guess so.”
“What do you mean? Are you try to kill me with suspense?”
“Well, there’s one blonde guy in my class who was pretty interesting. I think he’s from abroad.” I thought of Mark, and how he kept introducing himself to the class.
“Is he super good-looking?”
“Ummm. I guess, compared to some of the other guys in the class.” I thought of Shane and the other guy who sat next to me.
“I see.” Ian smirked. “So you like him…”
“He’s super good-looking, right?” Ian was teasing me now.
“I never said I liked him! I was just answering your question. And the only reason I mentioned him was because he kept talking in class.”
“Could you introduce him when you start dating?” Ian interrupted my sentence with a chuckle. “I would love to meet him!”
“Ian, there are more important things in life than dating.” I felt like I was talking to a child. “You know I don’t have time for that kind of stuff.”
“But dating is a very important part of life. Mom and dad do want us to get married one day. Besides, I think if you liked him enough, you’d probably make time for him.”
“Sometimes, I wish I could be more like you.” I smiled dryly. Sometimes, I did wish I could be more carefree like him, but I couldn’t say those words to him. It would hurt him. And it would hurt me even more to see him hurt. “The most important thing for me right now is do well in school, so I can get into the Masters program and hopefully a PhD after that.”
“A PhD?” Ian’s gaped. “You’re planning to do a PhD?”
“Hmm.” I nodded. “It’s never too early to start thinking about the future.”
“Really? Oh, but thinking about that stuff gives me a headache.” Ian rubbed his head.
“You’ll be graduating in less than two years, have you ever thought about what to do after that?”
“I don’t know. Basketball is the only thing I can think of.”
“Well, that’s a possibility…”
“Hey, mom’s home.” Ian dashed to the door. He took the first chance he got to get away from any serious talk about the future. “I’ll tell mom about your new crush.” He stuck out his tongue.
“Don’t you dare say anything about that!” I warned him.
“Ok, ok.” He gave me a wide grin before opening the door. “Mom, welcome home. How are you?”
“Hey, you’re both here. Isn’t it time to get ready for bed?” Mom was not pleased to see us eating at this time of the day.
“Yes, ma’am. I’m was just on my way.” Ian bowed and headed to his bedroom. “Goodnight, everyone!”
“Good night!” Mom turned to me. “How was your day?”
“It was good. Professor Felix Martin gave another inspiring speech this morning. The classes were a little difficult, but very interesting. All the professors I had today were very passionate about the classes they taught. And I met a couple of nice girls in my class.” I said as much as I could in one breath.
“That’s so good to hear. I’m glad you had a nice day.” She forced a smile on her tired face. “I’m sorry, honey, dad and I have to get ready for bed. Take good care of yourself, ok?” She planted a gentle kiss on my forehead.
“I will. Good night!” I wanted to tell her how much I wanted to talk to her. But I didn’t, because I knew she had to get up early the next morning to go to work. Sometimes, I wish she didn’t have to work so much and spent more time with me.
“Good night, Lori! You make daddy proud.” Dad patted me on the head before disappearing into his bedroom.
“Thanks dad, good night!” Soon, I was sitting at my desk again, working on calculus. Even though I don’t have calculus class tomorrow, I wanted to finish it tonight, because I know that there will be more homework from other classes tomorrow. I have to stay on top of things, so I can do well enough to make it to graduate school. That way, I’ll be one step closer to helping dad and Ian.