The Worst Best Day

God didn’t have a waiting room because He was too busy to receive visitors; it was more for the visitor’s benefit, in case said visitor had reservations about seeing the Almighty.

Unlike most, Falora more often than not headed straight into the Holy of Holies on her visits for obvious reasons that will not be reiterated here. In fact, the young Goddess enjoyed the presence of her Lord so much that she managed to stop by on an almost day-to-day basis despite her busy schedule. On certain occasions, however, even she felt the need to pause in the antechamber and collect her feelings.

Today was one of those days. Even though Falora would like nothing better than collapse into the strongest pair of Arms she could ever imagine, somehow she just couldn’t get her feet to move. Every time she thought about how her classmates treated her, the tightening in her chest increased and her eyes grew hot in a way that was different from the kind of deep sadness that she had experienced before. The humans had many names for what she felt, but none of them could express the black, corrosive thing that possessed her and gnawed at her from inside out.

The waiting room seemed a lot more claustrophobic and oppressing all of a sudden. Shivering, Falora backed into the wall and felt her elbow bump into a stack of old National Geographic magazines, scattering some of them onto the ground. The secretary sitting at the desk looked up and peered at Falora with curiosity, but then the phone rang and Falora was once again alone.

Well, well, if it isn’t the teacher’s pet.

No, Falora whimpered, pulling into herself. I don’t want to remember.

Or maybe that should be the other way around, hm?

Falora covered her ears and squeezed her eyes shut. Stop!

Why so quiet? Surely that beast will come to your rescue if you yell loud enough.

Her chest tightened again, and this time tears began to escape from Falora’s clenched shut eyes. Please stop!

Come on! You want this back, don’t you? Eh? Come on—

“Falora.”

The tightening vanished as Kami-sama’s large, warm, and familiar hands wiped away her tears. “Father!” Falora managed to get out, before her instincts took over and she buried her face into His arms.

***

They were there again the next morning—four boys, some older, some perhaps her own age—waiting for her in the hallway.

“Good morning,” she greeted with just the tiniest of hesitations.

“Hello, there, kohai,” the largest of the ones returned with a predatory grin.

Four pairs of arms grabbed her and lifted her off the ground.

“Well, well, what a brave little miss we have today,” another boy observed with a smirk.

The leader grinned as well. “We’ll see about that.”

Falora couldn’t help but stare as they carried her towards the large, black, shoulder-high metal cans that the school used to hold trash until the assigned students for the day cleaned them out after the last bell had wrung.

“Quite appropriate, don’t you think?” the same boy asked her, still leering.

Into the trash can went an upside-down Falora, who reacted just fast enough to make sure no one saw her underwear.

One of the four kicked the can, sending its ringing vibrations through Falora’s head.

“Comfortable in there?” he asked, sarcasm dripping. The others snickered. Several more kicks followed, each harder than the next. As the can tipped from the force of one vicious blow in particular, Falora could no longer keep her balance.

The trash can fell over with a deafening clang.

***

Shimaru crossed his arms and smirked in a most disturbing manner. “Well, well, well. Look who’s late today.”

Falora kept her eyes toward the floor. “I’m sorry.”

Still smirking, Shimaru drummed his fingers together. “You know what happens to students who are late, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What are you waiting for, then?”

Silently, feeling her classmates’ eyes on her, Falora shuffled towards the door. Shimaru, having caught her at something, grinned at her. As she positioned herself just outside the door, Falora considered explaining her plight to Shimaru, but just as soon decided against it. Even if it wasn’t her fault that she was late, she knew that some of the older students that Shimaru taught—like the four that accosted her that morning—resented Shimaru’s strict teaching methods. With that thought in mind, Falora set her will to accepting her punishment without complaint.

A few minutes later, Falora was already feeling restless. Standing still had never been one of her strengths, and without anything for her to focus on other than the bland ceiling tiles, her attention waned. She tried passing the time by looking at the bulletin board on the other side of the hallway and even read all of the announcements twice, but the bell still failed to ring.

A brisk wind coursed through the narrow corridor, carrying along a few leaves from outside that danced in the breeze. This meant rain was coming soon, given the amount of clouds Falora had seen rolling in the sky when she was walking to school with Joseph and Anne.

Maybe I should ask them about what to do, Falora thought, wondering if anyone ever picked on those two and how they would handle it. Her thoughts then turned to her other classmates, imagining what their lives were like after they went home for the day.

The bell rang just as she reached the end of the roster, and she almost might have have kept standing there if Shimaru hadn’t just about knocked her over leaving the room as if fleeing a crime scene, his face tight and stormy. He even almost bowled over Sensei Kobayashi, the next teacher for Falora’s class, as the two crossed paths, without so much as acknowledging the other man.

“That man needs to lighten up,” Sensei Kobayashi observed, shaking his head. Noticing Falora, he brightened. “Ah, good morning, Falora.”

“Good morning, sensei,” Falora greeted, bowing, her thoughts readjusting to prepare her for the upcoming lecture.

***

Shimaru peered into the teacher’s lounge and pondered yet again the prospect of eating on the roof despite the pouring rain that was audible even from where he was standing. Surely getting soaked would be preferable over trying to avoid speaking to all the other people that were huddled in the lounge due to the inclement weather. On any other day he might have been able to just ignore them, but today, the mere existence of other human beings chafed against his mind like industrial grade sandpaper. Or maybe he could just find an unoccupied roofed walkway somewhere.

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