Hitomi the Witch
PART ONE: AFTER ALL, YOU ARE A VERY MAGICAL GIRL
Month of Gathering
"Hitomi! Breakfast is ready!" Mrs. Hoshizora called from the stairs.
"Coming!" Hitomi fidgeted with her red barrette until it was perfectly set on the right side of her light-pink bob. The striped Acara smiled as she shifted in her vanity seat, admiring her reflection. After buttoning up her sweater, she grabbed her book-bag and hurried out of her bedroom. She placed her rectangular spectacles on her nose—the red frames matching perfectly with her barrette—and took her seat at the kitchen table. "Sorry I’m late, Mom," Hitomi huffed, spreading jam on her toast. "I guess I lost track of time."
Mrs. Hoshizora smiled. "My, what an adorable barrette you’re wearing," teased the pink Gelert. She playfully adjusted her glasses. "Maybe I should have accessorized with something, too!"
Hitomi took a bite of her toast. "So, have we received anything from Dad today?" she asked after swallowing.
"Nothing today," said Mrs. Hoshizora, taking her seat across from her daughter. "But he’ll be home in three to four days. So I suppose we can wait until then to check up with him."
"Okay." Hitomi began eating her scrambled eggs and bacon. She knew her father was visiting the Mystery Island to study the island's cooking practices, so he may not have the extra time to mail a postcard or a letter every day. Hitomi also presumed her father was having some relaxation time too, and that may be another factor in her corresponding delay.
"So, how’s school been so far?" asked Mrs. Hoshizora.
"Not bad," said Hitomi. "The school festival’s coming up, and my class is performing a production of ‘The Bamboo Princess’."
Mrs. Hoshizora buttered her roll. "I see. And what role did you pick out, sugar plum?"
"I’m not telling," Hitomi giggled. She didn’t want to tell Mom—or Dad—that she was given the lead role of the Bamboo Princess. More than anything, she wanted her parents to see the play and be surprised—though she wasn’t certain if her father would be able to attend. Despite her desire, Hitomi hadn’t asked her mother the specific date and time of Dad's return, fearing she’ll jinx everything.
"Anything else new a school?" asked Mrs. Hoshizora.
Hitomi shrugged. "There’s this new kid named Hiroshi Hino. I don’t know much about him, though. Erika says he’s an extraordinary Yooyuball player and that our school already accepted him as their front defense player."
"Maybe the school will be able to win a game for once," Mrs. Hoshizora chuckled. "And how is the Ainos’ udon shop doing these days?"
"Erika says business is still pretty slow," said Hitomi. She finished her orange juice and glanced up at the wall clock. "Uh-oh, I’m going to be late if I don’t get moving!" Feeling the need to hurry, Hitomi slung her book-bag over her shoulder, grabbed her lunch box from the kitchen counter, and hurried to the door.
"Have a nice day!" Mrs. Hoshizora called as Hitomi slammed the door shut.
I have to hurry! Hitomi told herself as she ran down the sidewalk. She didn’t have time to take her usual leisurely stroll through the neighbourhood, admiring the cherry blossom trees that loomed high above and fluttered in the breeze. There was no time to greet the neighbours, pet the Petpets or admire any of the neighbour’s flowers—Hitomi only had one thing on her mind: getting to school on time.
Just as she saw her school’s tall, red-brick building looming in the horizon, Hitomi slowed her pace and saw a blue Kacheek walking in from of her. Her blue hair was tied up in a sort of spiked ponytail and her uniform’s sweater was tied around her waist. Hitomi felt a wave of relief and greeted the Kacheek with a cheerful, "Good morning, Erika!"
Erika turned her head and smiled. "Hey! I didn’t see you outside your house, so I decided to go one without cha."
"I’m sorry," said Hitomi, huffing from her jog.
"Geez, did you just run a marathon or something?" gasped Erika. She peered at Hitomi’s heart-shaped barrette and whistled. "My, aren’t you looking fancy today! Or did you want to start the week with a brand new makeover?"
"Oh, I just wanted to try something new," said Hitomi. "It goes well with my glasses, doesn’t it?"
"Yeah, they’re both…red," said Erika.
"So…how is...uh, Mickey doing?" asked Hitomi. Mickey was Erika’s older cousin and had recently transferred to their school. Hitomi thought Mickey was very studious and was impressed by how much he knew about Shenkuu—despite only being there for a month.
"He’s okay, I guess," said Erika. "All he does is study every day, and we only talk at dinner. Besides that, I think he’s really enjoying Shenkuu, and he's supposedly having oodles of fun with his studies," she scoffed.
Hitomi beamed. "Sounds like he’s having a nice time."
"Whatever." Erika sighed. "I still can’t believe Ms. Sakurada is making us stay after school today to help with the stupid festival preparations! Couldn’t she have gotten a professional decorating crew—or even some party supply workers—to decorate the auditorium?? I’m sure there has to be at least one shop in Shenkuu that can manage everything for us. "
"I think it’s going to be fun," said Hitomi, shrugging. "We get to hang up all the streamers and get to decide which coloured balloons to use, too." Then she became crestfallen and added, "I almost forgot: today’s my weekly visit with Shingo, so I can’t come by today to help."
Erika nodded. "Your cousin’s still at the hospital, right?"
"Yep, and I pay him a visit every Monday," said Hitomi. "But it’s okay; I’ll swing by later and see if you guys need extra help."
"That sounds fine," said Erika. "I just wish that our class wasn’t going to perform some boring old play. This is the THIRD year in a row that I’ve been stuck in the class that hosts the annual performance!"
"It’s the first time for me," said Hitomi. "My class did a café last year, and it was really fun dressing up as one of the waitresses."
Erika kicked a rock. "I’d rather be a waitress than a boring strange hand." She turned to Hitomi and smirked. "Then again, perhaps I should watch what I say in front of Her Majesty. I wouldn’t want to end up as a bamboo farmer on Kreludor!"
Hitomi shook her head. "Very well. I’ll just banish you to Terror Mountain instead!"
The girls were approaching the front doors when a voice called out, "Hey, Hitomi!" A yellow Usul was smiling at them, her yellow hair styled in two, swirled pigtails. She was a little taller than the girls and was also wearing the same uniform: a white shirt, blue and black checked skirt, a navy blue sweater, white socks and black shoes. "You are Hitomi Hoshizora, right?" asked the Usul.
"Uh…yes…" Hitomi stammered, her face reddening. "That’s me."
Erika placed a hand on her hip. "And who are you?" she demanded.
The Usul twirled one of her pigtails with her finger. "My name is Kirara." She eyed Hitomi. "I’ve always wanted to speak with you," she insisted, "but I never had the time of day. So I decided that—for today—I’ll just wait for you here and say hi."
"That’s nice of you," said Hitomi.
"So Hitomi, would you mind meeting me after school today?" asked Kirara. "There’s something super important I need to discuss with you."
"She can’t," Erika insisted. "Hitomi and I are needed to help set up for the festival." Not wanting to wait for Kirara’s reply, Erika grabbed Hitomi’s wrist and pulled her into the school. "Geez, what a total nut bar," she grumbled. "And since when do upperclassmen act nice towards us juniors?"
Hitomi craned her neck and saw Kirara waving at her. "I think she looks pretty nice," she insisted. Maybe we can even be friends! she added silently. That’d be great!
At lunch, the girls made their way to the school’s roof and sat down beside the air conditioner. "Ah, now this is bliss!" Erika sighed, stretching her arms. "This cool air feels so good!"
Hitomi unpacked her lunch box. "Do you want some fried chicken, Erika?" she asked, holding out a short strip.
Erika plopped the piece into her mouth and munched, smiling her approval.
"There you are!" Hitomi jumped a bit when Kirara appeared behind her, a green lunch bag in her hands. Seating herself beside the surprised Acara, Kirara pulled out a pink case from her bag and opened it, revealing rice, five fried shrimp and two black chopsticks. "Who wants some shrimp?" she asked cheerfully.
"What are you doing here?" pressed Erika. "This is our lunch spot."
"Don’t worry," Kirara insisted. "I just came here to talk." She took a bite of rice. "I was also hoping on getting to know you better," she said to Hitomi. "After all, you are a very magical girl."
"Uh…excuse me?" gasped Hitomi.
"Yeah, excuse me?" Erika repeated. "What do you mean by ‘magical girl’? Are you making fun of my very best friend!?!?"
Kirara shook her head. "No, you’re completely mistaken." She placed a hand on Hitomi’s shoulder. "You may not believe this, but you have a magical aura surrounding you right now. And the reason you do is because…well…it’s because you’re a witch."
"A witch?" Hitomi inched closer to Erika. "What are you talking about? I can’t be a witch!"
"But you are, Hitomi," Kirara insisted. She pulled a round, glass pendant out of her skirt pocket and held it up. The pendant was glowing bright yellow. "This is a Spell Charm. Every witch is blessed with one. I should know, Hitomi, because I’m a witch too!" She clasped Hitomi’s hands and smiled. "Now we can be witch friends together! Wouldn’t that be great??"
Erika rolled her eyes. "Not only are you a total nut bar—now you’ve become a full-blown granola bar!" She laughed loudly. "Like Hitomi Hoshizora is some kind of witch!"
Hitomi was feeling a mix of confusion and…well, even more confusion. Was Kirara telling her the truth? Or was this really a joke? "Tell me everything you know about witches," she said softly.
Kirara nodded. "Sure! Just ask me anything."
To be continued…