Misa marched slowly along the muddy path, enjoying the cool breeze that caressed her face. As she moved up the road, she ran her fingers through the overgrown azaleas that invaded both sides of the path. The evening was so beautiful that she couldn’t help but whistle slowly. The school bus whizzed past her and she noticed familiar faces smiling and waving at her. She eagerly waved back until the bus disappeared round the adjacent curve. She imagined how going to school and coming back in the school bus would be like. All her close friends were inside it. But Misa’s house was so close to the school, travelling via bus would only mean additional expenses. Misa lingered over these thoughts only till a dragonfly caught her attention.
Coming back from school was the best part of the day for Misa. Tired of all the lessons, she felt so fulfilled to be out of the school building. She wasn’t very fond of her home room teacher Mr. Shinori. Not that he had done something really unpleasant to her. Misa always found his horn-rimmed spectacles and his powerful glare repulsive and scary. However, he was an excellent teacher and never earned a bad remark from any of the students in Grade II.
Misa was never a fan of the school life. It was true that she thoroughly enjoyed the company of her friends and the bustling atmosphere that filled inside the school. Bags, boxes, uniforms, books – there were countless things Misa liked and numerous ones she didn’t. Either way, she knew she didn’t have much of a choice and that she had to be there every weekday. Suddenly, weekends seemed so distant to her.
She turned the tall hedge and started running slowly. It created a harsh, grating noise as her shoes crunched against the coarse gravel that covered the length of the road. The fields adjoining the road were laden with carrot plantations and tomato saplings. She stopped to have a quick chit-chat with Kimawa, the owner of the field, who was also her neighbor. After saying goodbye, she continued the stroll towards home. The sun was becoming less intense by the hour and the sunflowers looked more beautiful than ever. She quickly plucked a couple of flowers from the edge of the field, and after making sure that nobody saw the theft, started walking again as if nothing happened.
She now stood next to the entrance to the small bridge that extended over the canal right next to her house. It was old, yet strong. But Misa always dreaded crossing the bridge alone. Ever since she started going to school alone, this was the only obstacle she hated facing, that too on a daily basis. She clenched her bag tightly, squinted so that she won’t have to look beneath the bridge and find herself freaking out by the sight of the deep water underneath her and walked over the wooden planks as fast as she could. She could hear the quiet gurgle of the water. She chose not to pay attention and slowly edged towards the exit. As soon as she jumped over the last plank, she started running towards her home, jubilant and relieved.
As she reached the small wooden gate, she heard the bell of a bicycle. It was the village postman. She waited for him in case there were any letters for them. But as he passed by, he just smiled broadly at her and went away. Misa gave a wry smile, slightly disappointed about not having any letters. She opened the gate and went in. As she got inside her house, she called for her mom and climbed up the stairs. She changed into pyjamas, enjoying the sweet scent of dinner that her mom was preparing downstairs. As soon as she was finished, she came down the stairs and took her usual seat on the table.
Misa’s mother, a woman of about 28, came to meet her daughter at the table with a broad smile. She had made boiled rice, beans, curry and strawberries that day. Misa was ecstatic. As she was too hungry to wait, she delved into the food without any further ado. She told her mom all about what happened at school, and every small thing that happened on the way. She narrated the story about the prince and the mermaid she learned that day. She also reported not having any letters that day and even her mom was slightly disappointed. They would have to wait for a letter from Misa’s dad. They didn’t need to fuss, she told her daughter.
The sunflowers she plucked earlier from the fields sat neatly on the large vase near the table, overlooking the bright yellow sun. The skies were bright azure, with little clouds floating playfully here and there. Through the windows, Misa could see cows grazing in the pastures down the road. Women were coming back from work, heading home with whatever firewood they could collect along with their wages. The day had already become cooler. As she finished nibbling on the strawberries, she announced that she was going to play outside. Her mother went inside to start preparing the pie that she made every Thursday.
Misa put on her slippers and rushed out. She ran down the gravelly path, stretching all the way towards the grasslands. She would now go visit her friend Akira, who was older and studied in a different school. They would then run along the fields again, howling and whistling with the wind gushing at their faces.
Spring was indeed beautiful.