previous: Run it! ch 14
I was still riding high on adrenaline and happiness. It had been forever since I’d gotten the chance to perform to a live audience and the thrill was invigorating. I was hanging out with Prayikina and Jamie when Nana Sadatsuka approached. Jamie’s mother looked calm and professional, with a casual pastel suit-dress and her long black hair pulled back in a tasteful braid. She spoke with the crackly voice of a long-time smoker but carried herself with a sense of grace. “Oh Jamie, that was just wonderful you are always so creative.”
My basketball player sized boyfriend leaned down to hug her. “Thanks, Mom, that means a lot. But I’ve got to say, it was a group effort.”
The moment was actually quite adorable. I sprang up to give her a hug as well. “Ms. Sadatsuka, I’m so glad you could make it.” For a moment I felt awkward, she was a billionaire, industry pioneer: the kind of woman I aspired to be.
“Of course,” Jamie’s mother said, gleefully holding the hug. She cupped my face looking into my eyes like a typical mom. “I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to watch Jamie’s beautiful girlfriend compete. And Prayikina, I would love to hug you as well.” She held out her arms, ready for a three-way hug.
My cousin froze in place. “Nah, I’m good.” Prayikina nervously twirled a lock of her hair while taking a step backward.
Nana didn’t seem to notice or care. “Elena and Prayikina, you are such beautiful young ladies. As lovely as your dear mother’s, if not more so.”
“You knew my mom?” I asked.
“Alicia Nakiri, a woman of science. We were never friends, but I always felt like she was on my same wavelength. I see you share her passion for culinary science. I would be honored to host you at this year’s summer internship assignments.”
Prayikina laughed like a typical mean girl teen. “That’s really um,” she paused, pursing her lips, “sweet of you.”
I raised an eyebrow, unsure of why my best friend was being so condescending.
Thankfully, Principal Sam walked over and shook Jamie’s mother’s hand. “Nana Sadatsuka, so nice of you to grace us with your presence.”
“Of course, I wouldn’t miss this for the world. Grant it, I’ve missed a few celebrations, but I knew I needed to be here for the chance to see my little boy perform live.”
Jamie noticeably blushed. “Aw, Mom.”
Nana patted his shoulder as she turned her attention back to Principal Sam. “Sammy,” she asked with a pout, “Why is it you always send me such talentless boys for the internship season?”
The irony was not lost on Jamie who smiled awkwardly. I knew that for his summer internship credit he had made sure to not work anywhere near his mother’s industry.
Principal Sam laughed off her statement. “Every student at this school is a true talent, even your son. As you know from your own life experience, not everyone stays through graduation, but I am certain that any student assigned to you will be a great asset. And if not, you are always free to have them reassigned.”
“You know I’d never do that.” Nana pouted, adjusting her jacket. “I have nothing but utmost respect for this school.”
Sam nodded. “I’m glad.”
“So, please let me have these girls for the upcoming internship season.” She seemed so sad, less like a confident woman and more like a teen getting bullied.
“Yeah, Principal Sam,” I said putting my arm around Nana’s shoulder. “That actually sounds really cool.” I could feel Jamie’s mother standing a little taller.
“Well, that will be up to you once application season starts.” Principal Sam maintained a professional tone. “Nan, while your factory has been a very educational facility for summer interns for nearly six years, the placement of students is not entirely up to me.” He shot Prayikina a wink. “There’s an entire panel, not to mention the student government.”
Prayikina grabbed me by the shoulder. “You see! It’s not really up to us, internships are determined by a panel of faculty.”
I glared at her, attempting to stay where I was. “What is your problem?” I muttered in a whisper. If she didn’t want to hang out with Jamie’s rich, powerful, culinary businesswoman of a mom, that was her issue.
Prayikina quickly pulled me away by my arm, forcibly walking us to a location a few feet away. “All I’m saying is, I want to survive my summer internship.”
I shook my head. Her fear was downright comical. “Are you calling her a witch? Do you think she’s going to boil you alive in one of her factories?” Plus, we didn’t need to intern at the same place.
Prayikina lifted her finger as if to make a point. “If we were to intern at Nana Sadatsuka’s factory we,” my cousin paused to smile at a passing group of fans.
“We?” I asked, with a similar fake photo-ready smile. “You don’t speak for me. If we have to spend the summer apart, we can spend it apart.”
“Fine,” she replied through gritted teeth. “If I work for her, I am going to end up tied up in her basement.”
I couldn’t look her in the eyes. Was she serious? “Um, what? Are you saying Jamie’s mother is some kind of serial killer lesbian?”
“Let’s just say I’m not-not calling her a lesbian.”
‘Holy fuck.’ I was genuinely offended by her tone. Regardless of Jamie’s mother being the subject of conversation, this was not the 1950’s, people could live however they wanted. “Way to be a judgmental bit-“
“You don’t understand.”
Yeah, I really didn’t. “Make me understand.”
“My mother told me stories. Nana Sadatsuka was obsessed with her. She’d been stalking her for years. During their time at the academy Nan would climb a tree to photograph her through her bedroom window.”
“And that concerns you, why?” I asked. Just because someone had a crush on Aunt Erica didn’t mean she was unsafe.
Prayikina seemed sincerely concerned. “You don’t believe me, do you?”
“I believe you,” I said with an exhausted sigh. “But you have to admit, your mom was and still is the hottest girl at the school.”
Prayikina rolled her eyes.
“I’ve seen pictures. If I was in school with her, I think I’d be hanging out outside her bedroom too.”
“You are something else.”
“And even if Nana Sadatsuka was a dangerous bisexual serial killer, I would be absolutely down to spend the night in her bed for a chance at her billion-dollar brilliant mind.”
“You’re so gross.” My cousin slugged me in the ribs and laughed. With that, the subject was dropped.
I could see why Prayikina was nervous, but it was still a homophobic way to see the world. Thankfully, Nan had been talking to Principal Sam the entire time. I caught the end of their conversation as she slinked away. “I understand, Sammy, but please try to find a way to send me some lovely females this year.”
“You still think she’s not creepy?” Prayikina asked.
“I think the word you’re looking for is ‘thirsty.’ She is a very thirsty lesbian, but she is also freaking cool.”
I heard someone scoff. Hillary Arato approached with a paper cup of steaming hot tea. “I was making some medicinal tea for Miss Erica but I have some extra. It’s a sampling of my newest product line, the combination should relax your nerves. After your unfortune encounter.”
I watched as Principal Sam took the tea and drank it down in one gulp. “I’m going to need something a lot stronger than that.”
I rolled my eyes. Apparently bullying Nana Sadatsuka for how she acted in high school was a long running joke. Even Akira came up and shook his hand. “I can’t thank you enough, Sam.”
“You don’t have to thank me,” he said with a smile, “Prayikina’s dish was amazing. She really takes after you.”
“I mean, you making sure that Nan ‘the sadist’ doesn’t kidnap Prayikina by virtue of her being Erica’s daughter.” Akira laughed at his own joke and now I knew where Prayikina got her cruel sense of humor.
Principal Sam chuckled, “You could do me a solid by taking over as principal in a few years.”
“In a few years?” Akira asked. “You seemed ready to cut and run the moment you got here.”
Principal Sam smirked, as he turned to me and Prayikina. There was a reason he stayed as long as he did. “Although my daughter is leaving for an art school in New York I want to stick around for my son, and for Elena.” He patted my head sweetly. “But rest assured, I want to get the hell out of this place as soon as humanly possible and travel the world.”
I rested my head on his shoulder, puffing out my lower lip. “Really you’re going to up and leave?”
Akira was still laughing. “Yeah, Sam. What about your wife?”
“My wife runs my father’s restaurant. My kids are working towards their own destinies,” he raised his empty cup as if making a toast. “But I see the look in your eyes Akira, the idea intrigues you.”
Akira nodded, holding back a genuine smile. “I did grow up at this school. With what Ali’s mother said about establishing a scholarship foundation for low-income kids, I’d like to be a part of that. The idea of welcoming a whole new generation of street kids like us, it’s kinda…” his voice trailed off and I knew why. Without the school he would’ve been homeless on the streets of India. Even with his God given talent, he would have died without ever living up to his potential. “And I’ve always had a soft spot for drowning in paperwork.”
“Then you’ll love running this school,” Sam laughed. “It will be a slice of heaven.”
“But you have to know Erica won’t just let you pull the same thing your father did; if you manage to disappear off the face of the earth, she’s going to hunt you down.”
“A risk I’m willing to take,” Sam said with a chuckle. “It’ll be worth the challenge “
Akira took a sip of his drink (it was clearly not tea.) “Don’t forget, there’s always the chance, with Meg living alone in Japan, Ali would track you down and you’ll wake up the way Slate did after the reunion.”
I rolled my eyes so hard they almost got stuck. ‘Oh, so not only was Nana Sadatsuka a lesbian she also rapes kindhearted biker men for the sake of getting pregnant.’
Principal Sam seemed to share my level of disgust. “Ok first off, Alicia Nakiri is my friend and Elena’s mother. I will gladly stay in touch with her to support her through whatever drama she finds herself in. (Knowing Ali there will be a lot.) And of course, I will let her know about Elena’s progress, as well as any issues that arise in regards to her education. But second, and more important,” he paused for dramatic effect. “We both know Alicia is more likely to kill Erica and take you as her new puppy sex slave. Maybe she’ll let you live in a dog house with an electrified collar and a bowl full of curry.”
Akira’s jaw dropped; Principal Sam could easily out ‘joke’ him. “Wow, major burn.”
“Remember all the fun you had working under- I mean ‘with’ her during our time at school?”
I knew what he was referring to. My father had told me stories of how my mother acted during group projects. She was practically a BDSM mistress running a sweatshop.
Akira giggled, nodding in defeat. “I guess we most both make sure to protect our wives for the sake of our marriages and our sanity.”
Suddenly Aunt Erica approached. She put her arms around Akira’s waist resting her head on his back. “What are we talking about, my love?”
“Nothing,” Principal Sam replied. “I’m just going to head out for a smoke.”
“Can I come too?” I asked, not wanting to leave his side, since Jamie had slipped out in the mist of the drama. “Not that I smoke…”
“Elena, this is a cooking school: everyone smokes.” Principal Sam led the way to the fire exit, heading outside to the side staff parking lot. “After you, Miss Nakiri.”
“Thank you,” I said with a curtsey. True to his word he gave me a cigarette from his personal pack.
Leaning against a wall, we looked out at the parking lot. Apparently, we’d arrived just in time to see Jamie hugging his father goodbye. Slate got on his motorcycle, revving the engine.
“Hey, Mimasaka hold up for a sec,” Sam shouted. He held up the pack, as if offering him a cigarette.
Much to my surprise Slate turned around. “What is it?” he asked, parking the bike near the door, before accepting the cigarette. He pulled out his own lighter, a cheap plastic BIC with a colorful dragon pattern.
“You should know Remy Moceanu asked me to watch over Elena,” Sam said as he lit up using a simple wooden match.
“Yeah, so?” Slate replied with a laugh. “She’s a great kid.” He took a long drag, looking up at the night sky.
My cigarette remained unlit since I didn’t have a fire source of my own. And after all their kind words I couldn’t bring myself to ask Principal Soma or Jamie’s father to participate in my future lung cancer.
“As Elena’s guardian, interim principal, and her godfather, I am going to be forced to keep an eye on Jamie as well. Especially after his little musical number.”
I knew Principal Sam was joking but Slate did not.
“Oh, come on! All of the dorm took part in that!” said the biker, his voice roaring with intimidation.
“I am aware. I know the academy has changed since we were students here. And I’m glad it has. This generation will not have to fight for their right to be artists and innovators. They can have fun while each and every one of them finds their passion. My only concern is that Jamie seems to have a little too much fun.”
Slate was about to argue when the two men suddenly heard the sound of my girly giggling voice. “That tickles, Jamie,” I said with a flirty smirk. Jamie pulled me away, around a corner. We were out of the line of sight but I was pretty sure they could still hear us.
“You know you like it,” Jamie replied in a breathy whisper. “You know, you’re my dream girl.”
“You always say that.”
“Because it’s so damn true.” In a small alleyway, near the fire exit Jamie kissed me; once, then twice.
Principal Sam and Slate quietly crept around the corner, well within my line of sight. I needed to keep my actions family friendly. But that was proving difficult.
With Jamie sucking on my neck, my hands (all on their own) moved under my boyfriend’s shirt. “You have such a gorgeous body.” I regretted those words, almost immediately.
The vein in Principal Sam’s head started to pulse, gradually growing larger. He was fighting the urge to confront us (even though, as the Principal he would have been well within his right to do so.)
“Come on, Sam,” Jamie’s father said attempting to calm the man down. ” You have to admit it’s cute, romantic…”
Principal Sam was eerily silent.
“Come on, they’re just kids,” Slate added. It was actually kind of sweet.
“It’s all for you,” Jamie said. He kissed me deeply, slowly opening my mouth with his tongue. “Come on, Elena you know what I like.”
Slate’s eyes budged, he took a few steps back, fully aware of what was to come.
“KNOCK IT OFF!” Principal Sam roared.
Needless to say, I shrieked. For a moment I could have sworn Principal Sam had my father’s demonic red shrunken pupils. “I’m sorry Uncle Sammy!” My voice sounded like a frightened little girl. I quickly fixed my clothing, making myself decent.
Jamie bowed his head, looking truly apologetic. “I, um, apologize, meant no disrespect.”
“Disrespect?” Principal Sam’s voice sounded different, deeper, scratchy. He sounded like my dad. “And what does that mean?”
“It means um…” Jamie stuttered, more nervous than I had ever seen. “I love Elena…I would never.”
Slate, placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Not the time to talk, just run! Ideally not in the same direction as Elena.”
Jamie did as his father suggested, and I couldn’t blame him. Of course, I had no intention of leaving. “Sorry, Principal Sam,” I said with an adorable pouty lower lip.
Principal Sam turned to Slate. “You would be wise to tell your son, abstinence makes the heart grow fonder. Because if he does anything to cause Elena to have to drop out of school, I will remove certain parts since he will no longer be needing them.”
I started to laugh, as that was undoubtedly something my father would have said.
“Sure, will do.” Slate was frozen in place. Despite their difference in height, he was looking above Principal Sam’s head.
I was not a religious person (and I assume neither was Slate) but if either of us believed in souls, that moment was truly paranormal. I put my arms around Principal Sam, hugging him the way I would my father. This gave Slate the opportunity to finally leave.
Principal Sam was silent. If he was being possessed by Remy Moceanu, he was making no effort to fight it. “Hi, Dad,” I said in a whisper. Hugging him felt nice. I held the embrace, until Principal Sam patted me on the head.
“You’re a good kid, Elena.”
“Thank you?” I nervously replied.
“I have two kids of my own, I know I can’t control what you do. You have your own spirit, own soul. The best I can ask of you is to live your life in a way that would make your father proud.”
I nodded resting my chin against his arm. “Yeah, that’s always been my dream.”
next: Run it! ch16