Font size: - +
Reaching campus, Yukio parked next to the art building and we walked inside together. Though people still gave us passing glances, most just minded their own business. I was glad. I made sure to sneak a peek at the chairman’s office and see if Mia was there. Thankfully, she was typing away on her computer and chipping away at another stack of work.
I turned to Yukio. “I need to talk to Mia about something. Save me a seat in Art History, okay?”
“Sure thing. I’ll see you in a bit?”
“Yea.” He waved himself off and disappeared into an adjacent hallway. Given ample time to do what I needed, I walked into Mia’s office and took a seat by her desk. When she noticed me, she smiled, typing on her computer without looking at the keyboard. Show off.
“Morning, Saige,” she said. “What can I do for you today?”
“I just had a question for ya, Mia. Maybe a few.”
“Okay, shoot.” I had to phrase this properly, but I also had to be direct. Ah, my favorite game of “what can I say without sounding like a complete idiot”. Better still, “how to be nosy without appearing nosy”.
I just had to pick one approach over the other and go for it. “Did you know Haruka Ono?” Nailed it. Mia furrowed her brow, a bit confused by my sudden curiosity.
“I can’t say I knew him personally, no, but I did see him around. Sweet boy, from what I could tell.”
“You wouldn’t happen to know anything about his experience here, would you?”
“Why do you want to know?” she asked me, but it wasn’t with a harsh and accusatory tone. She genuinely wanted to know why I wanted to know about a boy I wasn’t associated with.
“Oh, um, well, I’ve been talking with Yukio a bit over the past, um, day, but he isn’t comfortable talking about Haruka himself just yet.”
“So, you decided to go behind his back?”
“He recommended I ask you instead. I’m assuming there was some personal tension going on, so I decided not to push it with him. That said, I really am curious, especially since Haruka is missing. What was he like? What did he do? Who did he hang out with?” Wow, that went from subtle curiosity to outright interrogation in seconds. I hated myself sometimes.
Nevertheless, Mia kindly complied. “Well, if I had to describe him, I would say he was a cute, but quiet boy. Talented, but not academically inclined. If I remember correctly, by the time week five came around, he was already failing his lecture heavy courses. But he was a huge fan of studio.”
“Did he hang out with anyone in particular?”
She thought it over. “Not at first. But now that you mention it, he and Levi Anderson did begin walking to and from classes together. I don’t think much of it since it was one of the few times Levi wasn’t causing trouble or skipping class. I daresay Levi was becoming a proper student. Haruka stopped coming to classes during his second semester, though.”
“Really? Did Levi know anything about that?”
“Um…I didn’t ask?” she said with a slight lift indicating a confused question laced with suspicion. Crap, she was becoming suspicious.
“I see.” I took in a deep breath. Here came the big question. “Was Haruka ever harassed or bullied?”
Mia stopped typing instantly and looked squarely at me. “You know about that?”
“So, he was?”
She sighed heavily, addressing me directly and speaking lowly. “Yes, Haruka had come to me about some harassment from other students. I’m not at liberty to say who, but he was being made fun of.”
“For what, exactly?”
“If I remember correctly, it had to do with his sister a lot. The fact that she was an art school dropout raised a lot of questions. Before long, some students were accusing him of potentially doing the same.”
“That sounds horrible.”
“It was,” Mia confirmed. “Poor thing was taking it well, though."
“You sure you can’t tell me who was harassing him specifically? It would be helpful.”
“Helpful for what, exactly? It’s not often you ask about the business of others, Saige,” she commented as she began typing on her computer again.
I might as well have told her. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so here we go. “I’m just helping Yukio look for him. I was hoping I could narrow down possible places he could be and people who might know.”
“You’re trying to find him?”
“Yea,” I confirmed. “If you know anything about the people harassing him, why his sister was a popular target, or what he and Levi did in their time together, I’d love to hear it.” She stopped typing again, but this time was different. All the color had drained from her face and her eyes glossed over.