The day Bando broke up with her boyfriend, Nobuta went into the girls' washroom during the lunch period and found her fixing her hair with short, angry brushstrokes. Ordinarily, this would be reason enough to leave at once, but Bando was crying, as well, and Nobuta couldn't just pretend that she hadn't seen that. "Um, Bando-san," she began hesitantly, stepping further into the room.
Bando's eyes snapped over to meet hers in the mirror. "What do you want?" she demanded, not even bothering to wipe her eyes.
"Nothing," Nobuta said reflexively. And then, because that wasn't what she'd meant to say, "Just...are you all right?"
Bando bared her teeth in something that could have passed for a smile. To Nobuta, it looked a little as though she were a wild animal poised to attack. "I'm fine. Can't you tell?"
Nobuta shook her head, fighting the urge to drop her eyes, to hide, to run away. "Did...did something happen?"
There was a long silence. Then Bando huffed out a sigh and said, almost flippantly, "I broke up with my boyfriend."
"Did he...hit you?" There weren't any bruises on Bando's face, but maybe that didn't mean anything.
Bando shook her head, and Nobuta let out a relieved breath. Only then Bando said, low and vicious, "He pulled my hair."
"What?" Nobuta said, startled. Her eyes flew to Bando's hair, which did seem more mussed than she'd ever seen it before, now that she was looking.
"Bastard," Bando added under her breath. A few more tears trickled down her cheeks, and Nobuta fumbled in her pocket for tissues.
"Here," she said, holding them out to Bando, suddenly unable to look her in the eye. Nothing happened for long enough that Nobuta felt her face heat in embarrassment and almost put the tissues away again. Just before she could, though, Bando took them with a surprisingly gentle hand.
"Thanks," Bando muttered. Nobuta dared to look up again, and saw Bando dabbing at her eyes, carefully wiping away tears and streaks of mascara and eyeliner. "You probably don't have any mascara on you, right?" she said after a bit. It could have been a mean question, if she'd said it differently, but she didn't.
Nobuta nodded. "Sorry."
Bando clicked her tongue in annoyance. "Don't apologize. I wouldn't expect anything else from someone like you." Again, there was a strange lack of venom in her tone, and Nobuta nodded agreement once more. "I've got some in my bag," Bando added.
It didn't sound like a request, but Nobuta dashed out of the bathroom anyway, ignoring Bando's shouted "Oi!" as she left. Luckily, Bando's friends weren't in the classroom. No one even noticed as Nobuta grabbed the bag tucked under Bando's desk and left the room as quickly as she'd entered.
"Where'd you go?" Bando demanded when she returned to the washroom.
Nobuta held out the bag with both hands, and Bando frowned at it for a moment before recognizing it as her own. "Oh." She reached her own hands out to take it, still frowning. "Thanks," she said, a puzzled note in her voice.
"I hope that you feel better soon," Nobuta said, all in one breath, and left without waiting for a response.
The next morning, Nobuta opened her shoe cubby to find a glass of flowers and a small present tucked behind her school shoes. She turned the present over a couple of times in her hands, and then she slid the ribbon off and unwrapped the paper slowly. Inside was a packet of tissues, no different from any given out on the street. This particular packet was advertising a supermarket located seven or eight blocks from school.
The flowers, by contrast, were full and beautiful, a profusion of violet and golden and indigo blooms. Even knowing that there was an even chance that they'd been stolen from someone's garden couldn't prevent the smile that spread inexorably across her face.