In the 2nd year of junior high school, Izumi and Kei were in the same class, and I in the other. Girls around me had already formed circles, but I didn’t feel I belonged to any of them. Most of us had known each other since we were little, but somehow I lost connection with them while I had attached myself to Izumi and Kei.
The snow had cleared by the end of March, and we resumed softball practice as soon as the new school year started in April. I was positioned in the 3rd base because Mr. Watanabe thought I wasn’t quick enough for the 2nd or shortstop, or strong-shouldered enough for the outfield.
I was a substitute for a girl in the 3rd-grade, Yuko. I thought Yuko was the prettiest in school. She had the slant eyes like a perfect brushstroke of a calligraphy master. Her clear skin had a rosy color on her high cheekbones, and her lips curled in perpetual Mona Lisa smile.
Yuko and I started to form a sisterhood. We were not friends because girls’ rules came in between us, but there were mutual respect and fondness. It was a relief for me to like an older girl instead of resenting them for forcing us to show respect to them.
The final game for the 3rd-grade went well, and the team came in 2nd in the district. Yuko and I cried after the last game finished, and she handed me her uniform number. I liked her and wanted her to be my sister, as I had lost the real one to high school.
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