Mom bought a painting with that proverb inked in bold Kanji characters.
I don’t think she really understands what those words mean. She probably thought it was pretty and fit our house’s decor and decided to buy it.
Mommy is that way. She likes things super-fast, then hates them just as fast. And she’s not very good at Japanese, but Daddy doesn’t like me to say that in front of her.
He’s a superhero, my daddy, and superheroes don’t like to make other people feel bad.
But like all superheroes, he’s busy all the time. Mommy and Daddy work hard so I can eat and study with my friends.
Although I don’t really have friends. They call me ‘Blondie’ in a weird English accent because I have light hair and green eyes like a ‘freak.’
I asked Daddy why I don’t have Asian eyes and black hair like everyone else, and he told me it’s because I’m American, not Japanese. But I was born in Tokyo and that still doesn’t make me Asian?
That’s stupid. I should look like them so no one will make fun of me.
Or ignore me.
Mommy says that when they have money, they’ll transfer me to an international school where there are foreigners like me. But I just want to have fun with everyone in my class.
They look at me funny when Mommy arrives to pick me up in the middle of the day.
I usually go home last. Today, I’m leaving early.
My pretty teacher, Satomi Sensei, takes my small hand in hers. She has short hair and a soft smile like the angels from my bedtime stories.
Sensei guides me to the door and everyone murmurs about the ‘Blondie’ who’s ditching.
I’m not ditching.
“Everyone stay quiet, now.” Sensei stares over her shoulder at them and speaks in Japanese. “Sebastian-kun is meeting his mother. Okay?”
“Okay!” they echo.
“Don’t worry about them.” She smiles at me.
“Okay,” I murmur in Japanese and stare at my feet.
Because I speak both English and Japanese, sometimes it takes longer to figure out what I should be saying, so I just stay silent.
Sensei guides me through the door of the classroom, where my mom is pacing the hallway.
“Is everything all right, Mrs. Weaver?” Sensei asks her.
Mommy stops pacing and smiles. “Everything is great. We just miss Sebastian so much and want to have lunch together.”
Her golden blonde hair falls down her back and always gets everyone’s attention whenever we’re in public. That and her name, Julia.
She pulls me from Sensei’s side and wraps her clammy hand around mine.
I don’t get to wave as we hurry down the corridor. Her heels make so much noise in the empty hallway of the school. She bows in greeting at the principal and one of the teachers and I do so as well.
As soon as we’re out of view, her smile drops and her lower lip trembles. She looks like the characters in anime before they cry. Like Gon from Hunter X Hunter when he couldn’t find his father.
“I still have class, Mommy,” I say in English.
She doesn’t like me to talk in Japanese at home, even though Daddy is fine with it.
“Not today, sweetie.” She ruffles my hair, but it’s stiff and hurts.
“But Sensei doesn’t like us to be absent.”
“She’ll forgive you this time.” She ushers me to the back seat of our car.
My eyes light up when I see who’s in the driver’s seat. “Daddy!”
“Hey, champ.” He turns around and grins at me.
My daddy, Nicholas Weaver, is my best friend. When I told him that I don’t have friends at school, he said he’d be my temporary best buddy until I find others. But he’ll always hold the number one spot.
He reaches a fist in my direction and I throw my yellow bag to the side so I can bump it, giggling as Mom fusses with my seatbelt.
It’s then I notice that there’s something beside me.
The painting with the bold Kanji letters on it that should be in our living room.
I tilt my head to the side and read it again, out loud, in Japanese, “The…weak…a-are…meat. The s-strong…eat.”
“Good boy!” Daddy exclaims from the front seat. “Your Kanji is getting better, Bastian.”
“I’m second in my class!”
“That’s my boy.” He grins, but it’s strained, just like how Mommy patted my head earlier.
After making sure I’m strapped securely in my seat, she gets in the front and Daddy drives away from my school.
“Why is the painting here?” I frown.
“It’s a family legacy, Bastian.” Mom watches the side-view mirror, seeming