Chapter 1 - Danai Chase

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The hallway was loud and cramped as students made their way to fourth period classes and lunch. Danai stuck tight to her best friend Haqiyah. There were too many people around her. Too close. She clutched her paper lunch-bag. Sweat dripped down her back and under her arms, tickling her sides and making her hands clammy in their gloves. It was ninety-two degrees outside, and Danai envied the other students with their shorts, t-shirts, skirts and open-toed shoes.

If she tried that, she'd end up in a coma.

A boy jogged past, knocking into Danai's shoulder. Thankfully, the barrier of her sleeve protected her from his memories.

Not his memories, Danai, your delusions.

Whatever. She just wished the drugs made them go away. She should have waited in the classroom until the hallways cleared like usual. And skipped the lunch room. She wanted to throw up. Back hunched, she did her best not to freeze, run, scream, or do anything else to mark her as totally nuts.

"Are you sure you're okay with this?" Haqiyah asked. Her wide brown eyes shone with concern. "I can meet you behind the bleachers and let you know what happened."

"No. I can do it." Danai was going to kick this stupid anxiety problem. She'd seen the solution in a documentary about the psychological principal of flooding. Her therapist would approve of this plan, if Danai had mentioned it.

Haqiyah walked a step ahead of her, an ice breaking ship in aqua hijab. "Excuse me," she said, pushing into a group of cheerleaders who were milling at their lockers near the cafeteria entrance. "Coming through."

The girls looked up. "Hey, Key," Terry, a short, bouncy brunette said with a wave. "Exchange student's a week early. I know you wanted to interview him for the yearbook."

Danai was surprised Haqiyah had missed this. She was friendly with most of the teachers and all of the office staff. She usually knew everything that went on at school.

"Saito-san? How'd you—"

"Mrs. Barnard brought him to our class right before lunch. I thought you said he was Japanese."

"He is Japanese. I talked to him on Skype."

"He doesn't look Japanese."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I'm not being racist, I swear!" Terry took a step back, holding her hands out. "He just looks White. Not blond White but just White. You know. Like White."

"He could be Brazilian."

"That's not Japanese."

Haqiyah gave a long suffering sigh, "Brazilian-Japanese. Right after World War 2, the government of Brazil invited Japanese people to come and work. And then in the late 80's, the Japanese government invited their descendants to come back and work in the car factories. Didn't you know that?" Danai recognized with a sinking stomach the start of one of her best friend's lectures. Haqiyah didn't always realize that just because she knew something, it wasn't common knowledge. Or something everyone wanted to know.

"Key—" Danai cut in.

Terry must have seen the lecture coming too, because she said, "Yeah, Brazilian Japanese! Right! Duh!" She leaned in. "Think he's a model? He's mega hot. Like a model."

"Really?" Haqiyah sounded dubious. Danai agreed. Last week, Haqiyah had shown her Ken Saito's Japanese student ID. It had been in grainy color, probably scanned from a copied photocopy. And he'd looked Japanese to her. But not like a model or even a guy on one of the Korean boy band posters that Haqiyah had all over the walls of her room.  Saito had been pretty normal actually, wearing a black school uniform, his hair buzzed and eyes shielded by round glasses. Not hideous, and not super-hot either. Then again, ID pictures weren't always accurate. Danai looked like a shelter reject in hers. She glanced down at her thrift shop khakis, plaid button down shirt and yellowing silk gloves.

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