Usagi—or "Sue" as everyone insisted on calling her—started going to school again when they finally put her in a long-term foster home. It was a regular American school where everyone dressed in what they liked. Few of them seemed to like what she wore, not that she had much choice. The people running her latest foster home were very stingy, and she had to wear second-hand clothes. She had to learn to sew to make them fit well. Still, her clothes and especially her hair were always targets for teasing. She thought about changing her hair, even cutting it, but somehow it seemed like losing a part of her. So, even as she got used to being "Sue," she was still odango atama, dumpling head.
After awhile, most of the teasing stopped as people got used to her. Her English got better—in fact, she found out she could even understand some Spanish, because lots of the kids at her school spoke it a lot. But she was still an outsider, a mystery no one could solve, or cared to.
After she had been in the school for several months, a boy asked her if she would go with him to a school dance. She didn't know him more than to say a few words to, though she remembered he seemed to be around her a lot lately, looking at her until she saw that he was. But he wasn't one of the boys who had teased her. She said "Hai—Yes, I will go with you, Jimi."
She had to buy her own second-hand formal from a thrift store and fix it up, and it wasn't very nice. But the dance was pleasant; she found she could dance fairly well, at least waltzing. Her date was a klutz that night, but he didn't mess up too badly. Usagi realized that he was not normally awkward; that he was this way because she was making him nervous, and that made her feel quite good. And she noticed again how he spoke up for her when she got teased.
He had borrowed his parents' car for the night, so he drove her to her foster home. There were no lights on—she didn't have a key; because her foster parents didn't trust her or any of the other foster kids they were paid to take care of enough to give them keys. They would be angry when she rang the doorbell. So, she waited in the car with Jimmy longer than she might have, listening to him, putting off the scene with her foster parents.
Then she realized that what he was really doing was trying to get up enough nerve to kiss her. She remembered Mamo-chan--but was that real? Jimmy couldn't fly or throw magic roses, but he was real. So, when he finally inched all the way over, she let him kiss her. But when he started to do a little more than kiss her, she took his hands and pushed him away.
"I'm sorry, I—"
"No. I do not do this on first date. I just know you, Jimmy."
"I really think I love you. I mean, I've been wanting to get to know you for a long time."
"You do not know me. This is first date. With Mamo-chan—"
"Mamo-chan is just a cartoon, Sue."
She flushed. But of course, he believed that. And perhaps she should . . . "Yes, I forgot that. But I am sure if I make love before, I know boyfriend long time. Not first date. More than year, I think. I do not make love unless I am sure love boy."
"And you don't love me?"
"How I know that? I know you only short time. How you know you love me? Love take long time. Real love takes—takes—long time happen. To happen." She got out of the car.
"Can I still see you?"
"You see me at school."
"I mean, can I ask you to go out with me again?"
"Wait few days—a few days. I need to think. Few days, Jimmy-chan."
After a few days, Jimmy-chan asked again, and Usagi—Sue, as she was beginning to think of herself, said yes. She wasn't very impressed by him at first, except that he endured a lot of teasing for going around with "the crazy girl who thinks she's a Jap." As weeks and then months passed, she began to see how Naru-chan could find love with Umino-chan—if there really were such people. Not just cartoons. But she remembered real people, or seemed to. Especially her mother. How could she have made up okasan?
The woman running the foster home wasn't anything like okasan. She was pretty enough, but only on the outside. She tried to get the foster kids to do as much of the work as she could, and Sue was the one who did the most. Besides that, if she wanted any pocket money, she had to work. And she found that studying was better than arguing with her foster family all the time. After a year, it seemed hard to imagine she had ever had time to be lazy . . .