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NARRATOR: "The sound of my alarm is an unwelcome intrusion on a sleep that's been a battle to obtain. I doubt I've been truly asleep for more than an hour or two. Too much on my mind. Did I make the right choice, leaving the house yesterday? Did I manage to get Emi to realize how unreasonable she's been? Am I ever going to manage to get her to stop being unreasonable? Emi's mom gave me a new perspective the other day, but I'm still not sure that it's the right perspective. She was hurt when I left yesterday, too. I know that part of any conversation is going to have to include an apology about that. Right thing to do or not, I hurt her."

NARRATOR: "I hurry down to the track, eager to talk to Emi. I think I know what to say. Apologize for leaving first, and go ahead from there. Unless, of course, Emi doesn't show up. Which from the looks of things seems like it's the case. It's been about fifteen minutes since I got here, and there's no sign of her. She's never late, not unless she's sick, which is unlikely. She probably just doesn't want to see me right now. To take my mind off what that implies, I begin my warm-up routine and take off around the track. It clears my mind wonderfully; for the half-hour I'm running, I don't think about anything but the run. However, once I've finished, and Emi still hasn't shown up..."

NARRATOR: "I get a little worried. With any luck, the nurse will know where she is; if nothing else, I can see what he thinks I should do next."

NURSE: "So, last night didn't go too well, I take it."

HISAO: "Huh? You already know?"

NURSE: "I have my ways, and it's not as if I'd miss the distinct absence of your running partner this morning, now would I?"

HISAO: "No, I suppose not."

NURSE: "So, what happened?"

HISAO: "Don't you know already?"

NURSE: "Maybe, but I could be bluffing. Perhaps I'd prefer to get your side of the story before I give any advice."

NARRATOR: "I quickly fill the nurse in on the events of last night, and he takes it all in without changing expression once. Nothing about the whole event seems to surprise him, although he does seem surprised when I say that I didn't follow Emi."

NURSE: "Chose to talk to her mom instead, huh? Smart move, though I guess it didn't work out too well for you in the end."

HISAO: "Well, I'm not sure. Emi seemed apologetic when I left, or at least she seemed that way until she put up her defenses again."

NARRATOR: "The nurse sighs and spreads his hands in a conciliatory gesture."

NURSE: "Frankly, I'm surprised she let them down at all. Emi's had a lot of practice on that score. You probably won't get anything else out of her."

HISAO: "I don't believe you."

NURSE: "Is that so? You think she'll tell you the whole tale?"

NARRATOR: "I'd swear I just saw the nurse's eyes glitter a little. His expression is the same, but he leans forward ever so slightly."

HISAO: "I think she'll open up if I ask her without being an idiot about it, yeah."

NARRATOR: "The nurse gives his enigmatic smile in response and shrugs widely. I think he's enjoying his role a little too much."

NURSE: "That's the real trick, isn't it? Are you sure you know the right way to approach the subject? I can guarantee that Emi's going to try her hardest to pretend last night didn't happen. It will be painfully awkward for the both of you, but it'll also be a lot safer than trying to ask her for the whole story again. It could go worse, this time. Are you ready for something like that?"

NARRATOR: "It sounds like a challenge, like he doesn't believe for a minute that I'd be so bold. I actually feel a little insulted by his lack of confidence in me."

HISAO: "Of course I'm ready for that! I love her!"

NARRATOR: "My outburst gets a raised eyebrow in response."

NURSE: "Well then. Good luck. Let me know how it all turns out."

NARRATOR: "Although he delivers his parting shot with the same smirk as usual, I actually think that the nurse wants me to succeed. I resist the urge to charge directly to Emi's room to prove the nurse wrong. I've gone in half-cocked before, and the results were less than stellar. If I'm going to do this, I need to figure out exactly what I'm going to say, and how I'm going to say it. Something to think about in class. Sure enough, by the time lunch rolls around, I think I have a good enough idea of what to say. I can do this. The bell rings, and I grab my lunch and dash up the stairs, eager to be there first. I'll need to ask Rin to leave, and I'll need to—"

EMI: "Hi Hisao! Sorry I wasn't able to run with you this morning! I overslept!"

NARRATOR: "Somehow, both Emi and Rin have managed to get to the roof before me."

HISAO: "Oh, that's no problem. Last night was kind of... draining, I guess."

NARRATOR: "Emi's expression doesn't alter in the slightest."

EMI: "Yeah, sorry about that! But I've had such a weird morning since then!"

HISAO: "Oh uh, really?"

NARRATOR: "Emi proceeds to make small talk for the rest of the time. I can barely get a word in edgewise, and soon find myself interjecting with the sort of back and forth dialogue that seems to have defined our early relationship. I'm not gonna get anywhere on this problem during lunch, obviously. I can respect that; Emi obviously doesn't want to accidentally pull Rin into things, and that's fine. Not that I think Rin would notice, but I can at least respect that sort of rationale. I try a different tactic."

HISAO: "Hey, Emi. What are you up to after class today? I was thinking we could go somewhere for dinner, or something."

NARRATOR: "Emi looks genuinely remorseful."

EMI: "Sorry, Hisao! I promised the track captain that I'd stick around after practice and help some of the other kids with their form! It'll have to be some other time."

HISAO: "Yeah, sure..."

NARRATOR: "I'm honestly not sure what to do now. Maybe diving into things the day after would be a bad idea anyway. She might still be angry about it and just not showing it. Besides, if she's got track team responsibilities that's fine, right? I tell myself some variation on this theme the next day. Then the next. I wake up, run with Emi (during which she refuses to talk about anything but the run and what she was doing the night before), and then lunch, where we sit and make small talk until the bell rings. Her new responsibilities effectively keep me from seeing her outside of school. Maybe, just maybe, I'm letting it happen because it's safer this way, just like the nurse said."

NARRATOR: "Except while it may be safer, I'm feeling more and more wretched. Emi doesn't look good when I see her any more; dark circles lurk under her eyes, she seems more and more distracted, and I can't bring myself to just ask what's wrong, because the timing never seems right. I'm absolutely miserable."

Next Scene: Saving Throw

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