NARRATOR: "Life settles into some sort of vague, undefined norm. I visit Rin whenever I can, but each time is as strange as the first. They consist mainly of me watching Rin at work, or just reading a book on the couch while she works. We barely talk at all. Long, quiet evenings stretch over the last weeks of June. I sit on the couch in the atelier, listening to the quiet rustle of Rin's brush and my own heartbeat, trying to make sense of the former and forget about the latter. I am a silent visitor in this place, a ghost. At some point I start thinking that my presence is meaningful to Rin somehow, but never end up asking her about it. I don't bring up the forbidden topic any more either, and try to stop thinking about it altogether. It's hard to do so, and doesn't get any easier with the passage of time. My heart aches every time I look at the awkward figure of the girl I decided I liked, yet who refuses to acknowledge it."

NARRATOR: "I still can't seem to find the right words to talk to her about anything at all, but I find quiet solace in observing her from nearby. The distance between us doesn't feel that huge when I can be close to her, even if it's like this. Rin works like a demon. There is barely a moment when she's without a brush between her toes, or walking in circles around her current work in progress, estimating it from every angle and distance. She seems to be completely taken over by her will to work, to change herself into the sort of artist she believes would be worthy of the trust Nomiya and Sae have placed in her. Piles of sketches, works in progress, tubes of oil paint and brushes slowly begin to crowd the small atelier, making it even messier than it was before Rin acquired the right to use it. I offer to help her clean up every now and then, but each time she refuses. It dawns on me that in her mind, the room is not in utter chaos; rather, her system of keeping track of everything is so elaborate only Rin herself can make sense of it."

NARRATOR: "She knows exactly where everything is, from the tiniest brush to that half-empty tube of crimson that's the perfect shade for some picture in progress. Rin walks from one painting to another, looking at them as if not remembering that she made them. She talks to herself - or to the paintings - even when I'm present, always just quietly enough that I can't make out the words. Every day, Rin pours herself onto the canvas for hours on end, squeezing every bit of her ability and even her soul to make good on that promise she made to me - or herself. Black marks appear beneath her eyes, a sure sign that she's skipping sleep in favor of painting. I'm somewhat surprised to see her at school a few times. I never go and say hello, though, as I somehow feel it would break the silent magic of the evenings we share at the atelier. Sometimes Sae comes by when I'm there. She gives me a certain kind of look when she shows up. I think she doesn't like that I'm always hanging out with Rin up here, but she never says a word about it. She isn't quite as full of praise for Rin's work as Nomiya, but is visibly impressed nevertheless. However, when she turns her eyes from the wonderful works of art to look upon the little redheaded girl that made them, a sudden, deep sadness floats onto the surface of her expression. I can't explain it, and she never talks about it."

NARRATOR: "June turns into July almost without warning. End-of-term exams loom dangerously close, but all I can think of is Rin. I feel like a sleepwalker at school, looking forward only to the next time I get to visit that silent place above Sae's gallery. After Rin refuses my attempts at directly helping with her work, I try to figure out other ways to help her. It finally dawns on me that she isn't eating properly. My course of action decided, I stop at the convenience store before going to catch the bus downtown on my next visit to the studio. I feel very energetic as I open the door to the atelier and greet Rin."

HISAO: "I brought you some fruit. You need vitamins and actual food, after all. Do you even eat up here?"

RIN: "I do eat. If I didn't eat I couldn't paint."

HISAO: "Then, why don't you eat a couple of these?"

NARRATOR: "I shake the bag full of ripe oranges in my hand in a ploy to tempt Rin into taking a break. To my surprise, she actually lays her brush down and walks over to me to see what I'd bought. Her expression doesn't change at all when she looks into the bag."

RIN: "I can't eat oranges, Hisao. It does not work very well with feet."

HISAO: "That's all right. I'll do it."

NARRATOR: "Of course I knew that; she'd told me herself, after all. I extract the tiny fruit knife I had with me and select one of the round fruits. After making the initial cut, I begin to peel it with my fingers. The strong scent of cut orange rind immediately fills the air as thousands of tiny droplets of oil burst from the skin. I remove the first section of the hard peel and shoot a glance at Rin."

HISAO: "So, how's the work going?"

RIN: "I don't know. It's like I'm in the center of some huge mountain of jelly and have to dig my way out."

HISAO: "Must be stressful."

RIN: "I think it might be. Even though it's just painting, all this, everything feels really strange."

NARRATOR: "I wonder if Rin is the kind of person who likes to carefully remove all the white fibrous stuff from oranges before eating them, or the more careless type who just eats them as they come. Maybe neither."

NARRATOR: "I'm the former type, so I meticulously clean the orange slices one by one while Rin watches the process with mild curiosity. I realize that I don't have the faintest idea about her likes or dislikes, or any of the other little details that make up the concept of a person for those around them. It's like in all this time, I haven't learned much about her at all. Once I've finished lamenting that fact, I realize I've cleaned the entire orange and neatly split it into slices. I hold a slice up, bringing it closer to Rin so she can pick it up."

HISAO: "Here."

Rin orange

NARRATOR: "She takes it directly between her lips and then into her mouth, whole. Her lower lip briefly brushes against my fingertip. Rin chews the slice carefully, savoring it as much as possible."

Rin orange large

NARRATOR: "I become fixated on the movements of her jaw, the trickle of juice glistening on her lip, the way her throat moves when she swallows the orange slice. After I realize what I'm doing, I turn away, feeling embarrassed about watching her so intently."

RIN: "It's not the same as it usually is."

HISAO: "The orange?"

RIN: "Painting."

HISAO: "Oh. Well, is anything like that ever the same?"

RIN: "It is, sometimes. I think. I don't know what, though. I might be starting to paint differently soon, if this goes on."

HISAO: "Well, wouldn't that just be that “change” you keep talking about?"

NARRATOR: "She thinks about it, blinking her eyes a few times nervously. For a moment, absolutely nothing happens, as if time itself did a double-take. We stare at each other in silence, only that faint, tangy scent of orange floating between us and the muffled sounds of traffic in the background. Then I pick up another slice and hold it to her. She takes it from me with her mouth just like the first one..."

RIN: "I didn't think it would be like this."

HISAO: "Well, keep on going and see what happens. It's not like you can do anything else."

RIN: "Yeah. It's the only thing I can do."

NARRATOR: "After that, she says nothing more. In the ensuing silence, I feed Rin the rest of the orange, one slice at a time. Then I peel another for her, which she eats as well. The third I eat myself, and the rest are left in their plastic bag which I put on a small desk next to the couch. She stands up and returns to her painting, with a strange look in her eyes that I haven't seen before. Like most of her expressions, it is completely unreadable. Even if I asked, she wouldn't explain what it means."

Next Scene: Self-Destruction