NARRATOR: "The textbook in front of me has remained on the same page for some time. After so much reading on subjects I couldn't care less about if not for the exams, my mind is beginning to wander. I find my eyes flicking over to where Hanako would usually be, just like on the days she wasn't in class. Her usual beanbag in the corner of the room is conspicuously unoccupied. It was here that we first really met. I tried to start a conversation with her, she got skittish, and eventually bolted from the room altogether."
NARRATOR: "I probably shouldn't smile about it, but it was kind of amusing, in hindsight. Nowadays, it's more and more difficult to imagine her doing such a thing. Even with Lilly gone, she's been doing well now that she's come out of her room. I want to talk with her, or at least play another game of chess. I'm tired of studying, and it's been a few days since we've really done anything together. The question of where to find Hanako isn't a particularly difficult one. If she's not in the library, chances are that she's either in the tearoom for some peace and quiet, or in her dormitory room. Deciding to check them in that order, I pack up my books and make my way out of the library."
NARRATOR: "I stretch and give a loud groan as I walk down the hallway. Studying may be frustrating at times, but with the progress I feel I've made, there is also some sense of pride in getting it done. It's a good feeling. There isn't a sound to be heard from inside as I stand in front of the door to Hanako's room. I guess that isn't very indicative of whether she's inside or not, given how quiet she usually is. Still, she wasn't in the tearoom. I try knocking lightly to make my presence known, but am surprised when I find the door unlocked and yielding at my touch."
NARRATOR: "With a small creak, the door opens. It looks like my suspicions were correct; Hanako is indeed here. She's sitting at the table with an open book in front of her, but pays it no heed as she keeps looking out the window. She looks utterly oblivious to my presence. With her head thoughtfully resting on her hand, she looks calm and collected. It's a shame she can't look like this more often. Smiling a little, I walk up to the table and softly speak to her."
HISAO: "Good evening, Hanako."
NARRATOR: "Hanako's head turns a little to see me, but she's still only half there. I put a hand on the table and lower my head to better look at her face, mildly curious about what mood she's in."
HISAO: "What's up?"
NARRATOR: "She gasps a little, finally acknowledging my presence in the room for the first time. Hanako's blushing really heavily. Her mouth is open just a little, as if paused midsentence. Most striking, though, is what she's doing."
NARRATOR: "She's looking directly at me. Her eyes are pinned on my own, from such a close distance that I can almost see my reflection in them. They don't turn away, nor move at all. They're absolutely still, just looking into mine. They're dark, and give her an almost analytical air. Even when reading on subjects she has no interest in, she would appear to be rapt in her work to a casual observer. She absorbs information very well, and even now, I can feel that. I feel like I'm seeing something behind those eyes that I never saw before. I don't know what it is, though."
NARRATOR: "Her lips move just a little, silently mouthing something. She looks like she's on the verge of saying something, but won't say it. But that's the way Hanako always is. On the verge of saying something, but never quite doing it. As I look intently into her eyes, I realize something. Everyone has their own thoughts, things they want to say, their own worldview. But I can't work out what Hanako wants to say, and I can't work out what she's thinking. I never have been able to. It's frustrating. It feels like I don't know her at all, despite all the time we've spent together."
HANAKO: "Hi... sao..."
NARRATOR: "It's only now that I find myself blushing. I've been looking directly into Hanako's eyes from such a short distance with absolutely no regard for her, and she's been looking into mine without shirking away. I quickly look away while covering my face with my hand. Hanako does just the same. Another awkward silence reigns. I hate these. At first I accepted them as just being a fact of life around Hanako, but now all they feel like is an affirmation of how little we're able to communicate. Some anger makes its way in the complex mixture of emotions I'm experiencing right now. I want to bridge that gap between us. Friends shouldn't have to tiptoe around each other like this. I speak before I can argue myself out of what I'm going to do. My scarring isn't as bad as Hanako's, and I can't possibly compare my life to hers, but I want to show her that she's not alone."
NARRATOR: "Doing this in such a blunt manner might be the only way to get my point across."
HISAO: "Hanako... I want to show you something."
NARRATOR: "I take a deep breath to prepare myself. This could backfire badly, but I feel as if we've come close enough for this to be okay."
HISAO: "I'm not going to strip naked or anything weird, I'm just going to take off my shirt."
NARRATOR: "Hanako's eyes grow to the size of saucers. Her face is an amusing mixture of curiosity and nervousness as she stands. It helps take the edge off my own nervousness at doing this in front of another person. Slowly, with my entire body feeling tense, I unknot my tie and begin to loose the first of the buttons. I'm trying to mentally block out Hanako to make this easier, but it's not really working. As I work my way down, I expect to hear some form of protest from her. She remains silent, though, which just makes this feel even stranger. With the last of my shirt unbuttoned, I take a breath and look at her."
NARRATOR: "Hanako's gaze is fixed on my scarring, as expected, and once I nod to say it's okay, she steps forward and tentatively places her hand on the vertical line running down my chest. The scarring on her hand, a pattern of damaged skin across its surface, contrasts with the single uniform line that makes up mine. Her hand isn't trembling at all, unlike what I predicted."
HANAKO: "This is..."
HISAO: "The scar from the surgery that followed my heart attack. The surgeons had to cut open my chest to operate on my heart."
HANAKO: "I never knew..."
NARRATOR: "Hanako's words are calmer and softer than usual. The soft feeling of her fingers moving from my scar to my breast makes me hesitate a little before continuing on."
HISAO: "You're the first person to see this since I left the hospital."
HANAKO: "But... why are you showing this to me?"
HISAO: "I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this; that I could accept my past and move on. I wanted to show that to you, as well."
NARRATOR: "She nods. From her reaction, she seems to know how difficult this is for me. More than anything, this scar represents a visible reminder of my condition. A reminder that I'm not “normal” any more. That's something that, until now, I had tried my hardest to ignore. As the minutes tick by, Hanako's gaze lingers. Her eyes look less focused on my scarring than before. The situation feels a bit different than it previously did, and makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. Her hand retreats, and I draw my shirt closed and begin to button it up. Her blushing face suddenly returns to its typical tense and timid state as she looks away. The room is completely silent as I fix my shirt and tie, feeling put off after such an unexpectedly intimate moment."
HISAO: "So... I guess you're not the only one that's scarred."
NARRATOR: "Hanako smiles a little at the joke, thankfully lightening the atmosphere a bit."
HANAKO: "Thank you... H-Hisao. I think... I understand."
NARRATOR: "I give a long sigh of relief. I really didn't know how she'd take it, but I'm glad everything seems to have worked out as I hoped. Hanako's smile only proves that further. I'm finding the path I want to follow now, and what Hanako needs to do is to find her own. It's something I can't help her with, and it's something that she needs to overcome her past in order to do. Hanako checks her watch. It's getting late by now."
HANAKO: "Hisao... um..."
HISAO: "Yeah, I'd better be going. I'll be thankful for some sleep. It's been a long day, after all. Good night, Hanako."
HANAKO: "G-good night."
NARRATOR: "I make my way out of her room and into the hallway, remaining silent as I do so. I think both of us have gone through a few emotions today."
Next Scene: City Rendezvous