EMI: "You're late! Or at least, you're not early today. Are you tired or something?"
NARRATOR: "I find myself ruefully rubbing the back of my head."
HISAO: "Something like that, yeah. Lots to think about and all that."
NARRATOR: "Emi giggles at my mild understatement."
EMI: "Yeah, I didn't sleep that well either. I was actually glad you weren't early, 'cause I wasn't early either."
NARRATOR: "I wonder if the same thing kept us awake. The image of her weeping face passes through my mind."
HISAO: "What kept you up?"
NARRATOR: "Emi's expression falters, but she quickly notices my curiosity and forces a smile."
EMI: "Nothing important."
NARRATOR: "She's obviously not telling me something. The question is, should I press the issue? Something's clearly been bothering her for a while. I want to help her, but would it just come off as me being nosy? She's got to know I care about her, though."
HISAO: "Are you sure? If something's bothering you, I'm here to help you sort it out."
NARRATOR: "Emi laughs then, but it's not her usual laugh. There's an edge to it that seems almost bitter."
EMI: "Sort it out? I'm not sure it can be sorted out, Hisao."
NARRATOR: "An almost grim smile crosses her lips. It's like a smile of resignation."
EMI: "I don't think you could help me, anyway."
NARRATOR: "That hurts. I don't want to say that it hurts to her, but it does. Doesn't she realize I want to be there for her when things go wrong?"
HISAO: "Well, I won't push you on the matter. But I'm here for you if you decide later that you'd like to talk about it. It might help."
NARRATOR: "I can see the debate raging behind Emi's eyes. It seems like she wants to tell me, but she's not sure whether or not she can."
HISAO: "Hey, forget about it for now, okay? We've got running to do."
NARRATOR: "The mention of running, something that she can handle, brings Emi back to her usual self."
EMI: "Right! Hurry up and stretch out, Hisao! We've got to get moving!"
NARRATOR: "She takes off like a shot, far quicker than I'm used to. Still, I try to keep pace with her, recklessly testing my limits. It gives me a feeling of freedom, like my heart is no longer important. I find myself wanting to laugh, filled with the feeling of moving beyond what I once called my boundaries. The nurse's warnings to not overdo things echo in my mind, and I disregard them. This feeling I have, this willingness to risk a heart attack for something so trivial as a morning run, feels out of character for me."
NARRATOR: "But is it? Or rather, should it be? I've got a weak heart, sure. It'll never be capable of the kind of speed and endurance Emi's capable of. Though I probably wouldn't be able to get that good even if I had a healthy heart. As we round the final bend, I feel my legs screaming in protest, but for the first time, I ignore them. I accelerate to finish at a sprint, nearly catching up to Emi."
NARRATOR: "That was never going to happen, of course. Still, I feel surprisingly good. Oh sure, my legs feel like they're about to catch fire, and I'm having trouble staying upright. But there's been a shift of some sort today. And it's all thanks to the girl grinning at the finish line, waiting for me."
HISAO: "That felt a little faster than usual."
NARRATOR: "My comment is met with a grin and a shrug."
EMI: "Can't have you think I was going to go soft on you, now can I? But you managed to handle it just fine."
HISAO: "Well, I couldn't have done it without you."
NARRATOR: "Still feeling the high from the run and moved by a surge of gratitude, I seize Emi in a hug."
HISAO: "Thanks. Really, I'm not just saying that. I'm in your debt."
NARRATOR: "Emi seems flustered by my words, squirming uncomfortably."
EMI: "Don't be silly, Hisao. Someone had to haul you out here, didn't they? And it's not like you're not doing anything for me, right? I needed a running partner, remember?"
NARRATOR: ""I shake my head, still pointedly not letting go of Emi, who stops squirming and merely looks up at me with a quickly deepening blush that almost seems out of character."
HISAO: "No, that's not true. You wanted a running partner, but you didn't need one. If I hadn't shown up the day after the festival, you would still run, right? But it doesn't work the other way around. I only managed to make it out a few times before the festival. And without you, I probably wouldn't have made it out at all after that. Emi smiles at me and prods my chest with one finger."
EMI: "You are pretty lazy, Hisao."
HISAO: "Hey, I was giving you a compliment!"
EMI: "Well... you're welcome, I guess."
HISAO: "I'll pay you back somehow."
EMI: "Oh, uh, well... That's not necessary, you know. I mean I kinda like you, Hisao. And being able to run with you in the mornings isn't exactly a bad deal for me either, so..."
NARRATOR: "For someone who gets so much praise, she seems unused to gratitude. I can't think of anything else to say, so we fall silent. I become aware of Emi's breathing, of the dampness of her clothing, and of the scent of her. Coming off of anyone else, it would stink. Coming off of Emi, it fits her in a way nothing else could. Her skin is cool, slick with sweat, and a breeze causes goosebumps to rise."
NARRATOR: ""Almost without thinking about it, I lean down and meet Emi's mouth which has already moved to meet my own. Her lips are soft, and she hums happily as we kiss, sending vibrations from her mouth to mine. There's a startling rightness to everything about this moment. We fit one another perfectly. The kiss ends, and I finally let my arms drop back to my sides. Emi is smiling warmly at me, and giggles again."
EMI: "Come on Hisao, we'd better go see the nurse."
NARRATOR: "Then it happens. As she turns to begin walking, she gives out a tiny yelp and stumbles forward."
NARRATOR: ""I leap to steady her and notice with some concern that she's favoring the same leg as last night."
HISAO: "Your leg..."
NARRATOR: ""Emi seems panicked and pushes away from me."
EMI: "It's fine!"
NARRATOR: "My expression must seem hurt, because she hastens to apologize."
EMI: "Sorry! Sorry! Didn't mean to push you like that! I was just..."
NARRATOR: ""She stumbles for something to say."
EMI: "It's nothing, really."
HISAO: "Hey, don't worry about it."
NARRATOR: "She's so flustered, I decide to shrug the whole thing off. But there's a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach now that won't go away. I tried to step in and help her, and she pushed me away. Smiling, I shove those thoughts to the back of my mind and concentrate on Emi."
HISAO: "I just don't want you getting hurt, that's all."
EMI: "You don't have to worry about me, honest. I'm fine!"
NARRATOR: "Yes, you say that, but I don't believe you."
NARRATOR: "Why won't you tell me what's wrong? It's like she gets offended by my trying to help. What am I supposed to make of that?"
NARRATOR: "I keep worrying about you regardless, and not saying anything yesterday just makes me feel guilty about today. I should have at least asked. Would she have reacted the same way last night? Guess I'll never know now."
NARRATOR: "I'm still trying to sort out what happened on the track as we arrive in front of the nurse's office. Emi raises her hand to knock, hesitates and turns to me smiling guiltily."
EMI: "Hey, can you do me a favor?"
HISAO: "Of course."
EMI: "Can you tell the nurse that I'll see him later? I just remembered that I've got some... stuff to take care of before class. So I really need to get moving."
NARRATOR: "I peer at her closely, and she fidgets under my stare. Yeah, she's clearly just avoiding the nurse. That leg of hers... Well, whatever. I said I'd help, and so I will. But I'll make damn sure she sees the nurse before the day's out."
HISAO: "Yeah, okay. I'll let him know."
NARRATOR: "Emi looks like I've just given her a pony on Christmas."
EMI: "Thank you so much! You're the best, Hisao!"
NARRATOR: "I am rewarded for my complicity in her lie by a kiss that makes it all worth it, or so I tell myself. As Emi heads out of the building, trying hard not to let her limp show, I knock on the door of the office."
NURSE: "Ah, Hisao. Come on in. I don't see Emi with you. She's not sick again, is she?"
NARRATOR: "From the tone of his voice, I don't think the nurse is expecting me to say “Yes, she's ill.”"
HISAO: "Er, she said that she'd forgotten to do something, and so she had to skip out, but she'll see you later today."
NARRATOR: "The nurse heaves an exasperated sigh."
NURSE: "Honestly, that girl..."
NURSE: "She's been avoiding me. Yesterday she was in and out of here without even taking off her prosthetics. And now this."
NARRATOR: "Well, at least it's not just me Emi doesn't want worrying. That's a... comfort, I guess. Still, I feel like I should say something about her leg. I said I'd lie for her, but she really needs to see him."
HISAO: "Now that you mention it, she was limping pretty badly today. And last night as well."
NARRATOR: "The nurse's eyes narrow at the words “last night.”"
NURSE: "And what exactly were you two doing last night?"
HISAO: "We were uh, on a date."
NARRATOR: "The nurse raises his eyebrows as if surprised."
NURSE: "Really? Interesting."
NURSE: "Oh, nothing."
NARRATOR: "His gaze turns thoughtful, and then he grins at me."
NURSE: "You don't think you could use some of that boyfriend charm to get her to come see me today, could you?"
HISAO: "Of course! I was planning on doing that anyway. I think she's really hurt and just pretending she isn't."
NURSE: "Hmm, yes. She does that. Afraid I'll make her stop running."
HISAO: "Will you?"
NURSE: "I don't like to, but if it's bad enough that she's been limping, well... I guess I'll have to see what's wrong for myself before I make that call."
HISAO: "I see."
NARRATOR: "Emi, not allowed to run? Perish the thought. I don't know if she'd be able to function without running. No wonder she's reluctant to admit anything's wrong."
HISAO: "Well, I'll make sure she sees you."
NURSE: "Good. Oh, and before I forget..."
NARRATOR: "He grins at me again in what feels like a vaguely threatening manner."
NURSE: "Don't forget that I know what medications you're on. You be careful around Emi, got it?"
NARRATOR: "Wow. He looks serious, too."
HISAO: "Got it. Don't hurt Emi. Wouldn't dream of it."
NURSE: "Grand! I'd hate for you to be late."
NURSE: "Late, as in the late Hisao Nakai."
NARRATOR: "He frowns briefly, dissatisfied."
NURSE: "Sounded better in my head... Well, at any rate. Get out of here before you miss your first class! You've got things to do, I'm sure. Shoo!"
NARRATOR: "As I leave, I notice the nurse pulling out his phone and dialing a number."
NURSE: "Meiko, your daughter's being a pain in the ass again..."
NARRATOR: "I'd better head back to my room, or I really will be late. Hey, wasn't he supposed to check my heart rate?"
Next Scene: Lunch and Science