NARRATOR: "After a night of bad sleep, I go through the day mostly on automatic. I put on my uniform mechanically, do my schoolwork mechanically, eat my lunch mechanically, reply to teachers mechanically, and thus when the final bell rings I still feel as if I had just woken up. My mind feels blank and overcrowded at the same time, and I can't even begin to unravel the tangle of feelings I've gotten myself into. I spend the bus trip downtown staring out of the window, thinking about these things. As a result, by the time I climb the stairs to the atelier four floors above Sae's gallery, I'm feeling completely exhausted. Expecting awkwardness, I quietly knock on the door before entering. I spot Rin at the center of the small clear area in the room, working on a painting. She doesn't acknowledge my arrival in any way."
HISAO: "Hi. I came, as promised."
NARRATOR: "Rin snaps her head to my direction immediately - was she waiting for me to say something? - and locks that cold green gaze of hers on me. Although I'm sure my own face can't hide my feelings, Rin's expression is as expectant and neutral as always. The clouded, slightly absentminded darkness in her eyes is like a wall standing between me and her. It is the first awkward silence between us that is truly awkward. Yesterday, both of us said something we couldn't take back, and there's no way it can be undone. I want to say something, but Rin forbade from doing so. I can't even begin to guess what she's thinking, but I'm feeling the pressure of her lightless eyes on me, compelling me to break the silence without saying the thing I most want to say. To my horror, I find that I can't find any way to start a conversation. It's as if I've completely lost the ability to speak with her."
HISAO: "Um... Just keep working if you're in the middle of something. I'll just... sit down here."
NARRATOR: "Rin nods wordlessly at me and picks up the brush from the floor with the toes of her right foot. I sink into a worn-out sofa, picking up a book from my bag and opening it to where I stopped last night. I can't really concentrate on it, but it's better than doing nothing. The two of us are so close to each other; together in the same room, even. And yet, we're both off doing our own thing as if we were miles apart. I can't help but wonder about this unnatural situation. Why did I come here? Because she asked me to do so yesterday, of course. However, it looks like there's absolutely no need for me to actually be here. It makes me feel awkward, at first. But as I recall the previous silences I've quietly passed with Rin, I settle down and try to tune into that same comfortable mood I was in back then. Time stretches, then slows down. The pages of my book rustle each time I turn them. After maybe half an hour, or one hour at most, Rin breaks the silence, to my complete surprise."
RIN: "Are you my friend?"
NARRATOR: "It's an echo of yesterday, I know it. So, even Rin couldn't just push it aside from her mind. Caught off-guard, I answer honestly."
HISAO: "I don't... yeah, of course I am. Don't worry about stuff like that, c'mon."
NARRATOR: "She doesn't say anything further. I feel happy somehow. Several chapters later, I mark my spot, close the book, and put it away in my bag. Getting up from the sofa, I see that Rin's made considerable progress on her painting. I take a look at it for a bit. It's still not quite finished, I suppose."
HISAO: "It looks great."
RIN: "It's bad luck to comment on unfinished paintings."
NARRATOR: "After that, I quietly leave the studio and catch the bus, taking me back to school."
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