???: "Hisao? Hisao, are you...?"
NARRATOR: "The soft, barely audible voice lingering in my ears slowly wakes me. I wish I could be awoken like this more often. With a mumble, I slowly open my..."
(at the same time)
NARRATOR: "Taken by surprise at the face hovering curiously mere millimeters from mine, I make our heads collide with a harsh thud. The impact of our foreheads causes both of us to fall backwards and yelp in pain, Lilly sounding more like a squeak toy than a person."
HISAO: "Ow, ow, ow."
NARRATOR: "I slowly rub my forehead with one hand, supporting myself with the other. Lilly lies a few feet ahead doing just the same, her face obviously pained."
HISAO: "Ah... sorry. Your face was kinda close and I acted on reflex. You okay?"
LILLY: "My head..."
NARRATOR: "It seems she's not actually okay. Come to think of it, I doubt that the impact alone is what's causing her head so much pain."
HISAO: "Hangover? You drank a fair bit, last night."
NARRATOR: "She silently nods in confirmation as I lever myself up. I offer a hand to her, and help her back onto her feet. Glancing behind her, I find that Hanako's still fast asleep."
LILLY: "It's not fair... I only drank as much as you did..."
HISAO: "That's very different from what I remember. And anyway, girls have a lower tolerance than men."
LILLY: "That doesn't help."
HISAO: "Fine, I'll get you a glass of water. Just be careful not to trip over Hanako."
NARRATOR: "I rub the sleep out of my eyes, or at least some of it, as I walk to the counter. Tending to someone with a hangover isn't the way I like to spend a morning. It only takes a few seconds for the glass to fill, the clear water reflecting the sliver of light that makes it through the thin curtains. It looks like Lilly's taken a seat on the side of the bed. I walk over to her while taking care to step over the peacefully sleeping Hanako, and place the glass into her outstretched hands."
LILLY: "Thank you."
HISAO: "No problem."
NARRATOR: "I take a seat next to her, the soft bed having a surprising amount of give. She drinks slowly and methodically. A long silence passes with only Hanako's soft breathing to be heard. With some measure of guilt, I look at Lilly's face and attempt to read her expression. Her brow is furrowed, and she looks to be lost in thought. For a moment I hesitate, but eventually place a hand on her shoulder in an attempt to reassure her. I didn't expect her to flinch rather noticeably at that, though."
HISAO: "Ah, sorry. I didn't mean to—"
NARRATOR: "Lilly quickly shakes her head, in a manner somewhat more violent than usual for her. She takes a long breath to steady herself before letting her head sink."
LILLY: "I must look terrible right now..."
NARRATOR: "I move to protest, but quickly realize that it would be futile to do so. That said, I want her to open up more."
HISAO: "If you want to talk about anything, I'm here."
NARRATOR: "Lilly gives a self-deprecating snort, as if to mock her own emotions."
LILLY: "There's just... a lot happening right now. I'm sorry for being so strange recently, especially back when we were in town. Even now I'm a bit confused about everything."
HISAO: "Believe me, I know how that feels."
NARRATOR: "She smiles wistfully, resting a cheek on the backs of her fingers."
LILLY: "We're a couple of broken young fools, aren't we?"
HISAO: "Come on, don't say that. Come graduation, we'll be back out into the real world."
NARRATOR: "The real world? Sometimes I surprise myself with the way I think about things. I guess the strange, divorced feeling of Yamaku and the surrounding town compared to the outside world still hasn't become natural. Maybe it never will. It's strange, in hindsight; being isolated from society like this doesn't feel as bad as it probably should. A wry grin on her face, Lilly seems to share the same sense of amusement at the idea. Eventually, though, her smile drops."
LILLY: "I'll be going back to Scotland for a week or two, soon."
HISAO: "Is that why we had to reschedule Hanako's birthday party?"
NARRATOR: "She gives an affirmative nod."
HISAO: "You'll be able to see your family again, at least. You're not looking forward to it?"
LILLY: "I haven't met my family in six years. I don't even know how to act around them any more."
NARRATOR: "Wait... what? My mouth hangs open as I try to process what she said. If she's eighteen, that means she'd have been only twelve when they left. I may have seen very little of my parents, what with them both working long hours, but that's..."
NARRATOR: "I feel utterly useless as I struggle to find some way to respond."
HISAO: "That's... but, why?"
LILLY: "Why did they leave, or why are they inviting Akira and I back?"
HISAO: "Both, I suppose."
LILLY: "My father's business has its headquarters in Scotland, and an executive position became available for him there. In the end, he had to move permanently. My mother followed him, but Akira and I stayed in Japan for the sake of both Akira's job within the Japanese branch of my father's company, and my education. As for the latter... one of my aunts is gravely sick."
HISAO: "Ah. I'm... sorry."
LILLY: "Don't be. It feels strange, really. We're being summoned there for her, yet we've barely met before. I can't even remember the sound of her voice."
NARRATOR: "Equally strange is the total lack of antipathy she feels towards her family for doing such a thing. I can't help feeling slightly humbled. That said, her wistful exterior is just hiding her emotions. Seeing her like this is depressing. Knowing what to do, I lift myself off the bed. Lilly notices the bed's movements, her head perking up and her hand reaching sideways to feel where I was."
NARRATOR: "I walk over to my bag, still leaning against the wall. Unbuckling the front flap and retrieving the opaque bag from within, I take the small, plain box in my hands."
HISAO: "Hold your hands out, Lilly."
NARRATOR: "She looks surprised for a moment, but eventually acquiesces. I'm amused by her look of curiosity when I place the music box into her open palms, her typically delicate way of handling it making it seem as if it were fragile enough to break if breathed on. She wordlessly brings it in front of her face, her slender fingers feeling out its contours and patterning. Eventually her fingers find the recessed line between the lid and body of the box, and her thumb effortlessly pops open the lid. I take a seat on the bed next to her, watching her face silently and intently. She sits completely motionless as she listens to the diminutive tinny melody, her mouth just slightly open. It takes a long while before she closes the lid with a small snap, bringing the curtain down on the miniature performance playing in her hands. The smile on her face, gentle and wistful, shows that I made the right decision."
HISAO: "Think of it as a going away present for your trip to Scotland."
LILLY: "I will..."
NARRATOR: "A restless shuffling can be heard from the floor in front of us, the sound having woken Hanako. She climbs out of the blankets I put over her, looking befuddled and wiping the sleep from her eyes."
HISAO: "I see you're finally up." HANAKO: "Hmm? What?"
NARRATOR: "Hanako looks around the room with her eyes only half open, her mind far from being as awake as her body. Her dazed state makes me and Lilly chuckle. As Lilly gets off the bed and tends to Hanako, I take one last look around the room."
HISAO: "I guess I'd better get going, then. There'll be questions if I am seen leaving the girls' dormitories in the morning."
LILLY: "Goodbye, Hisao."
HANAKO: "Oh... goodbye."
NARRATOR: "I stand and walk to the door, picking up my somewhat lighter bag along the way. After I leave the room and enter the hallway, though, I hear Lilly's footsteps behind me."
HISAO: "Hmm? What's wrong?"
NARRATOR: "Without a word, she strides up to me. I freeze as I feel her hand slide onto my cheek, seemingly every nerve taking in the feeling of her fingers and palm upon it. Immediately after, her face slowly moves next to mine, a light, momentary touch of her lips brushing against my other cheek. For a moment, everything seems to stand still. I absentmindedly bring my fingers to my cheek, as if to try and recapture that fleeting feeling."
LILLY: "That's my thank you, Hisao."
HISAO: "Thank you...?"
LILLY: "For your present. Have a nice day in school."
NARRATOR: "And with that, she disappears behind her door and gently closes it, the muffled voices of she and Hanako audible through it much as they were yesterday night. ... ...I think I'd be hard pressed not to have a nice day, after that. I walk away with a certain spring to my step. I think there were some people around that glanced at me emerging from the girl's dormitory building, but I find it difficult to care."
Next Scene: A Brief History of Thyme