Scene 10: Waiting
The day passes without much happening. Shizune and Misha barely talk during our group assignment. It appears whatever tiff they had Monday hasn't resolved. I try my best to stay quiet and get my work done without anything happening. Lunch happens, then afternoon classes. It's all a blur, honestly. I wonder if absentmindedness is a side effect of one of my medications? Is that even a legitimate side effect? Or maybe it's something else causing the listlessness in my head. Three days ago, everything felt right in the world for the first time in a long time. Now, things are just back to how they were.
That's what I think to myself as I traverse the halls of the main building after hours, trying to find my way back to the auxiliary wing where I happened upon Kagami the first time. Ok, there's the front entrance. Which means I'd have to take a right... here. Or was it left? Both halls look the same. I suppose I have to explore them both.
Searching the first hallway ends up fruitless. It must have been the other one.
Just as I reach the halfway mark of the other hall, I hear it: a familiar sad, soft melody floats down the corridor to greet me. She's here. Immediately my heart starts to race, which might be fine for other boys meeting the girl they kissed for the first time three days ago, but not for me. I slow my pace in an attempt to gain control of the erratic beating inside my chest.
I'm at the door now. I decide to wait until she reaches the end of a passage to enter, that'll probably be a little more respectful than last time. After half a minute or so, I hear the music coming from within stop momentarily. I open the door and step into the room.
Kagami hears the door opening and whirls around, silently, violin and bow in one hand, pencil clutched in the other. A tentative-looking smile spreads over her face as I enter. "Hisao?" she asks, still not entirely sure that it's me.
I nod in affirmation. "Hey, Kagami. I thought I might find you here," I say. I have to admit, even though her condition prevents it, it smarts a little when she doesn't fully recognize me.
She glances at her feet, embarrassed. "Sorry, I'm still learning your face from the picture I took at the carnival. I have a harder time with faces than most things," she admits, twisting her foot nervously.
"It's fine. I just came by to say hi. I thought we could hang out a little, if that's ok," I say, changing the subject. That seems to lighten her mood considerably.
"That sounds great," she says, placing her violin back into its case. "Are you hungry? I haven't eaten yet, and I brought way too much food for one person, which I'd end up eating all of anyway, and then hating myself for it after," she says, her invitation getting lost in the verbalized mess of thoughts. She seems uneasy... nervous even? Maybe she's trying to figure out what our kiss meant as well. The thought of her being just as lost as me is somewhat comforting, and it allows me to relax a little bit.
"I haven't eaten either. That sounds great," I reply. Her mention of food has reminded me how hungry I am.
Kagami smiles earnestly. "Cool," she starts, pulling a small paper bag from off of the floor and placing it onto the table in front of her. She gestures for me to sit down next to her. As I sit, she begins unpacking the bag. "I have some miso soup, which is definitely not still hot, a boatload of rice, plus grilled fish and veggies," she says, placing the last of the items on the table. She did bring quite a bit of food- it looks as if she was planning on eating with someone else. Did she expect me? Or hope I would come? Or someone else?
Trying to figure out her intentions is making my brain hurt. I can't do it on an empty stomach.
Kagami places a singular plate between us. "Hope you don't mind sharing a plate; I didn't bring extras," she says. Maybe she wasn't expecting company after all.
I begin to eat as soon as Kagami finishes filling the plate with food. We eat silently for a few minutes, satiating our immediate hunger. Then, as I'm about to say something, Kagami speaks up first.
"So, Sunday... we... uh," she says, blushing.
"Yeah, we did," I reply. Stay positive. "Look, Kagami, I know we had been drinking, and I know it was... emotional. But I don't regret kissing you. I'm glad it happened. I... I like you. A lot," I say, returning her blush, probably in an even darker hue. Great confession, Hisao. Eating leftovers in an abandoned classroom in the evening, just blurting it out between bites. Smooth. What did Emi call me? The "Master of Romance?" Yeah, that's a befitting title. I could almost groan audibly.
Thankfully, Kagami doesn't pause for long. "H-Hisao, I..." She pauses. Uh-oh. This doesn't sound good.
Kagami sees the concern spread across my face. "Oh, no, it's nothing like that. I like you too, a lot," she blurts. I exhale forcefully, and Kagami giggles nervously. "Hisao, I really do like you. You're a lot of fun to be around, and you make me smile. I... I'm just not sure that I'm ready for anything more than friendship right now."
I can see the wounds of her old relationship surfacing in her eyes. I mean, it hasn't been that long since it ended, but to Kagami, that might seem like an even shorter amount of time. I'm not really sure how her perception of time works. I want to ask her, but I'm afraid of where that might lead our conversation.
Gaah. I hate this so much. Everything's so awkward between us now.
"Hisao?" I hear, Kagami's voice barely registering on the edge of my consciousness. I must have stopped eating.
"Yeah?" I ask, hesitant to hear whatever she might have to say next.
"Look, Sunday was really important to me. More important than you know. I haven't done anything like that in... well, in a long time," she says.
"Like what?" I reply. "Like, a date?"
"Not just that," Kagami says quickly. "Anything with a friend."
She pauses, and pushes her glasses up her nose, exhaling as she opens her eyes. I'm swimming in a beautiful, sparkling grey sea as she stares deep into my eyes. My stomach twists up with longing. I want to kiss her again.
"Hisao, I've mostly kept to myself for the better part of a year. It's been more of a personal choice than anything," she says. As she speaks, something clicks in my mind. Something she said last week when we were at the Shanghai.
"Wait, didn't you say that you and your boyfriend didn't break up until just before graduation this year?" I ask, confused with the timeline presented to me.
Kagami balks visibly. "Did I say that? Shit," she curses. She scratches her head and sighs. "Ok, I wasn't sure how to tell you this, but I guess now's as good of a time as any. That didn't happen this year... it was last year, actually. I-I'm two years older than everyone here, Hisao. I started late in the first place, when I was seventeen. And last year... well, I-," she pauses, looking for recognition in my face, hoping she won't have to say it. But she closes her eyes and opens her mouth again. "Long story short, I'm repeating third year. This is my fourth year here at Yamaku."
I try to feign surprise, but I don't try hard enough. Kagami looks at me quizzically. "Did I already tell you this on Sunday? I must have just forgotten to write it down..." I should stop her. She's been this brave being honest with me; I can be honest with her.
"No, you didn't," I reply, interrupting. "But I've heard things in passing from a few other people. I've been meaning to ask you, but I didn't know how to bring it up."
"Oh," Kagami says, her expression becoming more downtrodden. "I suppose that's fair." She pauses for a second, her frown becoming even more prominent. "Hisao... I... I want to be a good friend to you. When my boyfriend left me, I had already stopped talking to most of my other friends. It's... easy to be forgotten when you're so forgetful. Everyone just sort of... moved on with their lives and left me behind. I stopped getting invited places, stopped getting asked to do things. It... well, honestly it made me angry. At least at first."
She takes a sip from a plastic bottle sitting next to her, and continues. "But after a while, I realized... well, I guess it doesn't really matter what I realized at that point. Basically, I tore a lot of pictures up last year, and I made myself a promise that I wouldn't let that happen again."
I want to ask her what she was going to say, but she keeps talking before I can get a chance to ask. "Hisao, I've been... well, I've been really lonely. Trying to stay away from people, trying to bury myself in my music... it was stupid. I thought I could just forget it all, but I couldn't forget how it felt to... well, to not be alone. I started hating the hermit I made myself into. Even not being able to really remember day-to-day stuff, the loneliness still creeps up on you. And when I met you, you were nice and you were easy to talk to, and you... well, you saw the real me, not my disability. And I thought to myself, 'Kagami, here's your last chance for a fresh start. Here's your last opportunity to make a friend in this place.' I guess I just don't want to mess that up by jumping into a relationship too soon."
I'm not sure what to say. Kagami's just bared her soul to me, and I can't think of anything to say except what escapes from my mouth: "So, that's it then, I guess."
Argh, Hisao. That was definitely not the correct way to respond in this situation. Stupidstupidstupid.
Luckily, Kagami begins to smile. "Not... not necessarily. I'm not saying I wouldn't be open to the idea... Hisao, we just met last week. Let's just eat dinner. And then we'll go from there, ok?"
I manage to smile, just a bit. Coming in here, I'm not even sure what I wanted, but for now, I think being Kagami's friend is enough for me. And, more importantly, I think that's what she needs right now. And if there's an opportunity for another kiss in there somewhere...? I don't think I'd be caught complaining.
I'm still curious about her admission to Yamaku in the first place, though. Besides her age, she hasn't really revealed anything new to me just now. I suppose it's more satisfying, hearing it from her. It's not much, though.
Her age. Well, that explains how she obtained the alcohol we shared during the festival- she can legally drink. Having it on school grounds is still probably not the best idea, though.
Her age also explains how mature she's been about the whole situation. It's something I don't think I'd have been able to do in her shoes. Hearing her honest feelings about me, even if it smarts a little, is better than idle chit-chat for a few weeks in a hospital room, and then... nothing. I don't really want to, but I find myself thinking about Iwanako. If I had just been honest about how I felt, or if she had...
I shake my head. It wouldn't have mattered, anyway. I was coming to Yamaku the moment my heart seized up that winter afternoon. Anything that happened with Iwanako would have been irrelevant. Sort of like Kagami feels about her friends, I guess.
"Hisao?" Kagami's voice shakes me from my thoughts. "You look worried. Everything ok?"
"Everything's fine," I reply.
I guess I believe it, even though that's the second time today someone's mentioned that I seem worried. Yeah, everything's fine- if by "fine" I mean teetering precariously on uneven, shaky ground. Upright for now. But later? That remains to be seen.
I guess I'll just keep my mouth shut and let things run their course. I'm probably overreacting anyway. Kagami seems relaxed enough. So why can't I feel comfortable?
It's probably because, like Emi said, I am a brick wall. Just sitting here, silent, while my companion shares her thoughts and opinions. Caught up in my own head.
I'm not really sure how to fix it, though. Every time I start to talk about how I feel, I stop for some incomprehensible reason.
We finish the rest of the meal in silence. I find my thoughts wander significantly less if I'm focused on eating. As I finish a small pile of rice on my side of the plate, Kagami leans back into her chair, sighing. I cock my head slightly. "Finished?" I ask inanely.
She nods. "Mmm. I think I'm done with practicing, too. Wasn't really into it before you came by, anyhow," she says. She glances out the window lazily, and my gaze follows hers. The sun must be low in the sky, I think to myself. And orange haze filters through the windows, illuminating the dust particles in the air. They dance slothfully around Kagami's face and hair, which is glowing brilliantly in the indirect sunlight.
She doesn't break her stare out the window, but she addresses me like she did when we embraced on the hillside by the track.
"Do you ever feel like you're just waiting for something to go wrong? For the other shoe to drop?"
I think back to the hospital. To the endless string of doctors, nurses, and surgeries. To my parents' faces as they realized the severity of my condition. To my first day at Yamaku, feeling lost and out of place. To my heart flutter out on the track with Emi. And I can't help but reply honestly.
"If you'd have asked me that six months ago, I would have said no. But now?"
I pause, distracted by the reflection of the sun in Kagami's glasses.
"All the time."
She turns, breaking her thousand-yard stare with the outside world and resting her gaze on me. Her eyes are piercing grey arrows now, aimed directly at mine. She smiles. A genuine smile, not the halfhearted ones we've been wearing throughout this whole conversation. She's beautiful when she smiles.
She parts her lips to speak, and as she does, she moves her left hand and gently drapes her long, lithe fingers across my hand. She shakes her head softly.