What were you thinking, Ibarazaki?
I just finished my afternoon run and am doing my cool-down routine. What I said to Hisao earlier wasn't...wrong
, exactly. Running is the best way ever to clear your head, but that doesn't mean your head stays clear once you're done. In fact, sometimes it goes to weird places that you don't expect.
Like the roof, and the feeling of being next to Hisao's warm body...
Okay, Ibarazaki, you had a crush on him. Well, maybe you still HAVE a crush on him, I guess. But he just broke up with his girlfriend! So of COURSE you go and choose right then to let your guard down! Might as well have just jumped him right there while you were at it!
The familiar voice came from the nearby bleachers. Miki.
"Hey, Miura! You out here to practice?"
"Nah, just meeting someone."
"You know, if you actually practiced once in a while, you might actually beat me one of these days!"
"It don't matter how many times you say that, Ibarazaki, it ain't gonna happen."
I laugh, because she's right – that she's not going to practice, AND that she's not going to beat me, ever. Unfortunately, she doesn't have the dedication to practice. If she did, she'd be really good, but it's just not important to her like it is to me. I finish my last cool-down lap and wander over to the bleachers.
"So what are you doing down here, then?"
"Just meeting someone. Actually, it's a good thing I ran into you. I was wondering..."
"No, I'm not letting you borrow the keys to the storage shed again."
"Why not? It's not like you're gonna need them."
I know she's just teasing, but after what I was thinking just now I can't help but feel my cheeks reddening. Which, of course, only spurs her on.
"Well, unless you are
going to need them, of course."
I do my best to ignore her. Easiest to even the playing field. "No...I just don't want what happened over spring break to happen again, okay?"
The look on her face is suitably embarrassed. Good. "All right, all right, never mind. Anyway, when I got down here, it seemed like you had something else on your mind."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, first off, I had to call you, like, five times. Then you came around the turn, and...well, I know the look, Ibarazaki. You had that pinchy look you get whenever you're planning something. I just wanna make sure I'm not involved."
Since I have no intention of telling her what I was just thinking, I put on my best innocent face. "Planning something? Why, Miura, whatever do you mean?"
She laughs. "You're not fooling me, Ibarazaki. Is this another one of your plots to, like, double our practice time again?"
I can't help but grin. "It can be arranged, you know!" I take a little pride in the worried look that briefly crosses her face. "Nah, I wouldn't do that. The season's over, right?"
"True. So, then, you're trying to rope someone into your routine again, I'll bet."
"Heh, you really do have a one-track mind sometimes."
"It serves me well! Besides, this time, there's a purpose besides just having someone to push me further."
Miki rolls her eyes. "Where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah, back a few weeks ago, when you thought for sure you had the new guy in your clutches."
"Hey, it wasn't all my idea! The nurse said I should keep an eye on him!"
"Yeah, but I saw how you looked at him. You wanted to keep more than an eye on him."
Okay, now Miura's hitting below the belt. I can feel the heat rising to my cheeks again, but I try to squirm out of it before she notices. "That's not it..." Immediately, I can see she's not buying it. "Well, okay, maybe that was some
She laughs. "Hey, it's no thing. Hell, I think half the girls in 3-3, and a few others besides, had the same idea at one point or another."
"Including you?" As soon as I ask, I regret it a little. I really don't want to be that obvious, and definitely not to Miki.
"Nah. Not my type. Doesn't really seem to like a lot of physical activity, if you know what I mean." Miki winks, and I wince at the phrasing. "I think even Hakamichi might've had a little thing for him. Still, he kinda wiped out all those ideas when he took up with the blonde Amazon, huh?"
"Yeah, that's true." I remember the day I heard that he and Lilly were dating, right after Marine Day weekend. I already knew he was hanging out with her and Hanako, but I hadn't given up yet. It's not exactly easy for me to admit defeat. After all, he was still coming up to the roof to eat lunch with me and Rin sometimes, and we could talk to each other pretty easily.
"Caught ya thinking again, there, Ibarazaki?"
"Savor the moment, Miura. You're not going to catch me at anything very often!" She laughs again. We may be rivals on the track, but at least it doesn't carry over to anything else -- or at least, not too much. "I was just remembering how disappointed...certain people were when that happened. I was just wondering what would happen if, say, Lilly were to be out of the picture."
Miki takes a seat on the bleachers, head in hand and eyes front. "Oh, now this is starting to sound like something I wanna hear."
Damn it, why did I have to blurt that out like that?
Well, I've already said more than I wanted. Might as well go all out. "Lilly's moving to another country soon. Scotland, I think he said."
"'He' said?" Miki laughs that annoying low chuckle of hers. "So Hisao told you this himself! I know you can move fast, but damn!" Now she decides to add that sly smile she always wears when she stops playing nice. "So you really think he's going to be willing to downgrade from Amazon to Pygmy?"
This is not a game I'm going to play right now, so I settle for sticking out my tongue at her. She just keeps laughing and grinning like the cat that caught the canary.
"So what ELSE did he tell you? Spill it, Ibarazaki. I don't have much time before...aw, damn." I look back to where Miki is looking, and I see one of the members of the swimming team coming down from the auxiliary building. "Guess the rest'll have to wait."
"It'll have to wait all right, because that's all you're getting out of me, Miura!"
Miki waves me off with the back of her hand as she goes to meet for whatever tryst she's planning. Before she's out of earshot, though, she calls back to me and says "Guess I'll be looking for you two tomorrow night, then!"
I also turn around, because I'm due at the Nurse's office. As I jog my way up to the building, I realize what she meant.
Right. Tanabata's tomorrow night.
Then, I thought about what I'd said to Miki, and how it all must have sounded. Okay, when did
this turn into a plan on my part?
Maybe just now.
Come to think of it, it would be a lot easier now, after yesterday. Got a good night's sleep last night, even. Still, the timing of all this would explain a lot. Left over...stuff spilling over from yesterday. Maybe that's supposed to mean something. That's what Rin would say anyway.
I run up to the auxiliary building and into the nurse's office. When I get there, he's in his usual mood. "Well, good to see you again, sunshine. Missed you yesterday."
He knows darn well where I was yesterday, so I play along. It's easier on both of us that way. "I know. I had a lot to do."
"Right. So, probably best that we get right down to business. Let's have a look at those."
I'm really feeling restless, but at least the exam doesn't take very long. I'm up on my feet and ready to run off to take a shower when the nurse's voice stops me.
"I have to say, Emi, I'm surprised to see you in such a good mood. Something interesting happen today, hmmm?"
I think about how to answer that. "Well, maybe. I finally got a chance to talk to Hisao at lunch."
"About time. I was beginning to think I needed a new spy for that one. Is he finally going to come to his senses and start taking better care of himself?"
"Not sure. He was kinda out of it, and I guess he broke up with his girlfriend."
He raises an eyebrow. "News to me. Then again, he hasn't been down here himself in a while."
"I guess it just happened yesterday. He was up on the roof when Rin and I came up for lunch, and he was looking pretty bad. We talked, and..." I don't really want to admit the next part. It's kinda embarrassing.
"And?" As usual, the nurse can't help but keep asking. He really can be a jerk sometimes.
The nurse gives me one of those looks, and I can feel myself squirming. "I suspected you still had a crush on Mister Nakai, but this is moving fast, even for you!"
Do people need to keep telling me that? "Hey! It wasn't like that! It just kinda...happened. I didn't mean for it to..."
And now he's grinning and laughing at me! Damn him anyway! He got me again! "Just teasing you. But I was right about that crush, wasn't I?"
I look down so that he won't see the look in my eye. "Maybe. Would that be so bad?"
He changes his laugh to a warm chuckle. He really does know how to disarm a girl. I wonder sometimes why he hasn't gotten married yet. "It depends. Just tread carefully around the situation for a while. I don't just mean the situation with Hisao and Lilly, but around Hisao himself. Don't push anything too hard, understand?"
"Oh, yeah. I mean, if he does come out running with me, I definitely won't..."
"Whoa! Back up for just a second there, fireball. What do you mean "if he comes out running with you"?"
Oh, right. I should have probably told him about that part first. "Um...I told him if he wanted to clear his head, then running's a great way to do it. I mean, you did say you wanted me to keep an eye on him, and the best way to do that is to have him run with me, right?"
"Uh...huh. Just invited him to run with you," he says with a wink. "Absolutely no ulterior motives or anything. Got it." He's obviously trying to get me to say something else, but I'm not doing that again. Instead, I just glare at him, and he laughs it off. "Okay, okay. Just remember what I said the last time you tried this with Hisao. Not everyone can handle what you can. Don't try to race with him, or push him if it looks like he's over-exerting himself. Just...be careful."
I give him a pouty stare, and say "Okay. I'll make sure he only ends up here for a check, not for anything more serious." At the end, though, I can't help adding, with a grin, "At least not yet."
He laughs again. "Okay, then. As long as we understand each other. Now get going!"
I run out of the auxiliary building and start towards the dorms, when I catch sight of Hisao coming towards me. I wave to him. "Hey, Hisao! I just got done with the nurse. Where are you headed?"
"Actually," he says, "I was looking for you."
That, I was not expecting. I try to think of a quick comeback. "I see. Spying on me, are you?"
Hisao's eyes widen, and he seems nervous for a second. "What are you talking about?"
Sometimes, Hisao, you're just too easy to tease.
"Looking for payback after the nurse set me on you, maybe?"
"And what if I was?"
Ah, this is good. It's always more fun when Hisao plays along. "Well, then you'd be getting payback from the wrong person. I'd probably have to pout about being blamed for something I did for someone else."
"Okay, okay! I'm not spying! Please don't...do that!"
I smile back at him, and he relaxes. "So why were
you looking for me, Hisao?"
"Well," he says, rubbing the back of his head, "remember what we talked about at lunch? About me having to clear my head?"
I wink at him, "Yeah, I think I remember something about that."
"Well...I was thinking about it, and I decided it'll be a good idea."
He was? He did?
Okay, brain, get some words out now...
"Great! So you want to come to the track tomorrow morning?"
"Actually...I thought I'd wait until the break started. That way, I can start everything with a clean slate, you know? I'm less likely to quit again that way."
That slows the thought process down just a bit. I've heard that sort of thing before, usually from my fellow track team members. Still, if he was trying to avoid it, he wouldn't have actually come down here to tell me. That's good, right? "Well, the sooner you start, the better."
"Yeah, I know. I just...want to give this the best chance of working."
So do I, Hisao.
"Okay, then, bright and early, Sunday morning! See you at lunch tomorrow?"
"Okay, then! See ya, Hisao!"
I run back to the dorms to take a shower. When I'm done, I grab something to eat and set about looking for some papers I had put aside a few weeks ago. Might as well look over that schedule and dietary plan from a while back. If Hisao's going to have to take it easy, I might have to make some changes. I should probably check in with the nurse again, too.
It's hard for me not to get too excited about this. Taking it easy just isn't who I am, especially when it comes to running. When it comes to Hisao, though, I've become pretty good at it. The past few weeks, between exams and Lilly, I'd barely even seen him, and then suddenly there he is at lunch, and I felt like I did the day I first invited Hisao up to the roof after he bailed on our second day of running.
It's like...I'm being given a second chance by someone. One of the rules I live by is, it's not often you get a second chance at something you want, Ibarazaki, so don't let go again without a fight. It's something my dad used to tell me, and it's one of the things that got me running again when nobody else thought I ever would.
What Hisao needs right now is a friend. That's something I can do, no problem. He needs a running buddy. That's something I can also do, and even better, it's something nobody else at Yamaku is going to do. Beyond that...well, I'll just do what I always do: take it as it comes.
All right, universe! You want to give Emi Ibarazaki, Fastest Thing on No Legs, a second chance at something? I won't let you down, I promise!
This chapter has been sitting on my hard drive for a few days, but I wanted to wait until I'd written a little further ahead before posting. However, I decided to go ahead and post it now so that I wouldn't keep going back and tinkering with it to the exclusion of working on future chapters.
So, yeah, my attempt at writing an Emi POV chapter. Some folks cottoned on to the left turn this chapter was going to take, so hope this was to your liking
. For some idea of the timeline being invoked, re-read my introductory post.