HISAO: "Mmh..."

NARRATOR: "My eyes feel heavy as they slowly open, the light from outside making me blink a bit to let them get adjusted. My body feels like lead, and my head feels just as heavy. Waking up to an unfamiliar ceiling is an uncomfortable feeling. It reminds me of the first time I awoke to the dimpled white tile ceiling of the hospital. It's only after spending a few seconds staring up at it that I realize where I am. This is Hanako's dormitory room."

NARRATOR: "I feel as though my heart stopped again, as the events of last night rush through my head, blood rushes to my cheeks, and I shut my eyes once more. There's very little point to getting myself worked up this early though, so I try to push such things out of my mind for now. I roll my head to the side to see if Hanako's where she was when I drifted off to sleep. All that's there now is an empty space on the bed, and the room beyond. I sluggishly sit up and rub my eyes, before pinching the bridge of my nose and looking around the room."

NARRATOR: "The only person here is me. I'm still bereft of my clothes, and after a quick scan of the floor for them, I notice that they're neatly folded in a corner of the room. Try as I might, I can't see Hanako's anywhere. The foil packet for the condom's been removed too, presumably put into the bin. With a great yawn, I get myself out of bed and quickly look for some underwear. I grimace a little at the prospect of putting my boxers back on after yesterday's efforts did a job on them, but I don't have much choice. Taking advantage of the fact that I have some time without anyone around, I get myself dressed for the coming school day in short order."

NARRATOR: "And then... I'm alone. Without anything more to busy myself with, my mind becomes focused on the fact that I'm standing in another person's bedroom after we spent the night together, but there's not a single sign of her around. My gut proves to be more helpful than my brain at working out this riddle. With a loud growl, it reminds me that she may well just be getting breakfast. I would have liked to wake up next to her, but... maybe it's a good thing that I have a few moments alone."

NARRATOR: "Hanako's room, as always, is quite bleak in appearance. There are precious few decorations, and practically no personal artifacts that aren't hidden away in cupboards and drawers. She's lived here for three years, but the room looks as if it's barely been occupied for a single day. I shouldn't overthink this. She might just like living this way, as some do. Having the ability to put such low stock in physical possessions does have its advantages, but even so, it feels a little disconcerting given her past. She said she viewed herself as having had her life on hold while at the orphanage. She certainly lives as if she still does, but... after what happened last night, it's pretty hard to imagine that she still thinks that way."

NARRATOR: "The sound of the doorhandle cracks through my thoughts, and I turn to face it. Sure enough, Hanako comes through and shuts the door behind her. She has what seem to be two microwaved instant meals in her hands, so this is a little difficult."

HISAO: "Good morning, Hanako."

HANAKO: "M... 'morning."

NARRATOR: "She gives a little bow before making her way to her desk, setting down both plates. I can now see them to be small satay dishes, their contents steaming, with a fork stuck inside the rice of each. I give thanks to her for bringing them in, and we each take one and get down to eating. She sits on her desk chair, while I sit on the side of the bed. I don't like talking while eating, so the silence between us isn't annoying in and of itself. It's the fact that it only exists because we don't quite know what to say to each other that's off-putting. Hanako glances towards me every so often as she eats. I only notice her doing so because I'm doing just the same thing. We're eating together as if we were a couple. We even had sex last night; a first for the both of us. Something feels... wrong, though."

NARRATOR: "Maybe that's why we can't say even a word to each other as we finish our plates and leave them in the sink. Maybe that's why we leave Hanako's room without holding hands, or making smalltalk. Maybe that's why it feels as if we're further apart than we've ever been before. We enter the classroom together, neither of us so much as glancing at each other. Just after we do so, I realize that this may have been a mistake. Shizune lifts her eyebrow at the sight, her suspicions raised. We reach the center aisle between the classroom's desks and look to each other. I'm not quite sure what I should say. Does she want me to address her as a girlfriend? I didn't think our relationship was... Oh. That's why this feels so strange."

HISAO: "S-see you."

HANAKO: "Okay."

NARRATOR: "I awkwardly hold up a hand as we part and take our seats at our respective desks. I can't even look back to her out of embarrassment. I feel like the gulf between Hanako and I is because of me. Shizune begins to make her way towards me, but then Mutou enters the room. I'm thankful for his arrival being so well-timed, drawing Shizune and her questioning away, to wait for another time. I wouldn't have been able to answer her, anyway. I like Hanako, but I've never told her what my feelings for her are. Hanako never said she saw me as anything beyond a friend, either. Yet, despite that, we slept together."

NARRATOR: "The bell to signal the beginning of lunch rings out. Mutou is taken a little off guard, his chemistry lecture being cut off midsentence, much to his chagrin. For the entirety of the class, his rambling has passed through one ear and out the other as my mind mulls over the question of Hanako. I can't get her out of my mind, and by now I've managed to wind myself up about it. I realize that she never said yes to what we did. She didn't say no either, but... would she have been able to? She's extremely submissive at the best of times, and no doubt it took her a gargantuan effort to show me her scarring. I decide to try and at least make conversation with her. That would be better than the monosyllabic communication that's been the most we've managed between each other so far today."

NARRATOR: "I walk to her desk intending to chat, but she awkwardly blushes and looks down even before I've come up to her. I take a breath to speak, but find myself lost for words. What in the world should I say to her? Hearing approaching footsteps, I turn to see Shizune and Misha already making their way towards us, no doubt with the intent to start asking troublesome things. A couple of other classmates are looking at us and gossiping between themselves as they throw sidelong glances. They must also have noticed Hanako and I coming in together earlier. I open my mouth to reassure Hanako, but she preempts me."

HANAKO: "I... I... Ivegottogodosomething!"

NARRATOR: "She gets out of her chair and dashes for the door. A couple of the books and pens that were on her desk are sent falling to the floor in her rush. Not many people seem to care about this event. A few look around to see what all the fuss is about, but go back to what they were previously doing soon after. I'm left despairingly looking at the door that Hanako disappeared out of. The idea of running after her passes through my mind, but I'm fairly sure that Hanako can run faster than I can. And besides... what would I say to her once I caught up, anyway? Eventually, I simply crouch down and begin picking up the items that had fallen to the ground from her desk. I feel low in every way, reduced to this as students pass by me on their way out of the room."

NARRATOR: "I feel a tap on my shoulder. I look up to see Shizune and Misha looking at me, curiosity about the situation written on their faces, mixed with a slightly apologetic look at the idea that they were partially responsible for what just happened."

SHIZUNE: "..."

MISHA: "Hicchan, if we can help at all..."

NARRATOR: "I just shake my head. This isn't a matter for them, and from Shizune's expression and the tone of Misha's voice, I think they know the same thing. Shizune acknowledges my response, and gives a solemn bow before making her way out of the room. Misha soon follows her out, obediently following her role as Shizune's shadow. I pick myself up, books and pens in hand, and place them inside Hanako's desk. With the classroom now empty, I end up just leaning against her desk and thinking to myself in silence."

NARRATOR: "It feels like there's a complete emotional disconnect between Hanako and I. We haven't known each other for all that long, and despite wanting to start going out with her, I really don't know that much about how Hanako views things. I've been studying as hard as I can for exams, but I still don't feel like I have any real sense of direction behind it. I tried to be a friend to Hanako, even if I couldn't tell her my feelings, and all we've done is drive each other apart. I couldn't even write a letter back to the one girl who ever loved me, Iwanako."

NARRATOR: "What should I do... what can I do... I simply don't know the answer to either of those questions. I do know that nobody else can help me with them. Just going back to the way things were would be enough to make me happy, but I know that it can never happen. Something changed between us last night. Maybe it changed beforehand, and it just came to a head then.

NARRATOR: "I know that there's a wall that Hanako has between me and her. I've been hitting that wall every time I've tried to interact with her on any level. But now I'm beginning to think that I have my own wall between us just as much as she does. She had to practically drag my past out of me, and mine was much less traumatic than hers. I want to say it's because I haven't had long to adjust since my heart attack, but I know full well that it would just be an excuse. The one time I can recall when it really felt like she was opening up to me of her own accord, when we were playing billiards in the city, I was the one who stopped her from going further. I want to know Hanako better. I want to save our friendship, if not begin a real relationship with her."

NARRATOR: "My mind begins to tick as I sit against her desk, thinking to myself in the empty classroom that we've spent so much time in together. I have to talk to Hanako."

Next Scene: Adulthood