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November Writing Contest: Morning Fog

mehkanik Nov 26th, 2012 5,190 Never
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  1. November Writing Contest
  2. Morning Fog
  3. Hanako/Emi
  4.  
  5. Waking up, my eyes are greeted to the same thing I had been in sleep; dark.
  6.  
  7. Sitting up, I crane my head around the room towards my alarm clock. What time is it?
  8.  
  9. ...Three in the morning.
  10.  
  11. I heave a sigh. Running a hand through my dark hair, it's disheveled and probably knotted. Might as well take a shower, comb it out and try to figure out something to do until classes hours later.
  12.  
  13. Although I hate not being able to sleep well, it's the hours of the day like this that I really enjoy.
  14.  
  15. Everything's quiet. No one's around, it's like someone forgot to put people in the world, but left me here.
  16.  
  17. As lonely as that sounds, sometimes it's better that way.
  18.  
  19. I gently push open my door, peering down the hallway. Not a sign of life in either direction. Now's the best time to use the dorm's shower. Sneaking in, still empty as can be.
  20.  
  21. When no one's around like this, I can let down my guard. I can be natural without fear of how people will see me, treat me, ridicule me.
  22.  
  23. I shower, letting warm water wash over me. The dull aches in my body seem to wash away with the shower and I step out, feeling better and smelling nicely.
  24.  
  25. What should I do now? Creeping along the halls, I play out a story in my head.
  26.  
  27. The whole school has been abducted, Detective Ikezawa! You're the only one who stands a chance at unraveling this mystery!
  28.  
  29. Insipid plots, conspiracies and contrivances play out in my head as I skip gently down the hallway by myself.
  30.  
  31. Reaching my room, I can see the faintest of color seeping into the darkness. A dull blue, just barely saturating the colors of night. Along with it, a slight mist.
  32.  
  33. Maybe.... I'll go for a quick jog?
  34.  
  35. That could be nice.
  36.  
  37. The Hanako people know during the day is shy, horrified of human interaction. With reason. People are frightening. They're cruel. Kind people aren't easy to find and only experience has told me that.
  38.  
  39. I throw on some track pants and a sweatshirt. It'll probably be chilly out.
  40.  
  41. Throwing my hood on, I move quickly out of the girl's dorm. Standing outside of it, I take in a deep breath.
  42.  
  43. The air is nice and sharp, fresh.
  44.  
  45. It's refreshing. Fall is a good time for this kind of thing.
  46.  
  47. I start off in a slow jog, following the paths around campus. Some of the campus supervisors are out, but they look too groggy to even realize who I am, considering I'm wearing my hood up.
  48.  
  49. I continue my jog, but instead of taking the path to the track, I follow a little path I've always run outside and around it. There's some nice trees lining the outside and it's much nicer than running in circles around an open area.
  50.  
  51. I guess I do this for the stress relief, not so much the physical health benefits. I can relax, I can enjoy some scenery, I can blow off steam if I'm upset, I can --
  52.  
  53. "Hey, whatcha doin'?"
  54.  
  55. I nearly scream as I leap to the side opposite of the voice.
  56.  
  57. In front of me, Emi Ibarazaki. Behind me, as I back into it, a tree.
  58.  
  59. "Uh... J-Jogging."
  60.  
  61. My eyes start skittering left and right.
  62.  
  63. Escape, escape, escape, escape escape escape.
  64.  
  65. "I didn't know you liked to jog!" She seems chipper for a person who shouldn't even be awake right now.
  66.  
  67. "I-I... I, er..."
  68.  
  69. "Seems sort of unlike you, Hanako." Her smile is disarming and all the same, frightening to me. It's the kind of smile people wear when they're trying to hide something.
  70.  
  71. Oh god she knows who I am oh god idontthinkicanoutrunher
  72.  
  73. "Sorry I scared you, by the way."
  74.  
  75. "It- It's o-okay."
  76.  
  77. "Mind if I run with you for a little while? I couldn't sleep. A little company would be nice. I won't bother you, I promise. I just always do better running with someone."
  78.  
  79. Isn't she usually running with the new boy, Hisao? I met him once, a while ago... I bolted, because boys don't approach me. Not usually, unless they're planning some terrible joke. My heart clenches at memories of a guy I once knew pretending he liked me to win a bet with his friends.
  80.  
  81. "I guess..."
  82.  
  83. I get a better look at her once my heart rate returns to something I could call proper. She's wearing loose shorts, a baseball jersey over a short-sleeved shirt. What's most notable is the fact that I realize what she's hiding underneath that smile of hers.
  84.  
  85. It's something that I'm used to hiding, but in a different way.
  86.  
  87. I turn and continue jogging, Emi tapping gently alongside me. "Th-Those running legs work on grass?"
  88.  
  89. She nods. "Mhm! Not as good for running, but I can jog fine on grass."
  90.  
  91. Silence falls between us. Mostly because I don't have anything to say and I like pretending that I'm the only person who didn't mysteriously vanish during this time of the day.
  92.  
  93. I guess it's okay to have another person not vanish.
  94.  
  95. "So, why're you jogging?"
  96.  
  97. "I-It's refreshing, I s-suppose. Good for c-clearing your head." Which is probably the only reason I'm able to contain my normal panic right now.
  98.  
  99. All I'm wondering though, is whether her and Hisao are dating. They spend a lot of time together, running in the morning. I shouldn't be nosy, but I think too much for my own good. He seemed to mean well... maybe I shouldn't have run away.
  100.  
  101. Before I know it, the sun has already started to come up.
  102.  
  103. Most of the jog was spent quietly, although I noticed she slowed down every now and then, slight sniffles accompanying her speed loss.
  104.  
  105. I figured it was the morning chill, but when I finished my jog, she seemed to have lost the ability to maintain that eager smile. Now her face was distant, a slight frown adorning it.
  106.  
  107. "A-Are you... okay?"
  108.  
  109. Usually I'm not the one to try and help people. I need more help than anyone, I think.
  110.  
  111. She sighs. "I had a big fight with my boyfriend a couple days ago. We haven't been running together since and I'm really regretting causing the fight."
  112.  
  113. "Th-Then apologize...?"
  114.  
  115. Her face screws up a little and she stomps her prosthetic 'foot'.
  116.  
  117. "I shouldn't! He's the reason we had the fight."
  118.  
  119. "W-What'd he do?"
  120.  
  121. "He ate my slice of cake! I'd been shaving calories for a WEEK, just so I could eat it! Then when I finally get to where I can eat it without worry, he already did!" She seems so flustered it's almost unreal.
  122.  
  123. Is this... what people actually fight about?
  124.  
  125. Was it even a fight?
  126.  
  127. "S-So why aren't you two r-running together?"
  128.  
  129. "Because he won't stop teasing me about eating my cake! It's so frustrating!"
  130.  
  131. I can't.
  132.  
  133. I just can't.
  134.  
  135. I burst into laughter, doubling over at the sheer silliness of the situation. She seemed so genuinely upset -- and she was -- but it doesn't change that it was over a slice of cake.
  136.  
  137. "Hey! What's so funny?!"
  138.  
  139. "I- I j-j-just... f-fighting about c-cake!" I'm struggling to make my words out between my own stutter and the lack of breath.
  140.  
  141. She looks upset. "Hey, I don't eat many sweets! When I do, it's serious business."
  142.  
  143. I have to wipe my eye a little as I regain my composure. I haven't laughed like that in a while. Usually I get a chuckle or two from a book or a movie, but I've never heard of something so ridiculous and have someone take it so seriously before.
  144.  
  145. "I th-think I have an i-idea. Can the three of u-us go running? But e-early. When no one's a-around."
  146.  
  147. Emi's confused by my question and I'm a little confused that I'm making it. But honestly? Emi seems like a pretty straightforward person. I'm just getting a good feeling about her. If she's dating Hisao, he's probably a nice person too.
  148.  
  149. "But I don't want to be around Hisao if he's going to keep making fun of me!"
  150.  
  151. "Ju-Just once, pl-please?"
  152.  
  153. Lilly's always telling me I should try to make more friends, after all.
  154.  
  155. =====
  156.  
  157. Next morning, I'm jogging towards the track and can distantly see Hisao and Emi sitting on the bleachers. Emi's arms are folded. I sneak up on the two beneath the bleachers, resting my chin on the space between the seating and where your feet go.
  158.  
  159. "B-Boo." I announce. Both Emi and Hisao were sitting a few seats down, so they turn around and see my hooded face smiling at them from beneath the bleachers.
  160.  
  161. Hisao immediately places his hand to his chest and Emi jumps a little.
  162.  
  163. "Library girl?" He asks.
  164.  
  165. "U-Uh... I sort of prefer Hanako."
  166.  
  167. "Right, sorry. You just didn't give me your name and ran before I could really talk to you."
  168.  
  169. "So, are we going to start jogging, cake-thief?"
  170.  
  171. "C'mon, now. We both know I was doing you a favor. The cake was going to go straight to your-"
  172.  
  173. Emi clears her throat as I wander out from under the bleachers. Her face is a bit red, so I assume wherever that cake was going to go, it wasn't somewhere she wanted publicly announced.
  174.  
  175. "So, why are we jogging, anyways?"
  176.  
  177. "Wh-Why do you run?"
  178.  
  179. "Well, to make my heart stronger. Arrhythmia."
  180.  
  181. "O-Oh. Well, exercise doesn't al-always have t-to be about physical f-fitness. It's g-good for st-stress." I'm struggling to actually get my words out, but I can tell that Emi's quietly rooting for me. I've met her a few times and I've reacted to her the same way I've reacted to a great deal of people. By running away.
  182.  
  183. "Okay." Hisao seems to enjoy the change of pace that we're taking, as we start jogging around the track, rather than on it.
  184.  
  185. After enough quips thrown back and forth between the couple, Emi winds up taking off ahead of the two of us.
  186.  
  187. Hisao's chuckling to himself, like he's having fun even though Emi is actually upset. "Y-You know you're b-bothering her, right?"
  188.  
  189. He nods. "Yes, I do. She's a strong girl, she's just a little too sensitive about certain things. It's my weird way of trying to help her. After all, she's the one helping keep me alive. It doesn't make sense to her, but I don't like only being someone who makes her happy."
  190.  
  191. I nod. "Th-That's sweet." It almost sounds like something out of a book.
  192.  
  193. "I h-have an idea."
  194.  
  195. "Like what?"
  196.  
  197. "Something th-that lets you make up with E-Emi."
  198.  
  199. "You don't have to, Emi will be fine. I know her well enough. We're just messing with each other. We do all the time."
  200.  
  201. "Y-You sure? I mean, I d-don't doubt that you do!" Goodness -- just relax, Hanako.
  202.  
  203. "I just mean -- sh-she's taking it really s-seriously. I th-think I have an i-idea that'll make her feel m-much better about th-this and let you a-apologize at the s-same time."
  204.  
  205. Hisao continues jogging silently.
  206.  
  207. "I'm not trying to be mean, but how would you know?"
  208.  
  209. I smile a little. "I watch people a lot. I'm n-not really good at b-being around people. Today in itself has been a b-battle for me. That and w-woman's intuition."
  210.  
  211. I take in a breath. "But it's e-easier to understand people s-sometimes when you see how they act at a d-distance rather than when they're r-right in fr-front of you. Just one of the p-perks of being a wallflower, I g-guess." I doubt he'll catch the reference, but it's okay.
  212.  
  213. He slows his jog, pausing and thinking for a bit.
  214.  
  215. "So basically, I can't see the forest for the trees, huh?"
  216.  
  217. I nod. That's the basic gist of it.
  218.  
  219. "So, your plan?"
  220.  
  221. "I m-might have overheard that a s-student has access to the sc-school's kitchens."
  222.  
  223. Hisao looks confused. For some reason, the look of bewilderment seems like one he wears somewhat often.
  224.  
  225. "D-Don't worry about it. I-I'll talk to you about it later when I f-figure more things out. J-Just be nice to her, okay?"
  226.  
  227. =====
  228.  
  229. Why am I doing this, why am I doing this, why am I doing this
  230.  
  231. Oh, for the Life of Pi, why am I doing this?
  232.  
  233. For one, I'm sitting in the school's cafeteria. Which is loud. And terrifying. And filled with people who are probably staring at me.
  234.  
  235. I'm focused on someone else, a table over from me, though.
  236.  
  237. Pink hair and shaped like drills. It's hard to not notice her in a cafeteria. It's like she's literally the opposite of me. Outgoing and wants to be noticed. Loud, too. I can hear her over the roar of the cafeteria.
  238.  
  239. I stand up and approach her.
  240.  
  241. "Sh-Sh-Shiina...?"
  242.  
  243. The pink-haired girl turns to me.
  244.  
  245. "Hanako! Wahaha, it's strange to see you here~"
  246.  
  247. I nod. "I, I-I uh... canIaskyouaquestion?"
  248.  
  249. "Sure! Sit down. Oh, and call me Misha, okay~?" I nod more frantically, sitting down. I think the only thing that frightens me more than mobs of staring people is the girl sitting across from Misha.
  250.  
  251. Shizune. She's forceful, domineering and the kind of person you can't shake unless she wants to let go of you.
  252.  
  253. She's fires off signs at Misha while shooting a few glances my way. They're inquisitive, curious and filled with some sort of evil intent. "So, what brings you here~?"
  254.  
  255. "I h-h-heard you have access to the sch-school kitchens?"
  256.  
  257. Misha's hands drop to the table although her smile grows. "Why yes, how did you know~?" I scratch my head a little while looking away from the two girls.
  258.  
  259. "I listen a lot."
  260.  
  261. And there goes the Misha bomb, booming laughter that could silence the entire cafeteria in volume.
  262.  
  263. Shizune snaps loudly, to get her translator's attention. Misha signs quickly back to her. Afterwards, Shizune seems to be put-off and folds her arms, pouting.
  264.  
  265. "Sorry, Shicchan doesn't like being left out of conversations, but this is a private one, isn't it~?"
  266.  
  267. I nod.
  268.  
  269. "Plus, she'd be mad if she knew I had access to the kitchens. Students aren't allowed back there and I'm not an exception~"
  270.  
  271. She's rather forthcoming about being able to get somewhere she shouldn't.
  272.  
  273. "You don't plan to tell anyone, do you?"
  274.  
  275. I'm not sure if she's threatening or asking me. Her smile is friendly, but her eyes bear some sort of intensity I don't understand.
  276.  
  277. "N-No, I ac-actually wanted to u-use them."
  278.  
  279. "Oh~?"
  280.  
  281. I nod quickly. "Some..."
  282.  
  283. Do I call them friends? Oh well, might as well. Acquaintance doesn't sound right to me.
  284.  
  285. "Friends are having a fight a-and I w-want to help ma-make it better."
  286.  
  287. "By cooking?"
  288.  
  289. I nod, explaining the gist of the fight between Emi and Hisao. Another burst of laughter and my ears are screaming in pain.
  290.  
  291. "I kn-know a recipe for a kind of cake Emi w-would probably like."
  292.  
  293. "But you'll say it was Hicchan's idea, right~?"
  294.  
  295. I nod.
  296.  
  297. More laughter, accompanied by a simple sentence that seems to make my heart swell. "You're such a good person, Hanako~!"
  298.  
  299. "I don't mind sneaking you in, although I'm going to have to supervise. After all, you'll be my responsibility~" She says that in a tone that I find a little odd, but I don't mind all too much. "Is it okay if I bring Hisao?"
  300.  
  301. Misha nods.
  302.  
  303. "W-Well, I've got to do something." I can't stay here any longer, at least. It'd be nice to just sit with Lilly and listen to her softly make idle chit-chat with me. I should get back to the tea room.
  304.  
  305. Turning back before I leave, I see Misha signing something to Shizune, while laughing. Shizune slams her palms into the table, looking infuriated while Misha continues with her laughter.
  306.  
  307. I bet Shizune asked what I was talking about and Misha responded with, "It's a secret~".
  308.  
  309. =====
  310.  
  311. A few days and a couple jogs later, Hisao and I are sneaking through the halls of the school after-hours.
  312.  
  313. "So your great idea is to make her an entire cake?"
  314.  
  315. I sigh. "Can you j-just relax?"
  316.  
  317. How ironic, coming from me. My hands are shaking, considering we're technically not supposed to be here at this time. Misha told me there's a certain door that's always left open by the janitors.
  318.  
  319. Why does she know all of these things?
  320.  
  321. I'm beginning to paint Misha as some kind of school mobster, knowing and doing all sorts of illicit things. Maybe she traffics academically dishonest essays or solicits people for their lunch money as costs for 'protection' from Shizune?
  322.  
  323. Maybe she just knows more than the average student. Not everything is like a book or movie, anyways.
  324.  
  325. When we reach the cafeteria's kitchens, I can see that the lights are already on. Inside, Misha's sitting on a stool, wearing a chef's hat, laughing.
  326.  
  327. "Why hello there, Hicchan! Busy breaking hearts as usual, are you? First Shicchan, now I bet you'll be leading poor Hanako on while you date Emi~"
  328.  
  329. Hisao arches an eyebrow. "What are you talking about?"
  330.  
  331. Misha waves it off. "Oh, nothing. Just a joke I like making about you! Ladykiller Hisao, Magnate of Mistresses~! Master of-"
  332.  
  333. "Okay, now you're being weird." Hisao says and Misha busts out into laughter.
  334.  
  335. "So, I guess you should be wearing this~"
  336.  
  337. She places the chef hat on my head.
  338.  
  339. "We'll be your assistants today~! Did you bring the ingredients?" She asks. I nod, but mention there were a few I couldn't find. Apparently, there's some in the kitchen cooler that the chefs probably won't notice are missing.
  340.  
  341. I start spreading out the ingredients. A package of regular cream cheese and another of fat free, sour cream, unsalted butter and cinnamon graham crackers. The rest of the supplies I need are already here: Eggs, sugar, tin foil, the pan and food processor I'd need to help put everything together.
  342.  
  343. "What exactly are we making?" Hisao asks, as he can't make any sense of the edible puzzle I've laid out.
  344.  
  345. "A low-fat ch-cheesecake recipe."
  346.  
  347. "Ohhhhh." Suddenly the realization clicks with Hisao. This is what I'd been planning. It's a compromise and an apology all wrapped into something delicious.
  348.  
  349. He wants her to stay healthy, but she wants to enjoy the rare things she can't always in life -- a sweet treat or a snack she has to earn. At the same time, she doesn't understand why he did it, so this will be a good way to pave over his mistake and give him the opportunity to make his apology.
  350.  
  351. I start giving directions, telling people what to whip together to make the cheesecake filling, how to make the graham cracker crust, how long to set the timer and how to pour the water into the pan of filling so that when it cooks and evaporates, it leaves the creamcheese  fluffy but filling.
  352.  
  353. Once all is said and done with, the cheesecake looks good. It took two hours of baking after putting it all together and now it needs to chill for at least eight. I look at my cellphone, the one that Lilly got me.
  354.  
  355. It's half an hour until midnight. We can't really wait that long for it to become firm enough to serve.
  356.  
  357. "W-Will they eat it or use it i-if we leave it here?"
  358.  
  359. Misha shakes her head, grabbing a piece of paper from their order book and writing on it with a pen.
  360.  
  361. 'Do not eat! Misha says so~'
  362.  
  363. "There! Now they won't touch it~" She declares, taping the piece of paper to the pan.
  364.  
  365. As we say goodbye to Misha, Hisao offers to walk me back to my dorm.
  366.  
  367. "Well, it's late. It'd be rude not to, right?" He explains when I can barely stutter out a response.
  368.  
  369. "Y-Yeah. Thanks."
  370.  
  371. As we're walking, Hisao brings up a question I've been asking myself.
  372.  
  373. "Why are you doing this?"
  374.  
  375. I shrug. Well, I know why, but I don't feel like explaining it.
  376.  
  377. "I mean, you could barely make eye contact with me when I first met you. Just a few minutes ago, you were reprimanding me on how I was whipping the cream cheese." A small laugh to go with it.
  378.  
  379. "I d-dunno! I just..." I grumble under my breath.
  380.  
  381. "What?"
  382.  
  383. I let my hair fall into my face so he can't see me when I say what I mumbled.
  384.  
  385. "I'm lonely and ti-tired of being a-alone. S-So I'm tr-trying to make friends."
  386.  
  387. Hisao laughs, much to my embarassment. "Oh, alright. That isn't a problem at all, I wanted to be your friend when I introduced myself. I'm a transfer student so I've been pretty much in the same boat until I met Emi and Rin."
  388.  
  389. When I get to my dorm, Hisao looks like he wants to say something to me.
  390.  
  391. I just stand there, staring at him.
  392.  
  393. I painfully take note of how cute he is and remind myself he's in a relationship I'm helping him with.
  394.  
  395. Eventually he just hugs me.
  396.  
  397. Naturally, this would make me panic and probably freak out, but I at least know a little about him.
  398.  
  399. This is nice, though. I could get used to this if this is what I get for helping him out. He's warm and just a bit taller than me so I fit right in between his shoulders and in his arms.
  400.  
  401. "I really appreciate the help. Emi means a lot to me and I just thought we were both messing with each other. I didn't think she was taking it seriously."
  402.  
  403. I don't really know how to hug him back without it seeming weird, so I just sort of... grab hold of his shirt a little with both hands until the brief-but-felt-like-forever hug ends.
  404.  
  405. "N-N-N-No problem. I like to help."
  406.  
  407. He nods, smiling. "So when are we going to surprise her?"
  408.  
  409. "I don't know. Day after tomorrow? Not sure. It's late. Thanks for walking me. And for the hug. Well, I mean, the hug was thanks from you. But it was still nice and I appreciate-"
  410.  
  411. Instead of hesitant stammers, I shoot out what feels like canned, printed responses to Hisao. Hisao's smile is now accompanied by a bewilderment that's evident in how his eyebrows are both arched.
  412.  
  413. "I'm going to go to bed. Goodnight."
  414.  
  415. "Goodnight, Hanako."
  416.  
  417. The minute I step inside of the dorm, I feel my face explode into redness. Maybe I should skip the jog with them in the morning?
  418.  
  419. I mean, it was never something I've done regularly, but it's sort of nice. Maybe he'll just chalk it up to me being an awkward, shy mess and forget about it.
  420.  
  421. =====
  422.  
  423. Two days later, Hisao and I have retrieved the cheesecake from the kitchen and are both waiting on the bleachers, having already beaten the early-bird Emi.
  424.  
  425. When she arrives, she's looking confused at the two of us.
  426.  
  427. "You're both here... early." Looking at her watch, she confirms how early.
  428.  
  429. "Two hours early?" She adds.
  430.  
  431. Hisao nods with a smile. "Well, I just wanted to make sure I was able to surprise you is all."
  432.  
  433. Emi gives a somewhat apprehensive smile in my direction. She's wondering what sort of thing I've angled her boyfriend into doing to 'surprise' her.
  434.  
  435. "Is my surprise in the box?"
  436.  
  437. "Yep."
  438.  
  439. "What's in the box?"
  440.  
  441. "A surprise!"
  442.  
  443. "No, I mean the contents of the box. I know it's a surprise, but what is the surprise?"
  444.  
  445. "The surprise is a surprise."
  446.  
  447. "Hisao, do I have to tie you down and-"
  448.  
  449. He clears his throat.
  450.  
  451. "H-Hi." I give a meek wave. Yes, hi, I'm here. I know I have a weak aura when it comes to being noticeable, but please refrain from talking about tying each other up please.
  452.  
  453. I read enough to know what she meant.
  454.  
  455. "Hanako, what's in the box?"
  456.  
  457. I smile.
  458.  
  459. "A s-surprise."
  460.  
  461. Emi sighs, throwing her hands into the air. "It better not be like the last 'surprise' you gave me, Hisao..." I'm not sure if she's referring to the cake he ate or whether she's talking about something more lurid.
  462.  
  463. She moves towards the box, opening it.
  464.  
  465. The minute she realizes what she's looking at, her eyes light up brighter than a Christmas tree.
  466.  
  467. "Strawberry cheesecake."
  468.  
  469. "I wasn't sure how to say sorry for eating your cake, or not realizing I actually upset you... so I helped make this for you."
  470.  
  471. Emi immediately launches herself at Hisao, enveloping him in her arms. I smile. Is this what a relationship would be like if I ever got into one? It seems really nice.
  472.  
  473. "Thank you, Hisao. But I still can't eat any of this! it'd totally mess up my workout regimen and my diet."
  474.  
  475. "W-Well, it's half or l-less of the calories than in a r-regular slice of ch-cheesecake. About two h-hundred calories and only eleven gr-ams of f-fat. It still has a lot of pr-protein too so you won't f-feel hungry still a-after eating it."
  476.  
  477. Emi starts doing math on her hands. "I can totally afford that in calories. Actually, I can probably have one right now!"
  478.  
  479. I smile. "Th-Then you should."
  480.  
  481. I did bring a small plate and fork with us so that she could sample some if she wanted to. Picking up a slice and eating a forkful of it, her eyes roll back a bit.
  482.  
  483. "Thash sho good." She says, mouth full of cheesecake.
  484.  
  485. "Hanako was the one with the recipe, she helped me a lot with the idea."
  486.  
  487. Emi smiles at me, a kind of expression on her face that looks strangely familiar to me. It's an expression I rarely see on people other than Lilly.
  488.  
  489. It's the honest expression of friendship.
  490.  
  491. "Well, that's decided then!" She declares, finishing the remainder of the cheesecake and popping the strawberry into her mouth.
  492.  
  493. "Wh-What is?"
  494.  
  495. "You're officially our newest running buddy!" She then pauses, placing her hands on her hips. "And our friend. Don't be shy now, okay? I'm looking forward to hanging out with you in the future."
  496.  
  497. I smile, nodding. "Y-You too. I mean, uh, I do too. I mean I'm l-looking f-forward to being fr-friends!" I finally get out.
  498.  
  499. I've spent long enough being afraid.
  500.  
  501. It's okay to take a few risks, right?
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