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Those Behind the Curtain

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“That was a little awkward, wasn’t it?” Masai laughed nervously, as they watched Kaoruko storm off down the corridor, Futaba sparing them an apologetic wave of the hand as she gave chase.

“Someone needed to tell her the truth,” Amemiya replied, the girls returning to their desks and the pages of frantic scribbles that was currently their script, “Starlight isn’t… Our play isn’t something to take so lightly.”

Did those in Group A even understand how much work they had put into this performance? Unlike that stuck-up heiress they weren’t here to simply play around. Masai too, she’d already given so much of herself to these pages...

Amemiya ran her fingers across the paper as she thought, the black typeset criss-crossed with Masai’s red pen, the corrections she had made after spending countless hours every night pouring over the class’s work.

An entire class’s work dumped on the shoulders of such a small, adorable girl. She didn’t know where she found the strength for it.

“Shion?”

Damn, she’d zoned out again. Masai was looking at her curiously, head cocked to the side. Ah, that was a cute expression…

“N-nothing! Anyway, with Kaoruko gone we should keep working on the script.”

“Mhm! Let’s make it better than last year!” Pumping her fists, Masai sat down with a beaming smile.

So what if Group A had Maya Tendou? With the brilliant warmth of Kiriko Masai on their side, Group B wouldn’t lose to anyone!

 

~

 

“Hey, you’re working yourself too hard again.”

Amemiya carefully placed the steaming mug down amid one of the few places atop the desk that wasn’t currently covered by endless reams of paper. It almost felt like she hadn’t seen the tabletop since they had first moved into the dorms, the amount of work they, or rather Masai, had been asked to do.

As usual, rather than grumble Masai simply smiled up at her, eyes looking tired, and pumped her fists, “I’m fine for a little more! As the director, I can’t waste everyone’s efforts!”

She really was far too cute…

“Fine, but let me help. I can manage a run through of the script at least.”

She pulled her chair over to Masai’s crowded desk, sitting angled at the corner and slid over a pile of heavily edited papers. As she read them through she was once again struck by the vision of her room-mate; the clear, precise additions of her favorite red pen (complete with the little mascot character topper she’d bought her) only improving on a script so many in their class had thought was already perfected.

It was like she knew exactly how to get the best out of everyone’s talents, gathering them all together to make one shining stage that they could be proud of having made. Those divas in Group A had better be thankful that Masai was making such a dazzling stage for them!

It was lost in such thoughts that the two of them passed the minutes, then the hours, in comfortable silence. The only sound the shuffle of papers and the scratch of their pens.

“Hey, Kiriko, about this part...”

Glancing up, Amemiya was struck dumb by the sight of Masai sleeping soundly atop her desk, face snuggled in the crook of her arm, and still, somehow, smiling warmly.

“Honestly,” she complained as she rose from her seat.

How many times had this happened before? The silly girl was always working herself to exhaustion, always falling asleep at her desk or chair, sometimes even in the bath. It really was such a bother.

I guess I’m a little happy though…

Carefully carrying the dozing girl over to her bed and pulling the bed sheets up around her, Amemiya watched her friend’s sleeping face with a soft smile.

Honestly, she had been a little bitter. Knowing that no matter how hard she worked, it was always going to be the Kaoruko’s and Maya Tendou’s of the world that received the audience’s applause.

But then there was Masai, who always seemed like the happiest girl in the world just from knowing that someone would stand on a stage she had helped to build. It didn’t matter to her that she wouldn’t stand on it, was never going to step into the spotlight and shine like she surely deserved to.

She just wanted the audience to go home feeling a little happier than they had arrived.

Idiot.

Amemiya smiled ruefully down at her room-mate, feeling a little ashamed about how petty she had been in the past. Maybe she had been a little harsh on Kaoruko earlier too. Not that she didn’t deserve it but, well, if the girl cleaned up her act she deserved an apology at least.

That was just the effect Director Masai had on people, you couldn’t stay angry about anything when you came up against that adorable smile of hers. She was a star in her own right, filling everyone around her with a warm happiness.

Masai stirred in her sleep, lip quivering as she smiled happily at whatever it was she was dreaming about. Amemiya wished she knew it was.

She leaned in, long, dark hair falling across her shoulders and tickling the sleeping director’s chin as she moved closer, close enough to feel her breath on her lips, close enough to-

She jerked away suddenly, covering her mouth with a hand as if she couldn’t trust herself not to try such a thing again.

What am I doing?

It was a silly question, really. She knew full well what she had just attempted to do and why. True, she hadn’t fallen in love with her room-mate at first sight or however it happened in plays. It had happened slowly, without her noticing, until one day Masai had smiled at her like always and everything she had ever wondered about herself had just slid neatly into place.

Oh, I’m in love with her’, she’d thought at the time, as if it were as clear as a stage direction.

But trying to kiss her while she was asleep? That was new, and not something she was proud of either. The very idea of doing something to make her sad, to dull that dazzling smile of hers, was one she couldn’t stand.

Still guiltily covering her mouth, Amemiya looked down shamefully at her friend’s sleeping face one last time before reaching over to turn off the lamp.

Before long she was nestled snugly in the sheets of her own bed, lost in thought as sleep slowly took hold of her. In the first place it wasn’t fair to suddenly dump her feelings on her friend, the director already had far too much to do with the play, and trying to create a stage that would shine even brighter than their last.

Rather than give her something else to worry about, and Amemiya knew she would insist on dropping everything just to give her a proper, heartfelt response, it was best if she said nothing.

Together with Masai and the rest of Group B they would make a stage the likes of which Seisho Academy had never seen before. The ultimate Starlight, a play the audience would remember forever.

After that, she would tell her.

Gather what little acting talent she had to swallow down her fears and stand in front of that smile, ready to risk their friendship. Because it didn’t even really matter what her reply might be, as long as she could finally let the world know what she felt.

Amemiya had been bitter before that those behind the curtains would never stand in the starlight. But she knew better now, knew that it meant so much more to her having Masai smile then it did any audience.

And besides, she had always preferred plays that ended with a romance.