She sits idly as she watches her best friend lifelessly stare at her food.
She thinks it's temporary, a phase that will heal during the passage of time. Maybe it will take three weeks, or even three months until Yuzu realizes her love for Mei wasn't enough and their relationship, unequal.
But she is wrong.
After three weeks, she believes it would only take two more until her real smile returned again. There is a flicker in her eyes that she sees in Yuzu, causing her to light up the same way. She thinks it's her best friend finally moving on, but when she turns around…
Yuzu is looking at Mei at a distance.
Harumi grits her teeth.
The same routine plays over and over. Harumi begins mentally drawing tally lines of chalk to keep track of time.
She sees her in the classroom. Sullen.
She sees her in the cafeteria. Downtrodden.
She sees her when they hang out at their favorite restaurant. Silent.
When she tries to tease and poke in an effort to get laugh, chuckle, or snicker out of Yuzu, it succeeds.
But also fails.
The smile she sees on her best friend is empty. The laugh that rings in her ears is hollow. It's the same act, the same demeanor with each passing day.
Day after day, the light in Yuzu grows dimmer and dimmer. Day after day Harumi tries to get something out of her. Another smile, a chuckle, anything to bring the old Yuzu back. And then...that same light flickers again. She thinks she finally gets through to her, but realizes a split second later her best friend is staring at the girl who broke her heart.
Harumi breathes a sigh of worry and frustration.
Days continue to pass and Yuzu is still the same. She tries to take a step back, give Yuzu the space she needs until she's ready to speak with her as she used to.
A month passes.
Yet, it is as if time has halted in Yuzu's mind. She is still the same. Harumi notices dried tears on her cheeks when she greets her in the classroom.
It's because of her again, isn't it?
A few weeks pass, and the light and color from Yuzu begins to return. She figures her smile is because of Mei again, and she is right. But this time it's different. There's a burning resolve in those emerald eyes, the kind that Harumi always admired from afar when her best friend wasn't looking at her.
“I know how to get Mei back,” Yuzu confidently announces to their friends.
Harumi doesn't respond, at least not right away. She wants to pull her back, tell her there is no point. Mei had always pushed her away, so what would make this time any different?
“Are you really okay with being Mei's mistress?” Matsuri says.
“Are you sure you can have Mei choose both?” Shiraho adds.
*Are you sure it's worth chasing after someone who won't chase back?*
Yuzu states her answer, and her resolve is clear.
“I'll bring Mei back,” she hears Yuzu say.
Harumi wishes Yuzu wouldn't keep getting hurt like this over and over again. But she continues to sit back and let Yuzu do what she feels is best.
If Mei is makes her happy, then what right does Harumi have against her best friend's wishes?
Everything seems to be going according to plan. Yuzu looks nervous, but determined.
She holds onto the hand that is trembling to calm Yuzu. She feels her best friend’s anxiety subside for a short moment, and it is in those seconds that she feels at ease herself. For once she has been been able to spark some positive energy in Yuzu, rather than it always being Mei to be the cause for her smile.
A part of her in the back of her mind wanted to rub it in Mei's face that she wasn't the only person only person who could make Yuzu smile. Yuzu deserves better, Harumi tells herself.
She always has.
Yet she was still chasing after someone who rarely reciprocated or showed much appreciation for Yuzu.
The car stops, and the driver pounds at the steering wheel. She looks outside and sees the sea of vehicles surrounding them.
“We'll never make it!” she hears the panic and frustration in his voice. Turning to Yuzu, she squeezes her hand tighter, hoping to continue easing her.
But Yuzu only grows more wary, more anxious.
Two sides battle in her mind as she focuses on both the situation they're in and Yuzu in front of her.
Just give up, even the universe is telling you to top chasing after her!* And…Don't give up, Yuzu! Don't lose hope. Please.
She is ashamed to admit that the first thought weighs heavily over the second. Why is Yuzu still chasing after Mei? What did she see in her? Why was she willing to put so much of herself out there for a person who was often the reason of her suffering and strife?
A motorbike stops in front of them, and she looks out the window. She sees someone dressed in leather black, and recognizes.
It's her older sister.
That’s right. She had called her moments before the traffic began settling in.
Yuzu steps out and Harumi reluctantly loosens her hold. With one last look, she only hopes chasing after Mei one last time will all be worth this trouble.
She sits in her room, headphones in her ear, listening to the latest songs of the season. It has been a few days since their whole fiasco trying to bring Mei home, and she sighs to herself. Is she really happy that Yuzu continued to chase after Mei? Or does she wish could have done something to stop her best friend from running into a possible pitch black void?
Or is she simply unhappy with Yuzu's choices because of her own selfish reasons? Because deep in her mind, she wishes to have Yuzu all to herself?
“What?” Harumi bolts up from bed and shakes her head out of that thought. She mentally slaps herself.
What is she thinking? This is her best friend. How is it she could even have that thought about Yuzu in the first place?
She tells herself she's probably mixing up friendship for romantic love.
But could she really blame herself for possibly falling for Yuzu?
She only hopes Mei is as worth as Yuzu says she is.
A ring comes from her phone across her room, she looks at the caller ID.
Harumi scoffs. She lets the call end and continues her usual routine in her room. But her phone rings again.
Again, she lets the ringing end.
Out of frustration, she answers the phone.
“What do you want?” she answers with displeasure.
“So…” she hears, a biting chill in Matsuri’s voice, “Were you invited to Udagawa's wedding?”
Yuzu…I knew it.
“We should visit Yuzu, who knows how long she'll hole heres up again because of Mei's dumbass choices,” she hears worry and concern, but underneath it, annoyance.
No wonder Yuzu hadn't called her.
She agrees with Matsuri, and they plan to meet up at Yuzu's apartment in the evening.
The call hangs up and Harumi sighs. She leans against the wall of room and sinks to the floor. She feels herself boiling at two things: 1) towards Mei for ultimately breaking Yuzu; and 2) her inner conflict towards her best friend.
Feeling ashamed, Harumi cannot help but think.
Is this finally my chance?