"Good afternoon!" Cocoa says brightly as Sharo walks in. "Would you like some coffee?"
"No!" Sharo says quickly. And then, at Cocoa's crestfallen look, "I mean, no thank you. I just want ..."
She pauses, then. What does she want, exactly?
And then Rize walks past. Of course.
"Hi, Sharo!" she says, and Sharo can feel herself blushing.
"Hi, Rize," she says, willing her voice to stay even. She sees Chino, then, and says, "Hi, Chino. Hi, everyone!"
Okay, so that was only mostly a success.
"Um," she says. Everyone is looking at her - Rize is looking at her - and Sharo thinks frantically, trying to think of something to order, to say, that won't make her look like an idiot. "Goodbye!"
She's only two steps outside the door when Cocoa catches up with her, and she swallows a lump of disappointment that it isn't Rize. She should be relieved, probably; if she was trying to avoid looking stupid in front of Rize, she's already failed spectacularly.
"Sharo," Cocoa calls. "Come back!"
"I'm sorry," she calls back. "I just have to - um, I was planning something, see, and -"
"Planning?" Cocoa asks, suddenly excited. "Are you planning a party?"
"Not exactly," Sharo says. She doesn't really want to talk about it any more - it's too embarrassing - but Cocoa looks so excited, actually standing on tiptoe like she can physically reach Sharo's thoughts, that she thinks maybe it's okay. "I wanted to plan something nice for Rize."
"For Rize?" Cocoa asks. "Why?"
"Well ..." Sharo hesitates, but she's already brought it up, and she doubts that Cocoa is going to let her drop it now. "As a thank you. For saving my life that time."
"Saving your ..." Cocoa trials off, looking confused. "Oh! Do you mean that time with the bunny?"
"It was a really scary rabbit!" she retorts, and then calms down. "I mean, Rize was still very brave, and I wanted to do something, you know, to thank her."
"Oh! Like a present!" Cocoa says.
Sharo thinks about it for a moment. A present could be a really good idea, and besides, she still feels guilty about the coffee mug Rize bought her. (Though that doesn't stop her using it. All the time.)
"Like a present," she agrees. "What does Rize like?"
Cocoa says it at the same time as Sharo thinks it. "Guns!"
"Um," she says. It's true, obviously, but she doesn't think it's a very good idea. "I don't know. Where would I even get a gun?"
"A gun shop?" Cocoa suggests.
"I don't think we have any gun shops in our neighbourhood," she points out.
"Oh." Cocoa looks disappointed, and for a moment, Sharo even feels guilty. "What if you drew a picture of a gun?"
A picture of a gun? That sounds ...
"Genius!" she says. "I'll go home and draw her a picture right now!"
"It's terrible!" Sharo says, reluctantly handing the picture over to Cocoa. She didn't want to go back to Rabbit House in case she ran into Rize - not with nothing to show for it except a terrible drawing - so they're meeting in an alley halfway between there and Sharo's house. It gives the whole thing a forbidden, clandestine feel, which excites Sharo almost as much as it embarrasses her.
"It's ..." Cocoa says, and Sharo waits.
"We can try something else," she says finally, and Sharo deflates. That was not what she was hoping for. "What about -"
"Hi Cocoa! Hi Sharo!"
Sharo turns around to see Chiya. Of course more people have to be here to witness her spectacular failure to talk to the girl she likes.
"Chiya!" she says quickly. "We weren't doing anything."
"Um." Chiya looks confused. "Okay."
"I think we should tell her," Cocoa whispers, leaning closer. "She might be able to help us."
"Us?" Sharo asks. Since when did this become a team effort?
"We're trying to think of a present for Sharo to give to Rize," Cocoa says, as if that was as good as an agreement.
"A present," Chiya says thoughtfully. "What about some sweets? I could make them for you."
"Really?" Sharo asks.
"You could even take her somewhere nice," Chiya continues. "Like to Ama Usa An, or to the park, or -"
"I like the park," Sharo says. Does Rize like the park? Everyone likes the park, right? "Thanks, Chiya! You're the best!"
Now all she has to do is ask Rize. Because that worked so well last time.
But hey, it can't possibly be too terrible, right?
In the end, there's only a very small fire, and only because Cocoa is so busy watching her and Rize that she isn't paying attention to the kitchen. But it gets put out quickly, and Rize says yes, so Sharo doesn't think it was too much of a disaster.
"The park seems really busy today," she observes, once they're there. People are running about everywhere, and there seem to be a lot more small children around than usual. "Do you think something's going on?"
"Let's do some recon!" Rize says excitedly, and while that makes Sharo a little nervous, she can't help but agree. Rize grins at her, and then immediately rolls behind a bush, ducking her head out to quickly glance around.
"Sharo," she hisses. "Take cover!"
Sharo has no idea where to hide, so she squeezes herself in behind Rize's bush, trying to ignore the way she's pressed shoulder to knee against the other girl.
"They all seem to be going west," Rize says. "We should follow them."
"Um," Sharo says. "Okay?"
Rize nods, and Sharo follows her back around the bush, surreptitiously brushing a few leaves from her clothes. Even pretending to be in a spy movie, she's having fun, just being around Rize - so much fun she doesn't even mind having to hide behind a tree or crawl underneath a bench every few steps.
In fact, she's just thinking that there's nothing that could make this day any better than it already is, when they reach their destination.
"A petting zoo," she reads. That explains the crowd and all the children.
"Wow," Rize says. "Sharo, you picked a great day to come!"
"I did?" she asks. Should she tell Rize she had no idea this was here? "I mean, do you want to go in?"
"Let's do it," Rize says, and Sharo smiles. Maybe it was worthwhile asking Cocoa and Chiya to help after all, because this is the best day she could have possibly -"
"Aargh!" she screams, looking down as something brushes her legs. Something small, and fluffy, with very big ears. "Rize, help!"
"It's just bunnies," Rize says, sounding confused.
"Exactly," Sharo tells her. She thoughts there would be goats, or lambs, or maybe some baby chicks she could hold. Something cute and non-threatening! This is ...
"This is a disaster," she moans, backing away from the rabbits into the corner of the pen. It's almost like they can sense her fear, she thinks, advancing towards her in a gang, cutting off her only hope for escape.
"Come on," Rize says then, grabbing her hand. "This way!"
Sharo runs with her, gripping Rize's hand tightly. She's not sure how they manage it, but somehow after a few moments they're outside again, the rabbits safely on the other side of the fence.
"That you," she says breathlessly, her face hot from embarrassment and exertion. This was her first chance at a date with Rize, and she can't believe she messed it up so badly. "Im so sorry, I didn't mean - I'll see you later!"
Running away from Rize really isn't how she thought this date would end, but then, nothing about today has gone the way she thought it would. (Obviously; it's not like she planned for everything to be a complete disaster.) But she can still fix this, right? She just needs to think of another way to thank Rize for saving her life.
"What am I going to do?" she asks, letting her head sink into her hands. Luckily Chino and Cocoa seem to be the only ones at Rabbit House today; Sharo doesn't know what she'd do if she had to face Rize right now. "Every time I try to do something nice, I just ruin it."
"You could still give her the sweets," Cocoa suggests.
Right, the sweets! Where did ...?
"They're underneath a bush," Sharo moans, remembering how she'd felt something slide out of her pocket in the park but had been to excited about being out with Rize to check. "I lost them."
"Oh," Cocoa says. "Then maybe you could -"
"You could just say thank you," Chino says, her voice quiet but firm enough to be heard over Cocoa.
"Thank you?" Sharo asks. "I can't just say thank you! It's not enough! What would I even say? Thank you, Rize, for saving my life by making that delinquent feral rabbit move out of the road, and then again for saving me from the mod of rabbits in the zoo! It was the most frightening things that's ever happened to me and you're so brave and I don't know what I'd do if you weren't my ... my friend?"
"You're welcome," says a voice from behind her.
Sharo turns around slowly. Please, please don't be -
But of course Rize is standing there, smiling at her. "It really wasn't a big deal," she says. "But I could walk you home from now on, if you like?"
"Yes!" she says immediately. And then, "No! I mean - I mean thank you!"
Rize is still smiling, like Sharo isn't weird or crazy at all, even though Sharo knows that's the way she looks right now. "I'd like to walk home with you."
She - she means as friends, right? Just friends? Even that sounds pretty great to Sharo.
"Maybe we could walk somewhere else," she says. "Like -"
Not the park. Or to her house.
"Like around the block?"
"You want to walk with me around the block?" Rize asks.
"Um," Sharo says. It sounds a lot more stupid when Rize says it out loud than it did in her head. "Yes?"
She's definitely blown it.
"Okay," Rize says. "Let's go for a walk."
And then she takes Sharo's hand.
"Wait," she says, after a second. "What's this?"
Sharo pauses. What was she holding - oh, no. She still had the picture, and she was going to throw it away, but then she got so distracted by Rize that she forgot, and now -
"Nothing," she says, trying to reach for it. But Rize has better reflexes, and she easily keeps it out of Sharo's grasp.
"Is this ..." she starts, looking at it carefully. "Is this a gun?"
"Yes?" Sharo says. "I drew it for you. I mean, if you like it, unless ..." Oh, no, it's terrible, Rize thinks it's terrible and she hates it and -
"This is so cool!" she says. "Can I keep it?"
"You want to keep it?" Sharo echoes, not quite convinced of what she's hearing.
"Of course!" Rize says. "I've never had anyone draw me a picture of a gun before. I love it!"
"Really?" Sharo asks.
"Really," Rize says. "Thank you, Sharo."
It's an amazing moment. A perfect moment. Just about the best moment of Sharo's life. Until she glances over and sees Cocoa, Chino and Chiya all staring at them, Cocoa giving an excited hand gesture behind Rize's back.
Well, she thinks. At least she has friends.
And best of all, she has a second chance at a date with Rize - and this time she's determined there won't be any rabbits at all.
She thinks. She hopes.
(She almost doesn't care if there will be.)