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Anomaly

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Kokoro Tsurumaki was the absolute worst roommate in the entire universe and nothing was going to convince Misaki otherwise.

It wasn’t as if she hadn’t prepared herself to get matched with someone that wasn’t, well… of similar personality. She knew the risks when she signed herself up for placements and didn’t specify who she wanted to room with. She’d volunteered, even, to be the odd man out amongst her other friends from Tokyo, who were all paired up with one another.

What she wouldn’t give now to swap with Arisa, who’d landed perfect roommate Sayo Hikawa. It was bound to be the quietest, most organized room on the entire campus. Even Moca would have been ideal in comparison, despite her neverending well of sarcasm and internet based jokes. At least Maya would actually understand her references, she supposed.

It’d only been one singular week since Misaki had set foot into her dorm for the first time ever, suitcase dragging behind her and a terrible, ominous feeling in her gut. Kokoro had already moved herself in, long blonde hair whipping around as she spun her desk chair in circles with her arms up as if she were on a rollercoaster or something and not in a place of higher learning.

That was the first time they’d seen each other, and the moment Misaki knew she’d made a terrible, terrible mistake. No words had been spoken, but Misaki felt like god himself had reached down through the universe and patted her on the head, out of sympathy, as her backpack fell off her shoulder and slumped to the floor.

A hand had shot out at the sound of the bag dropping, catching the corner of a desk and halting the furious spinning instantaneously. It was as if time had slowed down in those terrifying seconds, allowing Misaki to reflect on her life leading up until now. Had she done something wrong to deserve this? Did karma exist after all? She hadn’t even know what she was supposed to be afraid of, but she just was . She could feel it.

She would never, ever forget that day. The sun, melting gold across the hardwood floors and up the walls and over long shimmering hair. The glittering, bright yellow irises that flicked her way before she could even think of what to say.

And that smile, wide and brighter than it had any right to be.

Misaki had wanted nothing more than to wipe it right off her face.

---

“Are you sure you want to try and switch? It’s only been like two weeks,” Arisa told her as she flipped through a notebook.

They were sat together outside at a picnic style bench, thankful for the decent weather.

“Like, what if you get a worse roommate?”

Misaki sighed and picked at her bag of chips.

“I don’t think that’s possible. There’s no recovering from this.”

“You’re gonna kill the mood and we only just sat down, you know.”

“What mood?” Misaki glared at her. “Ecology is a mood now?”

Arisa ignored her tone, digging through her bag for a pen instead. Stray leaves fluttered down around them and Misaki swatted them away. Everything felt annoying now, since she’d met her living headache.

“You haven’t even told us about her, besides that you’d rather die than hang out in your room.”

Pen obtained, Arisa had begun underlining notes and adding tiny diagrams Misaki didn’t understand to the margins of her notebook. She was such a go-getter that she sometimes even almost kind of motivated Misaki to do literally anything.

Motivation - the bane of someone with an undecided major.

“We haven’t talked much,” Misaki crossed her arms. “Or at least I haven’t. I don’t think she’s stopped talking to breathe since I showed up.”

“Then how do you know you don’t like her?” Arisa continued her work without looking up.

“Half my room looks like a circus threw up in it.”

“I don’t know how to envision that but it can’t be that bad.”

But it was that bad. Everything Kokoro owned was either bright red or bright yellow, and she owned a lot of shit. Her bed was adorned with an excessive amount of pillows and stuffed animals, and she had so many articles of clothing that they spilled out of the drawers and scattered themselves across the floor.

She’d never once seen a proper writing utensil either - only crayons, dozens of them. A pricey laptop. Designer shoes and handbags. An old CD player covered in neon ninety-nine yen store stickers. She made no sense at all.

“I can’t even describe it to you but I don’t want to bring you over in case she’s there. She’ll never stop talking,” Misaki groaned and dragged a palm down her face. “Do you ever have regrets?”

“I don’t even know why you came with us to Kyoto to be honest.”

Misaki flicked her head around and spotted Sayo walking through the grass.

“To die.”

“Clearly,” Sayo stopped beside the table, but didn’t sit down.

“I think you should give her a chance,” Arisa went on. “We didn’t like Sayo when we met her either and now she moved here to hang out with us.”

Sayo’s eyes darted away for a moment. “I came here for education.”

“It’s nice to know you care about us,” Misaki quipped.

“Likewise,” Sayo nodded. “Is your roommate really that terrible?”

Misaki hunched over further in her seat, if it were possible. “I’m not having the same conversation twice. Just trust me when I say it’s bad, alright?”

“Yeah but you’re also the most pessimistic person we’ve ever met,” Arisa tapped her pen against her notebook, “so I think our doubt is totally valid.”

“I just want to have like ten minutes of peace and quiet where I’m not asleep or something,” Misaki muttered.

“Well good luck I guess.”

“Thanks, I can really feel your concern.”

“I think you’re being petty,” Sayo contributed unhelpfully. “I’ve lived with Hina for my entire life until now. I just had to deal with it.”

There was a moment of silence wherein Misaki considered what she should say next. It was obvious her friends just didn’t understand what Kokoro truly was, and so naturally they would pick on her for being a baby about a college roommate, who was another adult just like herself. She still didn’t feel like an adult though, even though she was technically out on her own for the first time.

Adults had to make decisions and think about the future. And graduate, probably.

Hina was pretty socially unaware, so Sayo did sort of kind of have a point. She and Arisa had heard countless earfuls of stories from Sayo about her struggles in dealing with her remarkably stunted (emotionally) twin.

But also, Misaki had a choice. She could just ask to be placed with someone else, and it wasn’t likely she’d be denied if she explained what was going on. Sayo couldn’t escape Hina without leaving home, but Misaki could absolutely escape Kokoro in the very near future.

The light wind rustled the leaves in the trees and Misaki stood up.

“I’ll request to be moved tomorrow. I’ve just got a bad vibe, you know?”

“Isn’t everything a bad vibe to you?”

Misaki gave Arisa a half-hearted glare before plucking her bag out of the grass and swinging it over her shoulder.

“I’ll see you later.”

Sayo waved her goodbye, while Arisa didn’t even look up from her notes.

The trek back to her building was long and lonely, but at least the sun was shining. On her way she sent a text off to Maya, secretly hoping she might be free so they could hang out and Misaki could play keep away with herself for as long as humanly possible.

Sure she had homework already, but she didn’t have to do that in her room. Although she did need her laptop, which was in her room. And she was kind of still hungry even after finishing off her chips. Her food was in there. Everything not in her backpack at the moment was in there.

Reluctantly and without a reply to her text, Misaki pushed through the front doors of her building and fished around in her pocket for her keys.

The walk to her door was much too short, she decided as she found herself standing outside of it already. Her arm refused to move, as if it knew she would have to mentally prepare herself before unlocking the door and bearing witness to whatever Kokoro was up to inside. She couldn’t hear anything coming from the other side at least. Maybe she could sneak in, grab what she wanted, and slip back out without being noticed.

Eventually, she did open the door.

Nobody was there.

She slipped her shoes off and found herself trying her best to be silent anyway, steps light and cautious as she made her way to her desk.

As expected, Kokoro’s half of the room was littered with… well, everything. Her bed was left unmade, pillows and stuffed animals barely escaping a cruel fate of being tossed to the floor. A mix of clothing and scattered pages with barely legible notes spread across the hardwood and somehow, up onto her desk. Dozens of CD cases had taken over any space that might have otherwise been used to house textbooks.

There was a new addition, Misaki observed. A string of lights was haphazardly pinned half to the ceiling and half to the wall above Kokoro’s bed, something they definitely weren’t allowed to do. Getting faculty to let her change rooms was going to be a piece of cake.

For a moment, she allowed herself to sit down at her own desk and breathe a sigh of relief. It was so… quiet.

The door swung open again and her dreams were shattered in the span of seconds.

“Misaki!” A voice called from the door. “You’re here!”

Misaki could hear Kokoro kicking her shoes off as the door slammed behind her; she could hardly bare to look, and yet she did anyway.

“I live here,” She responded automatically, as if she were talking to Moca instead.

Not for long , she thought to herself, fully intending to carry out her plan.

Kokoro tossed her backpack carelessly onto her mess of a bed and then hopped up onto it herself, swinging her legs back and forth over the edge. Her feet just barely touched the floor.

“What have you been up to today?”

Misaki sighed. She didn’t know how to respond - or rather how to not respond. Flat out ignoring her had accomplished essentially nothing so far. Maybe it was worth answering, with intentions to finish the conversation before it even began. It wasn’t like Kokoro was going to stop pestering her either way.

Kokoro didn’t even wait for an answer though.

“I had class all day, it was kinda boring. I thought it would be more fun here because at my house there’s nobody to talk to, but we aren’t supposed to talk in class.”

At her house? Was she homeschooled or something?

“Hmmm,” Kokoro hummed to herself. “I have homework but maybe I’ll do it later. I just feel like doing something exciting after all those classes in a row, you know?”

Misaki bit her lip.

“Do you have any ideas? I don’t really know what you do when you’re gone anyways. I bet it’s better than sitting around in here, whatever it is. I just don’t know what to do, so I can never make up my mind and then before I know it I’ve just been in here all day!”

Kokoro’s duvet puffed up as she fell backwards into it, legs still kicking back and forth.

“Oh!” Misaki watched Kokoro point up, as if she’s only just noticed her very own lights that she’d literally put up herself. “Did you see these? Do you like them?”

“We aren’t supposed to put pins in the walls.”

God, Arisa was right, wasn’t she? Misaki was just as depressing as everyone made her out to be. This time she had good reason though, right?

Kokoro shrugged awkwardly against her bed. “I’ll just get someone to fix it later.”

“Don’t you think you should fix it now?” Misaki felt like she was scolding some kid and not someone her own age.

“Well,” Kokoro sat up, “I like it the way it is. I think everyone should put up lights like this. Don’t you think they’re wonderful?”

Turning away to face her desk, Misaki rubbed at her temple. She could sense the impending headache. Any time now.

“You still never said what you got up to today. But as long as you enjoyed yourself then I wonder if it matters?”

“It doesn’t,” Misaki snapped, regret following her tone. As annoyed as she was, she had no reason to be genuinely mean. She didn’t consider herself to be an inconsiderate person, after all.

She looked back at Kokoro, who appeared nothing more than passive.

“You’re right. As long as you’re happy, that’s good,” Kokoro nodded to herself.

The silence that followed was uncomfortable to say the least. Misaki found herself eyeing Kokoro as her bright eyes darted around, not looking at anything in particular. The conversation was over. They could stop now. And yet… the little Arisa that lived on Misaki’s shoulder was whispering in her ear.

Give her a chance , she said.

She wasn’t wrong , Misaki supposed. She really hadn’t bothered to learn very much about her eccentric housemate. Whether or not she wanted to, she didn’t know. She would be gone soon anyway.

“I hung out with my friends at lunch.”

There. A real answer. It made her feel a little less bad about how snippy she was being.

Kokoro’s attention flew back to her in an instant.

“Oh, really? That sounds like fun! What’s it like?”

Misaki’s eyebrows rose. “What’s it like?” She repeated. “What do you mean?”

Grin returned to her face, Kokoro’s legs began kicking back and forth once more.

“Hanging out with friends. I’ve only got one, but it sounds nice to have a whole bunch!”

Misaki blinked. Was she following the conversation correctly? Kokoro had to be like, almost twenty if not early twenties. The concept of not having met more than one human she could get along with was baffling.

“You have one friend? Do you mean here?” Misaki felt her voice slow down, as if her brain knew she was meant to tread carefully in this new and confusing territory.

Kokoro nodded. “Yeah, I didn’t meet her that long ago and we don’t talk a lot. But I think she listens to me sometimes at least.”

Alright. So the annoying girl who talked forever only made like, one friend. It seemed kind of fitting, as much as Misaki hated to think of it that way. Tolerance for other humans could only stretch so far. Knowing that though, the words still tugged at her heart. Only a little.

Misaki slumped in her chair. “You should spend more time with her then. I’m sure she’s happy to have you around.”

A ploy, perhaps, for sanity’s sake.

Kokoro gave her a curious look, head tilted. She leaned back a little, resting her palms on her bed sheets.

“I’m trying, but you’re hardly ever here, Misaki!”

Misaki found herself opening her mouth, with no words to put out. What could she even say to that? It was clear there was some kind of miscommunication going on between them. Some rift, vast and bottomless, split right down the middle of the room.

The pause at those puzzling words might have lasted hours, Misaki wasn’t sure. She couldn’t deal with something like this. She wasn’t prepared. She wanted to hang out with Maya instead.

And so, she said nothing.

She turned away, opened her laptop and resigned herself to an evening of homework and an early bedtime.

Behind her, Kokoro hummed to herself.

---

Three days later, Misaki still hadn’t talked to anyone about moving. Or rather, she’d tried at least once, but the wait to actually talk to anyone was too long for her liking, and she’d resolved to do it another day.

Avoiding Kokoro was more difficult than before, because now she actually felt genuine guilt about doing it. None of their classes lined up, at least, so it was the in between time she had to worry about.

Misaki herself had returned to not talking mode, while Kokoro had been continuing on as she had been since day one. Telling Misaki about her day, what she did in class, what she ate for dinner. Anything and everything, Misaki was learning it regardless of whether or not she wanted to.

The new problem, she found, was that she wasn’t actually sure what she should be doing. She was a good person. But she still had her limits.

If she waited long enough, Kokoro was bound to make new friends who actually were her friends. She’d be fine if Misaki left. Surely.

As it so happened, the new friends Kokoro took it herself upon to make… were Misaki’s.

She came around at lunch one day, when they were all sat at the picnic table outside in the waning shade.

Misaki seized up from her spot between Arisa and Moca as Kokoro approached them, broad smile and lunch box in hand.

“I take it that’s her?” Arisa whispered, no doubt feeling the sudden tension that came to rest between all of them.

Misaki could only nod, lips pursed.

She skipped as she closed in, golden yellow hair billowing behind her, reflecting the sun and just about glowing. Her cheeks were rosy, eyes bright as always. Very bright. She was so bright.

So loud, so obnoxious.

“Hi, Misaki!”

Everyone at the table turned to look at her along with Kokoro. The attention was unbearable.

As if sensing that Misaki was debating whether to get up and walk away, Moca broke the thickening ice.

“Oh, did you invite your new friend to eat with us today? You should have said something, Moca-chan would have dressed nicer~”

“I-I...” Misaki stuttered, gaze still fixed on Kokoro. “I… did you need something?”

Well, that didn’t sound so good. What else was she supposed to say though?

Kokoro shook her head in response. “Not need . But I want to meet your friends. They’re all you talk about! Well, when you do talk, anyway.”

“Misaki-chan’s a real downer, ain’t she?” Moca droned.

Kokoro laughed at that. “I don’t think so. Not on the inside anyway.”

“What does that mean?” Misaki gave Moca a deliberate shove with her shoulder.

Little more than a shrug and a smile was her answer.

“Anyone else getting awkward vibes here?” Maya piped up.

“Yes,” Misaki spoke quickly, still eyeing Kokoro warily. “Don’t you have homework to do or something?”

“Yeah, but I have lunch to eat first. Who wants to do homework on an empty stomach?”

Moca slapped the table with her open palm. “Exactly. Moca-chan’s with the weirdo on this one.”

“Is that why you never do your work, Aoba-san?” Sayo glared at her. “Because you’re always hungry?”

“Very perceptive, Sayo. I’m a genius anyways, so it’s okay if one or two assignments are a little late, right?”

“You mean all of them?” Maya raised her eyebrows. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you turn something in.”

Misaki had ignored the exchange for the most part, instead following Kokoro’s eyes as they darted between her friends. Her smile was… unsettling. As if it was just there because she didn’t really understand what was happening.

Wordlessly, Kokoro wormed her way between Sayo and Maya and sat herself down right across from Misaki.

Sayo looked as if she didn’t know what she was supposed to do, while Maya put forth a nervous laugh, moving aside regardless.

“You guys are funny,” Kokoro told them as she set down her lunch. “No wonder Misaki is friends with you all, I could listen for hours!”

“You want to listen to us one-up each other for hours?” Arisa wrinkled her nose, but didn’t sound anything close to hostile. The reaction wasn’t… quite was Misaki was expecting.

“You can’t just sit here?” Misaki offered her own suggestion, trailing off into something that sounded more like a question. She still couldn’t really believe this was happening to begin with.

Kokoro pulled out her chopsticks. “Oh, but I’m already sitting? It wasn’t that hard. I just… sat down,” She glanced at the bench beneath her.

Moca stifled a laugh while Sayo chose to simply look in the opposite direction.

“She isn’t wrong, Misaki-chaaan,” Moca tapped her temple. “It’s not hard to sit down at all.”

Misaki sighed. She felt as though she was being ganged up on, but really it was more like she was fighting a losing battle with someone who she already knew had a poor understanding of reason. Moca wasn’t helping, and neither was anyone else.

It was just so awkward . The atmosphere. Kokoro, who was still happily glancing back and forth between her new company while she stuffed her face. Misaki herself, even.

“So, what’s everyone been up to? Anything fun?”

“Kokoro, you should-” Misaki had been about to say something along the lines of ‘go’ or ‘leave’, but Arisa, of all people, had something else in mind.

“Nothing too exciting, unless you think school is fun.”

“I enjoy class,” Sayo spoke up, carefully returning to the conversation.

“Because you’re a huge nerd,” Moca crossed her arms and rested her head on the table. “A big lame-o, just like Ran.”

“I like class too!” Kokoro’s eye lit up, even brighter if it was possible. “We get to learn a lot of new things. Sometimes it’s boring but mostly I like it.”

Misaki felt herself slowly giving up. She considered leaving, but that would be like… losing, or something. Kokoro’s face was glowing. Like it was all she could see. Did she have to be so cheerful all the time about absolutely everything?

“You remind me of Kasumi,” Arisa pointed a chopstick in Kokoro’s direction. “You don’t know her, do you?”

“I don’t know anyone,” Kokoro replied, happy tone unchanged. “Who’s Kasumi? Another friend?”

Arisa shook her head. “My girlfriend, back home in Tokyo. I have a feeling you both have the same… thought process.”

Of course . Misaki, being friends with Arisa, had encountered Kasumi many a time. She was a ball of energy and a bit of a ditz, the kind of person that tired Misaki out within minutes. How Arisa dealt with her or even liked her was beyond Misaki’s comprehension. They just didn’t make sense together.

Much to Misaki’s horror, the conversation actually continued. Really it was more like Kokoro was having a conversation at her friends, and they were half heartedly responding to her every now and then. So, she resolved to do nothing as per usual. Her half eaten lunch remained half eaten, and the shade inched slowly away from them. The table warmed beneath her hands as the sun came around, vision hazy as she zoned out into what felt like an incoming headache.

In the center was a flash of yellow, sitting across from her and waving her arms back and forth. She’d have to quit being so lazy sometime soon and get herself the hell out of this situation. Kokoro was just so loud. And shiny.

“... right Misaki?

“Hm?” Misaki blinked and shook her head. Was Kokoro talking to her again?

“I was just saying, it’s fun being roommates. Right Misaki?”

In the time Misaki had spent zoned out, sunlight had coated Kokoro’s smiling form, lighting up her long choppy hair and making Sayo lean a bit to the right to get away from it. She wanted to say no, she really did, but seeing how happy she was…

Misaki was not a mean person. She was a good person. Honest. Mostly.

“If you say so.”

As always, she was met with a grin, wider than the last. How confusing.

It was after she smiled that Kokoro packed up the remainder of her lunch and left for a class, giving everyone a wave and a “nice to meet you” on her way out. Relief flooded Misaki’s mind and she let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. A long, tired one.

“So that was bad,” Sayo muttered. “But it could have been worse.”

Maya nodded. “From the way you described her I was expecting someone way more difficult. She just seems happy?”

"You’re the most optimistic person at this table,” Misaki argued, “I don’t think you have a single pessimistic bone in your body.”

“I think she’s great. Real easy to get under Misaki-chan’s skin using our new friend,” Moca wiggled her eyebrows, leaning back in her seat to stretch her arms above her head. “Way too easy.”

“Yes, very funny.”

“You think she’ll come back?” Arisa nudged Misaki with her elbow.

“Highly likely. We should probably sit somewhere else. Anyway, I have class soon and I already feel exhausted,” Misaki lifted her hat up for a moment to scratch her head. “I’m out.”

She gathered her things and walked away, in the direction opposite the one Kokoro had skipped off in.

She was half way to class before she noticed Arisa had fallen into step beside her.

“So what was that about?”

“What? Kokoro? She just does whatever. Hopefully you get what I mean now.”

Arisa hummed. “I get why you haven’t moved yet.”

Misaki stopped and stared at her, repositioning her bag on her shoulder.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I was born with eyes, you know.”

“Congratulations, do you want a prize?” It wasn’t often Arisa could work her up about anything, they got on really well. The short lived encounter with the blonde bomb had already soured her mood though, and she wasn’t up for subtleties.

Arisa rolled her eyes. “I mean, you were staring at her the whole time. Like you just checked out looking directly at her.”

Misaki nearly choked on her own tongue. “Are you kidding me? You’re crazy.”

She turned her back on Arisa and kept walking, but her friend caught up with her slow strides easily.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you do that before. It was freaky.”

“It was nothing. You’re just projecting your own girlfriend onto someone you don’t even know.”

“You’re right,” Misaki was stopped suddenly, by Arisa’s hand grabbing her forearm, “none of us know her. I’m not saying she’s not a totally annoying nutcase or anything, but if Kasumi’s taught me anything it’s that anyone deserves a chance.”

“You sound like my mom.”

“Yeah it’s gross. Just don’t forget when we all gave each other chances, too.”

She was referring to their little friend group of course. Before meeting each other, Arisa had been nothing more than a hermit who rarely attended school until she joined a band. Sayo was a scary member of the discipline committee with a sibling complex and a resting bitch face. Moca a delinquent with perfect grades, Maya found squeezing herself under a couch in the studio Arisa’s band frequented.

And Misaki had been, well… lonely. Lonely, and fresh off the turmoil of her parents divorcing, among other things.

They were all a little strange.

Misaki took her arm back.

“I’ll think about it.”

And she left Arisa behind beneath the trees.

---

Tonight, Misaki was absolutely going to cut Kokoro off, no ifs, ands, or buts. She’d crossed a line by sitting with her and her friends earlier, and Arisa had crossed another even more ridiculous line not soon after.

Things were going to get out of hand if she didn’t do something soon.

Misaki was sat up in her bed, picking at an essay on her laptop on and off. Across from her was the mess that Kokoro called her own bed, full of beady-eyed stuffed animals that had nothing better to do than take up space and stare endlessly at her. The twinkling fairy lights were on, still pinned to the wall.

Kokoro was in the washroom, humming to herself, until she wasn’t. She waltzed out with a toothbrush in her mouth wearing nothing more than her undies and a bright yellow t-shirt, smiling around the bubbles that threatened to spill from her mouth.

Misaki focused intently on her laptop, wondering where Kokoro’s modesty was and when was the soonest she could get it back.

“Mwisakiii!” Kokoro slurred as she shoved her toothbrush around, practically vibrating as she paced back and forth across the room. “I had swo much fwun todway!”

“Great.”

Misaki hadn’t meant to reply, it just kind of came out automatically. She was still typing away, hesitant to give Kokoro any sort of attention at all.

“Isn’t it?” She pulled her toothbrush out of her mouth. “You have so many friends! Arisa seems nice. Sayo was a little grumpy but at least she thinks school is fun.”

“Can you go spit out your toothpaste before you get it on what little floor we have left?”

Misaki paused for a moment and nodded downwards, to where Kokoro’s wardrobe lived.

“Oh, sorry.”

She skipped away for a few seconds, and returned just as quickly. She practically leapt onto her bed and the duvet fluffed up around her, stuffed animals flying every which way as she rolled over and sat up to face Misaki.

Misaki looked up at her, just for a moment. She was smiling like always.

“You could stand to clean up your mess at some point, y’know.”

Kokoro looked from Misaki to the floor, once, twice, and then shrugged.

“I don’t usually have to do that myself. I guess nobody does it for you here?”

Misaki blinked. “Huh?”

“At home there are nice ladies who clean up for me. I never have to worry about a thing!”

“You have… you have maids?”

Kokoro tapped her chin. “Oh, well I kind of imagine them more as almost friends. They’re nice to talk to but they’re all way older than me.”

Right. Kokoro has maids. People who clean up after her. How old is she anyway? She must have come here right out of high school or something, based on how naive she was about literally everything including social awareness.

“I think your friend likes me, the one who called herself Moca-chan.”

There was a pang of something Misaki couldn’t identify somewhere in her chest. Moca had very obviously been making fun of her.

“Moca isn’t easy to get along with.”

“What makes you say that?”

Misaki leaned her head back against the wall and sighed. “She was just poking fun at you to bother me.”

Kokoro crossed her legs and bit her lip, for a single moment slipping out of the sunny disposition she hadn’t yet lost since day one. Her eyes trailed down, as if she were thinking on something for a barely existent second. She looked back up at Misaki, smile at half mast.

“It’s better than nothing, isn’t it?”

Her unexpected response left Misaki gripping at her bed sheets, essay suddenly forgotten. Grey irises followed the outline of choppy golden bangs, as if Kokoro’s somewhat solemn expression would help her find her words.

Kokoro continued without her input.

“I really mean it. I’ve never done anything like that before. Like, hanging out with so many friends.”

She tilted her head to the side as if in thought.

“It’s always been hard for me to make friends. You have some pretty good ones, so you’re really lucky.”

Misaki’s hands closed her laptop on their own.

“You don’t even know them.”

As soon as the words left her mouth, Misaki felt like she’d shot herself in the foot. She could feel Arisa’s fingers pressing into her arm again, urging her to give the girl who wouldn’t shut up a real, genuine chance before brushing her off forever.

Misaki didn’t know Kokoro and Kokoro didn’t know her.

“I don’t know you that well either,” Kokoro stole the words from her brain, “but isn’t getting to know each other the fun part?”

The irritating brightness from earlier returned full force. Maybe if Misaki didn’t sleep facing the wall, she’d see Kokoro glowing in the dark from under her blankets at night.

How was she supposed to bail now? Would Kokoro even understand what happened if she left? The questions grew more plentiful with each passing second.

The thought crossed her mind that perhaps she could find someone to swap with her, instead of leaving Kokoro alone. That would be much less cruel. If only Kasumi had come along with them, but then again she’d probably stay with Arisa.

“You probably don’t want to get to know me that well,” Misaki muttered. “I’m not very exciting.”

“You’re mysterious,” Kokoro replied, grin slowly returning. The uncomfortable moment had passed. “And you look really mad all the time. You should tell me why one day, okay?”

The conversation had ended there, with Misaki folding herself into her blankets and flicking off her reading lamp. Kokoro had sent her a good night, and as usual she wasn’t inclined to respond. Those words had done something to her in that moment, made her stomach drop.

Misaki would keep herself to herself, that was certain.

It was her uncertainty that kept her awake, long into the night. She had no idea where it was coming from, but it existed somewhere deep inside, where she rarely wandered. It was best to ignore it.

---

On a bright afternoon, where the sun was shining in through the balcony doors, Kokoro accosted Misaki by shoving a piece of paper in her face.

She recognized it as the math exam she’d just barely passed by the skin of her teeth, narrowly avoiding failure. She wasn’t stupid, she just lacked motivation. It manifested itself in her schoolwork, which made sense.

What didn’t make sense, in this very moment, was Kokoro’s perfect grade. Not one single mistake? How could it be possible?

“Look, I got them all right! Isn’t that wonderful?”

Kokoro pulled her exam back and gave it a look filled with determination.

“I didn’t even know I was this smart. What did you get, Misaki?”

Misaki’s eye twitched and she slumped in her desk chair.

“I passed.”

Kokoro put her hands on her hips. “Well that’s good too. Sometimes that’s all you need, you know?”

Misaki did know, passing had been her entire high school career. Aimless and fruitless. She lacked interest, and in turn it sapped her of any drive she had to succeed. Everything in moderation sometimes proved to be too little.

She wasn’t really in the mood to talk to Kokoro, but it wasn’t likely she would be given a choice.

The girl in question spun her own chair around and hopped onto it backwards, swinging her legs out the sides.

“You look upset. You didn’t do as well as you wanted?”

Misaki couldn’t rip her eyes away from the paper in her hand. Her grade wasn’t what bothered her.

“I don’t care about that.”

Misaki leaned to one side, resting her elbow on the arm of her chair and propping her chin up with her hand.

“But you’re not happy?” Kokoro prodded, eyebrows furrowed in concentration.

“It’s not about happiness. I mean, the problem is that I don’t care.”

Misaki had no idea why she was even entertaining Kokoro to begin with. Perhaps it just went hand in hand with the lingering thoughts of giving up in the back of her mind.

“Hmm, I don’t really get it.”

Misaki closed her eyes for a moment, to make the world around her go away.

“You and me both.”

She spun a little in her chair, pushing herself back and forth with her foot. Kokoro hummed at her, presumably satisfied with the answer she’d gotten, and flipped herself around in her own chair, which she could no longer spin about in thanks to the mess gradually piling up under her desk.

For the first time, Misaki felt voluntary words at the tip of her tongue as she realized she wasn’t quite done talking yet. To Kokoro? Maybe? Or, perhaps just in general as she finally put into words what she’d been feeling apprehension about for so long. Not caring was manifesting itself into less of an idea and more of a reality. It was distressing.

“Maybe this was a mistake,” Misaki said to herself, in front of Kokoro.

The sunny girl leaned forward in her seat, golden locks falling over her shoulders.

“What’s a mistake? You have this real sad look on your face right now.”

Misaki ignored her second comment and carried on with verbalizing her thought.

“Coming here. Without really knowing why? I don’t know. I’m probably just wasting money I don’t have.”

“How can you use money when you don’t have it? Ah, It’s hard for me to keep up with you today!” Kokoro cradled her cheek in her palm, looking somewhat lost.

“Student loans,” Misaki all but spat. “You don’t have any? My friends all had funds but I was an idiot and made the conscious decision to go to school for nothing entirely on loans.”

Kokoro leaned back. “I never really think about that stuff. I guess my parents are paying for it, they said I could do anything I wanted. They didn’t really mean that though. Why don’t your parents help you too?”

Misaki was beginning to suspect that maybe, perhaps, Kokoro came from money. Lots of money, if she’d never even heard what a student loan was until this very moment.

“My parents don’t have any money either,” Misaki replied, intentionally leaving out the part where they weren’t even together anymore.

“Oh, I see.”

Kokoro paused for a moment, seemingly distracted by nothing as she looked around the room. Her eyes darted about, glancing over Misaki as if she wasn’t even there. What a weirdo. Where did her mind go, in times like these? It happened often enough that maybe something should be said.

“What are you doing?” Misaki raised an eyebrow. “Spacing out?”

Kokoro snapped back into the conversation and gave her a grin. “Oh, I wasn’t feeling too good for a second so I was looking for something to take my mind off it. It’s nicer when you don’t have to feel sad about things.”

“I don’t really follow.”

“That’s okay, I thought about what you said anyway. Do you think maybe you came to school to find something that makes you happy? Is it still a waste if that’s why?”

Misaki looked at her, ready to brush her off with some sarcastic comment about being poor and sad ninety percent of the time, but caught herself as she thought of a question for Kokoro.

“What are you doing here, anyway? You don’t seem like the… college type.”

She absolutely had no interest whatsoever in Kokoro at all, she just wanted to know what her deal was. Maybe she was some secret natural genius, able to ace math exams without breaking a sweat. And if that was true, then how did she have no friends? A rich smart kid? Everyone wants to be friends with a rich smart kid. Then again, maybe not with the best intentions…

Misaki had no idea, since she wasn’t friends with one either.

Kokoro pulled her knees up to her chest, still sat in her chair.

“I’m supposed to be studying business. I think it’s really boring, no fun at all.”

Well. Okay then.

“That doesn’t suit you. At least, not from what I’ve seen.”

“Mhm,” Kokoro nodded, “I don’t want to but my parents said I have to. Cause I’m their only daughter, so I have to know how to run businesses and do taxes and give speeches. I don’t want to disappoint them, so I came out here.”

Misaki spared a quick look out the window, turning away from her companion. It wasn’t what she expected, to say the least. The sun was still bright, pushing shadows across the room from outside.

“You came to Kyoto? Is there some fancy business program or something?”

“No, I just wanted to get away from home. I was homeschooled until now, and I always had these people in suits following me everywhere. They did whatever I asked except let me go out on my own.”

The friendlessness explained, finally. The puzzle was coming together now. Sheltered rich girl syndrome.

“You had people following you around? Like bodyguards?”

The notion sounded stupid in Misaki’s head, but that’s what it seemed like Kokoro was describing.

Kokoro shrugged and rubbed her legs. “I dunno. They said I could make friends with the kids my dad’s friends brought over but they didn’t like me that much. They never wanted to have any real fun. No smiling, just boring all the time!”

Kokoro gave Misaki a look that said ‘they’re crazy, right?!’ and Misaki wasn’t quite sure what to do. She was learning so much (completely by accident, and not because she was at all interested) and yet she still had so many questions she could ask.

All she could say about herself was that she was a talentless normal human from Tokyo with half a family and no accomplishments whatsoever.

“At least you can afford to come here, even if you don’t like what you’re doing.”

It came out sounding a lot more terrible than Misaki had anticipated. She really just meant to point out that, at the very least, Kokoro wouldn’t have to worry about wasting anything if she quit half way through.

The unintended bitterness of the comment flew right over Kokoro’s head anyway.

“You might be right. I never really thought about that. I would still rather help people smile instead of doing paperwork like my dad does though.”

The curiosity in Misaki peaked, as much as it could while Kokoro was talking to her.

“I take it you would prefer to do literally anything else.”

Kokoro’s legs dropped and her arms flew up, wide smile splashing across her face in an instant. “I want to sing! Then I can help everyone smile! Even people like you.”

Misaki frowned as the girl across from her dropped her arms back down to her sides. “People like me need more than music to smile.”

“It’s a good start though, right?” Kokoro pressed eagerly. She was very clearly enthralled with the concept of making others happy, which was nice, Misaki supposed. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to consider what a song written and performed by Kokoro would sound like though.

“If you say so.”

“I do say so! But for now I want my parents to be happy, so I’ll do my best here. I’m already doing better than they expected, I think. So I have that to be happy about.”

Misaki’s eyelids drooped. “If your other grades are anything like that math exam then I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“No no,” Kokoro shook her head, “I mean like talking to people. Making friends! They warned me I would probably have a really hard time out here because of how I am, and that I could keep having private lessons if I wanted.”

“Sounds a little… harsh for them to say that,” Misaki crossed her arms. Maybe it was true and Kokoro’s parents were right, it just seemed odd that they would outright say that to her.

“Not really, it’s true. I know it’s hard for people to understand me. And I’m not good at negotiating or doing serious things a lot of the time. It’s because I have attention issues and my brain works a little different.”

A direct explanation hadn’t been expected, yet there it was. Misaki had to admit, it was reassuring to know that Kokoro was aware of herself, somewhat. Leaving would be much easier, if Kokoro could understand that much about herself and how she came off.

“I did already make a friend though,” Kokoro’s expression softened, clearly directing her observation at Misaki. “I really hope I can make some more. I did meet Sayo in class before I knew she was friends with you and she was super cold. I think if you’re there, even someone like her can be friends with me too.”

Misaki felt like she was shrinking in her seat. She’d almost forgotten she was supposedly friends with Kokoro. Her only friend, to be precise. It was only logical that Kokoro would think that way, since she’d never had anyone before and she was around Misaki all the time now anyway. So, maybe if she had more friends, she might be inclined to hang out with them instead of in their room, that also desperately needed cleaning.

Also, something in the pit of Misaki’s stomach had started growing the moment Kokoro had started talking about her life in general. She’d tried to imagine herself going her whole life until now without anyone to talk to, and found she couldn’t. It just made her miserable disposition even more miserable than usual.

As always, she reminded herself she wasn’t a mean person. She couldn’t truly just abandon her roommate after hearing everything so openly. Instead, it might be better to give her a boost before ducking out. Help her find some like minded friends who thought… differently, like she did.

That was the plan then.

“Misaki?” Kokoro’s voice snapped through her thoughts like lightning.

Misaki’s vision filled with gold, twinkling fairy lights and the sunlit silhouette of Kokoro across from her.

“Moca’s having a party,” Misaki blurted out. The heat coming in from outside warmed her cheeks. “Did you want to come with me?”

Kokoro’s smile only grew wider.

---

Misaki was decidedly not a party person. Not even one little, tiny bit.

In fact, she’d instantaneously denied Moca’s invitation the week prior, knowing what she was like and how many college themed American movies she’d seen. Parties were for social butterflies who actually wanted to talk to other humans, and not for someone such as herself who would much rather be trying her best to get to sleep.

It’s not that she didn’t want to go. She enjoyed spending time with her friends. Just, not the tens of other strangers who would likely be popping in and out for free drinks bought on Moca’s konbini discount that she still snuck herself even though she didn’t work at one anymore.

Drunk people and loud people were most of what Misaki expected they’d see. She wasn’t even positive that Kokoro had any idea what a college level room party was like to begin with. She was overly social though, so with any luck she’d find somewhere to fit in and talk herself into a friend circle that didn’t include Misaki.

On the walk over, Kokoro was practically vibrating beside her, talking nonstop at nobody about how excited she was to even be invited in the first place.

Technically she hadn’t been, but Moca had advertised that plus ones were allowed so it wasn’t like she could say anything anyway. She was more likely to take the opportunity to pick on Kokoro at Misaki’s expense again.

“What do people do at parties like this?” Kokoro asked Misaki as they walked down the hall in the direction of Moca’s room.

“I don’t know. Drink a lot and talk? I’ve never been,” Misaki pulled the brim of her hat a bit lower. She’d resorted to comfort clothes in an attempt to calm her nerves. If she was going to endure being pushed to her absolute social limit, she may as well get comfy in a classic hoodie-sweatpants combo while doing it.

Kokoro was in her normal attire, with shorts that would look cute if they were on anyone else. That’s what Misaki let herself think, anyway. Being annoying didn’t bar Kokoro from also being cute, it was just easier to not think about that one little detail too hard.

The party was divided between Moca’s room and the room beside hers that belonged to some other classmate, students lingering between the two as they jumped back and forth. There was music, kept to a minimal volume so they wouldn’t get told off, but loud enough that it was still difficult to make out much talking.

Moca was waiting at the door for them and Misaki pretended she hadn’t done a double take at the sight of Kokoro.

“Don’t,” Misaki issued her warning. She peered around Moca, wondering how there was even enough room to host a party in their dorms to begin with.

Sure enough, a couple clusters of students Misaki had never met before were crammed into it, wherever they could fit. Moca’s bed was all but gone, hidden beneath whoever was spread across it chatting up a storm. She could kind of see the corner of Maya’s bed, likely suffering the same fate.

Kokoro began hopping back and forth from one foot to the other beside her.

“Are we going in?”

“I don’t know if there’s even room.”

Moca held up a finger at them.

“Moca-chan will make room for her best friends. You just wait here.”

She leaned into her room and shouted for a couple guests to clear out, or at least pop over to the next room. While she did that, Kokoro looked between the three of them with sparkling eyes. No doubt Moca’s remark had convinced her they actually were friends now. Misaki would have to deal with the fallout later, probably.

Two girls shuffled out and Moca gestured for them both to come in.

Misaki swallowed but the lump in her throat remained. Her brain cells often evacuated when it came time to interact with people she didn’t know, so she was anticipating the worst.

Moca reached into the fridge and shoved a can of Asahi into her chest.

“You already look like you’re gonna combust.”

Misaki sniffed, but accepted the offering anyway. “You know me so well. I’ll need more than this though.”

Kokoro snatched the can from her hand.

“What’s this? Beer?”

Misaki snatched it back. “I feel like you shouldn’t be allowed to have this.”

“Can you even drink? How old are you?” Moca slowly raised her eyebrows at Kokoro. “Misaki’s responsible for you, ya know.”

Kokoro’s eyes followed the can. “I turned twenty last August so it’s fine!”

Misaki felt her eye twitch. “You’re older than me?”

Moca just laughed. “You’ll always be the fetus, sorry Misaki.”

“She’s older than you too, idiot!”

“Details, details,” Moca waved her off. Behind her, someone yelled a crude joke and the room erupted into laughter. “Does blondie want anything?”

Kokoro was busy trying to peer around the corner, into the room.

“Everyone’s laughing in there. Is this what you do at parties like these?”

Misaki shot Moca a look before she could say anything less than accurate.

“Moca asked you if you want anything,” She shook the beer can. It was a terrible idea but it wasn’t like they had a reason to deny her.

Kokoro shook her head. “No, I’m okay. It doesn’t taste good.”

Moca stepped aside as Misaki cracked her can open.

“Have fun then. Don’t cause too much trouble or Moca-chan’s gonna have to call the bouncer.”

Kokoro flew in, leaving Misaki behind in the hallway.

Moca wiggled her eyebrows at Misaki. “I’m starting to think Arisa was right about you. Any special reason you brought whats-her-name with you?”

“No. I don’t want to know what Arisa told you either. She’s just going to be lonely when I leave so I figured she could make some friends here or something. I don’t know. It’s stupid.”

She leaned against the wall and swirled her drink around. Moca was too nosey for her own good.

“Whatever you say, Misaki.”

Moca went back to entertaining while Misaki lingered.

---

Barely thirty minutes in, Misaki wanted to leave.

She’d tried her best to merge into the group conversations, but ultimately it proved too draining and she remained standing in the corner while Kokoro blabbed endlessly about whatever the current topic was.

Everyone was loud, the music was loud, people were drinking too much and Misaki couldn’t even get through one can before she poured most of it down the sink. It was as if she had a bubble in her stomach, that made it uncomfortable to drink or eat or do anything.

Thankfully nobody approached her after she’d backed off. Kokoro was sat in a circle on the floor along with everyone else. For a while there had been a ray of hope as Kokoro introduced herself to everyone, but as time passed it became apparent that she was being used as a source of non-Moca entertainment. Jokes and references flew over her head and it was easy to ask her questions to produce embarrassing or clueless responses.

There didn’t really seem to be anyone who was genuinely interested in her. It didn’t phase Kokoro though, so maybe her social obliviousness was actually useful this time.

“Misakiii!”

She looked up to see Kokoro, arms outstretched.

“Come sit with us! Everyone’s having fun!"

The other girls snickered and mumbled between themselves. The least they could do was hide their true intentions rather than be so blunt.

What they did wasn’t affecting Kokoro in the slightest. That didn’t make it right though, and she’d been the one to come up with the idea of coming here in the first place. She watched someone stumble into the tiny washroom out of the corner of her eye, hand over their mouth.

The usual glow around Kokoro was dim.

“I’m going outside for a while,” Misaki replied at last. Guilt pulled at her ankles as she brushed past Moca on her way out.

Down the stairs and through the double doors, Misaki pushed herself out under the moonlight.

She slid down the wall beside the doors until she was sitting on the cold ground. The conversation from earlier about why she was even where she was had been nipping at her heels all day, only adding to her slowly growing list of regrets. One of which was suggesting Kokoro come with her tonight.

She really was stupid, and worse, she’d left Kokoro in there with a bunch of people she didn’t know. Not that Moca wouldn’t keep an eye on her, but still…

The door pushed open beside her and a wave of golden hair flew out of it.

“Misaki?”

“Kokoro?”

Kokoro turned to look at her, smiling as she always did.

Misaki didn’t say a word as Kokoro sat down cross-legged next to her. The silence that followed felt weird, with Kokoro gazing happily upwards at the sky in a surprising moment of quietness while Misaki let her thoughts stew.

She closed her eyes and let her head fall back against the wall.

“Are you okay?”

Misaki pulled her knees up to her chest. The bubble in her gut had slowly receded as the cold air settled around her, far from the bustle of the party rooms. She opened her eyes.

“I’m okay now. Is there a reason you followed me?”

Kokoro turned her attention away from the night sky.

“You’re my friend. Do I need a reason?”

Misaki bit her lip and shrunk further into herself. She’d left Kokoro behind after all, of course she was likely to be followed. The outcome of the party had been predictable from the moment Misaki had suggested they go, and she still felt stupid for even entertaining the idea. She wasn’t like Moca, who could bounce off of everyone whether she knew them or not, and she wasn’t like Kokoro who could have fun in all her obliviousness.

“I’m not very good at talking to people,” Misaki muttered, more as an explanation to herself than anything. Kokoro was with her though, so maybe it was sort of for her too.

“You didn’t seem very happy in there,” Kokoro affirmed.

Misaki rubbed at her neck and nodded slowly. “It’s just, people I don’t know… they’re not used to me. I come off very negatively. At least, that’s what Arisa says.”

“So you’re scared to talk to people you don’t know in case you come off the wrong way?”

“Well, that’s the most basic interpretation I guess. I don’t think scared is the right word.”

Kokoro leaned back on her palms, flat on the ground. Her eyes trailed back upwards to the pitch black.

“I wonder why you wanted to come, if it wasn’t going to make you happy?”

Misaki’s heart jumped into her throat. Admitting that she’d technically done it for Kokoro’s sake would imply she was being considerate, when really she’d done it to make herself feel better about wanting to move. Technically she’d done it for both of them. Technically.

“I thought you might make some new friends if we went, that’s all.”

Misaki pulled her hat down, avoiding Kokoro’s gaze as the girl turned back towards her.

“Really? Ah, that’s amazing! But, I don’t think they liked me very much. It’s still the thought that counts though, I don’t think anyone’s done anything like that for me before.”

Before she knew it, Misaki was looking up into shining eyes, drawn to them regardless of whether or not she wanted to be. Kokoro’s smile was wider than it had ever been, if it were possible. The light from inside cast a soft glow along the edges of her cheeks, rosy red even in the darkness.

“It’s nice to see you smile, too.”

Misaki ripped herself away, looking anywhere that Kokoro wasn’t. How embarrassing.

“I’m just thinking,” Misaki’s shaky voice spit out as if it explained anything about her now lost expression.

“What about?” Kokoro’s voice drifted past. “You did look kinda spaced out.”

Had she? Misaki didn’t really recall spacing out. Lingering thoughts had been plaguing her regardless, as much as she didn’t want to admit it.

“Thinking on an off about earlier,” Misaki replied, voice somewhat normal again. “About why I’m here. That kind of thing is troubling.”

Kokoro hummed, lifting a finger to tap at her chin.

“You know, when you invited me to a party I kinda pictured it being like the ones at home, even though I knew it wasn’t the same.”

Misaki continued to look away, unsure about where Kokoro was taking her.

“A lot of people in fancy clothes come over, and we put out a ton of food in the ballroom and everyone just stands around eating and talking. There’s music, like with a whole orchestra, and some people give speeches.”

So Kokoro really was rich. Like Really rich, from the sound of things. Who even had a ballroom nowadays?

“It sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it?” Kokoro went on. “I get all dressed up and there’s a big dinner and everything. But nobody is happy or having any fun at all.”

Business parties, probably. Those weren’t really meant for fun, Misaki supposed.

“Everyone always seems so distant, like they’re just at the party because they have to be. I have to sit at the table and listen to what everyone tells me because they say it’s important. I find it strange that nobody seems to like it, but we keep doing the same things over and over again anyways.”

“I think that’s just how those kinds of situations go,” Misaki responded, lifting her hat to run a hand through her hair.

“That’s just it!” Kokoro’s voice rose. “It always goes the same way, every time. So why keep doing it if it doesn’t make you happy?”

Misaki shrugged. “Well, you don’t really know what those other people are thinking. Maybe they do like it.”

“I can’t decide what makes them happy,” Kokoro nodded, “but I can decide what makes me happy. And you can decide that for yourself, too.”

“Last I checked you were more concerned about how your parents felt than yourself,” Misaki finally looked at her again, recalling their conversation from earlier in the day.

Kokoro’s nose wrinkled a little, as if she was unsure what sort of look she should have on her face.

“It’s complicated. I’m not very good at figuring that out yet. Tonight though, don’t you think we could do something that’s more your kind of fun?”

Misaki felt her gaze soften involuntarily. Kokoro was too nice for her own good.

“The whole point was that this would be fun for you.”

Kind of. Not really. It was a means to an end, more like.

“I have fun just hanging out with you. So, anything you want to do is fine with me!”

This time, Misaki let herself smile. Just a tiny one though, nothing too extravagant. She ignored the tingling feeling at the back of her neck.

The walk back to their room was calm and quiet, Misaki with her hands in her pockets and Kokoro skipping along beside her at a steady pace. Moca would surely understand why they wouldn’t be coming back. She knew Misaki well enough.

Kokoro flicked the light on and kicked her shoes off in the doorway.

“We’ll watch a movie! I have a ton on my laptop.”

It seemed as though an executive decision had already been made. As long as she wasn’t the type to talk endlessly through entire films, Misaki supposed she could tolerate it just this once. It would give her the chance to unwind before delving back into the abyss that was searching for a solution.

Misaki watched as Kokoro practically ripped her laptop from her bag and threw it on her bed. She flung the duvet back and hopped in as best she could before she got to work shoving her pillows and stuffed toys out of the way.

“Could you turn the light back off?” She looked in Misaki’s direction.

Misaki rolled her eyes and complied. When she turned around, she saw Kokoro sitting up in bed, laptop in her lap and fairy lights twinkling above her. The spot next to her was astonishingly clean. She patted the empty space, clearly an invitation.

It was cute (once again, annoyance level didn’t prevent Kokoro from being cute) and not something Misaki was about to go along with. She couldn’t just leave Kokoro hanging though, not with such an obvious gesture having just taken place. Sitting beside Kokoro on her bed was ten steps too far forward, especially when she was still figuring out how to take twenty steps back.

Her awkwardness overcame her as she approached the space and did her best to sort of sit half-on and half-off the edge of the bed. Not too close and not too far. It wasn’t comfortable. It would be fine.

It didn’t seem to bother Kokoro, who was content to start the movie anyway. The two of them sat quietly together, while Misaki’s emotions stewed.