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Third Time's the Charm

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Matsuri never would’ve met Miyu without track.

When Matsuri started middle school she already knew which club she wanted to join. She loved to run, so the track club was perfect. She also loved to win. What she didn’t like to do was waste time on diversifying her training. Just running was enough; she didn’t need any fancy programs.

Matsuri’s times were good enough for her to run in the first track meet of the year. She was assigned to run in the 100 meter sprint. The meet was with a neighboring middle school that competed often with Matsuri’s school. She was going to run against students from all three grades from both schools. Matsuri marked the day on her calendar and counted down eagerly.

When the day finally arrived Matsuri could barely contain her excitement. She fidgeted in her seat all day and couldn’t stop her head from swiveling as the team traveled to the meet. Once they arrived, she practically bounced over to the teams seats. The 100 meter sprint was one of the last events, so Matsuri decided to watch all of the races before hers. They went by pretty quickly until the 400 meter race.

Matsuri glanced over the runners as they lined up for the race. Her eyes stopped on a tall girl with short black hair. The girl’s expression, and the fact that she was kind of cute, piqued Matsuri’s interest. The girl’s mouth sat in a straight line and her eyes looked forward, completely ignoring the crowd and other runners. She lined up on the blocks in perfect form, and when the race started Matsuri couldn’t look away.

She watched as the girl surged forward, quickly overcoming her competitors. As Matsuri watched she tried to find a word to describe the other girls form. After a moment, the only one she could come up with was ‘beautiful’. Matsuri felt her cheeks warm up as the other girl rounded the last turn. She ran in for the victory, and Matsuri jumped up to cheer for her.

As the other girl came to a stop her eyes snapped over to Matsuri. She looked mildly annoyed, but that didn’t stop Matsuri from cheering loudly. Matsuri hoped the other girl might come over, maybe even just to scold her, but she didn’t. The other girl walked back to her schools seats and rejoined her teammates. Matsuri was a little disappointed, though she couldn’t quite pin down why.

After a couple more races, it was Matsuri’s turn. As she lined up for the sprint, she wondered if that other girl was watching. Expecting her to watch was kind of unreasonable since they’d never actually met, but Matsuri still hoped.

Once the race began Matsuri stopped thinking about it. Her mind fell blissfully blank as she ran as fast as she could. Before she knew it she crossed the finish line, winning her first official race by .10 seconds. Matsuri felt a rush of elation as she jogged over to the crowd and flashed victory signs at them.

She glanced over at the other schools team, just to check, but couldn’t look away. The other girl, the one she’d cheered for, was clapping. She did it softly without drawing attention to herself, but Matsuri noticed. She took one step towards the other team, but was stopped by an older student. They told her to go back to the bench and start packing up, since there was only one event left. Matsuri followed reluctantly, and when she looked back a few minutes later the other girl was gone.


In between the first and second track meets Matsuri decided to change events. She submitted an official request to the coach, who seemed doubtful but accepted it anyway. Matsuri spent all of her training time practicing for the 400 meter race. She ran the distance over and over again, slowly building her stamina and whittling down her time. When the second meet came around, she was ready.

When it became time for the 400 meter race, Matsuri was thrilled to see the girl from before joining her on the track. Matsuri didn’t realize she was staring until the other girl looked at her inquisitively. She snapped her gaze away and pretended to be interested in the crowd. It took all her effort to keep a flush off of her face.

As Matsuri lined up on the blocks, she tried to put the other girl out of her mind. It was difficult to ignore someone so serious and cute, but even the slightest distraction could cost her the race. Matsuri didn’t know at the moment, but she didn’t have a prayer of winning that race anyway.

When the race started she took off. Matsuri didn’t think about her running, she just ran. But it wasn’t enough to win the race. The other girl pulled ahead in the opening stretch and stayed there the whole race. Matsuri just couldn’t catch up. In her efforts to run faster she wasted some stamina, allowing a few runners to pass her. She ended the race in fifth place. The other girl came in first.

Welp, Matsuri told herself, this is why the coach wanted you to run the shorter event. Even though she was out of breath and disappointed in herself, she couldn’t miss this opportunity to talk to the other girl. She walked over to where the other girl was still catching her breath.

“You were amazing!” Real smooth, Matsuri, she scolded herself. “I mean, congrats.” That was a little bit better.

The other girl smiled softly. “Thank you.” She said politely.

“I’m Amishima Matsuri.” Matsuri scratched the back of her head bashfully despite herself. Now that she was this close she could confirm that this girl was extra cute. They were about the same height too.

“Nice to meet you, Amishima-san. My name is Inamoto Miyu.” She met Matsuri’s gaze steadily. “You ran well, though a little unrefined.” She spoke bluntly, but truthfully.

“That’s me.” Matsuri gave her biggest grin. “A little unrefined.” Inamoto-san’s smile grew, and Matsuri’s heart skipped a beat. Before she had a chance to say anything else, an official called for them to leave the track. The next race was starting soon.

“I’ll see you around.” Inamoto-san quickly bid Matsuri farewell and vanished to her team bench.

“See ya.” Matsuri called after her and waved. She went to sit with her team, and a couple of them offered condolences for her loss. It was ok though, Matsuri wasn’t actually that upset about it.

“I got to meet Inamoto-san.” Her cheeks warmed up from just saying the name. “So it was worth it.”


After the second meet Matsuri had a problem. There was over a month until the next meet, and she couldn’t wait that long to see Inamoto-san. Even though they’d only exchanged a few words, Matsuri wanted to see her again.

So, one week after the second meet, Matsuri decided to go see Inamoto-san. She skipped track practice after school and went to the other middle school instead. She stood out like a sore thumb in her different uniform, but Matsuri didn’t really care.

It didn’t take her long to find track practice behind the school. Even though she found the track team easily, Inamoto-san wasn’t with them. She wasn’t among the runners or the girls stretching on the sideline. Matsuri wandered away from the practice, wondering where the other girl could be.

When Matsuri started looking in empty classrooms, she hadn’t actually expected to find Inamoto-san inside of one. The girl sat at one of the desks, scribbling away on some kind of chart.

Matsuri knocked on the doorframe to get her attention. “Yo.” She said with a wave.

“Amishima-san?” Inamoto-san seemed surprised, but calm. “What brings you here?” She questioned the other teen.

Saying ‘I wanted to see you again’ would sound desperate, so Matsuri went with. “I was just in the area.” Inamoto-san didn’t seem to believe her, so Matsuri cleared her throat and changed the subject. “What’re you doing in here?”

“I’m working on my training plan.” Inamoto-san tilted the paper so Matsuri could see it. The whole thing looked rather complicated.

“I usually just wing it.” Matsuri admitted as she walked over and sat at one of the desks.

“Some stricter training would’ve helped you last week.” Inamoto-san commented with a small frown. “But then you might’ve beaten me.”

“No way!” Matsuri held both of her hands up in protest. “You were great in that race, I didn’t stand a chance.” Her cheeks flared up again, and Matsuri felt like she dealt with this problem a lot with Inamoto-san.

“You flatter me.” Inamoto-san’s expression softened as she started putting her papers away.

“Anyway, even though I lost I still had fun.” Matsuri grinned, leaning back in her seat.

“Fun, huh.” Inamoto-san finished putting her papers in her bag and stood up. “Thank you for stopping by, Amishima-san, but it’s time for me to go to practice.”

Matsuri wanted to protest that she’d just gotten there, so Inamoto-san couldn’t leave yet. “Matsuri.” The blonde teen blurted out instead. “Call me Matsuri.”

“Even though we’ve basically just met?” Inamoto-san seemed dubious, but Matsuri really did mean it.

“Yeah.” She grinned with confidence. “This is our second conversation, so we’re friends now.”

Inamoto-san considered it for a moment. “Very well, Matsuri.” She said slowly, and the sound of her own name sent a chill down Matsuri’s spine. “Then you will call me Miyu.”

“Miyu.” Matsuri allowed the word to roll off her tongue; it sounded good. “Do you want to train together sometime?” She asked on impulse.

“Sure.” Miyu grabbed her bag to get ready to leave. “How does this Saturday sound?”

“It’s a date!” Matsuri said excitedly, before realizing her mistake and waving her hands in front of her. “I mean, a training session or something. You know what I mean.” Miyu seemed amused, and the two set up a time and place to meet.

That Saturday they met up for their training. Together they brought both passion and intelligence. They met up for training more and more often, and after a while started dating in secret.

The rest was history.