V. Middle School Love

(All three of them rehearse:)
Until that hazy answer appears
This love won’t…

(Haruki’s guitar playing lags behind at one point, but does not fall apart completely, and he ends cleanly. He is ecstatic.)

(1:00)

Haruki:             All right! No mistakes! Yes! I made it. (pause.) Hey, Touma, that was good, right? Setsuna, I didn’t get in the way of the vocals, right? (silence.) What’s going on, you two?
Kazusa:            Ogiso, the two of us need to have a meeting. Come to my room.
Setsuna:           Yeah… okay.
(The girls get up to go.)
Haruki:             Huh? What? Why just Ogiso?
Kazusa:            You did well just now, right, Kitahara? So I don’t need to have a meeting with you.
Setsuna:           Sorry about this, Haruki-kun. I’m going to borrow your teacher for a bit.
Haruki:             No, wait. What exactly am I supposed to do in the meantime?
Kazusa:            Good point. (she opens the door.) All right, keep playing the whole time. Once you’ve managed to play it through ten times with no mistakes, come and get us.
Haruki:             But the festival will be over by then!
(the door shuts. The girls arrive at Kazusa’s room.)
Kazusa:            Come in.
Setsuna:           All right.
(Kazusa shuts the door of her room.)
Kazusa:            Even Kitahara won’t come in here, as rude as he is.

(2:00)

(Setsuna opens the curtains and looks outside.)
Setsuna:           W-whoa! It’s getting light out.
Kazusa:            It’s nearly dawn.
Setsuna:           Wow… (yawns) We’ll have to start getting ready to go to school soon…
Kazusa:            Are you sleepy?
Setsuna:           Well, I can’t say “not at all.” My eyes are a little bleary. (chuckles) All right, then, let’s have our meeting. If we don’t finish everything up soon, we won’t be ready in time for the performance.
Kazusa:            Right. Since we’re short on time, I’ll just ask you straight out.
Setsuna:           Sure.
Kazusa:            Are you doing this on purpose, to give me a hard time?
Setsuna:           Wh-what?
Kazusa:            Are you still angry from before? Is that why you’re half-assing it?
Setsuna:           What are you talking about?
Kazusa:            Your singing just now was the worst it’s ever been, Ogiso.
Setsuna:           …
Kazusa:            I know you’re sleepy, and worn out, and not at your peak. But it’s obviously more than just that. Like you’re not going along with it.

(3:00)

Setsuna:           …
Kazusa:            Do you have any refutation to give to that? If so, I’ll be glad to listen.
Setsuna:           Touma, you…
Kazusa:            What?
Setsuna:           You really are only serious when it comes to music. But with that, you’re direct, harsh, and your intuition is good.
Kazusa:            That’s because, if you took music away, I’d have nothing left.
Setsuna:           I swear I’m not singing badly on purpose. I’ve been doing the best I can.
Kazusa:            Yeah? I apologize, then. I’m not taking back what I said, though—that was some seriously bad singing.
Setsuna:           Yes, I understand. I’m no expert, and even I could tell. I could feel the song scattering away from me. I couldn’t keep my voice from just slipping along.
Kazusa:            For someone so smart, Ogiso, you’re pretty intuitive. The movements of your heart come right out in your voice.

(4:00)

Setsuna:           You’re amazing, Touma-san. I thought the same thing at the boarding house before. You know my feelings better than I do.
Kazusa:            I wouldn’t say that.
Setsuna:           (to herself:) (Even though you refuse to understand his feelings. Even though you aren’t even trying to understand your own…)
Kazusa:            So, what are you going to do?
Setsuna:           What am I going to do…?
Kazusa:            Promise to renew your efforts and give it your best? Or decide that you can’t do it after all and give up the stage?
Setsuna:           Are those the only two options?
Kazusa:            Just so you’re aware, I’m not about to compromise after we’ve come this far. If you’re not going to make this the best performance you can possibly give, it’s not happening.
Setsuna:           You’re mean.
Kazusa:            Seriously, Ogiso, cut it out.
Setsuna:           Touma-san…
Kazusa:            Now is not even remotely the time to be doing this. You were the one, right at the start, who said we should work hard to finish our song.

(5:00)

Setsuna:           I’m sorry.
Kazusa:            So we can’t be fighting right now. For the sake of making this performance a success.
Setsuna:           Meaning… for Haruki-kun’s sake?
Kazusa:            For your sake, Ogiso. And… for mine, really.
Setsuna:           …
Kazusa:            This is a problem between the two of us, right? It has nothing to do with Kitahara.
Setsuna:           Touma-san…
Kazusa:            I… well, I might not be that close with you, or good at dealing with you, Ogiso, but I don’t hate you. Not in the least.
Setsuna:           I see…
Kazusa:            So, Ogiso…
Setsuna:           In other words, it’s not for Haruki-kun, but thanks to Haruki-kun.
Kazusa:            You’re fully determined to bring the conversation back to that, huh?
Setsuna:           Well, if you hadn’t gotten to know him, if he hadn’t forced his way into your life, would you be thinking about things between us this way, Touma-san?

(6:00)

Setsuna:           Trying to reconcile with somebody after a misunderstanding, talking together and looking to the future—would you have been able to think like that?
Kazusa:            …No comment.
Setsuna:           (laughs) You’re bright red, Touma-san. You looked exactly the same way the first time the two of us ever had a conversation.
Kazusa:            …
Setsuna:           I’m just kidding. Sorry about that, Touma-san. I’m getting carried away with my own whims again.
Kazusa:            Give me a break, will you? How am I supposed to answer questions about things I’ve never even thought about?
Setsuna:           So, I’m going to do one more selfish thing.
Kazusa:            Seriously? You’re not done?
Setsuna:           This is my last request. If you’ll do this for me, I’ll give everything I’ve got. I’ll force my energy as high as it can go, and give my best performance.
Kazusa:            Ogiso…
Setsuna:           So, will you tell me?
Kazusa:            Tell you what?

(7:00)

Setsuna:           The name… of the boy you like.
(cut to Haruki, practicing. He flubs a note and shouts in despair:)
Haruki:             Aaargh! Right after I got eight in a row with no mistakes! Dammit! Time to start back over from the beginning…
(he begins playing again. Cut back to the girls:)
Kazusa:            (flustered) Wh-wh-what the hell are you thinking Ogiso?!
Setsuna:           Well, this is what you’re supposed to talk about when you’re having a sleepover!
Kazusa:            This is completely unrelated to anything we’ve been talking about so far!
Setsuna:           Sounds like you’re avoiding the question!
Kazusa:            …
Setsuna:           C’mon, who do you like? Well, I actually know, but… I just want to hear it straight from your mouth.
Kazusa:            Y-you really are my natural enemy. I may not hate you, but I’m completely incompatible with you.

(8:00)

Setsuna:           Once I know that answer, I think I’ll be able to put my heart into this song. These feelings that can’t go anywhere right now will be sure to reach their mark some day.
Kazusa:            That’s a complete lie! You’re just getting back at me!
Setsuna:           (to herself:) (Well, I’d say I’m self-destructing, but…)
Kazusa:            A-anyway, if you’re going to stick your nose into someone else’s private business, you should start by giving your own—
Setsuna:           (cuts her off) The boy I like the most is Haruki Kitahara-kun, from class 3-E. Will that do?
(Kazusa is stunned into silence.)
Setsuna:           I don’t think you have any reason to be surprised. It’s not like I’ve been trying to hide it.
Kazusa:            (muttering) You couldn’t at least have hesitated for a second…?
Setsuna:           So, what’s your next excuse going to be? I’m confident I can talk all of them down.
Kazusa:            U-umm… I mean, come on. Getting all excited about telling each other what boys you like is something you do in middle school.

(9:00)

Setsuna:           You’re right. This is just like middle school.
Kazusa:            If you’re aware of it, why don’t you quit this ridiculous…
Setsuna:           I always wanted to do this. The kind of love talk middle school girls have.
Kazusa:            Huh?
Setsuna:           A lot went on when I was in middle school, so I was never able to chat with anyone about boys I liked.
Kazusa:            Ogiso…
(Haruki continues practicing, flubbing the same note as before.)
Haruki:             Argh! Shoot! I messed up in the same place again. What if I get stuck doing it that way…?!
(he starts over.)
Setsuna:           And there you have it. The story of the loser, Setsuna Ogiso, and her middle school years.
Kazusa:            …
Setsuna:           Compared with your own past, Touma-san, I’m sure my pain is nothing that terrible, but…
Kazusa:            You don’t have to say that.
Setsuna:           Well… I guess there’s no point in comparing in the first place…

(10:00)

Kazusa:            Yeah.
Setsuna:           You’re the second person I’ve ever told about this, Touma-san. I’ve never even told Io.
Kazusa:            Then, the first one was…?
Setsuna:           Granted, I didn’t actually have a boy I liked back then, so maybe I wouldn’t have been able to chat about boys anyway.
Kazusa:            I… see…
(they pause. Birds chirp.)
Setsuna:           The sun is rising.
Kazusa:            It’s about seven in the morning now.
Setsuna:           Wow. We’ve already reached that hour…
Kazusa:            Yeah.
(pause.)
Setsuna:           All right, now it’s your turn, Touma-san!
Kazusa:            We finally just got to a comfortable atmosphere here. Why can’t you let it end on that note?
Setsuna:           I told you the name of the boy I like. I even told you all that embarrassing stuff about me in middle school!

(11:00)

Setsuna:           If I don’t get something back from you, it won’t be balanced, right?
Kazusa:            Ogiso, do you really understand how you look right now?
Setsuna:           Yep, I know. I’m acting like an unruly child. So, all you can do is back down, Touma-san.
Kazusa:            Isn’t it an option for you to back down?
Setsuna:           I could back down, but then I’ll be stuck with this murky feeling, you know. I might sing terribly again.
Kazusa:            You’re playing dirty.
Setsuna:           Which one of us is playing dirty? I’ve answered everything you asked me.
Kazusa:            Urk…
Setsuna:           Touma-san, you want me to give it my all, right? You want to make this show a success, right? For me, and for yourself.
Kazusa:            Mmph…
Setsuna:           Look, you can relax, Touma-san. I would never think of telling Haruki-kun the name you told me!
Kazusa:            Wait, why are you bringing Kitahara into it already?

(12:00)

Setsuna:           All right, I won’t say his name. I’ll ask you totally flatly.
Kazusa:            No, listen…
Setsuna:           Now, take it easy. All you have to do is say seven syllables.
Kazusa:            Why have you already decided how many syllables it is?!
Setsuna:           Okay, I’ll restrain myself. I’m leaving the rest up to your own autonomy, Touma-san.
Kazusa:            Even though you’re completely forcing me to do this…
Setsuna:           So, come on.
Kazusa:            U-um…
(Setsuna giggles.)
Kazusa:            W-well…
(Setsuna giggles again.)
Kazusa:            Th-the one…
Setsuna:           Yes?
(the clock begins to tick audibly.)
Kazusa:            Th-the one… I like…?
Setsuna:           Yes, yes?
Kazusa:            W-well, if there’s no real deep meaning to it, just someone I don’t especially hate…
Setsuna:           Just say his name. Now, Touma-san.

(13:00)

(Kazusa pauses, takes a shaky breath, then sets herself to speak.)
Setsuna:           Yes, that’s the spirit. Say it, say it! I told you first, right? Nothing to be embarrassed about!
(Kazusa takes one more deep breath.)
Setsuna:           …
Kazusa:            Th-the one…
Setsuna:           Yes?
Kazusa:            The, um, the one I like…
Setsuna:           …
(the ticking echoes more loudly.)
Kazusa:            …There isn’t anyone.
(ticking stops.)
Setsuna:           Touma-san, you coward!
Kazusa:            There really isn’t! What do you want from me?! I answered honestly!
Setsuna:           Liar! You’re a liar, Touma-san! Liar liar liar liar!
Kazusa:            I’m not lying! Since the day I was born, I have never once been interested in a guy!

(14:00)

Setsuna:           Unbelievable! Here you are accusing me of talking about love like a middle schooler, and you’ve got an elementary school crush!
Kazusa:            I don’t have a crush!
Setsuna:           I knew a girl just like that in elementary school. It was obvious to everybody around, but she tried so desperately to hide it. “No, no way! I hate him!”
Kazusa:            Call me whatever you like. All I’ve ever been interested in is the piano.
Setsuna:           Why do you so adamantly refuse to be honest? You’re trying so hard to help him, and stand by him, and yet…
Kazusa:            That’s just your own mistaken impression, Ogiso. And what about you? Why would you fall for an idiot like that? What’s so good about him?
Setsuna:           You know… probably for the exact opposite reason you did.
Kazusa:            I’m telling you, there’s no “reason” on my side to begin with.
Setsuna:           Compared with other boys, he never really looked at me that much as a girl. It felt nice.
Kazusa:            Wait. Then, the exact opposite of that would be…

(15:00)

Setsuna:           It was nice, but it got on my nerves a little. So I decided that, whatever it took, I wanted to make him more aware of me as a girl.
Kazusa:            Why are you so fixated on him? He’s not a match for you at all.
Setsuna:           I never really thought about it that way.
Kazusa:            You’ve been Miss Houjou High for two years in a row. You could at least raise your standards a little. Don’t compromise so much.
Setsuna:           Huh? Don’t you think Haruki-kun is a little cooler than the rest, though? And yet, it’s just a little. That moderation is a nice thing, too.
Kazusa:            What are you talking about? There are limits to “a little,” too. This is too little.
Setsuna:           You’re not denying that he’s above the rest, though.
Kazusa:            He’s an honors student playing at being in a band where he doesn’t fit. And he’s painfully stupid.
Setsuna:           I think his imperfections are part of his charm.
Kazusa:            Seriously, what are you saying? He’s nothing but flaws. He can never take a hint, he insists on pushing into everyone else’s business, he’s a nuisance…

(16:00)

Setsuna:           But, he never demands anything of anyone in return. He’s honest and sincere with everyone.
Kazusa:            I’m not even touching that. Once you go that far with your insistence on seeing everything in a positive way, nothing means anything any more.
Setsuna:           And… he’s good at the guitar.
Kazusa:            You call that “good”? Anyway, even supposing he’s good at it now, that says more about the one who taught him.
Setsuna:           I see. That’s your way of casually showing off how much influence you have.
(Haruki has dozed off. He suddenly wakes up, then becomes flustered.)
Haruki:            Uh… ah! Shit… I fell asleep… Um, which round was I on…?
(birds chirp.)
Kazusa:            Hey, Ogiso.
Setsuna:           (sleepily) Hmm?
Kazusa:            How were you able to… fall for someone again, that easily?

(17:00)

Kazusa:            You’ve only known him for a month, right?
Setsuna:           Touma-san…
Kazusa:            You could be betrayed again. You could be brushed away again. Didn’t you think about that? After the experience you’ve had?
Setsuna:           I have thought about it. I thought about it a lot.
Kazusa:            Huh?
Setsuna:           About what would happen if my feelings weren’t accepted by the one I liked. Or… if they were accepted, but then things fell apart again. Sometimes I even lost sleep over it.
Kazusa:            Oh…
Setsuna:           I’m not confident, at all.
Kazusa:            Then…

(18:00)

Setsuna:           But… I couldn’t keep the feelings from happening anyway. They just came, almost intuitively.
Kazusa:            (sighs) You’ve got guts, Ogiso.
Setsuna:           You’re just timid, Touma-san.
Kazusa:            Is there something wrong with being timid?
Setsuna:           Yes, there is. I mean, that’s only my thought on the matter, but…
Kazusa:            I don’t believe in people any more. No one, whether they’re a stranger or my own family. (pause.) No one has ever been concerned about me. I’ll never… be loved by anyone.
Setsuna:           How can you be so unconfident? You’re so cool, and cute…
Kazusa:            (yawns) It’s not about confidence. It’s the simple truth. The reality that’s been built up over the ten-odd years that I’ve been alive.

(19:00)

Setsuna:           Touma-san…
Kazusa:            No one in this world has ever loved me.
Setsuna:           But now, there’s someone who does.
Kazusa:            No, there isn’t. I just told you, I’m not going to believe that.
Setsuna:           And… I like you a lot, Touma-san. I want to be your best friend.
Kazusa:            That’s impossible. You could never be…
Setsuna:           Why? Why would you say something so sad? Do you dislike me that much?
Kazusa:            You just said it yourself, right? I’m not brave enough to make friends.
Setsuna:           No matter how badly I want it?
Kazusa:            It could all end up falling apart, you know?

(20:00)

Setsuna:           We won’t know that unless we try being friends.
Kazusa:            Even if we both grow to like each other… No, everything could break down because we like each other.
Setsuna:           Why?
Kazusa:            Because, we…
Setsuna:           We… what?
(pause. Kazusa yawns.)
Kazusa:            Wow, I’m sleepy. Good night.
(she lies down.)
Setsuna:           Hey, that’s no fair!
Kazusa:            Just for a bit. Just give me five minutes. (yawns)
Setsuna:           You’re dodging the question again… (yawns) Even though you like the same boy I do…

(21:00)

Kazusa:            Don’t be ridiculous. Why would I like someone like him? Someone so pushy, and annoying, who never leaves me alone…
Setsuna:           This is so frustrating… I’m jealous. Why does he favor you so much?
Kazusa:            He doesn’t favor me. That’s just your own dumb assumption.
Setsuna:           If that’s all you’re going to say, I’m taking him.
Kazusa:            Do whatever the hell you want.
Setsuna:           Really?
(long pause.)
Setsuna:           And now you’re pretending to be asleep…

(22:00)

(Haruki runs up and starts banging on Kazusa’s bedroom door in a panic. His voice is muffled by the door.)
Haruki:             Touma, Setsuna! How long is this meeting going to take?! Wait, you’re asleep, aren’t you?! Wake up! We still haven’t played it all the way through together! Please, get up! (Kazusa and Setsuna sigh in their sleep.) Hey! Touma! Setsuna! I’m begging you, wake up!

(music:)

Until that hazy answer appears
This love won’t come alive


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