Marmalade Mercury: Ep 4a

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*_* MARMALADE MERCURY *_*

EP 4a: SECRETS OF THE PAST. THE TALE IS TOLD.

<opening theme>

mm

Ami lay in bed, staring out the window. She had thought there would never be a time when she didn’t feel like going to school, but here it was.

For while school was educational, even fun, it was also where Urawa would be. And she didn’t want to see him, not now, not after yesterday. She leaned against the windowsill and squeezed her eyes shut.

Whatever had Urawa been thinking? She tried to review the turn of events of the previous day in her mind again.

~~~~~

“No time like the present?” Urawa whispered.

It was a question, but one Ami felt unable to give a quick answer to. A minute passed as Ami tried to figure out if Urawa was serious or not…

And then before she could protest, Urawa kissed her.

Ami accepted it, mostly out of shock than anything else. It wasn’t like Greg’s kiss though, not light and simple, it was more intense, more urgent. Not unpleasant, really.

But somehow not right either… not right… Ami broke away and backed up against the row of lockers.

“No…” she murmured. Then, more forcefully. “No, no… what… what are you doing?” she demanded, staring at Urawa, eyes wide.

Urawa stared back. “You agreed it might be fun to compare…”

“No,” Ami interrupted, shaking her head quickly. “No, you’re… you’re acting like things were three months ago! It’s not three months ago, it’s now! You… you can’t just pick up where you left off!” she objected, shaking slightly.

“Ami…” Urawa breathed quietly.

“It’s… it’s too fast… we’ve never kissed before…”

“Ami, I didn’t mean to upset you…”

“No, I… I… I can’t deal with this now,” Ami finally asserted, and with that she ran off before Urawa could continue.

Making it the second time in as many days that she’d run away from someone who supposedly admitted to liking her. But she doubted Urawa would take it in stride like Greg had.

Her Monday morning had been like any other, Greg not mentioning anything about the events at the amusement park on the previous day. Nor had he said anything about it that evening when she’d arrived home.

~~~~~

‘Nor will he today,’ Ami concluded with a sigh, opening her eyes again to face the rising sun.

Two kisses… so drastically different. Two people, also different… like night and day. So which one did she like? Which one… Ami turned to look at her desk, upon which sat a Mercury plushie and the star candy she’d carried away with her the previous day.

She frowned, then turned back to the window and shook her head. She searched within herself for the centre of calm she needed.

She couldn’t let all this get to her, or allow it to interfere with her studies! She refused to let love dominate her life!

*****

“Ami, here you are!”

Ami looked up from her textbook. Both Usagi and Makoto were looking down at her, peering around the tree trunk. She waved slightly.

“Ami, we’ve been looking for you over half the lunchtime,” Makoto continued. “Why’re you hiding out here?”

Ami shrugged. “It’s a quiet place I can study,” she replied. “I just wanted to get away for a while.”

“Ami, don’t give us that,” Usagi chided. “You’ve been pretty much avoiding everyone since yesterday morning. Is it because of the rumours that were floating around?”

“Yeah, if there’s a problem or something, we’d like to help,” Makoto chimed in. “We are your friends, after all…”

Ami sighed. Part of her wanted to just tell them everything. But another part of her feared what her friends might say. Oh, not that they’d tease her or tell anyone or anything… she was pretty sure she could count on them to be discrete… but more that they would encourage her to get involved in a relationship of some type.

And right now Ami wasn’t sure she wanted anything of the sort.

“Ami…?” Usagi prompted again.

Ami bit her lower lip. “Promise you won’t tell anyone…” she murmured. Usagi and Makoto sat down nodding.

Ami glanced down at the open textbook in her lap.

“My… my parents made some arrangements while my dad was overseas,” Ami began. “And while their intentions were good, they just forgot to tell me about it until… until it was too late to back out. And so the net result is… well… now Greg Anderson and I… we’re living together,” Ami admitted.

She waited for her friends to say something, but there was only silence. Ami glanced back up to see Usagi and Makoto staring at her uncertainly.

“So, what, you and Greg are…,” Makoto whispered.

“Housemates,” Ami finished, uncertainly. “It’s… it’s not THAT terrible,” she put in quickly. “I mean, he stays in the guest room down the hall from me and my mom. It’s just a weird situation… but with how things have been, people might get to thinking…”

“Oh!” laughed Usagi. “Okay. You just sounded so serious that I thought…”

“Er, what exactly’s the situation then?” Makoto cut in briskly. “He hasn’t done anything to you… has he?” she said suspiciously.

Ami shook her head. “No, no, he’s not harassing me or anything, really… it’s just… with him here… and now with Urawa back… I don’t know what I should do…”

Makoto nodded, and paused. “So do you like Greg then?” she asked.

Ami bit her lip and shrugged. “I… I don’t know,” she confessed.

“Do you still like Urawa?” Usagi questioned.

“I don’t know,” Ami repeated glumly. “I’m starting to wish neither of them had ever shown up.”

Usagi and Makoto exchanged a glance.

“I didn’t realize this had become such an issue with you, Ami,” Usagi remarked. “But I have a feeling that deep down, you don’t mean that. Take some time to think, and if you want to bounce some thoughts off of us, we’re here for you, you know that.”

“This isn’t something you need rush into,” Makoto agreed. “Just go one day at a time. And if you just want to be friends with either of them… be friends. Ultimately it will all be your decision, no one else’s.”

Ami nodded as she glanced back down at her text.

They were right, of course. She had probably blown things a little out of proportion… plus there was no real hurry to decide anything. She just didn’t like keeping Urawa and Greg in suspense – she’d seen the two of them glancing at each other in class that morning.

Urawa hadn’t looked very comfortable, and Greg… well, he’d been as hard to read as always. There was also the fact that the longer she waited on a decision, the more rumours that might start up. But… it was her decision. Yes.

A bell rang, signifying an end to lunch.

Ami quickly gathered her text and half eaten sandwich and stood along with her friends. “Feel any better now, Ami?” Usagi asked.

Ami nodded slightly and smiled. She did feel like some weight had been lifted from her shoulders… but of course, she’d only really laid half her cards on the table. There was still the matter of the kisses…. and Minako.

*****

Ami walked inside the house and slipped off her shoes. She’d had to avoid Urawa twice that afternoon – once after school, and once after juku.

She supposed it was a little silly of her to do so, but she just didn’t want to talk with him face to face yet. Or with Greg for that matter; not until she’d sorted out her feelings. Unfortunately, Greg she couldn’t really avoid.

To her surprise though, he wasn’t in the kitchen when she entered, so she ended up eating by herself.

On the way to the stairs, however, she heard him mumbling chess strategy in the living room. Thus Ami waged a brief inner battle with herself… and curiosity won out. She poked her head around the door, just to observe quickly. Greg heard her.

“Evening, Ami… enjoy dinner?” he asked, glancing up from the chessboard in front of him.

“Er, yes, fine,” she replied. “Don’t mind me, I just thought I heard you mention the Kolchinsky gambit…”

Greg nodded. “Yeah, I did, but I don’t think it applies here. Yet somehow I think there’s mate in three.”

Ami advanced a bit into the room, the notion of a chess problem intriguing her, and looked closer at the board. She frowned. “Mate in three? The king is so well protected I don’t think a mate is imminent at all…”

Greg shook his head. “No, actually, mate is quite imminent. I can certainly see it in four… just move the knight in here, thus forces the king to castle, then attack the right side with the bishop and queen…”

Ami blinked as he moved the pieces. “Checkmate,” she admitted, feeling somewhat foolish not to have noticed it before.

Greg nodded. “I played a fair game of chess back in Canada,” he admitted. He looked back up at her. “You’re troubled by something. I can tell in your eyes and your inattentive chess play,” he pointed out.

Ami blushed lightly. “No, nothing really… nothing you can do anything about, anyway,” she insisted.

She moved to go before Greg could say anything else, but he was already standing.

“Here, come with me,” he said, taking her by the hand.

“Greg, I don’t –” Ami started.

“Wait, I got my bicycle sent up… do you have a bicycle?” Greg interrupted.

“Well, yes, but I don’t ride much, I –“

“Good, I thought that other one was yours. This won’t take long. Just follow me,” Greg intoned, leading a semi-unwilling Ami out of the house.

“Shouldn’t we at least tell my mother that –“

“She’s busy upstairs, we’ll be back before she knows it… and it’s late, so don’t worry about being seen by classmates.”

Thus Ami found herself riding along the road of the slowly darkening city, trying to figure out exactly what had happened. She’d come home, semi upset about her personal life… seen Greg in the living room… now they were riding through Juuban.

It was nonsensical… yet somehow it seemed perfectly normal. Ami’s thoughts were abruptly interrupted by his voice announcing “We’re here”.

Ami looked over at Greg – and behind him. The view was quite astounding from where they were!

Ami glanced about a minute to get her bearings; they’d gone off the main road a bit, back onto a trail through the trees. Ahead was a clearing, with a hill that sloped down into a small lake.

The sun had mostly set, but there were still some streaks of colour in the background sky, and yet the moon also reflected slightly off the surface of the water, rippling as waves moved through courtesy of an unknown source. A bird called out from a nearby tree.

“It’s… beautiful,” Ami breathed.

“Better right at sunset,” Greg commented, setting his bike aside and moving closer to the water. “But quite tranquil this time of day too.”

“How did you come across it…?” Ami asked, moving to join him. “I mean, I’ve been in this area before, but this particular perspective…”

“Oh, your tour the first day inspired me to look around myself,” Greg revealed. “Discovered this place one day last week when you were at juku. Helps one to relax, I think.”

He picked up a stone and skipped it across the water experimentally.

“Three skips,” he commented, picking up another stone. “You try,” he added, offering the stone to her.

Ami blinked as she looked from Greg to the stone. She nodded slightly, and took it gingerly, weighing it in her hand. She gazed out at the water, considering its level and her distance, then took a measured step and let fly. The stone skipped once and sank.

Ami frowned as she heard Greg laughing behind her. “What?” she demanded, turning back.

“Ami, you’re thinking too much,” he ventured. “I could almost hear the gears turning in your head.” He picked up another stone. “Try again, and this time don’t analyze. Relax, no one cares if the rock reaches the other side of the lake or not! Ease up – go by instinct.”

“Hmph,” Ami replied, accepting the other stone nonetheless. She then flung it at the water quickly, without conscious thought, just to show Greg.

And watched as the stone skipped merrily across the water four times before sinking.

“See, some things come easier when you’re not thinking about them,” Greg pointed out.

“That was more like luck,” Ami protested, continuing to stare at the spot where her stone had disappeared.

“Uh huh. Let’s see you do it again then,” Greg challenged. He advanced with a few stones and handed half to Ami.

“Fine,” she said with a smile.

The two of them began to launch stones across the water, calling out the number of skips as they went. It was when Ami had managed to get a stone to skip six times that she suddenly realized Greg had become very silent.

Ami turned, to see he was now standing still – and staring at her. Staring… yet his gaze seemed to reveal nothing. Ami stopped and returned the look. For a few minutes, silence reigned.

A breeze suddenly rushed through the trees and Ami shivered slightly as she realized darkness had set in several minutes ago.

Greg turned away. “We should get back, just in case your mom does come downstairs,” he noted, going back to his bicycle.

Ami stood a moment longer. “R-right,” she finally agreed, hurrying to her own transportation. What exactly had he been thinking?

As the two teens pedalled back to the Mizuno residence in the darkness, Greg turned to Ami. “By the way, can you keep that place our secret?” he asked. “It’d be bothersome to have a bunch of people come by and spoil the serenity.”

“Right…” Ami agreed again, though her thoughts were not completely on the current situation. She’d just realized what Greg had been doing; giving her a break. Creating a diversion for her from her problems!

Sort of ironic, considering Greg was, in a way, one of those quandaries. But the almost unnerving thing, however, was that it had worked…

<commercial break; Ami, Greg and Urawa skating, they trip over Ami’s computer>

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