*_* MARMALADE MERCURY *_*
EP 12a: DECISION TIME? HOPING FOR THE PERFECT MATCH.
“It’s up to you,” Urawa finished quietly, still looking into Ami’s eyes. He’d put the ball in her court; it was like their first breakup all over again…
Ami sat up with a start and glanced out the window. Morning. She pressed a hand to her forehead, willing the events of the previous night out of her head.
It was time to get up. Time to go to school. Yet slipping out of bed, Ami bit her lip. After what she had replied to him… oh, could she face Urawa now??
Greg scanned the area outside the school. No sign of her. Perhaps he should have anticipated her lateness… and glancing at his watch, he decided that there probably wouldn’t be time to talk to her now even if she did show up.
He could try to get in touch with her at lunchtime. Because he needed to talk to her. Things were changing with Ami.
Greg had noticed how his housemate had appeared more detached the previous night after retrieving her cards. She had been fairly silent through breakfast. She had gone ahead to her locker, only to rush back in the opposite direction saying she needed to check for something in the library before school started.
Urawa had turned out to be waiting near her locker. Ami wasn’t back yet. So something was definitely up, more so than usual.
Alas, it would have to wait until lunch. Shaking his head, Greg turned to hurry to his classroom – colliding with Ms. Haruna as he rounded the first corner.
Greg arrived in class just shortly before the bell. Ami arrived even after him, with only seconds to spare.
Ami sat without meeting either Urawa or Greg’s gazes. Her was mind in turmoil.
She had trouble concentrating on the lessons of the morning; the events of the past weekend had just made matters way too complex! So it wasn’t a complete surprise to her when Ami was called to the Teachers’ Room to talk with Ms. Haruna when it came time for lunch.
Ami hoped her studies wouldn’t start to suffer on account of her personal life! Though the request was almost a relief; another excuse to continue avoiding the ramifications from the previous night.
Ms. Haruna admitted Ami into the Teachers’ Room as soon as she arrived. “I’m sorry I wasn’t paying very close attention to some of the mathematics this morning,” Ami hastily apologized as they approached Ms. Haruna’s desk. “Though I did glance over the chapter last week already.”
Ms. Haruna blinked back at the young genius, momentarily nonplussed. “Oh? Well, actually, that wasn’t what I wanted to talk to you about. There was another matter that was brought to my attention early this morning… a fairly serious one that directly concerns you,” she noted, moving to riffle through some sheets of paper on her desk.
It was Ami’s turn to blink. Something else? She watched with growing unease as Ms. Haruna continued her search. “I have a sheet of paper I’d like you to see here,” the teacher continued. “And I think it might help you solve certain problems.” Haruna turned briefly to smile. “It may detail the perfect match for you!” she finished.
“My perfect match…?” Ami wondered uncertainly.
This didn’t sound quite school related. Had she been behaving oddly for a while now? Enough for Ms. Haruna wonder about her home life?? Surely no one had discovered that she and Greg were living together! Just what was her teacher getting at?
Ami glanced nervously around the room – some of the other teachers in here were now glancing their way.
“Well, practically perfect,” Ms. Haruna continued. “It’s really a shame this wasn’t brought to my attention earlier but I think you’ll still post good results… Ah, here we go!” she finally declared, pulling out an official looking form and handing it over to the blue-haired girl. Ami stared down at it.
“A… challenge question match???” Ami blurted out. She wasn’t sure if she should be relieved or confused. Looking back up and realizing the outburst had attracted even more attention from other teachers, Ami blushed and lowered her voice before asking, “What is it exactly?”
“It’s a new kind of scholastic competition,” the teacher elaborated. “There were two schools who were asked to try it out, but one backed out, so we were given the chance. And since you’re getting top marks across all subjects I was hoping you would see this as a perfect way to brush up on problem sets and general knowledge. The only drawback is that, as I said, it was only brought to my attention today; the contest is later this week. Another reason I was hoping for your participation, there isn’t much time to prepare. What do you think?”
Ami stared back down at the form, scanning it over. It all seemed pretty straightforward; she and an opponent would take turns ringing in and answering questions on all sorts of different topics. “I suppose it would be all right,” Ami consented. “Do you know who my opponent will be?”
Ms. Haruna shook her head. “I’m afraid not.. but they’ll be from Shibakouen. That’s where the match is taking place.”
Ami blinked. ‘Minako’s school!’ she realized.
Ami stared down at the sheet in her hands, still scanning it over as she walked back through the hall. The match shouldn’t be too difficult… the only hitch was that not all questions would relate directly to school subjects she had studied.
There would be practical questions, “trivia” type questions, and questions involving information not covered in class. So she would need do some preparation!
“Ami!” The blue-haired girl snapped her head up at the sound of her name, to see Urawa standing in front of her. The unresolved situation concerning the rest of her life overwhelmed her again. And once more her thoughts flashed back to the previous night… when Urawa had confronted her…
“It’s up to you,” Urawa finished quietly, still looking into Ami’s eyes.
He’d put the ball in her court; it was like their first breakup all over again… but this time Ami managed to find her voice. “I- I can’t…” she whispered.
“Can’t?” Urawa responded, swallowing hard.
“C-can’t decide right now,” Ami finished, entwining her fingers together. “N-not like this. Not now. I… I have to think about all that’s happened recently… I have to do that first.”
There was a moment of silence. “We’ll talk tomorrow then,” Urawa decided. “Because Ami… understand that I- I just can’t wait forever.”
“Just wait until after the match!” Ami quickly blurted out.
Urawa blinked. “Er, what?” he asked, startled.
“I-I’ve been asked to participate in a challenge question match,” Ami elaborated. “It’s later this week. After that… I’ll give you the answer I couldn’t last night.” She paused. “I’ll make a decision.”
She should have set herself a deadline long ago, really. She always worked well towards a deadline. And this way everything could be neatly taken care of all at once. Why hadn’t she tried something like this sooner?
Urawa stared at her for a minute before nodding. “After your match then,” he agreed. The two of them stared into each others’ eyes for a minute before Ami continued on her way. It was time to ask herself all the hard questions.
“Are you at one with your tea yet?” Greg wondered, raising an eyebrow.
“Hmmmm?” Ami murmured, looking up absently.
“You’ve been staring at it for ten minutes now,” Greg remarked. “I was wondering if you’d started picking up some good vibes.”
“Oh… er, no,” was Ami’s only response as she brought the cup to her lips and took a quick sip.
“Thinking about the fact that your mother is due home any minute now?” Greg hypothesized.
Ami nodded, though that was actually not her most immediate thought. At the forefront of her mind was her matchmaking decision. In retrospect, she’d given herself more to worry about at once by scheduling this decision at the same time as the scholastic match.
Still, if she got a good start on the romance angle now, she could concentrate more on studies tomorrow.
It occurred to her that she’d analyzed the characteristics of both Greg and Urawa more than enough by this point. She was forced to conclude that she liked them both – and they both liked her: albeit Urawa actively and Greg passively.
And it seemed that Greg HAD acquired a bit of an edge, but probably because she’d spent last weekend with him. While there was still the matter of him holding something back and acting unclear. Urawa at least made his feelings known.
It was time to try another line of thought.
If she were to end up with one or the other… what would change? What would be the same? How would everyone involved feel about it, in the big picture?
She supposed that Urawa would be pleased or disappointed, depending on the choice… what about Greg? He might try to hide his feelings but it seemed likely that they would be the same as Urawa’s. Then there was one more consideration… what about Minako?
Last night Urawa had said there was “nothing between Minako and him”, but Ami wondered if Minako felt the same way. If they had been getting close… would Minako be disappointed if Ami chose Urawa so abruptly? She needed to know more about that situation.
How might Ami feel in Minako’s place? Could she even imagine herself in Minako’s place?? And even if she could, would she be able to maintain a properly impartial perspective?
Relationships and love defied logic. How could she even analyze what she had trouble understanding?
“I was talking with Usagi over lunch today,” Greg eventually broke in, interrupting her thoughts.
Ami looked back up at him. “Oh?” she answered, a bit bewildered.
“Not the brightest girl in the school, but she seems to have a good heart… even if she can’t seem to be on time in the morning.”
Ami simply nodded, trying to figure out where he was going with this.
Greg looked back at her for a minute before leaning forward in his chair. “Ami, it’s rather easy to tell when something is bothering you. I know I can’t help you here, but I think she can.”
Ami blinked. “What…?” she murmured.
“You often seem to want to bear the weight of the world on your shoulders, forgetting that just as you help your friends, they can help you. You haven’t had one of those study sessions in a while; why not give Usagi a call now and go over to her place to discuss some homework assignments? Not everyone. Just her. Do you both some good.”
Ami stared. “Yes… I suppose it would,” she agreed, speaking almost before she realized it.
“Good,” Greg concluded, sitting back and returning his attention to his own tea. Ami continued to stare at him for another few seconds before smiling. If she couldn’t seem to talk to Minako, maybe Usagi’s perspective would be of assistance. Greg had hit on something there… again, managing to help her in his own way.
“Thank you,” Ami said sincerely.
Greg simply nodded in response.
Ami stared at him for another couple of minutes but nothing else was forthcoming. “Tell my mother where I am when she returns?” she finally requested. Greg nodded again, as Ami rose and headed for the telephone to make sure Usagi was free.
“Let me see if I’ve got this straight,” Usagi attempted, squinting at Ami from her bed. “There’s a hypothetical guy who likes this girl, but he’s also liked by a second girl, and the first girl doesn’t just like him but another guy too who also seems to like her… and you want to know how that first girl should decide once and for all which of the guys to go out with, based on the feelings of the other three people?”
Usagi pursed her lips. “I think I saw this in one of Rei’s manga last week,” the blonde observed. “The girl ended up going out with a third guy who was the cousin of the first one.”
Ami sweatdropped. “Ah ha ha… I think things are complicated enough without bringing more people in,” she quickly refuted.
“That’s what I said about that last math question,” Usagi reminded her friend. “But you still insisted the extra variable was necessary.”
“Usagi, please… this question is more important than it might sound,” Ami insisted. She realized that her tone had become a bit more serious than it had been over the last hour, when she had helped Usagi get through some of her homework. Because now that they had time to just talk…
Usagi lifted an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, Ami-chan…” She paused. “Is… is this like your situation right now?” she continued, with surprising insight. Usagi paused again, during which time Ami bit her lip and nodded slightly.
“I just think I need some advice,” Ami admitted. “And since you know a bit about relationships from spending time with Mamoru…” Ami’s voice trailed off as Usagi winced. “Usagi, what’s wrong?” the blue-haired girl asked.
“Well… I just didn’t get to see Mamoru all of Saturday… because guess who he was out with,” Usagi said dejectedly.
Ami paused, recalling their last study session together. “Kato?” she hypothesized.
“And Rei keeps chiding me about being silly,” Usagi continued. “But even IF me and Mamoru are practically destined to be together eventually… who’s to say what will happen in the meantime?? Kato’s an old friend who’s much closer to his age…!” Her voice trailed off.
“Oh, Usagi,” Ami said, moving onto the bed to hug her friend. Maybe Usagi needed someone to talk to as much as she did – had Greg somehow realized this too? “I don’t think Mamoru is suddenly going to break up with you because of an old acquaintance. Especially given all that you’ve been through! It’s not silly to think so, but you can’t jump to conclusions like that.”
Usagi hugged back. “True,” she admitted softly. “Deep down I know that, but – well, I guess there’s just something I don’t trust about Kato.” She frowned slightly before shaking her head. “Do you think Mamoru might have picked her if she had shown up before he had his memories back?”
Ami blinked and shook her head. “No… I can’t see that happening, Usagi. And you really shouldn’t consider such things. It does as much good as… as me wondering if I would have definitely gotten back together with Urawa if Greg hadn’t turned up. I even found out the other day that Urawa wouldn’t have returned to Japan right now if it weren’t for an indirect influence by Greg! The way events interrelate… somehow it makes all the second-guessing seem pointless.”
So why did she do it so much herself? She needed to take her own advice.
Usagi paused and nodded. “There is that I suppose.” She paused again. “And that said, as to your question – I think your hypothetical girl should go with the best option for all, but more important, one that she will be able to live with afterwards, without doubting. Seeing as she has to live with herself before anyone else.”
Ami paused for a minute to think. “I just have trouble figuring that out,” the genius observed. “I always seem to be mixed up, whereas you can act on instinct and everyone ends up happy! You do that so much better than anyone else I’ve met, Usagi. How do you always know?”
“Sometimes I get lucky,” Usagi observed, grinning. “Though if things involve people I care about – it’s somehow easier. Even if the choices can be difficult and sometimes painful. Love doesn’t always have one right answer, Ami.”
Ami sighed. “Maybe I’m just so used to using my brain that I can’t understand my heart.”
“Pshaw. You have instincts, Ami. Just don’t get so down on yourself,” Usagi reassured, giving her another hug. Another moment of silence passed before Usagi offered, “would you like to stay over for the night and keep talking?”
“I- I’d like that,” Ami stammered out. “My mom’s probably home now, I’ll see if she can bring around my stuff.”
“Oh, did your mother have to work late today?” Usagi queried.
“Er, actually there was a medical conference last weekend so… ah, well, I’ll explain that in a bit,” Ami hedged, heading for the phone.
<commercial break; Ami, Greg and Kaijin skating, they trip over Ami’s computer>