The Cruelty and Fairness of Fate

by Crawlspace

 

~ Chapter 10: The Things I Never Say, part 1 ~

 

 

            The weight room at the sports center was empty save one person.  The sound of bare fists hitting the heavy bag echoed in the room as Makoto worked out her frustrations the only way she knew how.

 

            This hadn’t been what she’d intended to do after leaving school.  Yet here she was, her bangs lying damp against her forehead and sweat running into her eyes.  Makoto blinked away the sting and brought a leg up to kick the bag.  Ignoring the twinge of pain this caused in her back, she continued her assault.

 

            Each punch and kick picked out a particular voice or face as a target.  Her right fist slammed into an imaginary Itoh-san as he listed for her in a cloying voice all the reasons she’d be better off somewhere else.  Makoto also heard all the things that were left unsaid, danced around, and sugar coated.  Like how she was an embarrassment to them and how it made their stats look bad to have an unmarried, pregnant student.

 

            Her left fist swung around into Watashi-sensei.  The edge of her restlessness and anger from lunch had barely worn down when he’d walked into the classroom and stood staring down his nose at her.  Wouldn’t have expected to see her back, he’d said, considering her condition.

 

            Another kick and a few more hard punches were leveled at the mental image of her history teacher.  The man had started in on her at the beginning of class and hadn’t let up.  Every answer she gave him was either wrong or inadequate.  It got to the point where she could have told him that the sky was blue and the grass was green and he somehow would have found a way to make those answers wrong.

 

            On and on the assault continued.  Makoto attacked her classmates for the whispers and the gossip, her teachers for the looks of disappointment and disapproval, Yuu for ever walking into her life, and finally herself for allowing any of this to happen in the first place.

 

            So focused was she that Makoto didn’t hear the door to the weight room open.  She never heard the other person enter or her footsteps as she walked up to Makoto.  Thus, when a strong hand grabbed her arm mid swing, Makoto whirled on her opponent, more than ready to continue the fight with a real person.

 

            Haruka took a defensive stance reflexively.  After a deep breath to calm her fighting instincts, she frowned at Makoto.  “What the hell are you doing?” she asked, annoyed and a bit angry at the younger girl.  The sweat running down Makoto’s face and staining her shirt was evidence enough that she had been at this for awhile.  She should know better, and Haruka wasn’t going to let her get away with it.

 

            Makoto stood with her arms up and ready, the battlefire still in her eyes.  She squinted against the moister blurring her vision and finally focused on the person in front of her.  “Haruka?” she asked, feeling slightly confused.

 

            The blonde nodded and completely relaxed her stance.  Haruka was talking, Makoto realized, but she was having a hard time understanding what the older girl was saying.  The words were muffled, and she was finding it difficult to focus her eyes.  And with her sudden stop in movement, Makoto could now feel the weight in her overused muscles.  That weight felt like it was pulling her down and making her extremely tired.

 

            Then, just like that, Makoto didn’t want to do it anymore.  All she wanted was for the universe to go away and let her sleep.  As her eyes began to close and her mind slowed to a crawl, she heard a voice from far away calling her name.  She felt herself begin to fall, and the last sensation she was able to register was of something warm and strong.  Then there was only blessed blackness and peace.

 

 

*            *            *

 

            Throughout the ride to the hospital, Ami didn’t move at all.  Minako had gone to get Rei, saying not to try and wait for them and they would get there on their own.  That left Usagi sitting in the back seat with Ami as Setsuna drove.

 

            Usagi watched her friend as they rode.  Ami’s head was down, her eyes watching the floor.  Her breathing was paced and deliberate, her chest rising and falling in equal lengths.  The hand Usagi was holding was griped tight to the point where Usagi’s hand was going numb from lack of blood flow.  Yet the blonde held on, afraid as much for Ami as she was for Makoto, because this was too still and quiet even for Ami.

 

            The car pulled into a parking spot, and Ami was out and heading towards the entrance even before the engine was turned off.  Setsuna and Usagi had a hard time keeping up with her as her pace quickened.

 

            Usagi could clearly see the panic rising to the surface in Ami now.  The sight made her own worries and fear worsen, and she wished very much that Mamoru and the others were here with her.

 

            “Kino Makoto,” said Ami to the woman behind the glass in the waiting room.  “She was brought in just a little while ago.”

 

            “Are you family?” asked the woman.

 

            Without hesitation, Ami answered, “Yes.”

 

            “Just a moment,” said the woman.  She disappeared through a door, and Ami turned back to Usagi and Setsuna.

 

            Usagi put a hand on her friend’s shoulder.  With a surety she didn’t feel, she said, “She’ll be okay, Ami.  I’m certain of it.”  Usagi offered a weak smile that did little to calm the girl in front of her.

 

            A moment later, Ami heard her name called.  She turned to see her mother standing at the entrance to the ER proper.

 

            “What happened?” questioned Ami, the words coming out in a rush.  “Are they okay?”

 

            “Makoto’s fine,” answered her mother, her voice the doctor’s tone she used when addressing her patients’ family members.

 

            “The baby?”

 

            “He’s fine, too,” answered Kaya.  She brought her hands up and placed them on Ami’s shoulders.  When she did she could feel the slight trembling in Ami’s body.  She looked down at her little girl, worried for her.  Putting as much reassurance into her words as she could, Kaya went on, “They’re both going to be okay.  Makoto overexerted herself and, as a result, had a dizzy spell and blacked out.  She’s lucky Haruka was with her when it happened.  But, at the moment, she’s a bit dehydrated and her blood pressure is elevated.  It needs to go down a bit more before we release her, but other then that, everything is perfectly okay.”

 

            Ami’s head turned to the doors Kaya had come through.  Her mother could see the worry and shine of tears in Ami’s eyes.  She moved her hands from Ami’s shoulders to her face.  Gently, Kaya turned Ami to face her.

 

            “Ami,” she said softly, “I promise she’s okay.  But we need her to stay calm and rest.  In order for that to happen, you need to be calm when you see her.  Understand?” she asked gently.

 

            Kaya took a deep breath which Ami automatically imitated.  As she released the air slowly from her lungs, Ami closed her eyes and let her head fall forward onto her mother’s chest.  Kaya put her arms around her daughter and held her while Ami’s arms wrapped around her mother’s waist.

 

            “It’s all right, sweetheart,” said Kaya softly.  “I know it was a frightening thing, but it’s all over now.”

 

            Ami nodded, her face still buried against her mother.  For a moment her grip tightened.  “I’m glad you were here to take care of her,” said Ami, the words coming out muffled.  Then she looked up at her mother, a confused expression on her face.  “Why are you here?  Your shift ended more than eight hours ago.”

 

            Kaya grinned.  “I never left.  It’s been a somewhat hectic day, and they needed an extra pair of hands.  And Saatchi-san has been the one taking care of Makoto.  I’m just abusing my privileges and being nosey.”  Releasing Ami from the hug and taking back some of her professional demeanor, Kaya asked, “Are you ready to see her now?”

 

            “Just a minute,” answered Ami.  She went over to where Setsuna and Usagi stood.  “Mom says everything’s okay.  I’m going to go see her, so will you tell Rei and Minako when they get here?”

 

            Ami barely waited for Usagi to give her an answer before she was back beside her mother and following her through the ER.

 

            Kaya led Ami back to a curtained off cubicle of a room.  When they entered, Haruka stood from the chair she’d been sitting in.  Near her, Makoto lay on the bed, a blanket bunched up at her feet.  The hospital gown she should have been wearing hung over the back of the bed, while Makoto still wore her sweats and t-shirt.  A damp washcloth lay across her closed eyes.  One arm rested lazily over her head, a finger wrapped around the end of her ponytail.  The other arm was stationary on the bed beside her with an IV taped to it.  Ami could already see the bruise forming around the needle.

 

            Kaya excused herself while at the same time reminding them that there was only supposed to be one visitor back here at a time.

 

            Haruka bowed slightly to the older woman and promised to leave in just a moment.

 

            “What happened?” asked Ami quietly after her mother was gone.

 

            “I went to the gym for a quick workout before I had to pick up Hotaru,” answered Haruka.  She ran a hand through her hair, a nervous gesture that showed how frayed she was feeling at the moment.  “When I saw her, she was beating the life out of the heavy bag in the weight room.  I go and stop her and the next thing I know, she’s on a steady descent towards the floor.”

 

            Ami shook her head.  “She promised she wouldn’t.”

 

            “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here.”

 

            Both girls turned to the bed.  The hand that had been wrapped in her ponytail now held up an edge of the washcloth, and Makoto was glaring at them through one eye.

 

            “You scared the hell out of me, Mako-chan,” said Haruka.  “That gives me the right to talk about you any way I want.”

 

            Makoto dropped the washcloth back into place and went back to ignoring the people around her.

 

            Haruka smirked.  Then she mouthed to Ami, “She’s being stubborn.”

 

            Ami nodded and then thanked Haruka for her help.

 

            “Just glad I was there,” answered Haruka.  She then made her goodbyes and went to wait with the others in the waiting room.

 

            Ami stood for several seconds just watching Makoto.  Then she went over and carefully sat on the edge of the bed.

 

            Makoto felt the bed shift and knew it was Ami sitting beside her.  A moment later, the washcloth was lifted from her eyes.  She opened her eyes and watched as Ami slowly dipped it into the water beside the bed and rung it out.

 

            With a serious and concentrated expression on her face, Ami brought the edge of the washcloth to Makoto’s forehead.  Gently, she ran it along the girl’s hairline and down beside her ears.  A few more careful strokes along Makoto’s cheeks and under her eyes, and Ami asked, “Can you sit up?”

 

            Makoto started to move, then grimaced.  “I can’t move the way I want to,” she said, indicating her left arm.

 

            After a few more minutes of careful maneuvering, Makoto was sitting in an awkward position with one leg bent parallel against Ami’s leg and the other curled around Ami from behind.

 

            “Comfortable?” asked Ami.

 

            Makoto nodded.  “As much as I can be.”

 

            Ami nodded back and placed a hand on the back of Makoto’s neck.  Her fingers found the knots there and gently began to work at them.  “Can you lean forward a bit?”

 

            Makoto had closed her eyes when Ami’s fingers started moving.  Now, she made a small sound and did as asked.  She stopped when her forehead touched Ami’s shoulder and rested there.

 

            This wasn’t the most comfortable position to be in, Makoto noted, and Bug was probably feeling a bit smushed.  But this was the most relaxed she’d felt all day, and be damned if she was going to move one second before she had to.

 

            Ami’s fingers continued to work out the tension in Makoto’s neck and shoulders.  Makoto didn’t know how much time had passed when Ami’s hand was replaced by the cool washcloth being draped across her neck.  Makoto shifted slightly, getting a bit more comfortable.  At the moment, she was feeling truly and honestly tired.  Maybe if she could just take a little nap everything would be okay when she woke up.

 

            “Mako-chan,” said Ami cautiously, “you promised you wouldn’t.  You usually keep your promises.”

 

            Makoto sighed.  No matter what, it never lasted.  She lifted her head from the other girl’s shoulder.  “I promised during lunch, and I kept that promise,” answered Makoto.  “This happened after history.  And I didn’t mean to do it.  I only wanted to go for a walk, but it was too cold outside.  So I went to the sports center.  One thing just led to another.”  She frowned at the look on Ami’s face.  “Please don’t be mad at me, Ami.  On top of everything else that’s happened today, I don’t think I can take it.”

 

            Ami gave her a small smile.  “I’m not mad at you, Mako-chan.  Really I’m not.”  She placed a hand over Makoto’s.  “It wasn’t just Yuu, then, was it?”

 

            Makoto shook her head.  Watashi-sensei laid into me during class.  That was just the last rotten cherry on the whole rancid sundae.  By then I just needed to get away and breathe for awhile.”

 

            “What else happened?” asked Ami.

 

            Makoto took a deep breath.  Itoh-san pulled me out of class during first period.  He spent the rest of that and all of second period telling me I’d be better off across town at Memorial.  You know they have that half-day program?  The one for working students and those with ‘family obligations.’  But, damn it, I don’t want to transfer!  Not again!  I earned my place in that school just like everyone else, and I’m not going to let them push me out just because I make their numbers look bad.”

 

            It’s okay, Mako-chan,” said Ami soothingly.  Her thumb stroked across the top of Makoto’s hand in an unconscious gesture to keep the girl calm.  “We’ll work something out.  They can’t make you transfer this time.”

 

            “I’m not going to drop out either,” said Makoto adamantly.  “You worked too hard getting us to pass the entrance exams for any of us to quit now.”

 

            Ami smiled shyly at that.  “You all worked hard.  If you had really wanted to, you could have done it without me.”

 

            “Nope,” returned Makoto.  “No way I would have been able to stay focused enough.  But we did it, and I can go to school and raise my son without any problems.  Though Itoh-san doesn’t think so, since he spent nearly a half hour preaching the benefits of adoption after he realized I wouldn’t leave.”

 

            “None of us ever thought you wouldn’t be able to do it,” assured Ami.  “What anyone else thinks doesn’t matter.”

 

            Makoto nodded.  “I don’t want Bug to ever think I didn’t want him,” she said softly.  “I know what that’s like, when no one wants you, and it’s a lousy feeling.  And when the only person in the world who’s supposed to want you doesn’t…  I don’t ever want to do that to him.”

 

            Ami was trying to think of a way to respond, to find a way to let Makoto know she definitely wasn’t unwanted, when a small grin tugged at the other girl’s lips.  Ami tilted her head to the side in question.

 

            “He’s moving,” said Makoto.  “First time today.”  Her smile widened.  “You’re around me more than the others, so I bet he recognizes your voice.  He knows you’re here and he wants some attention.”

 

            Ami blushed, at a loss for words.  She felt Makoto’s hand begin to move around hers and then stop.  A very vivid sense of déjà vu hit her, and she blushed even harder.

 

            Ummm  Do you want to?” asked Makoto hesitantly.  She remembered all too well what happened the last time she tried this and wasn’t going to do it again without permission.

 

            Ami nodded, and Makoto slowly moved their hands to the round bulge in her belly.  She rested Ami’s hand in the right spot, and this time Ami could feel fluttery movement under her palm.  The smile this caused lit up her entire face and vanquished all the shadows that had been chasing Makoto since the day had started.

 

 

            From a close distance, through a slight opening in the curtain, Kaya watched things play out between the two girls.  Her face was neutral, not betraying any of the emotions that were tumbling around inside her.

 

            Quietly, a figure stepped up beside her.  A hand was placed discretely against the small of her back, and Kaya found comfort in the strength she felt there.

 

            “I’ve let things go too far, haven’t I?” she asked quietly.

 

            Ken’s fingers rubbed small circles into Kaya’s back.  “In all honesty, Kaya, I don’t think there’s anything you could have done to prevent it.  We don’t always get to choose who we love.”

 

            Kaya sighed sadly.  “Ami’s not going to be able to let go now, and when it all falls apart, she’s going to be the one left alone and hurt.  It isn’t fair.  And how am I supposed to face her when I’m partially to blame?”

 

            It was a rhetorical question, Ken knew.  Asking these sorts of questions was how Kaya worked things out.  So, rather than attempt to give an answer that wouldn’t have meant anything, he applied just a bit more pressure with his hand to let her know he was there for her and smiled as she glanced up at him.

 

            “You look exhausted,” said Ken finally.  “Go home and get some rest.  From what I can tell, they’ve got things under control again, and it’s your night off.  Try and enjoy it.”

 

            Kaya nodded.  “I will soon.  I want to wait for the girls.”

 

            Ken grinned.  “I’m going to check on her now.  It shouldn’t be too much longer.”

 

            Kaya nodded back.  She leaned into his side for just a moment, then watched and waited as he went to check on her daughter’s best friend. 

 

 

*            *            *

 

            There was a time not too long ago when Usagi had lamented that if you sat in class and stared at the clock for long enough, time would start to move backwards.  Ami was feeling a bit like that tonight.  She glanced at the clock once again, her mind only partially on the lesson being taught by her cram school professor.

 

            They had gotten Makoto home easily enough.  Rei had called Mamoru when Minako caught up to her and told her what had happened.  He had picked them up on his way to the hospital, and with him there, it gave them three drivers.  Ami’s mother had even offered to drive the girls back to Makoto’s.  Ami had seen how tired her mother was, though, and told her they could handle it on their own.  So, after a quick goodbye and a gentle reminder from her mother about class tonight, the group had left the hospital.

 

            Mamoru and Haruka had driven them back to the apartment.  Mamoru excused himself early on.  He never seemed completely comfortable in the middle of the group of girls, Ami noted.  But he was too much of a friend and gentleman to not at least see that Makoto got home safely.

 

            Ami had left not long after Makoto had been settled in.  ‘Settled’ was a good word for it, too.  Lying on the couch in her pj’s with a blanket forced over her and dinner on the table in front of her, Makoto was a semi-unwilling victim of her friends’ concern and mothering instincts.  Ami was certain the three other girls would have taken turns spoon feeding their friend if they felt the task of lifting the sandwich and chewing was too strenuous for her.  But Makoto had brought it on herself, and she was just going to have to suffer through it.

 

            The movement of the other students gathering their belongings snapped Ami’s attention back to the class.  She wasn’t used to her mind wandering like this.  Thus, it came as a small shock to realize the class had ended and everyone was leaving.  Ami jotted down a few hasty notes about the next assignment before the professor could erase the board, then followed the last of the stragglers out of the lecture hall.

 

            Ami was in a hurry to get back to Makoto.  By now, she would have learned her lesson and deserved to be rescued.  Ami knew how the rest of the night would go, also.  After a short while, the others would leave.  Then she and Makoto could sit quietly for a time, and Makoto could get some real rest without any disturbances.  It would also give Ami time to decide whether she should try and talk the other girl into staying home tomorrow, or whether it would be better to have her at school where they could keep a closer eye on her.

 

            Stray thoughts tumbling around in her head, Ami almost missed the person waiting for her by the exit.  Ami stopped, more than a little surprised, as her mother stood from the bench she’d been sitting on.

 

            “Mom?” asked Ami.  “What are you doing here?”

 

            Kaya’s smile was tired as she said, “I thought I’d give you a ride home.  It’s pretty cold out tonight, and the weatherman is predicting snow.  Though he’s been saying that for the last three days,” she said with a light chuckle.  “Come on.  Let’s go home.”

 

            Ami followed her mother as Kaya walked out of the building.  They were in the car, Kaya having just started the engine, when Ami spoke up hesitantly, “I… I was going to stay the night at Mako-chan’s.  Because of what happened.”

 

            Kaya was looking straight ahead through the windshield.  Ami saw the slight nod and deep breath her mother took before she began to speak.  “I know you were planning on that, but…”  Kaya faced her daughter then, a small amount of regret visible in her eyes.  “But I think it would be best if you stayed home tonight.”

 

            Ami’s entire body tensed.  She couldn’t help it, the natural instinct to fight this warring against the conditioned one to never argue with her mother.  After several seconds, Ami swallowed hard.  Her eyes dropped as a sort of internal compromise was reached.  “She shouldn’t have to be alone,” she said softly.  “I don’t want her to be alone.”

 

            Kaya reached a hand over and placed it on top of Ami’s.  “I know, sweetheart.  You’re a good friend to her.  But Makoto has other friends.  This time, you need to let them take care of her.”

 

            Slowly, Ami’s eyes rose to meet her mother’s.  Kaya wanted to cry for the pain she saw there.  Once again she reminded herself that this was ultimately for the best.  Ami needed to put some distance between herself and Makoto.  And if a little hurt now would spare her child a lot of hurt in the future, then Kaya was willing to play the bad guy and be the one who caused it.

 

            “My things,” said Ami quietly.  “My things are still at Mako-chan’s.  I’d also like to say goodnight and let her know I’m not staying in person.”

 

            Kaya nodded.  “All right,” she answered.  “I’ll drop you off and come back to get you in an hour.”

 

            “Thank you.”

 

            On the drive over, Kaya couldn’t shake the slight disappointment she felt with her daughter.  When her own parents had told her to stop seeing Ami’s father, that he would never amount to anything and would only wind up leaving her with a bag full of problems, Kaya had fought back hard and won.  This was a bit different, of course, and her own accomplishment was nothing to brag about.  Her parents had been right for the most part, the only good thing coming from the union being Ami.

 

            Ami, on the other hand, had just given up.  There was no fight, no argument, just the obedience Kaya had always felt blessed to have.  She should be grateful, shouldn’t she?  This was what she wanted, after all.

 

            Kaya pulled into the apartment complex and parked the car.  She stopped Ami before the girl could get out of the car.  “Ami, I love you,” said Kaya carefully, hoping Ami would take this for the opening she meant it to be.  “You know there isn’t anything you could ever do or say that will change that.”

 

            “I know, Mom,” replied Ami.  “I love you, too.”  Getting out of the car and turning back to her mother, she said, “I’ll be ready in an hour.”

 

            Kaya watched until she couldn’t see Ami anymore, then slowly pulled away.  There was a diner not too far from here, and a cup of coffee would definitely help with the extra hour she was going to have to stay awake.

 

 

*            *            *

 

            Ami helped Rei carry the dishes and leftover snacks into the kitchen.  Her hour was coming up close, time feeling like it had sped up the second she walked through Makoto’s front door.

 

            Makoto had been so relieved to see her.  Ami could tell just by the look on the other girl’s face that she was ready to jump out of her skin from all the overattention.  She had pleaded with Ami to assure the other three that she wouldn’t fall over dead if they played something more exciting than Go Fish.  Or, barring that, to at least get them to let her go to the bathroom without an escort.

 

            Usagi’s father came to pick her up not long after Ami returned.  It was then that Ami found an opening to tell them she would be leaving soon as well.

 

            After hearing this, Rei volunteered them for clean-up, mostly as an excuse to get Ami alone and ask if she was all right.  Thinking it would make the other girl feel better about having to leave, Rei offered to stay the night in her place.

 

            “Grandpa won’t have a problem with it,” said Rei as she stood on tiptoe to return the box of crackers to the top shelf.  “So don’t look so worried, Ami.  She’ll be okay without you for one night.”

 

            The dishes Ami had been holding clattered hard against the bottom of the sink.  Rei turned around to see Ami gripping the edge of the sink so hard her knuckles were turning white.  Her head was bowed, and Rei had to strain to hear her when she spoke.

 

            “But I don’t want her to be okay without me,” said Ami softly.  “I want to be the one who takes care of her.  I know it’s selfish, and I should just be glad she’s all right and not begrudge her the few real friends she has.  I can’t help it, though.  I want her to be mine, and only mine.”

 

            Rei came up behind Ami and laid a hand on her shoulder.  Giving it a light squeeze, she said gently, “It’s okay to want that, Ami.  It doesn’t mean you’re being selfish.  But if you think it does, then I give you permission to be selfish tonight.”

 

            Ami’s grip loosened just a bit, and Rei saw a single tear run down her cheek.  “Why did she do it, Rei?” asked Ami, her voice quiet and sad.  “She wasn’t alone.  We were there.  I was there.  So why did she do it?”

 

            Rei could only shrug, not having an answer and not thinking it would matter even if she did.

 

            Releasing her grip on the sink, Ami looked from the miko and moved several steps away.  She turned back to Rei, her arms wrapped tightly around herself.  “I hate her for it sometimes,” said Ami, a slight quiver to her words.  “I hate her for feeling like she’s alone when we’ve been here, when I’ve been here, for so long.  I hate her for going to someone who didn’t care for her at all and giving herself to him when I’ve done nothing but care for her without asking for anything in return.  I hate that I have to see him everyday.  I hate him for not loving her, her for not loving me or wanting me the way I do her, and myself for not being able to stop.”

 

            Ami’s words petered off into a hitched sob.  Rei went over to her and put her arms around her as all the tears Ami had kept bottled up began to fall.  At a loss for real words, Rei made soft noises at the smaller girl like those one would make to a frightened child.

 

            “I love her so much,” said Ami after several seconds.  “Sometimes when I look at her I forget how to breathe because of how she makes me feel.”

 

            “I know, Ami,” said Rei gently as she lightly stroked a hand over Ami’s hair.

 

            Ami shook her head and pulled away from Rei’s embrace.  Swiping at her tears with the back of her hand, she said, “No, you don’t, because it isn’t just her anymore.  I want Bug, too.  I can almost imagine what it will feel like to hold him or what he’ll look like when he’s sitting on the kitchen floor banging on her pots and pans with a wooden spoon.  And I can imagine what it’s going to feel like the day someone takes them away from me.”  Ami’s eyes closed tightly as she wrapped her arms back around herself.  “It hurts, Rei.  It hurts,” she cried quietly.

 

            There wasn’t anything Rei could say to this.  None of the false assurances that first sprang to her mind would help and would likely cause more damage if spoken.  So she simply stood and allowed Ami to lean on her and let out as much of the pain as she could.

 

 

*            *            *

 

            Makoto removed her toe from the edge of the kitchen door and let it close the fraction she’d been holding it open.  She sagged against the wall feeling cold and sick.  “Ami,” she whispered to herself, her eyes closing against the tears she felt forming.

 

            That last ‘I hate her,’ followed by the sounds of Ami crying, had been all Makoto could take.  If this wasn’t her own home, she would leave and never come back.  Maybe she should do that anyway.  Anything to make Ami stop hurting.

 

            “Hey, Mako-chan, what’s taking so long?” called Minako lightly as she came back into the living room.  She stopped short when she saw Makoto.  “You okay?” she asked, worry replacing mirth.

 

            Makoto pushed away from the wall and hurried over to Minako before she could get close enough to the kitchen door to hear or be heard.  “Yeah, but there aren’t any bulbs in the kitchen,” said Makoto as she redirected the blonde back to the hallway.  “We’ll have to take one from one of the lamps in the bedroom.”

 

            Minako regarded the taller girl closely.  “You’re lying.  What’s going on?”

 

            Makoto laughed at the blonde, though it seemed forced in nature.  “You’re too suspicious.  Come on, because you’re going to have to put it in.  Ami hid my stepstool weeks ago, and I still haven’t found it, so we’re going to have to use a chair to reach the bathroom light.”

 

            “I’m not going to let you start climbing on chairs, Mako-chan,” said Minako sternly.

 

            “I know.  That’s why I said you have to do it,” answered Makoto.  “Now come on and let’s do this before they get done in the kitchen.  Otherwise, I’ll tell everyone how you screamed like a little girl when the light blew out.”

 

            Minako frowned at her.  “Some friend you are,” she said.  “And after all I’ve done for you, too.”

 

            As Minako rambled on good naturedly about what a good and neglected friend she was, Makoto tried to use her voice as a distraction from what was going on in the kitchen.  If it had been anyone else who had made Ami cry, she would have hunted him down and pounded him into the ground.  Makoto had no idea what to do when the person she should be beating up was herself.