Published: Feb. 2, 2014.
Yukiko struggles to grow up right.
It comes to her in vague, truncated notions, in colorations that are neither vivid nor washed out. She is here, at some place, doing something. Comprehension lies out of her grasp, tantalizing as her groping fingertips brush against it. She exists with a semblance of tenuous weight, knows she's there but without a body to place herself in.
Until, it occurs to her, as she sits in her bed, yawning and her eyes heavy with sleep, that she is dreaming. It's a hazy, barely discernable realization that only mildly alerts her to something being off. It feels normal. She feels normal. Except for the wisp of a thought that proclaims this all to be unreality.
She pays it no heed and begins her day as she usually would, making her bed and donning her uniform, laid out clean the night before. She tightens her tie and smooths any creases in her shirt and runs her fingers through her hair, cropped too short to bother brushing. With a subtle sense of "oh," she sees in the mirror a person who is her and who is also him. She sees that in this dream Amagi Yukiko is a boy.
Walking to school, she sees that Chie is a girl, boisterous and loud and passionate about whatever point she is making. Yukiko responds in kind, school bag held close and bumping her thighs. Chie playfully slaps Yukiko on the back with a laugh that devolves into deep guffaws and Chie using her hold on Yukiko to keep upright. She starts to cough through her laughter when Yukiko sheepishly relents to something—what topic they'd discussed, Yukiko can't recall, but it's too minor a detail to be worth the worry.
The protesting whisper in her mind pipes up again midway through a lecture. Her teachers abide by their typical curriculum, so it takes her some time before she catches what bothers the whisper. They call her "Amagi-kun." She tuts; she is a boy, -kun is the most accurate honorific for her.
But it does not quiet, fussing in distaste. She hears, in conjunction to it, the murmurs of girls around the class, commenting on her intelligence when she answers correctly to a question, which she does in plenty. She rolls her eyes. Boys call her smart, too, when she is the real Yukiko, she tells it. Yes, they usually preface or follow compliments for her intelligence with compliments for her supposed good looks, with how she is the whole package. They tell her she is both beauty and brains.
Romance haunts her as a theme to her day, as a small envelope in the back of her shoe locker. Trailing off mid-sentence, Chie plucks it from the back of Yukiko's locker, sarcastically speculates on its contents and however could Yukiko overlook it. Yukiko grimaces and finishes putting on her shoes, ready to go home.
It's a love letter. This Yukiko (and the real Yukiko, the whisper adds) has been an addressee to the shly-penned confessions of classmates before once or twice or thrice.
She reads it in full, relaying the important details to Chie. The unnamed girl requests they meet after class by the school gate. Today.
Chie calls the girl hasty and impatient, maybe half-jokingly. Yukiko almost agrees, stops out of respect and courtesy for someone she has likely seen a handful of times at assembles and likely never spoken to. Chie hesitates, but then softly suggests Yukiko doesn't have to go. No, Yukiko does. Regardless of her personal feelings, it is politest to let a girl down face-to-face.
Yukiko trudges out alone, letter in hand to accelerate the proceedings, and, once at the gate, she turns at a soft utterance of her name, of Amagi-kun. She assumes this girl is her anonymous confessor, doubt clinging one-handed at the cliffside of her thoughts. The girl, short and fashionable and wearing tiny silver star earrings in her ears, is cute.
But, no. Yukiko shakes out the possibility. She doesn't want to date yet.
She moves to bow and reject her confessor, but the girl interrupts and launches into a nervous, probably rehearsed declaration of why Amagi-kun is great and she likes Amagi-kun so much. Seconds tick by and by, and it is unbearable, utterly and incomprehensibly unbearable. Patience lost, Yukiko cuts her off abruptly, apologizing, and tries to refuse her when the girl starts up again in vehement aggressiveness.
Amagi-kun is smart, she says. Amagi-kun is kind, she says. Amagi-kun is handsome, she says.
Yukiko shouts no, no, no. The whisper in her thoughts shouts no, no, no.
The deluge of words halts to replaced by a low groaning that peaks suddenly in a short screech. The girl's mouth opens, stretching until her head snaps back in a cacophony of tearing flesh and cracking bone, stinking of iron and rust. From inside her, something gurgles and echoes and speaks.
Amagi-san will make a good wife, it says. Amagi-san will do good at the inn, it says. Amagi-san is polite and obedient, it says.
Yukiko covers her mouth to contain her nausea, long, black hair brushing her hands, and, yes, that is right, Yukiko is a girl. Eyes wide and terror dilating in her chest, Yukiko is a girl and she wants to yell that she is not ready.
The neck of the girl swells and bursts in a spray of red as a white snake rises from her broken body, shedding it as it grows tall and peers down at Yukiko, eyes black and bright.
It chants her name. Yukiko, Yukiko, Yukiko.
She screams. She is only a girl, please leave.
It tenses up. It hisses, Yukiko, Yukiko, Yukiko.
Unhinging its jaw, it dives down to engulf her. She is consumed and around her reverberates Yukiko, Yukiko, Yukiko.
She wakes, jittery and pumped with adrenaline, to the buzzing of cicadas and the low hum of the inn's nighttime activity. Bedsheets kicked to the floor, she's open and bare to the intense July heat, the sticky dampness of her sweat absorbed into her pajamas. She breathes erratically into her hands and shakily sits up, legs folded underneath her.
"It was a nightmare," she tells herself. "Just a dream."
If not for the intense shock of fear, she would cry. She takes a moment to calm down, for her harsh gasps of air to ease. With a new set of shorts and an old t-shirt, she sets off for the bathroom on unsteady legs. Even with her heart hammering, she feels a bit better after changing into fresh clothes and drinking some water from the tap.
She looks in the mirror and reminds herself of the truth. She is Amagi Yukiko. This is the summer of her third year of junior high. She is a girl. And she is okay.
Less shaky, she climbs back into bed and watches the ceiling with open intensity. She tries not to dwell, knowing it will not help. The night goes on long as she repeats to herself, "It was just a dream."
"No thank you," Chie says, wrapping her arms around herself. "That's too freaky."
Yukiko nods, holds on tight to the leash, the small mutt pawing on ahead excitedly. "I couldn't fall back asleep afterwards."
"No wonder. You look exhausted, Yukiko."
The ghost of a reply, of further explanation of her nightmare, of assurances that she'll be fine dissipate on her tongue. The memory of it feels distant and decayed, like its drying up and cracking as it withers. Maybe she won't remember anything soon but the shiver of horror and the taste of a rising scream. Maybe she won't remember anymore than she told Chie, that she dreamed she was a boy and was eaten by a giant snake. Maybe that'd be for the best.
Last night seems long ago under the high, relentless afternoon sun and the erratic offers of shade in Inaba's shopping district. It seems dissociated as Chie gives her a look of concern, eyebrows pursed, and her dog yips and zigzags from here to there, overwhelmed by a place he has been many times before, daringly oblivious and jubilant.
"Have you thought about being a boy before?" Chie asks.
"No," Yukiko says, "I don't think I'd be a good one, anyway."
"What if that doesn't matter? What if it's all symbolic and your…" She stretches out her arms and rolls her eyes up in thought. "Subconscious! What if your dream is a bunch of symbolic mumbo-jumbo your subconscious is putting out as a way of communicating something important to you?"
"You want to interpret my dream?" She can't hide the hint of incredulity that slips into her tone.
"Yeah! Freud and...whoever—some other European guy—were into it. There could be some legitimacy to it."
"Do you mean Jung?"
"Maybe? I think?" Chie waves her hands. "Never mind, never mind. We shouldn't get off topic. Okay, so you said you were a boy in this dream. I'm not really sure what that could mean. You want to be more boyish? You want to wear the boys' uniform to school?"
Chie groans. "I don't know. What do you think? This is your dream!"
"Maybe it isn't something so literal. Like, what traits or characteristics do you associate with boys?"
Chie lists off a few, tapping them out on her fingers. Yukiko also does (strength, bravery, control), but leaves them unvoiced.
"Oh, I think I know what's up with the snake," Chie says slowly. "You said it was white, and white is the color of death and mourning. In Christianity, a snake represents knowledge. So, if you don't recognize some fact it'll consume your life and kill you!"
"Should you really combine meanings from different cultures like that?"
"Sure you can. Dreams don't have to make that much sense."
"Then why analyze them?"
Chie whines her name.
"According to your analysis then," Yukiko says, "I need to admit my deep desire to wear a tie and pants to school or I'll die."
They both laugh, and then harder when Yukiko can't stop. But as they walk, as the lighthearted mood falters to talk of school and family, Chie's hazarded guesses settle in Yukiko's stomach disquietly, a sense of unfortunate veracity taking root in her thoughts.
She passes the leash to Chie and stares down at her palms, the asphalt moving steadily beneath her as she advances.
We all have weak moments, she thinks. Pathetic moments. Puerile moments. Vulnerable, cripplingly self-honest moments we come to loathe and regret. Moments where there is no way to dispel the things you spit out.
Sometimes, in these moments, she'll look down at her hands and see the flesh and muscle and bone grown from legacy and trained for its preservation. Disgust will take form as then she'll demand more, like a petulant child. She'll demand the world and more from the people and home that created and nursed her, and, in return, she'll yield nothing. She wants to reject and sink it all to the ocean floor, anchor it to the Earth's crust in watery depths.
She'll look at her hands and see herself for what she could be. She dreams in the shadow of confession and departure, striking out on her own and taking side roads and long roads and even shortcuts. She'll cast off the chain of expectation and past, and she'll be free.
(Because what she realizes through the summer and the fall and the winter is she doesn't want the inn.)
And, in that sometimes, she'll close her hands into gentle fists and surrender, feeling the fight drain down to passive acceptance. Questions of the future create new chains. How will you survive?, they ask. What can you do? She'll have freedom, and she'll have it in a tiny Tokyo apartment and in discount ramen.
Tradition swallows her, inaugurates her into its ouroborus. Like her mother and grandmother and generations before, Amagi Yukiko will inherit the Amagi Inn and it will done with the honed implement of tradition. The past becomes the future as the future becomes the past and it wraps her up tight until she is dizzy and cannot tell beginning from end.
She is one more in a line of many and this one-track life will be her legacy.
Yukiko stands in cold trepidation, bites at what cognizance of time she can, like awareness can somehow slow it. She tenses, hands clenched, in preparation for the inexorable outcome.
The principal, from his podium, bids them good luck once more (and to, please, not embarrass your old junior high with bad behavior wherever you may go) and dismisses them. Organized lines of students break apart in celebration and in ascending chaos as they go to locate friends and family. Yukiko releases a shuddery breath, almost in relief, almost in despair.
Chie comes up behind her, stealing her into a hug and repeating her name in glee (Yukiko, Yukiko, Yukiko). It echoes around in her head, starts to hurt, as she stiffens in Chie's hold.
"We graduated," Chie says, practically squeals, "I can't wait to be done with exams for forever. Just three more years."
Her arms slip up to Chie's back in an equally fierce return. She says, "Right. Three more years."
"I don't think I would have made it through final exams without you."
"You called me, begging, to help you." She says it more seriously than intended.
Chie grumpily mumbles Yukiko's name, finally pulling away. "Yeah, yeah. Live it up. It's all in the past now. I'm not going to think about studying at all until school is smack in my face."
"Yeah," she agrees, distantly. They're still young with time to spare and to run away from responsibilities. She reiterates herself more strongly. "Yeah."
"Did you hear him, though? 'Wherever you may go from here,' he says. Like there's any choice," Chie says. "It's Yasogami or nothing."
She never forgets what the snake in her dream said, the ink stays sharp and clear as the day it was written. It looms over her shoulder, a morbid reminder. She never tells Chie. She keeps her misery to herself, locked as it tight as she can manage it.
Even in those brutal, candid conversations she has with Chie, where they both split open and confessions and deep fears leak out the cracks, the full brunt of truth chokes and twists into a shape she can't force out so it stays lodged inside. She doubts frequently if she really does feel that negatively about inheriting the inn, that roadblocked about it. Because it isn't as if she hates the idea. No, the inn could be perfectly fine. Inaba could be perfectly fine. It rots into a conundrum she won't let loose. If she isn't sure, she thinks, there's nothing to gain in complicating her reputation.
Instead, Yukiko joins Chie in beating the skeleton of self-image and self-hate. Yukiko doesn't hesitate when Chie goes on an unfair spiel of disappointment in herself to hold her hand and to follow up her words with much kinder, reassuring ones. When Chie tries to refute her, Yukiko asserts more strongly, "You're so much better than you think. You're going to be okay. I'm not going to let you fail."
Chie worries about her future in a way that makes Yukiko envious and reflect on her own luck. Her parents raise her increasingly to take over the inn, and she's always known it. Yukiko nods uneasily when Chie tells her, "I wish I had that security." Chie has no idea what she wants to do, has had to recognize that kung-fu action star is not a viable career choice. Yukiko comforts her by saying how many opportunities she has, how smart and talented she is, how maybe Yukiko is a bit jealous. Chie looks at her disbelievingly, like Yukiko is only saying that to make her feel better.
And it isn't like that at all. She wishes it was easier to express in words that no, no, no, Chie—Chie who she loves and values like none of her other few close friends, Chie who she dreads will tire of her—will be okay. Chie can do anything. Yukiko is the one who needs her. Yukiko is the one who will not be okay.
It's in her first year of high school she hears about the Amagi Challenge.
"The what?" Chie asks, chopsticks halfway to her mouth.
"It's what they call trying to date me, apparently. Since I never say yes, they made it into a game." Yukiko trails off uncomfortably after that. She wants to draw her legs into her chest, bury her face in her knees, but skirts aren't so conducive to such a position, especially in a public setting like school. She and Chie are on the roof, seated on the ground by the door that leads back downstairs, so Yukiko smooths out her skirt, legs tucked under her to the side. Chie is cross-legged, plastic bowl of instant soba in her lap and smart enough to wear shorts under her skirt.
"Did they all just suddenly hit puberty?" Chie says.
Yukiko looks down at the back of her hands, wonders if she should care more, if she should feel flattered and take the best of the crop as her own. "I've never had a boyfriend. Is that strange? Should I have had one by now?"
"I haven't either, so if it is strange, better together than not." Chie tries to smile, puts a warm hand on Yukiko's far shoulder and tugs her in to lean on Chie.
She lets her gaze wander up to the chainlink fence at the edge of the rooftop and higher and higher until her eyes fall shut. She thinks on how this is fine, how reclining into Chie is fine, how Chie's presence eats away at her anxiety and fears and how that is fine, too. And Yukiko, secure and safe and fine, drifts lower and lower to lay her head in Chie's lap since that sounds so nice in theory, forgetting the soba.
Chie teases her relentlessly for a good week straight before letting up.
Yukiko wonders, did her mother suddenly hit puberty? Has her mother regressed to some adolescent mindset while suffering a midlife crisis where she needs to live intensely through her daughter? Because now, more than ever, Yukiko's mother makes offhanded comments about marriage like it's inevitable.
"When you're married, you'll understand," her mother says, flippantly, with all the wisdom of how Yukiko will "understand it when she's grown up."
"Don't worry, Yukiko. That's what a husband is for," her mother says. Because, of course, Yukiko will rely on him, her hypothetical husband. He will be there, right beside her, supporting and accompanying her on the narrow, dead-end road of hotel management.
"There's lots of nice boys in Inaba, Yukiko. Have you ever thought about that Ichijo boy?" her mother says. Her mother should be thankful enough Yukiko does not reply in a mocking mimicry or respond by yelling that she doesn't care and how tired she is of the thought of dating and boys.
(And, she thinks in fright to herself, what if something is wrong with her? What if something is wrong with her and Chie both? What if she is making Chie wrong, giving Chie her terrible habits and thoughts?)
Yukiko politely nods, respects her mother, keeps to herself how she doesn't want to frame her life this way. She excuses herself when she is drawn taut and near ready to snap to go to her room and dial Chie's number. They'll talk about whatever—what Mr. Teacher and Mrs. Teacher were lecturing on yesterday, what new kung-fu movie Chie watched and, wow, Yukiko needs to see it, what amateur Cantonese Chie's picked up and Yukiko will prod her into demonstrating. It'll be anything, anything but marriage and relationships.
The TV screen flickers brightly in a display of CGI pyrotechnics in the dark of Chie's family room. Yukiko struggles to discern what is happening on screen in the mess of colors and sounds that wind her mind up tight in bemusement and distaste. Apathy gives her attention leave to wander and a nervous fidget to her fingers.
It's late. It's Saturday. It's snowing.
And Yukiko is burning up, must be positively steaming and smoky she is so overheated. Chie, beside her and wrapped in the same blanket as Yukiko, seems utterly content, and she should be as the one who cranked up the heat so high and originated the blanket idea. She has her knees drawn up to her chest, resigned and knowing there will be no real relief even outside the blanket.
She doesn't remember it being like this before, so hot, so sweltering, so unbearable. Chie always likes the heat up high in winter. Chie always likes sharing a blanket and body heat. Chie always likes sitting so close Yukiko can feel all the slight shifts and movements she makes.
Chie whispers explanatory remarks and opinions to Yukiko here and there during the long, suffering duration of the movie. Chie watched it once before and suggested it to Yukiko, thinking she might like it even if it wasn't her usual thing. It was made a few years back, but flopped pretty hard despite it's big budget and rampant advertising, which is why Chie didn't watch it until a few weeks ago. It's surprisingly good. Like, at this part—
Yukiko stands up suddenly. "I need to go upstairs for a minute."
"Huh?" Chie scrambles up, too, pulling the blanket around her frame, like it's possibly any less hot sans it. "If you need something, I can get it."
"No, it's okay. I just need to go upstairs for a minute."
Chie's tone is untempered by hesitation in its descent into concern. "Yukiko, are you okay?"
The movie goes on in the background. People scream. People die.
"I'm okay," she says, tight-lipped. "It's just really warm. I'll be back in a few."
Chie yells up after her that she'll pause the movie and to hurry.
"Okay, okay, okay," Yukiko calls back, trying not to sound annoyed. She doesn't stop going up the staircase to glance down, not at all, can't. If she did, she'd go back and be snippy and cruel the rest of the night then not sleep from the guilt. No, she needs a moment to breathe and settle.
She feels strained and stretched out, dessicated in how dry her throat is, as she weakly opens the window in Chie's bedroom. She is the ashes of a dying fire when she pushes her face out into the night, the cool air a balm to all the heat. Snowflakes touch down and melt on her.
A long moment passes before she brings herself in and locks out the chilly night. The cold and warmth meet and she is an understated residue in-between.
Chie welcomes her back with an excited noise and ushers her again under the blanket, which Yukiko obliges to with only a modicum of surliness. "I turned down the heat," she says, squeezing out a hand that she places on Yukiko's forehead.
"I'm fine, Chie." Yukiko laughs.
"We'll see," she says, huffy. She eventually retracts her hand and gives Yukiko a hard look. "You better tell me if you aren't."
She takes Chie's hand and it's a nice sort of warm. "I'm fine."
He doesn't touch her or get discomfortingly close. "Just to get some coffee," he says, stresses how it doesn't have to mean anything more, how there's no strings attached. He's a nice boy and he's asking Yukiko out on a nice date. She feels the ghost of her mother's hand at the small of her back, urging her on.
The nice boy wrings his hands and hope shows on his face as she hesitates. Words are heavy and thick on her tongue.
"Okay," she says.
He smiles nervously, can't hide his sigh of relief and his subsequent disbelief. He stutters like he didn't expect it at all, like he has no real plans despite her acceptance. "A-ah, is now okay with you, then? It's fine if you have something else to do."
"No, now works," she says. She told Chie she had to study today, anyway. She can spare an hour or two.
They walk with a one-sided conversation to accompany them. He carries it as well as he can with his clear anxiety and her muted replies. She pushes herself to say more, ask him questions, to do something other than be the delicate doll he acts like she is and consider that this is a nice boy and a good chance for her. If she wants to be normal, wants to be right, wants to have a boyfriend so bad, she should charm him and draw him in.
But she feels out of place, transparent and intangible.
He treats her well, like she is so fragile she'll snap and vanish at a second's notice. He pulls out her seat and pushes it in for her when they're just at Junes. He gives her what her mother has told her to look for in a man.
He softly extols her virtues as he twists his cup. She's really pretty, you know. She's really smart, you know. She's so popular and modest about it, you know. He really admires her, you know.
"Thank you," she says.
He shyly meets her eyes and starts to speak when Yukiko interrupts him. "It's me, not you. I'm sorry."
Because she spends the date thinking about calling Chie and inviting her over to study together and why didn't she do that to start with.
He's apologetic, like he wronged her, but doesn't push it. He walks her home since the sun is setting and that is what a gentleman does for a lady. He leaves her at her doorstep with a solemn goodbye, defeat clear in the way his shoulders slump and his nervous ticks have vanished.
A conundrum swells in her. She should call him back, hug him, ask to meet again. She should go inside, text Chie, suggest meeting up tomorrow. But it feels forced, half-hearted. She goes inside with minimal regrets.
Sounds of nature bow before the sounds of man, the rumble of passing cars and yells of kids at play. It's three in the afternoon, sunless from the cloudy weather and it seems so much later. Yukiko neatly reclines against a rock down by the floodplain, book for school open in her lap.
She squints to be able to make out the characters on the page, difficult in the dim light of the day and exacerbated by the shadow of a tree hovering over her. Her own scattered attention does little to help.
Spring is here and with it her second year of high school. They have another transfer student this semester, Seta Souji. Yukiko hasn't talked much to him, but he seems like a better sort than Hanamura, who came to Inaba last year with the added misfortune of bringing Junes with him. (And that isn't to say she dislikes Hanamura. He is just very obviously a boy.) Chie likes Seta well enough, inviting him along for her compensation meal from Hanamura after he broke her DVD.
Yukiko was an obvious shoo-in to come, as well, but she declined, citing her diet and how her mom needs her home early. Things have been messy with the Yamano Mayumi incident ongoing. They understand, and Yukiko feels almost slighted, as arrogant as that sounds, with how easily Chie relents and turns back to Seta.
Jealousy knots in her stomach at the thought of Chie gallivanting around with Seta and Hanamura and it's too pungent image for her to effectively put it aside and concentrate on reading. She admits to herself it is rather obvious at this point. Amagi Yukiko doesn't like boys, and she isn't sorry for it.
She stares down dryly at her hands.
Because this is a weak moment, an immature moment. She can't stay here. She doesn't want the inn.
Because this is a moment of basking in the glow of truth and lightness. Her wants, her selfish, awful wants, can be compatible. Maybe Chie has her sights set elsewhere from Inaba, too. Maybe Chie will take her away. Maybe she convince Chie, clueless to her future, to leave town with her.
Yukiko doesn't really cry. Not now that she is almost an adult. Not now that her mother is weaker and looks to Yukiko more and more. She is terrified and trapped and clings to Chie as her lifeboat.
The status quo prioritizes itself in a series of frightening what ifs. (What if Chie grows distant. What if Chie is disgusted. What if Chie responds similarly and Yukiko curbs her potential and scope. What if Chie is just fine with it and nothing changes.)
She bites her lips. In a greedy, self-serving choice, she decides not to say anything about her, about the inn, about Chie.
After she's kidnapped, after the TV, after her Shadow, what's amazing is, the world goes on.
She disappoints everyone when she remembers near nothing, but that relieves her personally. Chie fills her in reluctantly, and, no, Yukiko doesn't need to recall with clarity all those confessions coming from herself. Because no matter how Chie tries to comfort her and maintain that it was Yukiko's Shadow not Yukiko herself, Yukiko knows better. She said as much. Her Shadow is her.
And for as freeing as it feels to no longer have to bury her fears so deep, to be so nakedly exposed against her will is a burden all of its own. It is only four other people who know, but that is four more than she ever planned to let know. Worse yet, she can't ignore the other things that went unrevealed by her Shadow, words unspoken that wait with shrinking patience inside her.
Days begin to pass and the burden of confrontation grows heavier. She has to say something. She can't keep using herself as a grave. Consequences and what ifs be damned, she knows better than to run now.
She doesn't plan it. It isn't the ideal she concocts in her mind.
It's a freak moment, fraught with a palpable and awkward intimacy felt only by her, where her leg bumps Chie's under the kotatsu as she moves in closer to take a paper from Chie. It's where the words blur, and she doesn't understand it any better than Chie did. It's where she doesn't get the why (or know what it's supposed to communicate) when she blurts out, "I don't want to date boys."
Chie makes a sound like she's connected whatever obtuse points Yukiko is making. "Good," she says, unperturbed. "You shouldn't."
Yukiko wordlessly opens her mouth because what does that mean, what did Yukiko mean—she's making a mess out of this. But, she resists the temptation of the quiet and safe. She has to say it, proper and full.
She starts to laugh. Stomach-hurting, bent-over, arms-wrapped-around-her-belly laughs. She coughs and splutters and feels Chie's bewildered gaze soften to exasperated fondness.
Tick, tick, tick.
"Uh-huh, sure," Chie says, sarcastically, after Yukiko has calmed down to only a few stray giggles here and there.
Flustered and practically brazen, Yukiko throws her weight back on outstretched hands. "I do want to date someone else, though."
Yukiko lets herself fall to the floor and reaches out a groping hand to find one of Chie's. Whether she gets to Chie's hand first or Chie gets to hers first is whatever and who cares because she pulls Chie down to lay next to her, curls their hands up tight together.
"Yeah," Yukiko says, "I do."