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the one with the mcat

In hindsight, Sakura's starting to realise her plan isn't as easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy as she hoped it would be. There was the issue of deciding to go to med school overnight, for one, the fact that she hasn't picked up an academic textbook in over two years, and let's not forget the sheer amount of almost-impossibility it'll take for her to actually be accepted, given her time off to get married.

A future at NYU's med school starts to look less achieveable the longer she sits in the career counselling office and waits for Shizune, the counsellor to finish reading the documents that Sakura had retrieved from her parents' home earlier that day.

"Your grades are impressive," Shizune says, her dark eyebrows raised. "A 3.8 certainly gives you a chance of being considered for NYU's medical program. However..."

"What is it?" Sakura takes a deep breath and tries not to let her anxiety show through, even though her heart's jack-hammering away like her chest is its concrete (and it most certainly is not).

"There is still the issue of you having done neither the MCAT nor the interview. As you may be aware, you have to surpass all three hurdles before you can be accepted into our program. Now," Shizune clasps her hands together and leans forward on her mahogany desk. "I would highly recommend taking this exam, if you're still determined to undertake this pathway."

She nods vehemently and says, "I am," with feeling.

"Good," the woman smiles and hands Sakura back her documents, "You still have a few months to enrol and study for the MCAT - I wish you the best of luck."

Sakura steps out of the office and leans against the door when it closes. She zones in on a purple flag fluttering against the wind at the door and sighs, recalling the years when she'd assumed she never had to study again.

And realistically - who was she kidding? She was the one who chose to knock down the bathroom window in a church and run away from her life of gossipy housewife-itude. Of course life wouldn't be as easy as it was at home. She almost hadn't made it to the counsellor meeting because her parents tried to knock some sense into her head and persuade her to stay at home where 'daddy's already a doctor, so why do you need to be one too?'

Why does she?

A sudden vibrating from her back pocket saves her from torturing herself even further. She swiftly accepts the call without looking at the screen and holds it up to her ear, eyes still focused on the NYU flag. "Sakura speaking."

"It's Sai."

She tells herself that there really isn't a need to hyperventilate over something as simple as returning a wedding ring to a fiancé. In theory, the only task required of Sakura is to walk into Sai's clinic, return his 100-carat ring in person, and walk out with her head held high.

"I'm a classy, classy girl," Sakura repeats under her breath, in her head, over the phone to Tenten during her lunch break, and all the while on her way to impending emotional doom. Because classy ladies don't exactly smash open windows with their bare fists, bunch up the skirt of their wedding gowns and climb out of bathrooms on their Special Day, do they?

"Dr Hino will see you now." She's abruptly called into the consultation room that holds far too many explicit memories for her to feel comfortable in and is greeted by the sight of her former husband-to-be. Sai somehow appears both fatigued and refreshed at the same time, with his typically ghostly-white skin radiating a rosy tinge that amplifies the dark circles under his eyes.

"Sakura." He greets her stiffly, tone completely (and understandably) void of affection. Sakura replies in kind with an awkward salutation. "You look good."

"So do you," she says, "Different."

"You mean the skin," he remarks drily. Sakura shrugs noncommittally. "I was in Aruba."

Oh. The honeymoon destination. Yikes.

"Well, did you have - fun?"

"I did, actually. Ino was great company."

"Ino?" Sakura stops refraining for the sake of politeness mixed with crushing guilt and gawks at his impassive face. "My maid of honour Ino? Yamanaka?"

"She stuck around considerably longer than you, yes." He smiles, giving off the impression of a blank canvas, and that's when she knows it's pointless to further the conversation.

Which, Sakura would have heeded if they were still together.

As it so happens, they're not.

"She's also a backstabber! How did you two even happen?"

As she crosses her arms over her chest in mute disgust, Sai's upper lip curls. "I don't believe you have the right to comment on backstabbing when you walked away from our future."

"I have the right to say whatever the damn hell I want, and fine - yes, I walked away from us. But you know what?" She throws her hands into the air and slams them back down onto the table in front of him. "I don't think there was even an 'us' to begin with if you jetted off to Aruba with Ino that quickly. How long did it take you to make that decision? Two seconds? An hour?"

"Eight hours, twenty minutes and ten seconds," he stands up and glares at her, looking uncharacteristically upset. "Believe it or not, Sakura, I cared about you. I was ready to start a life for us and you didn't have enough dignity to say 'I don't' to my face. You think you're embarrassed that I went to Aruba with someone who was there for me on my wedding day? Imagine being left behind at the altar in front of six-hundred people. With cameras."

The room plunges into an icy silence as soon as Sai finishes and closes his eyes, his chest heaving like he's just completed a marathon.

"Sai," Sakura starts, her earlier guilt returning. There's a subtle eye roll as soon as he hears her, but she takes the lack of reply as a signal to continue. "You're right. I was selfish," her bottom lip curls in and out, "I didn't think about you or how you would have felt. I just wanted to escape."

"But why?" He opens his eyes again and stares at her, "Was it me?"

Was it him? Partially. The entire reason why she became a fugitive bride in the first place was because she didn't love him - not like that. But if she's honest with herself, Sakura usually prides herself in being steadfast. Reliable, with a good head on her shoulders. She was raised by a man who operates on people with a scalpel and regularly regaled her with stories vis-a-vis the operating theatre. It takes more than a strong lack of emotions to scare Sakura Haruno away from anything.

She thinks back to the weeks she spent opening and closing websites on medical programs, languishing in despair on Tenten's couch before finally making the decision to go for it. Was abandoning Sai just because she had an extreme, funeral-level case of cold feet, or more?

She must've been silent for a substantial amount of time, because Sai starts to tap at his table impatiently.

"You're right," she zeroes in on his face and looks at his cautiously blank face, "You deserve an explanation. As much as I am grateful for everything you did for me, I never could bring myself to love you."

"Then why didn't you tell me that before the wedding? You had two years."

"I had two years, she agrees with a nod, "And it took me that long to realise I didn't want to spend the rest of my life being married when there were still things I wanted to do without it. I'm sorry, Sai. You're a great guy, truly," Sakura picks up his hand and holds it in between hers. She smiles and he returns it. "I'm just not the one for you."

"Thank you," Sai releases his hand from hers gently and places them in his pockets, "For being honest."

"Yeah," she grins back, then suddenly realising the purpose of her visit. "And, I believe this will belong to the new Mrs Dr Sai Satoshi?"

He takes it from her hands with a focused expression and steps forward to give her a rare hug.

Their last meeting ends with much less dramatic fanfare than Sakura envisioned on the bus ride there, and she doesn't know how she feels about it but her heart isn't fluttering anymore and neither does she feel pits of crushing doom and despair forming in her body anymore, so overall, Sakura gives herself a ten for internal solidarity.