The nearby alarm clock ticks away the seconds of the evening as Ana Coppola lay in her bed, unable to fall asleep. After accepting defeat in something resembling a vigorous staring contest with the ceiling, the petite Brit glances at her bedside table to check the time. Two o'clock in the morning. Turning on her side, she watches her best friend, Matsuri Sakuragi, soundly sleeping. Slowly breathing in and out, her chest rising and falling with each calm breath, Matsuri blows light breaths of air toward Ana.
She seems so serene right now. I guess Matsuri is the sort of person who is most at ease when she sleeps. Then again, with all we did today I shouldn't be surprised that she's sleeping like this. Matsuri tires easily.
Honestly, when I invited Matsuri over this afternoon, I wasn't even planning on her staying for the night. My original plan was to study a new English workbook, but then mother asked if we wanted to go shopping. After that, she took us out for a bite to eat. When we eventually got back, rather than returning to our studies, we decided to watch a movie instead.
Father offered to let Matsuri stay over after we completely lost track of the time. That way she wouldn't have to walk home. Not that this is a problem or anything. Matsuri is good company. She is polite, courteous and my parents absolutely adore her.
Placing her arms underneath her pillow, Matsuri sighs as she blearily repositions herself. Ana quickly squeezes her eyes shut and pretends to sleep. After a moment or two, Ana opens her eyes again to check if Matsuri is asleep. As soon as she does, though, Ana buries her face into a pillow in an effort to cover up an uncontrollable giggle-fit.
In Matsuri's nighttime spasm, stray strands of pale gray hair fell over the young girl's face, completely covering her eyes. Chuckling to herself, Ana gently brushes away the hair from Matsuri's face, taking extra precaution to avoid waking her companion. Content with every hair back in its proper place, Ana clasps her hands together and continues 'Matsuri watching'.
If the others had been with us today, I bet Miu would have said, "How could you fritter away these precious days of youth by spending an entire day being boring and unproductive?!" Or something along those lines.
You know, Matsuri; we don't get into nearly as many shenanigans when it's just the two of us. In fact, when Miu isn't around, our lives are much less hectic altogether.
That is not to say that I hate Miu. Heavens no! I don't believe either of us could say such a thing. However, the girl would be more bearable to be around if she just learned to sit still occasionally.
I realize that a fair amount of Miu's annoying antics are unintentional, but that doesn't make her actions any less irritating. That is just the way she is, I suppose. Silly girl doesn't know any better. She has yet to learn the meaning of 'tact'! I suppose you understand that all too well, don't you Matsuri? You've known Miu much longer than I have.
Frankly, I'm surprised you've put up with her for as long as you have. Poor girl! Miu torments you so much! If it weren't for Chika and Nobue I can't even imagine why you would associate with someone who seems to make it her goal to see how much she can pester you.
Still… once in a while, Miu does show signs of something resembling kindness and then she'll try to help others out. In her own… Miu-ish way. Do you remember a few months ago when Miu made it her mission to rehabilitate you?
I'm not sure how it led to this, though. At the time I was trying to read a book, so when Miu asked me about your daily rituals, I was surprised, to say the least.
I suppose Miu was too, because when I described a typical day for you [Which includes habitually tripping and falling over, as well as, frequent visits to the infirmary] the next thing I knew she, and even Chika, became awfully concerned for your well being and decided to 'toughen you up,' in a manner of speaking.
Miu wanted to make sure you would be able to function, even if we were to suddenly leave. At first, I assumed it was just another of her harebrained schemes to alleviate her boredom. Then, before I knew it, the whole thing turned into such a production! It wasn't just you they worried about either. I guess they felt that you might become too dependent on me and feared that you would cause me unwanted stress.
I don't consider you stress inducing at all.
You're my friend. Why should I be upset because you take things a little slower than most people do? Frankly, I never felt like there was anything wrong with you. True, you are certainly clumsier and more naive than most people… I never saw any cause for concern, though. People are usually uncoordinated when they're younger, aren't they? Over time, they grow out of it. You're just a late bloomer. That's what I believe.
Besides, if either of us should be accused of being dependent of the other, it's me. After all, I'm the fool who decided to go to school and pretend I was fluent in a language I cannot even speak.
Oh, dear! When you first found out my secret, I was so afraid that you would tell someone or make fun of me, but you didn't. In actuality, you were too distracted by a grain of rice on my cheek that it didn't even occur to you that I spoke fluent Japanese.
Frustrated as I was back then, thinking about it now, I am extremely fortunate that I met you that day. Not only did you keep my secret, but you even went so far as to help me relearn English. To say you're dependent of me… without you, I wouldn't even be able to communicate with anyone at school because of the situation I put myself in. I never would have gotten to know Chika, Nobue, and, yes, even Miu, had I not met you, Matsuri.
People call you a wimp, a weakling, who would be completely lost if I wasn't there to hold your hand. Even Chika and the others think that you're a burden to me. That isn't true at all! I like being with you. When you fall down, I don't give you my hand out of pity. I don't help you swim laps in the pool or sit by your side in the infirmary because I feel obligated to. I do it because I want to.
Apparently, your school life would completely fall apart if I weren't there. Then the same is true of me. I truly don't know what I would do if one of us were to leave. If you really are overly dependent of me, then I'm equally dependent of you.
Matsuri, you are my best friend! When I'm with you I feel truly, truly happy. Overjoyed, even!
A noise resembling a whimpering puppy emanates from Matsuri's side of the bed and abruptly interrupts Ana's current thoughts. Using her left arm to prop herself up, Ana leans over to Matsuri; who buries her head into a pillow in a futile attempt to hide her streaming tears. The concerned blond places her right hand on Matsuri's back. Shuddering at the touch of Ana's small hand, Matsuri tries her best to keep quiet.
Before Ana can add to her sentence Matsuri lunges at her, wraps her arms around Ana's waist and cries into her chest. Ana's nightshirt stains with the rushing waves of Matsuri's tears. Even so, she remains perfectly still in the silence as the sobbing eventually subsides
"A… Ana! I had… I had a dream…!"
Ana smiles and embraces Matsuri. Using her left hand, she tenderly runs her fingers through Matsuri's hair and strokes the back of her head. With her right hand, Ana caresses her friend's back, hoping to bring a stop to the incessant trembling.
After several minutes, Matsuri calms down enough that her shaking stops, though she still cannot control her falling tears.
"I'm sorry. I woke you up didn't I? I'm sorry, Ana. I'm sorry."
"Matsuri… promise me you won't leave."
Ana's words are weak, as if she were also resisting the impulse to cry.
Matsuri thought for a moment before responding.
"Ana, why would I leave? It's the middle of the night?"
As Ana attempts to stifle the laughter arising from such a reply, she tightens her grip on Matsuri and lovingly pats her head. Matsuri, still bewildered by her friend's words, decides to disregard them as she pulls herself closer to Ana. Still holding one another, the girls lower themselves onto the bed.
Eventually, Matsuri falls asleep while the nearby alarm clock continues ticking away the seconds of the evening. Although Ana Coppola is still wide-awake, she does not care. She is far too busy embracing her closest and dearest friend, Matsuri Sakuragi, insuring that there will be no more bad dreams.
Ana realizes that this night will end before long, so she wishes to cherish every moment while she can. The young Brit tilts her head down and presses her lips against Matsuri's forehead. After giving her companion one final good night kiss, she whispers into the darkness.
"Sweet dreams, Matsuri."
This story is a work of fiction. Strawberry Marshmallow is the property of Barasui, Geneon Entertainment, TBS and the Doumu animation studio.