"Come on Usagi, we all make mistakes," comforted Makoto.

"Not—like—this," moaned Usagi between sobs.

"It can't be that bad," soothed Minako, brushing her friend's tear-soaked bangs away from her face.

Makoto and Minako had found their the teary blond hiding in the bathroom of the Crown arcade ten minutes earlier and had still not discovered what horrible thing their friend had done.

"Come on Usagi," prompted Makoto. "We can't help if you won't tell us what's wrong."

Nodding bravely, Usagi wiped away her tears and sat up straighter on the edge of the sink. "Okay, but promise not to laugh." Taking a deep breath, she blurted out, "Mamoru-caught-me-talking-to-Motoki-about-him-and-he-knows-I-like-him-and-now-he'll-never-stop-teasing-me!"

As Usagi resumed her loud sobbing, her friends exchanged silent laughter. They could understand her feelings, but the boy had been bound to figure it out sooner or later.

O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O

Four days had passed since Usagi's accidental confession. For the first two days, she had been too embarrassed to go within several blocks of the Crown. Luckily the girls had been understanding and Rei had invited them all back to the shrine to eat ice cream and watch movies. Usagi was glad for the distraction, but quickly discovered that she could not hide forever.

On the third day after the incident, Usagi had marched bravely into the Crown and taken a seat in a sheltered corner of the café. However, Mamoru was nowhere to be seen, and even Motoki was missing from his usual post behind the counter. A helpful waitress let her know that he had called in sick. After waiting nearly two hours and consuming a milkshake and a large plate of French fries, Usagi left for home feeling a mixture of disappointment and relief.

Today had been no different. Motoki was still out sick, and Usagi left the café with a full stomach and a longing heart. It was obvious now that Mamoru was ignoring her. With a deep sigh, Usagi resigned herself to the truth; Mamoru was avoiding her because he did not like her.

Pushing open the front door, Usagi entered the house and sat down in the entryway. But instead of removing her shoes, she laid her head against the wall and closed her eyes.

"Usagi, darling, is that you?" came her mother's voice from the kitchen. Usagi answered without enthusiasm and her mother came out into the entryway.

"A letter came for you, Usagi," stated Ikuko, handing her daughter a small green envelope. She gave her a slightly concerned look before turning to head back into the kitchen.

Usagi turned the envelope over and over in her hands. Her name and address were written neatly on the front, but other than the Tokyo postmark, there were no other markings. Finally, Usagi opened the letter; carefully sliding her pinky into the edge of the envelope, she broke the seal with care. Normally Usagi would have torn into a letter hastily, but the mystery of this letter begged her to be cautious.

The seal broken, she reached in with slim fingers to remove the neatly written page:

Dear Usagi:
I imagine it must have been a shock to look up and find me behind you yesterday. The look on your face made that clear. I should have alerted you to my presence, but somehow I froze when I heard my name.

I must admit, I was surprised to discover your feelings about me. I am sitting in the crown right now and your absence makes it clear that your admission has embarrassed you. My knowledge of your feelings gives me the upper hand in this situation, and so, to even the odds a bit, I will not return to the Crown until you invite me back personally. You can feel assured that you will not accidentally run into me there again.

That said, I feel I owe you my own reaction to your feelings. After you left, I shared them with Motoki, and he agreed that you should know.

Usagi, you are like the sun. Sometimes you are so bright that you hurt my eyes; sometimes you are so intense that you burn my skin.

Usagi stopped to take a break at this point. She was tempted to put the letter down altogether. She could not read on and see in writing that he hated her. Yet, the letter had been polite and kind so far. It was obvious that he was trying to let her down gently. Squaring her shoulders, she lifted the letter again. She owed it to Mamoru, and to herself, to finish reading it.

But most of all, Usagi, you are a warm ray of light on my soul. You illuminate parts of me that have been dark and cold for so long. You make me feel alive.

I know how you feel about me—in theory at least. If you want to act on those feelings, it is your call. I will be waiting on the bench near the swings at Juban community Park from 7-10 each evening this week. If you really meant what you said, come see me.

Chiba Mamoru

The letter shook in Usagi's hands. Mamo-chan was interested in her? No, this had to be a trick—a mean joke. But, while Mamoru loved to tease her, he was never hurtful about it. All of his teasing was upfront and playful; he was not one to take advantage of someone's feelings.

Usagi jumped from the step, her shoes still secure on her dainty feet. A quick glance at her watch told her that it was only 6:15. Mamoru would not be at the park for another forty-five minutes, but she would go now while she still had the courage. She would wait for him today.

O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O

When Usagi arrived at Juban Community Park, her watch showed 6:30. She would only need to wait half an hour for Mamoru to arrive, and knowing him, he would be fifteen minutes early. Usagi settled herself onto one of the swings and pulled Mamoru's letter out of her purse.

She pushed her toes softly into the gravel as she read, enjoying the gentle motion of the swing. By the time she reached the end of the letter, she was pumping her legs hard, her body soaring in a way that matched her spirit. The feeling of wind pulling on her hair and skirt kept Usagi pumping. She had forgotten this feeling. Sure she was able to jump and nearly fly as Sailor Moon, but this was different. This was Usagi, plain, ordinary Usagi, flying. She had probably been seven or eight the last time she had been on a swing.

As Usagi tired, she glanced down at her watch—7:00. Where was Mamoru? The bench was empty. It was not like him to be late. She pulled out the letter again, certain he would be there any minute. She returned to her gentle toe pushing while she read.

Another glance at her watch showed 7:15. Usagi wondered what could be keeping him. Maybe a class was running late, or maybe he had missed his bus.

Flipping over on the swing, Usagi lay on her stomach, letting her arms and legs hang down into the gravel. As she swayed, she placed the letter on the ground beneath her face.

"You are a warm light on my soul."

He would be here; she knew it. Her Mamo-chan was coming for her. 7:30. He was half an hour late now. Usagi peeled herself from the swing, her legs wobbly from the extended motion. A walk would do her good—and help her to burn time.

There was a small pavilion with a washroom and a drink machine nearby. Surely Mamoru would have arrived by the time she walked there and back. Taking her time in the washroom and pondering several minutes over her drink choice, her watch showed 7:45 as she approached the swings again.

As Usagi came around the corner and the bench came into view, she saw a man seated there. Dropping her soda, she ran towards him shouting, "Mamo-chan, you came!" But when he looked up at her, she instantly realized that this was not Mamoru.

Usagi burst into tears. Why was Mamoru so late? Maybe the letter really had been a trick. No, Mamoru could never be that mean. But he could have changed his mind. What if he had remembered what a whiny crybaby she was and decided that the whole letter was a mistake? Usagi was suddenly certain that this was the case.

At that moment, the sight of the bench was more than she could take. Turning, she ran down the path, blinded by tears. Her breaking heart beat loudly in her ears, covering the sound of her feet slapping on the pavement. Run, Usagi, just run. She ran through the park, not knowing or caring that she was getting further and further from home.

When she could finally run no more, Usagi gave up and collapsed, falling forward towards the pavement. But just before she landed, she was caught up by in strong pair of arms. Too tired to even look up at her rescuer, she fainted from exhaustion as he lifted her up into his embrace like a father would carry a sleeping child.

O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O O

Usagi slowly lifted one eyelid. It was sticky, as though she had cried herself to sleep. Forcing herself to focus, she realized that she was in an unfamiliar place. She let her eye slide shut again so she could think. What was she doing last night?

Finally she remembered waiting for Mamoru at the park. When he hadn't come, she had started running. She must have passed out, which meant, oh goodness, had a stranger picked her up and brought her home? Why wasn't she taken to a hospital or the police station?

Fear coursed through Usagi's body as she struggled to sit up, but she was met by a heavy weight pinning her down. Forcing her eyes open again, she saw that she was wrapped up in strong arms: a man's arms.

"Help me!" she screamed, her voice gravelly from sleep. But it worked. The arms loosened and she was able to free herself. The man moaned as she elbowed his stomach and rolled onto the floor. Without looking up, Usagi jumped to her feet and ran for the door.

"Usagi!" she stopped at the familiar voice and turned. When she saw Mamoru rising sleepily from the couch, the powerful adrenaline drained from her body and she sank to her knees.

"Mamo-chan?" she whispered tentatively. "Where am I?"

Lifting Usagi gently from the floor, he returned her to the couch and took a chair opposite her. "This is my apartment, Usagi. I was horribly late getting to the park last night—one of my professors was working through some scholarship applications with me and I could not get away. When I arrived, I found you running blindly across the park. You fainted just as I reached you." Mamoru paused to brush Usagi's damp bangs off of her forehead. "I tried to wake you, but you were sound asleep. I brought you here because I wanted to be with you when you awoke."

Usagi shook her head in disbelief as she remembered the events of the week. "So, the letter?" she questioned tentatively.

"True. Every word of it," he answered firmly, but with a new softness in his eyes. "And what I heard on Monday?" he asked.

"True," she parroted back. "Every word of it." When Mamoru's questioning look broke into a broad smile, she found herself shivering from the shock of the situation. Mamoru saw her rubbing her chilled arms, and quietly stood, crossing the room to sit beside Usagi on the couch. Settling her small body into his lap, he wrapped his arms around her frame.

Relaxing into his embrace, Usagi fell back into a restful state of half-sleep. "Mamo-chan," she breathed, pressing her cheek into his chest.

"Oh, my Usako," he moaned, nearly crushing her in his arms. "I've waited so long for this, but I know I should take you home. It's the middle of the night and your parents will be worried sick."

Pasting on an irresistible pout, Usagi turned her face up towards Mamoru's and countered, "But Mamo-chan, there's no place like the shelter of your arms. Even my dad's anger can't hurt me when you're holding me."

This was enough to bring Mamoru to his feet. Wrapping one of his jackets around Usagi's shoulders, he ushered her towards the door. She protested, but Mamoru was firm, "Now, my darling Usako, as much as I would love to keep you in my arms, we have every day for the rest of our lives to be together—provide we don't die young. And from what you've told me of your dad, that's getting more likely by the minute. Pulling the door shut behind them, Mamoru proceeded to walk his love home, firmly encased in his arms.