Author's note: This takes place as Mai is walking away at the end of Episode 2. When I watched that episode, it seemed to me like she was starting to fall for him, but then all of a sudden she said "Bye!" and hurried away. This fic is my attempt to figure out what was going through her head at the time.
Acknowledgement and disclaimer: There are two bits of dialogue that were taken from the English subtitles of the anime. I own nothing, so don't sue me! (…but I wish I owned Tocho…)
You're a coward, Mai.
The self-accusation rang through her head again and again as she rushed away from Tochomae. She had even taken the stairs two at a time as if anxious to put as much distance as possible between herself and the man she couldn't bear to face; now, she continued her brisk pace down the street as her conscience warred with her. Well, you sure beat a hasty retreat, the voice in her head mocked. 'Hit-and-Run Mai,' that's what they should call you.
-That's not true! I didn't hurt him! I walked away so that I wouldn't hurt him.
You're a liar on both counts. You did hurt him, and you only walked away so that he wouldn't hurt you. You're a self-serving, lying coward—
-I barely knew him!
God, what a lame excuse. Now you're just grasping at straws. He knew you. He saw through your defenses from the very beginning. In a single day he showed you more tenderness and understanding than Akira did in all the years you were together. That man offered his heart to you on a silver platter and you dashed it to the ground.
"What was I supposed to do!" she screamed aloud, heedless of the stares she got from passersby.
You could have tried being honest—with him, and with yourself.
Mai sighed. Her conscience had won, as always. Well, she admitted, I guess I'd better start by being honest with myself. She allowed her thoughts to drift to Akira.
She closed her eyes and revived the image of that fateful night—the night she'd told him she was to be transferred overseas. She remembered how relieved he had looked as he spoke the words she had wished at the time she could shut her ears against. But should it really have been such a shock to her? Deep down, she had felt it coming for a long time. The last six months of their relationship had been a desperate effort on her part to salvage a sinking ship…no, she amended, that's not quite true. Those months had been a stubborn refusal on her part to abandon a ship that she knew was doomed.
Looking back on the whole thing with a detachment that would have been impossible a few hours ago, she wondered whether it was her heart that had been wounded, or her pride. Probably both, at first; but she knew the ache that remained had more to do with the latter than the former. And now—how did she feel now? Liberated in one sense, and frightened in another….
I'm supposed to be honest now, right? She halted in front of a glossy office building and confronted her reflection. There was simply no point in pretending anymore.
She had feelings for Tocho.
Like any young woman who wasn't blind, she'd felt her heart flutter when she first set eyes on the tall, dark, handsome stranger who'd so courteously welcomed her that day. But what she felt for him went beyond mere attraction. She'd sensed his warmth and gentleness at once, and it had so terrified her that she'd immediately put up a defensive wall. Of course, he'd seen right through it—the more she'd tried to push him away, the more patient he'd been with her. There was a kindness and selflessness in him that she had always longed to find in another, and that she'd tried to convince herself Akira possessed (despite all evidence to the contrary). Though Tocho was obviously taken with her, she knew that he would never make demands of her; but even so, he seemed to have a genuine need for her. When it came down to it, she had never truly been needed by anyone before—not even by Akira. A smile touched her lips as she recalled her time with the gentle, charismatic Tocho-san….
"Today I met you. This could also be the beginning of something."
Had he known the way those words had tied her in knots? Had he known the conflict that had raged in her as they made their way back to the station, and at last grown so overwhelming that she'd all but sprinted from him with nothing more than an abrupt goodbye?
You can't leave it like this, Mai. You've got to go back and at least give him a proper thank-you…no, more than that. You've got to tell him how you feel. He showed you respect and consideration—now it's your turn. You owe him at least that much.
She had delayed getting her passport until the last possible minute and now had less than 48 hours before her flight was scheduled to depart. She wouldn't have time to stop at Tochomae before then—fool that she was, she hadn't so much as lifted a finger thus far to pack or prepare for her new life abroad. But…perhaps there was still some time now…she could turn back, retrace her steps to the station….
No, she thought firmly. What she had to do, what she had to say to him, needed both time and space. Perhaps it was fate that she'd be half a world away in a matter of days. She knew that she needed to heal and grow, and he deserved better than a woman on the rebound. She hated to leave things as they were, but if he really could see inside her, maybe, just maybe, he'd know in his heart that she'd return to him….
"Please come again. I'll always be waiting for you."
"Yes, Tocho-san," she murmured. "Someday, I will."