The next couple of days flew by in a hazard. Saki reappeared for the rehearsal Saturday, apologizing deeply for her absence claiming she had been very sick and slept in. Which hadn’t been a lie, she had blacked out completely and not woken up until 15 the day after, unable to stand up. Abe-san reassured the group that Mai was fine, that she had just gone home due to a migraine and was due to come back the next day. Airi felt guilty for forcing Mai to disappear and decided that space between them was probably the right thing to do. Chisato had been texting Mai saying she hoped she was ok, but had gotten no reply and blamed herself for being too pushy. At her return, Mai had tried discretely to talk to Airi about what had happened, only to be met with a quick excuse to leave. As the day passed with Chisato avoiding her, and now Airi seemingly doing so as well, Mai felt less and less motivated to go to work. Or to do anything, really. She would spend the next days crying herself to sleep every night until she suddenly didn’t anymore. She felt notably numb and decided she had probably run out of tears. Saki noticed Mai looking off and considering she knew about Chisato avoiding her for personal reasons, she decided to try and talk to her a little, only to find her sitting with Maimi who was evidently trying to talk to her too. When the former saw Saki she got up and left abruptly, leaving Mai on her own. This made it hard for Saki to really focus on talking to Mai, but she tried anyway, which Mai really appreciated. Chisato tried on more than one occasion to convince herself of talking to her, but whenever they got eye-contact, Chisato felt her heart break all over again. She hated herself for being selfish. She hated herself for not being able to talk to her obviously troubled friend. She also hated herself for not being able to get Saki to talk to her about what seemed to be bothering her. It seemed she had headaches all the time and was always pale and weak. She had heard no news about Maimi and her, which also concerned Chissa greatly. Saki on her part was getting a bad habit of drinking almost nightly to kill the thoughts in her head. Whenever she tried to communicate to Maimi the latter would either brush her off or answer her with short, uninterested answers. Maimi on her part seemed to be back to casually attempting to make Airi ever so slightly uncomfortable by flirting carelessly with her. Airi responded by calling her an idiot lovingly and casually ignoring every unserious attempt from Maimi’s side. Mai had also experienced an increase in Maimi flirting towards her, and she assumed it was because their group Leader wasn’t big on talking emotionally, so it was her way of showing that she had noticed her sadness and wasn’t ok with it. Mai appreciated the effort, and didn’t have the heart to tell her that her flirting was probably doing more damage than good, as even though Mai knew for sure where Maimi stood with her, it was still somehow managing to mess with her head. But in fear that Maimi would avoid her like her two best friends were doing, she kept that to herself. Abe-san was very concerned about Mai, and tried to talk to her, but seemed to keep himself at a good 5 foot distance. Mai assumed it was probably because of the excessive amount of bodily contact they had had last time, which had made him more careful of his actions. It was a pity, because a good hug and a reassuring forehead-kiss was exactly what she needed. Abe-san had also been watching more over Saki, the latter noticed. He would always seem to have water and a smile for her in the morning. She realised he probably knew what she was doing and suddenly felt disgusting. She decided to try and hold back, and was somewhat successful except on occasions where her inner voice would get so self-depreciating that she decided it was the only way out. Chisato was also continuously trying to get her to talk about what was wrong, but she was too embarrassed by herself to admit it in full. This hurt Chisato, as it somewhat created a distance between the two of them as well, and she felt as if no one felt they could trust her. Airi and Chisato seemed to agree to avoid each other as well. Maybe because they refused to admit that misery loved company, and their last real conversation had really underlined that.
Airi felt extremely guilty both about kissing Mai and scaring her away, and keeping away on her own. Distraught, she had an awful time figuring out what was the right thing to do. At home, Rina had gradually moved most her stuff to Airi’s and seemed to have unofficially moved in. They had decided that Rina would still keep her own apartment to which her mail would be sent. Her manager would pick it up once a week and bring it to work. There had been no sign of the stalker for the past couple of weeks, but Rina’s manager warned that he might have been scared off for a little while after being called out on the show, and they shouldn’t assume just yet that he wasn’t coming back. Together, the two idols continued their late-time TV talk show. Airi was getting more and more comments on her blog because of it, and in the end she agreed with Abe-san that it was best for her to confess to the rest of the group about it before they found out about it by some other means. Maimi mostly praised her for the opportunity, but made it clear it was important that she took care of herself, because she was looking a little tired. Chissa and Nakky didn’t say much, both more or less agreeing with Maimi, but with more emphasis on the last part. Mai said nothing, but tried to smile a little at her, which was somehow painful. Abe-san joked that a good thing about her working that late was that she was so used to not sleeping, she was always one of the first to arrive to work. “Except for Sayashi Riho-chan” he said with wonderment. Everyone nodded. They had noticed that too. Saki had tried to talk to Riho again since the last time, but she was always busy during the day and Saki was having a lot of trouble waking up early in the morning. She was determined to talk to her as soon as possible though.
With weeks having passed, Chisato, Airi and Mai had seemingly gotten so distant that it wasn’t as much avoiding each other anymore as it was just… awkward. Chisato was still fighting a losing battle with her guilt, but she also felt that being away from Mai meant avoiding new pain and confusion – then, thinking that way of course resulted in her feeling even guiltier. She would talk to Saki about it, the latter constantly trying to push Chisato to make peace. But she was unsuccessful. Airi was distracting herself with Rina and work. She became so busy with her exposure causing more TV show appearances and Magazine photoshoots. Rina also seemed to be on the rise, which delighted Airi. She hoped they could one day have a photoshoot together.
Mai didn’t care anymore.