Tomorrow is showtime and bad news strikes before bed. Kentaro calls and immediately says he’s really sorry. It turns out his dad’s truck broke down. They took it to the shop, but repairs take time, so they can’t get to the school earlier than 5 in the morning, which is an hour later than the time we arranged previously. Plus, after he unloads the apples, Kentaro has to help his dad make the missed deliveries so he can’t stay to help me and Takuya either. Kentaro apologizes profusely. I tell him not to worry about it and that he should just leave the rest to me.
After I hang up, I go straight into panic mode. I wanted to have everything arranged before dawn, as after that students begin to trickle in and that would be very distracting. I was counting on having at least two hours to arrange the apples! Now barely an hour remains, assuming Kentaro's delivery arrives on time. And Kentaro can't stay to help us so we're down a man. We might not make it! What shall I do?
I know! I'll call Junko. She did say she owes me a favor. Now’s the time to call in that favor. Usually I would call Miki, but since we're in competition and all, I suppose it would be bad form to ask her to help me. Quickly, I dig out the piece of paper Junko gave me that night. I dial the number on it.
The phone rings for quite a while. I am about to hang up when the call connects.
"Uh, hi. It's me, Hiroto," I say.
"Oni-chan!" answers Aoi's voice happily.
"Oh hey, Aoi. Put your sister on the phone. I need to ask her something."
"Are you going to ask her out?"
"Oh phooey. And I thought it would be something exciting." What's with elementary school kids these days?
"Just put your sister on the phone," I say irritably.
"Ok," says Aoi. Then I hear her yelling into the background. "ONE-CHAN! It's oni-chan! And he's not gonna ask you out! He says it's about something else!"
Thanks, Aoi, for framing everything so clearly. A few seconds go by. I hear a rustle and the sound of the phone being passed.
"Hi," says Junko's voice over the phone.
"Hi," I reply.
Suddenly, I don't know what to say. I called Junko in the heat of the moment, and admittedly, without giving it much thought. Now that I've calmed down, I realize this is the first time I've called a girl on the phone. (Not counting Miki, of course - she doesn't count.) Oddly, my chest tenses. My mouth feels a little dry.
"Yes? Machida-kun? You still there?" asks Junko.
"Um. Yeah. There's something I need you to help me with," I say.
I quickly go over the whole apple plan. How I need her to help me and Takuya arrange the apples before dawn breaks.
The phone goes silent for a moment, and then Junko says, "Let me get this. You are calling a girl in the middle of the night so she can help you chase another girl in the morning?"
"Um, yeah. That's the gist of it, I guess," I reply. Wait. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.
Another bout of silence ensues.
"Look," I begin. "If you don't want to do this, it's fi-"
"No, I'll do it," Junko says. "It sounds like fun. Besides, I do owe you a favor. Tell me the time and place."
I give her the details. She says goodbye and hangs up.