Writer's Block

chapter two

"Morning, Elmo."

I looked over at Marui, who had a kind of subtle grin on his face as he watched me—if that was the right way to put it. I sat down, putting my satchel at the foot of my desk, and promptly moving my chair as close to the window as possible. "Morning, Marui."

Marui didn't seem affected by the distance. He just moved his chair closer. "So, how's the story going?"

If I moved any further along I might have fallen out the window. Wouldn't have been the best idea. "Great."

"The flowers idea working for you?"

"No. I gave up on that."

"Oh yeah." If he was disappointed—which he probably wasn't—he masked it well. "What did you decide to write about instead?"

I dropped a very obvious hint in saying, "Human obsession."

"Sounds darker than contemporary."

"It's light. Trust me."

Marui tilted his head at me, the very image of a cat looking at its master. Still, his body language gave away nothing. "How far have you gotten?"

"I was writing all weekend. I nearly finished the draft, so I just need to write an ending and edit."

He gave a low, seemingly impressed whistle. "That's dedication."

"Is that a compliment or not?"

Niou, who at that point had walked into the classroom with a can of hot coffee, slipped into the conversation with the smoothness of a con artist. He sat down on his chair, crossing his legs and taking a sip of coffee. "You decide." He said to me. "While we're on the subject, how's the story going?"

That wasn't on the subject.

"I'm not going to repeat myself to you. Not you."

"That was cold, ."

"A chill a day keeps Niou away."

"You're not like this to Marui."

"Marui's not a bastard." I said. "He's just a totally harmless creep."

Marui looked accomplished. "Totally harmless creep, hey? So since I'm not a bastard, that means I get to read your story, right?"

That made me pause.

At first, I genuinely considered it—it was the least I could do for him, seeing as he 'inspired me.' But when I started to think of how I'd based it off all our encounters, I immediately changed my mind.

On top of that, I felt insecure at the thought of someone else reading my work. I knew that someday, it might have to be read, but maybe that would be when I could actually write. Since a passing comment I received at six years old, courtesy of my father, not even my family was allowed three feet near my stories. I suppose it subconsciously influenced my mindset, and even though I knew creative criticism was for the better, it was always hard for me to accept.

It was that fear of failure, just like all writers had.

Maybe it was just a bad habit on my part. Maybe that was the reason I got writers' block so often.

"Hey." Marui was waving a hand in front of my face. I snapped out of my daze. "What's cookin'? You blanked out for a second."

"You're all pale." Niou drawled. He had a smirk on his face.

Since I didn't have a close-hand weapon to resort to, I took out my English book and slapped Niou over the head with it.

Marui was stifling his laughter. Niou just had that lazy, apathetic look on his face, as if being hit didn't even faze him. (Actually, knowing Niou, it probably didn't faze him at all.)

I turned to Marui. "No."

He sobered. "No what?"

"No. You can't read my draft."

"That's cool. I'll just read the final."

"You can't read the final."

"Aw, why not? I helped you."

"I didn't even use your flowers idea. I'm not really entitled to show you my work."

"You should do it because it's a nice thing to do." Marui commented. "So? Can I read it?"


"Come on."


"Come on, or I won't let you copy my English homework."

"Maybe next time I'll put more of an effort into doing it."

Marui paused for a moment. It was surprising to register the smallest of changes in his face. Even if it was only small, the defeat was impossible to miss. "If you say so." He said with a shrug. I paused, wondering if I should apologize for being so blunt or just leave him alone, until the opening door cut short my speech. As the teacher walked into the room, trying to control the papers that were falling out everywhere, I put my seat back to normal and gave up trying to please Marui.

"Sorry I'm late. Let me mark the roll first... -san?"

"Here." I said.

As he marked me off the roll and moved on, Niou turned around with a smug look on his face, quirking his eyebrows at Marui, and then at me. "Ooo..."

I glared at him, but chose not to react. As I leaned back in my chair, I briefly considered the go with Marui's facial expression. He was disappointed, yeah. But why should I have cared?

I stifled a sigh. Maybe I was safe for now. But I still felt bad.

- x -

I signed into messenger on Wednesday night. It was the third time in a row that I had signed in on a school night as available, and had Marui not talk to me once. It didn't say he was online, but he could have been invisible.

He hadn't responded to my last message on Facebook, either. I guessed that he was ignoring me after all.

Unfortunately, Marui's lack of attention caused a singing curiosity from another.

PURI: Oooo.

The popup came while I was agonizing over an ending for Perceptions. So far I'd edited and rewritten what I had of the story once, but the end of the story just baffled me completely. Contemporary stories were usually deprived of cataclysmic, heart-racing endings. It was more of a simple resolution of the complication at hand.

The only problem with me was, each time I tried to write a simple ending—by my definition, at least—I felt it was too weak and lacked any kind of fluff. I gave up eventually.

Conveniently enough, it was the time Niou decided to initiate a chat: one that I was reluctant to be involved it, but God knew why I replied anyway.

: Why are you on at this ungodly hour?

It was nearly two in the morning.

PURI: Same to you.

: Huh. Had too much coffee again?

PURI: Assumptions, assumptions. How's the story?

: Great.

I'm doing a fantastic job of screwing it up.

PURI: What's your definition of 'great'?

Damn it.

: Just never mind.

PURI: Ooooooo.

: I'll block you.

PURI: And I can hack into your account and unblock me.

: So that's why you hacked into Marui's account, is it?

PURI: Accusations, accusations. You got any proof?

: Sheesh, I think you already know. You were the one helping me that night—not Marui. You're the only one who says 'shoot' in place of 'go for it.' Besides, Marui always peps his speech with 'eh?' and 'hah.' And he says 'cool beans.' He sounds a lot cuter than you.

There was a short pause.

PURI: He'll be pleased to hear that.

: I just said he's cuter than you. Anyone can be cuter than you. He's still a creep.

I was beginning to think Niou had taken it the wrong way. I hoped not; I didn't think I liked Marui like that. I didn't even know him.

So I changed the subject.

: But you admit to being 'Marui' last time?

PURI: Puri.

: I'll take that as a yes...

: Why did you have to go into his account?

PURI: Because he asked me to.

: Why did he ask you to?

PURI: Why don't you ask him that?

: Are you planning on answering all my questions with questions?

PURI: Why don't you take a stab at it?

: No thanks. That's why I asked.

PURI: Why don't you ask Marui?

: Niou. Really.

PURI: It was fun while it lasted.

I didn't know what to say in response to that. Apparently, neither did Niou.

He decided to loop back to a former topic. Brilliant.

PURI: Just ask Marui.

: I think he's ignoring me.

PURI: Why?

: How should I know? You're his friend.

PURI: You're hilarious.

PURI: In case you didn't notice, you sit next to him.

: But I don't talk to him much.

PURI: You seem to a lot lately.

That made me blink. Did I really?

I thought I said no more than the average greeting. True, there were times that our instant messages got out of hand, but that was only over the course of a few hours. Marui had been paying zero attention to me since Monday.

: I don't know. He seemed sore when I said he couldn't read my story.

PURI: Let's be honest here. He's been waiting to read that ever since he found out you write stories.

: When was that?

PURI: Try the beginning of the school year.

That was about four months ago.

: Seriously? I didn't even know who he was back then.

PURI: That's pretty sad. You've been copying his homework since May.

: How do you know that?

PURI: I didn't until he told me.

: ... Has he seriously been keeping track?

Maybe Marui was more of a creep than I gave him credit for. Exactly how long had he been watching me like that?

: Why is he paying so much attention to me?

PURI: I'm shocked you haven't realized it.

: Realized what?

PURI: Ask Marui.

: I don't need to. I can ask you.

PURI has signed out.

: Coward!

I leaned back in my chair, trying to process the conversation. My own curiosity bothered me, even once I'd moved on and started writing a recount of tonight's conversation with Niou. Maybe it would help me come up with an ending.

Once I was done, I scrolled back to the top of the document and started to revise, my dissatisfaction ever-present as I read over my work. As words started to swim and elude my eyes, I felt a kind of misery taking over. The more I read, the less worthy I felt of sending a submission into the competition.

I was beginning to reconsider sending in an entry.

Maybe I should just scrap it and try again next year.

- x -

After school that Friday, I decided to make amends with Marui and somehow (possibly) break the news that I wasn't going to enter the competition after all. I told him to wait for me before leaving, and no doubt he was surprised that I was even suggesting such a thing.

Either way, he didn't argue. He just waited for me to pack up my notebooks and pencil case.

"Why the change in heart?" He asked.

I looked briefly up at him. "No reason."

If he was curious, he didn't ask—just patiently waited for me to finish packing up. When I had my satchel tidied, I signaled towards the door, and the two of us left the classroom without a word. The silence hung over us until we reached the locker rooms and changed into our outdoor shoes. Marui took his time in changing his, but I was in a rush for mine.

"What's the hurry?" He asked as I stuffed my slippers in my locker.

"No reason." I said once I'd gotten them on. He raised an eyebrow, unconvinced.

"Are you feeling alright this afternoon?" Marui reached out and put a hand on my forehead, then felt my cheeks. "You don't have a fever, at least."

Embarrassed by the few stares I got, I managed to get a grip and pull myself away from this touch. "I'm... I'm fine." The color in my face faded when I saw a grin forming on Marui's face. "What is it?"

"You have really soft skin." He said.

I didn't know how to respond to that. I decided to settle for a quick smile and moved on. He watched me with subtle interest as I pulled something out of my satchel and handed it to him. "Here. A present."

"A present? For me?"

"Yeah. Think of it what you will." I said, shutting my satchel and rising to my feet. Marui was about to, until he realized that he didn't even have his outside shoes on yet. He hurriedly tried to put them on, but I made sure to rush out while I had the chance. "Maybe you could help me with an ending—your help this time. Hope you have a good weekend."

Then, to put it in the words of a theatrical writer, I ran, leaving my half-finished manuscript in his hands. It wasn't like I was going to submit it to LIT, so I decided ultimately to print it out and give it to him—ask for his opinion on it. (His—not Niou's.) Maybe he could help me satisfy myself.

I braced myself the moment I ran out of the locker room's stuffy atmosphere and into the open air.

- x -

I didn't go on the computer at all on the weekend. The deadline was tomorrow, but by this time, I'd given up. I thought Marui had, too, now that I had finally given him the manuscript. Apparently, I judged him too quickly.

Having given Marui a ring tone between Saturday and Sunday, I gave him the only song I hadn't given to someone already. I actually hadn't wanted to give it to anyone—wanted to save it for something else—but it was the only one I had left. Following that logic, he ended up with my favorite song.

I was minding my own business—for once—when Pocketful of Stars started to play.

At first I thought it was in my head. Then I realized it was actually coming from my desk. I sat up, realizing it was my phone, and of all things, chose to leap off the bed and hurry over to it.

Sure enough, it was Marui.

I answered it. "Marui?"

"Why aren't you on messenger or Facebook?"

"Well... I'm not always on them."

"Yeah you are."

I frowned at that. "Give me a second." I said, pulling out the chair and booting up my computer. "I'll be on soon."

"Cool beans."

Then he hung up.

When my computer was up and running, I signed onto messenger and found several offline messages waiting for me, most of which were prompting me if I was on and telling me to hurry up and reply. He must have discovered eventually that I was offline, not invisible, and decided to call me.

I wrote a quick greeting.

: Hey. Are you still there?

GENIUS: As always. Heh.

: I'm not talking to Niou?

GENIUS: Aw, now why would that be?

: Only Niou says 'shoot' and talks like he owns the world.

GENIUS: Plus, I talk cuter than him. Heh.

I stopped. Mother of God, Niou, why did you tell him?

: Did Niou tell you that?

GENIUS: So you admit to saying that you thought I was cute?

: Just for the record, I only said you call cuter than Niou. Anyone can be cuter than Niou. That doesn't necessarily mean I think you're cute.

GENIUS: I'm chuffed that you think I'm cute, Elmo! Pepping my speech with 'heh' and 'aw.' And how you think it's cute how I say 'cool beans.'

Only half of that was true.

: Just how much did he say?

GENIUS: Everything.

: ...

GENIUS: So it's true that you like me then?

I did a double take.

: What?

GENIUS: That's what Niou said. Hah.

: I admit to saying the other things, but 'liking you' is something that I definitely didn't say.

GENIUS: Niou said that you did.

: You trust his word over mine? Really?

GENIUS: Hmm, what can I say?

: That you trust I didn't say that.

GENIUS: Aw, fine. I'll trust that.

: You don't sound very convincing.

GENIUS: Heh. Don't let it get you down.

I raised a skeptical eyebrow.

: What did you ask me to log on for?

GENIUS: Aw, I was just getting lonely.

: Give me a legit excuse or I'll sign out in five.

GENIUS: Minutes?

: Seconds.

GENIUS: A legit excuse, huh? Heh. Because I love you!

I stopped, staring at the screen. This was Marui I was talking about. Marui who had just shouted out a love confession. Right. Did that mean he was serious, or was it a joke, just like everything else he said?

Though I had to admit: I did feel a little anxious.

: That was a very funny joke.

GENIUS: Wasn't it?

I frowned.

Okay... so it must have been a joke. Did he have a reason for saying that out of... all the other things he could have said?

: There has to be a real reason.

GENIUS: So cruel! That was a real reason! Heh.

GENIUS: I just wanted to transfer your manuscript to you. I'd email it, but I wanted to make sure you got it.

He sent a file transfer called Perceptions. I blinked.

GENIUS: I just suggested a few things and did a bit of rambling. Only ending I could think of that wasn't in excess, but hopefully it's some progress, eh? An inspiration jogger.

I must have forgotten to tell him that I gave up, and that the manuscript was only for kicks and perhaps a learning experience. So I declined the file transfer.

: Marui, I gave up on trying to enter.

GENIUS: What? Why? What's with the manuscript, then?

: I don't know. I thought it might be a learning lesson for next time. Besides, I'm nearly out of time. The entries are due on Sunday.

GENIUS: You always stay up late at night. We can finish it together and send it in for the deadline tomorrow.

His use of 'together' made me pause.

Then he sent me the transfer again. I declined it again.

: Can you just give me verbal feedback?


: Kind of makes it less painful.

GENIUS: But you've worked really hard. No point in giving up now.

Transfer approval pending. Decline.

: Not really. I think it's stupid.

GENIUS: You mean your story?

: What else?

GENIUS: It's not stupid. It's good. You're saying I worked my ass off for nothing? You're saying that little foreword you wrote was for nothing?

Yikes, how embarrassing. I'd written the foreword under a surge of inspiration and meant to delete it once its muse had been exhausted. Marui had read it, then? Brilliant. Just brilliant.

: Sorry. I'll make amends.


: I don't know. How much do people usually earn an hour?

There was a pause. Then the file transfer popped up again.

GENIUS: You're not going to pay me.

This time, I didn't decline the file. I just let it sit there.

: You owe some guy called Jackal some money, right? You can pay it back. You deserve it.

GENIUS: How would you know? You haven't read it yet. Accept the file.

A pause. I reluctantly scrolled up and looked at the transfer.

Then Marui posted, and I had to scroll back down.

GENIUS: Okay. Let's just say for a moment that I hypothetically let your lack of determination slide. Which I wouldn't. But if I did, so what? That doesn't mean you can't read the ending anyway.

He had a point. I scrolled back up to the file transfer, my mouse hovering over the accept button. It couldn't hurt, right? Not everyone thought the way my dad it. It wouldn't matter... it was just Marui. Totally harmless, creepy Marui.

I clicked accept.

I scrolled back down to where Marui had written another message:

GENIUS: Do it, do it!

Then he realized that I'd accepted.

GENIUS: Heh. Score!

When the file finished loading and I opened it, one look at it told me that Marui was no ordinary guy. He had nicely fitted the language to flow in an artistic way, and it made me wonder how he said I wasn't bad when he himself was... well, a genius. I briefly wondered if Niou had done Marui's work for him, but just as soon realized that Niou wasn't talented enough.

It surprised me that I was actually taken in by the words on the page. The story didn't seem as bad as I had made it out to be.

GENIUS: So, how is it?

: Let me finish. Give me an hour or more.

GENIUS: Sure, I can do that. I'll be waiting!

I remember when I first debated giving Marui my useless manuscript, I thought perhaps it would be too embarrassing to send him anything. After all, I had based the story entirely on my experiences with Marui. Oh, I'd changed the atmosphere, the characters' maturity levels, and the depth of the protagonist's plight. Now, I was glad I decided to give up on trying to convince myself it was bad, and just take the brunt of whatever criticism Marui had to throw at me.

He took everything I'd written (and implied) better than I expected. If anything, he seemed to be going along with it, as if he had been on the same wavelength as me all along.

Upon reaching the ending of the story, I was surprised at how in-character everything seemed, despite the fluff. It was such a simple ending, with the way the deuteragonist proposed 'love' as a challenge, and the protagonist rose to the bait and accepted. It was slightly cheesy, but considering this was a contemporary novel, that was as welcome as any other ending. Nothing wrong with a happy ending every once in a while.

Besides, Marui had added a nice touch to it. He ended up on the perfect tone.

: Mind-blown.

GENIUS: Heh. See? I knew you'd like it.

I laughed. What a guy.

: Hahaha. Thanks.

There was a bit of a lull.

GENIUS: Want to do a voice call?

: What? Why?

GENIUS: I want to hear you laugh. Heh.

I was coloring rapidly. Was he joking again?

I didn't know. So that basically ruled out the already-slim chances that I was going to do a voice call with him.

: No chance.

GENIUS: Aw, why not? You said you were going to make amends.

: Not that kind of amend.

GENIUS: Damn. Hah.

GENIUS: So are you going to send it in?

: Maru, I already said I wasn't going to.

Pity I didn't notice my typo before I hit enter. I quickly corrected myself.

: Sorry, that was a typo. I meant Marui.

: But by all means take offense to the fact that I more or less called you a circle.

GENIUS: Aw, that's so cruel! I may eat lots, but I burn it all through tennis. I'm thin.

GENIUS: But you can call me Maru if you really want to. Heh.

I don't know why I even considered it.

: Thanks, but I'll pass.

Marui didn't press it.

GENIUS: So how come you won't send it in? You admitted you liked it, right?

: I really did. But it was your work. I can't take credit for that.

GENIUS: Sure you can.

: No way. I couldn't do that.

GENIUS: You can. You copy my answers for English all the time. What's the difference?

: Maybe the fact that the story may end up in a lit mag read by hundreds and thousands of people. I'd feel guilty having my name printed there when you did most of the work.

GENIUS: I did just as much as you did.

GENIUS: Say, I have an idea. Why don't we enter as a partnership, then? Heh.

I blinked. That was a pretty good idea.

: A partnership, huh?

GENIUS: Yeah, we could come up with a pen name, or combine our names or something. Like Marui . Heh.

: You say it like I'm married to you.

GENIUS: So? Heh.

: You mean you're okay with that?

My face was a fiery shade of red.

GENIUS: Well, why not?

: Why so? Your crush will be insanely jealous.

GENIUS: Psh, no she won't.

: Marui, you're beginning to creep me out.

: Again.

GENIUS: Heh. Fine.

GENIUS: So what do you say?

: To what?

I wasn't sure why I wrote that, but it came out anyway. I could have crawled into my bed from the shame of the moment, but it was too late now. It was already out there.

: I mean, no. Sorry.

: But thanks anyway. I... guess.

has signed out.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

June 29, 2012.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ribbon: Initially, Writers' Block was meant to be a one-shot. Then Princo demanded that I split it, since it was too long. I decided to humor her, just because it's a nice thing to do. |D

Just kidding, Princo. We love you. ♥

Princo: Well, credits to Ribbon for coding this chapter! She started adding some CSS tags I couldn't find the point of at the time, but after overworking my brain a bit, I figured it out & coded part three instead.

Hehe, wubb yhu tewww Bo!!!111!!!1!!1! ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
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