After a week, I could take it no longer and feigned illness. Okusan and her daughter, and even K himself, pressed me to get out of bed. I gave but cursory answers, and I stayed under my quilt till close to ten. I waited until K and the daughter were both gone, and the house was silent, and only then did I get out of bed. Okusan, on seeing me, asked first if I wasn't unwell. She advised me to get more rest and offered to bring a tray to my bedside. There was nothing physically wrong with me, and I had no intention now of going back to bed. I washed my face and took my meal in the hearth room as usual. Okusan sat on the other side of the long brazier and served me. Sitting there with bowl in hand, something between breakfast and lunch, my thoughts were fixed on how to state my case. As such, I can well imagine I did look a little unwell.
I finished eating and started a smoke. I didn't make to get up, so Okusan too was obliged to remain. She called the maidservant to clear away my dining tray. Then she added water to the iron kettle and wiped down the rim of the brazier, keeping me company as she did so. I asked if she had any particular plans for the day. She said she didn't, then asked in return why I'd wanted to know. I replied that there was a matter on which I'd hoped we could talk. She looked at me and asked what it was. She asked with a casual air, unaware of the gravity of my feelings, and I struggled a bit with how next to proceed.
Having no other recourse, I beat around the bush for a time before finally asking if K had said anything to her of late. "Regarding what?" she asked in return as though caught off guard. Before I could answer, she followed with a second question. "Did he say something to you?"