"How could it be that it's time to go home?" Kaori said to herself.

Spending her last few minutes in nostalgic solace after the emotional final race, Kaori couldn't help but take her time before packing all her clothes and SSX trinkets in her suitcases. Beyond the neon pink headphones, the knitted winter sweaters, and plethora of panda backpacks, there was a wooden box underneath it all. A box full of pictures, receipts, and key chains, but mostly the reminders of her SSX family.

A faint chuckle managed to voice itself under the distraught tears streaming down her face, "oh, this was the time Elise-chan and I went on that shopping spree in Metro City, and this stupid pine-cone.. How can I forget that? Zoe couldn't drop the 'a squirrel gang attacked me' story for weeks."

Rummaging a bit more, her hands glazed over the duplicates of her and Mac taking selfies as they rode down the mountains together and the endless pizza double dates she endured. Lucky for her, Elise always went with her and managed to convince Mac's date that she and Kaori were "always open to new ideas". Even Mac started to believe it himself. "She would never stop teasing him. Come to think about it, she never told him she was kidding," Kaori reminisced. Proving to be a much more difficult task than anticipated, she closed the box and gently placed it in her suitcase in a carved out spot between her board goggles she won as a first prize token and her hair ties that became good luck charms in her races.

"All these wonderful memories… It feels unreal that this is the end. 10 years… and.." she choked up before she could finish her thought. "Mac.. I guess there was nothing between us." Undetermined, Kaori threw the rest of her belongings in her bags.

It seemed like hours had gone by as she dragged her turquoise snow boots in the elevator in complete solitude. Kaori's usual cheery demeanor was absolutely dissipated under her broken heart. The thought of leaving her friends. Her riding partner. Her inspiration. Her love. The elevator doors opened up to the extravagant lobby, the cupid water fountain cynically mocking her feelings. With the façade of a chin held high and her fresh strawberry chapsticked grin, she proudly walked towards the revolving glass doors that signaled her to hastily exit. Barely a few steps out the lift, a familiar voice ran up to her.

"Kaori! Hey, so, leaving so soon?" Mac's question trailed off.

"Yeah, meet and greet in Japan tomorrow."

The awkward silence was thick enough to cut it with a knife.

"Too bad you can't make it to my farewell bash tonight, huh?" against his forced smile, Mac tried to uplift the conversation by playfully punching Kaori on her arm.

Softly rubbing the soon to be bruise under her sleeve, Kaori let out her iconic giggle. "Yeah, too bad. I can't-" interrupted, the man standing barely a foot away from her suddenly blurted out his farewell. "I'm really gonna miss you Kaori. You've been there through it all with me, ya know? I guess I'm just gonna miss having you around. You're the closest friend I've got."

And with that, Kaori bit her lip and pushed her tears back as he warmly embraced her and simply kissed her on her forehead. With a cracked voice all she could mutter out was "I'm going to miss you too Mac-kun," her head snuggled into his chest and she returned the hug.

A snarky voice hollered across the lobby, "Mackie-kins! Come over we need to tell you something! Its urgent!" A group of prissy laughs followed.

Mac ended the hug, genuinely looked Kaori in the eyes and gave her a last smile, noting that it wouldn't be the last they would see each other and hesitantly responded to the girls sitting around the fountain, "be right there babes!" A pat on the shoulder and he headed right back to his beauteous entourage.

Utterly heartbroken and disparaged, Kaori cried. In the most innocent and hurtful way, she let her cheeks flush, tears drip off her chin, and onto the floor, where she rolled on nothing but bittersweet memories over the feelings she ever so wanted to leave behind on that cold tile.

10 years. 10 years to realize… The truth hurts.