Chapter 2--Relieving a Burden
You stopped where Hiro stood now, just behind the counter, and your eyes widened just a little bit. Just moments ago you were sitting at one of those tables, sipping on hot chocolate and talking with Hiro casually...and you could still see your forms right there, like ghosts.
"You okay there, (Y/N)?" The sound of Hiro's voice brought you back to reality.
You blinked and shook your head to clear the vision, turning back to Hiro with a small smile. "Yeah, yeah. Sorry."
Hiro smiled at you gently as he gave you a quick tour behind the counter, ranging from the different coffee makers and tea boilers, as well as the locations of different baked goods. He also showed you where to put the mugs and plates and trays when customers were done with them, and he volunteered to help wash them for you, since he was done his projects for the day.
"You sure about this?" you asked him, a hint of doubt in your voice. "I really don't want to become another burden for you, you being a college student and all and things are probably busy for you."
Hiro laughed. "You think I'd call you a burden? I don't mind staying with you. What else can I do for a friend, now, hmm?"
You stopped in your tracks when you heard him say that. Friend? Did he just call you a friend? You had no friends whatsoever at school, and you immediately felt and heard your heart pound hard against your chest when you heard him say that word.
"You really think I'm a friend to you?" you asked him, a bit harsher than you thought, turning to him.
"Sure. Why not? I trusted you with my deepest secret," Hiro replied calmly. "And you did with me too. You can trust me."
You laughed hollowly. "Well, I'm grateful for that. I just don't want to hurt anyone any more than I might be right now."
Hiro looked at you wistfully. "Promise me that if you ever need help you can always talk to me. I'll be here to help. I promise. Will you?" He held up his pinky.
"I promise," you said, linking your pinky with his.
The door opened again with the tinkle of bells that followed, and the first few customers started to file in.
"Well, here we go," Hiro said, putting one hand on your shoulder and looking at you with a determined look. "Good luck, (Y/N)."
With that, you attended to your first customers, taking their orders and immediately tending to them, filling mugs with coffee or plates with cakes or cookies. Hiro proved to be a good teacher and so to the customers you looked like an experienced barista. Soon, you received not only a great amount of tips, you also got quite a good amount of salary from Aunt Cass on your first day by the end of your 3-hour shift. Another barista came in and took your place for the night, so you left the work to them.
"Whew!" you sighed in relief, re-entering the kitchens to see Hiro drying a mug with a cloth. He smiled when you came in, and set the mug on the counter.
"Well, how did it go?" he asked you.
"Pretty well," you replied. "Thank you so much, Hiro."
"Pretty well?" Hiro stared at you in disbelief. "(Y/N), you were one of the most efficient and friendly baristas we ever had around here! Aunt Cass kind of told me while you were working, and...I have to agree with her."
"You really think so?" you asked, feeling a smile creep in.
"Mmhm," Hiro nodded.
"Well, I'm honoured," you said, deciding to take Hiro's words for good. "Thank you."
Before Hiro could say anything else, Aunt Cass came into the kitchen to see you chatting.
"Hey (Y/N)!" Aunt Cass cried cheerily. "How did your first day go?"
You smiled widely. "It went pretty well!" you said. "Quite a workout, but Hiro taught me well. At least I know where the coffee and tea boilers are, so that I don't screw up. And the customers are really nice," you added, nodding at Hiro in thanks.
"I'm really glad to hear that," Aunt Cass beamed at you. "Now (Y/N), your clothes are still drying-I just washed them not too long ago-so what are your plans? I can send you home, or you can stay here. Up to you."
You looked past the doorway of the kitchen to the big cafe windows. The sky was a deep dark grey now, and you safely assumed it was still raining. Aunt Cass and Hiro have been so kind to you, understandable and compassionate and...caring. It was the first time that anyone ever cared for you and your situation since your father's death. Somehow, it hit you that you really wanted to get to know Hiro so much more, even after he told you about his brother's passing. And you weren't ready to go home yet, to your mom who shut you out.
"I don't mind staying here," you answered. "But...would you try to let my mom know? She's become so withdrawn now I'm not sure if she ever notices me anymore."
"I will try my best," Aunt Cass said, giving you a sweet smile. Then she went back into the main apartment and called your mom.
Meanwhile, Hiro helped you take off your apron and motioned you to go into the apartment with him, which you did. It was a cozy abode, really, and you immediately felt at home the moment you entered. Back home, you were stuck in a huge empty space without your mom around, and that was one of the loneliest things that you couldn't stand. You sunk down on a couch in the living room, and Hiro sat beside you, his eyes piercing right through you. Something told you he still wanted to talk about your situation, and you didn't mind that at all. You have been dying to get that off of your shoulders.
"So you said your mom has been withdrawn," he said, and you nodded.
"It's taken a pretty bad toll," you said. "She doesn't seem like she cared for me anymore. And I don't have any siblings with me, so I'm pretty much doing everything alone. Or rather, I'm 'flying solo'. I'm still sad that my dad had to die this way, and I still think of him, but my mom has been worse."
"I used to be like that too," Hiro said. "Aunt Cass seemed to have moved on, and told me to do that as well. It was for Tadashi's sake. But I knew I couldn't-I have lost one of my best friends in life, my older brother, my confidant. I can understand why your mom is like that, but how long has this been going?"
"Almost 2 weeks," you replied. "She barely even came out for meals. Dinner, especially."
"I wish I can help," Hiro said wistfully, but you shook your head.
"I'm not sure if she'll ever know what happened," you muttered.
Hiro's heart felt like it was broken in two. He barely knew you, but he knew that you were broken, and seeing that he couldn't help you, it hurt him.
"Do you have any friends at school?" he asked you, trying to change the subject.
Again, you shook your head. "They seem to have withdrawn from me as well. I think they tried to mean well, just to give me some space, but it seems like they forgot I ever existed."
Now Hiro really wished he could help you to the best of his ability. He really just wanted to hold you close and tell you everything would okay, but he didn't know if that would be what you wanted. Brushing that thought aside, though, he decided to turn to you and wrap his arms around you, and you relaxed, appreciating the gesture.
"(Y/N), I'm not sure how much worse this can get," Hiro eventually spoke up. "If it comes to the point where your mom has just driven herself mad abandoning you due to your father's loss, then things could get pretty bad. Trust me, I don't want your mom to go through the same situation I have before Baymax showed up."
You blinked and looked at him. "Baymax?"
"He's a nurse bot. Tadashi built him before he passed away."
You nodded. "I wish I can see him some time."
"You will. But firstly, you need to eat something."
The sound of your stomach growling made you agree.
"Dinner's ready!" you heard Aunt Cass call, and Hiro released his arms from you.
"Come on," he said, motioning for you to follow him again, and you did.
The sight on the dinner table just made your mouth water. Aunt Cass had worked herself off to prepare some rice with veggies and roast unagi drizzled with teriyaki sauce, and even got you a cup of tea. Spicy chicken wings were also piled up on another plate near the centre of the table, and Hiro even helped set your cakes on a fancy plate the moment you showed up.
"This looks amazing!" you cried, giving Aunt Cass a hug. "Thank you so much!"
Aunt Cass beamed. "No problem! Just dig in! Help yourself."
And that was exactly what you did as you stuffed your face with delicious rice and veggies and unagi. The chicken wings had just the right amount of hot sauce so at least you didn't feel like your face was peeling off. And by the time you were finished the main meal and ate the cakes, you felt like you were back with your mother again, back to the time when she used to make you the most wonderful meals...but you decided not to bring that up again.
"So (Y/N)," Aunt Cass spoke up, to start a conversation. "You're at San Fransokyo High, right?"
You nodded. "I'm in freshman year." Then you added, "I know Hiro's a genius. He told me he's in SFIT, thanks to his brother."
"Yes he is," Aunt Cass nodded. "How are you finding school so far?"
"It's alright. Depressing though." You took another bite of cake and said, "It's not like I'm doing badly in school, but I don't have any friends. Not that it's bad, though. I'm okay flying solo."
"Well, then, what do you think of Hiro?"
"Hiro's...friendly. Understandable, really." You smiled at Hiro, wiping your mouth as you did so, and Hiro grinned back at you. "He's been such a good friend to me and all. I can only say I'm lucky to have met such a kind person."
Hiro felt his heart flutter when you said this, and at the same time, his cheeks flushed. Does this mean that...you like him too?
"That's nice," Aunt Cass said. "At least you have someone here you can trust."
"I just don't want to be a burden," you admitted.
"Burden? You will never be one! I understand what happened with your mom," Aunt Cass murmured. "She said it's okay for you to stay the night. I'll drop by your place and try to talk with her in the meanwhile, if you don't mind."
"Of course not," you answered politely. "Thanks, Aunt Cass."
Aunt Cass smiled back at you.
Soon, you were done your dinner and you did the dishes with Hiro as Aunt Cass drove out to see your mother. You then headed up to the bedroom that Hiro and Tadashi shared, and started doing your homework.
"You and your brother shared a room?" you asked Hiro, the moment he showed up.
"Used to," Hiro answered flatly.
You nodded and got to work, finishing everything in a space of half an hour. "Done," you proclaimed, and Hiro looked at you, speechless.
"I have never seen a freshman like you finish so quickly," he murmured in awe.
You shrugged. "I tend to get everything right the first time. Like I said, I'm doing well in school. I'm just worried about my life back home."
"Right." Hiro sunk on the bed, and you joined him, lying down and looking up at the ceiling. Sighing, you finally said, "I really wish my mom can understand how I've been feeling without her. Sometimes I feel like I've missed her so much, but my mom wouldn't acknowledge it."
"I'm sure we'll find a way," Hiro assured you. He was tempted now to just take your hand, and that was what he did. This gesture comforted you too. "As my brother used to say, 'look for a new angle.' Or if that doesn't help, 'I'm not giving up on you.'"
"Thanks, Hiro," you murmured, squeezing his hand.
"Any time," Hiro murmured back, and then fatigue overtook you completely as you dozed off on Hiro's bed, his hand still holding on to yours.