The Coach and The Sensei

Chapter 2

The Gratitude

After walking Ayumi back to the academics wing, and calling her mother I reported to my supervisor, who gaped at my appearance. He asked me about it, and after my explanation he sent me home which I was grateful for. My pants were beginning to chaff my legs from the damp material, and a chill was settling into my bones despite the sweater I was wearing. Once at home I stripped and showered to warm up before setting to work on a paper I had due at the end of the week.

After a few hours of work I sighed and flopped back against my pillows while stretching my legs out on either side of my laptop that rested on top of my bed. My back was stiff and my eyes hurt from staring at the screen for so long. I just wanted to sleep, but I still had to make review sheets for some of the kids at the center, and my stomach was begging to be filled. As my eyes glanced around my simple apartment my gaze fell upon the gray sweater I had laid across the back of my couch. I still couldn't believe that he had blushed when he handed it to me.

I rolled off of my bed and made my way across the floor to where my navy colored couch was pushed up against the opposite wall. Picking up the sweater I inspected it from front to back, and was surprised to see it was well taken care of. There were no stains, no discoloration, and the soft fabric wasn't stretched or had any strings hanging off of it. There were only two explanations I could come up with, first; he either had his mother do all his laundry, or second; he was a housewife himself. I highly doubted the second option, no college guy did his own laundry.

"Was he even in college?" I asked myself.

Lifting the sweater as I pondered that possibility I absentmindedly sniffed the gray fabric. It smelled like chlorine, obviously, but under that there was a rich almost sweet scent that I couldn't identify. Was it cologne? Maybe laundry soap?

When I realized what I was doing I dropped the sweater and hurried to the kitchen muttering, "Don't be stupid Sayuri."

Rummaging in my fridge I searched for something to eat for dinner. I was being silly sniffing his shirt, that's too weird, and something lovesick girls did in romance novels. Puffing out my cheeks I shut the refrigerator and turned around glancing in the direction of the couch.

What are you doing Sayuri? You're being ridiculous, I thought to myself.

It was the following day, and I had struggled through my morning classes which was not like me. I was waiting outside the locker rooms of the center's pool with a paper bag in hand, and angry butterflies flapping in my stomach. I don't know why I didn't just drop the bag off at the front desk with the guy's name. It would be much easier, and so much less embarrassing, but I had been raised to be polite, so thanking face-to-face was the only way to convene that.

"How much longer?" I said under my breath. I had been standing here for almost twenty minutes waiting for the whistle guy Makoto to show up. "Maybe he's not coming today. I really should just leave this at the front desk," I sighed.

Gazing up and down the hall I looked to see if he was on his way, but I didn't see him at all. Pushing off of the wall I turned and started to make my way to the academics wing with the bag still in hand. I did my part in tutoring the group of kids in my care, including Ayumi who had brought a two decorative bags of cookies with her. It wasn't until the end of the lesson that she trotted up to me with them in hand.

"Yamato-sensei," she smiled up at me. "My mommy and I made these yesterday as thank you gifts. This one is for you," she handed me the one with an orange bow. "And the other is for Tachibana-sensei."

"Tachibana-sensei?" I inquired.

"He's the one who saved me yesterday. Can you please give this to him for me. My daddy is already here to pick me up, so I don't have time," she said.

She handed the other bag to me, this one with a green ribbon, before she ran out of the room smiling back at me. I stood froze in shock. Now I had two things to give to the whistle guy Makoto. . . I mean Tachibana Makoto. Was he even at the pool right now?

Gathering my things I said goodbye to my supervisor, then made my way back to the sports wing. I carried the bags for Makoto in one hand and kept the strap of my backpack on my shoulder with the other.

"Please be here, so I don't look like a creep stalking out the pool," I muttered.

I peeked through the giant windows that looked in on the pool area hoping to spot him. Luck was on my side now. Wading around the shallow pool like yesterday with laughing kids was Makoto working hard. Today I remembered to take off my shoes before entering, but I didn't approach him right away. He was busy instructing the kids, and I didn't want to interrupt since I knew how hard it was to get and keep their attention. Instead I took a seat on a bench by the exit prepared to patiently wait for him to finish. It couldn't be much longer, the pool closed at eight and it was already going on seven. All classes throughout the center for kids were coming to an end and it appeared that he was only teaching children so he should be done soon.

I watched on in silence, holding the bags on my lap. He was a smiler. Even when a kid complained and fought his grin didn't waver and he continued to show them the proper way to move their arms and legs. The expression was completely genuine and for some reason I felt my cheeks heat.

The door next to me opened and I heard someone shuffle in. I spared them a glance before turning back to Makoto, only to do a double take. It was the guy that came to pick up the whistle guy yesterday. He stood by the door with a blank expression as he looked towards Makoto. He was much smaller than his friend, with deep blue eyes and black hair that hung across his face. I guess I stared too long because he turned his gaze from Makoto and down to me with an ever so slightly raised brow.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to stare," I said. Adverting my eyes to my hands I added, "You're his friend right? Tachibana-san's that is."

"Yes," he replied after a beat.

Biting my lip I made a rash decision. Standing I turned to the quiet guy and held out the bags I was holding. "Can you please give these to him? The cookies are from the girl he saved yesterday as thanks. I don't want to bother him, but I also have to give these to him. So will you please?"

He just stared at me not taking the bags at all. Bowing my head I begged him.

"What's your name?" he asked.

Looking up I saw him staring right at me. His expression was unchanged, but he seemed more approachable than a moment ago. I stuttered in replying but I managed to deliver my name.

"Yamato Sayuri."

"Okay," he said.

Taking the bags from me he turned back to Makoto. "Thank you," I said before he could call to his friend.

Slipping on my shoes I hurried out the door with the butterflies throwing a tantrum in my core. Despite my determination to personally thank him I had lost my nerve and chickened out. It was just a brief encounter and a simple sign of gratitude that was going to be exchanged between us, so there was no need to drag it out into something else.

Tomorrow will go on like go on like any day. It was just an accidental meeting, lucky for Ayumi. I thought to myself.

I was standing at the bus-stop outside the community center waiting for my bus to arrive so I could go home. The sky still held some daylight, spring was pushing its way through with warmer weather and more sunshine. April was just around the corner and I was ready for the season of cherry blossoms, but I wasn't ready for the exams it brought with it.

As I climbed the stairs of the bus I breathed out, "Tomorrow everything will go back to normal."

I was wrong though. When I walked through the doors of the center the next day I was called over to the front desk by its attendant who passed me a note card with a short message on it.

'If you can stay until 7:30 I would like to talk to you, -Makoto'


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