"What's wrong Sayuri?"
I sighed as I continued to grade practice tests. My brain barely comprehending the words my eyes were seeing besides what was clearly wrong. My hand moved sluggishly across each paper with my mind spinning like a tornado.
"Sayuri, hey are you even listening?"
My khakis' pocket felt like it weighed a thousand pounds with the small simple card hidden there. I had read the message at least a dozen times on my way to the tutoring rooms, and each time I believed the words less and less could possibly be true. Why would any one leave me a note at the front desk? Why did he leave that message for me? It was driving me crazy.
A hand slammed against the paper I was grading making me jump. With my heart drumming in my chest, and a small yelp of surprise I glanced up to see my supervisor staring down at me. He didn't look upset, more concerned if anything.
"Yes Honda-san," I replied.
His eyes narrowed at me causing the aged creases at the corners to deepen. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"I'm fine. Why do you ask?" I inquired.
"You've been out of it for a while now. You didn't even wave goodbye to the kids, something has definitely got you distracted," he concluded.
My cheeks heated. Had I really been that oblivious for so long? Looking towards the clock on the corner of my assigned desk I saw it was already past seven o'clock. My stomach knotted as my mind drifted back to the card.
"Sayuri," Honda called.
Snapping out of my reverie I turned back to him. "Sorry. It's just that I have a meeting after this,"
"Is it that important?" he asked.
I stumbled for an answer not sure of what to say. "I don't know," I said.
"Well," he said. Standing up straight with his hands sliding into his pockets he gave me a kind smile. "You are free to go for today. I'll finish up the papers, so you can get to your meeting."
"No, I have time. I can still-," I began.
"Sayuri, you're still a freshman in college you should enjoy your freedoms more," he cut in.
I was going to argue, but after another glance at the clock I could feel my foot tapping impatiently. Whether I voiced it or not I was anxious about the meeting, and wanted to be there early- to give me time to decide if I would actually attend the meeting or not.
"Thank you, Honda-san," I said.
"Take care," he waved.
Gathering my coat and bag I made my way out of the room and down the hall. There was still fifteen minutes before the stated meeting time, but I still wasn't prepared. I couldn't even think of a reason why the whistle guy Makoto would want to meet with me. I returned his sweater, I even washed it.
I paused outside the athletics wing juncture when I realized the note didn't specify a location for the meeting. Biting my lip and tightening my hold on my bag I stiffly made my way to the pool where I planned to wait outside the locker rooms. I could wait in the lobby, but if I did that the temptation to flee would be too great, and without a doubt I would have taken the opportunity.
"I've never been called out like this before," I muttered under my breath.
I didn't enjoy hanging out with boys. Well where I grew up there weren't any boys that decent, and were not worth wasting my time with. They were always rude and cruel. The girls from my hometown weren't much better.
I nervously scuffed my ballet flat against the tiled floor waiting for him. My stomach twisting and flipping while my heart drilled a hole in my chest. I'm going to be sick.
"Ah," sounded a voice.
My head shot up at the noise. My heart froze when I locked eyes with bright green orbs. He had arrived, and I wanted to run. Why?
His shocked expression suddenly changed, which startled me more. Grinning he said, "You got the note."
I couldn't find my words, so I just nodded.
"That's great. I hope you haven't been waiting long," he said.
"No," I replied.
I think I sounded calm, but from his soft laugh and nervous scratching of the back of his head told me otherwise. Sliding his hands into the back pockets of his jeans he gave me a gentle smile as he gestured for me to follow him. I did.
We were silent as we left the athletics wing and entered the lobby. The woman at the front desk called out to him with a flirtatious grin and wave, which he answered with a wave of his own. When we reached the glass front doors I wondered, Was this it? Did he just plan on walking me out without actually speaking to me?
Once outside Makoto looked back at me and asked, "Have you eaten yet?"
"No," I repeated.
I sounded like an idiot who only knew one word, but I couldn't help it. He hadn't told me why he called me out, and that left me almost scared.
Makoto chuckled, "There's a ramen shop just around the corner if you want to stop at it." He gestured over his shoulder with his thumb down the block away from the center.
I relaxed my hands on my bag as a sense of disappointment swelling in my gut. "That's why you called me out? Just to eat," I said.
His green eyes widened, and his smile completely vanished from his face. I guess I shouldn't have expected anything different from a guy trying to pick up a girl, but I thought he wasn't like those jerks back home.
"Not exactly," he said.
It was hard to believe. His voice was uneven, and his expression said he was nervous. He knew he was getting rejected and he was trying to save it.
"I just thought it would be better to talk over food, seeing as how late it is," Makoto said.
"Talk about what?" I questioned.
He tensed up, his shoulders going ridged and his eyes diverting to the pavement at our feet. That was never a good sign. "I was hoping to discuss the letter you left along with my sweater," he said.
Now it was my turn to light up like a tomato. My eyes grew wide as my teeth clamped around my bottom lip. I had nearly forgotten that I had written a letter to him expressing my gratitude for not only saving Ayumi, but also allowing me to keep my dignity. It wasn't a very long letter, but I was sincere with each word.
"Discuss?" I blurted out. "It was just a thank you note. I just wanted to make sure you knew how grateful I am," I said.
My heart was in my throat, and my pulse was like jackhammers in my ears. I was completely embarrassed. No worse; I was mortified. Why would a guy ever want to talk about something so ridiculous? This guy didn't make any sense to me, was e for real?
"And I do," he said. "I understand, but I just wanted to talk with you. I've never met someone who has gone so far to show their gratefulness. In a way I feel like I should praise you," he smiled shyly.
"Praise me?" I deadpanned.
What was happening? Was he hitting on me or not? I couldn't tell. Was he as innocent as the smile on his face suggested? Did men like that still exist?
"That might not have been the right word to use. What I mean is there are not many people like you left in this day and age, and it just makes me happy to see kindness does still holds a place humanity," he explained.
"So you're thanking me," I said slowly. "For thanking you?"
He chuckled again. "I guess so. Is that bad?"
The reply fell out of my mouth before I could even properly process his words. "No, not at all."
"Great. Then you'll join me for dinner?"
I was ready to reject his offer, but the sweet look on his face gave me pause. He didn't seem to be the underhanded kind, and he seemed just as fidgety as I felt. After a few moments of gnawing on my lip I nodded in reply.
"I'm so glad, Sayuri-chan," he said.
My eyes dropped to my feet. I couldn't believe he just jumped to using my first name, but after a quick thought I remembered that I had signed the note with only my given name, a habit that I had been told to stop but just couldn't.
Makoto lead the way to the ramen shop as I shuffles behind him in complete silence. This was a new experience; walking alone with a guy at night to get found. My stomach was doing flips, and I wasn't sure what to say, if I could say anything without my tongue turning into a giant knot in me. I really wanted to just run off without him noticing, but I also had to know if this was just a thank you meal for another thank you. If it wasn't he was just as low as those guys back home, lying for his own benefit, and putting on a facade just to trick women.
Keep calm, Sayuri. Innocent until proven guilty, remember, I told myself.
It didn't work.