The Coach and The Sensei

Chapter 4

The Ramen Bowl

We had already ordered, and we were now waiting for it to be finished. I wanted to curl up into a ball as we sat at our table, but I settled for knotting my fists in my lap and chewing on the inside of my cheek. My gaze kept drifting around the room; from the posters on the walls, to the few other costumers in the store, and occasionally to the guy in front of me. Makoto was also blushing as he sipped at his water, the ice clinking against the glass.

When he sat the glass down he glanced at me and our eyes met. My heart jumped into my throat, my face felt like it was on fire, but I couldn't look away. His green eyes mesmerized my gray ones, making me lose the train of thought I had. He seemed just as, if not more, nervous than I felt. The deep green orbs sparkled at me in a way that left me feeling like. . . I couldn't even describe. Every part of me was shaking, my heart was nearly suffocating me, and I was sure my head was about to burst into flames.

"Here you two go," said our pleasant surfer. She grinned widely at Makoto before nodding kindly at me. She sat our bowls of ramen in front of us with two sets of chopsticks.

"Thank you," Makoto said.

"If you need anything just give me a call," she said.

"Thank you," I said softly.

The girl nodded again before drifting back to the kitchen, while we took hold of our chopsticks. The food smelled delicious, and made me realize just how hungry I was. With chopsticks in hand I dove in grabbing some noodles, blowing away the steam, and ate. After my third mouthful of ramen I was distracted by a chuckle. Looking up I saw Makoto hiding a laugh behind his hand.

"What?" I asked.

My hand hovered over my bowl as I waited for a reply, but he only continued to try to hide his laugh.

"What is it?" I pressed.

Shaking his head Makoto said, "No, no. It's nothing." He was still chuckling though.

"Seriously, what is it?" I begged.

He dropped his gaze to his ramen, his oak colored hair blocking my view of his face. "I'm glad to see you can relax, and enjoy yourself," he said. "Before we left the center I thought you despised me, but you're still sitting there so that's a good sign."

I lowered my own gaze now, staring at my hand that was gripping the wooden sticks. "I don't despise you, or anything like that," I said. I could feel the nerves working their way up my throat threatening to make me say more than I wanted. "I'm just a cautious person."

"I can tell," he said.

I pulled up another round of noodles and just before I shoved them into my mouth I said, "Sorry."

Out of my peripheral vision I saw his head snap up, so he could stare at me. I tried to ignore his surprised look as I kept eating, but I was interrupted by my phone going off. I fumbled with my back to silence the chiming, but stopped when I saw the ID.

"Do you mind? It's my father," I asked.

Makoto shook his head, "No, go ahead."

I pressed the button answering the call as I got to my feet. Just as I uttered, "Hello," I collided with someone and immediately following the front of my shirt was soaked.

The server that had brought us our food squealed as the tray she was carrying clattered to the ground splattering more stuff on my shoes and pants. Through my cell I could hear my father asking to know what was happening with his deep bass voice.

"I'm fine dad. I'm out right now, I'll call you when I get home, okay?" I said to him.

Before I could get a definite reply I hung up on my father and sat my phone on the table. Looking down finally saw the damage that was done to my clothes. It was ramen, more specifically cold half finished shrimp ramen broth. My simple orange shirt was completely covered in the brown liquid making it look muddy, and my shoes were sticky and splattered with leftover noodles and bits that I didn't look too closely at.

"I am so sorry," the girl nearly shouted at me.

She scrambled to pick up the mess at our feet, while I tried not to lose it. I felt like there was no color in my face, as chaos picked up around me. Back in the kitchen the cook could be yelling out at the girl, while the other costumers were whispering about the both of us. Behind me I heard the scrap of Makoto's chair as he got to his feet. I couldn't let him see me like this, it was bad enough he had seen me in my wet-tee-shirt state. I was not going to add that to the list.

I kept my back to him as I hurried around the flustered girl and dashed for the bathroom. "I'm going to clean up," I called back to him.

The first thing I did when I reached the bathroom was grab a handful of paper towels and start dabbing at the mess on my shirtfront. It hardly made a difference though, the material was already soaked and stained. Giving up on my top I tried to save my shoes, which was much grosser with the food bits. I was partway through with the second ballet flat when there was a knock on the door.

"I'm sorry. I'm going to need another minute," I called towards the door.

"Miss, it's me," the server girl said. My eyes narrowed at the white painted door hoping the heat of my glare would reach the girl. "Your boyfriend sent me with some stuff for you to change into. May I come in?"

My jaw dropped momentarily. Did she say "boyfriend"? Who? Makoto? Shaking my head I shuffled across the bathroom to the door that I cracked open just far enough to see out of. The girl greeted me with an anxious grin.

"Here miss," she said. She showed me a neatly folded stack of clothes, and a plastic bag that had the shops logo on it. "You can change into these and put your dirty clothes into the bag," she explained.

I opened the door more reaching out for the salvation she held. Just before I closed the door in her face, still bitter about the accident, I mumbled, "He's not my boyfriend."

As the door clicked shut I swear I saw a pleased grin cross her face. My stomach knotted more as I turned to change while trying to forget what was going on outside in the restaurant. Looking down at the clothes in my hands I noticed it was more workout gear; a grass green colored hoodie made of thin material, and a pair of simple black sweatpants with a drawstring. I gratefully changed, surprised at how clean the hoodie smelled as I slipped it over my head. Did Makoto just carry extra clothes around with him, or was he a night jogger? Or maybe he worked out in the morning and he washed his gear at the center.

By the time I was done changing my mind had drifted so far from the restaurant and the ramen accident that I smacked my hands against my cheeks to regain my focus. Makoto was probably waiting for me to leave the bathroom, and I had to thank him for letting me borrow his clothes. Again.

I grabbed the plastic bag with my soiled clothes and readied myself for the embarrassing stares I was going to receive from the people that had witnessed the mess. To my surprise when I reached our table Makoto was alone without the server girl hovering around idly chatting like I had expected.

As I took my seat Makoto looked at me with a worried expression asking, "Are you okay? You didn't get burned did you?"

I stared at him, and the genuine concern he was showing me. It was so clearly written on his face that I couldn't imagine him having an ulterior motive. I sat the plastic bag with my things next to the wall as I replied calmly with, "I'm alright. It was cold, so not harm." Other than my ruined shirt.

Makoto released a relieved sigh as he leaned back in his chair. "That's good. I'm glad," he said.

"I'm sorry if I worried you," I said. Lowering my eyes to my now cool bowl of ramen, and my phone that I had placed next to it I bowed my head slightly as I added, "And thank you for the clothes. I'll make sure to return them to you properly. I'm sorry for all the trouble."

"It's no trouble at all," he said. I raised my head to see him smiling sweetly. There was a pang in my chest that I shooed away as my face flushed. "I'm just relieved to know you're okay."

We lapsed into silence after that as we returned to eating. When we finished I had found out that he had already paid for the bill while I had been in the bathroom changing. As we stepped outside into the night I thought we would be parting ways, so I had bowed and said my farewells, but we had just continued on in the same direction of the bus stop.

While we stood around waiting in the awkward silence for the bus to arrive I asked, "Do you normally take this bus home?" If he did then I should have recognized him for the usual people on board, but I had only ever seen him at the center, and not on my ride home.

His smile returned with the conversation. Meeting my gaze he replied, "No. I usual jog home with my friend."

"The one from the pool?" I inquired.

Makoto nodded. "His name's Haru. He was really surprised that you talked to him out of the blue the other day. Girls don't approach him very often," he chuckled.

"I see," was all I said.

We fell back into silence until the bus arrived. I was was almost all the way to on when I noticed Makoto hadn't followed me. Turning around I saw him just standing there with an innocent smile on his face and his hands in his pockets.

"Aren't you getting on?" I asked.

"No. I live in that direction," he said. Makoto's thumb was point in the direction of the ramen shop which we had just walked from.

"Then why did you walk to the bus stop?" I inquired.

"To make sure you made it safely," he replied.

"Miss, are you getting on?" the bus driver asked annoyed.

"Yes," I told him. Turning back to Makoto I said, "You didn't have to that. Now you have to walk home when it's so cold."

"It's fine," he assured me. "Spring is almost here, so it's not that cold."

"Miss," the driver urged.

"Sayuri-chan," Makoto said.

I scanned my bus-pass as I looked back at the whistle guy in response.

He gave me a full teeth grin as his face lit up bright red. Just before the doors to the bus closed he said, "I think you look really cute, Sayuri-chan."

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