It has been two days since that embarrassing scene at the ramen shop. I hadn't been able to make it to the community center because of overtime at my part-time job, and each night when I returned home I was reminded of what Makoto said at the bus stop when I saw the paper bag full of the clothes he lent me sitting on my kitchen counter.
"I think you look really cute, Sayuri-chan."
Makoto's voice echoed in my mind when I tried to fall asleep, which only left me tossing and turning all night. On the third day I woke up late having to scramble to get to my classes that morning, which did not happen. Not only was I running late, but so were the buses, and the crowds on the subway seemed even bigger than usual making me even later.
I sprinted across the campus, the cool air burning my lungs as I reached the building I should have been in 10 minutes ago. Quietly, I slipped into the lecture hall for my calculus class knowing perfectly well that I hadn't gone unnoticed by my professor. He shot me a demon glare as he continued to explain some lengthy equation that was projected up on the white board. I didn't waste time looking for a seat up front where I usually sat, seeing as they were probably all filled, so I did a quick sweep of the nearby rows and hurried to the first one that was open.
As I slide into the wooden seat my elbow bumped into the person next to me. I whispered, "I'm so sorry," while digging through my bag to pull out my laptop so I could take notes.
They said nothing in response, and I didn't bother explaining myself as I rushed to catch up with the lesson. My eyes darted from my computer screen to the professor and back again as my fingers drummed across the keys. Next to me as the lecture continued my neighbor made several noises that I couldn't identify, but I didn't spare them a glance to show my annoyance. My work was my main focus, and I had for the first time been late. Granted it wasn't that bad, but I still felt disappointed in myself.
When the class was over I let out a long relieved sigh as I packed up my belongings. Pulling my backpack onto my shoulder I got to my feet and prepared to make my way to the campus coffee shop before my next class.
"Sayuri-chan," someone said.
I paused, expecting it to be my professor about to lecture me for being late, so I turned around with my head already bowed.
"I'm sorry I was late. It'll never happen again," I said.
I was answered with snickering, which was not something the professor would do. Looking up I was met with familiar green eyes and a friendly smile. My heart jumped into my throat while my stomach fell into the heels of my feet.
"I didn't know we attended the same university," Makoto said.
'Why was he here? How did we end up next to each other? How did I not notice?'
"M-Me neither," I stuttered.
"How have you been? I haven't seen you around the center in the last few days," he said. Polite and kind as ever.
"I've been busy with my job," I replied without hesitation. "I haven't had the time to drop by the center."
We left the lecture hall side-by-side as we continued to chat. Making out way down the wide corridors, and out to the courtyard where the wind was blowing. It whipped my hair out my face, making me sputter my words when it got stuck to my lips.
"I see so you volunteer at the center," Makoto was saying. "I was hired to help out with swim classes. Apparently the center has had a sudden increase of kids attending, it's really great," he grinned.
I brushed my dark brown hair out of my face for the hundredth time as we followed the brick path to the main building where the cafe could be found. I was in desperate need of a cup of coffee to help make sense of the morning I was dealing with.
"So you enjoy being around kids?" I asked. It wasn't until after I spoke did I comprehend how bad I made that sound. Blushing and crossing my arms in an X-formation I tried to take back the question.
Makoto chuckled in response. "Well, in a way I guess you could say I like being around kids. I'm attending this university so I can properly teach kids how to swim, and the like. Seeing their excited expressions when they've figured out a new technique makes me happy," he explained.
"I see," I said.
His expression became flushed and nervous. "That sounded weird, didn't it?"
"No," I shook my head.
He stared at me as he held the door open for me to the main building. I nodded a 'thank you' as I entered, impressed to see there were still casual gentlemen in the world. As he followed me inside I continued to speak.
"I understand exactly what you mean. Finding out that you were able to pass on what you know to someone else, especially a struggling child, is satisfying in a way that warms your heart and pushes you to work harder yourself. You're learning to be a coach, and I'm learning to be a teacher, so we're in the same boat," I explained.
We walked through the lobby of the bustling building in silence until we reached the steps that lead to the lower level with the cafe. The earthy smell of coffee and the sweet sent of pastries filled the air making my stomach grumble in demand of its morning fix.
"What sort of teacher are you hoping to be?" Makoto asked.
I glanced up at him only slightly distracted at my internal debate. I was struggling between a vanilla bean latte, or a double caramel espresso. The espresso sounded the best with how slow my brain was running today.
"I want to be an elementary school teacher, more specifically a math teacher if I can be," I replied.
Makoto followed me into line, though it didn't look like was going to get anything. There were two people in front of us, and only one person working the counter. I inwardly groaned wanting my caffeine now to get me functioning properly again.
"Is that what you do at the center? Teach math?" he asked.
"Math and English," I nodded.
"Next," the barista called. The line shuffled forward, and my stomach was become more and more impatient.
"And you? You just teach swimming?" I inquired.
My nerves had settled down, though the voice in the back of my head was nagging about the clothes I had left at home. Normally I would attend my classes swing home to change and eat then go to the center or work, so I was just going to drop the bag at the front desk this afternoon for him. Meeting him at school put a wrench in that plan, and the voice was yelling how awkward that would make it.
"Mostly, but I also do muscle training and plan on learning water physical therapy," he answered.
The line shuffled again it was almost my turn. I could practically taste the sweet sweet caramel flavoring on my tongue. I was going to go insane if I didn't get my cup of coffee, I could be called an addict at a time like this.
"That sounds really cool," I said.
"You think," he chuckled.
"Yeah," I half smiled up at him. "By the way," I said slowly. My nerves were coming back to me. "I can return those sweats to you later today, I'll leave them at the front desk for you."
"You don't have to. Those were just spares I carry around with me," he brushed it off. There was a mild catch to his voice as he spoke, and shook his head. It was obviously a lie. "Don't worry about it. Really."
"It's no trouble to me at all, seeing as we work in the same place, sort of. It must be more of a hassle for you I mean," I said. Tripping over my tongue like a fool my face burned like the sun.
"Next," the barista called. If only it had been a moment sooner to keep me from sounding so stupid.
"Thank god," I breathed. Stepping up to the counter I placed my order, making my double shot of espresso a triple before happily paying.
As I stepped back with my order I glanced at Makoto expecting him not get anything, but to my complete surprise he made his way to the counter. He didn't strike me as the coffee sort, he looked more like the health smoothie, and hydra-juice kind of guy. He continued to leave me baffled.
He ordered a simple latte before joining me across the cafe where we were on the move again. By then my face had cooled and I had regained some of my sense, but that didn't stop me from worrying if he thought I was pushy for denying his kind assurance and forcing him to take back his clothes. Did that make any sense? Am I just being totally ridiculous now? I wondered as we made out way back to the lobby.
Neither of us said anything until we stepped outside to the courtyard. Makoto looked to be heading in the opposite direction, but he hesitated with his coffee hovering in front of his mouth. I wanted to take off, embarrassment still hanging on me, and my stomach was finally satisfied with the warm caffeine, but instead I stopped to face him. He grinned gently over the top of his to-go cup before taking a sip then lowering it.
"I have biology this way," he gestured with his head.
"And my English Lit. class is that way," I said. Nodding my head towards the building across from us.
"I guess I'll see you around," he said.
"Yeah, and I'll make sure to drop that stuff off for you at the front desk."
Makoto paused for a moment not moving. He had a thoughtful expression on his face, that vanished when our eyes met.
"You looked really cute last night, Sayuri-chan. I'm glad we were able to talk," he said turning.
"Huh?" I gaped.
"Bye-bye," he waved over his shoulder. "I hope we get to hung out some more."
I was shocked. Frozen to the brick path with my jaw hanging open like an idiot. He had to be messing with me. He had to be! There was no way someone was that nonchalant about compliments like that. No one could be that innocent when saying something with a meaning like that. It just wasn't possible. Yet even as I stood there watching his figure from behind I swore I could see the tips of his ears and the back of his neck turn a dark shade of red.
I don't get him! Is he flirting? Is he picking on me?
As I stomped off to class I grumbled, "Stupid Makoto."