The Swim Class
My classes continued on like just any other day, no other Makoto surprises. As I walked from building to building I caught myself looking for his tall broad figure among the crowds, but I never spotted him. I mentally scolded myself for being so weird, it was by some strange coincidence that we even met each other in calculus.
When I made it home to change for my time at the center I received a call from Honda-san. It was unusual for him to call me, let alone calling me when I would be seeing him shortly. Thinking that the call was of the upmost importance I answered without any hesitation.
"Ah, Sayuri have you left for the center yet?" Honda-san asked.
"No. I'll be leaving shortly," I replied.
"Great. Can you bring your swimsuit to the center," he said.
I fell silent. What did he just say? Honda wasn't the flirting type, so this couldn't be a come on. Was it?
"Excuse me?" I said.
"Oh! My apologies. I didn't mean for it to sound like that," he quickly amended. "Our teacher that usually monitors the swimming class can't come in today, and there is no one who can fill in for her, so I was hoping you would. It's just for today, and all you have to do is stand in the pool and help keep an eye on the class during their lesson. I'll take over your grading while you're doing that, so will you agree?"
He had backed me into a corner. There was no way I could refuse if he asked so desperately.
With a sigh I said, "I'll do it."
"Thank you, Sayuri. I'll let Tachibana-sensei know you'll be helping. See you soon," he said.
My hand tightened around my phone at the name. "Tachibana-sensei?" I inquired.
"Yes, now I have to go so I can give him the news. Bye-bye," Honda-san said.
"W-Wait," I called.
But it was too late. He had already hung up leaving me to talk to myself. I slipped my cellphone back into my bag before I trudged off to my closet in search of my swimsuit with slumped shoulders and a dark cloud over my head. I was going to monitor Makoto's swim class. I didn't want to do that, not after the day I had had. One surprise was enough for me for a lifetime.
As I shoved the swimwear into my bag I tried to find the bright side to this turn of events. Muttering the pros as I changed into gray slacks and navy half sleeved sweater.
"You'll be able to give him his things back," I pointed out to myself. "And there won't be time for conversation since it's a class. All you have to do is stand there and get pruny, simple Sayuri."
I nodded to myself as I checked out my reflection in the mirror that hung on the back of my bathroom door. My outfit looked fine, and my French twist kept my ever dark brown hair out of my face. I looked good, fairly pretty if I said so myself.
Then I groaned and smacked my cheeks. "You're being stupid. Get it together Sayuri, he's not going to see you in this anyway," I said. And a weight smacked me in the head sending an avalanche of realization and embarrassment over me. "That swimsuit is hideous!"
It was a boring one piece that I had bought to go on vacation with my cousins who had nagged me to attend a weekend at a water park. It looked like something a high school student would be force to wear; a solid purple with thick orange lines down the sides. I was going to look like a sixteen year old, and I was already twenty. This was horrible.
Taking a deep breath I pulled myself together and forced my legs to carry me out of the bathroom. "It doesn't matter," I told myself. "It's a community center, and it's not like you're trying to impress any one. Keep an eye on the kids. That's it."
I grabbed my bag and the paper bag that held Makoto's sweats on my way to the door. I repeated that chant to myself as I slipped on my black flats and walked out of my apartment. "Keep an eye on the kids. That's it. Keep and eye on the kids. . ."
Which in the long run was easier said than done.
After I finished my final English lesson for that day I walked the kids to the athletic wing, and into the female changing room with the girls so I could put on my horrendous swimsuit. I kept my held high as I dawned the purple and orange monstrosity, but it was shattered when the six year olds began discussing it.
"Yamato-sensei is that really your swimsuit?" Mami inquired. She was wearing a cute pink tutu styled suit.
"Yes," I answered. I did my best to keep my composure as the small group of girls circled me.
"It's not very pretty," Yui commented. Her suit was mint green with bows on the straps that matched the bow print on her swim cap.
"Well I don't usually go swimming, so this is fine," I told them.
"But what about the boys?" Ayumi spoke up. She was wearing a red and orange polka dot swimsuit with white trim. "They like pretty things right? And girls are prettier when they wear cute things," she said.
What was with these kids? They were in elementary school boys shouldn't have been a concern to them yet, but here they were giving me -the adult- advice on attracting guys. This day just got weirder and weirder.
"Boys have cooties, so I'm not worried about looking cute."
Says the woman dressing up for a swim class, I mentally groaned.
"So?" Yui challenged.
"Yamato-sensei is always pretty, but you don't care about boys?" Ayumi asked.
"That's not exactly what I meant," I said.
"Then what?" Mami asked.
"Get out to the pool girls," I shooed. "Or you're going to miss your class."
The group giggled as they trotted out of the locker room and out to the pool where all the boys were waiting for us, even their coach. My stomach sank, and my face heated as Makoto greeted us all with a bright and friendly smile. It was like a blow to my already sore ego that the girls were just kicking at.
Why couldn't this lesson take place in a normal classroom, I looked better with pants on. . . Brain I give up on you, I thought. My mind in a whirlwind as Makoto gave that day's plan.
"Is that alright Yamato-sensei?" he said.
His directed inquiry pulled me out of my mental argument with my brain bringing my full attention to him. I had only caught several of the things he had mentioned like holding their breath under water as they swam, and floating on their backs, but I had no idea about the rest of his plans.
"Ah, yes that's fine," I said.
"Great. Then everyone in the pool," Makoto said.
The kids cheered and quickly filed into the shallow end of the pool. Makoto and I not far behind them. Unlike the kids that jumped in I used the the convenient steps to get in, but a deep voice near my ear startled me so badly that I belly flopped the rest of the way in. It earned me a chorus of laughter from the class, and the others that were around to witness it.
"Thank you, Sayuri-sensei," the voice had said.
Since the water wasn't so deep for an adult I pushed my knees against the bottom of the pool to bring my head to the surface. I spat the chlorinated water out of my mouth as I pushed my wet hair out of my face, my bun completely destroyed by the water.
"Way to go sensei," one of the boys laughed.
"Are you okay?" Makoto asked.
He was just outside the ring of kids that had encircled me, with his mouth forced into a concerned line, while his green eyes were sparkling with humor. He found my stunt just as amusing at the kids did, but of course he did he was the stupid voice at my ear.
Narrowing my gaze at him I replied, "I'm fine. Go on ahead with your lessons."
"Are you sure?" he pressed.
Standing, I rang my hair out after removing the hair tie that was barely holding the soggy mass up. "Yes. I'll be watching from here," I said.
"Okay," he nodded.
It didn't take him long to get the kids under control and get them to start with their lessons. I wasn't of much use except when it came to reprimanding a few of the boys who had starting arguing over placement in line for the backstroke. For the most part I stood at the edge of the pool just watching Makoto teach proper swimming techniques in a simplified way that any child could understand. Each time a student got the hang of what he was saying I could see that sparkle in his eyes -that parents and teachers get when the child before them gets excited for their accomplishment- grow and shine brighter than the lights high over head. By the time the class was over I hadn't moved very far from my starting face-plant spot, and I was indeed pruny.
I began following the girls into the changing room after Makoto dismissed the class, but I was pulled to a stop at the pools edge. As I looked over my shoulder to see Makoto staring down at me his hand fell from my arm where he had grabbed.
"Yes?" I raised a brow.
"Um, I'm sorry about earlier. I didn't think you would trip and fall into the pool like that," he said.
I could see his sincerity in his eyes, and the way he fidgeted slightly out of nerves. Though it was obvious it was still hard to believe that he was real, and that this appeared to be his actual personality. Guys like this only ever existed in fabricated manga stories and half the time they were cross-dressers.
"That makes two of us," I said.
"I am truly sorry," he said.
Taking a deep breath I let it out as I said, "I know. It was just an accident. Besides it's probably just my karma catching up to me for being oblivious this morning."
"Perhaps," he chuckled.
Before the conversation could lull and the awkwardness of the memory of my embarrassment could settle in I said, "I have your sweats with me in the locker room. If you can wait until after I'm done changing I can give them to you."
"That's no problem," he said.
"Great," I half smiled.
Turning I took off to the locker room to rinse off the pool water and change. I did the impatient shuffle in front of the person driers waiting for my swimsuit to finish drying before I could leave the room. The kids had already either been picked up by their parents, or where on their way back to the academics wing for one final class. When the suit was done I carelessly shoved it into my backpack, grabbed the paper bag, and made my way to the exit outside of which Makoto was waiting for me. He wasn't alone though.
Standing next to him was his black haired friend Haru. They seemed to be discussing something rather seriously as Haru held up a sheet of paper. In my experienced and from the expressions they were making it was most definitely school related, and someone wasn't doing too well.
I was halfway across the hall when Makoto noticed my arrival and pushed the paper against Haru's chest removing it from view. He gave me a half smile as his friend slipped the paper into his bag without a change of expression.
He may be stranger than Makoto, I thought as I stopped I front of them.
"Here you go," I said. Holding out the handle of the bag that held his sweats.
As he took the bag Makoto said, "Thank you Sayuri-chan."
"No, thank you. It really saved me from a cold ride home," I said.
"Oh, are those the clothes you gave that cu-,"
Makoto threw a hand over Haru's mouth as a faint blush covered his cheeks. Though I don't know what he was going to say I still felt embarrassed, the blood rushing to the surface of my face. As the blush grew I wished that I had left my hair down so I had some sort of barrier to hide behind, but I had pinned my fringe back with the French braid I quickly did while waiting for the drier to finish.
"Haru you talk to much," Makoto nervously chuckled. I got quite the opposite impression from the blue eyed guy. He looked more like the silent and living in his head king of guy. "Thanks again Sayuri-chan," he said turning to me. His hand still over Haru's mouth. "But we should be going. See you around?"
"Y-Yeah. You go on ahead I have something do before I go," I said.
"Okay. Be careful on you way home," he said.
Removing his hand from his friend's face the two of them made their way down the hall and around the corner heading towards the lobby. I practically collapsed against the wall they had been leaning on as I let my heart return to a healthy pace. I had lied about having something to do, I just didn't want to walk out of the center with them with my nerves wound so tight. I thought I had been about to snap while just standing there, and I wasn't even sure what I would have done if that had happened. The slightly chilled tile of the hall helped cool my head and return my scattered thoughts back into order.
"Looks," I said to myself. Finally making sense of what had had me in such a tizzy lately. "I'm just dazzled by his looks. That has to be it. I'm just acting like one of those stupid girls that believe in love-at-first-sight, and ridiculous stuff like that. It's just his nice looks " I told myself.
I had almost believed myself, but once outside and with the cool rush of the coming spring night air the blunt truth was dropped on me like a ton of good-looking and irritatingly kind bricks. Standing at the corner just a ways from the bus stop was Makoto and Haru. They should have been gone by now, almost at the ramen shop, but there they stood just loitering at the crosswalk that was clearly green.
As I made my way to the bus stop I did my best to pretend that I didn't notice them, but it was hard when I could feel the heat of someone's gaze on me. When the bus finally arrived I dared a peek back at them, and them were on the move. I stared out my window at them as the bus took off down the street, and Makoto glanced back over his shoulder at it. I could divert my eyes fast enough so it wouldn't look like I was staring, but it gaze caught mine and for a split second before the speed of the bus broke it I'm sure our eyes had locked.
This is crazy. Act normal Sayuri. For all you know he's stalking you now. Who just stands at a crosswalk for three light changes?
The voice in the back of my head made a compelling argument, but so did the happy butterflies in my stomach, and the rapid pulse that sang in my veins.
As I got off the bus and made my way up to my apartment I dared myself to wonder, What if he was just making sure I got home safely?