How did I even wind up here? Again? I pondered intently.
My head was pounding in confusion and my stomach was full of pot stickers and ramen. I was back at the ramen shop with the waitress that had permanently ruined one of my favorite shirts, but like my last visit I wasn't alone. Sitting across from me was Makoto and his friend Haru, who was glaring down at the textbook he had open in front of him.
Right. Tutoring, that's why I'm here, I thought.
It had been two weeks since that embarrassing swim class, and exams were rapidly approaching along with summer vacation. Several days ago Makoto had caught me at the end of my shift at the center with Haru in tow to ask for my help.
"Good evening," I had said.
Makoto smiled and nodded as the three of us came to a stop by the bus stop. Haru had looked slightly uncomfortable as he followed after his tall and kind friend.
"So did you guys need something?" I asked. Checking down the street for my bus, which seemed to be running late.
"Actually yes," Makoto said.
"Really?" I raised a brow.
"We need some help with our calculus work, and with exams right around the corner we could use as much studying as possible," Makoto explained.
"And you want me to help you?" I questioned.
"You are at the top of our class," Makoto said.
"So are you going to help us?" Haru spoke up.
Makoto bumped his shoulder into Haru's giving him a scolding look before turning his green gaze back onto me with a soft apologetic smile.
"We are pretty desperate," Makoto said.
"Well," I hesitated. Scratching the back of my head, and nervously biting my bottom lip. I could always use more practice at teaching, and tutoring an older group would help broaden my experience. Then again being alone with these two was not high on my to-do list, but Makoto's begging was hard to ignore. "Is it just calculus, or are there other subjects?" I inquired.
"English, and world history," Haru replied.
"When do you want to meet?" I asked.
"Are you accepting?" Makoto grinned.
"I'm free after the center on Tuesdays and Fridays," I said.
"Sayuri-chan?" Makoto called.
Blinking, I returned to the present where Makoto and Haru were waiting for a response. Running a hand through my hair I pulled it over my left shoulder as I leaned over the table towards the problems I had them working on.
"Sorry, I wasn't listening," I said.
"Are you tired? We can call it a night if you want?" Makoto offered.
"No, no I'm fine. Do you have a question about the work?" I asked. Looking from Makoto to Haru and back with my brows raised.
"I still don't get this formula," Haru said. He pointed to the fourth question on the worksheet.
This was our first get together, and they were doing fairly well. They were understanding the review questions for calculus, and Makoto was already starting on the world history packet I had put together. In front of me was my child development essay that was going to be part of my final grade. I slid my work aside so I could get a better view of the formula Haru was talking about. It took some explaining and several examples, but I think Haru understood what to do, so I sent him on to finish the worksheet.
"Sayuri-chan," Makoto said. I had just turned back to my essay when he addressed me. I glanced up at him in response. "When was the fall of the Roman Empire?" he asked. He was tapping his mechanical pencil against the open page of his textbook, his review packet flipped to the last page.
"476 C.E, by Odoacer, the first Barbarian to rule Rome," I replied.
"Right right," Makoto nodded. "Thank you."
"Sure. That's why I'm here," I half smiled.
As I turned back to my work Makoto hummed, "Right," three more times.
This process continued for over a month using the ramen shop as our base. I would spend the week making review sheets on the subjects the two of them struggled on that would be on their finals, and on Fridays they would gather to practice while I worked on my own studies. My least favorite waitress served us every night with overly excited smiles, and too eager work ambition. She would walk up to our table every fifteen minutes on the dot to ask if we needed anything, and each time we sent her away with no new orders than the occasional drink refill.
After the study sessions Makoto would walk me to the bus stop while Haru started home without his friend. Most nights we talked about school, or the classes at the center as we made our way up the street. They were meaningless conversations, easily forgotten except for the fact that Makoto's rich green eyes would sometimes catch me off guard when I would glance up at him. He would be staring down at me with a warmth like the sun shining through tree branches during the summer, his eyes the bright lively leaves swaying over head in the cool breeze. That gaze made my stomach flip, and my heart flutter into my throat cutting off any statement I was about to say.
Though most of the conversations were nothing really special, there was one night walk that stuck in my mind al during the exam season. It was the last study group get together, and I believed the two of them were very much prepared for. Makoto and I were walking towards the bus stop laughing at a comment he made about our calculus professor. We fell into an awkward silence as we reached the metal and plexiglass structure. I fidgeted with my hands wrapped around the strap of my bag, and my shoes scuffing against the pavement.
"Well," I began. I could hear my bus home approaching behind me as I rocked back on my heels.
"Sayuri-chan," Makoto cut in. "I have to say something before you go, and I really need you to hear me out," he said in a whole new demeanor. It was unsettling serious, and his steady gaze only punctuated the atmosphere.
"Um, yeah. No problem Makoto-kun," I stuttered slightly startled. "But my bus is almost here."
"That's fine. I'll make this quick, I promise," he said. He stared down at me as his cheeks turned a startling shade of red which, out of reflex, made my face heat uncomfortably. Makoto took a steadying breath as the bus pulled up to the curb behind me. "For a while now I've been. . . ," he fought for worlds.
"Miss!" the bus driver called out to me.
"Makoto-kun I have to get going," I said. I took a step back towards the bus, nervously bouncing on the balls of my feet.
"I know," he said rushed. "I like you, Sayuri-chan. I really do, so please-,"
"Miss let's go!" The bus driver honked.
"Coming!" I called back. "Sorry. . . Thank you. . . I've got to go. . . ," I said stumbling backwards. "Goodbye Makoto-kun."
Turning I took off for the idling public bus with multiple organs strangling me; my racing heart, my fluttering stomach, my immobile lungs. Once in my seat I dared a glance back at Makoto, but regretted it immediately when I saw him staring at me with those summer day eyes. His cheeks were still flushed a deep red, but his kind and always present smile was replaced with a thin line of worry.
As I took my exams, and every time I arrived and left the center all I could think of was that expression and those words. My mind was full of that whistle guy despite my determination to stay focused on my studies. Just when my mind would start to nervously running my hands through my hair, and biting the inside of my cheek trying to regain some control of my thoughts.
"When am I suppose to reply to that confession?" I wondered out loud to myself.
I was at home curled up on my bed after a day of exams and work. I clenched the pillow I was holding tighter to my stomach as I stared up at the plain whys ceiling. It had been almost two weeks since then, and I was at a complete lose.
"Am I suppose to answer?" I said. "Where did that even come from?"
How would you reply? my inner voice inquired.
My face warmed, and I kicked my feet against my mattress in response.
I had nothing to actually say. I already new my -foolish- answer.
"When am I suppose to answer?" I growled.