The Night Out
"So your exams went well?" Honda-san questioned.
We were sitting in the academic wing of the community center grading papers like we always do before going home. My exams had just ended the week before, and the stress over them had finally settled, but that didn't change the nagging in the back of mind about other things.
"Yeah. I'm sure I did fine," I replied.
"I have no doubt," Honda-san grinned. "You studied hard every night. I've seen the books in your bag," he said.
"Yeah, I did," I said.
"Are you going to celebrate a job well done?" he asked.
"A few friends at school invited me out tonight," I said.
My pen slowly ticked off the wrong answers on the paper in red ink. My mind barely following the multiple choice answers as I graded test after test.
"That's good. I remember when I was your age. I have so many stories I could tell you," he chuckled with nostalgia.
"Hard to believe you were ever a party animal sir," I joked.
"Believe it. I was an amazing ring leader in my day," he smirked.
Honda-san and I shared stories while we continued to grade papers until it was the end of my shift. I learned about my supervisor's party animal ways, and how he got into the line of teaching, which involved a lecture from one of my current professors and a smack over the head with a chair. His youth outings were definitely stories to learn from, like for that night I was not going bar hopping and probably never will. I didn't want to end up in Kyoto with no pants and a missing wallet. Lucky for me my classmates want to keep the night casual and in one place.
"Is everyone okay with a round of margaritas to start us off?" Ai, the girl that organized the meeting, said.
We had gathered at a rather popular restaurant and bar a few blocks from campus. I was content with just relaxing and drinking with some friends, but from the hair flipping and the goo-goo eyes they were shooting across to the bar where several guys could be seen returning the looks.
The group nodded in approval at our leader's questions, some girls giggling while others clapped in excitement. I sat relatively silent as I waited for our drinks and food to arrive. Outings such as these were never my thing , large groups made me feel uncomfortable, but then again one-on-one's were even more nerve racking.
"I'm surprised you came out with us, Yuri-chan," Sara said. She was the curly haired girl on my left, who was one of my first friends when I moved out to Tokyo and started university. Sara was unusually straight forward and honest, which was why I got along with her, but she also got overly attached to people too quickly making her an emotional wreck when her relationships ended.
"Me too," I sighed.
"You usually hide out at home watching bad viral videos and studying," Sara said. She leaned her elbow against the table resting her cocked head in her palm with an amused grin on her face.
"Well Ai made an offer I couldn't refuse," I shrugged.
"I doubt that," Sara breathed. "So why did you really come, Yuri-chan?" she inquired. Patiently tapping her pointer finger against her temple.
I groaned having forgotten that Sara was extremely good at reading people; one of her qualifies I wasn't too keen on.
"My mind has been a mess lately, and I was hoping tonight would be a good distraction," I replied.
Sara raised a lightened brunette brow at me as her grin turned into a smirk. "And what has you all wound up? I didn't think anything other than work occupied your mind," she teased.
"It's sort of work related," I muttered.
"Does this have anything to do with those guys you were tutoring?" Sara asked.
Just then our drinks arrived and I was spared from having to answer. The margaritas were passed around, Ai made a toast to the end of exams, everyone cheered and drank. A second round was immediately served along with several shots of something I didn't catch the name of. By the third shot my head was relatively clear, but also light and I could feel my body warming pleasantly from the alcohol.
"Well, Yuri?" Sara elbowed my side.
"Huh?" I paused with a cheesy and meaty nacho halfway to my mouth.
Sara giggled uncontrollably as she threw an arm over my shoulders while I stuffed my face with the deliciously smothered chip. She moved in close with her freshly refilled margarita in hand, so the other chatting Cathys couldn't hear.
"Is your head in the clouds?" she asked. "Specifically cloud 9?" she tittered.
The nacho went down rough leaving me coughing and sputtering for an answer to give Sara, who was hanging off of me laughing once more. Thanks to the alcohol and atmosphere I was distracted from the thoughts that had been haunting me for weeks, but Sara's questions were beginning to ruin that.
"Oow, what's going on over here?" Ai cooed. She had been circling the table joining into every conversation she could. Now she sank into the empty chair to my right with an intrigued smile plastered on her unnaturally pink lips. I had met her in my intro psych class, but seeing her now I found it hard to believe the tipsy red faces woman next to me wanted to be a child psychologist.
"Yuri's hiding a crush," Sara replied. Her drop of honorifics was a sure sign of her intoxication. The first time we drank together was when I managed to talk her into using the nickname I preferred since "Sayuri" is a mouthful and was what I used in my professional life.
"No," Ai gasped. Her eyes widening as she looked at me. "Sayuri is a study-bug. Who do you have hour eyes set on?"
"I-I don't," I stuttered. My face warming even more, from the alcohol I guessed.
"Oh my god," Sara exclaimed. "You do. Who is it?" she demanded.
"Yeah tell us, Sayuri," Ai chimed in. They both hovered around me with an intense, almost predatorial aura hat made me want to flea. "Is it someone from work? Uni?" she questioned.
"The community center maybe?" Sara said.
"I, uh, well . . . You see-,"
I was thankfully interrupted by the waiter that had been servicing our table. He placed a pretty colored drink in front of me, it was a swirling concoction of blues and greens with at least four cherries bobbing along with the ice. I had to force my gaze away from the mesmerizing liquid so I could speak to the waiter who hadn't dashed away after his delivery.
"I didn't order this," I told him.
He have me a look that said he knew that, but he managed to keep a professional smile on his face. "I know miss. That man at the bar told me to give it to you with a message," he said.
Ai, Sara, and I all glanced towards the massive bar together, but there were nine different guys standing and sitting there and half of them had their backs turned to us.
"What's the message?" Sara inquired for me.
""Thank you, Sayuri-chan,"" the waiter said. He turned to leave, but Ai stopped him.
"Which guy sent it?" she asked.
But I already knew which guy. It took some searching and leaning, but I found him. He was lost in a sea of cheering and laughing college guys, yet I pinned him down. His green eyes and smile unmistakable.
"That one there," the waiter said with a gesture then left.
"That tall guy?" Sara questioned.
For a moment after the waiter left I was sure the entire restaurant went silent when Makoto's gaze met mine. His laughing smile faltered for a moment and his flushed face turned a darker shade of pink. In that moment my breath hitched in my throat and my heart flew out of my chest and into the next solar system at the sonic speed it was racing.
Then the silence was gone, and I was back in reality with Sara shaking my shoulder and an unknown feeling crawling around in my stomach. That, or my nachos weren't sitting well.
"Hey Yuri, do you know that guy?" she asked.
"Whistle guy, um I mean," I stumbled over my tongue. "Yeah. Yeah I do," I managed to say.
I turned my gaze to the colorful drink while Ai and Sara shared a look that I didn't quite catch. I was too busy wondering why Makoto was here, and being embarrassed over the message he sent that my friends had over heard.
"Does this whistle guy have a proper name?" Sara hummed drunkenly.
"Y-Yeah," I muttered.
"And you met where?" Ai questioned just as intoxicated.
"The center," I replied.
"And he has you on cloud 9," Sara giggled.
"No he doesn't!" I denied firmly.
Sara and Ai both rolled their eyes, while my curly haired friend placed my new drink in my hand. I took it only because Sara was bound to spill it otherwise.
"Yuri," Ai drawled.
"Please," Sara added.
I took a sip from the glass, surprised at how sweet and tropical it tasted for alcohol, so I drew out the sip while my friends hovered for a reply.
Lowering the glass I said, "So what?"
The two women squealed like high school girls, hopping in their seats as I just stared down at my drink debating another sip. I had come to this gathering wanting to forget what was now standing at the bar, but I also didn't want a hangover tomorrow. Adult decisions were a lot harder than I thought, filing taxes had nothing on this night.
"Oh Yuri," Sara cooed. "I'm so proud."
"I'm so jealous. He's gorgeous," Ai added.
"Back off. Don't forget Ken-kun," Sara warned. Turning back to me she patted my shoulder and said, "You're going to talk to him."
"No I'm not," I stated. I tipped back my drink until it was gone and one of the cherries landed in my mouth. I chewed it deliberately slow so I had an excuse as to not to speak.
"Oh yes you are," Sara said. "No better time to clear up your mind than with a chance encounter."
"What?" I exclaimed.
The tiny girl had managed to haul me to my feet despite the twenty pounds, and the four inch height difference. Ai just laughed as she watched on, clearly not motivated enough to get any further involved than the gossip she was sure to spread later on.
"Sara what are you doing?" I demanded. She pushed me towards the group of guys that Makoto was mingling with.
The nachos were definitely not sitting well.
"I'm giving my friend the necessary push, so she'll move forward in her love life," she answered.
"I don't have a love life," I informed her.
"I know," she giggled.
"Sara," I said. I tried to stop my movement forward, but the strength of my small friend was impressive.
"I'm sure you have something to tell him, so just do that," Sara said.
I glanced over my shoulder at her just in time to see her encouraging smile before she shoved me away. I stumbled forward having lost most of my sense of balance with the most recent drink and yelping like a startled little girl when I collided with a solid mass that stopped my face from meeting the floor.
The deep voices chatter around one paused with sound of fear, and I could feel multiple sets of eyes on me making my embarrassment grow.
"Sayuri-chan?" a familiar voice questioned startled.
"I'm sure you have something to tell him, so just do that," Sara's voice resounded through my mind.
Swallowing the fear bubbling up inside I looked up I to the eyes like leaves on a summer day and said, "Me too, Makoto-kun."
When the words were out my mouth clamped shut and I took a step back from him. Chatter resumed while I was once again moved across the bar against my body's wishes. Makoto had taken ahold of my right wrist and was pulling me towards the exit. The nighttime air was cool and refreshing as it hit me in the face, but not sobering like in the movies.
"Sorry about this, but," Makoto said. He pulled me under the awning of the restaurant, and faced me with wide serious eyes that stopped my racing heart. "I have to know what you meant by that, and the others were too noisy."
"I thought it was obvious," I squeaked out.
Makoto's cheeks flushed more as he said, "You were giving your answer?"
Suddenly his arms were wrapped around me and I could no longer feel the cool air of the night. My face was buried in his chest, and I was okay with that. His scent filled my nose with a warm, fresh aroma just like the scent on the sweatshirts he lent me. Without thinking I leaned into Makoto's embraced enjoying the fuzzy feeling dancing around inside my chest. My hands gripped the back of his shirt pulling myself closer ignoring the the sirens in the back of my mind.
"Sayuri-chan," Makoto said in a low and husky voice. The sound of my name made me tremble, and a seed of doubt to take root. Then again it could have been the nachos.
"Y-Yeah?" I stuttered.
"I like you," he said.
My face felt as hot as the surface of the sun and the heat was making my lightheadedness even worse. I was only still standing thanks to Makoto's grip on me.
"Don't keep saying it out in public," I grumbled.
"Sorry," he chucked.
As Makoto pulled back from our hug I suddenly found it very hard to focus, or see. My stomach lurched while black dots danced across my vision blocking out Makoto's smiling face. His eyes grew closer and closer to me while my eyelids became heavier and heavier.
"Sayuri-chan, are you okay?" he asked.
"Yuri," I corrected breathlessly.
"Sayuri-," was the last thing I remember hearing before completely passing out.