Will The Stars Remember My Name?
Ryuuji was late. He looked at his watch and then hastened. His fast walk had become a jog now.
"Ah shit, I'm late."
He took a turn and felt even a greater sense of urgency as he saw the familiar cafe.
It was written in bold italic and had a huge steaming cup of coffee along with a plastic banner. He sprinted to the door and stopped just outside. He brushed off dust from his clothes and pulled his blond hair back revealing his deep, intense eyes. He pulled his cheeks and flashed a smile at the door.
"Alright then, here we go!"
He stepped inside the cafe as the bell on the door tinkled softly.
"Oi Ryu, you're almost an hour late!" Came a familiar man's voice from behind the counter.
"Miyuki, Ryu's a popular boy in school. He must have been busy with his friends..." This time the voice was a bit kinder and polite. It had a slight crackle in it like an old woman's voice.
Suddenly, a sound of crashing plates came.
"Eep- I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I'll clean it up right away."
The young lady's voice was a bit high pitched as she apologized to the customer near her. Ryuuji's eyes observed everything quietly.
"Natsu! Ahh, how many dishes will you break!? Ryuuji, why are you just standing there, help her cle-"
Ryuuji raised his hand to silence Miyuki's rant. The entire cafe went silent and all of them looked at Ryuuji, waiting for him to speak or move.
He pulled back his hair once again and breathed in deeply as if getting ready to speak. Then he said, "Tell me Natsu-senpai..."
Natsu raised her eyebrows as Ryuuji twisted his head and lifted his chin. With an intense gaze he swerved his eyes towards her.
"Is it just me or am I shining like a star on a dark night today?"
Came three swift responses from Natsu, Miyuki and the customer who Natsu was apologizing too.
Ryuuji clenched his chest as a crocodile tear fell from his left eye. He wiped it off dramatically and murmured in a shaky voice,
"Ah, this world is full of cruel people."
The cafe burst out laughing as various regular customers cheered Ryuuji for his performance.
"Nice one, mate! It seemed more realistic today."
"Yo, do that tear thing again. Seemed so real."
Miyuki came out from behind the counter and dragged the bowing Ryuuji to the staff room so that he could change his clothes and get to work.
Mrs. Nagasaki chuckled at the scene. She beckoned Natsu and held her hand.
"Natsu, thank you for everything."
Natsu blushed and replied, "I'm sorry for all the trouble and worry I have caused."
She bowed as Mrs. Nagasaki shook her head slowly.
"We all just care about you a lot. I'm glad things are back to normal now."
She nodded as Mrs. Nagasaki let go of her hand.
"Oh, and one more thing Natsu..."
"I'll be deducting your pay for this month's salary for breaking the fourth dish in a row."
"Manager, you're a sly old businesswoman saying all that emotional stuff before deducting my pay."
The manager chuckled softly.
"I have my charms."
Miyuki came back and saw the manager and Natsu talking to each other. He approached them and asked, "Natsu, do you need any help with the broken dishes?"
She smiled shyly and said, "Not really, but I wouldn't mind you helping out."
Miyuki turned red but, just then, a girl sitting in the corner called out, "Excuse me! I'm ready to order!"
Natsu sighed and murmured under her breath, "Tch, stupid customer."
Miyuki ran off to take the order.
The girl asked Miyuki, "Um... Did I do something wrong? Just now the lady staff was staring daggers at me."
Miyuki fumbled with his words, "Oh that- No, she was... Uh… don't worry about it. She was just a bit jealous."
Miyuki smiled weakly as the girl with braids and glasses giggled.
She gave her order and Miyuki noted everything promptly. Before leaving, Miyuki informed her, "Just one more thing, my shift is about to get over so Ryuuji will be the one serving you."
The girl pouted and turned her head.
"Hmph! I would rather get served by the girl staring daggers at me than that stupid head."
Miyuki smiled nervously, "I'm guessing you didn't like his performance, did you?"
The girl twiddled her thumbs and said in a high and mighty voice, "Well... in terms of acting it- maybe it wasn't that bad..."
"Hah. It's understandable if he seems stupid sometimes. His girlfriend is the only one who keeps him in check."
The menu book slipped out of her hands.
"He has a GIRLFRIEND!?"
She picked up the menu book. Trying to keep her calm composure, she said, "No- Not that I care who dates that brick head, but, just out of curiosity, and curiosity only... Okay? Who... Is his girlfriend?"
"Her name's Futaba. She's a regular here."
The girl dropped the menu once more.
"Fu- Futaba... Sakamoto!?"
"I... Think so, yeah."
The girl's face turned pale as if she just saw a ghost.
"Um... I really have to go now. I'll ask Natsu to serve you instead. Would that be ok?"
The girl meekly nodded.
Miyuki turned around smiling to himself.
He whispered to himself, "So, finally a love rival?"
He chuckled to himself and went to the locker room to get changed.
Later that evening, Mrs. Nagasaki called everyone to the cafe, including Haruto and Shiomi. Ryouta and Ryuuji were the first ones to arrive and following them Haruto, Futaba, Shiomi, Miyuki and, at the end, Natsu arrived.
The manager served hot coffee for all of them and then went behind the counter. She stood straight and cleared her throat, catching everyone's attention.
"Now then, I called you kids here today because I wanted to say a few things. First of all, I would like to thank Shiomi for promoting our cafe by celebrating her birthday party here. Because of that event, our cafe has become more popular than ever. Shiomi, I'm sorry I couldn't attend the party as I was out of town for some personal business. I want to wish you a very happy belated birthday!"
Shiomi bowed slightly and smiled back politely.
"Second, all the staff members have worked so hard for this cafe that I would like to repay them somehow. There are not many things an old lady like me can do, but I hope what I offer will be enough for all of you. For this evening, we are going to change our roles! I will act as the staff and you kids will be the customers and, just for today, the food will be free!"
The small group cheered for the manager. The kitchen staff helped the manager to serve the group. They ate lots of food, laughed and enjoyed themselves to the fullest.
While they were having some delicious sandwiches, a drop of ketchup fell on Haruto's t-shirt. Immediately, Shiomi picked a tissue and wiped it off.
"Silly boy, you're still so messy! Eat properly in front of us..."
Miyuki grinned and chided, "Shiomi always takes such good care of Haruto. They're like one of those sweet old lovebirds."
Shiomi's hand stopped midway and Haruto stopped chewing. They both turned red and looked away.
Ryuuji scrunched his eyebrows and suspiciously asked, "Oi, oi! I expected Haru-senpai to retort back or Shio-senpai to give one of her blank expressions but what's this!? Both of you getting flustered? Ho-ho, so finally Haru-senpai made his move?"
Shiomi's cheeks turned even brighter as Haruto exclaimed, "No! I didn't make the move, it was her- "
He clamped his mouth to stop himself for speaking when he realised what he had just revealed.
Shiomi looked down and muttered, "Stupid Haru."
Ryuuji stood up and held Haruto and Shiomi's hand.
"Congratulations to both of you! With this, my dream has been completed. Not forgetting our dear Miyatsu, or Miyuki-Natsu, all of us are happily with the people we love."
He gave a stink eye towards Ryouta and continued, "Except this loner of course. Bro... You seriously need to learn womanizing skills from me."
He patted Ryouta's shoulder while Ryouta sighed, "Well, you should be careful with your words little brother. Look to your left."
Ryuuji's head slowly turned towards Futaba. Red light shone from her eyes like a demon and a dark aura surrounded her.
"Womanizing skills huh? So that's what you call those silly antics of yours?"
Ryuuji stammered, "Ahh... Um... FuFu I- uh... Of course n- not. I was only jo- joking around..."
Natsu burst laughing and everyone looked at her. In between her laughs, she said, "I- I am sorry but his expression- "
Miyuki looked at her laughing, glad that she was back to herself. Of course, it wasn't as if nothing had changed. Natsu was still trying to come out of her past. But, right now, Miyuki was happy that she was able to enjoy herself like this. The present. That's where they lived. Everyone has their past mistakes and regrets, some even have trauma. But living in the past has never helped anyone move forward. People don't realise that it's the present they should live in.
This was their present. Natsu and Miyuki's.
The one filled with good friends, laughter and happiness. Miyuki was glad about everything that had happened. He was glad that he had the courage to approach her that day. He was glad he told her about Nagasaki's. He was glad... She was here, right now, with him, smiling and laughing.
The party ended soon and it was time for everyone to go back. Futaba hugged Natsu and Shiomi before leaving with Ryuuji. Ryouta, like the responsible kid he was, offered to stay back for a little longer so he could help the Manager clean up. Haruto and Shiomi lived next door so they left together, both of them still a bit flustered. Miyuki offered to drop Natsu and she gladly accepted.
Natsu hummed as she walked beside a silent Miyuki. When they arrived outside Natsu's building, Miyuki broke his silence. He asked as they climbed the stairs to the fourth floor, where Natsu's flat was, "Hey, did you enjoy the party?"
"Hm? Yes, of course I did! It was fun eating with everyone and it's obvious with Ryuuji around there's never a dull moment."
"I'm happy you enjoyed yourself."
Natsu blushed slightly.
"It's all thanks to you Miyuki that I enjoyed myself today."
She skipped a few stairs ahead and turned around. She put her hands behind her and smiled at Miyuki.
"Thank you Miyuki... For everything."
Miyuki looked at Natsu's smiling face shining under the starry sky, the wind slowly moving through her soft hair. It was almost as if Miyuki was looking at a beautiful mirage, something that would fade away if he got any closer.
Miyuki looked down and muttered to himself, "I should be the one thanking you."
They walked to the flat and Natsu popped in her key but left it there, not unlocking the door yet. She came closer to Miyuki and hugged him. She stayed there for some time and Miyuki felt their warmth mixing up. He softly rested his cheek on her head. When Natsu pulled away she looked straight into Miyuki's eyes. Their faces were so close it was as if they were breathing the same air. Miyuki leaned in a bit and Natsu closed her eyes. He was just about to kiss her when he saw something. Natsu's fists were balled and slightly trembling. Even though her eyes were closed and lips open waiting for Miyuki's lips to press on to, she was still shaking so slightly it was barely noticeable.
Natsu opened her eyes to see Miyuki had pulled back.
"Natsu I- I want to be good to you. I will control myself for you. You're still scared aren't you? I realised that when I saw you trying to control your trembling. It's ok Natsu, you don't have to force yourself for me."
He smiled at her and said,
"I will always be with you so I can wait as long as you want me to."
Natsu looked at him with almost tears in her eyes.
"I knew it. I can never ever in my life find a man like you."
He turned around to walk away but he heard Natsu running towards him. He turned around and Natsu jumped on him. Surprised, he caught her instinctively.
She put her finger on his lips.
"Shhh... You are so kind Miyuki, that you spoil me too much."
She wrapped her arms around his neck and legs around his waist. She slowly leaned forward and kissed him.
When she pulled away she rested her forehead on his, their noses touching and eyes staring into each other.
"I know I've had bad experiences but... But this is different. I'm in love this time. I... I want you to kiss me and touch me. It's just that my body reacts as if I'm still scared even though I'm not. So... Please don't hold back Miyuki."
"Then... Allow me to taste your lips again."
The two came closer and faded into darkness as the moon hid behind the clouds.
~End of Second Arc: Touch-me-not~