Ryu's delivery had been beyond expectations. Not only was the fight between 5:2 and 3:1 resolved, but they had gained another ten students from 9:1, and with that Ulf's remaining staffing problems dissolved.
He smiled remembering Ryu's heads up. Apparently a girl in their middle school with fantastically bad taste in boys had nurtured a crush on him before he was expelled. It was a little flattering, and he wasn't above feeling his self esteem rising a bit.
Maybe Christina wouldn't think it was that fun, even though he trusted her to be mature enough to laugh it away in the end.
They hadn't been able to share all that much time together since the night he spent in her apartment. By any normal standards they should have been lovers by now, but that night they only slept together just as they had done at the resort her grandfather ran together with his wife.
There was no mistaking why she called him over, but when he got there he was just too emotionally drained to do anything, and in a way he valued her closeness more than sex.
Ulf rehashed that evening as he had done several times by now. They slept together and nothing else but was that what she wanted? Had she wanted more, and if so was she angry with him now?
Gah, I'll just ask her when we meet. No point in worrying on my own. This was one occasion where fifty was much better than sixteen. Knowing that in order to avoid misunderstandings actually talking things over was a perfectly acceptable solution.
When he had been sixteen the first time talking something specific over hadn't been the main problem. Talking with a girl at all had been. He spent his two first years in high school with his tongue perpetually glued to the back of his mouth whenever a girl approached too close.
Third year less so after a second year took a fancy to him and tired of waiting. She made him her boyfriend with all the finesse and subtlety of a stereotypical caveman. She crowned her whirlwind campaign by kicking in the door to his classroom mid lecture, declaring she had come for her boyfriend and frenched him before he had a chance to rise from his chair.
Ulf grinned at the memory. It only lasted a little over a year, but before they grew apart she had reshaped him into a very different person.
His first. There was something about firsts.
He shook the memories away and turned to look for whoever had spoken to him.
A junior from the liberal arts section, but which class he couldn't tell. “Sorry, I spaced out a bit, what can I help you with?”
“We're the Latin seafood stall.”
Ulf dug up his phone and made a search. “The grill?”
“Yeah. There's a problem. We wondered if we could extend the barbecue instead. We could use the stall for sales only.”
There's no way they came up with this on their own. They're not club members so no one told them to think independently. “Who told you to ask me?”
The junior pointed over his shoulder with a thumb. Behind him Ulf saw Christina talking frantically into her headset while still making time to wave at him.
“Fine, we'll do so. Get your grills out of the booth and set it up at one end of the two lines.” Ulf drew a quick sketch on the ground with the two lines of grills and where he wanted the last two set up at one end. “Got it?”
He received a nod in return, and the junior returned to make the changes.
Christina. I should have known. But Ryu's getting damn good at this as well so it could have been him. Ulf started walking towards Christina. If nothing else he could get a hug and a kiss from her before they were swamped with more work.
He made it halfway to her.
What's up this time? The girl looking up at him was a complete stranger. “How can I be of assistance?” Not much point in pretending I don't know she's looking for help.
“I'm from the tea club and we've been told to cooperate with the espresso stall.”
“Yes?” How bloody hard can it be?
“We don't know how. Just because both stalls serve hot drinks we're not the same.”
Ulf looked over her shoulder to where Christina still stood. She threw him an ironic smile and waved to let him know she'd wait for him a bit longer.
“OK, split down the middle.”
When he saw her face mimic a question mark he pulled out the umbrella he had used just moments earlier.
“Like this,” Ulf said and drew two boxes on the ground. “You're organised in two groups like this at the moment. Split each group in two this way and merge the two halves. Got it?”
She nodded understanding.
“Each new group continues planning like before, but this time both groups will have knowledge about serving tea as well as coffee. Should solve your problem.”
The freshman girl, because her uniform gave away that she was one, gave him an uncertain look as if she couldn't believe such a simple solution would do any good.
“Trust me on this. If it doesn't work you can always come back. OK?”
“Thank you Hamarugen-san,” she said.
He was about to leave her when she suddenly tugged at his shirt sleeve. Ulf looked up and saw Christina glaring at the girl, and just then she let go.
“Anything more?” he asked, but she shook her head and ran away.
When he started walking to Christina he saw how she had already made the distance to him. Amused worry played over her face, and Ulf had an inkling of an idea what it was about.
“Sorry about that,” he said to Christina, “but I don't do two girls at the same time so you don't have to worry.” But isn't that a lie? Isn't this cheating on Maria?
She smirked. “I hope you understand that 'doing' a girl means something else. Besides, you all that certain she was going to confess?”
So you didn't catch up on my lie? “You glared. If I wasn't sure before I was after that.” It wasn't a topic he wanted to spend time on. Instead he drew her close and let go of all thoughts. Her arms around his back and her body pressed against his was all that mattered.
I can never get enough of this. If I didn't know how much I'd hurt your dreams I'd declare my love for you from the rooftop for the entire school to hear. He knew he wasn't in the clear yet, but at least admitting to himself that there were two women in his heart meant he was moving forward another tiny step.
“Ulf,” she murmured into his shirt. “do you have some free time around two pm day after tomorrow?”
Reluctantly he let go of her. There was something in her eyes, like she had thought something over and made a decision. If it's important for you. “If you need me at two pm I'll make time.”
He was rewarded with a smile that almost made his heart stop.