Just as she picked up her phone from the table Noriko noticed someone heading for their table. She looked up. “Yukio?”
After a moments hesitation he smiled. “Yes, that would be me,” he said.
“How did you know?”
Across the table Urufu turned and looked over his shoulder. “I’ll be damned. Yukio the sleuth.”
“Even a moron like me could guess you’d go sulking here man,” Yukio retorted.
“Only a moron like me would have a date with his rival’s sister in a shabby place like this.”
“A date?” Noriko echoed.
“Don’t you people call everything when two people meet away from home a date?”
Noriko saw Yukio’s smirk before he opened up a broadside. “Cut it with that crap about ‘you people’! You’re part of us now.”
Friends, they really are best friends. She admired Yukio’s courage to bite back at the older man. Kyoko, you sure got yourself a good boyfriend.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Urufu growled, but he grinned when he turned around and grabbed his cup of coffee. “Just like old times,” he added. This time his smile reached all the way to his eyes.
I haven’t seen that grin of yours for so long. Thinking of the reason why Urufu never smiled with joy these days reminded Noriko of Nao, and a hard lump formed in her throat. She almost managed to keep her tears down.
“I had it repaired,” Urufu said just as Yukio sat down beside her.
Had it repaired? Oh, my phone. “You didn’t have to.”
“I wanted to.”
“It’s not like I couldn’t afford to myself.”
“Exactly why I wanted to.”
“Comedy duo, much?” Yukio interrupted.
“But he really didn’t...” Noriko started. She stopped and slapped her hand to her mouth when Urufu threw up his hands in mock exasperation and grinned widely, and this time his smile twinkled in his eyes as well.
Noriko’s heart almost stopped.
“I give,” he said.
I remember now. It’s been almost two years.
“You’re cute when you blush, you know that?”
“Say what again?” Then she felt her face heat up. No way! He can still make me feel this way?
“Don’t flirt with her like that. Nao could get grumpy.”
The fuzzy feeling in her stomach was immediately replaced by a burning pain in her chest, and Noriko saw Urufu’s eyes throw daggers at Yukio. All the heat that just made her blush left her at once.
The mood around the table dropped to just above freezing point.
“We don’t talk about that person here,” Urufu said. His voice held an edge to it that made Noriko flinch, and she suspected Yukio must feel like he was being bulldozed over.
She waived at a waitress just to force a change to the table. Besides, she hadn’t had time to order anything yet.
And you read my messages, or did Kuri tell you? That was unfair. Kuri wouldn’t. But then who? Noriko threw a glance to her right. Yukio’s face was an open book to be read. Kyoko, of course.
“I’ll have black tea and this cake,” Noriko said to the arriving waitress and put her finger on the menu. She hoped it landed on a cake, because she hadn’t really looked at it.
Hidden by her bangs Urufu ordered something as well. She couldn’t see him, but she heard him rummaging through the plastic menus and slap his finger onto a few items.
“One coffee,” came Yukio’s voice from her right.
Noriko pretended to study her menu despite having ordered already.
Around the table silence covered all of them like a wet blanket. Noriko realised she had to be the one who broke it.
“You know it’s bad to read other peoples’ phones,” Noriko said and regretted her words as soon as they came out of her mouth.
Urufu stared down at the table. “I apologise. I thought it was something important...”
Something important? What do you call Nao cheating on me? “You idiot!”
Tact really wasn’t Urufu’s main strength, or at least not when he didn’t need to think before he spoke, which usually only happened with customers present.
Noriko studied Urufu’s face to see how he planned to get out of the situation. Even though Nao’s betrayal hurt, her cynical curiosity never fully left her.
“I didn’t mean it that way,” Urufu began.
No, he won’t, she thought.
“I wondered if someone had been hurt or something,” he continued.
Insert foot in mouth. You’re hopeless!
“Man! Listen to what you’re saying!” Yukio said just as Urufu’s face told Noriko the meaning of his words finally made its way to his brain.
And I once fell in love with this guy. Wonder who the real idiot is. She shook her head and forced a smile to her face. “No wonder Kuri dumped you,” Noriko said. This time she just almost regretted her words. What Urufu had said was beyond the pale. “You should take social interaction 101 for a change.”
She rose from her seat, picked up her bag and dropped a few coins on the table.
“Thanks for the phone. I appreciate it.”
She left the table and a dumbfounded Urufu behind her. Yukio’s stunned face made her feel a little sorry for him, but if he chose friends like Urufu he deserved feeling like an arse.
“Noriko, sorry. I didn’t...”
“Man, drop it! Sometimes you’re just so damned clumsy.”
Yeah, friends. Urufu, I envy you a friend like that. Walking down the stairs Noriko admitted the one she really envied was Kyoko. You got the best boyfriend of all of us, you know that?
She left the mall and walked down the street in the direction of a train station. Behind her Urufu’s bike glimmered in the rapidly darkening evening as it caught the last of the sun.
Sheesh, what an idiot. Her anger made her forget about Nao for a while, and reluctantly she sent Urufu a thought of thanks. Did you do that on purpose? No, I think you’re just that stupid. Suddenly angry mirth filled her, and Noriko grinned despite of everything.