Noriko stared at the stall.
They’d stayed another night and three more meals. She shared a bed with Urufu, hugged him throughout the night, but nothing more than that apart from a short peck of a kiss she received in the morning.
She stared at the stall again.
Urufu was right.
No restaurant could compete with rice polished an hour before it was eaten. Especially not when, as Urufu’s aunt told them, it had grown on the best paddy in the village. The same was true of the tea as well, and Urufu, well he must really have trained just as much as he said.
The first of three meals. A cup of green tea and a bowl of rice. Nothing more.
She stared, no glared, at the stall. It would be a while before she could buy train station bento again. Or a convenience store one for that matter.
In a few minutes their train would arrive and they’d leave this backwater town which still was the centre sustaining that small village. Suzuka lay not too far away, Urufu had told her, but that city was a jumble of random buildings smeared across the plains without a semblance of planning.
A few days more filled with a mix of work and finishing their summer homework, or in this case verifying that their already finished homework displayed signs of independent thinking.
Hers did. Noriko knew for a certain. A year ago it hadn’t. Not really. Urufu designed the workshops for the freshmen so that they at least tweaked their expected canned results a little. Not so for the juniors. Applying critique he said.
They had no seniors. Not any longer.
When she threw the stall another look Noriko smiled. Nao had long since stopped hurting in her chest. Would she have stayed with him if he didn’t run away the way he did? Noriko would like to think so. He might not be the brightest of guys, but then neither was her brother, and she still behaved in an almost civil way around him.
“Hungry, but not that hungry?”
Noriko smiled at Kyoko’s words. “Something like that.”
Both girls glanced at the stall and started giggling.
“Should I call Urufu over here?”
Noriko looked at the station building where he stood chatting with Yukio, then she looked at Kyoko. You left your boyfriend there. I should probably take that advice to heart. “Let them be.”
Of course Noriko wanted Urufu by her side, but she had promised, and she’d go nuts if he didn’t give her any time for herself.
Kyoko glared at her.
“What is it?”
“Don’t copy Yukio and me. We’re us, and we’ve been together for a year now.”
“You asked for it.” Something hard reached Kyoko’s mouth. “You remember how Yukio and I were all over each other a year ago, and Kuri-chan and Urufu as well?”
Now that hurt. Noriko looked at Urufu. While Kyoko’s words hit home there was no menace in them. “Yes, I do.” In fact she remembered how she and Nao had been all over each other. At least for the duration of the school festival. “Kyoko, it’s the third time.”
“It’s the third time I’ve fallen for Urufu. I guess some of the madness must have burned away.”
“Don’t!” Kyoko said again.
Noriko never turned to face her friend. She let her eyes rest on Urufu instead. “At least tell me why!”
To Noriko’s surprise Kyoko didn’t hesitate a moment. “Find out how he loves. Ask him about his wife. Is his a fiery love, or a calm one?”
How could I ever believe I was older than you? She’d seen him with Kuri. There was no need to ask. Gods! He even biked to Kyushu after they broke up. She didn’t know if her own love was of the burning kind or not, but she did know she allowed herself to be pulled into Nao’s pace.
“Urufu, I want a hug!” Noriko surprised herself with that outburst.
Around her people stared at her with smiles or smirks.
He came walking. There was something pained about his smile, but he came walking. Behind him Yukio followed with a huge grin on his face.
“A hug you said?”
Noriko nodded. This was a bad idea.
He swept her up in a bear hug as if she was a grade schooler. Then he swung her around.
“Down! Down this instant!”
“I refuse,” he said and swung her around.
Noriko recalled how she had demanded her brother let her down ages and ages ago, just moments before she realised she had fallen in love with the same boy for the second time. This time Kuri wouldn’t come to her help, and Kyoko, well Kyoko was certain to help Urufu rather than the other way around.
“You arrogant...” She didn’t make it any longer. She was interrupted by bubbles of laughter leaving her throat. “Down, or face the consequences!”
She swirled around another full circle.
Noriko climbed up Urufu’s arms until she was close enough to grab his head with both hands. His face was so close.
“I warned you.” She pulled once more and opened her mouth.
He met her, and she felt his tongue inside her mouth.
Another full circle, and another.
If he never let go it was too soon. She hungrily tasted more of him. Surprised by her own greed she twisted so she could get even more.
The fiery kind. I knew that.
And she kissed him some more.