“You know you could have phrased it better,” Iori said to Chisa as they walked down the narrow street leading into the shopping district. Dazzling lamps illuminated the rows of restaurants, cafes and bars, and the innocuous passerby who frequently walked along the road.
“Sorry.” Chisa looked down, clearly uncomfortable and feeling guilty as hell.
For some insane reason, Iori felt the urge to comfort her, to tell her there's no harm done and to wrap his arm around her shoulder. That last thought though sounded like it came from a suicidal person who says he is seeking death. Thus, he settled instead on folding his arms behind his head.
“When they hit you, did they hurt you?” Chisa asked.
That question came out of nowhere, knocking Iori off guard. “What do you—”
But before he could finish, she was suddenly there, in front of him, face to face. He stopped in his tracks.
“Come here for a second,” she ordered softly.
Iori gave her a puzzled look, at least until Chisa cupped his face in her hands, pulling it closer to her own. Her warmth permeated his body like a rush of sea waves.
Carefully, she studied him. Her eyes traced his facial features, taking in his cheeks, forehead, nose and lips, until they were looking at each other again. Their eyes lingered for a moment before Chisa pulled away and abruptly released him.
“Good, nothing seems to be misplaced.” She flashed him a playful smile. “Other than the usual of course.”
Iori grinned at her in return. “And here I thought you’re gonna kiss me,” he teased, expecting a witty comeback. Instead, he received a larger-than-usual serving of Chisa-styled insults.
“Idiot. Stupid. Jerk.”
They started walking again. For a moment, Iori thought she was angry. She can get annoyed at the littlest of things. But then she asked him, “Why are the boys at the university so riled up? Why should they care if we were going out together?”
Iori felt his eyebrows curling together and his mouth falling open. Chisa was being more talkative than usual, and that surprised him. He was also unsure how to answer, if he even understood her correctly. He wondered what ‘going out’ means to her. She was being vague again, and that frustrated him enough that he let her questions linger a couple seconds.
Finally, he said, “You really don't know, don't you?”
“The idea of you and I going out . . . as a couple. It doesn't sit right with them.”
“Imagine the campus stunner falling for the lowly pervert. It doesn't make sense right? They think I'm . . . just not worth your time.” Iori chuckled slightly. “They were even sure that I had you hypnotized.”
Chisa shared his amusement. A light giggle escaped her lips, which lifted with a smile. “They sure got you all figured out, don’t they?” she said, giggling some more. Then she stopped, allowing him to get three steps ahead of her. “But you know what? That’s not something for them to decide.”
Iori also stopped walking and stood in place. He felt that indeed there was something bothering Chisa tonight, and before he could turn around to ask her, he heard the most unbelievable, unimaginable question.
“Hey, why don’t we make it official?”
If anyone saw Iori right now, they would liken him to a fish, opening and closing its lips silently. The crimson blush creeping across his cheeks, on the other hand, would indicate that he was just embarrassed and utterly shocked.
Hesitating somewhat, he turned slowly and faced Chisa. The look that settled on her face couldn’t have mirrored his own reaction any better.
“I said, why don’t we make the story official?” the lady seated at the alfresco diner beside them practically screamed at her phone, drawing attention from everyone within earshot.
Briefly, they looked at each other with amusement before Iori doubled back, bursting into laughter. Chisa couldn’t hold it, she burst in laughter herself. Then they both laughed again. They had not laughed like that in a long time.
When they were almost at the shopping center, and the crowd became thicker, Iori could not help to notice that too many eyes were openly checking Chisa out. At one point, he even caught a teenage boy staring at her intently from head to toe, licking his lips lewdly. He snarled at him like a rabid dog and walked closer to her. Chisa, on the other hand, remained oblivious as ever.
‘Purely’ out of curiosity, he peeked at his side. He slowly surveyed her, taking in all the details, from her slender legs to her short brown hair, her brown eyes and her ample lips. Meanwhile, he felt excitement stirring in his chest and his face getting slightly warm, dead giveaways that he liked what he saw. He was beginning to understand why the boys at the university were crazy for her. But if one would ask him, he would say that her best asset had to be her spectacular a—
“Ass,” Chisa said.
“So—sorry?” Iori wondered if she had caught him staring at her bum.
She sighed in frustration. “I was asking if you want pizzas for dinner. Were you even listening to me?”
“Oh, yes, pizza’s fine,” he managed to say under her icy glare. He had almost slipped ‘your’ into his sentence.
It was almost seven in the evening when they reached the shopping center. They ordered their food and drinks from a nearby pizza parlor and seated themselves next to a window.
“This tastes great,” Iori said as he chewed on his pizza, cheese dribbling down his chin. He looked across the table. “Wanna try?” He waved the half-bitten slice in front of Chisa.
Without warning, she took a quick, small bite, surprising Iori.
“Whoa, look who’s hungry.” he chortled.
She also raised her slice to the air. “Now it’s your turn.”
He arched an eyebrow at her.
“Why what's the matter?” Chisa asked.
She’s definitely acting weird, Iori thought as he fixed his eyes on the dangling uneaten slice. But he can’t say that he doesn’t like the Chisa now. He was just glad she was finally starting to loosen up.
With a playful grin, he grabbed Chisa’s wrist and shoved half of her pizza into his mouth.
After finishing his last bite, Iori wiped his chin and said, “On the way, I saw the poster of a new diving shop that’s just opened a couple of days ago. You wanna check it out first?”
Chisa placed her pizza back on the plate and looked thoughtful for a moment. “Iori, you see, I have a different thing in mind.”
“Oh, I thought we’re gonna buy stuff for our trip to Okinawa. Well, let’s do it some other time then.” He laid back on his seat as he finished his sentence. “So, what do you wanna do today?”
“I’d like to buy a new dress for tonight.”
“Right now?” Iori gave out a light chuckle. “All right, I can wait somewhere else If you want.”
“No, Iori, you don’t understand,” she said, shaking her head. “The dress . . . the dress is not for me, it’s for you.”
He lurched forward on his chair. “Huh? What the heck do I need a dress for?”
“Actually . . . we’re going to a mixer tonight,” Chisa finally revealed. “And you’re coming in as a girl.”
For a moment Iori sat speechless, searching for the perfect words to convey his sentiments. He drew a deep breath.
“WHAT IN ACTUAL F—”
TO BE CONTINUED.