The silent alarm went off on Rin’s Fitbit, letting her know it was time to get up for her morning run. She got out of bed as quietly as possible—a feat she had practiced to perfection over many years—so as not to wake her girlfriend up. The last time she’d accidentally woken Maki up at five in the morning, she had to sleep on the couch for a week. Rin spared a moment to look at Maki sprawled out on the bed and smiled.
After changing into her running clothes, she went out into the living room to stretch. Her morning routine was so ingrained in her at this point that she probably could have still been asleep. Nothing had stopped her morning run for years: not weather, not holidays, not birthdays. It started every day off fresh and on the same foot.
A chill autumn wind greeted her as she opened the door, and she couldn’t fight back a shiver. Her runs always started cold at this time of year, but she knew she’d warm up pretty quickly. And so Rin started to run.
The cold air stung her lungs at first, but the shock helped shake away the last vestiges of sleep. The sun hadn’t come up yet, so the world was still in its pre-dawn haze. There was hardly anyone out and about at this time. Rin liked this time of day. She’d tried explaining it to Maki one time, but she was never the best with words. At least Maki accepted that Rin liked it, even if she didn’t understand it herself.
Seconds turned to minutes turned to hours, disappearing into the past with each step. She glanced at the time and saw it was almost seven, which meant she was almost back home. In truth (not that she’d ever admit it to Maki), she barely paid attention to her route anymore. She knew the entire area by heart. Once she got home, she’d take her shower, and then maybe Maki would be up by then. It was hit or miss when her girlfriend would wake up on her days off. Not that Rin could blame her.
When she opened the door home, she immediately noticed something was different. For one, the lights were on, and she was pretty sure she’d turned them off before leaving. Then her nose caught a whiff of chocolate coming from the kitchen. Her curiosity piqued, she made her way over there.
Maki sat at the table, holding a mug in one hand and her phone in the other. Rin’s mug was on the table in Rin’s usual spot, and steam rose from the liquid inside it. Rin furrowed her brows. This was weird. Maki never woke up this early if she didn’t have to.
Maki looked up from her phone and smiled. It made Rin feel warm inside after a long run in the cold. “Welcome back, Rin. How was your run?”
“Pretty normal,” she said, still feeling a little strange that they were having a normal conversation this early. “A little cold I guess, but it’s that time of year. I’m kind of really surprised to see you up and about already.”
“Oh! Um….” Maki glanced away, and Rin thought she could see a little red color her girlfriend’s cheeks. “I just thought I’d make you some hot chocolate to help warm you up after your run.”
The warmth in Rin’s chest at seeing Maki smile instantly doubled on hearing that. She couldn’t hold back any longer, so she pounced on her girlfriend and wrapped her into a big hug. Then for added effect, she nuzzled her cheek into the top of Maki’s head. Maki, to her credit, just let out a quiet sigh that morphed into a soft chuckle. Rin had conditioned her well to hugging after so many years together.
“Maki-chan’s so sweet! Just like the hot choco she made.” Rin let go and took her seat at the table. After a few blows to cool the drink off, she took a sip and cooed at how good it was. “Maki-chan makes the best hot choco!”
“It’s just stuff from a packet…” she muttered, her blush growing deeper.
“Yeah, but I can taste the love you put into it by waking up so early to make it!”
Maki squirmed in her seat, turning as red as the tomatoes she loved so much. “Well… I wanted to surprise you on your birthday.”
Rin paused and thought for a moment. “Oh yeah! It’s my birthday!”
Maki stared at her for three seconds before putting her head in her hands and laughing.