Genre: Young romance
Word Count: 1506
Summery: A girl, Aiko, is becoming fond of one of her school pals, Yuko. She finds out that he's coming to the cherry blossom viewing at the local shrine...
A/N: This was for Katanasoul on DevArt for winning cmc42's Spring Contest with her art Cherry Blossom Lovers. She told me the names of the girl and her love interest and why she was making the bento box. Akio and Yuko are owned by Katanasoul.
Akio stepped out of the 10 a.m. bus, holding her o-bento in a furoshiki carrying cloth. Her formal kimono covered in a pattern of sakura blossoms with its elaborate obi made it impossible to wear her usual backpack. The spring kimono silk whispered as she walked to the Hayashi-dera. She took a deep slow breath of the cool spring air, and found it perfumed with the rich sent of sakura.
The small grove of trees surrounding Hayashi-dera showered the temple and the grounds with pink petals. Their fluttering descent filled the air with their rich scent, and little children ran around trying to catch them on their tongue, as if they were snowflakes. It was the perfect time for the viewing of the cherry blossoms.
Her school friends had organized the meeting place, so that everyone could meet up and view things together. She was a little anxious about looking too tired, as she'd been up the whole night making the contents of the bento box she carried.
Aiko made her way to the north side of the temple, where the omikuji were drawn. They were to meet there, as the fortunes would entertain the early and give more time for the late.
"Come on, Aiko, you have to do it too!!" cried Miyako. "I got a han-kyou! I just found out about a test tomorrow in Protein Folding from Haru today, so a half-curse fits. I need to tie it on a pine tree. But I want to see what you get."
Aiko laughed and fished a five yen coin from her purse and went up to the seller. She put the coin into the box, and the wrinkled, smiling temple lady behind the counter shook the canister of sticks. Aiko drew a stick and handed it back.
"Seventy seven," the woman announced. She returned the stick to the canister, went to the tiny cubbies at the back of the small stall, and pulled open the tiny door marked "77". From it she pulled a slender slip of paper out which she handed to Akio.
"Oh..." Akio said as she saw the two characters at the top of the slip, shō-kichi, a small blessing and when she read further down the slip it read negaigoto, or that the small blessing would have to do with ones wishes or desires.
She sighed in relief even as Miyako squealed. "Good! You have something good."
She looked up, caught a glimpse of pink, and spotted Yuko-san with that distinctive pink lock in his hair, coming around a corner with his more bookish roommate. He looked up, saw her, and smiled.
Maybe the fortune was right. Maybe the work she'd put in for the past week would be rewarded. She bowed her head in acknowledgment of his gaze and smiled back.
Aiko had gotten to know her dorm's shared kitchen very, very well in the last few weeks, something she'd never thought she'd do. She had never been that good at cooking, but when she found out that Yuki-san would be coming to the viewing, she decided she had to try.
She'd carefully watched what he ordered on group outings. He especially enjoyed various preparations of tako, and she'd been very careful to get up early that morning to go to the seafood market to get fresh octopus, some baby ones, as well as a few tentacles.
She's practiced various dishes for days, and the fish mongers had started called her by name as, after a first disastrous attempt with an older, cheaper cut, she only went where she could find the freshest. She's learned that the baby ones had to be cooked quickly so that they'd be crisp and curl up into perfect flowers, but the bigger muscles had to be slow cooked for hours before the meat would be tender enough to eat.
She turned some into takoyaki, delicious little deep fried balls of tako with batter, topped with bonito shavings, green tea, and a creamy sauce.
The tamago took six different tries before she finally managed to cook the thick, sweet egg omelet through without drying out the outside or the edges. At least the inarizushi and other sushi elements had been relatively easy to assemble once she had her sushi rice seasoned and cooled, and at the last minute, she put it all together in a beautiful lacquered box she'd found at a thrift store, all she'd had to do was polish it until it gleamed.
Now it was all up to her to ask him if he'd accept her gift.
It was with some relief that she saw that he and his roommate weren't carrying lunches; there were plenty of vendors on the temple grounds that would happily feed anyone that paid them.
So she'd had one wish fulfilled.
The whole group of students and friends met up, about a dozen or so, and they wandered through the groves together, debating where would be the best place to watch the trees and the other people around them.
They ended up under a venerable old gentleman of a tree, branches spread in all directions. From close up, the flowers were even more amazing, thickly clustered over every branch, they were so thick there weren't even leaves about them. The scent was intoxicating that close up, and bees were buzzing, drunk, amid the extravagance.
"Oh, so beautiful," Akio said softly, gently stroking a soft petal with a gentle fingertip.
"You are," Yuko-san's voice startled her and she jumped, knocking the petal from the flower so that it floated to the ground.
"Yuko-san! You startled me."
He grinned. "I'm sorry for the poor flower, but you are very beautiful in your festival clothing, Akio. That kimono looks really nice on you, and those flowers... May I touch one?"
Akio blushed. She'd spent a good deal of the morning putting everything on as she'd been taught. The wrappings, under kimono with the decorated collar, and the heavy silk of the sakura blossom spring kimono had been a little work to get on properly, but she'd been taught how by her mother at home. She'd added the flowers in her hair on a whim, and she was pleased he'd noticed.
She stood there, blushing just a bit more, as he reached over to gently rub the petals between his fingers.
"They're silk, not real," she said to his inquiring gaze.
"Ah, I'd wondered where you could get flowers that didn't lose their petals."
He was dressed in his formal best as well: a dark burgundy kimono with a simple black haori over it, a pinstriped hakama below. The ties and fastenings were formal, which made the young man look all the more handsome. She was so used to seeing him in just t-shirts and jeans, that it was startling to see how good he looked in his festival best.
"You look very nice as well, Yuko-san."
He flashed his grin that made her a little weak in the knees. "Thank you."
Miyako and the other organizers spread blankets at the foot of the tree, and everyone settled on them to talk and watch the trees. Aiko was thrilled when Yuko chose to sit by her. Everyone stopped talking when a wind blew through, sounding like the sea. The branches bent and petals flew like butterflies under the assault.
"Those poor flowers, they'll all be gone so soon," Aiko said softly.
"Aren't they all the more beautiful, though, knowing that they'll be gone?" Yuko-san asked.
"Mmm..." Aiko thought about it for a moment and then nodded. "Yes. I guess they are... better to enjoy them now while they're here, ne?"
He grinned again and nodded and they simply sat together for a while and joined in the general, cheerful chatter of their whole group. Once in a while, Aiko caught Yuko watching her.
Eventually everyone started pulling out their lunches and Yuko-san made to get up. "Excuse me a moment," he said.
"Wait," Akio said nervously.
"Would you... uhm..." she hesitated under his direct gaze. "Uhm... I mean... I... I made an extra large o-bento this morning, and I'd be very... honored if you'd like to share it with me?"
Yuko-san studied her for a long moment, a moment where she could feel every heart beat through her. Then he grinned and said, "Sure. I'd love to."
He laughed. "Aren't I the one that's supposed to thank you for your kindness?"
She just shook her head, blushed until she felt like her face might catch fire, and brought out the silk covered box.
"Oh, it's beautiful." Yuko-san said as she lifted the cover. "And that's my favorite takoyaki! Did you know?"
Akio just gave a small nod, and he laughed and gave her a sudden hug that left her blushing even harder; but it was what he did after that she held close to her heart.
He bowed to her and said, "Thank you for the meal!"
And together, they ate her o-bento under the blossoming sakura trees.