Ah, The Power Of Hot Coffee

- Javer

When Kimiko Burned Piro--Now In Prose!

A Fairer Side

He hoped she'd be here . . . but then again, he kind of hoped she wouldn't.

With a noiseless sigh, Piro unslung the sketchbook-sized bag and laid it down in one of the plushy seat cushions of the nearest booth. He then joined it, relieving the hot pressure on his aching feet as he slowly, gently reclined.

This is nice, he thought, looking around. Could be a little warmer, though.

He straightened his posture and stole a quick glance at the elongated "window" meant to separate crew from customer. No one there—no one visible, at least—with the exception of the heavyset cook. He turned for a second, and Piro managed to make out the name "Ootsuki" in clear print on his name tag. And that was all.

But he thought—

He could almost swear he heard girls' voices.

It was definitely Piro-san . . . But why was he here?

Had—had he come to see her? After all the horrible things she had said, inebriated or not, she didn't deserve a visit like this. Maybe he wanted to tell her off. But, he didn't seem like the kind of guy who would-

Nanasawa Kimiko suddenly pressed a palm to her forehead, detecting the early signs of a real headsplitter in the near future. It was all so confusing.

A finger tapped her on the shoulder It was Megumi, a little frown of concern on her face. "Um, Nanasawa?"

Kimiko steeled herself. No matter how much her head hurt, she couldn't let it stop her from doing a simple job, right? Right, she told herself. And leaving Megumi there, she strode quietly over to the young man's table. She paid special attention to keep the pot of hot coffee in her hand where it belonged. Kimiko couldn't see how scalding the poor guy would solve anything.

Her voice cracked at first, (she winced inwardly) but then gained strength. "<H-hi, welcome to 'Anna Miller's.>"

At the Japanese equivalent of "hi", Piro looked quickly up from his daydreaming. Nanasawa-san stood there in her uniform, her delicate cool-brown hair neatly tied back. She looked sad.

Dammit. I knew this was a bad idea.

"<Ah! N . . . Nanasawa-san!>" he blurted quickly, desperately filling up the terrible, empty silence. "<H-how are you?>"

There was a slight redness to her otherwise pale face. "<Okay,>" she replied lamely. "<You?>"

"<Not bad.>"

They snapped their respective gazes downwards in unison. Unbeknownst to either, both Megumi and Ootsuki the cook were looking on. "" she whispered to him. Ootsuki nodded, an amused grin beneath his thin mustache, and leaned in further.

If they could have heard each others' thoughts, they would all have been very surprised.

<Reminds me of my old days . . . except I was less of a geek than that kid. Best of luck, pal.>

<Ohmygod, is that a fanboy? He looks terrified! Poor guy—and poor Kimiko too.>

<I don't know what to say! Do I apologize for the other night, or just treat him like any other customer, or-?>

Ah crap, she's not saying anything! There are plenty of words in the Japanese language. Granted, it's not always easy to arrange them in a sentence, but do it anyway!

At last, when Piro was seriously considering making a run for the door, Kimiko bravely found words. Blessed, blessed words. Words that she hoped didn't sound too stupid. "<Would you like some coffee?>"

Piro, the difficult road now paved, managed something. He smiled, scared out of his wits, and gibbered, "<Yes! Please! Coffee good!>" "Coffee good?" Kill me now . . . complained Piro's rational side glumly.

Much to his relief, she smiled back, made a little bow and hurried to the kitchen in small staccato steps. Actually, she seemed to be heading more for her attractive dark-haired friend than the kitchen.

Kimiko's harried expression as she dashed over, Megumi later remembered thinking, was like that of someone in a high-stakes eating contest who had forgotten how to chew. Or, more accurately, (though of course she didn't know this at the time) like a woman with an appointment in half an hour who had forgotten her rail card.

Wisely, she decided not to have any idea what was going on. "<You look pale,>" Megumi remarked, praying Kimiko hadn't seen her eavesdropping. "<You okay?>"

The girl looked up at her, opened her mouth, and closed it again, as if deciding what to call this situation. Then she peered back up into Megumi's now honestly worried face. ""

Was that so? "<Really? Wow,>" Megumi commented, taking another look at the guy. He was sweating, and his face had at some point grown whiter than Kimiko's, but otherwise he wasn't bad. "<Considering the way you treated him, I'm rather amazed that he'd come to see you.>" Her good friend had unwillingly let what she remembered of the night's events slip a few hours earlier. With such similar methods of extracting information, one could expect that Megumi and a certain high-school student named Asako would have either gotten along famously, or become bitter rivals. "<Did he know you work here?>" Feigning complete ignorance was working well so far, so she decided to stick with it.

Kimiko shook her head, the throbbing growing steadily worse. The pain from when Piro-san had just entered was starting to seem like mere glimmerings of discomfort now. "<I don't know . . . I don't know. My head hurts . . .>"

Megs grinned inwardly. "<You want me to . . . get rid of him?>" This part may not have been what she was paid for, but it was always fun.

She grimaced in pain. "<No, no, I'm fine. I'll handle it. It's okay.>"

Now the grin surfaced, along with an evil little giggle. "<Maybe you can finish him off by pouring coffee in his lap. It is your signature move, after all.>"

Ugh. "<Megumi, please don't tease me, not right now.>" You'll pay for that one later, Kimiko thought savagely. She immediately regretted the brief moment of anger that accompanied this mental promise, as the headache gave its own crisp response: it subsided a bit, almost faded, then flared back to life--fiercer than ever.

Piro watched the two girls, calmed down but still uneasy. They seemed to be talking, and then Nanasawa-san's friend took a good, long look at him—evidently, analyzing. He went red and returned his eyes to the table in front of him.

When he thought the girl must have turned back, he craned his neck to see what was going on. With a touch of worry, he noted that Nanasawa was clasping a hand to her forehead, like she was sick. He weighed walking over and asking if she was okay, but then he'd just sound like even more of a dork. Besides, she was probably all right. Discussing how best to get rid of him, maybe.

The bell just above the door cheerfully jangled a new customer in, but too deep in thought as usual, Piro noticed nothing. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the long-haired girl stride over to welcome the newcomer, and a tiny flick of skirt, but that was all. He dismissed both and sank back into his possible options.

Walk over? Run for it? Or just wait?

Piro had temporarily forgotten that not making a decision is also a decision. By the time he remembered time was running out, it was too late; Nanasawa-san was already walking back to his table, carrying a pot of powerfully steaming coffee.

He chanced to look upon her again as she approached. One smooth, pretty hand held the pot of coffee, the other held a circular tray demurely to her skirt. She was blushing. "<Uhm . . . do you . . .>" she stammered. Cruel as it may have been, Piro found an odd comfort in knowing that he was not the only bewildered one here.

"<Have you decided what you would like?>" Nanasawa-san managed to articulate.

Piro was caught off guard. "<Eh? Wha->"

She looked down, then desperately back at Megumi. Piro mentally delivered himself a nice, firm kick for the discomfort he'd caused. Baka!

"<I can come back if you need . . .>"

Ack! He didn't care how stupid he sounded, that was not what he meant to do. "<No, no, wait! I, uh, the menu! Right. Okay, what do I want. Okay. Menu. Right.>" He slid a hand around the laminated paper and studied it. His Japanese was slipping.

Watching him frantically peruse the menu for her, Kimiko couldn't help a tiny giggle. Luckily, she stifled it. She couldn't afford to make him think she was laughing at him right now; he'd take off running in shame.

Unable to resist imagining a tiny, adorable chibi-Piro sprinting around in circles, she barely managed to hold back another laugh, and almost instantly the pounding headache began to recede. The jackhammer beats faded to a dull soreness.

She was surprised, but gratified.

Thank you, imagination. And chibi-Piro-san too!

Finally able to form a coherent thought, Kimiko recognized the warmth in her hand. "<Oh! Your coffee!>" she exclaimed. Her lips had unconsciously curved upwards. "<You still want some?>"

Piro dared to look up, and the sight of her amused, genuine smile lifted worlds from his shoulders. He sat up straighter and tried a miniature grin. "<Yes, please.>"

The cup was on the other side of the table. Piro decided to bring it closer for her.

The cup was on the other side of the table. Kimiko decided she could reach it for him.

The result:

Piro and Kimiko leaned forward simultaneously, his arm blocking the cup from her as he grasped the handle, her coffee pot colliding with his plain sweatshirt and tipping over. A wave of the dark, searing liquid boiled over Piro's arm with a hiss, and he snatched it back as if the coffee had contained live, stinging hornets. The pain was instantaneous and biting, and clutching his forearm just below the injury, Piro let out an involuntary "unh!", one of surprise more than hurt. He clenched his teeth to avoid another brilliant remark.

Appalled, Kimiko could think of nothing to say but "<I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry!!>" as she set the pot down in panic and grabbed a fistful of napkins.

"Nanasawa!!" The manager, a tall, imposing man currently sporting a faintly visible vein in his forehead, appeared from around the corner of the kitchen. He looked a fair bit more livid than usual. Steam might have been escaping his head.

Megumi looked upon the whole scene: Kimiko apologizing wildly while wiping off that Piro-guy's sweatshirt, Piro himself attempting to console her, the manager's ticked-off-vein pulsing as he tried to calm everything down and figure out what the hell just happened and who to fire—

"Kimiko, I was only joking earlier . . ." Megumi said, utterly bemused.


I hope you liked it. The second chapter will be coming soon, so keep cool. Feel phr33 to email me at dragoner@powerslink.com, with praise, flames, or whatever.