“But this is good news,” Raven insisted over lunch.
“How is this good news?” Aya nearly wailed.
Raven rolled her eyes. “His crush is from Building B! Our building, Aya! Our building!”
“So? You want me to be happy because it will take fewer minutes to get to my rival’s classroom? Is that it?”
“How can you not get it?” Raven heaved an impatient sigh. “It could be you, Aya!” Her friend only stared at her in perplexed silence, and Raven grabbed Aya’s shoulders to give it a good hard shake. “It. Could. Be. You. Minato’s crush!”
The words finally started sinking in, and Aya immediately shook her head. “It’s impossible. There’s Cissy. Toni. Darla.” She could easily go on and on. There were so many cute girls here in Building B, but she definitely wasn’t one of them.
“You’re not thinking clearly about this,” Raven snapped. “If it were any of those girls, don’t you think we’d have heard of it ages ago?”
“I don’t get it---”
“Those girls have a way of finding out about these things, trust me, and since we haven’t heard them say a thing about Minato liking them?” Raven’s tone turned triumphant. “That means they’re just as clueless as everyone.” She paused. “Well, clueless as almost everyone is – except me, of course.”
Her friend’s logic totally escaped her, but…Aya couldn’t feel help feeling hopeful. “You really think it’s possible that…” Oh gosh, she couldn’t even say the words out loud. It felt so…blasphemous to think that someone like Minato could be crushing on her.
And yet when Raven nodded emphatically to her question, Aya’s heart simply soared even higher. “If anyone can see past the superficial and realize just how perfect you are, it would be none other than Minato.”
“The superficial?” Aya echoed blankly.
Raven thought about listing the things that Aya could do to make herself prettier – comb her hair for one thing, learn how to do her own makeup, pull up her school skirt to make it a little shorter…
Her mouth opened and closed. “Forget what I said,” she said finally. If Aya were to do any of those things, Aya wouldn’t be Aya anymore. Her friend was perfect just the way she was, and she was hoping that Minato was smart enough to appreciate that, too.
Later that evening
“I heard a lot of things about you today,” a slender woman teased, her back turned to the young handsome boy chopping vegetables on the kitchen counter behind her.
The boy simply grunted, and she smiled at this, thinking ruefully that was more than his usual way of responding to her questions – a nod, a smile, a shrug or basically anything that didn’t require him to make any sound.
After switching the cooker off, she took the frying pan and turned around to place it on the counter. Its aroma filled the small kitchen with a nice, savory scent, and she sniffed appreciatively. “Smell that?”
“Give it a taste.” She took a spoonful of her casserole and fed it to him. “How was it?”
“Good enough for you to spill the beans on your secret crush from Building B, you think?”
“So is it true?”
Minato shrugged, but the faint flush coloring his cheeks had her eyes twinkling.
“Is it at least someone I know?”
Minato started coughing, and her eyes widened.
“Oh my! So I do know her!” She worked at the Academy’s library, which meant that most of her interactions were limited to the bookish girls of Minato’s school.
“Who is it?” Karin asked excitedly.
“I’d rather not say.”
“Or at least give me a clue so I can check her out for you, find out if she likes you back---”
Minato’s warning glare had her throwing her hands up in quick surrender. “Alright, alright, no more butting in your business until you’re ready to tell me who it is that has your heart going doki-doki---”
A smile tugged at the corner of Minato’s lips even as shook his head in exasperation. “You’re not supposed to say stuff like that. You’re an adult. Have you forgotten that?”
“And you’re supposed to be a healthy, immature eighteen-year-old boy,” she retorted, “and yet here you are, acting like an octogenarian trapped in a teenager’s body. Honestly, I’m just relieved that you’re crushing on a girl your age. You worry me a lot, you know. It’s not healthy to have relationships with women twice your age---”
“You’re exaggerating,” Minato interrupted mildly.
“But you know what I mean, right?”
Minato only gave her a noncommittal smile, which Karin knew was the boy’s polite way of telling her to please mind of her own business.
“Okay, fine, I’m done being nosy. Let’s talk about something else, like…oh.” Karin perked up. “My favorite student dropped by the library again, and really Minato, I wish you’d come by more often, too---”
“It would look suspicious if I do.”
“Tsk.” Karin dismissed his concerns with a wave of her hand. “You’re the most popular boy in school. Nothing you do will look suspicious in anyone’s eyes, and I really want you to meet this girl. Her name is Aya, and she’s in your year. Do you know her?”
The next day
“What’s wrong, dear? You seem so down.”
Aya hastily wiped her tears away when she saw the librarian gazing down at her with a concerned frown. “It’s, umm, nothing.” The rumors about Minato and his crush had gotten just a bit more intense today, and it…hurt. She knew it shouldn’t – they had never even spoken to each other – but it really just…hurt.
The thing about Minato was how his silence over the rumors likely meant they were true. If there were one imperfect thing about him, then most people would probably point to his unfailing bluntness. While Minato was never cruel, he was also the type to call a spade a spade, regardless of how much it would hurt.
“It’s this boy I like,” Aya finally revealed. In the past few months, she and the older woman had gotten rather chummy with all the time she spent in the library, and it just felt right to confess her heart troubles to the librarian.
“He likes someone else.”
“You’re certain of that?”
“Then there you go,” Karen said with a smile. “Ten percent is still ten percent, dear. You still have hope. My…umm…a boy I know taught me that.”
“You’re not saying that just to cheer me up?” Aya asked suspiciously.
“Absolutely not.” Karin hastily swallowed back a laugh at instant effect of her words on Aya. The girl was beaming now, and it was just so cute.
“That’s what my friend thinks so, too.”
“I’m glad to hear that. So no more moping, okay?”
“No more moping,” Aya agreed. “Thanks, Ms. Grant.”
“Just come to me for love advice anytime.” Karin took a peek at Aya’s notes. “Remedial lessons?”
Aya immediately became glum again, and the older woman was fascinated. Aya’s face was so amazingly expressive!
“I just don’t get science,” Aya revealed miserably.
“How far have you progressed?”
“Just a page.”
An idea occurred to Karin, and she said cheerfully, “It’s your lucky day then. It just so happens that I know a student who’d be nice enough to tutor you.”
But Aya only shook her head. “Please don’t do anything on my account, Ms. Grant. Nobody, and I seriously mean nobody can teach me science. Even my own teacher gave up on me---”
Karin struggled not to laugh. “Come on, there’s no harm in trying.”
Aya let out a sigh. “I suppose.”
Ten minutes later, and she heard the librarian’s heels clicking against the floor. “Aya, here’s the student I was telling you about.”
She glanced up and saw a tall guy standing behind the librarian. He was on the phone, with his back turned to her, but even so, she couldn’t help thinking how so very familiar he looked. He reminded her of –
The guy turned, his jade-green eyes immediately capturing hers.
Oh my gosh.
“Hi.” His voice was deep and clear. “I’m Minato.”
“I’m Aya.” Or at least that was what she hoped she had said. It was hard to tell. Her heart was making so much noise, and she was having a hard time breathing, too. Minato was gazing at her with so much intensity that she felt she was in danger of melting any moment.
She turned to the librarian desperately, stammering, “This isn’t really necessary. He must be busy---”
“No, really, he’s glad to help you. He has to stay behind anyway.”
“I just don’t want to be a bother.”
“You’re not,” Karin assured the younger girl right away.
“Think it would be better if you two stopped speaking like I’m not here,” Minato finished.
Karin burst into laughter at Minato’s mildly voiced interruption. “Sorry about that.” She glanced at Aya, who seemed so intimidated by Minato that she could barely make herself smile. Her lips had stretched just the tiniest bit – like Pennywise smirking, and the thought almost had her laughing again.
“I’ll be glad to help you,” Minato murmured. “It’s like…Ms. Grant said. I do have to stay behind today, and I’d rather do something productive with my time.”
“I s-see.” But actually, she didn’t. Why was it that Minato had to stay behind and was he really going to tutor her today?
“I’ll leave you two then. Good luck, you guys!”
Minato slid into the seat next to her, and Aya’s stomach started cramping. It wasn’t exactly painful, but it did make her feel extremely odd and restless. Like she was about to sweat…even though the library’s air conditioning was in full blast. The scent of his aftershave teased her, and it was so hard not to inhale all of it into her system so she could take it home with her.
Oh gosh, was this really happening?
“So…” Minato’s arm brushed against hers as he reached for her notebook. It was like being struck by lightning, and she had to bite her lip hard to keep herself from gasping. His touch was electric, his heat consuming her so quickly that it left her feeling literally dazed for a few seconds.
Minato! Was! Next! To! Her!
She watched his long fingers flip the pages of her notebooks and tried so very hard not to imagine how those fingers would feel grazing her skin. One of the things she loved most about Minato was how he could make his strength look so beautiful and elegant at the same time. Most tall, big guys she saw in school tended to be clumsy and oafish when they weren’t playing sports. Minato, however, was different. His six-foot-three fame was sinewy strength displayed in fluid, graceful motion –
“Aya? Are you listening?”
And she had just revealed herself to be an idiot.
Aya hastily cleared her throat. “S-Sorry.” The word came out a little shrill, and Aya wanted to die. “What w-was that again?”
“I asked if it was okay if we started from scratch instead.”
She could only nod, no longer trusting herself to speak.
It was all business after that, and science suddenly became something Aya excelled in. Well…sort of. It usually took her friends and even her own science teacher to teach her the same thing ten times to get it, but with Minato, it took only (drum roll) three attempts!
“You’re not so bad,” Minato commented at the end of their lesson. When he saw Aya’s doubtful look, he then asked with a grin, “Was that too much?”
She could only nod, still trusting herself not to speak.
“Let me rephrase then. You’re not a lost cause,” he amended. “Is that better?”
She nodded again.
“I could teach you twice a week if you want.”
Aya’s eyes went wide. Was he for real?
Minato’s lips curved into an amused smile. “I feel like I’m talking to myself with you, but at the same time, I only need to look at your face and I can practically hear you in my mind. And yes, to answer your question – I wasn’t joking or anything.”
Aya still had a hard time believing what was happening. Was Minato really offering to tutor her twice a week? What did this mean? Did he pity her – or could it be that what Raven said was true? Could she be…oh my gosh, could she really be his crush?
“If it’s any help, you’re also doing me a favor.” She saw Minato’s glance slant towards the librarian, and as if sensing his regard, the older woman looked up, and the two exchanged the kind of smile that made Aya’s stomach start hurting again. But this time, it didn’t hurt in a nice way at all.
Minato liked Ms. Grant.
Everything suddenly made sense, and Aya’s hopes crumbled into ashes. The library was in Building B, and Minato had always acted a lot older and more mature for his age. Aya could’ve kicked herself. You’re such an idiot. How could you even think Minato would like someone like you when he could have someone like Karin Grant?
Age was just a number anyway, and Ms. Grant was beautiful and smart. The two of them made the perfect couple. A perfect, somewhat illegal couple, Aya couldn’t help thinking, which was probably why Minato had never uttered a word about the rumors.
Aya squared her shoulders. Oh well. At least she got to spend more time with Minato. And it was better this way, really. If by some miracle she and Minato were to start dating, it would only be a matter of time before he tired of her and dump her, and she didn’t think she could quite possibly survive having someone like Minato break her heart.
So yes, this was better, Aya told herself. She got to be with her crush, but Ms. Grant would also be there to serve as a constant reminder that Minato Wyndham could never be hers.
Aya cleared her throat. “If you’re sure I’m not imposing---”
“Then yes,” she said with a shy smile. “Please tutor me, Minato-sensei.” She could’ve sworn something deliciously forbidden flickered in Minato’s green gaze at her words, but it was gone so quickly that it might have been her imagination.
It had been almost like…lust.
Minato had Ms. Grant, after all.
Hope you're enjoying the story so far. I'm personally excited as well since I also have no way of knowing how things will change as I rewrite each chapter. Is it bad that I can't help but feel impatient as to when things can get a little more exciting and steamy between Minato and Aya??? > . <