Tsubaki stood at the kitchen counter. She had everything that she would need laid out already. The utensils were sparkling clean. The ingredients were all fresh, she had just bought them last night. There was only one more item she needed before she could get started cooking, her cookbook. It was an old and worn thing. The margins were filled with her neat kanji, notes she had compiled over time. She reached up to the shelf for it and pulled it down. The smell of cake batter mixed with tar assaulted her. She dropped the book, gagging at the stench. It landed with its pages open. Something black and fuzzy was growing in the center, around the edges was a dark yellow stain.
Her shoulders slumped. She needed her cookbook or her dishes would turn out horrendous. The last time she had tried cooking without a recipe Black Star had spent a week in the infirmary. She was paralyzed for a second in brief panic. Then she bent down, scooped the disgusting book into a plastic bag and put it into a drawer. She would try to salvage it later. Tsubaki spent a moment surveying the ingredients before putting them all away. It really was just not even worth wasting the ingredients without her cookbook to direct her.
Once everything was in its place and the contaminated book was placed into a blue plastic shopping bag, she sunk into a chair. She allowed herself a few minutes to feel bad about her cookbook. She had spent years with that cookbook. Every bento that she and Black Star had taken to class had been the child of herself and that cookbook. Seeing it gone was like losing an old boyfriend. Imagining her cookbook as a boyfriend made her smile. Tsubaki had always dreamt of making a bento for a certain special someone. Oh, Black Star was definitely special, but special like a brother.
Her eyes were drawn to the curtains. They were yellow with little green leaves dotting its wheat colored planes. With the curtains being drawn open it made the window look like it sported a pair of twin tails. Who ever heard of a window with twin tails? Maka… Maka had twin tails. Tsubaki shot out of her chair. Maka was working in the school library today. The library had books. Some of those books would have to be cookbooks.
Tsubaki almost forgot to put on her shoes as she rushed out. The keyword there was “almost.” She did however manage to completely forget to grab her wallet. It was a short trip to the school library. There was a change in the atmosphere when she stepped through those plated glass doors. It almost felt like the world was muted. She could scream at the top of her lungs and it would only come out like the mewing of a little kitten. Truly, the power of the library is a frightful thing that would make both grim reaper and witch cower before its awesome powers of making people be quiet.
She approached a desk that was used for the student helper. Tsubaki had a small smile as she watched Maka check out a book for a young student. She had no problem waiting for Maka to finish. Tsubaki got to see Maka give that very specific smile she only ever wore when books were involved. Maka wore it perfectly as she handed the book over to the young student.
“Thank you, Maka,” the little boy said as he rushed off, book clutched in his hands.
“Hello, Maka,” Tsubaki said with a smile.
“Oh hey Tsubaki, I didn’t see you there.”
“I didn’t want to bother you while you were helping the underclassman.”
“Thanks,” Maka said “not everyone is so considerate. So, what can I help you with?”
“I need a cookbook. I’d like one that has Japanese dishes.”
“We have a few of those. Since there are students from all over the world we have a smattering of everything.”
“That is wonderful! Where are they?”
“You go that way through fiction. Take a right turn right after you pass the last book written by an author whose last name starts with a F. After that you walk through the periodicals until you get to a t- intersection,” Maka trailed off as she watched Tsubaki’s gaze slowly glaze over. “I think it might be better if I just show you.”
“That would be nice,” Tsubaki said.
Maka lead the taller girl threw a labyrinth of shelves and books. The bibliophile assured Tsubaki that this was definitely the shortest way there. Tsubaki would probably not have been so lost if she was not having her gaze constantly grabbed by a title that would then slip behind them like a ghost ship.
“This is it, international cookbooks.”
“Wow, there are so many of them,” Tsubaki surveyed the shelves in front of her. She pulled down one book, opened it and smiled. Then she grabbed a second. After that, she grabbed a third. Each time she would look at the contents for a few seconds and then smile. “These three will be perfect.”
“Then I can check you out if you are ready.”
“Thanks, I’m ready.”
Maka led Tsubaki back through those impossible passages. When they were back at the familiar land of the checkout desk Maka took the books from Tsubaki’s tight grasp and actually went through the formalities of checking out the books. Tsubaki rushed back home at the first opportunity.
She was slightly pink faced when she shut the door behind her and locked it. In her head Tsubaki knew that Maka would have done the same thing to help any student. Still, there was a small part of her that had enjoyed the experience. Black Star would always be a very important person to her, but having interaction with another levelheaded girl was always a special treat that she could never have imagined in her childhood.
Tsubaki would have to do something nice for Maka to pay her back.
The next day that Maka came into the library she found something waiting for her at her desk. Only someone with the skill of a ninja could have gotten it there before the library opened to students. She moved closer to investigate to find what appeared to be a lunch box wrapped in a cloth. It was made obvious that it was for Maka and made by Tsubaki by the little card included in it. Now, any reasonable person would have accepted the friendly gesture for what it was and eaten the food. Maka spent her lunch break researching about the little Japanese lunch boxes. It took her almost her entire lunch, and more time in the manga section then she would have thought, to discover the significance of the lunch box.
In Japan girls prepared them for the person they loved.
This revelation that Tsubaki was in love with Maka was a bit of a surprise. Maka had never ruled out romance with another girl, but she had never really thought about it either. Now she found herself faced with the situation head on. She would have to research more. The library was a bit lacking on the social customs of Japanese teenagers. As a compromise Maka instead checked out more manga. While they might be telling unrealistic stories the interactions and social parts should not be all that different from Japanese life.
When she returned home it was with a bag full of books. Maka promptly locked herself in her bedroom and proceeded to read volume after volume. Before the end of the night she felt she understood the roles of both the person giving the lunch and the person receiving it. Everything was in Maka’s court. She could pretend that she did not know what the lunch had meant. It was entirely within the realm of possibility that Tsubaki never expected Maka to understand what the gesture had meant. Maka could take the easy way out.
She could never do that to a friend. Tsubaki had put herself out there to indirectly confess her love. Maka could not just ignore that. One date would not hurt either of them. Besides, maybe in a romantic situation sparks would fly between them.
Maka’s eyes almost glowed as she wrote out a formal invitation asking Tsubaki out for dinner. If it was for Tsubaki she was willing to give it a try.
A day or so later Tsubaki found an envelope in the mail addressed to her. The penmanship was definitely Maka’s. What was so important that Maka had felt the need to send it via letter? Tsubaki almost dropped the letter after reading it.
She had never imagined that Maka was in love with her. It was so forward of the meister to ask her out on a date like this out of the blue. Tsubaki was not sure she could have been able to do the same thing if roles had been reversed.
Tsubaki did not consider her options before writing a letter with her own reply. Of course she would go on a date with Maka. Tsubaki had never thought of Maka like that, but she was willing to give it a chance. One date would not hurt after all.
That date turned out to be the first of many.