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She keeps me warm

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It was winter, and Jurina was cold. Not only her body was freezing, but also her heart and her insides felt like ice.

Matsui Jurina had just moved a few weeks ago, and being away from her parents and friends was surely not being an easy thing to her. She had moved to another city to study in her dream college, but as expected it had a price to be paid; living alone in a cold, new place was making the girl scared to death. Of course she was happy for having been lucky enough to enter the university she wanted to, and she felt incredibly thankful, but it’s just that the sudden change was really unsettling and scary for her.

That morning, Jurina had woken up with a feeling of emptiness. It was hard to adapt to this new lifestyle, to get used to waking up to a deafening silence when all of her life she had woken up to the sound of her mother making breakfast while talking loudly to her father, the sounds of some random tv show and the smell of pancakes filling the air. Jurina let out a deep sigh as she got up, shivering from the cold. After going to the bathroom, she headed to the kitchen and went straight to the fridge, only to open the door and stare at an empty gallon of milk. At that moment, she missed the warm cappuccino her mother used to make, and she really felt like a little child again, unprotected and vulnerable. If you looked at her from afar, you’d say she’s the type of girl that is strong and that things rarely get to her, but in reality, her heart was like butter.

While standing in the middle of the kitchen and thinking of what she could eat for breakfast, Jurina suddenly remembered the coffee shop she passed by everyday on her way to the bus stop, and after some pondering she decided she’d have breakfast there; she was planning on going there someday anyway, since the place looked really nice and cozy. She changed into some comfy and warm clothes and headed out, feeling relieved when the sunlight hit her face. On her way to the coffee, she passed by her favorite tree, a cherry blossom, or sakura, and for a moment Jurina smiled as she watched its delicate pink leaves falling and coloring the street gracefully.

As soon as she pushed the door open and entered the place, Jurina felt the warmness wash over her. The place was almost empty, and it looked beautiful with its peach colored walls and pastel pink details, a traditional japanese song playing softly in the back and the smell of coffee and newly baked chocolate cake in the air. For the first time in weeks, Jurina felt genuinely comforted.

She chose a place next to the window and examined the menu for a long time until she heard a soft cough coming from above.

“Excuse me, may I take you order?” A girl who Jurina guessed to be the waitress asked.

The girl had short hair and cute bangs, and her eyes looked really innocent. Her voice had soothing and velvety tone, and she wore a pastel pink uniform with a bright pink bow, and Jurina couldn’t help but think that the girl really fit the place: she reminded her of hot chocolate on a winter day and warm, fluffy blankets.

“Oh. Oh, yes please,” Jurina stuttered, a little taken aback by the sudden appearance of the waitress. “I’d like a cappuccino with chocolate chips. And marshmallows too. Hm... also, a chocolate pancake please.”

“Noted.” The girl said, smiling a bit as she wrote down in her little notepad. “Anything else?”

“That’s all.” Jurina said, returning the smile after reading the girls’ name tag. Sakura.

“Name for the order?” Sakura asked.

“Oh, it’s Jurina.” She replied.

“Ok! I’ll be right back.” Sakura said with a gentle smile. “If you need anything, just ask for a girl named Sakura."

❅❅❅

Indeed, in a few minutes, Jurina really needed to go to the bathroom.

She stood up quickly and went to look for the bathroom, but her eyes were so lost examining the beautiful, almost unnoticeable details in the place that she didn’t notice Sakura right in front of her and bumped right into the girl.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” Jurina exclaimed, then she started checking the waitress to see if she was hurt somewhere.

“No, no, it’s okay!” Sakura said urgently. “It was my fault. I’m sorry-“

“No, it was mine.” Jurina replied even faster, feeling guilty for the small incident. “It’s just that this place is so pretty that I didn’t even look and-“

“But it was my fault too since I was standing here staring at you and-“ Sakura stopped in the middle of her sentence, her face going a dark shade of red and her eyes growing insanely big from realizing what she’d said.

Jurina then met her eyes for the first time since they bumped into each other, and after assimilating what the waitress had said with great difficulty, she covered her mouth and started giggling.

“You look so cute when you’re embarrassed.” Jurina told her, feeling her own cheeks burning hot. She rarely felt comfortable around strangers, in fact it always took a long time for Jurina to warm up to new people, but something about Sakura made the girl feel like she could really say and do what she wanted without putting much thought into it.

Jurina felt shyness wash over her after calling the waitress cute, but she didn’t regret it after seeing the dumbfounded look on the girl’s face, her cheeks getting an even darker shade of red.

Sakura coughed and broke their eye contact.

“Uh... did you need something?” The waitress asked.

“I just wanted to know where the bathroom is.” Jurina answered, trying to clear the awkwardness pairing in the air.

After Sakura showed her where the bathroom was, the girl walked back in rushed steps through the kitchen door, and Jurina found it adorable. She opened the bathroom door and went straight to the sink, washing her face and asking herself what the hell she was doing. I mean, what if Sakura was straight and Jurina just made a fool out of herself? What if the girl was taken? But then, Sakura was the one to say she was staring at her in the first place.

The moment Jurina opened the door to leave the bathroom, Sakura opened the kitchen door almost at the same time while carrying her order. Jurina gave her a brief smile but Sakura turned her face away, which made Jurina curse inside her head. Shit, I fucked up.

She got to her table first, Sakura following right behind her, and the only sound that could be heard was the soft instrumental song playing in the background.

"Here’s your order." Sakura announced, placing the cup and the plate on the table.

"Thank you." Jurina said softly without taking her eyes off the waitress.

"Do you need anything else?" Sakura asked, shifting awkwardly in her place.

"Hmm..." Jurina pretended to be thinking. Fuck everything, I’ll just go for it. "Your number, maybe?"

Sakura’s eyes grew so big upon hearing her words that Jurina would have laughed if she wasn’t so worried about what the girls’ next reaction was going to be.

"Uh- I should get going." Sakura said, turning away and walking hurriedly towards the kitchen.

Okay, I definitely fucked up, Jurina thought to herself.

She ate her pancakes and drank her cappuccino at a low pace, looking out the window and feeling relaxed despite the awkward situation she’d put herself in. Jurina felt strangely at peace since the moment she had step her foot on that coffee shop, and even more when she laid her eyes on the girl— Jurina never believed in love at first sight, but she was starting to change her mind.

After enjoying her time eating her breakfast, she walked towards the cash to pay the bill, only to be surprised again when Sakura showed up in front of her.

"You do almost everything here by yourself?" Jurina asked, genuinely concerned.

"Oh, no." Sakura answered, shaking her head negatively. "It’s just that since today is pretty empty, my friend that wasn’t feeling very well went home after I assured him that I’d take care of everything for today."

Jurina hummed in understanding as she opened her wallet to get the money. After handing it to Sakura, she waited for the change while carefully examining the girl; Sakura was focused counting the coins, and Jurina thought it was really cute how the girl was deeply concentrated. When Sakura handed her the change though, Jurina found herself dumbfounded at the little piece of paper that came with the money. Jurina glanced at Sakura, and the waitress winked cutely at her before turning away and going back through the kitchen door, leaving Jurina speechless as she stared at the numbers written on the paper.

Call me! (。・ω・。)ノ

Sakura.

❅❅❅

After that day at the coffee shop, they texted almost everyday.

Jurina kept smiling to herself during her classes thinking about the girl, and she found out that Sakura was cute even through text messages. They talked about their lives in general, their interests and hobbies. Jurina found out that Sakura liked to sing and that she was currently studying music, and Jurina couldn’t wait to hear the girl sing someday.

It was monday, and once again, another week of studying hard had started. As Jurina walked by the coffee shop on her way to the bus stop, she fought the urge to go inside and say hi to Sakura. The courage she’d felt the day they met was long gone, and she felt really shy about anything related to the girl. Also, Jurina didn’t want to go too fast and scare the girl away.

The day went by uneventfully. Jurina spent most of her classes thinking about seeing Sakura, about going out on a date with her, about talking to her, holding her hands and some really cheesy stuff, but would she have the courage to do all of these things first? Jurina felt like she was in charge of doing everything first, but it didn’t have to be that way. She figured it out, though, when she was leaving her classroom and walking down on campus.

A familiar figure was waiting for her with a shy smile and a little bag in her hands, and Jurina couldn’t believe her own eyes.

"Surprise?" Sakura exclaimed, a glint of excitement and also worry in her voice.

Jurina was speechless as well as frozen in place. She had been worrying all morning about what to do next when Sakura was the one to make the first move; the apparently shy girl took the first step despite both of them not knowing where their relationship stood.

"Hm- Did I make a mistake coming here?" Sakura asked, sounding hurt. "Did you not like-"

"No!" Jurina denied loudly after waking up from her trance. "No, oh my god, I loved it. I’m so happy to see you that I’m actually speechless. It’s just- You’re so-"

"Hey, calm down." Sakura said gently, giggling lightheartedly after watching Jurina stumble upon her words. "I brought you some pancakes, I hope you like them."

Sakura then handed her the paper bag, and Jurina almost stood there, frozen again, but she was faster in recomposing herself and grabbing the warm bag.

Jurina simply couldn’t believe it. Sakura’s gesture was just so sweet, she was so sweet, Jurina couldn’t believe she was so lucky. If it wasn’t for her going to the coffee shop that day, she would never have met Sakura, and at this point Jurina couldn’t even picture her life without the girl.

"Let’s go for a walk?" Sakura asked, holding Jurina’s hands slowly.

Sakura was staring into her eyes, looking for a sign that she was going too fast, but Jurina’s eyes showed just how much the girl was affected, in a good way, by all the things Sakura was doing. Jurina’s heart was literally melting, she felt like she was dreaming.

They intertwined their fingers and it just felt so pure and sweet, all of it, that Jurina wanted to cry. Sakura’s hands were soft, delicate and warm, and Jurina didn’t want to let her hand go any time soon. They walked side by side holding hands towards the beautiful park close to the campus, talking about their day, their plans for the rest of the week, and just anything that came to their minds. From time to time, Jurina would steal a glance at Sakura while the girl was focused talking about something— she knew it was too early, or maybe she was wrong, but she just felt really, really in love.

It was winter, and she could be feeling cold, but right beside her walked someone as sweet as chocolate pancakes and as beautiful as a cherry blossom tree, and honestly, Jurina had never felt warmer.