‘You’ve got to be kidding…’ Harlock said, glaring at the block of smoking coal in front of him like it would change anything.
Beside him, Tochiro had his hands deep into motor oil and Harlock’s bike’s mechanical parts. He didn’t bother to look at what Harlock was referring to, but he offered an unwanted piece of wisdom anyway:
‘Well, at least you tried.’
Harlock glared at his betrayer of a friend.
‘At least it didn’t start a fire! Do I need to remind you it was your idea to use this thing?’
The thing in question was one of Tochiro’s many (and sometimes not that useful) inventions: a big oven, originally designed to heat big pieces of materials he used to craft his other projects with. Harlock really should have known better than using it to bake a cake.
When his actual oven broke several hours ago while he was attempting to bake a layer cake for his sweet Maya, he asked Tochiro for help, who suggested that he tried the one that had been in the garage for a couple of months (lots of his inventions often ended up at Harlock’s place for some reason). Of course, Harlock hadn’t thought twice and did what he had been told…
‘Dude, you know I know nothing about baking. How could I’ve known that it would be too powerful for that kinda stuff?’
Harlock sighed. His friend was right, and it had been a mistake to assume that Tochiro’s idea would actually work.
‘What am I gonna do now? I don’t want to have to buy something, it’s not the same.
- Think of it this way: she’ll avoid death by food poisoning, and won’t dump your ass
for trying to get her killed.’
Harlock took the block of coal that had once been a heart shaped baking pan and red velvet cake batter, and threw it in the plastic bin near the garage door. It hit the bottom with a dramatic thump.
‘Ah, don’t look so miserable, Harlock. Honestly, just go buy a new cake. It’s fine. Maya won’t care.
- You don’t know that. This date is pretty important.’
Harlock then turned his back to Tochiro, crossed his arms over the skull printed on his black t-shirt, and made a point of watching the snowfall outside his garage’s only window.
Tochiro tried not to laugh at his tall (and batter stained) friend, as Harlock seemed to take this whole incident very seriously. While a bit reserved, Harlock was usually a pretty confident person (Tochiro even found himself envying him sometimes), but when it came to Maya and their relationship, he tended to become a “complete over dramatic idiot”. Maya’s words.
‘Come on, I can remember clear as day that she said that you didn’t have to prepare anything. She told you she was fine with takeout dinner and a shitty movie night. You already got her a present anyway, even though she said she didn’t want one either, so it’s ok if you give up the cak…
- HOLY SHIT THE PRESENT!’
Harlock’s interruption was so loud and unexpected that Tochiro almost dropped the piece he was holding, and just watch his friend snatch his black leather jacket and storm out of the garage without further explanation.
‘... well, I guess I’ll wait here.’
When Harlock came back to his apartment three hours later, he found Tochiro and Emeraldas conversing in his kitchen. Emeraldas was wearing the usual red biker outfit that made her look like she was out for murder, and Harlock noticed that Tochiro was wearing his own brown leather jacket. His short friend looked very nervous, as always when he found himself having an actual conversation with the tall redhead. People who didn’t know her tended to be afraid of her, but she was really just a very intense person (not that she couldn’t fight anyone and easily win though). Sometimes Harlock wished he could help Tochiro do something with his crush… But it was never good to stick one’s nose into others’ love life.
They both turned to him when he entered the room and Tochiro’s face transformed to one on profound relief:
‘Ah, Harlock, you’re back.’
Emeraldas waved at him and said with her usual serious tone:
‘Hello, Harlock. I happened to stop by and Tochiro told me that you were having trouble planning your and Maya’s tonight date. Did you get what you wanted?
He put a carefully wrapped cake on the kitchen counter. Tochiro opened his mouth, looking as if about to say something snarky, but Harlock shut him out with a glare and took something else from a bigger bag.
‘But now I have another problem. Can one of you help me wrap this?
- I don’t know anything about wrapping, but maybe I can lend you this robot I made last year…
- Absolutely not. Emeraldas?’
Emeraldas paused for a second, while looking at Harlock with great intensity. This tendency to scrutinize people was intimidating to most, but Harlock didn’t mind (and he was pretty sure that Tochiro loved it).
‘I’m used to craft presents for my sister. Watch and learn, boys.’
She immediately took hold of Maya’s future present, while Harlock gave her a roll of golden wrapping paper, and took a pair of scissors and tape from a drawer near the table.
While Emeraldas was carefully but effectively working, Harlock made his friends some coffee, and settle beside Tochiro.
Harlock was restless, walking in a circle through his living room. He had checked everything at least ten times already, and was tempted to do it once again while waiting for Maya: the table for two was set on the coffee table in front of the TV, netflix was ready to go, the cake he reluctantly bought earlier was in the fridge along with the beer, and the thai takeout he ordered arrived five minutes ago.
When finally, finally Maya knocked, Harlock dashed to his door to open it, but not before checking his outfit one last time: he had chosen his best black leather pants (the ones he knew Maya loved because they hugged his ass nicely), and his favorite (also black) t-shirt.
Harlock loved to no end when Maya’s face lit up like it did when she saw him. She checked him out from head to toe and said, amusement laced with her voice:
‘Wow, aren’t you stunning tonight.
- It’s you who’s stunning’, he answered with a bright and honest smile.
He meant to joke back and say something cool, like “I know I’m always stunning, darling”, but he couldn’t help himself. Maya had this effect on him, where his brain would transform into a lump of useless goo.
‘I know I am. Are you gonna keep me at the door all night? It’s kinda cold out there.
- Oh, sorry.’
She left her coat and shoes in the entrance, took Harlock’s slippers (he was happy with just his socks anyway), and followed him to the couch to settle on her favorite spot.
‘What’s that?’ he asked her when she got papers and pens out of her bag.
‘It’s the assignment I told you about that I need to finish for Monday. You told me you were ok with me doing it here…
- Ah, right. I forgot. Do you want to eat later?
- We can eat now if you’re hungry. Also, you can put a movie, I can work while we watch something’, she said, eyeing the Netflix screen on the TV.
He selected a movie he knew she liked so she wouldn’t have to try to follow the story while she worked (she had a heartwarming love for sci-fi movies, especially the ones about space pirates fighting for freedom). He pressed play and distributed the food on the coffee table. When they finished eating, he went to the kitchen to throw the takeout containers, and came back with the cake decorated with lit candles.
‘Happy birthday, Maya!’ he said happily, distracting her from her work.
She looked at him with an astonished expression and set her paper on the table before hopping on her feet:
‘Oh, Harlock! I told you you didn’t have to!
- And it’s not all. Look behind the couch.’
Harlock smiled widely when she eagerly did so, although he had trouble refraining from checking her ass out when she climbed the couch’s backrest and bent over it to reach the present he had hidden.
‘You even gave me a present! You had agreed not to, you lying liar!’ she accused him, but her smile was bright, and she was already unwrapping it.
She discovered the big fluffy, pastel colored blanket with a gasp, and hugged him tightly while he was trying to cut pieces of the cake.
‘I love it, thank you!
- I’m glad you like it. Now you’ll be as comfy as ever’, Harlock answered, as Maya kissed his left cheek, the one that was scarred from a bike accident. He usually didn’t like people touching it, but he didn’t mind if it was Maya.
They finished watching the movie while eating their cake, spread on the couch in a comfortable silence. Maya was wrapped in her new blanket, tucked against Harlock’s side. The young man was glad everything turned out perfect, and as they were falling asleep, Harlock thought that he couldn’t be more happy.