After Mika finally dozes off into dreamland, you linger over your six-month-old daughter’s cradle. You can’t help but smile as you take in your little cherub’s delicate features; her tiny, upcurved lips, the dark, little wisps curling from the widow’s peak in her hairline, and how they outline her face, making her look almost angelic. And most importantly, her eyes. Her eyes are spacious, curious, and a rich, earthy brown; just like her father’s. Speaking of whom, you were practically smitten with since the first day you met him. You suddenly find yourself yawning, and decide that it’s probably a good time to go to sleep. You gently shut the door to Mika’s nursery, tip-toe down the hallway, and enter the master bedroom. Approaching the bed, you peel back the comforter, climb in, and look to your husband beside you.
His eyes are gently closed, his mouth slightly parted, his chest slowly rising and falling. You think to yourself about how… beautiful he is. Muscular arms with golden tan skin, defined cheekbones, the same inky black hair as your little girl, and long eyelashes (which, you’ve always thought was adorable on guys). You trace a finger along one of his two symmetrical facial scars. There are various scars and markings across his whole body, and your heart hurts a little when you think about the stories behind all of them. But then you think about your husband’s demeanor; he’s warm, welcoming, kind and caring, and tremendously empathetic. You’re astounded that someone who’s been through so much can stay as strong as he had. It’s because of his strength that you found your own; he’s made you a better woman, by sticking by your side for the past ten years, for better or for worse. You’re certain that he’s the most genuine person you’ve ever met. That’s the reason you fell in love with him (among other things, of course).
He must still be half-awake, because he stirs, mumbles “g’night babe”, and pulls you closer by your waist. As you settle into his strong arms, you just think about how god damn happy you are. You have a lovely home, a fulfilling career, and a little blessing that you couldn’t have made without your wonderful husband. You think back to your first day of college, and how lucky you are that you happened to be in the right place at the right time to have awkwardly crashed headfirst into Okuyasu Nijimura.
All the wind got knocked out of you, and you grunted as you fell straight onto your ass, the papers in your notebook scattering about the cold tile. Shit, you thought to yourself. I haven’t even made it to my first class yet, and already something stupid happens.
You look up at what you walked straight into. A rough-faced boy with bi-colored hair towered over you. You would have thought he looked like someone who wouldn’t hesitate to beat the shit out of you, if it weren’t for the soft expression on his face, and the hand he was holding out to you.
"Oh fuck, I’m sorry!"
“Ah, it’s okay. Totally my fault, I was spacing out.” You accepted his hand and hoisted yourself up, and brushed the dust off of your pants.
"Your fault?” He looked playfully offended. “I’m the one who wasn’t lookin’ where I was walkin’! Here, I’m gonna help you pick this stuff up,” and he did exactly that before you could interject. While he picked up your papers, you analyzed him. He had two prominent scars lining his face, kind of in the shape of the seams on a baseball. His voice was raspy and for sure masculine, but also wasn’t ridiculously deep either. You thought he sounded like a 40-year-old smoker, which was a stark contrast to the clear evidence that he definitely wasn’t any older than 25. You giggled a little at this.
"I feel even worse, 'cause it’s the first day and I dunno if you even know where your classes are, so I’m prolly makin’ you late or somethin’," he apologetically muttered while still gathering your papers. He caught a glimpse at one that indicated that you were, in fact, a freshman, who didn’t know where her classes were. “Aw shit, now I really fucked up!” He placed the papers back in your arms.
"I.." you stuttered, still a little dazed from the preceding events. "Y-yeah, I'm a freshman. Still trying to figure out my classes and where they are. But it’s okay! Stuff happens, I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
“Nah, I wanna make it up to you,” he said, genuine concern in his eyes. “I can walk you to your building to make it easier for you so you get there quicker.”
"Oh, no, don't worry about it," you started. "You probably have classes to go to too, and my building is far." You glanced down at your schedule to check the building’s relative location to your current one. "It's in Budagaoka Hall and-"
He interrupted you with a small chuckle. "That's where my class is too!" he said, with a bright smile.
After you two exited the building, you followed in his lead to the lecture hall, making conversation along the way. He started telling you about the campus, and pointing out various buildings along the way, and giving brief little descriptions of them, and what type of classes were held in them usually. He was also just pointing out interesting things about the campus in general. His enthusiastically goofy tone and dialect were contagious, because the way he described things with such exuberance lifted your mood as well.
"Budagaoka's small, and there ain't a lotta classes goin' on there all at once." He pauses like he's trying to think of the next thing to say. "Maybe we're in the same class!"
You highly doubted it. This guy really seems to know what he’s talking about when it comes to this campus, so there’s no way that he’s in the same class as a freshman.
You snapped back to reality after letting your thoughts trail, to see him awaiting your response, grinning. "Uhh," you shuffled around your papers to look at your schedule. "English 110, just the basic college writing requirement."
Just as you thought it would be impossible for his expression to grow any brighter, it did upon your words. "We ARE in the same class!" You felt compelled to ask him what year he was, to which he responded that he was a freshman. If he’s a freshman, how does he have so much knowledge about the campus?
You asked him.
“Oh, my older brother went here too, so I already know it pretty good.”
A sibling. That makes sense. Wanting to carry on the conversation, you ask him what year his brother is.
“He would be a junior, but he passed away about two years ago.”
Oh. You mentally curse yourself for bringing up what’s probably a touchy subject. He must have seen the mixture of embarrassment and sadness on your face, because he immediately followed up with “but hey, what I gotta do is move on and keep him in my memory. I think he’d be proud of me to see me goin’ to college and shit.” He paused. “Or at least I think he would be proud of me…I ain’t too good at writin’, so maybe I should just drop out now while I’m ahead!” He says this with a goofy grin and a laugh. You wonder if self-deprecation is just his sense of humor.
Not knowing how to respond, you say “Of course he’d be proud of you!”
His expression grows a little somber. “Sometimes I really wonder. Keicho never really thought I was too smart, and he probably didn’t think that I would be going to college myself. This may sound a little morbid or whatever, but two outcomes would be that he either died thinkin’ I was a fuckin’ idiot, or he’s up there,” He points to the sky. “lookin’ at how well I’m doin’ and bein’ proud of me. I like to think the last one, ‘cuz of comfort, y’know?” You nodded, and his expression went back to its previous cheeriness. You continue your walk to the building, and your airy conversation from earlier continues on.
You find yourself starting to feel more comfortable. Did I make my first college friend? You think. This year is already starting to look a little less intimidating. About a week ago, when you had your bags packed up in your mom’s van, you thought about how nervous you were to start this next chapter in your life. After all, the University of Morioh was about a ten hour drive from your home in the suburbs of Osaka, Japan. This whole past week, all you’ve been thinking about was the tearful farewell between you and your parents, standing in your newly set up dorm. You worried about your mom, and called her pretty much daily since you moved in (much to your roommate’s annoyance). You start to feel the worry melt away a little, knowing that your mom would feel relief to know that you’re smoothly adjusting to college life, and may have made a friend.
You eventually ask him what his major is, to which he proudly responds that it’s culinary arts.
“I’ve been bakin’ and cookin’ and stuff since I was younger, and I actually got pretty good at it and I like to do it! Plus, y’know, I fuckin’ love food.” You giggle a little. It makes you happy to see someone so passionate about something! “What really got me into cookin’ and wanting to possibly make a future out of it though was this Italian guy Tonio. I ate at his restaurant once, completely lost my shit at how good it was, asked him to teach me how to do that, and well, the rest is history.”
You learn more about him on the rest of the walk to the lecture hall. He tells you how he’s 19 and turning 20 in October, and that he took a gap year after high school to take care of his dad until he could find a place for his dad to receive better care. You ask him if it’s a nursing home, and he responds “more or less.” He just says that his dad has a disability, and needed a place to live that was more accessible to him, called “The Speedwagon Foundation”. He says that he works two part-time jobs; he’s a line cook at Tonio’s (his mentor, as he called him) restaurant, and he also is an apprentice mechanic at a bike shop, and works on motorcycles, with his coworker, Yuya.
“Y’know, I’m really interested in both of those things, food and bikes, and sometimes I have a hard time deciding which one I wanna do!”
“Why not both?” you suggest.
“Hey, that’s a good idea! I could run a bakery-slash-garage type business, and while people are waiting for their bikes or cars to get fixed, they could get some cookies or somethin’ made by,” he points to himself. “Morioh’s best chef!”
You giggle again. You also notice how you’ve been giggling a lot at his demeanor in general. He’s really funny! And…cute.
As you mentally slap yourself for being so quick to find someone attractive, you arrive at the building. Suddenly, he stops.
“Shit! I just realized I haven’t even done introductions and all that!” he exclaims. “What’s your name?”
Snapping yourself out of your little lovespell, you tell him. “Uh, (F/N) (L/N)!” Oh fuck. You think to yourself. You were too busy ogling at this cinnamon roll in a delinquent’s body that you instinctively, and awkwardly, included your last name, as if it were a formal introduction.
He chuckled, and held out a calloused hand to shake your own.
"Nice t'meet ya, (F/N). My name's Okuyasu Nijimura."
You both enter the building and quietly slink into the auditorium where the class is being held, hoping the professor doesn’t notice that you’re late. They don’t. You take two adjacent seats in the back, close to the exit.
Okuyasu whispers that he needs a pencil. "I'm kinda dumb an' all, so I forgot. I do that a lot." You giggle at how he can just throw around self-deprecation so casually, and dig into your bag to get him one.
"Aw, don't say that about yourself!” you say as you hand him the pencil. “If anyone’s dumb here, it’s me for not looking where I was going and crashing face-first into you earlier!” You smile. “Besides, you clearly know more about being in college and adulting than I do, so that makes you pretty smart in my book.”
He smiles. “Thanks. I really don’t get the smart compliment a lot, so it means a lot when I hear anyone say it.” You swear that you see his face turn the slightest shade of pink, but then again, the lights are pretty dim in this auditorium. He opens his notebook and turns towards the lecture, and your eyes linger on him for a second. He definitely is quite a character. You’ve gotten a taste of his personality in under a half hour. You turn back to the lecture and focus. It’s your first day of class after all, so you better pay attention.
“Alright guys, you’re dismissed, remember to read the first chapter of the reading for next class!”
The sounds of backpack zippers, shuffling, and passing conversations fill the room. Okuyasu turns to you as you’re packing away your things.
“Hey, wanna exchange phone numbers so if we have questions or something, we can ask each other?” he asks, extending his phone out to you, with a new contact page open. You smile, nod, and give him your phone as well so he can do the same. After you both finish typing, he hands you your phone back.
“Welp, I gotta run to my next class, but it was really nice to meet ya, (F/N)! See ya next class,” he says with a genuine smile, as he walks away, waving.
He joins the sides of a boy with an impressive pompadour, and a short boy with silver hair, which you can only assume are his friends, since the boy with the pompadour claps him on the back and you hear a warm-sounding “BRO!” get lost in the sea of students. You smile, and look at your schedule for the next class, when your phone starts buzzing. It’s your mom!
“Hi baby! How was your first day?”
You chat with her about your first class, and how you think you’ll adjust to college life pretty well. She’s pleased by this, and you walk and talk on the phone with her until you find yourself in front of your next building. You exchange your goodbyes with her, with her telling you that she misses you, of course.
“Bye mom, love you and miss you too.”
You hang up the phone, and the contacts page from earlier pops up.
You feel a little lame for not putting an emoji on your name in his phone, or at least making it a little more personal like he did, but you quickly shake that off, and for the first time since you moved into your dorm, you feel some of your school anxiety alleviate. You have a pretty good feeling that you and Okuyasu might become good friends, or possibly even more. Maybe. You try not to get too ahead of yourself.
You wake up to your alarm, eyes groggy. You remember that today is Friday, and that instantly puts you in a good mood. It’s a crisp mid-October morning, and it’s been a few weeks since your first day. You feel that you’ve pretty much completely adjusted. You’ve gotten the hang of the daily routine of waking up at eight in the morning, grabbing a quick bagel and coffee from the dining hall next to your dorm, and sleepily trudging along to your class, waiting for the sweet release of caffeine to kick in. Next in your routine, you set yourself down in a seat in the lecture hall for English 110, about half an hour before class, so you can listen to music peacefully for some time, since your roommate complains.
Even when you have headphones in.
You definitely want a single dorm next year.
About 15 or 20 minutes later, Okuyasu will come and plop down in the seat next to you, with his own coffee, and some kind of breakfast pastry that he proudly states that “he had baked the day before.” He always offers you some, and when you decline, he insists. Eventually, he started bringing you a coffee and a pastry every morning so you wouldn’t have to, and when you express that he doesn’t have to do that he, unsurprisingly, insists again. One morning, on his birthday (which you remembered him telling you from the day you met him), you brought the breakfast pastry for him, a muffin, and stuck a cheap little birthday candle in the top. He was beside himself, and acted as if it was the most thoughtful thing anyone has ever done for him. Almost like no one’s ever done anything even a little thoughtful for him. You couldn’t help but think how adorable his expression of gratitude was. Next, you both sit through the lecture, him occasionally whispering little comments or clarifying statements to you, to which you usually nod, because he’s usually correct. You wonder why he calls himself dumb so much, he really isn’t! Finally, the class ends, he says goodbye, and meets up with those same friends from day one. However, as time went on, they started looking back at you more, and embarrassedly turning their heads away if you made eye contact with any of them. Then, Okuyasu lightly smacks whoever did the looking. Something tells you that Okuyasu has talked to them about you.
Another BIG part of your college routine involves flirting and romantic tension. You pretty much established yourself that you have a little crush, and it seems like he maybe has one on you too, because he appears to flirt back. Though, neither of you have really blatantly expressed anything about it. Soon enough, you started having study sessions with him in the library. Sometimes, not a lot of studying got done though, as your energies matched so well, and would just end up goofing off after an hour or so of studying. But, both of your grades have been so far so good. And, you’re happy that you get along so well with him!
Something else you’ve noticed about him, that you like, is that he seems to put a little bit more effort into getting dressed for the day than most college boys do. Especially when you consider that they need to be at class that early in the morning. You could just be biased, since you think he’s cute as hell. Nonetheless, he’s always wearing his oversized, lived-in jean jacket, accompanied by some cool graphic tee, and a pair of Vans. On days that you recognize the reference on his shirt (which is most days), and compliment him on it, he always blushes and gets that enthusiastically giddy face. A lot of the shirts he wears are for bands and other musical artists, and you’re pleased to see that you two share the same taste. He then starts gushing over whatever reference is on his shirt, and your conversation about it carries on until the start of class. When the class begins, you always find yourself spacing out for a few minutes, replaying the conversation in your head. It’s like the conversations between you and Okuyasu are like good music themselves.
A random thing you notice as you spend more time with him is how fucking good he smells. He smells like a mixture of sandalwood, vanilla, and cinnamon, which is a really pleasant combination. You wonder if you have a distinct smell, and if he notices it or not.
Normally, Okuyasu will text you for quick questions about the homework, but some mornings, he brings up in-depth themes of the class and any confusion he has on them. You asked him why he would ask you rather than the professor (not that you mind of course), to which he smiled and said “’cuz you know this stuff like the professor, but I understand it better when you say it!”
For anyone else, those questions would be asked directly after a lecture, when the info is still fresh in your mind, but you and Okuyasu wouldn’t usually start talking after class, because discussing one class concept turns into a full-blown conversation, which there’s no time for. One small downside to being able to have a conversation about almost anything with him. He always has something to talk about, and you’re always eager to listen to what he has to say. And then finally, at the end of your college morning routine, you say your goodbyes until next class or study session. But today was different.
A big hand taps your shoulder.
“Hey (Y/N)?” Okuyasu’s normally raspy voice sounds softer and slightly shaky.
“Yeah Oku?” You look towards him, and he continues.
“So, me and my friends are gonna hang out at my place tonight, an’ uh, I was wonderin’ if ya wanted to come?” he begins. “Y’totally don’t hafta if you don’t wanna, I’m jus’ lettin’ ya know in case y’wanna-“ you interrupt his hasty babbling.
“Sure, I would love to!”
He seems to hide his sigh of relief (which he doesn’t do a very good job of doing) at your acceptance, and begins to babble again about how it’s crazy that you’ve been talking for as long as you have and haven’t hung out outside of anything school related yet, but cuts himself off.
“Cool, I’ll see ya tonight then! I’ll text ya the address!” He walks towards his friends who are looking at him in anticipation. Okuyasu seems to have a sway in his step.
Welp, this is happening.
You head back to your dorm to do some homework for your other classes, and then get ready for tonight, feeling jittery the whole time. The good kind though. The kind with butterflies.