Sunday he pushed the trolley down the aisle as he yawned, tears blooming in his eyes. It felt good to be up and moving, stretching his muscles in a way they hadn’t moved at all that weekend.
He contemplated the seasonal berries. Lifting a plastic box up, he sniffed it gently. Sweetness hit the back of his throat and there was no doubt, he’d be eating strawberries that week.
He froze. ‘No way.’
Turning his head to the side he found Ruby smiling up at him. She wore an oversized green shirt over a knee length demine skirt and the same boots. The shirt hid a lot of her feminine appeal making him focus on her smile. “Hello Ruby-san.”
“Are the strawberries good?” She nodded her head to the pack in his hands. Across her cheeks, a blush spread and she shifted her weight.
“Hmm? Oh, well they smell good. I’m going to buy them and see.” His heart was racing, he could feel the beat pulsating in his neck and imagined it bursting out of the vein.
She lowered her eyes and reached over.
As he breathed in he was hit with the floral smell of her. He nearly sighed, it was so nice.
She pulled back and raised her punnet to her nose. “Hmm, they do smell nice. You really should buy some cream to dip them into.”
They lapsed into silence.
Neither looked at the other.
Hikaru felt stupid. ‘I should say something… anything.’ It was on the tip of his tongue, something was, but his lips were taut and refused to let anything slip out.
He glanced at her. ‘I don’t want her to walk off. What do I say to keep her talking?’ “I-”
“Do-” she started at the same time. “Sorry, you go first.”
He flicked his tongue over his lips. “I was just going to say that I know a place that has some great strawberry deserts.” ‘And it happens to be near campus so of course I know that place well. “If you would like to go there?”
“That would be nice. I was going to ask if you would like to come over for dinner tonight, as a thank you for giving me a lift home the other week.”
“That’s not necessary.” ‘And do you have any idea what it means to invite a complete stranger into your home? Are all Australian girls easy?’
“It is. My mother raised me to pay back debts when someone does a good turn.”
He almost gritted his teeth. “And it wasn’t a big deal, so dinner isn’t necessary.” ‘Why is she trying to force this upon me?’
“I can cook you know. I can cook Japanese food.” Her chin jutted out in defiance. “If that’s what you’re objecting to.”
“Do you understand what it means to invite a man that you’ve met only twice to your home? If you offered to buy dinner, that would be acceptable, but to make it and have someone in your home, that’s stupid.”
She cocked an eye brow. “Are you planning on assaulting me?”
“No.” He quickly clarified. “But you can’t go inviting men you don’t know and think they won’t turn into animals.”
“I’m not inviting men, I’m inviting you.” She snapped.
The air between them crackled with rage. He opened his mouth about to continue when she held up her hand.
“I thank you for your concern and I know about the dangers of being assaulted by men. And the invite still stands if you will let me thank you. Takashi and his wife will be there.”
‘Baka,’ he slumped his shoulders. “Did Takashi suggest you invite me?”
“He did. But I wasn’t going to ask him to do it for me.” The anger around them shifted and became something more awkward for them. “Then I ran into you.”
His eyes looked at the basket in her hands. She had started in the butchery section. “What’s for dinner?”
“That’s not Japanese,” he pointed out.
“I know I said I can cook Japanese, but tonight isn’t going to be Japanese. It’s going to be a roast. With potatoes and carrots and beans. And then something with strawberries for dessert.” She pouted.
‘Cute.’ He sighed and turned his head to the side as he spoke. “I would like to have dinner.”
“Excuse me? Can you clarify that? Dinner in general or dinner at my place?”
He saw her smirk from the corner of his eye. That made him jerk his head round and glare at her. “This isn’t junior high you don’t have go on like that.”
“Then look at me when you’re talking. You’re an adult not a teenager.” She countered.
‘She’s right,’ but it didn’t make it any easier for him to do it. “Yes, dinner at your home.” What made it easier was the fact he was so damn annoyed and didn’t care if he was embarrassed.
“I’ll see you then.”
“Goodbye.” She turned and walked away.
He grimaced. It felt like she had won something by having the last word.