Disclaimer: I do not own PoT.
AU. Ryoma's a part-timer in Sakuno's favorite froyo shop. And no. She was not happy about it. RyoSaku.
Aged 15. They don't know each other. Ryoma's just the tennis star on TV.
EDITED. Will have another chapter as epilogue.
The Part-timer at Chiyo-ni's
Sakuno sighed when she reached her favorite froyo parlor. With a bitter pout on her lips, she glanced at the crowded shop brimming with customers. Most of them were girls who continued to force themselves in, regardless.
Three weeks, she thought to herself sourly. It's been over three weeks since she last had her fill of any of the shop's delicious treats. Chiyo-ni's Fro-Yo had been her only reprieve from school, her part-time job, and her stagnating love life. Not once had she brought along anyone with her when she passed time at this shop - not Tomoka, nor her boyfriend, nor a single soul really. It had been hers, and hers alone. But now, it was replete with girls - cussing and giggling and gushing their way into the store - her beloved store. Had she been a more scornful person, she would've already cursed the heavens for this hateful occurence. Or maybe, she would've already filed a formal complaint against the managament - or maybe directly and sternly scold them for hiring the employee who was the reason for all her petty woes.
It was pretty annoying - not that she was capable of getting irritated in its typical sense, because she'd just end up falling into a pit of guilt afterwards. Her kind nature couldn't take on the burden of ire. Rather, she found it unfair that the said part-timer took on a job or that he chose to work in her precious froyo parlor, indirectly and insensitively casting away the store's true patrons. And he was rich dammit! As rich and famous as a professional tennis player could get! He had no use for the job he took on. If anything, he maliciously robbed another of the opportunity to earn! Talk of all the inconsiderate people in the world!
Okay, so she was annoyed.
With a scowl, Sakuno turned her heated glare to the floor and, seeing a pebble, kicked it in frustration before continuing her walk home from school.
Later that night, she was washed with guilt and shame and - her frown deepened - she just really wanted her yogurt.
It was pretty embarrasing, she couldn't help but think as she stood by the doors of the locked and empty froyo parlor. It was 7:30 in the morning on a weekend and the store had yet to open up. But she already made up her mind. Today, she would wait - the whole day if need be - to get a cup of froyo. Even if just this once in a long long time. She just really needed her Chiyo-ni's Fro-Yo green tea frozen yogurt. All other froyo's were incomparable to theirs. She knew because she's tried them all. And it's been almost a month. And she's been depressed. And she aced her English test. And - well a lot has happened in three weeks. She really really needed to celebrate with her precious treat.
Suddenly, from behind her, the steel screens were raised in resounding metal shuttering. And from inside the store, surprised Chesire eyes greeted her. Her doe eyes widened, flustered and caught off guard. Chimes rung as the front door was unlocked. The young man from the store appeared, carrying a tall tarpaulin stand.
"Part-timer?" He asked as he set the stand right by the entrance.
"A-" Sakuno choked. His keen ember eyes, the same she'd only seen on TV during a match, looked at her in anticipation. And it felt as if an eternity passed by before she managed to croak. "N-n-no."
He raised a suspicious brow, assessing her red face.
"Weird." He muttered before disappearing back into the shop.
Beet-faced, Sakuno froze - unable to comprehend the sudden wave of timidity that overcame her. Plus, Ryoma Echizen, he had been far more handsome than she expected. Her mouth dried, her knees weakened, and her face bursted into a deeper shade of red.
After 30 long seconds, she bolted away.
When, the hell, was Echizen Ryoma not on shift? She cried to herself in humiliation as she made her way back home.
"You were out?" Her grandmother said in surprise. The aroma of her morning coffee filled the living room.
"Yes." Sakuno mumbled forlorn as she continued to her room.
"So early in the morning? What for?" Sumire couldn't help but muse. Suddenly, Sakuno, in her aghast and frustration popped into the dining room with a desperate look on her face.
"Baa-chan, do you remember the froyo parlor we went to when mama visited us that one time?"
"What?" Sumire didn't know what to do about the flustered look on her granddaughter's face.
"Please tell me they have another branch!"
"What? What froyo parlor?"
"Chiyo-ni's!" Sakuno cried in exasperation. At this, Sumire blinked. And after a second, burst out laughing.
"Is that what's been bothering you lately? Chiyo-ni's shop?"
"Hai! I- it's, well. I- it's impossible to get a cup from that place ever since the Echizen guy started working there! He's been hauling his admirers and ruining the integrity of the shop with all the noise and gushing and no one really cares about their froyo like me!"
"Get a grip, Sakuno!" Her grandma laughed. "It's just frozen yogurt dear child! You'll live!"
"But-" Sakuno crumbled to the cold floor. "Gomen." She frowned, trying to get a grip of herself. "It's just!" She looked up to her grandmother. "I really want Chiyo-ni's froyo."
"You are still such a kid, Sakuno." Sumire chuckled good-naturedly before reaching down and ruffling Sakuno's bangs.
It was 8:55 in the morning.
Five minutes before the store opened.
Sakuno couldn't fight back the smile on her face. The store was close to opening and there was no Ryoma Echizen in sight and his hoard of admirers. Today was the day. She'd finally get her cup of froyo after six dragging weeks.
"Please come in!" An employee greeted her, opening the door. "What'll you have?"
Sakuno's eyes gleamed. She couldn't believe it.
"Green tea froyo, 12oz, and a scoop of chocolate." She grinned. Not caring that her glee reached her eyes.
"Got it!" The girl, Maya, nodded with a pleasant smile. "You love froyo?" She had to ask. To which Sakuno nodded without hesitation.
"Only the best." She giggled, giddy. "Is it weird to be eating froyo so early in the morning?" She asked more out of curiosity. She'd eat her fill nonetheless.
"Well, kinda. I mean - it's a weekend and well, 9:00am froyo? Maybe during the hype, it would be understandable." Maya laughed, handing her her order. "And well, the froyo wave's gone so well, I guess it is kinda weird. But! You like wha you like, right?"
"Exactly!" Sakuno cried in fervent agreement. "I've been going to your shop regularly since middle school - after school."
"Really? I've never seen you around though. And I've taken up most of the shifts."
"Unfortunately, I haven't gotten to visit recently because of," Sakuno frowned deeply, taking a spoonful of froyo. "Not that I don't like him or anything, but well - ever since Ryoma Echizen started working here, it's been impossible to go here after class hours! Actually," she took a bite, leaning idly on the counter. "do you mind telling me his schedule? I hate it when I end up visiting during his shifts because there's never any room!"
"That's a first." A low voice suddenly commented from the backroom, sending the two chatting girls jumping in surprise. "That a girl likes the froyo more than me."
Sakuno's eyes bulged wide open. Her mouth dried.
"Don't understand why though, the froyo here's crap anyway."
"Echizen-sa-san!" Maya chirped. "We were just-"
"I don't really care." Ryoma shrugged, making his way to the front of the shop with a sponge and bucket.
"Take it back." Sakuno muttered with less conviction than she wanted.
"How can you say that?" Sakuno glared at him, quick to defend her roots against the full-of-himself part-timer. "How is it you sell something you don't believe in?"
"Easy." Ryoma shrugged. "Customers tell me what they want. I tell them how much. They give me the money." Then, as if forgetting something, added with a taunting smirk. "Plus tips."
"You're insufferable, did you know that?"
Ryoma raised a brow.
"And why should I care?"
Sakuno's face turned sour, not at all knowing how to get to his nerves or to him really.
"Because!" The normally quiet girl exploded. "For decency's sake!"
The handsome part-timer deadpanned. Ryoma didn't bother to give her a reply before stepping out to wash the front windows.
"Are you alright?" Maya tried reaching out.
Sakuno was seething. Forgetting her froyo, she abruptly left the shop. For less than a second, her eyes met Ryoma's cheeky face on her way out. She could see the devious twinkle in his eyes amidst the suds on the glass windows he was cleaning. And it sent her anger blowing up twice as much. Upon leaving, she vowed never to return to Chiyo-ni's Fro-Yo parlor as long as Ryoma Echizen was employed there. Never. Ever.
Maya tried chasing after the fuming patron and sighed, finding her briskly walking away.
"Why'd you have to say that?" Maya cried in frustration.
"Did you see her face?" Ryoma couldn't help but bit back a chuckle. "It was so red."
At this, Maya shook her head.
"You're such a child."
It was a curse, she thought to herself. She almost decided to hide behind the fountain but then realized why would she when Ryoma should be the one hiding from her out of shame. Sitting on the edge of the large fountain in the park, while waiting for her boyfriend, Sakuno turned to watch the ripples of the water, determined not to make so much as eye contact with the annoying young man.
"No one's going to pick you up, you know."
Yet again, Ryoma Echizen squarely struck a nerve.
"I am not here to be picked up." Sakuno snapped at him. Her cheeks immediately coloring in irritation.
"Tch." The young man rolled his eyes. "Why else would you be here?"
Sakuno turned to him with an incredulous look, challenging him to ask her a question she'd surely win. And of course, he took her coldness as an invitation to sit beside her.
"Then again, those clothes would never bait anyone."
Internally, Sakuno was fuming with rage. She didn't know what his problem was, nor what she did to get him to pick on her. But dammit! Unable to help herself, she snapped at Ryoma before he could open his mouth to speak.
"I don't know what your problem is with me. But, you really are getting on my nerves." She bit out. "And I never get mad! Nobody ever gets to my nerves! Because, you know what Echizen-san - I'm a pretty decent person! I give people the benefit of the doubt even when they don't deserve it! But you- you have a knack of making me hate you, especially."
"Go away, please."
"Do you own the park?"
"What?" Sakuno frowned.
"No. So quit telling people where they should or shouldn't be."
"Alright." Sakuno forced the sweetest hateful smile she could muster. "I apologize, Echizen-san." She said as she stood. "Goodbye. And may we never meet again."
When she left, Ryoma couldn't help his cheeks from flushing.
Damn, he thought as he turned to the clear blue sky. She had a pretty smile.
It was uncanny really. REALLY. Sakuno thought to herself in a frustrated internal cry.
Tokyo wasn't that small, right? How often must she run into the insufferable young man before the world freezes over?
Approaching the pedestrian crossing, her boyfriend took her hand and pulled her closer, closing their distance amidst the sea of people. And halfway, the Cheshire eyes that sent her nerves ringing met hers and much to her surprise, Ryoma nonchalantly looked ahead and continued walking without casting so much as a haughty smirk towards her way.
She suddenly found herself stopping to look back, her brows furrowed in confusion.
"Sakuno?" The hand that held hers tore apart. "You alright?" Her boyfriend asks, walking back to her.
"Ah-" Sakuno turned to him. "Sorry." She smiled apologetically.
She was at a tennis specialties shop looking for new grip tape, minding her own business. All the noise around her seemed to fade into the background as she moved from one aisle to the next. She was so engrossed in her day's errand that she honestly had no idea Ryoma had been there. Well, until he suddenly dropped grip tape into her basket. She must have been staring at him incredulously because he raised a brow.
"Because the one you're holding's sucks."
"I- I knew." She said, flustered, hastily returning the grip tape on the rack. Immediately, she made motions to move away from the young man when he said,
"We should play sometime."
Sakuno's eyes widened. Ryoma had been too much of a prick to her that she had forgotten he was a sought after tennis champion. Maybe, by inviting her, he was finally making amends; seeking for some form of truce between them. Maybe, he wasn't so bad after all.
"Really?" She couldn't help but ask, trying not to look too hopeful. Ryoma only stared at her before turning away.
"Why not? Bet you suck anyway."
Before he knew it, Sakuno left him for the check-out counter. From that day, Sakuno vowed never to look his way ever again. No matter what he does.
She couldn't help but laugh. Hard.
Her co-student part-timer Nakamura was really a funny man. Not witty funny nor was he the guy with all the jokes, he was funny by way of clumsiness. More gullible really. The three of them, the other was her friend Yukari, had been replenishing empty racks when he noticed a can way at the back and tried getting it. The stray can was stuck and well, one thing led to the other and, although he succeeded in pulling the can out, he fell flat smack on his back and into the rack of baking goods. Falling on top of them sent a puff of flour, sugars, etc., a mini explosion that covered him with white at 8:34 in the early morning.
And what a morning it was turning out to be.
She and Yukari had been laughing so hard at the red-faced Nakamura that they needed to latch onto something to keep from tumbling over.
Sakuno, holding onto her aching tummy as she backed to one of the racks, continued wheezing in laughter. It's been so long since she last laughed this hard. And, it was during this instance that Ryoma Echizen found her. Honestly, he was stupefied. He felt his chest involuntarily lurch at the sound of her ringing laugh.
"Oh god!" Yukari suddenly cried when she looked up from all her wheezing, finally realizing Ryoma Echizen was in the same aisle, breathing the same air as she, and was wearing what she thought was a look of the most detestable and judgeful nature. Sakuno and Nakamura's gazes shot behind them. The young man was suddenly on his feet.
"Gomen!" He cried in utter humiliation, dashing to the employees quarters and leaving a messy heap and trails of white powder behind.
Sakuno and Yukari froze where they were, hoping he'd just go away.
But Sakuno knew that no matter how much she would wish it, and oh has she wished it since day one, Ryoma Echizen would never leave.
To confirm her dread, the handsome young man walked towards them. There was a wall of silence as he stopped next to Sakuno who was as frigid as the winter cold. Beside her, Ryoma pulled out a bag of flour and, smirking, made a tch-ing sound, directed to no one in particular. But, she knew, Sakuno knew as her nerves grew hot with rage, that it was directed to her.
"Don't you have gluten-free flour?"
Sakuno turned to him. But it was Yukari who chirped.
"Y-yes!" She said, urging Sakuno. "We do, right Sakuno?" Then, looked for it amidst still being flustered.
"Ah, hai." Sakuno nodded, her cheeks tinting into a lighter shade of pink, as she turned to help her friend look for the said good. She could feel Ryoma's heavy gaze on her. Then, her eyes lit, finding it. "Here." She said, smiling to herself as she got the item. Her face turned cold when she handed it to Ryoma though. So cold, she hoped he got the message for him to just leave already. "That's all, right?" She stated more than asked.
"Hn." Ryoma merely shrugged in answer. He left afterwards though.
All the while, Sakuno drowned in grief.
He now knew where she worked.
"Thank you for your patronage!" Yukari called from behind, regaining her typical cheer. "We're looking forward to your return!"
She, as sure as hell, wasn't.
She's known for the longest time that they were drifting apart, not that they had been especially close from the start. But he was her first boyfriend. She remembered once having had held her heart in a lock, waiting out for that one person who'll mean the world to her. Her ex wasn't really close to her original standards but, he was a good friend, caring enough - and well, everyone was in a relationship so, why not try as well, right?
So see, maybe, in the end, it was all her fault for lowering her standards, for following the crowd.
Still, she never expected it to really hurt. Because, she knew for the longest time that they'd break up eventually. Maybe it was the fact that it was he who initiated the separation, that he had a girl waiting in tow.
Still, it was never suppose to hurt this much.
God, she needed froyo.
Upon reaching the shop, she couldn't help but finally well up into sobs. It was too childish, she knew. But at that moment, with her shattered heart and the cold wind brewing, the mere sight of the shop brimming with customers sent her thumbling over herself.
It was yet again impossible to get her beloved reprieve.
It has been over a month. Maybe he was going crazy. Maybe he was just pressured by his father's many letters for him to return to the professional arena. But god, if another day passes without his seeing her, even if just a glimpse, he'd lose his mind. He had to see her and her red face.
At 9:00am, he was already in the grocery store where Sakuno worked part-time. He got random items per aisle, waiting to get to the aisle number where Sakuno would be. Aisle by aisle he went, but till the last, she was no where to be found.
"Hey." He spoke up as the cashier, a familiar face from his last visit, checked out his items. "The girl with the braids, is she in?"
"Who?" Ryoma pursed his lips, looking away in contemplation. He just realized after all this time, he never knew her name. "OK." The girl said, finishing his purchases. "There are two girls who work here with long hair in braids. There's Sakuno and there's Mika, so who is it?" Ryoma made a face that caused a long sigh from Yukari. "You don't know the name, do you?"
Ryoma just frowned.
"OK, well, it must be Mika." She said, pointing at the sleepy newcomer. "She's the president of one of your fanclubs."
The young man didn't bother to turn.
"She'd be the last person who'd be part of a fanclub." He said, recollecting the countless times she's told him she hated him. So, "No." was his reply.
"Oh, then Sakuno?" Ryoma's chest took a sudden leap. "Well, she's out."
"Thanks." Ryoma muttered before leaving.
"Sakuno, her name is Sakuno Ryuzaki."
Then, his face coloring in the slightest, her name gradually etched itself into the recesses of his consciousness.
Maybe, it was karma, Sakuno mused the night she returned from Kyushu. Having visited her father, praying with him in his temple, unnerved her. It had been the true reprieve she had needed from the streets of Tokyo. She was better now, more akin to her solitude.
It was 9:00am in a weekend when she stepped into Chiyo-Ni's Fro-Yo shop. It had been so long since she last saw him. An apology may even be unneccessary at this point. It had been over a month since she last saw him. He may have even forgotten about her already. Still, she had to make amends.
But, he no longer worked there.
"He quit just yesterday." Maya had told her. "If you still hadn't seen it in the news, he's joining the French Open."
Sakuno nodded, thinking that was it. After purchasing her signature order, she walked back home, resigned to complete her homework. She was a few blocks from her house when she noticed someone sitting on their porch. And the closer she got, the clearer the view became. Unconsciously, and naturally, her blood started boiling. And she had no intention to. Just seeing him, turning his head towards her after realizing she was on her way home, made a rise out of her she couldn't understand.
"What are you doing here?" She couldn't help but snap. "Did you know I lived here? What are you, some kind of stalker?" She cried in frustration. Ryoma had just turned to her, surprised at her outburst, when she suddenly, in her bout of rage, threw her empty cup of fro-yo at him.
It took them both a moment before realizing what she did. The small cup she threw simply bounced off Ryoma's shoulder and made a mess on the floor. Head ringging, Sakuno held her temple and weakly reached for a seat.
"I don't understand you, Echizen-san." She finally sighed. "Weren't you leaving?" She looked up at him imploring. "Why, of all places, are you on my porch?"
Ryoma bent down to pick up the cup she threw and placed it next to her.
"How did you even find me? Do you even know who I am?" Her brows furrowed. "You don't. You just saw me once then decided it'd be fun to mess with me."
The young man standing beside her bent down.
"I really don't understand why. Do you do this to just anyone and everyone?"
And suddenly, kissed her.
When he pulled away, he took a step back and told her simply with a shrug.
Then he left. Sakuno's face was veridian. And still, she couldn't undertand what had happened. Later on, she'd find out that her friend Yukari had become Ryoma's informant the whole time she was away. Apparently, Ryoma also met her grandmother during that time.
"I thought I'd never see you again!" Maya cried when Sakuno entered the froyo shop.
"Ah." Sakuno blushed. "Sorry about last time."
"Don't worry! It's been so long since then. Besides, you shouldn't be the one apologizing." Maya smiled. "So, what'll you be having?"
"Green tea froyo, 12oz, and a scoop of chocolate." Sakuno smiled in return. As Maya prepared her order, she idly looked around the shop. "Business is slow?"
"Yup." Maya told her, handing her her order. "Guess it really was just Echizen-san who was keeping this place alive."
"He just let up and left, neh?"
"Yeah. Well, he does compete abroad. Made better sense to stay in California, I guess." She mused. "You know though, and I know this sounds so odd but, I think - don't judge me on this alright - I think he had a crush on you."
Sakuno nodded, her cheeks slightly flushed.
"I- I would never have guessed." She lied, feigning a smile.
8 years later.