Just In Between
By Starian Princess

Chapter 4- Meet the Parents

We'd passed by Mrs. Welcher's place on our way to the grocery and I was surprised to find that in my honest opinion, Soujiro wasn't such a bad guy. Yes, yes, I know I was going on earlier about wanting to strangle him and all that but really, anyone would have been fooled. I had first thought of him as somewhat like a player, ready to pounce on the next unaware young maiden. Apparently, there's something about him I just don't understand though. Acting all cool and holier-than-thou, one would have never thought that this guy was actually quite the charmer. At least Mrs. Welcher seemed to think so, and she was labeled a recluse for heaven's sake!

Soujiro had practically swept her off her feet; kind smile, just the right compliment- he'd transformed into the proper gentleman any girl would want to date. But then that's just being normal, and I like to believe that I'm certainly not normal, in a good way of course. So although he is pretty good-looking and maybe a bit sweet and seemingly just the right kind of witty… I don't think I'd want to date him. He'd be a good friend to laugh with, but definitely not the guy I'd wish to swoon over and kiss.

Mmm… Why then do I feel like I want to do just that?

I brought a hand up to brush through my bangs as I quietly contemplated the thought. Soujiro was a lot like Kenshin, which was the kind of guy I didn't want to get mixed up with. Not now at least, while the pain was still fresh. He was, however, different in regards to one thing, at least from what I'd noticed-- blunt honesty. Kenshin always found a way to make a description sound pretty, whether it was about the teacher who always gave everyone a B- (no matter hard we tried) or about the spoiled little rich girl who always wanted things done her way. I had strangely been attracted to him because of that and now I find that it just feels so weird. Soujiro was probably the complete opposite. He spoke his mind, wasn't afraid to laugh out loud, and knew he could charm people even while acting like the next president.

Like I said earlier, Kenshin was probably too normal. Yes, he was wonderful, knew all the right words to say, and did things so sickeningly slow that you just wanted to dive straight at him. But maybe he was just the wrong guy. Maybe he was the wrong guy for me, Kaoru Kamiya.

"Let's see; tomatoes, garlic, cup noodles, mayonnaise, fresh strawberries. Yep, I think I managed to get them all," Soujiro came out of the store looking so pleased with himself; I just had to smile back. He looked like an adorable little puppy that had been praised because it'd gotten its trick right. While I felt like the equally proud owner, but that was dangerous territory; I shouldn't have been thinking like that.

"Thanks. Really, you've been such a help," I tried to take the plastic bags from him but he refused, insisting that it was a man's job to hold the stuff. Strangely enough, he really did seem like he wanted to do it. So I let him; I was humoring him a bit, I know.

We were almost there, about five more houses give or take some alleyways, and I was wondering whether I should invite him in or not. I looked down at what I was wearing and decided against it. A sweaty tank top and gym shorts were just too… icky.

Upon reaching the driveway though, I still hadn't told him to leave. Soujiro was looking at me, dare I say it, expectantly, hoping he'd get to come in. And I thought to myself he was probably feeling tired; we'd been walking for a while and I wasn't sure how long he'd been out before we'd met. So I sighed, motioned for him to go up the steps and to inevitably ring the doorbell. I was evil for amusing myself with the thought, but maybe Dad would scare him off.

The first thing I saw, as the front door swung open, was a pair of dark brown eyes, slightly furrowed and quite commanding. I found myself thinking then, that this was probably her father and that this was where she'd gotten her own self-possessed aura from. Not that being a Daddy's-girl made me swoon but I actually found it… cute. And I wasn't sure why.

"Morning," my voice was as steady as it could ever be, and I stood my ground as I waited for Kaoru to join me on the porch. She, on the other hand, took her sweet time and once getting there, simply flashed the older man a warm smile. I knew it wasn't just my imagination when I noticed his eyes soften. Daddy's-girl indeed.

He let me in without much of a fuss and took the bags into the kitchen after. I was then taken to a cozy living room on my left, as Kaoru vanished up the stairs. She'd informed me that she wouldn't take long and that she'd just change out of her wet clothes; the images those words brought me… We'll talk about that some other time though.

I could hear a sizzling sound coming from the kitchen area, the distinct smell of bacon and eggs wafting through the room. It was the hunger making my mouth water, I told myself firmly, and not the vision Kaoru presented, walking down and looking so innocent like that.

She was a temptress in those tight shorts; she'd obviously opted to keep them on and had just changed her top, a loose white shirt. She was supposed to look normal, nothing out of the ordinary. Instead, I was picturing her coming towards me and sitting on my lap. Sometimes, I hated being a healthy teenage boy.

"Breakfast's ready, kids," a deep yet lively voice was calling us from the kitchen and I knew right away that that was her mother. They almost sounded alike, gentle and strong at the same time. I prepared myself to greet her.

And I was right. Long black hair just like her daughter's, but they were worn in easy curls and the same deep blue eyes. Mrs. Kamiya was an ethereal beauty, an older version of Kaoru and soon enough, I bet the daughter would outshine her mother, no competition. I told myself I wanted to be around when that happened.

"Mom, Dad, this is Soujiro Seta. I met him while I was doing my errands," Kaoru still hadn't realized we were schoolmates but that wasn't really a surprise. It wasn't like there was only one high school in this district. I planned on paying her a visit next Monday, right then and there. Maybe that would ensure I'd be seeing her more often. I could even get her to join the council if all went well.

"Nice to meet you," her mother offered me a hand, which I gladly took. I felt the older woman's strength then, a quiet kind of authority. I bet she ruled the home with an iron fist. I wondered if Kaoru would be the same.

After the rest of the introductions were made, we sat around the table as Mrs. Kamiya distributed her earlier creations. There were bacon and eggs, sure enough, coupled with two fluffy pancakes for each person. Kaoru was in charge of serving the drinks; I asked for orange juice while her parents opted for coffee.

I watched my dad ask him about trivial things; the weather, the bowling alley, the best place to rent videos among other topics, and I wondered to myself how come this all felt so strange. Normally, Dad would have been interrogating the boy I brought home, much like the detectives would do on TV. Mom would be sitting quietly, watching the whole exchange and making the guy feel just as uncomfortable with her silence.

With Soujiro, however, it was like they were completely different parents. My mom clearly liked him, had liked him ever since he'd walked through the kitchen door. Dad was warming up to him, following closely. It was like having a brother actually or having Misao around like we used to do. It was like there was another me, and that made me feel uneasy.

As much as I liked the fact that they were fond of him, I couldn't help but feel that it was like they were giving me their approval. There wasn't anything to be agreed on in the first place. I'd made myself refuse the idea of dating him or having a more intimate relationship with him, but somehow fate was working the in the opposite direction.

What was so great about him anyway? Soujiro was like every other guy, trying to impress the parents, showing one side of himself while he was actually probably someone different in another situation… I could argue about this matter the whole day. I just didn't want to feel attached, like I could give myself and him, for that matter, hope. Because there wasn't any.

That's what I thought at least, until he started singing one of those standards along with my mom and dad. Why did Soujiro have to have such an enchanting voice? I almost slapped myself.