AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm sorry it's taken longer than expected guys. Exams came up and, well, you know how that is. I tried really hard to make this a pretty long chapter. Unfortunately, as you will see, it's pretty much one night. Please let me know if the story is going too slowly. I'm really going to try to speed it up in the next few chapters. Until then, enjoy (:
Sense of Family Life
That same day…
"Sakura-chan! Table 19 needs to be cleared!"
"Sakura-chan! Can you ring this couple up, please?"
"Sakura-chaaa~an! The front!"
"Hi! Welcome to the Happy Kitty Café."
Sakura greeted the happy patrons in skinny black pants and a slim-fitting black dress shirt, topped off with a big red bow around her neck and cat ears. Her hair, which was disheveled this morning, was tied back in a neat high ponytail. The dark circles under her eyes were gone and a slight blush colored her cheeks. This was the state in which she greeted her current customers.
A surprised Syaoran stood before her with a gaping mouth. He always knew Sakura worked; his parents were always saying how good it was for a girl to be able to support herself, with Sakura being the example. But he never expected her to work in a cosplay-like café. A babysitter, tutor, housekeeper, maybe, but never this. In fact, he was sure what to think at the current moment. It was undeniable, even to him, that she looked very cute, but it was also undeniable that the whole situation of the headstrong girl working at a kitty café was hilarious. And it was on this latter fact which he acted upon.
"BWAHAHAHA! What in the world are you doing, Kinomoto? Meow, meow? HAHAH!"
As he was holding little Hotaru and as she was working, Sakura was unable to react and shut him up. Indeed, all she was able to do was grit her teeth and fight through the evening.
"Ahem, welcome to the Happy Kitty Café. How many will be in your party this evening, sir, meow?" she asked stiffly.
"Just three," he replied, still laughing.
"Right this way, please."
"So this is where you work? Are you like those maid cafés? Aren't you going to call me Master? Hahaha! This is good, Kinomoto. Just when you couldn't get anymore interesting," he shook his head at the comedy of it all as he sat down.
"We are the Happy Kitty Café, sir. This is our normal uniform," she replied, thoroughly annoyed. I'll never hear the end of this. "What can I get for you, meow?"
"I'll have the triple chocolate mocha latte with the strawberry cake," Mei-Lin, who had remained quiet upon entering the café, answered, clearly annoyed herself,
"And you, sir?"
"What, no 'meow'?"
This is going to be a loonngg night. "Ahem, and you, sir, meow?"
That evening, closing time..
Finally, Sakura was able to flip the sign in the door to "Closed" and began wiping down the last of the tables.
In the two years that she had been working at the café, Syaoran had never made an appearance. Why, then, the worst of all days, did he have to show up? Not only did he show up, he decided to be the worst customer of all time, making Sakura's life infinitely worse. He spilled his drink five times, ordered two different drinks, only to return them both because he'd changed his mind, and didn't even bother to leave a tip.
Maybe I should ban him from the café, Sakura thought as she changed out of the uniform and washed her face of the make-up, revealing her pale cheeks and the dark circles under her eyes.
"I'm leaving! See you guys tomorrow!" A chorus of "Bye!"s answered her as he walked out the back door.
Suddenly, a hand reached out and grabbed her shoulder. Screaming, she stomped down on the foot behind her and turned around to beat the culprit with her bag. Before she could do so, a familiar voice cried out.
"Wait! Wait! It's me! Li!"
Upon closer inspection, she saw that it was, indeed, the despicable Li, kneeling on the ground with a wailing baby in his arms.
She lowered her bag and squatted down. "What in the world do you think you're doing, you idiot? I could have hurt Hotaru! Are you crazy?"
"She won't stop crying, Kinomoto. It's nonstop. I don't even know how she has this much energy. She's been crying ever since we left the café. At first I thought she'd just tire out and go to sleep but she HASN'T! No one at home knows what's wrong. You're the only one who can help," he pleaded.
Sakura sighed and stared into his amber eyes. It was 10 o'clock on a Friday. Knowing him, he was probably missing out on several parties and instead of just leaving the baby at home with his mom, here he was, outside of the café, begging for help.
"Let me see," she said softly, holding out her hands.
Syaoran gladly handed over the distressed baby. As soon as Sakura was in Hotaru's eyesight, her crying ceased.
The two "parents" looked at each other, bewildered.
"No way! What did you do?" Syaoran asked, walking around Sakura so he could look at the baby.
"I have no idea. She was crying like crazy yesterday, too. Remember this morning? She stopped the moment she saw you. You don't think…" The two paused and stared at each other, each coming to the same conclusion.
"She wants both of us," Syaoran said.
"At the same time," whispered Sakura.
"What are we gonna do now, Kinomoto?" groaned Syaoran as they both stared at the giggling, babbling baby.
"I have no idea."
Tomoyo lounged on the luxuriously plush sofa in her living room, flipping through her latest design book as Eriol sat on the ground beside her, hunched over the low coffee table, calculating the budget it would take to actually raise a child.
"25,000,000 YEN?" exclaimed Eriol.
"What's 25,000,000 yen, dear?"
"The cost of raising a child! That's unbelievable. Where-"
"Do you plan on having a baby anytime soon, Eriol-kun?" Tomoyo asked softly.
"Well, uh, no. I mean, in a few years, maybe, but no, not now," he answered, somewhat awkwardly.
"Well, I suggest you wait until you do plan to do so before you calculate all those numbers. You know how inflation goes, dear."
Eriol's eyes widened and his glasses slid down his nose. Slightly depressed at the thought, Eriol balled up the papers with all his calculations and tossed them into the fireplace. If a child was going to cost that much to raise, perhaps he should just stick to a pet rock.
He stood up and fell back onto the sofa at Tomoyo's feet. The two had been dating officially for almost a year now. She was the most beautiful woman in the world to him, with her long ebony hair and amethyst eyes, full of mystery and yet, to him an open book. He never knew what she was thinking, but he always could tell what she was feeling. She was the kindest, gentlest, most understanding creature under the sun, and he was the most awkward, bashful, and serious organism on the planet. And yet, they were the perfect couple.
He trusted Tomoyo enough to never have to be jealous when much more socially adept guys flirted with her and he was confident enough in himself to not be intimidated by her already successful career. She was grounded enough to bring him back down to earth when his ideas took him to outer space and simply loved him enough to put up with his crazy ideas for he was often the kind to experiment with more than just Mentos and soda bottles.
Eriol gazed lovingly at Tomoyo as she continued to flip through and make notes to herself about her recent designs.
"I love you."
She smiled. And that was all he needed.
In front of the Li house
"I hate you."
"Me? Why? I'm not the crazy mother who decided to leave her child with strangers for two months because she's CRAZY."
"That doesn't matter. I still hate you."
"Whatever, Kinomoto. Suck it up and let's get this over with."
After fifteen minutes of staring at the baby, the two had decided to, firstly, leave the alley, and secondly, be productive and think of a plan. They considered making dolls that resembled them, cardboard cutouts, image projections, and much more. All of those options, however, required much more work on their part than they cared to consider. Finally, in a stroke of somewhat genius, Syaoran proposed a plan that, while it was slightly uncomfortable, did not require too much by either party.
"She doesn't get cranky unless it's a pretty long absence, right? So, what if we just go to the other's house about an hour or so before her bedtime. With both of us there, she'll go to sleep happy and when we're sure she's sound asleep, the other will just leave and we can all go to sleep happy!"
Sakura gaped incredulously at Syaoran and, though she had a very smart comment to make, decided against it for it was actually a very good plan and because he seemed so proud of his idea.
And so there they were, in front of Syaoran's house. On the way to his house, it had occurred to Sakura that she would have to actually spend time at his house - most likely with him. Although she'd known him for years and had been to his house on several occasions when his parents hosted company parties, it was never anything intimate - not that this was that kind of intimate, of course.
The two entered the house and were met by a wave a high-pitched hello's and coo's for the baby. Sakura awkwardly stood behind Syaoran as he herded his sisters away. When he was finally able to clear the hall, Sakura gently put Hotaru down on the floor and held her hand, guiding her into the living room on the left.
"Come on, sweetie. You can do it," she cooed.
As the two settled onto the couch in front of the large television, Syaoran entered the room, carrying Hotaru's baby bag filled with toys and her favorite blankie. He plopped himself down on the other side of Hotaru and turned the TV on as Sakura pulled out a few toys and set them in front of the babbling baby. Sakura curled her legs underneath her and gently guided Hotaru away from the edge of the sofa as she waved the stuffed bear spastically. Syaoran sprawled against the soft seat and changed the channel from wedding shows to an action movie he'd saved.
"So how long do you think it will take for her to get to sleep?" Sakura asked softly, playing with the little girl's hair.
Syaoran mumbled something along the lines of "I don't know" and sank deeper into the cushions.
Sakura looked at her watch. The time read 10:30. She had told her parents that she would try to be home by midnight. Surely, in an hour and a half Hotaru would become tired and fall asleep. Surely…
The clock tolled midnight and Sakura awoke, finding herself laying down on the sofa with a tiny body sound asleep on top of her and a blanket covering the both of them. The TV was still on and Syaoran was sitting on the ground beneath her, leaning against the sofa. From the way his head was nodding, she figured sleep was catching up to him as well.
She removed her arm from beneath the blanket and was about to wake him up before a gasp distracted her. In the doorway stood a wide-eyed Mei Lin. Sakura could see as she sucked in the air in preparation to scream. Panicked and afraid that the scream would wake the sleeping baby, Sakura pleadingly held a finger to her lips and quietly shushed.
"I can explain!" she whispered. She knocked Syaoran in the head and, before he too could yell, pointed at Mei Lin, who was holding her breath, ready to blow.
Syaoran silently jumped up and rushed Mei Lin out into the hallway to explain the situation, which, quite truthfully, Sakura didn't know herself.
Nevertheless, Sakura leaned back on the sofa and let out a sigh of relief. She looked down at the sleeping angel. Look at all the trouble you've caused, little one. Just what are we going to do with you? she thought, yawning.
She looked about her, not sure what to do. Tired as she was, her family - especially her brother - would be expecting her home soon. She couldn't stay here all night.
She chanced a glance into the hall to see an upset Mei Lin glare at her. Sakura continued watching as Syaoran finished his explanation. The Chinese beauty gave him a skeptical look but finally retreated back to her room. A relieved Syaoran turned back into the living room and walked over to lean on the back of the sofa.
"The beast has been quelled," he whispered humorously.
"That's good to hear," she replied with a smile, looking into his amber eyes. "Now what are we going to do with this one? I need to get home soon."
"My mom already took care of that. When she saw you sleeping earlier, she refused to let me wake you and called your parents. Mei Lin and my sisters have taken up all of the guestrooms but you can have my room and I'll take the couch," he offered.
Sakura stared up at him, unsure of how to answer. Sure, it would have been nice to sleep on a bed but the sofa was very comfortable and she wasn't sure just how comfortable she would be sleeping in his bed. Besides, since she was spending the night and Hotaru was already nicely situated, she decided to stay on the couch.
"I think I'll be fine here. Thanks for the offer, though. Um, you should go to bed, though. No sense in the both of us being down here."
He hesitated and she could see him wracking his mind for an appropriate answer, though she didn't see the need. It was simple. Just go. Apparently not.
"No, I'll stay down here, too. You never know when she might wake up. Besides, our sofas are really comfy, if you haven't noticed," he said with a slight smirk.
She laughed as he settled down on the loveseat.
Just full of surprises, Sakura thought as slumber finally took over.
Thanks for reading and sticking with me, guys! I hope you enjoyed it! Once again, please feel free to send questions, comments, constructive criticism. I'm open to it all!
Some replies to my reviewers:
Ree-Vance: Indeed, it is quite possible for one's period to make one the way Sakura was. I've had friends who've been worse haha. And the sharp pain was also related to her period. Every once in a while, it can get pretty bad. To be more anatomically accurate, the pain was really in her uterus/pelvic area but for the sake of the readers, I figured I'd be a bit more general J
And thank you to everyone else who reviewed, added this story to their favorites, alerts, and who've added me to their favorite authors/author alerts list as well! You guys make my day!