My Dinner with Akira
"So how is it, Akira?"
"Uh, it… it's fine," Akira replied, sounding a bit uncomfortable as she took a bite of Takumi's homemade bento during their school lunch break.
"What's wrong?" a concerned Takumi asked. "It's the tempura isn't it? I knew I should have…"
"No, no, everything tastes delicious like always," she reassured him. "It's just that… well, you've been preparing my lunches, in addition to inviting me over for dinner on occasion, for quite some time now. And believe me, I greatly appreciate it. You've got me so spoiled that I'm starting to feel as if I'm taking advantage of your generous nature."
"Oh but you're not. I really don't mind it and it's no trouble at all. In fact, I enjoy doing it because I know how happy it makes you. Besides, if I didn't, then I know you'd probably go back to eating junk food for lunch. At least this way I know you're eating healthy."
"You're probably right about that. Thanks for watching out for me," she gratefully replied, taking another bite from her bento and savoring it. "Still, I'd at least like to return the favor."
"That's really not necessary, Akira. Besides, you're always taking me out to all those expensive restaurants."
"Yeah, I know, but it's not really the same thing. Just once I'd like to make you dinner for a change. I've been thinking about it for quite some time now, in fact. Of course, I'm not exactly the best cook in the world but I have been looking through several cookbooks lately and I think I may be ready to tackle my first official meal. So how's about joining me for dinner this Friday for your first home-cooked meal by yours truly?"
"Well, since you put it that way, I'd be honored."
"Excellent, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised," she confidently stated. "I already know what I'm going to make, but I want to keep it a surprise. However, there's just one thing I'm not too sure about. The recipe says that I'm supposed to sear it. That's when you pour alcohol over the hot pan to create a really cool burst of flames, right?"
"Uh, actually, that's flambéing," Takumi corrected her, now sounding a bit worried. "You know, maybe you shouldn't attempt…"
"Oh well, I'm sure I'll figure it out. How hard could it be, right? You're going to be so proud of me after you taste it, you'll see."
"Akira, I…" Takumi began, wanting to warn her against such a recipe that clearly didn't sound like it was for beginners, but stopped short after seeing her enthusiastic expression, prompting him to encouragingly remark, "I'm greatly looking forward to it."
Frantically running around her kitchen between the several different dishes that she was preparing, Akira was becoming overwhelmed as she once again glanced down at the recipe in her cookbook, hoping for some guidance.
"Let's see, cook until the rice becomes translucent and the shallots become soft, stirring constantly," she read aloud. "Add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Huh? Deglaze? What the…"
Stumped by yet another unfamiliar cooking term, Akira once again found herself flipping to the cookbook's glossary for clarification.
"Deglaze, deglaze… come on, where the heck is it? They've got glaze listed in here but not deglaze. Well that's just great," she said with frustration, deciding then to simply pour the wine into the saucepan containing the rice.
Suddenly noticing that the sauté pan she was preheating was starting to emit a bit of smoke, Akira determined that it was probably hot enough and then placed some fish fillets into the pan just as a knock came at the door.
Rushing to see who it was, Akira quickly flung open the door.
"Takumi? You… you're early," she was surprised to see, dismayed at his rather untimely arrival since she didn't wish for him to see her in this frantic state.
"I decided to come early so I could lend you hand in case you needed…"
"Deglaze!" she abruptly blurted out, cutting him off mid-sentence.
"Deglaze," she repeated, then rapidly inquired, "What does it mean when the recipe says to deglaze the pan?"
"Uh, well, basically it's a technique for removing baked on deposits from a pan by adding liquid to it, like water, oil or wine, thereby creating a nice sauce or gravy.
"Oh, then I guess I did it right," she figured, sounding relieved.
"Akira, calm down. You seem so overwhelmed," he said with concern. "Look, why don't I give you a hand?"
"No!" she hastily insisted, then followed up in a bit more of a relaxed tone, "Uh, thanks anyway though. I mean, I certainly appreciate it but I really don't want you to have to lift a finger. So why don't you just sit down and relax and I'll call you when dinner is ready."
"Um, okay then. If you're sure you're alright."
"Positive. Trust me, everything's under control," she assured him. "I've got my kitchen running like a well-oiled machine. I… Oh no. Oil!" she said with frightening realization. "Crap! I forgot to put oil in the pan before I… uh, excuse me, Takumi."
Frantically racing back into the kitchen, Akira first took her spatula and flipped the fillets over, which had now become blackened on one side. Then quickly grabbing a bottle of olive oil, she proceeded to pour about two tablespoons into the sauté pan.
"OW! Damn it!" she cursed herself as some of the hot oil spattered onto her arm.
Overhearing her cries from the next room, Takumi instinctively proceeded to race to her aid.
"Akira! Are you alright? What happened, what's wrong?"
"It… it's nothing, I'm, ow, fine," she tried to deny, not wishing to cause him any worry as she quickly wiped the oil from her arm with a towel.
Observing the open bottle of olive oil directly by the sauté pan with the blackened fish, then also noticing the high heat setting on the stove's burner, Takumi was quickly able to determine what had happened.
"Akira, did you add oil to that pan while it was at that high temperature?"
"Uh, just a little bit."
"It doesn't matter if it's just a few drops, you should never do that. It's very dangerous."
"Well I had to since I had forgotten to do it earlier," she argued.
"Oh, Akira," he sympathetically replied, shaking his head.
Taking hold of her hand, Takumi led her over to the sink and opened the cold water faucet. Standing behind her, he proceeded to place her arm under the cold running water and then gently began to slide his hand along her arm, thereby allowing the water to disperse more evenly.
"There, how's that feel?" he compassionately asked, now looking up from the sink and directly into her eyes.
"Uh, m… much better, thanks."
Akira was now blushing profusely, not necessarily because of his kind gesture but rather due to the fact that his body was now tightly pressed up against her and the sink. Practically ready to submit, she felt somewhat disappointed when he turned the water off and stepped away from her.
Heading over to the stove and turning the burners down, Takumi then noticed an open cookbook sitting on the counter. Picking it up, he began reading from the page that it was turned to.
"Hmmm, 'Seared Mahi-Mahi with Saffron Risotto and Mango Sauce'. Sounds delicious, only…"
"Yeah, yeah, I know, only now it's ruined," she said sounding discouraged.
"No, no, I was just going to say that this recipe is kind of advanced and that maybe you should have gone with something a bit easier."
"Well actually I was going to do that. Then I realized that if I went with something too simple that you might get the impression that I didn't put much thought or effort into it."
"Oh, Akira, you know that's not true. I would never think that."
"Yeah, I know," a disillusioned Akira acknowledged. Sighing heavily she then added, "Well, I suppose there's no point in beating myself up over it. Guess we'll just have to eat something else. So do you want to just order some Chinese take-out or have a pizza delivered? Better yet, we could go to a nice restaurant, my treat of course."
"Now hold on," Takumi countered, looking over the dishes that she had prepared. "I don't think it's a total loss. In fact, I'm pretty sure I can salvage it."
"What, are you serious?"
"Of course. I mean, the mango sauce is just fine," he reassured her after sampling it. Then, taking a small spoonful of the rice mixture he extolled, "Mmmm, Akira, this risotto is delicious."
"R… really? You think so?" she said sounding a bit more encouraged, then lamented, "Oh but still, the main dish is what's ruined."
"Not quite," he optimistically stated. "Granted, the mahi-mahi is a bit dry and it is burned on one side, but I can slice away that section. Course when I do that it'll start to fall apart and won't be able to serve it as the recipe calls for. Hmmm, guess I'll just have to improvise."
"Yeah. Now let's see, what could I…" Takumi contemplated. "I've got it! And it's so simple too. Now I just need one more ingredient. The only problem is that you don't have any here and I know I don't have any at my place either. But it would waste an hour if I went to the market to get it and I'm sure you're probably pretty hungry by now."
"Oh I don't mind waiting. What do you need anyway?"
"Just some…" Takumi began, then pondered, "Wait, I wonder if my sister has any left over from her party last Saturday. Hmmm, let me use your phone for a minute."
"Sure, but you still haven't told me what it is that you…"
"Just a sec," he excused himself as he dialed the phone. "Hello, sis?"
"Come on in, Akira," Mai greeted her guest. "I have everything ready, let me just go grab it from the kitchen."
After getting off the phone with his sister, Akira offered to head downstairs to Mai's dorm room to pick up the much-needed ingredient. Mai, of course, was more than happy to accommodate the two, always overly anxious to do her part to see that their budding romance continued to blossom.
"Here you go," Mai graciously said as she handed Akira a bag. "Hope this helps."
"Thanks, Mai," Akira gratefully replied, then despondently added, "Just wish I had thought to do this in the first place so we could have avoided this fiasco. Man, I really screwed this up!"
"Oh, don't be so hard on yourself, Akira. Takumi told me what happened, and considering that you're not used to preparing these types of meals, or cooking in general for that matter, he thinks that you actually did a pretty decent job. And I'm inclined to agree with him, especially since you went with such a complicated recipe. So you made a mistake, big deal. You did your best and that's all that matters."
"Yeah, I know. Ordinarily I wouldn't let it bother me, but I so wanted for this meal to be perfect. Takumi's always bringing me lunches and preparing the most to-die-for meals, so I really wanted to do something for him for a change. I didn't want him to have to lift a finger, but in the end he winds up having to bail me out because of my incompetence."
"Akira, stop beating yourself up over this. You should know by now that my brother enjoys helping people out; he doesn't mind, really. It's just his nature. All right, so cooking may not be your thing, and that's fine. I'm sure that there are plenty of other ways for you to show your appreciation."
"Well, I would have preferred taking him out to a really nice restaurant, but it usually makes him uncomfortable when I spend a lot money on him."
"He's just not used to being lavished with expensive gifts or meals. He's a very down to earth kind of person and just likes to keep things simple. So rather than spend a lot of money on him, maybe there's something that you could do for him that he would enjoy."
"Well, think about it. You're a girl, he's a guy… figure it out."
"MAI!" an extremely flustered Akira shouted.
"Hahahaha! I'm just kidding," Mai jokingly retorted, placing Akira in a headlock and rubbing her fist into her head. "I just wanted to see your reaction."
Somewhat annoyed at Mai's warped sense of humor, Akira was about ready to make her displeasure known when suddenly an idea came to her.
"Wait, I think I know what I can do for him. Why didn't I think of this before? Plus, I know that he enjoyed it the last time. Yeah, this will be perfect."
"Well that's great, but what are you planning on…"
"Thanks a lot, Mai," Akira quickly expressed her gratitude, not taking the time to explain. "I really appreciate it."
Anxious to get back upstairs to Takumi, Akira abruptly dashed out of the room.
"Uh, my pleasure," a clueless and now rather curious Mai quietly uttered under her breath.
"Mmmm, gotta hand it to you, Takumi," a most famished Akira complimented his quick thinking, taking a large bite of her meal. "Turning all this into fish tacos was a stroke of genius."
"Oh, it's not really that big of a deal," he modestly stated. "I'm just glad that my sister had some tortillas and taco shells left over from her party that she was able to let us have. But really, I should be commending you. After all, you did most of the work in preparing this meal. All I did was modify the finished product somewhat."
"Well, I'm just grateful that it wasn't a total loss. Still, I'm sorry that you had to fix my little blunder. I wanted this to be special and didn't want you to have to do anything."
"I already told you, I really didn't mind doing it, so just stop worrying about it."
"I know, and I'm really not worried anymore because I now know the perfect way to make it up to you."
"Honestly, Akira, you really don't have to do anything. Just spending this time alone with you is more than sufficient."
"Oh, I think you'll quickly change your mind once you realize what I have in store for you."
"Why, what do you have in store for me?" he inquisitively asked.
"It's a surprise, but it's something very special," she teased, then added, "But I'll give you a hint: It's something that'll make you feel reeeeeally good."
A tinge of pink, which then instantly became ten shades darker, had now begun to overtake Takumi's cheeks as several impure thoughts began racing through his mind, not knowing what to make of the mixed signals that she was sending him. Akira, on the other hand, clearly enjoyed toying with his boyish innocence and simply watched with glee as he tried to decipher the meaning behind her suggestive little comment.
Changing the topic of conversation for the remainder of their meal, Takumi couldn't help but to revisit the subject in his mind again once they finished with their dessert. Even though Akira no longer hinted at it and remained completely nonchalant, Takumi was growing extremely nervous as the time grew nearer.
"Thanks for helping me with the dishes," Akira gratefully replied. "You really didn't have to though; I could have done them later. But I certainly appreciate it."
"No problem," Takumi offered, even though his main reason for doing so was merely a stall tactic.
Placing a friendly hand upon his shoulder, Akira casually began to state, "Well, Takumi, I…"
"AAHHH!" Takumi nervously reacted the moment that her hand made contact, causing him to jump back about a foot.
"Jeez, Takumi, what's got you so jumpy all of a sudden?"
"Oh, ah, s… sorry. You just startled me that's all."
"Well you seem a bit on edge. But don't worry, I'm going to take care of that for you right now."
"You… you are?"
"You bet. I'm sure you've figured out by now what I was hinting at earlier."
"Uhh, yeah, of course."
"So just let me get a few things from the bathroom and then we can get started."
"Ge… get started?" he apprehensively stammered as she left the room.
Takumi just shook his head, trying to clear his mind and refused to believe that Akira was suggesting that they do anything immoral.
"Takumi?" she then called out to him. "Why don't you go ahead and take your shirt off and lie down on the bed; I'll be right out."
Takumi's eyes now began to bug out, completely dumfounded over what she seemed to be implying. Hesitating, he then slowly began making his way into the bedroom, unsure of what to expect.
"Alright, I think I've got everything that…" Akira started to say as she came out of the bathroom, puzzled as to why Takumi was just standing in the middle of the room. "Takumi, didn't you hear me? I said to take your shirt off and to get on the bed."
"Look, Akira, I… I really don't think this is right."
"What are you talking about?"
"I mean, don't get me wrong because believe me, it's not like I haven't thought about it," he unabashedly confessed. "But even I realize that we're simply too young and that this is something that we shouldn't jump into. Besides, I thought we had already agreed that we would wait."
"Wait? Too young? Takumi, you're not making any sense. Besides, it's not like this is your first time. Plus, you seemed to really enjoy it the last time."
"The last time?" he now said, sounding extremely confused. "Nothing happened the last time. And even if Izumi hadn't walked in on us, I already told you that I wasn't going to…"
"Wait a minute, wait a minute," she said rather mystified. Trying to clarify the matter she asked, "What exactly do you think I'm talking about?"
"Uh, well…" he stammered, too embarrassed to say what he was thinking out loud. "What uuhhh… what are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about giving you a massage, of course," she announced, holding up a small wicker basket containing all of her massage oils.
"A ma… ma… massage?"
"Of course a massage, you goof. What did you think I…" Then realizing that he had misconstrued her earlier suggestion added, "Oh, Takumi, you didn't. Don't tell me you thought that I meant…"
Feeling utterly embarrassed for even having such thoughts, Takumi's face turned all red as he now hung his head in shame.
"I'm sorry, Akira, I…"
"Honestly, Takumi," she remarked in disbelief, shaking her head, "How could you possibly mistake what I said to mean…"
"Well what was I supposed to think?" he loudly exclaimed, becoming even more flustered. "All you said was that it would make me feel really good. At the time I wasn't sure what you meant, but then when you told me to remove my shirt and get on the bed I… oh, this is so embarrassing."
Not intending to embarrass him any further, Akira simply could no longer contain herself as she began to break out in laughter.
"I'm glad you find this so amusing."
"I'm… I'm sorry," she offered, wiping her eyes while attempting to contain herself. "I didn't mean to laugh. I suppose in a way I did kind of send you the wrong message when I said that, but I thought you later realized what I was referring to."
"Well I didn't."
"It's fine, but you should really be more careful the way you phrase things," he pointed out. His confidence restored, he slyly remarked in a sort of mocking tone, "For instance, how would you take it if I were to say that I was going to make you feel reeeeeally good?"
Now wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her in close to his body, she in turn enfolded her arms behind his neck, their lips now mere centimeters from converging.
"I don't know," she sensually confessed. "But instead of jumping to conclusions, I would at least ask you what you meant by it and then find out what your intentions are. So, Takumi, what are your intentions?"
"Isn't it obvious?" he implied as he brought his lips up against hers.
Now affectionately engaged in a passionate embrace, their united bodies slowly found their way over to the bed. As Takumi was backed up against the side of it, the two then became detached momentarily, prompting Akira to intimately place her hands beneath Takumi's shirt.
Sliding her hands slowly, but gently, up along his chest, Akira then proceeded to remove his shirt, throwing it off to the side.
"Akira, we… we shouldn't do this," he nervously cautioned.
Ignoring his pleas, a wicked smile came across her face as she then took her hand, placed it up against his chest and gave him a playful shove, causing him to fall backwards onto the bed. Takumi then raised his head and looked up at her, his concerned expression now becoming one of complacency.
"Akira," he affectionately began, slowly sitting up with a look of anticipation.
"Okay," she said with a single clap of her hands, "roll over onto your stomach so we can get started."
The mood now broken, Takumi's expression turned to one of confusion as he meekly conveyed, "Huh?"
"The massage, Takumi, the massage," she reminded him as she began rubbing some of the massage oil into her hands. "I'd like to get started now."
"Oh, ah, right."
"What's the matter? You sound kind of disappointed," Akira observed.
"No, no, I just thought… uh, never mind," he quickly recanted as he rolled over onto his stomach.
"Mmm hmmm. I know what you were thinking," she cunningly replied as her hands gently began kneading the tensed-up muscles in his back. "You've got a dirty mind, Takumi."
"What? Oh come on, Akira, that isn't fair. I already told you that I…"
"Hey, hey, take it easy. I was just messing with you. Relax, you're getting all tense. Come on, I promise I won't tease you anymore."
"Alright," he calmly agreed, turning his head off to the side.
"That's better," she satisfactorily replied as she proceeded with the massage.
"Ooo, Akira. That feels soooo good."
"Don't you mean reeeeeally good?" she jokingly remarked.
"Hehe, yeah, that too."
"So, how's that feel?"
"Uhhh, positively heavenly!"
"Good. Glad you're enjoying it. Maybe we should do this more often."
"Really? You mean it?"
"Sure, but only under one condition."
"You prepare the dinner and I'll provide the massage."
"Sounds… uhhh," he couldn't help but moan as her hands slowly made their way down his back, "…fair to me. Thank you, Akira."
"My pleasure. Now you just lie there and enjoy it. So close your eyes," she continued on in a soothing tone, "and relax. That's it, now you've got the idea. Now I want you to clear your mind. You got it?"
"That's it, clear your mind of all those impure thoughts that you may have had earlier."